In 1856, Johann Joseph Locke,
a native of Prussia, purchased two ten-acre plots of land
bordering on the Comal River in New Braunfels. In this
"garden spot in the wilderness," he saw the
need for fruit, shade, and ornamental trees, not just
for the ever increasing number of homes in town, but also
for homes on farms and ranches spreading out in all directions
from New Braunfels. Here, with a crystal-clear water spring
he began Locke Nurseries.
Thirty years later, in 1886, his son,
Otto Locke, continued the nursery business, naming it
Comal Springs Nursery. He issued annual catalogs describing
and often illustrating his constantly increasing variety
of fruit, nut, and shade trees, as well as improved roses,
flowers, berries, and vegetables.
Included among his introductions were
the Bonita arborvitae, Heidemeyer apple, Strington apple,
Ferguson fig, Comal cling peach, Dixie peach, November
peach, Daisy pecan, Fall City tomato, Germania rose, Locke's
Pride pear, Perfection pear, Summer Beauty pear, Honey
nectarine, Old Favorite pomegranate, McCartney plum, and
At the 1904 Word's Fair in St. Louis,
Otto Locke's Daisy pecans were the only pecans entered,
and according to his 1904-05 catalog, the display was
"the admiration of all who saw it." He also
supplied a great many roses for display and took home
a silver medal for his exhibit of fruits.
In 1911 he wrote: "We take great
pleasure in handing you our Twenty-fifth Annual Nursery
Catalog. A period of twenty-five years is a long time
devoted exclusively to one business, and you all know
the work and patience it took to test and introduce the
best varieties of nursery stock."
"Today Comal Springs Nursery
enjoys a reputation all over the Southern States and Mexico.
Profitable orchards of trees furnished by us are found
everywhere and for many popular city parks we furnished
"Today ours is the oldest nursery
in the Southwest; built up from a very small scale, it
is built on a sound foundation. In the future we will
conduct our nursery in the same prompt and reliable way
and hope to see many of our first customers patronizing
us twenty-five years hence, even if the writer is not
able to serve his customers anymore; as he is growing,
in connection with the best nursery stock, strong ambitious
sons, who will in the future endeavor to please you and
furnish the South with high grade nursery stock."
In addition to numerous varieties of
fruit and nut trees, by 1917 Comal Springs Nursery carried
an extensive assortment of ornamental plants including
sixteen types of grafted altheas, several buddleias, four
different honeysuckles, seven different arborvitaes, four
different trumpet creepers, and over one hundred different
roses. The 1917-18 catalog stated "we are one of
the largest rose growers in Texas and have this year 40,000
extra strong plants to offer." In addition to his
own introductions, the nursery carried items introduced
by Luther Burbank, the United States Department of Agriculture,
the famous Fruitlands Nursery in Georgia, Rosedale Nursery
in Brenham, and Pearfield Nursery in Frelsburg.
Otto's four sons, Emil, Herman, Walter,
and Otto, Jr., all followed their father in the nursery
business and established themselves in New Braunfels,
San Antonio, and Poteet.
In 1927, Comal Springs Nursery passed
to Otto M. Locke, Jr. who in 1928 moved it two its present
location on San Antonio Road (along I-35 just south of
New Braunfels). Mr. Locke ran the nursery along with his
wife Etelka until her death in 1990 and continued on his
own until his death in 1994. At that time with no children
to inherit the nursery it was left to Tandra Lyles who
had been helping Mr. Locke since Etelka's death.
Otto Locke, Jr. became as famous for
his animal menagerie as his plants. He collected
animals of all kinds that he sold to zoos and circuses
all over the world. He even supplied many animals that
were used in making movies for theaters and television.
The nursery itself once displayed cougars, monkeys, iguanas,
snakes, birds, a forty-three year old snapping turtle,
and a collection of prairie dogs. To this day the nursery
still sports its own prairie dog town.
Today, the struggling Locke Nursery
is run by Tandra and her father Joe Ed Lyles who hope
to return "The Oldest Nursery in Texas" to its
Haas, Oscar. "J.J. Locke Saw Need for Nursery in
1856", Southern Florist
and Nurseryman, July 16, 1965.
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