John Meusebach: Early German Pioneer and Peacemaker

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Colonization of Texas came not only from North America, but also from many European countries. One of the best known settlement efforts came from the German Emigration Company (also known as the Adelsverein). Organized on April 20, 1842 by German noblemen, the Company represented a significant effort to establish German settlements in Texas that would supply markets abroad for German industry and promote the development of German maritime commerce. Germans were the largest ethnic group emigrating from Europe and by 1850 comprised five percent of the population in Texas.

German nobleman Baron Otfried Hans Freiherr von Meusebach was one of the most influential of these early immigrants. Working through the Company, he brought settlers from Germany to a tract of land between the Llano and Colorado rivers, widely known as the Fisher-Miller land grant.

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Surveyors refused to enter this territory for fear of attack as this area was also the hunting grounds of the Comanche Indians. In order for surveying and  settlement of the site to occur, it was necessary to arrive at an agreement with the Comanche Indians to allow passage into their territory. Meusebach arranged to meet with ten Comanche chiefs on the lower San Saba River in early March 1847 to negotiate terms.  On May 9, 1847, the Comanche chiefs came to Fredericksburg to sign the Meusebach-Comanche Treaty. It allowed Meusebach's settlers to go unharmed into Comanche territory and the Indians to go to the white settlements; promised mutual reports on wrongdoing; and provided for survey of lands in the San Saba area with a payment of at least $1,000 to the Indians. This treaty, crucial to the success of the Fisher-Miller colony, highlights the role of Germans in expanding the boundaries for settlement in Texas.

Showing his commitment to Texas, Meusebach put aside his German title of nobility and adopted the name John O. Meusebach. Under his administration as general commissioner of the Company, from May 1845 to July 20, 1847, a total of 5,257 German emigrants settled in Texas. In 1847 five settlements-Bettina, Castell, Leiningen, Meerholz, and Schoenburg-were established in the Fisher-Miller grant on the banks of the Llano River.

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Items on display in this exhibit

These items are displayed here in PDF format and will open in a seperate window or tab - note the file showing the notebook below contains three pages.

Meusebach Treaty. 1972/141.
The original Meusebach-Comanche treaty was returned from Europe in 1970 by the granddaughters of John Meusebach and presented to the Texas State Library in 1972.

Meusebach genealogy. 1997/119.
This manuscript depicts the lineage of John O. Meusebach, who was born in Dillenburg, Germany, on May 26, 1812, as Baron Otfried Hans Freiherr von Meusebach. He moved to Texas in May 1845, where he lived for the remainder of his life. He died on May 27, 1897.

John O. Meusebach calling card engraving plate. ATF0145.
This copper engraving plate was used by printers to produce calling cards for Baron Otfried Hans Freiherr von Meusebach. Soon after his arrival in Texas in 1845, he relinquished his German title of nobility and adopted the name John O. Meusebach. The engraving plate reflects his title of Baron, which suggests that it was created early in his appointment.

Notebook, John O. Meusebach. ATF0148.
This booklet was of personal significance to John Meusebach, being sent to him in Texas from Germany by his fiancée, Elisabeth von Hardenburg, in 1846. The scenes on the cover represent discussions that the two of them had over the themes of education, power, and liberty. Elisabeth died of typhoid fever shortly thereafter.

“Karte des Staates – Texas – 1849.” TSLAC Map 3940.
 

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Page last modified: May 6, 2015