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PETMECKY, GOTTFRIED JOSEPH

PETMECKY, GOTTFRIED JOSEPH (1809–1871). Gottfried Joseph Petmecky (also listed as Joseph Gottfried Petmecky), composer and musical director, was born on August 1, 1809, in Hradish, Boehmen Koenigreich, Austria. He was the son of Jacob Petmecky and Anna Bruenkmann. Petmecky is perhaps best-known for being the first musical director of the Gesangverein Germania, one of the first singing societies founded in Texas by German immigrants.

Logo for Adelsverein
The logo for the Verein zum Schutze Deutscher Einwanderer in Texas, otherwise known as Adelsverein. Image available on the Internet. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

Gottfried Petmecky married Anna Huebner (or Huebinger) on April 4, 1834, in the Holler Catholic Church at Limburg, Austria. The couple had six children. Petmecky was a teacher and composer when he and his family emigrated to Texas along with others in 1845. The Petmeckys were among the first families to settle in New Braunfels as part of the Adelsverein, an immigrant aid society specifically designed to bring German settlers to Texas. As with many German pioneers in Texas, the entire Petmecky family moved together, thereby helping keep its musical culture largely intact.

Gesangverein Germania
Lithograph, A Meeting of the Gesangverein Germania, by Carl G. von Iwonski. Image courtesy of the University of Texas at San Antonio. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

Life in New Braunfels was difficult at the beginning, particularly because of disease and the lack of provisions. Anna Petmecky died on March 19, 1849, from a cholera epidemic that swept through the area. Gradually, after securing the basic necessities, such as food and housing, the residents began to engage in cultural pastimes and reinstated the cultural traditions they had brought with them. On March 2, 1850, German-Texas settlers in the New Braunfels area founded the Gesangverein Germania, a singing society, with a charter of forty-seven members. Petmecky served as the musical director. He also composed pieces for male chorus. Only about half of the founding members had any singing ability. The rest considered the society to be more of a social organization. The Gesangverein Germania met for a variety of reasons, including musical performances, socializing, and discussing politics and other issues. However, music (see GERMAN MUSIC) remained the central focus, and soon members organized the first singing festival.

Petmecky moved to Austin, Texas, in August 1852, leaving the directorship of the Gesangverein Germania to Caspar Friedrich Blum. Petmecky founded the Austin Gesangverein, which was smaller than his previous group in New Braunfels. In October 1853 Petmecky and the members of the Austin Gesangverein travelled to New Braunfels for the first Saengerfest, or singing festival, which brought together German musical organizations from across the state (see TEXAS STATE SÄNGERBUND). While traveling to New Braunfels, Petmecky’s group had to cross Onion Creek, which was severely flooded. In the process, the group lost all of the sheet music its members had planned to bring to the festival. As a result, the group was forced to perform songs from memory and from sheet music borrowed from other singing societies.

Gottfried Petmecky married Johanna Richter on August 8, 1853, and they had two children. The family eventually moved to San Antonio, where Petmecky died in 1871 at the age of sixty-two.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Theodore Albrecht, “The Music Libraries of the German Singing Societies in Texas, 1850–1855,” Notes 31 (March 1975). William Atherton, “Descendents of Jacob Petmecky – 7 Jul 2008,” (http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~frantzen/trees/JacobPetmecky.html), accessed November 16, 2010. Jean M. Heide, “Celebrating ‘Das Deutsche Lied’ in Texas,” Journal of Texas Music History 3 (Fall 2003).

Nicole Blanchard

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Nicole Blanchard, "Petmecky, Gottfried Joseph," accessed October 19, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fpe93.

Uploaded on June 3, 2015. Modified on May 2, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.