While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Charles F. Kalteyer
German Free School
Photograph, German Free School building in Austin. Image courtesy of the German Texas Heritage Society. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

GERMAN FREE SCHOOL ASSOCIATION OF AUSTIN. The German Free School Association of Austin was chartered by the Texas legislature on January 19, 1858, as the first chartered school in Austin, for the "education of the youth, the promotion of useful knowledge, and the advancement of the sciences." The school was to be "accessible to all alike without regard to religious opinions." The charter named Carl Wilhelm (William) von Rosenberg, Karl Wilhelm Pressler, Joseph Martin, H. Steussy, Dr. J. A. Brown, William Sattler, and Christian Wilhelm as trustees. The two-story school building, at what is now identified as 507 East 10th Street, was constructed in 1857 with volunteer labor on land overlooking Waller Creek, donated by the von Rosenberg family. Two-story living quarters were added in 1872 for the schoolmaster, Julius Schuetze. Classes were taught in English with German probably as a second language. State funds for teachers were distributed by the Travis County Commissioners Court in 1858 at the rate of 10 cents per day per student for students not paying tuition, and at 1½ cents per day per student for students who were paying tuition. A larger number of nonpaying students attended the German Free School than any other school in Austin. The school became public when the city schools opened in 1871, but the transition was not smooth.

Julius Schuetze
Photograph, Portrait of Julius Schuetze, a schoolmaster and trustee for the German Free School Association of Austin. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Historical marker for the German Free School
Photograph, Historical marker for the German Free School in Austin. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

The German Free School Association's original charter expired at the end of its twenty-year term in 1879. A recharter of the Association was filed with the Department of State in 1884 by trustees Julius Schuetze, G. P. Assmann, R. Haschke, Ed Wolf, Ed Steiner, Max Haas, and Henry Vogel. The school closed soon thereafter, and the building was used by the Germania Verein. Schuetze and his family continued to stay in the family quarters and eventually purchased the rest of the building. Ownership of the former school building changed hands several times after Schuetze's death in 1904. Austin artist Dr. Kelly H. Stevens bought the structure in 1948 and painstakingly restored it for his home, using numerous architectural pieces salvaged from other Austin landmarks; he also established a lovely terraced garden. In August 1991 Stevens deeded the German Free School property to the German-Texan Heritage Society (founded in 1978), with the understanding that it would be preserved for future generations. The building is now the headquarters of the German-Texan Heritage Society and the German Free School Guild. The guild was established in 1993 as a volunteer service arm of the society to support the facility as a historic cultural center with a library, tours, beginning-German classes, and other regularly scheduled programs. The building carries an Austin landmark seal and a historical medallion from the Texas State Historical Survey Committee (now the Texas Historical Commission).


Austin History Center Files. Willie Madora Long, Education in Austin Before the Public Schools (M.Ed. thesis, University of Texas, 1952). Helga von Schweinitz, "The German Free School in Austin, Texas," Journal of the German-Texan Heritage Society 16 (Fall 1994).

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, Charles F. Kalteyer, "GERMAN FREE SCHOOL ASSOCIATION OF AUSTIN," accessed July 04, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/kbg07.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on December 5, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...