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New Braunfels is a city in Comal and Guadalupe counties in the U.S. state of Texas known for its German Texan heritage. It is the seat of Comal County. The city covers 44.9 square miles (116 km2) and has a 2020 population of 90,403. A suburb just north of San Antonio, and part of the Greater San Antonio metropolitan area, it was the third-fastest-growing city in the United States from 2010–2020.
New Braunfels was established in 1845 by Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels, Commissioner General of the Mainzer Adelsverein, also known as the Noblemen's Society. Prince Carl named the settlement in honor of his home of Solms-Braunfels, Germany.
The Adelsverein organized hundreds of people in Germany to settle in Texas. Immigrants from Germany began arriving at Galveston in July 1844. Most then traveled by ship to Indianola in December 1844, and began the overland journey to the Fisher-Miller land grant purchased by Prince Carl. At the urging of John Coffee Hays, who realized the settlers would not have time to build homes and plant crops further inland before winter, and as the German settlers were traveling inland along the Guadalupe River, they stopped near the Comal Springs. Prince Carl bought two leagues of land from Rafael Garza and Maria Antonio Veramendi Garza for $1,111.00.
The land was located northeast of San Antonio on El Camino Real de Los Tejas and had the strong freshwater Comal Springs, known as Las Fontanas when the Germans arrived. It was about halfway between Indianola and the lower portions of the Fisher-Miller land grant. The first settlers forded the Guadalupe River on Good Friday, March 21, 1845, near the present-day Faust Street bridge.
As the spring of 1845 progressed, the settlers built the "Zinkenburg", a fort named for Adelsverein civil engineer Nicolaus Zink, divided the land, and began building homes and planting crops. Prince Carl would also lay the cornerstone for the Sophienburg, a permanent fort, and center for the immigrant association.
In 1844, Prince Carl was so disillusioned with the logistics of the colonization that he asked the Verein to remove him as commissioner-general and appoint a successor. When John O. Meusebach arrived, the finances were in disarray, due in part to Prince Carl's lack of business experience and his refusal to keep financial records. To a larger degree, the financial situation happened because the Adelsverein was an organization of noblemen with no practical background in running businesses. They were on the other side of the world and did not witness the situation with which both Prince Carl and Meusebach were dealing. Henry Francis Fisher had not supplied transport and supplies for which the Verein advanced money to him. Meusebach found Prince Carl in Galveston trying to return to Germany, detained by authorities for unpaid bills. Meusebach made good on the debts, so Prince Carl could depart.
Meusebach discovered that Prince Carl's choice of the inadequate Carlshafen (Indianola) as a port of entry, as well as the isolated route to New Braunfels, was deliberately chosen to keep the Germans from interacting with any Americans. According to Nicolaus Zink, Prince Carl had planned to establish a German feudal state by secretly bringing in immigrants and placing them in military fortresses. Meusebach, who had renounced his own title of nobility, took a different approach and invited Americans to settle in the Vereins' territory.
New Braunfels is located in southeastern Comal County. The city is 32 miles (51 km) northeast of Downtown San Antonio, 19 miles (31 km) southwest of San Marcos, and 48 miles (77 km) southwest of Austin.
According to the United States Census Bureau, New Braunfels has a total area of 44.9 square miles (116.4 km2), of which 44.4 square miles (115.1 km2) is land and 0.5 square miles (1.3 km2), or 0.91%, is covered by water. The city is situated along the Balcones Fault, where the Texas Hill Country meets rolling prairie land. Along the fault in the city, a string of artesian springs known as Comal Springs gives rise to the Comal River, which is known as one of the shortest rivers in the world, as it winds 3 miles (5 km) through the city before meeting the Guadalupe River.
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