The San Antonio Express

Sunday December 3rd 1950


Disbandment of the old San Antonio Schützen club in 1919 marked the passing of an era of Old World sports and culture brought here by the German settlers of the 1850s. Even as late as 1919, all but two of the shooting members still hand-loaded their ammunition. The two moderns, of course, used factory-made cartridges. They were probably the first ones who in 1913 committed the heresy of using smokeless instead of black powder in their cartridges.

   Loading your own ammunition insured greater accuracy. These men who kept alive the customs of their forefathers said. They boasted that shot-for-shot, their scores were higher then those registered by gun clubs in the Eastern United States, where factory ammunition first became popular.

   When the first round was fired, the shell expanded to perfectly fit the chamber, from then on each shot was as accurate as the preceding one.

   The cartridge case was reprimed then carefully filled with exactly the same amount of powder after each firing, a paper patched bullet was stuffed into the open end and the shooter was ready. Each shooter got 10 record shots at the target after practice. There were two positions, off-hand, and prone with a rest.

   A score of 230 out of a possible 250 was considered “good.” That meant that all ten shots at 200 yards had to be within a 4½ inch circle. The best score ever made at one of these matches was 243.

   When the San Antonio Schützen Verein was established in 1857, Raimond Neumann was named president by the following charter members; E. Dorsch, Frank Neumann, Anton Hannich, Anton Altmann Sr., Anton Altmann Jr., Felix Altmann, Andreas Braden, Edward Seffel, Alex Sarter, Anton Kemp, L. Ohde, H. Netwich, J.G. Muller, and Ed Froeboese.

   Some of these men not only made their own ammunition, they also made their own rifles.

   Ferdinand Topperwein, father of the famous shooter Ad Topperwein, was one of the early members of the club.


   On Sundays, every little valley in Southwest Texas reverberated with the sound of target practice and the contests of these sportsmen and others like them. There were competing clubs at such places as Boerne, Cutoff, Green Valley, Helotes, Bulverde, New Braunfels and Vogel’s Valley.

   Large crowds, great woodland processions, balloon ascensions, songfests, dancing and presentation of medals to winners – a custom established in Germany as early as 1555 – were part of each shoot.

   Families of shooters would depart from their homes by buggy or horse-drawn ambulance in the early morning or even the day before, so the men folk would have time to adjust and blacken their sights and get everything set for the Sunday contests which always began at 1 p.m.

   Banners flew over the rifle range, and a keg of beer was always rolled up close to the firing line just as practice commenced. The beer steadied the shooters’ nerves, the Germans would explain with a twinkle in their eyes. A good marksman would quaff a stein of beer every time he left the firing line. Children frolicked behind the ready line, and ladies with their men sang old songs.

   Wildflowers picked from the fields were made into garlands and draped around the necks of the champions.


Such outings were held almost every Sunday, except during the hunting season. Nic Lovece and his orchestra played for the club’s dances that followed.

   Dues of active shooting members were 75 cents a month. Passive members, who went along for the ride and the beer, paid only 50 cents a month.

   Throughout its long history, the club resisted change as much as it could. “The old way is the best way. That’s why we stick to it,” members would say.

   It took many years for single-shot breech-loaders such as Ballard, Winchester, Remington and Stevens to replace the old muzzle-loaders. Each member had his individual stall at a long table in the clubhouse where he prepared his own ammunition.

   The first clubhouse was on Austin Street, the next one was on Powderhouse Hill, but in time the city cemetery was built there and shooting was often interrupted by funeral processions; so the club moved to River Avenue on nine acres of ground.

   Back in 1898 on the Mahncke Park site, Dr. Adolph Herff, now the oldest living member of the club, and I.N. Rothwell were trying to set some shooting records and were doing just fine until two black-tailed deer walked across the firing line. Everyone got so excited that nobody got a shot off at the animals and they escaped unscathed into a nearby mesquite thicket.


   A German custom religiously held to throughout the 62 year life of the Schützen Verein was the King Shoot on Pentecost, the seventh Sunday after Easter, or “Whitsuntide” to the Germans. The man who scores the most perfect bull’s eye on Whitsuntide was proclaimed champion of champions or “King Shot” for a year. The second best shooter was “Knight Shot.”

   Hermann Dreiss 85, a retired pharmacist, will never forget the King Shoot of 1899. Dreiss shot the center brad out of the middle of the bull’s eye. The black disc fell into the pit and the crowd roared its approval. But Ernest Steves took careful aim and fired. Steves, too, shot the brad out of the bull’s eye, and another resounding roar went up from the crowd. Judges had to use a pair of dividers to determine who had won the match. Steves was declared King Shot and was given a large gold metal. Dreiss was awarded a smaller gold Knight Shot metal which he keeps to this day, along with the punctured bull’s eye.

   Emanuel Seffel was the all time Schützen Verein champion. He became the permanent possessor of the state gold metal trophy after out shooting the best marksmen in Texas in a state wide competition for three consecutive years, No other Texan has ever accomplished such a feat.

   In such company, Annie Oakley herself would have found the German celebration of Whitsuntide in San Antonio more than just a picnic