Organizations & Clubs
Though often noted for their efficient work, Germans are equally passionate about social activity, as evident in the variety of clubs established wherever they settled. The first to be formed in New Braunfels was a shooting club, the New Braunfels Schuetzen Verein, on July 4, 1849. It is the oldest continually operating shooting club in the United States. Even during war, when ammunition was scarce, the competitions continued with only two bullets per participant.
Singing was a popular social activity, so it didn’t take long for the first singing society, the Germania Gesangverein, to form in 1850. That same year Hermann Seele started the first theatrical society, the New Braunfelser Theater-Gesellschaft. Seele, often referred to as “the cultural soul of the city,” also built Saengerhalle, the first amusement hall, in 1855. He appreciated the need for the settlers to bond in recreation, and soon similar halls sprang up throughout the Hill Country. Many remain today, including the famous Gruene Hall, which opened in 1878.
The Old World tradition of nine-pin bowling took hold in the New World when the Comal Club opened in 1897. The emphasis on team play made this a very popular rural activity, with alleys in virtually every village. Several are still functioning today, the last vestiges of nine-pin bowling in the U.S.
The Turnverein (athletic club) formed in 1855, combining exercise with socializing. Other clubs mixed business with pleasure. Two of which were formed in 1852—the Gartenbau Verein for agriculture and horticulture, and the Shephard’s Society representing cattle grazing and herding. The area’s numerous craftsmen organized the Tradesmen and Workingman’s Club a year later. A society for breeding and raising livestock, the Verein zum Shutze und zur Beforderüng der Viehzucht, soon followed. These were all precursors for the current agricultural and gardening clubs that are prolific in Texas today.