Kriewitz, Emil (1822–1902)

By: Glenn Hadeler

Type: Biography

Published: October 23, 2001

Updated: November 13, 2019

Emil von Kriewitz de Czepry, adventurer, soldier, and settler, was born on January 18, 1822, in the Thüringen district of Germany near Potsdam. He emigrated under the sponsorship of the Adelsverein in October 1845 and arrived in Galveston on February 5, 1846. He was then transported to the Adelsverein's landing site on Matagorda Bay called Carlshafen, later known as Indianola. There he found himself stranded with hundreds of other Germans under the most deplorable conditions, due to flooding of the road to New Braunfels. When the Mexican War broke out in May 1846 all wagons in the area were hired to serve Zachary Taylor's growing army on Corpus Christi Bay. Kriewitz and about eighty other young men formed a company under Capt. Augustus Buchel and volunteered for the United States Army. They were mustered into service as Company H, First Texas Rifle Volunteers, under Col. Albert Sidney Johnston, on May 22, 1846. With Kriewitz serving as first sergeant, the regiment was stationed on garrison duty in Matamoros and transferred to Camargo. Due to the unhealthy climate and poor living conditions there, disease depleted the unit so badly that most of the men were discharged, including all the Germans.

Kriewitz returned to Carlshafen, where he was hired by the Adelsverein to form a company of men to guard John O. Meusebach on his journey into the Fisher-Miller Land Grant to make peace with the Comanche Indians. Kriewitz's company set out in January 1847 and arrived in New Braunfels to find that Meusebach's party had already departed for Fredericksburg. They followed Meusebach at a forced march but met him on his return from the successful treaty negotiations of March 2, 1847, on the lower San Saba River. Kriewitz's company was then assigned to guard the party under a surveyor named Howard. They surveyed land just north of the Llano River now in Llano and Mason counties.

After Meusebach returned to Fredericksburg, the Comanche Indians visited the town, in accordance with the agreement. The Comanches had requested at the council that a German live with them at their camp to serve as a mediator of trade and further the understanding between the two peoples. He was also to serve, in Kriewitz's words, as "a guarantee of the peaceable intentions of the Germans." Kriewitz accepted this dangerous assignment and went to the camp of the Comanche chief Santa Anna with a large supply of sugar and coffee, as further payment agreed to under the treaty. He did not receive a warm welcome. The Comanches had visited a trading post on the Brazos River where a man named Dietter Barnett had attempted to arouse the Indians' suspicions of the Germans, for fear of losing his lucrative trade with them. Kriewitz, however, succeeded in quieting the Comanches' mistrust and lived in their camp. He adopted their dress and behavior and became a friend of Santa Anna. In August 1847 the chief decided more gifts were due to him and desired to pay a visit to Meusebach. A small party, including Kriewitz, journeyed to New Braunfels, where they met with Meusebach and Herman Spiess, who now represented the Adelsverein following the resignation of Meusebach. The Indians treated Kriewitz with great suspicion at this meeting, due to their being so far from their homeland. He was virtually held a prisoner and permitted to speak to no one. To make matters worse, he had so completely assumed the appearance of the Indians that he could not at first be told apart from the others in the party. Finally he was recognized and made secret contact with another German colonist. He later was able to slip away and visit with friends, but returned to find the Comanche party very unnerved by his absence. He pacified the others in the party, and they stayed for two more days before returning home. On the return journey, the party stopped outside of Fredericksburg, where they were supplied with meat by an agent of the Adelsverein. While they cooked and packed the meat, Kriewitz asked permission to visit a friend in Fredericksburg, stating he would join them later that evening in camp on Seven Mile Creek. He visited his friend Dr. Wilhelm Keidel, who had served with him in the Mexican War. He did not depart for the Indian camp until nearly midnight and arrived to find that the Comanches had become suspicious at his long absence and, fearing treachery, had fled. Despite his efforts, he was not able to rejoin the party.

Kriewitz returned to Fredericksburg and was given the assignment of building a road and leading the first colonists into the Fisher-Miller Land Grant. The first party was a group of scholars and artisans who founded the communal colony of Bettina in September 1847. That same fall he led three more parties to establish the colonies of Castell, Leiningen, and Schoernbuerg. Of these, only the community of Castell exists today. Kriewitz continued to live in the area of New Braunfels and Fredericksburg and signed the petition to establish Gillespie County in December 1847. He returned to Castell in 1852 and opened a store in partnership with Franz Kettner. In 1857 he married Amelia Markwordt at Cherry Springs; they eventually had eight children. Kriewitz was elected justice of the peace for Precinct Four of Llano County in June 1870 and served as a judge of elections in 1871. He was postmaster of Castell from 1876 to 1883. He continued to ranch and speculate in real estate until his death on May 21, 1902, in Castell. He is buried in the Llano County Cemetery, Llano.

Rudolph L. Biesele, The History of the German Settlements in Texas, 1831–1861 (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1930; rpt. 1964). Robert Penniger, ed., Fredericksburg, Texas (Fredericksburg: Fredericksburg Publishing, 1971).

  • Peoples
  • Germans
  • Founders and Pioneers
  • Military
  • Soldiers
  • Native American
  • Indian Agents
  • Politics and Government

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

Glenn Hadeler, “Kriewitz, Emil,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 14, 2022,

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October 23, 2001
November 13, 2019