In last month’s newsletter, Belinda Molina wrote about the Axel Meerscheidt house that once stood next door to her house on E. Guenther. Sadly, the Meerscheidt house burned in the 1950’s. Belinda has communicated with Neale Rabensburg, a descendent of the Meerscheidt family, who has generously shared excerpts from the memoir of Erna Meerscheidt. Erna, daughter of Axel and Olga Meerscheidt, grew up in the house.
THE STORY OF MY LIFE
By Erna Meerscheidt Weeks Bouillon
“........but after my grandfather’s death [Dr. O. Remer of New Braunfels], grandmother [Franciska Schleier] moved to San Antonio where several of her children had settled. My father [Axel Meerscheidt] had a darling little house built for my grandmother across the street from this large home in the Meerscheidt Addition [515 E. Guenther, later changed to 101 Crofton]. Our home was really a mansion, built in red brick with white rock, around curved windows, and the curved entrance door. It had a marble foyer and beautiful, stained glass windows. The mansion has now been turned into a chapel by the Catholics. It was of French architecture, located in an exclusive residential district named after my father, the Meerscheidt Addition.
“You see, my father had studied architecture at the University of Heidelberg, Germany. He had been sent from Texas, where the schools were very poor at the time, to live with his Aunt Emma Koerber and his Uncle Karl, an attorney. Their home was in the Black Forest in Germany, Bad Harzburg. He was around thirteen or fourteen years old when he went over [to Germany from Texas] and remained about ten years. He did not practice as an architect in San Antonio but used his knowledge of it by opening up exclusive residential districts and having a beautiful house or two built in each to encourage others to buy property and settle in these districts. He did very well, and traveled to Europe with his whole family every few years.
“In the evenings in the summer when it was so very hot, we children were allowed to stay up late. It would have been impossible to sleep anyway. With mother and father, we would sit on the upstairs long gallery and sing. The southern skies on a warm night were very dark with many stars twinkling like lightning bugs. Father often went down to the little corner beer parlor two blocks away and brought back a little pail of beer. Mother and father would each have a large glass of beer so it was real cozy. I don’t remember that we children had anything to drink, although we might have been given lemonade.
“The property of the estate ran down to the river about one hundred feet back. Large pecan trees grew in the back. There was a steep drop to the river. We had a heavy rope with a huge knot at the end on which we took turns sitting. The other children would run way back, give a push and out we would swing over the river’s bank. This was fun, and we could hardly wait for our turn.
“We had a great deal of help—in the house and yard—and German cooks my father imported from Germany when on a trip there. Dressmakers also came into our home in those days since clothes were made at home and not in factories as now.
“I wore white dresses until I was four or five years old. The ironing woman would hang rows and rows of beautifully ironed frocks and petticoats and panties on lines in the 'ironing kitchen' as it was called. It was a beautiful sight to behold. It was a kitchen because there was a stove to heat the irons—no electric irons in those days.
“We went to Germany when I was five years old, then the next summer we traveled through many parts of Europe bringing to me additional unforgettable memories. I shall never forget sitting with my sister Emita and a tutor, a young, energetic teacher, on three wrought iron chairs with a wrought iron table very near the Radau River’s edge, studying arithmetic, Bible study, German reading and the writing of German script.
“When we returned to my Aunt Emma’s home after the following summer’s travel to say good-bye to her, the tutor asked my father to take him back to San Antonio. He offered to pay all of his own expenses and father took him.
“Not long after we returned to San Antonio, my father heard at the German social club he belonged to that the Menger Hotel on the San Antonio River needed a greeter to meet all travelers. The tutor applied, got the position, and did so well that he soon became the manager of the social activities of the hotel. He made many new plans such as serving meals outside along the river bank at noon and in the evenings. At night the Japanese lanterns, which he instigated, lit the river bank. This became a tradition continuing to this day all along the San Antonio River as it winds through the city.”