Villa Finale invites its volunteer staff to write articles about their interests and travels in our The Bee Line volunteer e-newsletter. For your enjoyment, we would like to share this and future writings by our volunteer staff. The following article is by Rebekah Bustamante, one of our Guides and member of Villa Finale’s Volunteer Council. Thank you for sharing your travels, Rebekah!
It is interesting that as I sat here thinking of our visit to Comfort, Texas last week, and considering writing an article on it, I noticed an article in My SA Home Page June 12,2013. If you have not read it, you will find it an interesting read. What impressed me is the connections between Comfort and San Antonio. San Antonio and the King William area share results of efforts by architect Alfred Giles, Ernst Hermann Altgelt and Albert Steves with the town of Comfort, Texas.
Comfort is a forty-seven mile drive or forty-six minutes from downtown San Antonio. It was established Sept 3, 1854 by freethinking German immigrants. Some migrated from the collapsed Fisher-Miller Land Grant experimental colonies of the Darmstadt Society of Forty that had originally planned to establish socialistic communes in Wisconsin. Some were encouraged to come when the Adelsverein was organized. Still others followed Prince Solms from the Johann Dethard proceeding to New Braunfels. After a short time in New Braunfels, Fritz and Betty Holekamp began construction on their home, the first home in Comfort before the city was officially founded. Along with Ernst Altgelt age 22, Fritz Holekamp helped survey, lay out and found Comfort. Betty Holekamp is recognized for several “firsts.” She was the first-known white woman to cross the Guadalupe River on horseback. She was the first to sew an American flag when Texas was accepted into the Union, and she was the first to give birth to a white child in Kendall County.
Ernst Algelt began lumber and grist mills without success. In 1855, he married Emma Murck and took up the practice of law. In 1866 he moved to San Antonio surveyed and platted King William, built the first house on King William St. and had the privilege of naming the Street after Wilhelm I of Prussia. His second home, which was more elaborate was built at 226 King William. He had nine children and died at his family ranch in Wassenburg, Texas. Architect Alfred Giles, who lived and designed homes in San Antonio would ride horses, stagecoach or train to check his building sites in Comfort. Seven of the over 100 structures dating back to the 1800s were designed by him.
The Steves family farmed on the Guadalupe River near New Braunfels and then began a farm and stock ranch on Cypress Creek between Comfort and Kerrville. Albert Steves erected a bat roost on his family farm to attract bats and control mosquito populations by natural means. At one time there were sixteen in the US and Europe. The one in comfort and another in the Florida Keys are the only two remaining. There are three homes on King William that were built by the Steves when the Indian raids made it difficult to live near Comfort. Their lumber company has changed locations many times since it was first located behind the Menger Hotel, off Alamo Plaza, where the Joske’s Store now stands, to Walnut and then Buena Vista & South Medina. The Steves Family Lumber has grown to locations nationwide and is still making doors.
When you visit Comfort you learn more about San Antonio. Should you wander that direction, on your way be sure to check out the Old Tunnel State Park where a colony of 1-3 million Mexican free-tailed bats reside seasonally May – Oct. This tunnel originally was a passage through the hills for the Southern Pacific RR. Be sure to see the Steves hygieostati bat roost and the Treuer der Union monument. This is the only monument in the state south of the Mason-Dixon Line to honor German settlers massacred by Confederates on the banks of the Nueces River as they tried to reach Union Troops via Mexico. There are more classic German stone home buildings in Comfort than almost anywhere else in Texas. Most of them are now housing antiques, restaurants or bed & breakfasts. You might find collectible objects that you enjoy in Villa Finale.
Interested in joining Villa Finale’s volunteer staff? Contact Sharon Wallace, Lead Guide & Volunteer Coordinator at SWallace@savingplaces.org.