If there ever was a real-life role model for Karl May’s Old Shatterhand, pioneer Engelbert Krauskopf (1820-1881) of Fredericksburg, Texas, fits that image “to a t”. By AnnElise Makin • Photographs Courtesy Annelise Makin
Krauskopf’s portrait at the Fredericksburg Pioneer Museum struck me at first sight. Why did this stately German, at about 60 years of age, pose in Wild West attire for his official portrait? It seems like author Karl May copied this serene pose for his own playacting. Engelbert’s coat, as well as his portrait, have been part of the Pioneer Museum’s collection for the longest time, even though they may not be on display. But you can always view some Krauskopf memorabilia at the museum, such as the gun caps machinery from the Civil War. Recently, Ms. Evelyn Weinheimer, a long-time, seasoned conservator at the Pioneer Museum, helped me validate many historic points on Engelbert Krauskopf. Evelyn herself is a direct descendant of the Fredericksburg pioneers and still speaks Texas German.
Who was Engelbert Krauskopf? From our modern perspective, he looks like a true Renaissance man of the Wild West. He was a carpenter, gun maker, saw mill owner, cotton gin entrepreneur, Winchester dealer, farm implement store owner, Home Guard Captain, naturalist, and civic leader. Engelbert Krauskopf was born in Bendorf, near Koblenz in the Rhine region of Germany, on August 21, 1820. Trained as a cabinet maker, he also learned the locksmith trade from his uncle. Engelbert took passage from Antwerp, Belgium, on the Hortensia on October 1, 1845, arriving in Texas on January 1, 1846. Like all German emigrants under the Adelsverein (Emigration Society), he arrived on the Texas Gulf Coast at Carlshafen, named after Prinz Solms of Braunfels. Since the Verein was ill prepared for housing and transportation, many immigrants, got stuck in the mud without shelter in severe winter storms.