O. Meusbach (1812-1897)
A skilled gardener, the
former Baron Otfried Hans Freiherr von Meusebach was the
second commissioner of The Society for the Protection of
German Immigrants in Texas and an accomplished student of
natural sciences. Upon arriving in Texas he dropped his
noble title and became simply John O. Meusebach. He is also
widely known for founding the town of Fredericksburg, forging
a lasting peace treaty with the Comanche Indians of the
Texas Hill country, and serving as a sate senator. He later
moved to Loyal Valley where his farm, garden, and nursery
became a showplace.
Visiting in 1877, N.A. Taylor wrote: "Loyal Valley
is indeed a garden in a wilderness; a garden in which one
can linger and be happy. Here is a nursery in which sixty
varieties of roses grow, and hundreds of the finest flora
of three continents; sixty varieties of pear, forty of peach,
and an array of apples, plums, and grapes-all cultivated
and arranged with taste and skill that cannot be excelled.
It is curious to see such an industry in so isolated and
remote a region; and nothing could possibly indicate so
well the higher civilization of the people of the valley,
as the fact stated to me by the proprietor that he had liberal
and profitable customers. I am sure, said John O. Meusebach,
that our valley will soon have as fine vineyards, orchards
and gardens as any country in the world, and I feel some
little pride in the thought that it is I that am doing it.
John O. Meusebach held that people could not be happy and
really blessed until they had vineyards and orchards...in
which view I heartily concurred..." (13). In a letter
dated March 14, 1884, Meusebach stated "...We have
planted onions, (German) potatoes, beans, and sugar corn
in the garden. We had plenty of turnips, and sold about
$30.00 worth. As I bought no new trees this year, I trimmed
all the old trees severely, and made 2000 cuttings of grape-vines,
as well as 1000 of crepemyrtle and other
shrubs..." (17) His crapemyrtles were evidently quite
Describing the garden in her book, John O. Meusebach (1967),
Irene Marschall King, his granddaughter, states: "The
avenue of crape-myrtle shrubs leading to the family residence
had a graduation of color that would have pleased an artist.
The path to the cow pen had rows of lilacs on either side,
and Vitex (American lavender) surrounded the outhouses.
Bamboo plants grew near the pond, and jujube plums or Texas
dates, with their thick, thorny growth served as fences.
Meusebach tended carefully a small-leafed boxwood, so that
his wife could use the miniature leaves to decorate cakes
for special celebrations. Trumpet vines flourished to attract
hummingbirds. Bachelor buttons were made into dried bouquets
for the winters; a pot of Parma violets usually stood in
a sunny window to give fragrance to the winter air. The
flowering willows provided thimbles for the children..."
Offspring from these flowering willows (Chilopsis linearis,
related to catalpas not willows) and jujubes (Ziziphus jujube,
also called chinese date) can be seen naturalized on the
old property today. His outdoor Roman bath constructed of
whitewashed native stone
beneath a bathhouse covered with purple and white wisteria
was also quite a novelty.
The Germans loved
life, gardening, and most of all their new home. In a final
show of typical German-Texan pride and unity, John O. Meusebach
had the strongest forces behind his existence inscribed
on his tombstone...TENAX PROPOSITI (Preserverance in purpose)
and TEXAS FOREVER.
Meusebach died at Loyal Valley in 1897
and was buried nearby at Cherry Springs.
For more information on John Meusebach,
see the following books.
King, Irene Marschall. John O. Meusebach. Austin: University
of Texas Press, 1967. Thousand Miles in Texas on Horseback.
New York, Chicago, and New Orleans: A.S. Barnes and Co.,
McDaniel, H. F., and Nathaniel Alston Taylor. The Coming
Empire; or Two Wurzbach's Memoirs and Meusebach Papers.
San Antonio: Yanaguana Society Publications, 1937.