Carl Hilmar Guenther (1826-1902)

Carl Hilmar Guenther established a mill on the Texas frontier in 1851 that grew into one of the largest food processing companies in the nation, producing well-known flour brands such as Pioneer and White Wings, home baking products under the Morrison Mills name, and Sun-Bird and Williams prepared foods. Guenther originally came to America in 1848, seeking greater political freedom and hoping for economic opportunity.

Updated: February 25, 2016


Carl Hilmar Guenther (born March 19, 1826 in Weißenfels, Kingdom of Saxony; died October 18, 1902 in San Antonio, TX) established a mill on the Texas frontier in 1851 that grew into one of the largest food processing companies in the nation, producing well-known flour brands such as Pioneer and White Wings, home baking products under the Morrison Mills name, and Sun-Bird and Williams prepared foods. Guenther came to America in 1848, seeking greater political freedom, hoping for economic opportunity, and fulfilling a desire to see the world beyond Saxony. Although he, unlike some immigrant entrepreneurs, did not introduce innovations or inventions in his chosen field, Guenther shrewdly assessed the social and economic opportunities that the German communities in the expanding nation afforded. He lived in Wisconsin and traveled throughout the northern states for several years before settling in Fredericksburg, Texas, northwest of San Antonio. In 1860, he moved his business to San Antonio, building a home and mill on the San Antonio River. After the Civil War, innovations in milling technology and rapid increases in the state’s population and grain production spurred the growth of Guenther’s operation. By the time of his death, his company was among the biggest flouring and grist milling operations in the American Southwest.[*]

Family Background

Carl Hilmar Guenther, called Hilmar to distinguish him from his father, was the third of eight children and the eldest son of Carl Gottfried Guenther (1875-1859) and Johanna Rosina Koerner Guenther (1802-1882). The families had prospered before the Napoleonic era as merchants and clergymen, as Rosina wrote in the 1870s to her grandchildren in the United States, and had earned a reputation around Weißenfels and Leipzig for their concern for the rights and condition of the peasants in the region. Although both the Koerners and Guenthers lost much during the Napoleonic wars, Carl Gottfried Guenther became a moderately prosperous cloth merchant, who managed to support his large family and eventually to provide much needed capital for his son in America.[1]

Knowing his parents would oppose his decision, Carl Hilmar Guenther left Saxony for America in 1848 without telling his family. He nevertheless remained a diligent correspondent and, though he never saw his father again, managed to heal the breach created by his secret departure and persuaded his father to provide much of the capital necessary to launch his milling business. He kept in contact with his brothers and sisters, writing frequently and urging them to visit him. None seems to have done so, however, and Guenther did not see them again until he retired from active management of the mill and traveled to Europe with his wife and youngest son more than forty years later.

Guenther married Dorothea Wilhelmine-Henrietta Pape (1840-1898) on October 7, 1855, in Fredericksburg, Texas. Dorothea, called Dora, was the daughter of neighboring landowner, Friederich Pape, who had emigrated with his wife, Katherine, in 1845 under the auspices of the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas (der Adelsverein). The organization purchased land to establish a German colony in Texas in the 1840s[2] to serve as an outlet for the German states’ underemployed population, as a market for German goods, and as a source of raw materials. Guenther and Dorothea had four sons and three daughters. Two children were born in Fredericksburg: Fritz in 1857 and Arthur in 1859. In 1861, shortly after the family moved to San Antonio, Hilmar Louis Guenther was born. Dorothea gave birth to Amanda in 1863, Maria in 1864, Matilda in 1866, and Erhard in 1868.

Guenther valued education highly, read widely, and advocated for education actively throughout his life. He was educated by private tutors in Weißenfels and then apprenticed to a miller in Zeitz, located along the Weiße Elster River approximately twenty miles from his parents' home, where he worked for several years learning the milling craft. A master miller in the mid-nineteenth-century German lands was an educated craftsman and businessman, who possessed a basic knowledge of business principles, drawing, mechanical engineering, mathematics, general and specialized carpentry, hydrology, and geology – though for most millers such knowledge was learned on the job as apprentices and journeymen. After his more formal tutoring ended and he began work as an apprentice, Guenther likely had training in several related subjects, evidenced by his complaints that the milling engineer at Zeitz had stopped teaching him drawing. During his first years in America, he found work as a carpenter, cabinetmaker, wheelwright, and millwright.[3] 

Although Guenther was not active politically, he was clearly unhappy with the lack of political freedom in Saxony. In his letters, he frequently condemned the lack of unity among the German-speaking inhabitants of Europe and believed that if united they could end the rule of princes that held “the citizens down as underlings.”[4]Unlike refugees to America following the failed revolutions of 1848,however, Guenther left his home primarily due to a desire for adventure and economic opportunity rather than from radical political zeal. In the German lands, “nothing appealed to me. Business and life in general seemed dead. The streets were narrow and dull. In fact, I felt hemmed in.” As he wrote in a letter explaining to his parents his decision to sail for America – and apologizing for keeping his plans secret – “If I cannot see the world during my youth, then life won’t mean much to me." He wrote in a short memoir for his family years later that he wanted to visit all of German lands, France, and Russia, but especially the United States, having read in pamphlets and letters that “anyone who could and would work could live better in America than here. So I decided to travel there as soon as possible.” He did not have sufficient funds to make the trip from Zeitz to New York, however, so he borrowed $50 from a friend and left the community on April 23, 1848, bound for Bremerhaven at the age of twenty-two.[5]

Travels in America

Guenther’s travels from Saxony to San Antonio reflected the changing nature of American and western society in the nineteenth century. Innovations in transportation, communication, manufacturing technologies, business organization, and agriculture, combined with rapid population growth, urbanization, and the causal and consequent expansion of an increasingly market-oriented economy, promised economic opportunities and perils that began to reshape American cultural values.[6] Guenther’s means of travel included traditional sailing vessels, mule-drawn canal boats, lake and coastal steamers, railroads, covered wagons drawn by oxen over barely defined roads, horseback, and foot. Such innovations indicate the technological and cultural transformation of American life that Guenther himself recognized and took advantage of to build his company in Texas.

