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Freethinker Cenotaph
The Freethinker Cenotaph Commemoration
Comfort, Texas
Report by Gipson Arnold
November 7, 2004

 
 

There is now an annual gathering in Comfort, Texas, to remember and celebrate the early German Freethinkers who settled in that region. These "freidenkers" established Utopian socialist communities in the area of Sisterdale, Boerne, and Comfort. Many of these settlers were skeptics, agnostics, and even Atheists. I traveled from Houston November 7th to attend this commemoration and learn more about the pioneer Freethinkers.

This was my first time in Comfort that I know of. It is located in the Texas hill country just Northwest of San Antonio. There is an old downtown historic district in which most of the old buildings were made from locally quarried stone. The Ingenhuett General Store is prominently located in the historic district and the Freethinker Cenotaph is right next to it.

Several speakers, including a county judge and a precinct commissioner, addressed the group which numbered about fifty. Afterwards, we all went to a local restaurant for lunch. I got to see a lot of my friends involved with Freethinkers Association of Central Texas (FACT).

The Text on the Freethinker Cenotaph:

The Founding Freethinkers (Deutsche Freidenker)
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. (2002)

 
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