In 1848, seismic changes shook the very foundations of German society. Students and intellectuals take to the streets: they demand a constitution by – and for – the people; democratic reforms; freedom! In many places, governments and armies violently crush these uprisings. There was, many politically progressive intellectuals concluded, no future in Germany. And so – they left: professors, musicians, lawyers – many of them arriving in Texas after the revolutions of 1848. These “48ers”, as they were known, formed the nucleus of several Hill Country communities.
One of those was Sisterdale, a so-called “Lateiner Colony.” Back in Germany, a lateiner was a name for someone with a university education, which required students to know Latin. Sisterdale, like other Lateiner colonies in Texas, was an experiment in remaking the world according to their values: equality, intellectualism, education, liberty. But Sisterdale’s residents also engaged in the broader social issues of the day. Geographer Ernst Kapp and newspaper editors August Siemering and Adolph Douai joined a statewide call for the immediate end to slavery. Other Sisterdale residents became leaders in journalism, medicine, education, and agriculture. After the Civil War, Sisterdale’s population declined. “…the places of the literary men were taken by German farmers,” wrote historian Moritz Tiling, “and the scientific discussions on the merits of the epics of Virgil and Homer were replaced by the more practical conversations about agricultural requirements.” It had been a remarkable experiment. And, for a time, the settlers of Sisterdale and other Lateiner Communities achieved their utopian dream.
Sisterdale Dance Hall & Opera House dates to between 1860s and the 1880s. It is a popular wedding and music venue today. Retaining its German-Texan dance hall charm and appeal, Kendalia Halle, was erected in 1903 from Oregon red fir lumber shipped by train to Boerne, then hauled to Kendalia on horse-drawn wagons. Several times a month Kendalia Halle springs to life with energy provided by country bands and enthusiastic fans.