Bettina, a short-lived commune on the north bank of the Llano River in western Llano County, was settled in 1847 by a fraternity of highly educated German communitarian freethinkers influenced by the writings of Étienne Cabet and Charles Fourier. Bettina was the seventh, and last, of the Adelsverein colonies in Texas. It was one five settlements attempted by the Adelsverein within the Fisher-Miller Land Grant after John O. Meusebach concluded a treaty with the Comanches in the spring of 1847. It was named for Elizabeth “Bettina” Katharina Ludovica Magdalena von Arnim (née Brentano) a German liberal and writer who had been a friend of Meusebach's family. The first building was a thatched common house forty feet long by twenty-two feet wide. An adobe house, with a shingled roof and a massive fireplace, was built next. Crops were planted, and the first harvest was satisfactory. However, cooperation gradually foundered because of dissention over work details and the role of a young woman cook, a Hispanic captive presented as a gift by a Comanche chief who underwent successful eye surgery while visiting Bettina. The utopian venture lasted less than a year, but many of the members of this group went on to make major contributions to Texas life. Notable were Dr. Ferdinand von Herff, an eminent San Antonio physician and surgeon; Gustav Schleicher, an engineer who helped to expand the state's rail system and who thereafter became a member of Congress; and Jacob Kuechler, a vocal Unionist who became commissioner of the General Land Office in Austin. Others, such as Christoph Flach and Johannes Hoerner, founded large and prominent Hill Country families that for four or five generations retained vestiges of freethinking liberalism and ethics. The writings of Louis Reinhardt and Friedrich Schenck, two members, 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. The journalist Emma F. Murck Altgelt, the geologist Ferdinand von Roemer, the editor Ferdinand J. Lindheimer, and others not directly associated with the fraternity also wrote about the settlement and its individual members. Vera Flach wrote a moving twentieth-century account of the acculturation of one of the Bettina families. The former commune is commemorated, along with the nearby Adelsverein settlements of Castell and Leiningen, by a state historical marker placed in 1964 on the north side of the Llano River across from Castell.
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