History

Healing Hill Country History: The Mineral Baths of Badenthal

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Many visitors to the Texas Hill Country are familiar with towns like Boerne, Fredericksburg, and Comfort. Fewer know about communities such as Center Point, Sisterdale, and Kendalia. How many people know about the formerly flowing healing waters of Badenthal?

During the late 1840s, many Germans immigrated to Texas because of political unrest in their home country. Several small groups of well-educated, city dwellers moved to this area and established several different utopian communities. A major flaw in the quest for an ideal town is most of the citizens had never farmed before. Eventually, the smaller settled spots were abandoned or diminished greatly and larger towns formed as people pooled their resources.

Healing Hill Country History: The Mineral Baths of Badenthal

Photo: @hchristake1 via Twenty20

One such example of intellectuals in the Hill Country was Dr. Ernst Kapp. Along with his wife Ida Sophie Conradine Kappell, he arrived in 1850 and set up the Kapp Hydropathic Clinic near Sisterdale, which promised ailment cures through the healing properties of the multiple natural mineral springs on his property. The spa was named Badenthal, meaning ‘bathrobe’ or something worn before a bath or shower. Mineral oil treatments and gymnastic exercises were also offered as pathways to better health in addition to “Dr. Ernest Kapp’s Water-Cure.”  Badenthal operated for roughly ten years until it closed down when Texas entered into the Civil War.

Ernst and Ida had five children together. In 1865, Ernst Kapp sold his property and returned to Germany to visit but fell ill while there and remained until his death on January 30, 1896. The fates of his wife and children are not well known. The site of both the Kapp home and the buildings associated with Badenthal remain on private property to this day. Photos of the existing vernacular architecture can be found online through the University of North Texas’s Portal to Texas History. How many other locations can you think of where Texans enjoyed mineral baths?