Hermann Seele, teacher, public official, writer, and cultural leader, son of Jonas and Anna (Runge) Seele, was born in Hildesheim, Hannover, Germany, on April 14, 1823. He was educated at the Andrenaeum Academy in Hildesheim and subsequently immigrated to Texas.
After landing at Galveston on December 12, 1843, he joined the Adelsverein (a colonization society of German nobles) and arrived in May 1845 in the month-old city of New Braunfels, which became his home for the rest of his life. Pastor Louis Cachand Ervendberg, the spiritual leader of the New Braunfels colony, chose Seele to teach the colony's first school, and the community still remembers Hermann Seele as its first teacher. His law career began when he was elected the first Comal County district clerk in 1846. He was admitted to the bar on April 27, 1855. He was active on behalf of the Democratic party and opposed the American (Know-Nothing) party, a nativist, xenophobic, anti-Catholic movement. During the Civil War he served as adjutant and inspector general of the Thirty-first Brigade, Texas Militia, with the rank of major. Concurrently he served as mayor of New Braunfels. He married Mathilde Blum on January 25, 1862, and to them were born three sons and two daughters. From 1863 to 1865 Seele served in the Tenth Texas Legislature.
After the Civil War he turned his energies to education and served as a member of the board and faculty of New Braunfels Academy until 1879. In 1871 he organized the first state Teachers Conference, and when in 1872 the Texas State Board of Education (see TEXAS EDUCATION AGENCY) mandated the formation of teachers' institutes, Seele's school served as a model. To Seele's influence is attributed the fact that Jacob Waelder was able to include in the Constitution of 1876 a section establishing independent school districts empowered to finance public schools through taxation.
In the fall of 1876 Seele, as attorney, had to give his full attention to the suit of the Veramendi heirs, who sought to gain title to the Comal tract, upon which New Braunfels is built. Seele, who had first joined in defending the New Braunfels citizenry in 1852 against the Veramendi claim, succeeded on April 23, 1879, in winning a decision in the citizens' favor in the United States Circuit Court (see VERAMENDI ESTATE). He became postmaster in New Braunfels on October 1, 1889, and served until February 28, 1895. He was a charter member of the First Protestant Church of New Braunfels. He was elected secretary of the congregation in 1845 and served until his death, when he was succeeded by his son Harry. On occasion Seele also served as lay preacher.
As a member of the Germania Singing Society (see TEXAS STATE SÄNGERBUND), he helped organize the first and subsequent Saengerfeste (singing festivals) throughout Texas. Seele's Sängerhaus (singers' hall), a thirty-by-eighty-foot brick structure built in 1855 beside the Comal River, was a center not only for singers but also for the New Braunfels Dramatic Society, in which Seele participated. He was also a writer of both verse and prose. He was regularly called upon for stanzas to grace birthdays, weddings, and other social and civic events.
In 1851 Ferdinand Jacob Lindheimer, the great Texas botanist, founded and edited the Neu Braunfelser Zeitung. Seele participated in the founding, contributed to the newspaper's columns, and later had editorial control. In 1936 his descendants privately published a collection of his writings, Die Cypresse und Gesammelte Schriften. An English edition, The Cypress and Other Writings of a German Pioneer in Texas, was published by the University of Texas Press in 1979.
Seele died in New Braunfels on March 18, 1902. In 1936, as part of the Texas Centennial celebration, a monument honoring Seele was erected in Landa Park in New Braunfels. In 1954 his portrait was included in a painting, The Heroes and Heroines of Texas Education, commissioned by the Texas Heritage Foundation. In 1976 a marker recounting his achievements was placed on the Sophienburg Museum and Archives grounds, and in Landa Park a large monument named him among the early settlers. The Sixty-fifth Texas Legislature designated April 14, 1977, Hermann Seele Day, and his church named its activities building the Seele Parish House.