On May 5, 1848, he sailed on the Liebnitz for America with 304 other passengers.[7] The voyage took eight weeks. Onboard, the mostly German passengers formed a friendly community, sharing food and drink, dancing, and playing cards. Guenther read extensively, mostly German poets such as Schiller, but also translations of popular French novels.[8] The voyage proved mostly uneventful, and the vessel arrived in New York on June 30. Guenther and the other passengers marveled at the numerous ships in New York Harbor – the “forest of masts” and “numerous flags… unfurled” from around the world – that crowded the waterfront, reflecting the central position that New York had attained as an Atlantic port with the completion of the Erie Canal some 30 years earlier. As soon as the steam tug finished maneuvering the ship into its mooring space along the docks, enterprising New Yorkers scurried on board, selling fruits and cakes, advertising inns, offering transportation services, and looking for laborers to hire. Despite the seeming labor shortage such labor recruitment efforts suggested, Guenther found only hard manual labor that taxed his body after two months of idleness at sea. After one hard day working construction and one night in a cheap boarding house, Guenther decided he had had enough of New York and boarded a steamboat for Albany, bound eventually for Racine, Wisconsin.[9]

It was a slow and pleasurable trip, Guenther wrote, featuring fine weather and “lovely scenery.” In this he was like many others: As his canal boat passed slowly, farmers, harvesting commodities for sale in New York and abroad, offered passengers on board work at 75 cents per day (approximately $22 per day in 2011$).[10] While some of his fellow passengers took these jobs, Guenther resolutely pressed onward toward Wisconsin, writing later that he felt a responsibility to deliver a letter from a writer in Zeitz to an acquaintance who lived between Milwaukee and Racine. Guenther spent the next two months working for the farmer to whom he delivered the letter, earning 75 cents per day with food and lodging provided. After a bout of illness, he walked 120 miles north to Two Rivers, a small village on Lake Michigan, where he found an innkeeper willing to provide him with room and board in exchange for tending the water and heat. He pawned his watch for $3.75 and sold his silk umbrella and used the money for gloves, medicine, and a pair of shoes. He eventually found work at two sawmills, earning up to $3 per day, but when the work ended he returned to Racine, walking the 100 miles in the middle of January. In the midst of a snowstorm, he found refuge with a Native American family, and after the weather cleared, they took him to the home of a German in Sheboygan. Guenther shared with many European Americans a fascination and fear of Native peoples, regarding them as exotic and alien. “Unless you know how to judge these people you cannot distinguish the men from the women, as the men have no beards, their skin is brown like copper and their clothes all consist of deerskin and blankets. Their long black hair hangs down their back. Sometimes they paint their faces, possibly one side white, the other black or it would be red and green."[11]

Guenther held various short-lived jobs as a farm hand in 1849, and later traveled back to New York where he worked briefly at a box factory before returning to Racine via train and steamer by the fall. Immediately finding work in a steam-powered grist mill operated by the city, he was amazed at the efficiency of the machines: “We made from 200 to 210 barrels of flour daily at 196 pounds a barrel. The entire output was shipped to England.” Yet as winter set in and the lakes froze after Christmas, the mill shut down and Guenther again cast about for work.[12]

At this point, Guenther seems to have made a decision to remain in America. He found little work other than chopping wood, and so undertook to study English at one of the several schools in Racine. He later found work in a harvester machinery factory and earned enough money to buy the carpentry tools of one of his co-workers, who was bound for California’s gold fields, for $30. The purchase of these tools proved to be a turning point in his fortunes. Owning his own means of production allowed him to make use of his training and experience, and he immediately found work as a carpenter, building barns, a church, and several houses around Racine. His work day was typically from seven in the morning to six in the evening, and he regularly earned twenty-five dollars per week (approximately $760 per week in 2011$). He lived in a boardinghouse with thirty other young, mostly German-speaking men and had an active social life full of conversation, walking and singing societies, shooting parties, swimming, and “plenty of dances.”[13]

Despite his satisfaction with life in Racine, after two-and-a-half years he began to suffer from homesickness. At the urging of his family, he planned a return to Saxony.[14] First, however, he wanted to see the American South, perhaps because of the controversies over slavery in the Compromise of 1850 or, as he alluded to in his memoir, because he had read numerous reports about the South that appeared in newspapers, pamphlets, shared letters, and books in the German lands in the 1840s. He traveled by steamboat to St. Louis, where he witnessed a slave auction, the men selling for $700 (approximately $21,200 in 2011$) and women and children for $300 to $600. The docks were extraordinarily crowded and chaotic and, despite some misgivings about slavery, he expressed his admiration for the bustle of the river city’s commerce.[15]  

Farther down the river, Guenther, another German, and four Irish immigrants left their steamboat and took work on the Mohawk, a cotton steamer, loading cotton for $35 a month. Guenther soon regretted his decision and encountered his first direct experience with southern nativism. "They always shoved us Germans ahead at the work and pushed us back at mealtime. We learned that if we wanted to survive, we cannot be so modest. I had heard of the rough people in the South, so I was not too surprised. Since we found ourselves among wolves we decided to howl with them and, whenever the time came, to defend ourselves to the last." Following a confrontation with an assistant pilot, Guenther left the steamboat and spent the following months working as a carpenter and general laborer. In December 1850 he wrote his parents from Lake Providence on the Mississippi River, 500 miles north of New Orleans, that he made good money as a carpenter and cabinetmaker, about $2.50 per day, but found expenses, especially for food, clothes, and tools, in the South greater than in Wisconsin. “The people are as different here as the climate. The planters live the life of the nobility at home. They have their horses, mules and Negroes to do all the work on the plantations.”[16]

Guenther told his parents that he planned to stay in the South until the middle of April 1851 and then sail from New Orleans to France. When he reached New Orleans, however, rather than board a ship for Europe, he boarded one for Texas. His surviving correspondence and memoir do not give a reason for this decision, but it is likely that political and economic factors, and, perhaps, simple wanderlust and the lure of the romanticized “frontier,” contributed to his decision to go to Texas. Guenther repeatedly stated in letters home that if the German lands did not win their freedom, he would remain in America, and he frequently spoke of his growing appreciation for the U.S., comparing its climate and resources favorably to the land of his birth, “but best of all it is free!  Were Germany free I would soon go back there. I hope you will do what you can to help freedom in Germany. Should that time ever come, but many Germans would return.…”[17]What freedom meant to Guenther is not entirely clear, but he frequentlypraised American democracy and the economic opportunities that abundant land and natural resources, a widely distributed and generally small population, and the light hand of authority provided.

By January 7, 1851, Guenther reached San Antonio after a long and tedious overland journey from Indianola. “Texas is now the place where you can make money, though living here is not as pleasant as living in Germany or other parts of the States…. The coastal plains of Texas are very unhealthy during the summer; however, farther inland it is as healthy as it is where you live – you can tell that by the healthy color and complexion of the local people. The region here suggests Baden, and farther West it is supposed to be like Switzerland….The inhabitants of San Antonio are one-third Mexican, one-third German and one-third of Americans, English and French.” He had been hired to build a mill near San Antonio, and he asked his father for $2,000 (approximately $61,000 in 2011$) to buy land “along some river near here as soon as possible and build a mill.” By June, when he had originally planned to be in Paris, Guenther had purchased 150 acres of land for $800 along Live Oak Creek, a small tributary of the Pedernales River just outside the small community of Fredericksburg, Texas, having decided to try to make his fortune in America.[18]

Business Development: Fredericksburg

In Fredericksburg, Guenther built the foundation on which C.H. Guenther & Son, Inc. would grow over the next 150 years. Within three years he constructed and rebuilt a dam, excavated a mill run, and built a mill with grinding stones imported from France. He later expanded his operation to include a saw mill, and soon established such a reputation for reliability that his paper debts (i.e. commercial paper) circulated as a medium of exchange. By the end of the decade, he married and had two children, built a new house, and began construction of a dry goods store next to his mill to cater to the farmers who gathered there daily.

