By Lacey LeBleu, curator
Gillespie County Historical Society
When Texas gained its independence from Mexico in 1836, a push was made to populate the new country with non-Latin citizens. In order to facilitate this, the Republic began working with individual land speculators in selling major pieces of land.
The history of land grants in Texas goes back as far as 1731, but the idea of selling grants became more significant during the years of the Republic. The Republic offered a variety of different types of grants, including headright grants for those who served in the military for Texas during the revolution.
Land was divided and offered to land speculators. These speculators were to sell the land to people wanting to move to Texas and settle the land.
Two of these speculators were Henry Francis Fisher and Burchard Miller.
In 1842, Fisher and Miller were permitted to settle 1,000 immigrant families (Swedish, Danish, Dutch, German or Norwegian) on more than three million acres between the Llano and Colorado Rivers.
On Jan. 6, 1844, an amendment passed allowing for 6,000 families and single men to settle the three million acres. Following this, Fisher was able to travel to Germany to promote colonization in Texas.
On June 26, 1844, Fisher sold an interest in the contract to the Adelsverein, and on Dec. 30, 1845, the ownership of the Fisher-Miller Land Grant was officially transferred to the Adelsverein.
The Verein zum Schutze deutscher Einwanderer in Texas, or the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas, was officially organized on April 20, 1842 at Biebrich on the Rhine, near Mainz. The Adelsverein, as they are commonly referred, was composed of 21 German noblemen who wanted to organize mass German emigration to Texas.
In May 1842, the Adelsverein sent two counts, Joseph of Boos-Waldeck and Victor August of Leiningen-Westerburg-Alt-Leiningen to Texas to see the land with the goal of purchasing land to settle.
The two declined the land offered by President Sam Houston when they learned it would be in the frontier land west of Austin, largely inhabited by Native Americans.
In January 1843, after declining a proposed land grant, the Adelsverein purchased their first league of land in Texas. Counts Joseph of Boos-Waldeck and Victor August of Leiningen-Westerburg-Alt Leiningen named that land after Duke Adolf of Nassau, Protector of the Adelsverein.
Nassau Plantation, located in present-day Fayette County, was used as the Texas base of operations for the Adelsverein until New Braunfels was settled in March 1845.
In April 1844, the Adelsverein purchased their first land grant from Alexander Bourgeois d’Orvanne, a land speculator. The tract of land sat west of San Antonio. Shortly after the purchase was finalized, the contract was void for inability to settle the land in the allotted time.
On June 26, 1844, the Adelsverein purchased a second land grant from land speculators Henry Francis Fisher and Burchard Miller. The colonization contract was for 3.2 million acres between the Llano and Colorado rivers. The first immigrants disembarked near Carlshafen (later Indianola) on the Texas coast.
Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels traveled with this first group of immigrants. Solms purchased two leagues of land at Comal Springs on March 15, 1845. The settlement, renamed New Braunfels, was created as a short-term stop on the way to the Fisher-Miller Land Grant.
On May 8, 1845, Solms’ successor arrived at Carlshafen. John O. Meusebach, General Commissioner of the Adelsverein in Texas, began preparing for the arrival of 4,000 additional immigrants. He also purchased land for settlement along the Pedernales River at what eventually became Fredericksburg.
Between October 1845 and April 1846, a total of 5,257 German emigrants were brought to Texas.
The Adelsverein floundered under different names until September 1853, when the company assigned all its properties and colonization rights to its creditors.