A local author is scheduled to give a presentation of his new book, “Friedrichsburg” at the Nesbitt Memorial Library on June 12.
The novel, “Friedrichsburg: Colony of the German Furstenverein” was first completed in 1867 and written by Friedrich Armand Strubberg and published in Germany. It is now available as a contemporary translation, written by Jim Kearney, a Colorado County resident and former Columbus High School graduate.
Kearney gave a synopsis of the book in an interview:
A young German hero Rudolph, on the Texas frontier carries dispatches in harrowing night rides between New Braunfels and Fredericksburg. A beautiful maiden, Ludwina, the bride-elect of Rudolph, is captured by the wily and unreconstructed Comanche sub-chief Kateumsi and carried off to the cave of the Great Grey Bear to await a fate worse than death. In the meantime the town of Fredericksburg, under the wise and measured leadership of their venerable leader, Director Schubbert, prepares for the grand entrance of the principal chiefs of the Comanche Nation for the signing of the German/Comanche Peace treaty, which will guarantee the safety and future prosperity of this fledgling community of German immigrants deep in the Comancheria. In the end the Delaware Indians, led by their larger-than-life chief, Youngbear, rescues the beautiful Ludwina from the clutches of the conflicted Kateumsi just in the nick of time. Scattered throughout this tale are wonderful bear and jaguar hunt scenes, myriad Indian fights, and a description of the fledgling Mormon commune of Zodiac, four miles from Fredericksburg on the Pedernales River, which developed a symbiotic relationship of mutual benefit with the struggling German town.
Kearney then presented the question is this story based on truth or a complete work of fiction.
“Actually it is more truth than fiction in this romantic melodrama set against the foundation year of the new town of Friedrichsburg.
“Friedrichsburg,” Kearney pointed out, is actually, the German spelling of Fredericksburg.
“The book is an outgrowth of my first book, “Nassau Plantation: The Evolution of a Texas German Slave Plantation” published by the University of North Texas Press 2010,” Kearney said. “In the chapter entitled, “The Catastrophe,” I describe a gun battle at Nassau Plantation that took place in the fall of 1847. This fight was the result of a very nasty disagreement between Baron von Meusebach, commissioner-general of the Society for the Protection of German Emigrants in Texas, commonly called the Adelsverein, or Society of Noblemen and Friedrich Armand Strubberg, also known as Dr. Schubbert, who served as the first colonial-director of Fredericksburg (Friedrichsburg), Texas during its foundation years 1846 and 1847.”
Kearney added that this society was responsible for settling thousands of German immigrants in Texas in the 1840s, principally in the Hill Country.
“In addition to Fredericksburg, the Adelsverein also established and populated the City of New Braunfels,” Kearney said. “So Strubberg/Schubbert played a big role in my first book and my curiosity was excited. Strubberg, it turns out, eventually returned to Germany and took up a new career writing adventure novels based primarily on his experiences on the Texas frontier.”
Kearney said that Strubberg became an important figure in German literature and none of his novels have been translated.
“I thought it would be fun to translate his autobiographical, homodiogetic novel, “Fried-richsburg,” Kearney said. “I did so and also annotated and illustrated the book. It has just been released by the University of Texas Press.”
When asked what “Friedrichsburg” means to him personally. Kearney said it represents a sense of accomplishment to see all the work that went into the book comes to fruition.
“The book, however, is not just an entertaining read,” Kearney said. “It has great historical value since the author was actually in Fredericksburg during its foundation years, and not only physically there, but serving as the man in charge. Fredericksburg is perhaps the most unique town in Texas. Where one year there was nothing, except roving bands of Native Americans and the next year was a town of over a thousand German immigrants, the seventh largest town in Texas by the 1850 census, far from any established road, with no means to feed itself, and with no economic justification.”
He added that its existence hung precariously in the balance and only the fortuitous confluence of several factors enabled the town to survive including the signing of a peace treaty with the Comanche Indians, the help of the neighboring Mormon settlement of Zodiac and the assistance of the Delaware Indians, to name the most important factors.
“All of these things are treated in the book,” Kearney said.
When asked how the research process for this book differed from his first book, he replied that “Nassau Plantation: The Evolution of a Texas German Slave Plantation” was pure historical narrative based on original, primary source research.
“The second book was primarily literary, as translating is, in my opinion, just as literary and only slightly less creative than the original work,” Kearney said. “A lot of research, however, went into the book. I have a 35-page introduction and over 60 pages of end notes to help the reader.”
He said that the end notes, especially, rest on hours and hours of original research principally in the Solms-Braunfels Archives, the official records of the Adelsverein.
“It represents a year and a half of work,” Kearney said.
Kearney then talked about the publishing process that the book went through.
“I made a proposal to UT Press and they gave conditional acceptance to the proposal,” Kearney said. “The manuscript was sent out to two readers, unknown to me, for peer review. They both gave it thumbs up and we were off to the races.”
He said that he then signed a contract with the press.
“This is a long process, and at the very best, from submission of the manuscript until actual publication, takes a year,” Kearney said. “I also did the illustrations myself and this took quite a lot of time.”
He added that UT Press did a great job with the layout, copy editing and cover design of the book and most importantly, they priced it reasonably for a hardback.
“It is a nice, professionally done book anyone should be happy to own,” Kearney said. “The books will sell for $30 at the talk (at the Nesbitt Memorial Library) and half of the profit will go to the benefit of the Nesbitt Memorial Library Foundation.”
Kearney also pointed out that, with the book just being released, it has already received a favorable review by Don Graham in “Texas Monthly.”
Kearney was also set to do an interview regarding the book with Michael Barnes of the “Austin American-Statesman.”
Kearney said some of his other writing projects include collaborating with Dr. James Smallwood on a definitive and impartial version of the Colorado County feuds.
“We have finished a rough manuscript, “Kearney said. “The book will be published by the University of North Texas Press, probably in the fall of 2013,” Kearney said. “I also just signed a contract with UT Press to do a book on the Delaware Indians in Texas.”
Jim resides on a historic ranch in Colorado County with his wife of 37 years, Paulina van Bavel Kearney. The couple has three grown children and two grandsons.
Jim became certified in 2002 as a public school teacher and accepted a position as German teacher at Katy High School where he served for seven years as Department Chair for Foreign Languages. In December 2010 he was awarded a PhD in Germanic Studies from the University of Texas at Austin.
Kearney’s presentation of the book, “Friedrichsburg” will begin at 7 p.m. in the meeting room of the Nesbitt Memorial Library Tuesday, June 12 in Columbus.