When Guenther arrived in Texas in 1850, the state’s population of 212,492 free persons and 58,161 enslaved African Americans was concentrated in the slaveholding regions in the eastern part of the state from the Gulf Coast north to the Red River. Fredericksburg, located in semi-arid hills about 100 miles northwest of San Antonio, was well beyond the plantation districts and main population centers. It had few slaves and produced little cotton. The community was on one of the four roads established by the United States government to the Rio Grande Valley, which had been acquired from Mexico in the 1848 Guadelupe-Hidalgo Treaty ending the war between the two nations. It was also one of the four settlements between New Braunfels, the center of Adelsverein-sponsored immigration to Texas, and the Fisher and Miller Grant, a three million acre tract granted to Henry Francis Fisher and Burchard Miller by the Republic of Texas in 1842 as a destination for German immigrants. Approximately 80 miles from New Braunfels and 60 miles from San Antonio, Fredericksburg was founded by Baron von Meusebach in 1846 on 10,000 acres of land that he purchased shortly after taking over the directorship of the Adelsverein.The Fisher and Miller grant attracted few Germans or other European-Americans and remained mostly occupied by Comanche and other native peoples until well after the American Civil War. Gillespie County, however, by 1850, had a population of 1,235, of whom 913 were of foreign birth, and five slaves, all belonging to Anglo-Texans. The majority of residents in Gillespie County were under the age of 40, and most were between the ages of 20 and 30. Fredericksburg itself had a population of 754.[19]

Census enumerators reported that Gillespie farmers grew 15,240 bushels of corn and 80 bushels of wheat, and its lone grist mill, which had been destroyed by flooding shortly before Guenther arrived, produced corn meal valued at $600. There was but one sawmill, which was poorly run, according to Guenther’s letters home. Although Meusebach had negotiated a treaty between the Germans of Fredericksburg and local Comanches that provided for peaceful coexistence, the federal government, nevertheless, established Fort Martin Scott in 1847, providing a military presence to secure European expansion into Comanche territory. Guenther summed up the challenging situation faced by local farmers succinctly: “The farmers sell their corn to the government [at the fort] and buy their flour 70-80 miles from here.”

Guenther’s success in creating his mill owed much to his own shrewd assessment of the opportunities available in Fredericksburg, but he also relied heavily on capital invested by his father and, after his father’s death, his mother. He sought financial assistance periodically during the next 15 years to improve, expand, repair, or relocate his business in the 1850s and 1860s. After receiving $2,000 in early 1851, Guenther purchased 150 acres of land and two cabins on Live Oak Creek in March for $800 (payable in four installments). The property was located on steep hills above where the creek joined the Pedernales River west of Fredericksburg. He spent another $300 on materials and wages for five men who helped him build a seven-foot dam and mill race. In July, he again asked his father for a $500 loan to finish the mill, entreating his brother-in-law to put in a good word for him to his father and promising to repay the borrowed amount at six-percent interest. In August, his father sent him $400 along with a request for information about the laws of Texas regarding estates left to heirs overseas.[20]

The people of Frederickburg constantly inquired when the mill would be finished, looking forward to the day when they would no longer have to grind their corn by hand. By September, the German-speaking carpenters fastened a live oak branch atop the completed mill, and Guenther and the workers celebrated the traditional topping off with wine and toasts to their hard work and Guenther’s parents.

By the end of 1852, Guenther had paid off all debts he owed for the land purchase and construction costs, but he suffered a severe setback when his mill dam was destroyed by flooding in November. Fortunately, the mill itself was not damaged, so Guenther immediately began to rebuild the dam. He calculated that it cost him $400 to $600 (approximately $12,000-$18,000 in 2011$) to extend his mill race farther from the mill wheel, thus allowing him to have a shorter dam better able to withstand flooding. He hired several men at $1.20 to rebuild the dam and dig the extended mill race, and he was able to pay off the labor with $400 earned by the mill the first month it returned to operation. During the period after the flood, he had turned to local credit to survive and now asked his father for additional funds to pay off his debts. “Were it here in the U.S. as in Germany I could get money on a mortgage and I would not worry, but there is no money to be had here,” he wrote. “Those who have money want 20 percent and will not lend it for more than three months at a time. They want it in their own hands for speculation.”[21]

By June 1853, his father had sent him an additional $400 with an inquiry about the value of his property. The younger Guenther estimated his land and mill to be worth $6,000 (approximately $180,000 in 2011$), which put him among the wealthiest of property owners in Gillespie County. In the summer of 1853, Guenther began to expand his mill and business with the construction of a sawmill. His financial situation had improved considerably since the winter, when he faced debts from the destruction of his original dam. Despite his business sense, Guenther admitted that he refused to examine his books in great detail out of fear of the total debt he faced. “Twice during that time I wanted to count up all my debts. Instead I closed the account book with a bang!” Finally, in May, he balanced his books. He had at that time given out $1,000 in notes to creditors. Typical of the informal economy of antebellum Texas, most of the notes carried no, or very low, interest and many had no specific due date. Guenther’s reputation, and the promised profitability of his mill, gave his notes credibility, and the notes were traded throughout the county. His workers, for examples, used them to buy livestock, to obtain wares from Fredericksburg merchants, and to pay off old debts. He wrote that he had paid off more than one-third of his debts and had rewritten another third to come due within the year at 10 percent per annum. Typical for a state where currency was often in short supply, he paid most of his debts by bartering flour produced in the mill.[22]

Guenther did not invest much time or money in farming as did his neighbors, telling his father that “Labor is high here, and land cheap.” Thus he could not hire hands inexpensively enough to produce agricultural products profitably. Adding value to agricultural goods proved far more lucrative. By the time he wed Dorothea in 1855, he had constructed a new home to replace his log cabin, had added a sawmill to the grist mill, had installed a mechanical means to pack flour bags, had bolstered his new mill dam, had planned the construction of a second mill, and had told his father he no longer needed money from home. In the same letter, he firmly reiterated his commitment to remaining in America.[23]  

