Mill Street Telegraph Station

Mill StreetThe first telegraph office in New Braunfels was at the Guadalupe Hotel on the main plaza beginning in the mid-to-late 1860s. August Schmitz began as a telegrapher at the hotel in 1869 and in 1871, the telegraph office moved to Schmitz’s home on Mill Street. The office remained there for eight years before moving back to the hotel and eventually to the railroad depot. The home at 265 E. Mill Street was built in the mid1800s from local materials and is still standing to this day. It is one of the few German fachwerk or half-timbered structures left in New Braunfels and is an example of the vernacular building technique used in the founding years of the city. This story of the little house revolves around its use as a telegraph station in the early years of telegraph communication. The current map shows from left to right the railroad depot, Guadalupe (now the Schmitz) Hotel and the Mill Street house in relation to the center of New Braunfels.

At a special meeting of the New Braunfels City Council on May 12, 1865, the mayor gave permission to the Western Union to fix the places for posts with the agent in such a manner that the free passage and use of the streets of the city would not be obstructed. The operator that worked the telegraph had to learn Morse Code. When the message arrived over the wire, it was written down and then hand-delivered to the person it was meant for. The first telegraph office was in the Guadalupe (or Schmitz) Hotel which was located on the plaza in downtown New Braunfels. (the Guadalupe hotel is on the left in the photo) It was the natural place for the office to be. It was the hub of the community, open 24 hours a day and could house the telegraphers. It could also provide a Pony Express stop for telegrams to be delivered elsewhere in the county. August Schmitz was named as the telegraph operator at the Guadalupe Hotel in 1869 according to the Neu-Braunfelser Zeitung newspaper and in July of 1871 it was noted in the Zeitung that Schmitz had to repair vandalized telegraph lines near Stringtown which was between New Braunfels and San Marcos. The telegraph operator frequently had to repair stolen or vandalized lines. In 1871 the telegraph office moved from the Guadalupe Hotel to August Schmitz’s home on Mill St. The next photo is the current view of the Mill Street home that was the telegraph station. The property is approximately one block from the Guadalupe Hotel. It is confusing, but unknown, the relationship of August Schmitz to Guadalupe Hotel owner Jacob Schmitz.

The telegraph had a dramatic impact on New Braunfels in the mid-to-late 1800s. It was the start of a communication revolution. New Braunfels was fortunate to be along a telegraph line between Austin and San Antonio as well as a railroad line. The railroad and telegraph evolved together and made a change concerning how people viewed time. Due to the telegraph, communication became instantaneous and news could be received from all over the world in a matter of moments instead of waiting weeks or months. No doubt the telegraph had an impact on the Neu-Braunfelser Zeitung newspaper with the receipt of the Associated Press news and news from overseas. Instantaneous communication became necessary in an evolving economy as stock market information could be sent by telegram. The telegraph began in a downtown hotel that was the hub of the community and then moved for eight years to this fachwerk home on Mill Street before moving back to the hotel and then to the railroad depot. The significance of this house is the story of the early telegraph in New Braunfels as well as the structure itself. As telegraph operator, August Schmitz performed a significant service for the citizens of New Braunfels. It is fortunate that the Ludwig family preserved the structure for over 100 years and that the Tamez Family has continued that tradition for the future.

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Comal County Historical Commission