ALTHAUS, CHRISTIAN (1821–1915). Christian Althaus, pioneer doctor, was born in Westphalia on February 11, 1821. He received his medical training in the Prussian army and, with other Germans who emigrated in the 1840s, traveled to Texas. He sailed from Antwerp on August 14, 1846, and arrived at Galveston in October. He was settled in Fredericksburg when town lots were distributed in 1847. On October 5, 1847, he married Anna Maria Elisabetha Behrens, also a German immigrant, whose mother brought her and her brother to Fredericksburg with the first colonists after her father died on the boat.
In the spring of 1847 Althaus signed the Meusebach-Comanche Treaty, which brought some stability to the Hill Country frontier. He gave the Indians medical treatment and followed the advice of his friend Chief John Carnor to "be friendly and never pull a gun." Althaus spoke several Indian dialects and worked for a time at nearby Fort Martin Scott distributing food to the Indians as an agent of the United States government. He also made and sold saddles and other supplies to the Forty-niners on their way to California. In 1857 he moved his family sixteen miles to Cave Creek to start ranching. He built his otherwise conventional dwelling over a spring to provide water inside the house and a cool place to store his medicine. Althaus opposed slavery and secession,qqv but he organized the home guard during the Civil War and was a Gillespie county commissioner from 1861 to 1864 and again in 1866.
He served as a community doctor until the 1880s, and his practice of medicine was carried on under many difficulties. Medical instruments were scarce; before Althaus amputated a crushed arm, he had to have the operating instrument (now at Pioneer Museum, Fredericksburg) made by a local blacksmith. He used locally grown herbs, roots, and bark to make his own medicines. When the government sent him to Bandera to treat diphtheria patients, he used medicine he made from honey, almond juice, and the bark of the blackjack tree. Thirty-four out of thirty-five people survived. Elizabeth Althaus not only raised seven children but also ran a makeshift hospital, orphanage, and shelter for wayfarers in their home. In addition she tended the farm during her husband's trips, which sometimes lasted for weeks. Althaus died on August 10, 1915, at the age of ninety-four. He was buried at Cave Creek beside St. Paul Lutheran Church, which he had helped found in 1883.
Fannie Althaus, "Reminiscences of a Pioneer Doctor," Junior Historian, May 1948. Gillespie County Historical Society, Pioneers in God's Hills (2 vols., Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1960, 1974).
Image Use Disclaimer
All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.
For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml
If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Barbara Donalson Althaus, "Althaus, Christian," accessed May 27, 2016, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fal78.
Uploaded on June 9, 2010. Modified on April 6, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Get Texas history every day,
with day by day
Each day's email tells a little bit more of the story of Texas and links to our collection of more than 27,000 articles