In 1856, Guenther again reinvested his profits into the mill, spending $1,400 to lengthen his mill race to 3,000 feet to increase the flow of water for more speed and to power two smaller wheels and a newer larger and more powerful wheel for a second mill. He purchased new French millstones, the most highly regarded stones made at the time and investigated but dismissed the possibility of starting a business with his brother-in-law and a German merchant, Henry Runge, from Indianola to export cowhides to the German lands. With the new mill and race, he was able to maintain consistent output, even during low-water periods, and was able to grind a wagonload of grain at a time, easily exceeding the capacity of the county’s three other mills, which could only grind the quantity of grain carried by a single horse or mule. The expansion cost him $2,500 (approximately $68,400 in 2011$), but within a year, he had paid off all but $600 of the sum. Guenther claimed that his mill was the only one in the area that earned a profit.[24]

In early 1857, Guenther began to complain about the consequences of the drought that had begun the previous year. His profits had declined from five dollars per day to two dollars per day. In the early era of grain milling, farmers expected to receive flour from their own grain, not from a common output of all grain collected by the mill, and thus often watched the grinding take place. Millers often were suspected of cheating customers by taking more than their share of the flour. Often, mill stones operated within a square housing in order to keep the flour contained. Farmers frequently complained about millers keeping the flour that accumulated in the square corners of the housing. Some millers were accused of building secret doors or chutes within the housing to skim off extra flour. Guenther never faced such accusations and attempted to deal fairly and somewhat generously with his customers, assessing them one-sixth rather than the more typical one-fourth of the total quantity of flour produced at each grind. As the drought continued, he shared with farmers the hardship resulting from crop failures and reduced yields, as well as faced his own unique problems due to his mill’s diminished milling capacity. Consequently, he began building a rock house to serve as a dry goods store for the farmers who were constantly coming and going throughout the day as they brought grain to the mill and carted away flour.[25]

In August 1859, Guenther decided that San Antonio offered better opportunities for the future than did Fredericksburg. In letters home, he wrote that his decision stemmed mostly from the prospect of competition from Fredericksburg merchants. Guenther claimed that he had discussed in public his hope that if he were to buy a steam engine to power his mill, the area farmers would plant more wheat and less corn:

Immediately these merchants who had pledged themselves now to build a mill now agreed to combine and together buy a steam mill. I will not compete with this steam mill, because I think it is risky and as I figure there is only enough business here for one such mill…. My finances are secure. My estate is well known to be the finest in County Gillespie; however, I would like to progress as fast as possible. I cannot rest; I am too young for that. I have now rested for two years and this competition is a challenge to my lust for action.”[26]  

Why the merchants decided to build the mill is unclear, but perhaps Guenther’s decision to open a dry goods store at his mill the year before had rankled downtown merchants who saw it as unwelcome competition. Or perhaps they saw Guenther as a monopolist and thus a threat. Whatever the reason for their decision, the merchants now seemed to perceive Guenther as a competitor rather than an ally. Furthermore, in response to the drought, farmers in the region had begun to turn to sheep ranching and wool production instead of grain growing, further reducing the demand for Guenther’s milling services. San Antonio, by contrast, offered reliable access to water from the aquifer-fed San Antonio River, a growing population, and little competition – only a single water-powered mill that was smaller than Guenther’s mills in Fredericksburg.[27]

Once he decided to move to San Antonio, Guenther relocated his home and business there on the eve of the Civil War. At the time of the move, he was one of the leading wealth holders in Gillespie and Béxar counties. Thus the economic foundation he established in Fredericksburg, combined with San Antonio’s rapid population growth, all but assured his future business success.

Business Development: San Antonio

By September 1, Guenther had purchased two town lots on the San Antonio River south of downtown for $2,000 (approximately $56,000 in 2011$). He asked his mother to provide him with $1,000 to $2,000 in addition to his inheritance of about $2,000 to help pay for the cost of construction, which he estimated to be $8,000 to $10,000, and to avoid the 12-percent interest he claimed was the lowest rate available for loans in Texas. As the construction of the San Antonio mill proceeded, Guenther poured his profits from the Fredericksburg mill, now overseen by his father-in-law, into the new facility. The family relied on the Fredericksburg homestead for butter, flour, meat, cut lumber, and had put up almost everything for sale to finance the San Antonio mill. By 1860, Guenther had sold his mill to his father-in-law for $4,000. Sale of livestock and grain in Fredericksburg brought in another $2,300, and Guenther borrowed $2,000 at 12-percent interest from local creditors. To build the dam on the river and the 150-yard mill race to power the wheel, Guenther enlisted Alsatian immigrants in Castroville, 20 miles west of San Antonio. The Alsatians grew wheat, and Guenther’s mill promised to be the closest milling facility to their farms. In exchange for their labor, they received credit at the mill when it was completed.[28]

The mill was finished in April 1860, but by the middle of the year it was already clear that the new facility’s grinding capacity would exceeded the volume of wheat produced around San Antonio. Guenther began to import wheat from as far away as Mexico and North Texas, shipped via ox-drawn wagons (numbering upwards of 10,000) that delivered goods throughout Texas at the end of the antebellum period. This imported wheat, according to a scholar who wrote a company history for the firm’s one-hundred-fiftieth anniversary, began to transform Guenther’s operations from a custom or exchange mill grinding locally-produced grains for local consumption to a merchant mill producing flour for consumers and bakeries and for shipment beyond the local market. Before the new mill had even celebrated its first anniversary in San Antonio, Guenther had established what would remain for the next one-hundred-and-fifty years the city’s largest mill and, in a community that remained far less industrialized than even other nineteenth century Texas towns, one of its largest industrial establishments.[29]

San Antonio had been established as a missionary outpost of Spanish Mexico in the eighteenth century. Far from the coast and with no navigable rivers to the sea, San Antonio did not develop industry comparable to other Texas cities in the nineteenth century. After a population plunge during the period of the Texas Republic (1836-1845) the city had rebounded until by 1860 it was the state’s largest city and a market center for the South Texas ranch lands. Small by eastern standards, in 1860 San Antonio had a population of 8,235 and would remain the state’s largest or second-largest city throughout the century. By 1900 its population stood at 52,321. Even in 1860, it was a surprisingly diverse city for one so small, with a population divided somewhat equally between Anglo-Americans, Mexican-Americans, and German immigrants, with German speakers holding a slight demographic majority in the 1860s. Guenther wrote to his mother in the mid-1860s, for example, that his son Fritz spoke German, English, and Spanish, “often in the same sentence.”[30]

