Fascination for Texas, despair about German, these factors, broadly speaking, motivated many thousands of Germans to seek a new life in far-away exotic Texas in the 19th century. To governments and to individuals alike, the young Republic of Texas suggested exciting possibilities. Britain, France, and Belgium hoped to see Texas develop into a viable nation, receptive to cross-Atlantic influence and poised to counterbalance the growing commercial and military dominance of the United States in the New World. Many individuals, likewise, pinned their hopes on the new republic: they dreamed of getting rich by speculating in cheap Texas lands or they aspired to create a fresh life in a wide open land frequently portrayed as a new Garden of Eden. Germany, by contrast, appeared as a place of little or no opportunity. Its intelligent, vigorous and growing population had no outlet for their energy; no possibility for betterment in their homeland. This brought about a frustration and despair that cut across class lines from peasant farmers to the upper nobility. A massive exodus from Central Europe resulted, and the destination was, in the main, North America, with Texas as an important endpoint in the larger exodus.
In the spring of 1842, twenty German noblemen and one noblewoman met at the residence of Adolph Duke of Nassau in Biebrich on the Rhine to found a stockholding corporation that eventually adopted the title, Der Verein zum Schutze deutscher Einwanderer in Texas [Society for the Protection of German Emigrants in Texas], often referred to by the German shorthand, Adelsverein. The German noblemen endeavored to fashion a program of important national significance whereby the opportunities of Texas would supply an antidote to the frustrations of Germany. In so doing they sought to enhance the prestige of that particular class of the German nobility to which most of them belonged, the Standesherren, and also to increase their personal wealth by speculating in cheap Texas lands.
In 1844 the Society bought into the Fischer Miller Land Grant, a large area north of Llano River in Central Texas that the Penetaka Comanche Indians considered as their winter home and exclusive domain. In line with their contractual obligations, the Society began advertising for emigrants in 1844 under very favorable terms, including the promise of free land, an offer that proved irresistible to many thousands of Germans. Unfortunately, the German noblemen had neither the financial means nor the practical expertise to carry through on such a grand endeavor. Their efforts cascaded toward financial ruin and a human catastrophe of the first order. Somehow (and largely on their own) the German emigrants turned things around and successfully made the transition to new home and community on the Texas frontier, leading to a demographic and cultural footprint that endures strongly to the present. One scholar characterized this amazing turnaround as the greatest tragedy of German emigration to the New World in the nineteenth century, but ultimately the greatest triumph. (Hawgood, The Tragedy of German America).
Much has been written about the Adelsverein, especially in the years 1842-1847, but a comprehensive scholarly study making use the official German business records and collected correspondence of the Society, which are housed in the 70 volumes of the Solms-Braunfels Archives (and related collections), has yet to appear. This book will attempt to correct this gap and will be a natural extension of the research for my first book, Nassau Plantation.