Just outside the city of New Braunfels, Texas thrives a town called “Gruene.” One would be hard pressed to miss this town. Although you must travel down a long 2 lane road, follow a few signs and make a couple of turns as dust swirls in your rear view mirror; nestled by the Guadalupe River, you will find Gruene, Texas along with a sign that simply states, “Gently resisting change since 1872.”
The history of this town is much like the history of the United States. In the mid 1840's German farmers settled in Gruene. Ernst Gruene and his family were the first to build their homes in Gruene where they used the surrounding land to plant cotton. As with many investments, cotton became the number one cash crop and with that brought more families to Gruene. New families meant new homes, different styles, and new businesses to include a cotton gin. A dance hall and saloon (Gruene Hall) were also built which served as the heart of the community's social life.
The original cotton gin burned in 1922 and was later replaced by a modern electric model. The Depression along with the disasters to the cotton industry all but shut down the once bustling town. Gruene Hall was the only “business” spared. For close to 50 years the town remained a ghost of what once was. In the mid 1970's much of the Gruene estate was sold ushering in a new era of business and a new and thriving community.
If you think this is an essay on the “History of Gruene, Texas” you would be mistaken. This is the story of America embodied by a small town in Texas. Although just about everything in Texas is bigger, Gruene remains a charming town filled with shops offering everything from furniture to gourmet coffee. The old cotton gin serves as a restaurant and Gruene Hall hosts the likes of George Strait and Lyle Lovett. The town bodes something for even the most discriminating of tastes.
“Gently resisting change since 1872.” You will not find yourself bartering with cattle for your meal. Gruene does have ATM machines. You see, although Gruene maintains its charm, it has changed. The families who first settled in Gruene came looking for a better life, each bringing the best they could offer to their community. This was the foundation. When the old cotton gin burned down, a new, more advanced one replaced it. When hard times fell upon the nation, thus affecting the town, the landscape changed.
For this small town it took close to 50 years for new life to be brought back into the empty stores, along with a great deal of hard work and restoration. Our nation is facing trials not seen since the Great Depression which swallowed Gruene. There are a great many stores that must be rebuilt, mills to be replaced and a community of people that must work together for the greater good. Much like “Gruene Hall,” Texas serves as the center of the community which even in the face of devastation never failed. We have watched as some of our elected officials have sat for decades in office and we are now suffering from the failed policies, politics and promises they made. As Texans, we are proud of our state. We are proud of our history. As Texans we must not allow that same pride to stand in the way of progress. We may have a new, more modern cotton gin, but a great many of our stores remain cloaked in cobwebs of times long past. Will we choose to suffer the devastation that held Gruene captive for over 50 years, or will we stand Texas proud as Gruene Hall, whose music echoes in the streets and begin our restoration. I'm ready. Are you?