The city, like Fredericksburg, was situated at the western end of the German belt stretching from the coast at Galveston into the center portion of the state to Fredericksburg. In 1860 more than 20,553 Texas residents had been born in German-speaking lands. In many counties, German immigrants represented a large minority of the population – 50.4 percent in Gillespie and 40.4 percent in Béxar. Many Germans, like Guenther, opposed slavery in principle, and as the slavery question agitated the nation in the 1850s, suspicion and hostility among native-born whites toward German immigrants increased. In 1854, for example, a convention of Germans met in San Antonio to discuss the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the growing sectional conflict. The resulting platform called for the end of slavery and the better treatment of free persons of color, as well as various reforms for the benefit of the working classes in the state. As a consequence, the nativist American Party won numerous state and local offices in the 1854 election, mainly on the strength of voting by native-born artisans, who saw immigrants as economic competitors, and slaveholders, who saw immigrants as a threat to slavery. In the summer, several hundred Know-Nothing Texans “invaded San Antonio with threats of violence and death against foreigners.” An armed group of Germans turned out in a show of force, and the nativists retreated. In 1855, twelve pro-slavery men threatened to destroy the press of the San Antonio Zeitung, whose editor, Adolph Douai, frequently espoused anti-slavery sentiments. Again, an armed group of Germans turned out to confront the mob, which quickly retreated.[31]

When the war broke out in 1861, Germans again became objects of suspicion, though many professed their loyalty to the South and joined the Confederate Army. Fire-eating Confederate congressman William Simpson Oldham, in a pamphlet on Texas secession, urged southern patriots to keep watch on Germans for evidence of treason. “Even the African Negro” was “superior” to “the infidel German” in loyalty to the southern cause, Oldham wrote.[32] Although many Germans remained Unionists, their family and business interests led them to remain silent throughout the war. When German businessmen and merchants in the western counties refused to take Confederate money and others formed a militia of German-Texans to resist the Confederate draft in 1862, martial law was declared in parts of Gillespie, Kerr, Kendall, Medinia, and Béxar counties. A group of about 70 Germans attempted to flee to Mexico, but state troops pursued them and engaged them in battle at the Nueces River, killing 19 and wounding nine others, who were later executed. About twenty additional Unionists were later killed while hiding out in the countryside or attempting to cross into Mexico. The rest escaped.[33] In San Antonio, Germandissatisfaction with the Confederacy broke out frequently. In 1862, a placard was posted advising German residents to resist the Confederate leaders with violence. Confrontations between German residents and Confederate Texans, and violent reprisals by state officials, continued throughout the war.[34]

Guenther, as a miller, was not subject to conscription but was required to provide flour to the Confederate Army. With several young children and a substantial investment in his business, he chose to keep his head down and weather the storm of war, but he did have friendships with men who were perceived by Confederate authorities as being subversive.[35] His letters to his family in Saxonywere infrequent. He rarely wrote of local affairs in them, but he did advise his mother to avoid political topics. “In Fredericksburg a fierce political battle is raging among the citizens. When you write, please do not mention anything about political problems because it is war now, but write us as much as you wish about things in Germany.” Guenther also took precautions to protect himself financially, frequently sending money with friends to deposit in Leipzig banks. He did not declare his own views on slavery, secession, or African Americans in his letters. Although Guenther seems to have been a supporter and, initially at least, a financial backer of the pro-Unionist, Republican, German-language newspaper Eine Freie Presse für Texas (as a lay pastor he presided over the marriage of the editor, August Simmering, in Fredericksburg), he shared the prejudices of most white, nineteenth-century Americans.[36] "Some of our emancipation sympathizers got mixed up with the Negroes in yesterday’s parade,” he wrote in July 1867 of the Independence Day Parade. “I imagine the nostrils of our emancipation heroes were not too happy, but of course, they could do nothing but keep on marching because they will need these votes when the time comes for them to run for Judge, Mayor, sheriffs, etc.”[37] Despite the difficulties of thewar, Guenther, his family, and his company weathered the conflict in sufficiently good shape to take advantage of the opportunities that emerged in the latter decades of the nineteenth century.

Once the war ended, the animosity and distrust felt between the German-speaking and native-born populations of San Antonio gradually subsided. Despite political divisions over Republican Reconstruction in the city and state during the next decade, the reassertion of white supremacy, civic boosterism, and a desire for greater prosperity submerged any lingering hostility. Dances and balls were common in the German community; women studied magazines for the latest styles to purchase from beyond the city; locally produced Menger beer no longer satisfied tastes, and people began to demand imported German, English, and northern beer. Iced drinks became extremely popular, and in response, in 1867 Guenther began an ice manufacturing business with two ice machines built next to the lower mill that drew on water from the river.[38]

Although no company records remain that detail sales figures of Guenther’s mills in the nineteenth century, it is clear that his sales expanded as San Antonio grew and the state’s wheat production and population increased. As he had done in Fredericksburg, he consistently reinvested profits into his operations, purchasing new equipment and building facilities to increase his milling capacity. In 1868, he built a second mill, using a slightly modified natural rock fall as a dam upstream near the United States Arsenal. This second mill ground corn and rye exclusively. In the early 1870s, his competition increased with the expansion of the Laux Mill and the opening of the Alamo Mill north of town.[39]

In February 1877, the Galveston, Harrisburg, and San Antonio Railway reached San Antonio, linking the city to the coast for the first time, and, via connecting lines, with the American Midwest. The railroad link offered new opportunities, as well as new competition. Within a decade the railway was acquired by the Southern Pacific, which offered direct links to New Orleans, Laredo, El Paso, and San Francisco. Guenther quickly took advantage of the opportunity to import grain from rich wheat producing regions of North Texas, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), and Kansas. The International and Great Northern line reached San Antonio in the early 1880s, providing another link to the wheat growing regions to the north. A newspaper reported that the mill received two boxcars full of wheat worth $2,000 (approximately $44,000 in 2011$) from North Texas in June 1877.[40] The railroads also brought competition, however, leading Guenther toundertake a series of improvements to increase his productivity and protect his dominant position in the Southwest Texas milling market. By the end of 1877, Guenther rebuilt the lower mill, installing a new, powerful, six-foot-diameter turbine waterwheel. Turbines were completely enclosed waterwheels, usually made of iron, which made them long-lasting, with efficient curved blades.[41] The company also installed four new millstones and a new belt-drivesystem to replace the wooden gears and shafts. By the time the rebuilt mill opened in 1878, its capacity had increased to 77 barrels per day, more than 15,000 pounds of flour, which a San Antonio newspaper claimed “was equal to the entire consumption of the city.”[42] Guenther also replaced the wheel at the upper mill with a turbine-stylewheel.

