was once a community called Bettina that sat on the north bank of
River one mile south of Castell
in what would become Llano
County. Like Sisterdale
in Kendall County,
Bettina was a Latin Colony established by members of the lesser
German nobility, and founded on the idealistic philosophies of German
Bettina grew out of the Adelsverein, a society of young nobles,
headed by Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels. By January 1847 the Prince
had already founded the colony of New
Braunfels and was back in Germany promoting his Texas enterprise.
He wrote enthusiastically about Texas, and he went on a lecture
tour of the college circuit.
Prince Carl was a persuasive man and a talented motivational speaker.
He described Texas as a wonderful land of unlimited resources where
skills not always recognized in Germany would be richly rewarded.
His words hit home with a group of idealistic young men from Heidelberg,
Giessen and Darmstadt. In January 1847, they met in Darmstadt and
founded an organization called "The Forty," because they were roughly
40 in number.
The goal of the organization was to establish a Utopian colony in
Texas. Its motto was "Friendship, Freedom, Equality."
January 11, 1847 "The Forty" entered into an agreement with the
Adelsverein to settle on what was then called the Fisher and Miller
Grant in the Texas
Hill Country. The Adelsverein agreed to provide $12,000 or its
equivalent in livestock, tools, farm implements, wagons and provisions
for one year. After that the "The Forty" were on their own.
With high hopes, the young men sailed from Hamburg in April 1847
and reached Galveston
in July. They remained in Galveston
for several weeks; then sailed down the coast to Indianola,
the point of entry for Germans coming into Texas.
the Adelsverein gave the group $10,000 in gold and 24 wagons to
transport their mountain of personal baggage - much of it useless
on the Texas frontier. In addition to food and clothes, the group
traveled with a large number of exotic dogs, books of literature
and philosophy, an assortment of expensive musical instruments and
a large supply of whiskey.
Each night on their journey to the Llano
River they camped under the stars, sang songs, drank whiskey
and enjoyed themselves as only care-free college students can. Every
night was a frat party. It was like "Animal House" on a road trip.
Four weeks after leaving Indianola
the young men arrived in New
Braunfels. They rested awhile on the Guadalupe;
then traveled to Fredericksburg
and on to the
Llano. They arrived at their destination, at the mouth of Elm
Creek, in September 1847. After fording the Llano
River they circled the wagons, planted their cannon, put out
the guard, opened a barrel of whiskey and partied until morning.
The young men were infatuated with the Romanticism of Bettina von
Arnim - a popular German artist, writer and friend of Goethe and
Beethoven. They named their little community Bettina in her honor.
was the first communal society in Texas. It had no formal social
structure and no government. In fact, any kind of institutionalized
leadership was associated with tyranny.
Despite the lack of structure, things went well - at first. Propelled
by a surge of youthful enthusiasm, the men built a large communal
house, and then went to work planting crops.
But by winter, Bettina was in trouble. While some of the men continued
to work hard, others slacked off. Those men who worked argued with
those who didn't.
One group of men, lonely and tired of their crude existence, stopped
working entirely. They sat on the banks of Llano,
fished and dreamed of their girlfriends back in Heidelberg.
A few of the young men moved away and began farming for themselves.
The rest drifted back to Fredericksburg,
Braunfels, San Antonio
By the summer of 1848, less than a year after it began, Bettina
© Michael Barr
March 15, 2017 Column
"Texas and Texans In Early Days," The Llano News, March 26, 1970
"'Freedom, Friendship, Equality,' Watchword of Students Who Founded
Colony in Llano," The Llano News, July 27, 1933.
"Early German Settlements Have Interesting Origins," The Llano News,
May 31, 1956.
Louis Reinhardt, "The Communistic Society of Bettina," The Quarterly
of the Texas State Historical Association, vol. 3, July 1899 - April