The History of the Telegraph Office in New Braunfels

The History of the Telegraph in New Braunfels

By the end of the 19th century, most of the world was connected by the telegraph.
What was happening in New Braunfels as far as communication? When the immigrants first came to the Republic of Texas, the fastest form of communication was by mail. It took about three months for letters to arrive from Germany on a ship and then had to be transported overland.

Letters and penny postcards were delivered to stations by stagecoach. The stagecoach stopped at the Schmitz Hotel located on Main Plaza. Throughout the Civil War (ending in 1865), news about the war reached New Braunfels by stagecoach. In 1880 the International and Great Northern Railroad came to New Braunfels and mail was sent by rail.

At a special meeting of the New Braunfels City Council on May 12, 1865, the mayor gave permission to the Western Union to fix the places for posts with the agent in such a manner that the free passage and use of the streets of the city would not be obstructed. The operator that worked the telegraph had to learn Morse Code. When the message arrived over the wire, it was written down and then hand-delivered to the person it was meant for. The first telegraph office was in the Guadalupe (or Schmitz) Hotel  which was located on the plaza in downtown New Braunfels. (the Guadalupe hotel is on the left in the photo) It was the natural place for the office to be. It was the hub of the community, open 24 hours a day and could house the telegraphers. It could also provide a Pony Express stop for telegrams to be delivered elsewhere in the county.  August Schmitz was named as the telegraph operator at the Guadalupe Hotel in 1869 according to the Neu-Braunfelser Zeitung newspaper and in July of 1871 it was noted in the Zeitung that Schmitz had to repair vandalized telegraph lines near Stringtown which was between New Braunfels and San Marcos. The telegraph operator frequently had to repair stolen or vandalized lines. In 1871 the telegraph office moved from the Guadalupe Hotel to August Schmitz’s home on Mill St. The next photo is the current view of the Mill Street home that was the telegraph station. The property is approximately one block from the Guadalupe Hotel. It is confusing, but unknown, the relationship of August Schmitz to Guadalupe Hotel owner Jacob Schmitz.

An interesting article in the New Braunfels Herald on April 2, 1970 reads: “When the New Braunfels people in 1870 celebrated the 25th anniversary of the founding of the town, they sent him (Prince Karl in Germany, founder of New Braunfels) a telegram of good wishes to his castle on the Rhine and received a reply immediately. Presumably in 1845 he did not expect that someday he would be able to send telegrams from Germany to the colony founded by him.”

On February 24, 1871 a telegraph brought word of peace in the French and German war. Cannons were fired in New Braunfels. This was important news for those with family back home in Germany.

telegraphThe Neu-Braunfelser Zeitung office was moved to Mill Street next to the telegraph office in 1877. Two houses down from the telegraph office and next to the Zeitung office, was the home of Anselm Eiband. He was the editor of the newspaper. No doubt it was advantageous for the newspaper to be adjacent to the telegraph office to receive news that could be published in the newspaper.

Another important telegram was received indicating that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of New Braunfels regarding the Veramendi Land in 1879. The Adelsverein or German Immigration Company filed bankruptcy and a clear title was not obtained for the land settled as New Braunfels. In 1852, the heirs of Juan Veramendi filed suit against the citizens of New Braunfels to reclaim the land which they claimed had not been paid for. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Veramendi Family in 1854 but that was over turned in 1879.

In 1879, the telegraph office was moved back to the Guadalupe Hotel (it became the Schmitz Hotel in photo below after 1873 remodel and expansion) and then moved to the railroad passenger depot in 1881. The first trains had entered New Braunfels in the fall of 1880 and the IGN Railroad depot was located on San Antonio Street near downtown. In most cases, the telegraph followed the railroad. This provided for oversight of the telegraph lines on railroad right of way. It also allowed the coordination of correct time between the US Naval Observatory and the railroad via the telegraph.

Eventually in 1899 the telegraph and telephone offices merged. City Council passed an ordinance Dec. 10, 1895, granting Southwestern Telephone and Telegraph permission to erect and maintain on the streets, alleys and public ways, poles, fixtures and wires necessary to supply New Braunfels citizens with communication by telephone.

telegraph

Telegraph Office Narrative