Despite the new equipment, drought lowered Guenther’s production in 1878-1879 and in 1881-1883. Nevertheless, with good prospects for continued growth, he brought his two oldest sons into the business and renamed the company C.H. Guenther & Sons. Fritz, 21, oversaw the business portion of the company, while Arthur, 19, supervised daily operations. Their participation in company management relieved their father from having to oversee the mill on a daily basis at a time when he was increasingly suffering from severe asthma. Guenther maintained ownership of the property and kept fifty percent of the profits. His two sons paid rent for their portion of the facilities, earning a salary and twenty-five percent of the profits each. They were paid eight percent on their share of the profits in exchange for leaving the bulk of their share in the company for reinvestment.[43]

Through the 1880s, flour and meal production continued to increase. The San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railroad, which linked the city with Aransas Bay on the Gulf Coast, built a branch line to the company’s facility and the San Antonio Street Railway Company laid tracks from Alamo Plaza along King William Street to the mill. By the end of 1887, the San Antonio Daily Light reported that the company produced 200 barrels of flour at the lower mill and 600 bushels of meal at the upper mill per day.[44]

Guenther sought to incorporate new milling technologies and ideas about flour production into his milling facility. Following an 1891 trip to Germany – his first visit to his homeland since 1848 – with his wife and youngest son, Erhard, Guenther returned to Texas to oversee the installation of six stands of steel rollers, a technology that had been originally developed in Hungary. The steel rollers were the culmination of the New Process style of milling that had originated before the Civil War. Wheat berries, also called kernels, have a hard outer covering, which is not easily cracked without contaminating the white flour with endosperm bran and germ – the “middlings” as they were called in the nineteenth century. Today whole wheat flour, which includes the bran and germ, is considered more nutritious than purely white flour from which the middlings have been removed. Whole wheat flour, however, produces denser, heavier baked goods than does white flour and in the nineteenth century, most European-Americans associated white flour with aristocratic and elite tastes. Millers, therefore, strove to produce flour as free from impurities as possible. The various “milling revolutions” that occurred in the nineteenth century were attempts to attain this purity and, like in most other industries in capitalist America, to reduce the cost of production through automation.

Millers catering to the nobility in the Austro-Hungarian Empire began to use “high grinding” techniques, setting the millstones farther apart than usual to crack the berries, and then moving the stones closer and closer together on successive grinds. Although this reduced the quantity of flour produced and required labor-intensive resetting of the millstone’s height at each grinding – dressing the stone – the technique prevented the crushing of the bran, germ, and other middlings and allowed for their easier separation by improved purifiers that blasted a puff of air across the wheat as it was sieved. This New Process milling, while producing a flour made almost entirely from the lighter endosperm, nevertheless cost millers money in terms of productivity. Millers continued to seek ways to reduce the labor costs for re-dressing the stones and to increase the yield from the grind.[45] Steel rollers, corrugated steel cylinders stacked in pairs with ever smaller openings between them, provided the answer. First used in the United States in Minneapolis in 1878, they began to be widely adopted in the 1880s, resulting in a “sensational increase” in wheat production to feed the mills. The new rollers that Guenther added to his lower mill in 1892 produced finer grades of flour and increased production by at least five percent. The increased productivity and reduced costs drove all of the other mills in San Antonio out of business, eliminating Guenther’s main competition in Southwest Texas.[46]

In 1894, Guenther’s son, Arthur, sold his interest in C.H. Guenther & Sons and used the proceeds to build a new mill along the International and Great Northern Railroad line with his wife’s brother-in-law, Gustav Giesecke. Liberty Mills was powered by a steam engine and had a productive capacity of 100 barrels per day. In 1896, the two companies entered into a two-year partnership called C.H. Guenther Milling Company, which leased the mills of the two companies and shared expenses and profits. C.H. Guenther served as president of the operation, and Fritz served as vice president. Arthur supervised production, and Gustav Giesecke oversaw the business office. Following Fritz’s death in December 1897 at the age of forty, his widow, Helena, took his place as vice president. When the trial partnership expired, neither company wished to renew it. The partners had expanded the brands produced by the mills, and now the individual mills claimed the right to produce flour under those well-known brand names. Arthur Guenther and Gustav Giesecke then formed a new corporation with attorney Conrad A. Goeth and named it the Guenther Milling Company. They continued to produce flour under the brand names created by Liberty Mills and C.H. Guenther & Sons, including Guenther’s Best, one of Carl Hilmar Guenther’s original brand names dating back to 1875.[47]

In November 1898, Carl Hilmar Guenther formed C. H. Guenther & Son, Inc., and sued his son’s corporation over its use of seven flour brand names established by Guenther. In May 1899 the two companies reached a settlement in district court. Under the terms of the agreement, neither company would use the seven disputed brands without both parties’ consent. Guenther’s company had by that time, however, begun to use names with English words that evoked nostalgia an imagined American frontier life and hearth and home purity, introducing brands such as its most well-known product: Pioneer Flour. All of its brands carried not only the name of the company but also a representation of C.H. Guenther, himself, with his name and “El Viejo” printed underneath.[48]

C.H. Guenther’s youngest son, Erhard, a lawyer in San Antonio, took over as president of C.H. Guenther & Son, Inc. Adolph Wagner, husband of the eldest daughter, Amanda, was named secretary. After Guenther’s death, most of the company stock passed to Erhard, Amanda’s family, and Guenther’s other children. The company installed a 200-horsepower steam engine in 1899, the largest in San Antonio at the time, and new sifting equipment. In 1900, the company expanded its lower mill facility, adding a three-story mill capable of grinding up to 300 barrels of grain per day in addition to the 600 barrels of flour produced daily by the old lower mill. The upper mill was closed and rented out.[49]  

In 1902, Carl Hilmar Guenther died at the age of 76, leaving behind one of the largest flouring and grist mill operations in the American Southwest and one of the oldest family-operated business in the United States.[50] 

Social Life

Guenther’s business operations were only part of his legacy, however.  Like many immigrants to the United States, Guenther sought out and relied upon familiar linguistic and cultural communities[51] His first job in New York City, for example, was with a Germaninnkeeper; his selection of Wisconsin as his primary destination owed much to the large German-speaking population. In Racine, he lived in a boarding house full of mostly German speakers, and during his travels throughout the northern and southern states before he came to Texas, his most sorrowful expressions of homesickness in his memoir and letters home often came when he was living or traveling among non-German speakers. His decision to settle in Fredericksburg and San Antonio derived in part from the large German immigrant populations and active cultural institutions in both communities.

