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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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