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A German Love Story

By Michael Barr
Michael Barr
It was either William Shakespeare or Zsa Zsa Gabor who said the course of true love never runs smooth but is more like driving your shiny new Lexus down a long dirt road filled with ruts, washouts and cattle guards.

To me the amazing thing about love is how often it works out despite the normal and inevitable hazards of being human. Take the case of Friedrich and Emma Schnerr.

Friedrich Wilhelm Schnerr was born in Frankfurt into a family of wealth and privilege. He fell in love with Emma Schneider, but not everyone approved of the relationship. Emma was a commoner and beneath his social class.

Friedrich and Emma married anyway but decided a change of scenery was in order. In the early 1850s they came to the Baron's Creek settlement in the Texas Hill Country.

Friedrich Schnerr was an educated man who seemed ill equipped for life on the frontier. He was a farmer, but his heart wasn't always in it. To find happiness he often retreated into the world of books.

By all accounts Emma was upbeat and outgoing. She cooked, sewed and took care of her family. The couple had four children: Johann, Emma Caroline, Johanna and Hugo.

Friedrich and Emma spent extended time apart. Friedrich returned to Germany three times in his life while Emma stayed in Texas.

Despite differences in personality and temperament, Emma and Friedrich were devoted to each other. Although Friedrich could be distant, he loved Emma very much.

When Emma died in 1903, Friedrich was lost. He was left to navigate the world alone and was not too sure he could do it.

Friedrich buried Emma in Der Stadt Friedhof in Fredericksburg. He left the grave unmarked for several years because he could find no tombstone to express his feelings about losing Emma. He ordered one but threw it away after he saw it.

That's when Elisabet Ney heard the story of Friedrich and Emma and offered her services.

Ney was born in Westphalia in 1833. As a child she showed the makings of an artist. Her father, a stone carver, sent her to school in Munich where she studied with some of the foremost sculptors in the world.-

She traveled throughout Europe carving busts of famous people including Garibaldi and Bismarck.

In 1863 Ney married Edmund Montgomery, a Scottish physician and scientist. They immigrated to Georgia and then to Waller County, Texas. In Texas Ney took care of her family and ran their plantation. She abandoned her art for 20 years.

Then in the 1880s Elisabet Ney visited Austin. She fell in love with the city on the Colorado. The hills to the west reminded her of Westphalia.

Austin rekindled her artistic flame. She built a studio there and started working again.

Ney was a powerful voice for women's rights. She scandalized Texans by wearing pants and by never bothering to deny reports that she wasn't married to Dr. Montgomery, the father of her children.

Over the next 15 years she completed life-sized marble statues of Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston. Both statues are in the state capital. She carved a memorial to General Albert Sidney Johnston for his grave in the State Cemetery. She won the recognition in her adopted country that she already enjoyed in Europe.

By the early 20th Century Elisabet Ney could feel her career and her life drawing to a close. Then she heard the story of Friedrich and Emma Schnerr, and the spark came back. She offered to carve a tombstone for Emma's gave.
Emma Schnerr grave in Der Stadt Friedhof in Fredericksburg TX
Emma Schnerr grave in Der Stadt Friedhof in Fredericksburg
Photo courtesy Michael Barr, October 2018
Friedrich Schnerr grave in Der Stadt Friedhof in Fredericksburg
Friedrich Schnerr grave
Photo courtesy Michael Barr, October 2018
Emma Schnerr tombstone angel carved by Elisabet Ney
Closeup of Emma Schnerr tombstone carved by Elisabet Ney
Photo courtesy Michael Barr, October 2018
More Texas Cemeteries
From a block of marble Ney carved a small angel, a look of wonder on her face, her chin resting on folded arms.

Friedrich Schnerr found Elisabeth Ney's marble angel a fitting expression of his love for Emma. Chances are he never knew what a priceless work of art the artist had given him.

In 1906 Elisabet Ney traveled to Fredericksburg to see the angel in place. She stayed at the Nimitz Hotel. The angel was the artist's last work. Elisabet Ney died in 1907 at her studio in Austin.
Michael Barr
"Hindsights" November 15 , 2018 Column

"Bicentennial Minutes," Fredericksburg Standard, October 27, 1976.
"Elisabet Ney, Sculptor," Kerrville Mountain Sun, July 14, 1938.
"Letter Box," Fredericksburg Standard, April 30, 1942.
The Handbook of Texas

"Hindsights" by Michael Barr

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  • San Antonio's Majestic Theater 10-15-18
  • Rube Waddell - Oddball with a Fastball 10-1-18
  • Getting Social at Pampell's in Kerrville 9-15-18
  • Cross Mountain - Ageless Sentinel 9-1-18

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  • Related Topics:
    Love & Marriage
    Grave Thoughts
    Texas Cemeteries
    Texas Artists
    Texas Monuments & Statues

    "Hindsights" by Michael Barr

  • The Haengerbande 11-1-18
  • San Antonio's Majestic Theater 10-15-18
  • Rube Waddell - Oddball with a Fastball 10-1-18
  • Getting Social at Pampell's in Kerrville 9-15-18
  • Cross Mountain - Ageless Sentinel 9-1-18

    See More »















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