By: Glen E. Lich

Type: General Entry

Published: September 1, 1995

Updated: October 9, 2019

The Forty, or the Fortiers, a fraternity of German students with chapters at the universities of Giessen and Heidelberg and at the industrial academy of Darmstadt, was patterned in part on Étienne Cabet's Icarian dream of a communistic utopia and Charles Fourier's idea of social inventiveness. Most members were born to families in government, business, and the sciences in the Grand Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt. Named Die Vierziger, either for the size of their membership or the 1840s, the group was recruited in early 1847 by Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels, former commissioner-general of the Adelsverein in Texas, to encourage the young professionals (among others, two musicians, an engineer, a theologian, an agriculturalist, two architects, seven lawyers, four foresters, and a lieutenant of artillery) to find new markets for their talents and also to boost the emigration society's sagging reputation and to focus German emigration on Texas. Count Carl of Castell-Castell, another officer of the society, wrote that the Forty "have the trust of their German countrymen, and if their settlement succeeds, there can be no doubt that the stream of emigration will be directed toward Texas." After crossing the Atlantic and reaching Texas, the Forty succeeded in establishing a short-lived settlement, named Bettina, in the Fisher-Miller Land Grant in the summer of 1847. Although this utopian venture organized around the principles of "friendship, freedom, and equality" lasted less than a year and two later attempts to establish the communes of Darmstädler Farm and Tusculum near New Braunfels and Sisterdale, respectively, were equally short-lived, many individuals in the fraternity became highly successful, notably San Antonio physician Ferdinand Ludwig Herff; Gustav Schleicher, engineer and legislator; and Jacob Kuechler, a local Unionist who became commissioner of the General Land Office in Austin. Others, like Christoph Flach and Johannes Hoerner, founded large and prominent Hill Country families which for four or five generations maintained freethinking practices, like secular funerals. The writings of members Louis Reinhardt and Phillip Friedrich Schenck illustrate the everyday experiences of the group in Texas; Herff wrote a political treatise in which he touches on the colony and generalizes on the founding principles; journalist Emma Murck Altgelt, geologist Ferdinand von Roemer, editor Ferdinand J. Lindheimer and others not directly associated with the fraternity also commented on the group as a whole and on individual members. Vera Flach wrote a moving twentieth-century account of the acculturation of one of the Forty families.

Rudolph L. Biesele, The History of the German Settlements in Texas, 1831–1861 (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1930; rpt. 1964). Vera Flach, A Yankee in German-America: Texas Hill Country (San Antonio: Naylor, 1973). Ferdinand von Herff, The Regulated Emigration of the German Proletariat with Special Reference to Texas, trans. Arthur L. Finck (San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 1978). H. T. Edward Hertzberg, trans., "A Letter from Friedrich Schenck in Texas to His Mother in Germany, 1847," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 92 (July 1988). Glen E. Lich and Dona B. Reeves, eds., German Culture in Texas (Boston: Twayne, 1980). Glen E. Lich, The German Texans (San Antonio: University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures, 1981). Louis Reinhardt, "The Communistic Colony of Bettina," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 3 (July 1899).

  • Peoples
  • Germans
  • Organizations
  • Religion

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Glen E. Lich, “Forty,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 11, 2022,

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September 1, 1995
October 9, 2019