Although not outspoken in his religions views, Guenther, as he assured his mother in a letter, remained committed to his Lutheran religion despite his liberal opinions regarding politics and the role of the church in secular life. He belonged to Lutheran congregations in Fredericksburg and San Antonio, and married Dora in the Fredericksburg Vereins Kirche, or community church, in a Lutheran ceremony. As the justice of the peace of Gillespie County in the late 1850s, he performed several weddings, most notably officiating at the marriage of August Siemering, the founding editor of one of the leading German newspapers in the post-Civil War era, and Clara Schütze, a daughter from one of the earliest German immigrant families in the county.[52] Hisconnection to Siemering, as well as his own commitment to free speech following the repression of the war years, and to promoting German expression, led Guenther to support the establishment of the San Antonio Freie Presse für Texas. In July 1865, a H. Guenther of San Antonio, probably Carl Hilmar Guenther, was one of the first 15 subscribers who pledged $50 to Siemering for the purchase of a German letter press for the publication of a Republican paper in San Antonio. The Freie Presse für Texas became one of the most influential German-language papers in the state and continued publication until 1945.[53]

Guenther also devoted time and money to promote quality schools, serving on the school boards in Fredericksburg and San Antonio. He was a supporter of the German-English School in San Antonio, which, by educating most of children of San Antonio’s German community, preserved German culture and language in the city well into the twentieth century. Guenther was a member of the Beethoven Männerchor, the Arbeiter Verien, and the Casino Club. Founded in 1853, the Casino Club featured dramatic and musical performances, lectures, and debates for its exclusively German-speaking membership until after World War I (although the language requirement was waived for Anglophone U.S. Army officers such as Robert E. Lee when he commanded U.S. forces in San Antonio before the Civil War). Later in his life, Guenther and his company supported the Fiesta Parade commemoration of the War of Texas Independence and the San Antonio International Fair Association. The firm he founded still provides substantial support for the modern Fiesta San Antonio, which grew out of the original celebration. [54]


While C. H. Guenther did not contribute revolutionary innovations or inventions to the milling industry, he recognized and took advantage of opportunities presented by the spread of European-Americans into the interior regions of North America and by new milling technologies and techniques. When he moved to Texas in 1851, the state’s population stood at 212,592 and wheat production was fewer than 50,000 bushels per year. By 1867, when his business was firmly established in San Antonio, Texas produced 6,000,000 bushels yearly with a market value of a dollar per bushel.[55] By 1900, when the state’s population reached more than three million, and its farmers produced 12,266,320 bushels annually, Guenther’s mills often imported wheat from Mexico and the American Midwest to keep the facility running at peak efficiency. His, and other mills, reaped the rewards of such agricultural growth, but also, of course, contributed to it. It is clear that the presence of his mill in Fredericksburg, for example, helped spur the growth of wheat production among the German farmers of Gillespie County, whose wheat production was a mere 80 bushels in 1850 and more than 18,000 in 1860.[56] Within ten years of arriving in Texas, Guenther was among the five wealthiest men in the Gillespie and Béxar counties in terms of property value despite owning very little land relative to most of the other wealthy men in the area. By maximizing the productive capacity of his landholding, anticipating growth, and adopting technological advances in flour milling before most of his competitors, he created a sold foundation for the future growth of his company.


[*] The research for this article was carried out with support from a Faculty Scholarship Initiative Award from Cleveland State University.

[1] Rosina Guenther to Fritz Guenther, January 9, 1880, Weißenfels, Germany, in An Immigrant Miller Picks Texas: The Letters of Carl Hilmar Guenther, Regina Beckmann Hurst and Walter D. Kamphoefner, eds. (San Antonio, Texas: Maverick Publishing Company, 2001), 109; Amanda Hurst Ochse and Helena Hurst Harrison, The Family of Carl Hilmar Guenther and Dorothea Pape Guenther (San Antonio: Hurst and Harrison, 2001), vi.

[2] Rudolph Leopold Biesele, The History of the German Settlements in Texas, 1831-1861 (San Marcos, Tex: German-Texan Heritage Society, Dept. of Modern Languages, Southwest Texas State University, 1987), 83-85.

[3] Guenther to Dear Father, Racine, Wisconsin, April 2, 1850, 26; In The Young Mill-Wright and Miller’s Guide (Lea & Blanchard, 1848), Oliver Evans, Cadwallader Evans, and Thomas Ellicott offered prospective millers and millwrights dense lessons on fluid dynamics, hydraulics, mechanical engineering, and their practical application in mill siting, construction, and operation.

[4] Guenther to Parents, At Sea, n.d., 15; See also, James Kerr Pollock and Homer L. Thomas, Germany in Power and Eclipse: The Background of German Development (Van Nostrand, 1952), p. 510;  James J. Sheehan, German History, 1770-1866, Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1989, Part III, IV;  Guenther to Parents, October 16, 1849, Racine, Wisconsin, 23.

[5] Guenther to Parents, At Sea, n.d. 14, 15.

[6] The best work on the transformation of American values during the nineteenth century is Scott A Sandage, Born Losers: A History of Failure in America (Cambridge, Ma: Harvard University Press, 2005).

[7] Guenther, “Memoir of a Journey,” in An Immigrant Miller Picks Texas, 1-2.

[8] Guenther to Parents, at sea, n.d., 15.

[9] Ibid; Guenther, “Memoir of a Journey,” 3-4.; Guenther’s experience parallels that of other immigrants: See Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, Gotham: A History of New York to 1898, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 736-744.

[10] All inflation adjustments are made using the CPI found on the Measuring Worth.

[11] Guenther, “Memoir of a Journey,” in An Immigrant Miller Picks Texas, 7,

[12] Ibid., 8.

[13] Ibid., 9; United States, Manuscript Returns of the Seventh Census, 1850, Population Schedules, (Free Inhabitants), Wisconsin; Roll: M432_1004; Page: 32A; Image: 67. An income of $25 per week seems high for a carpenter. Cotton screwmen, among the highest paid workers in the South in the 1870s-1880s, made approximately this sum per week. Guenther claimed the figure in his letters home and it is possible that he may have inflated it to impress family.

[14] “Verloren: C.H. Günther,” Eine Freie Presse für Texas, 20 October 1902.

[15]. Geunther, “Memoir of a Journey,” 10.

[16] Guenther, “Memoir of a Journey,” 11; Guenther to Parents, New Providence, Louisiana, December 15, 1850, in An Immigrant Miller Picks Texas, 31-32.

[17] Guenther to My Dear Friend, Racine, Wisconsin, May 15, 1849, Ibid., 21.

[18] Guenther to Dear Father, January 7, 1851, San Antonio, Texas, Ibid., 33-34.

[19] Biesele, 139; United States, Seventh Census, 1850, Population, 494.

[20]. Guenther to Mr. August Kiel, Fredericksburg, Texas, July 12, 1851, in An Immigrant Miller Picks Texas, 39-40.

[21] Guenther to Dear Parents, Fredericksburg, Texas, February 6, 1853, 46-48.

[22] Guenther to Dear Father, Fredericksburg, Texas, June 9, 1853, Ibid., 49-50.

[23] Guenther to Dear Father, Live Oak Mill, 1854, Ibid., 58-59.

[24] Guenther to Dear Father, Live Oak Mill, June 24, 1856, 67’ Guenther to Honored Brother-in-Law and Sister, Live Oak Mill, September 8, 1856, Ibid., 67-68.

[25] Guenther to J. Keil, Live Oak Mill, n.d., 42; Guenther to Dear Parents, Live Oak Mill, 1 October 1857, 72; Guenther to Dear Gustav, Live Oak Mill, October 1,1857, 73.

