Vanished Sister to Castell
a short-lived commune on the north bank of the Llano River
in western Llano County, was settled
in 1847 by
fraternity of highly educated German communitarian freethinkers
influenced by the writings of Étienne Cabetqv and Charles
Fourier. Bettina was the seventh, and last, of the Adelsvereinqv
colonies in Texas.
It was one five settlements attempted by the Adelsverein within
the Fisher-Miller Land Grantqv after John O. Meusebachqv concluded
with the Comanches in the spring of 1847. It was named for Bettina
Brentano von Arnim, a German liberal and writer. The first building
was a thatched common house forty feet long by twenty-two feet
wide. An adobeqv house, with a shingled roof and a massive
built next. Crops were planted, and the first harvest was satisfactory.
However, cooperation gradually foundered because of dissention
over work details and the role of a young woman cook, a Hispanic
presented as a gift by a Comanche chief who underwent successful
eye surgery while visiting Bettina. The utopian venture lasted
a year, but many of the members of this group went on to make
major contributions to Texas life. Notable were Dr. Ferdinand
an eminent San Antonio physician and surgeon; Gustav Schleicher,qv
an engineer who helped to expand the state's rail system and who
thereafter became a member of Congress; and Jacob Kuechler,qv
a vocal Unionist
who became commissioner of the General Land Officeqv in Austin.
Others, such as Christoph Flach and Johannes Hoerner, founded
large and prominent
Hill Countryqv families that for four or five generations retained
vestiges of freethinking liberalism and ethics. The writings of
Louis Reinhardt and Friedrich Schenck,qv two members, illustrate
experiences of the group in Texas; Herff wrote a political treatise
in which he touches on the colony and generalizes on the founding
principles. The journalist Emma F. Murck Atgelt, the geologist
Ferdinand von Roemer, the editor Ferdinand J. Lindheimer,qqv
and others not
directly associated with the fraternity also wrote about the settlement
and its individual members. Vera Flach wrote a moving twentieth-century
account of the acculturation of one of the Bettina families. The
former commune is commemorated, along with the nearby Adelsverein
of Castell and Leiningen, by a state historical marker placed
in 1964 on the north side of the Llano River across from Castell.
(BIBLIOGRAPHY: Rudolph L. Biesele, The History of
the German Settlements in Texas, 1831-1861 (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones,
1930; rpt. 1964).
Vera Flach, A Yankee in German-America: Texas Hill Country (San
Antonio: Naylor, 1973). Ferdinand von Herff, The Regulated Emigration
German Proletariat with Special Reference to Texas, trans. Arthur
L. Finck (San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 1978). H. T.
Edward Hertzberg, trans., "A Letter from Friedrich Schenck
in Texas to His Mother in Germany, 1847," Southwestern
Historical Quarterly 92 (July 1988). Glen E. Lich and Dona B.
Reeves, eds., German Culture
in Texas (Boston: Twayne, 1980). Glen E. Lich, The German Texans
(San Antonio: University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures,
Reinhardt, "The Communistic Colony of Bettina," Quarterly
of the Texas State Historical Association 3 (July 1899).
Glen E. Lich)