Otfried Hans Freiherr von Meusebach chose a life of hardship and freedom in Texas rather than a life of comfort and influence in his native Germany, where he had lived his formative years within a framework of unconstitutional government.
In 1845 the young liberal relinquished his hereditary German title, left behind his close family ties and his various intellectual and political associations, and arrived in Texas as John O. Meusebach, commissioner-general for the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants. His background enabled him to assume an enlightened leadership of fellow immigrants who were pouring in from Germany. Lacking adequate financial backing, he nevertheless led the settling of some five thousand people in a land that was largely occupied by Indians.
Irene Marschall King presents the full sweep of Meusebach's vigorous life: Meusebach as the young liberal in Germany, as the colonizer in the 1840s, as a Texas senator and, later, an observer of the Civil War, and as a Texan who devoted his later years to bringing the Texas soil to fruition—all set against a background of the immigration movement and frontier life.
"Freedom is not free; it is costly," Meusebach believed. In Texas he found for himself and others freedom worth the price he paid.
Rich in historic detail, King's story recounts the founding of Fredericksburg, the crippling effect of the Mexican War upon the mass of immigrants huddled in illness on the coast, the signing of the Indian Treaty, which opened to settlement over three million acres of land, and the final collapse of the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants. Also depicted is the colonists' influence on the land—the gardens and orchards of south central Texas, the "Easter Fires" that blaze on the hills surrounding Fredericksburg, the mixture of German custom with American necessity that created a unique culture. Throughout the narrative Mrs. King presents a fascinating cast of characters: the noble Prince Solms, who tries to establish a German military outpost in Texas; Henry Fisher, who attempts by devious methods to control the colonists and their land and finally incites a mob which tries to hang Meusebach; Philip Cappes, a special commissioner and Meusebach's assistant, who plots through intriguing correspondence with Count Castell, the executive secretary in Germany, to overthrow Meusebach; and the colorful and courageous Indian fighter and Texas Ranger, Colonel Jack Hays.
Primarily, however, this is the story of a man who found strength in his family's motto, "Perseverance in Purpose," and gave of his energies to build Texas.
By Irene Marschall King
Irene Marschall King (1893–1980), a granddaughter of John O. Meusebach, was an instructor of English and Dean of Women at Baylor University and Dean of Women at the West Chester State College, in Pennsylvania.