Wednesday, November 30, 2005

"Die Gedanken sind frei"

From 1845 to 1861 large numbers of German Freethinkers emigrated to the Texas Hill Country. Freethinkers were predominently German intellectuals who advanced reason and democracy over religious and political autocracy. Many had been active in the 1848 German Revolution and sought freedom in America. The Freethinkers established numerous Central Texas colonies, including Bettina, Castell, Cypress Creek, Luckenbach, Sisterdale, and Tusculum (Boerne). Settlements which conducted intellectual forums in Latin became known as "Latin Colonies". Within a few years of the founding of Comfort in 1854, half the Hill Country Freethinker population was living in the area.

Freethinkers valued their new found freedoms of speech, assembly, and separation of religion and government. Instead of religious dogma, Freethinkers believed in individual philosophy. They advocated equal rights for all persons, and their moral values were dominated by respect for life and nature. Many were active in political issues of the day including the rejection of seccession and abolition of slavery. Intellectual pursuits were shared with agriculture and other crafts of physical labor. Secular education and organizations (Vereins) provided social and cultural fulfillment. Existence was peaceful and their influence rapidly expanded.

Loyalty to the Union during the Civil War had cost many their freedom and lives. Some Freethinkers relocated to nearby urban areas or other states, and a few returned to Europe. Arrival of the railroad in Comfort in 1887 and other outside factors largely influenced the construction of the first church in 1892. Freethinker origins continue to influence the spirit of the community and surrounding areas.

---Text on cenotaph placed by citizens in 2002 outside the Ingenhuett Store, in downtown Comfort, Texas