[26] Guenther to Dear Mother, Live Oak Mill, August 22, 1859, 75-76.

[27] Guenther to Herr Madame Graef, San Antonio, December 10, 1859, 82. Wool production in the Gillespie County increased from 120 pounds sheered from 85 sheep in 1850 to 5,136 pounds of wool and nearly 5,000 sheep in 1860, United States. Agriculture of the United States in 1860; Compiled from the Original Returns of the Eighth Census. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1864), 517; Fisher, 19-25.

[28] Rosina Guenther to Dear Hilmar, Wiesenfels, September 1859, 78-79; Guenther to Dear Mother, Live Oak Mill, Texas, September 1, 1859, 77; Guenther to Dear Mother, San Antonio, Texas, December 10,1859, in An Immigrant Miller Picks Texas, 81; Fisher, 26-27.

[29] Lewis Fisher, C. H. Guenther & Son at 150 Years: The Legacy of a Texas Milling Pioneer (San Antonio: Maverick Publishing Company, 2001), 28; S. G. Reed, A History of the Texas Railroads and of Transportation Conditions under Spain and Mexico and The Republic and The State (Houston: The St. Clair Publishing Co., 1941), 44; Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900, Census Reports, Manufacturing, Vol. III, 358.

[30] Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900, Census Reports, Vol. 1, Population, Part I, 432; Guenther to Dear Mother, San Antonio, Texas, December 10, 1859.

[31] Autobiography of Dr. Adolf Douai: Revolutionary of 1848, Texas pioneer, Introducer of Kindergarten, Educator, Author, Editor, 1819-1888. Translated by Richard H. Douai Boerker, Adolf Douai Papers, Center for American History, University of Texas, Austin, 116, 118.

[32] William Simpson Oldham, Speech on the Resolution of the State of Texas, (pamphlet), 13, R.B. Kingsbury Papers, II, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, Austin, Texas.

[33] O’Rear, Mary Jo. “Reckoning at the River: Unionists and Secessionists on the Nieces, August 10, 1862.” In The Seventh Star of the Confederacy: Texas During the Civil War. Edited by Kenneth W. Howell. Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press, 2009, 85-109.

[34] The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1 - Volume 9, 706. 716; T.R. Fehrenbach, The San Antonio Story (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Continental Heritage Publishing Company, 1978), 101.

[35] O’Rear, “Reckoning at the River,” p. 86; Guenther to Dear Mother, January 30, 1861, San Antonio, Texas, in An Immigrant Miller Picks Texas, 87; Guenther to Rosina, The Widow Guenther, March 26, 1864, Ibid.,89.

[36] Guenther to Mrs. Rosina, the Widow of Guenther, 89-90; Guenther to Mrs. Rosina Guenther, June 12, 1864, San Antonio, 91; Guenther to Dear Mother, San Antonio, January 30, 1861, in An Immigrant Miller Picks Texas, 87.

[37] Guenther to Mrs. Rosina Guenther, July 5, 1867, San Antonio, Ibid., 93.

[38] Ibid., 92-93; Fisher, 31; Chabot, Frederick C. With the Makers of San Antonio, reprint edition (Artes Graficas, 1970), 378.

[39] Fisher, 31, 33; Chabot, 385.

[40] Reed 195, 198; Chabot, 378; The Galveston Daily News, June 2, 1877, 7.

[41] John Stork and Walter Dorwin Teague, Flour for Man’s Bread: A History of Milling, Illustrated by Harold Rydell (Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1952), 113-114.

[42] Quoted in Fisher, 36.

[43] Fisher, 37-38; Guenther to Dear Best Mother, May 11, 1879, in An Immigrant Miller Picks Texas, 106-107.

[44] San Antonio Daily Light, December 17, 1887, 12; United States, Tenth Census, 1880, Agricultural in the United States, p. 322.

[45] Herman Steen, Flour Milling in America  (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, Publishers, 1963), 42-52; Stork and Teague, 241-259; William Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1991), 376.

[46] Steen, 39; Fisher, 39.

[47] Fisher, 41.

[48] Fisher, 41-42; “Legal Proceedings,” Company Archives, Pioneer Flour Mills, C.H. Guenther & Son, San Antonio, Texas.

[49] Fisher, 45.

[50] Ibid.; “Old Mill Stones Mark Way to Huge Industry,” April 1922, Miscellaneous Clippings, Company Archives, Pioneer Flour Mills, C.H. Guenther & Son, San Antonio, Texas.

[51] See, for example, the essays in Wolfgang Johannes Helbich and Walter D. Kamphoefner, eds., German-American Immigration and Ethnicity in Comparative Perspective (Madison, WI: Max Kade Institute for German-American Studies, University of Wisconsin, 2004)

[52] Ella Gold, "SIEMERING, AUGUST," Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 15, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association;

[53] A solicitation to Henry Guenther of New Braunfels, no relation to Hilmar, listed an H. Guenther as one of the prominent citizens of San Antonio providing capital for the paper, see Karl Heinrich (Henry) Guenther, New Braunfels, Folder, Oscar Haas Papers, 1844-1955, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin; Frances Donecker, "SAN ANTONIO FREIE PRESSE FUR TEXAS," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed June 15, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

[54] Margaret Guenther Gideon, "GUENTHER, CARL HILMAR," Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 15, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010; Mrs. Willard E. Simpson, Jr., "FIESTA SAN ANTONIO," Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 15, 2015. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

[55] Historical Census Browser. University of Virginia, Geospatial and Statistical Data Center (accessed June 20, 2014); Clinton P. Hartmann, "WHEAT CULTURE," Handbook of Texas Online. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association (accessed June 11, 2014).

[56] United States, Seventh Census of the United States, 1850 (Washington, 1853), 516; United States, Agriculture of the United States in 1860 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1864), 141; on the preference of German farmers in Texas for wheat over corn, see Terry Jordan, German Seed in Texas Soil, Immigrant Farmers in Nineteenth-Century Texas, 5th ed. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998), 123-126.


Cite this Entry

APA Style

"Carl Hilmar Guenther." (2018) In Immigrant Entrepreneurship, Retrieved February 17, 2018, from Immigrant Entrepreneurship:

Chicago Style

Shelton, Robert. "Carl Hilmar Guenther." In Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present, vol. 2, edited by William J. Hausman. German Historical Institute. Last modified February 25, 2016.

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"Carl Hilmar Guenther," Immigrant Entrepreneurship, 2018, Immigrant Entrepreneurship. 17 Feb 2018 <>

Carl Hilmar Guenther portrait made in Saxony before his 1848 departure for America

  • Guenther mill and home in 1909
  • Guenther Mill, 1882
  • Dorothea and Carl Hilmar Guenther, ca. mid-1860s
  • C.H. Guenther at the mill grounds next to the San Antonio River, 1874

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