KLEBERG, ROBERT JUSTUS [I] (1803–1888).Robert Justus Kleberg, leading German settler, son of Lucas and Veronica (Meier) Kleberg, was born on September 10, 1803, in Herstelle, Westphalia, and named Johann Christian Justus Robert. His father was a prosperous merchant. Kleberg was educated in the classics at the Gymnasium at Holzminden and then attended the University of Göttingen, where he studied law and received a J.D. degree. After graduating he was appointed a justice of assizes in Nieheim and received several other judicial appointments. He married Rosalie von Roeder (see KLEBERG, ROSALIE) near Paderborn, Prussia, in 1834. They emigrated to Texas that year with their families and settled in Cat Spring in 1836. In the Republic of Texas Kleberg was associate commissioner and president of the Board of Land Commissioners (1837–38), justice of the peace (1841), and chief justice of Austin County (1846). In 1847 the Klebergs moved with the Roeder families to Meyersville, where Kleberg was elected county commissioner in 1848 and chief justice in 1853. He was also a leading Lateiner (see LATIN SETTLEMENTS).
Kleberg fought in the battle of San Jacinto in Capt. Moseley Baker's company and subsequently served as one of the Texas guards around Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna. After the revolution, he volunteered for six months' duty in the Texas army. In DeWitt County he was a member of John York's retaliatory campaign against the Indians on Escondido Creek. He is credited with saving German botanist Ferdinand J. Lindheimer's life when Lindheimer was wounded in the Brazos River bottom near Cat Spring. Kleberg was a loyal member of the Democratic party and supported the cause of the Confederacy. When the Civil War broke out he raised a company of militia but because of his advanced age was not received into active service. He had no official religious affiliation but like most Lateiner had his firm individual moral convictions. Robert and Rosa raised their own seven children in addition to several young Roeder relatives. Their youngest son, Robert Justus Kleberg, became the head of the King Ranch in 1885.
Kleberg died on October 23, 1888, at his daughter's farm near Cuero and was buried there. He was a longtime member of the Texas Veterans Association, and his grave is marked by a stone monument in the form of a soldier's tent with the words "Remember the Alamo" carved at the base. Kleberg County was named in his honor in 1913; a marker at his homesite near Cuero was erected in 1936.
Written by Les Walker
Robert Justus Kleberg II (born December 5, 1853 in DeWitt County, TX; died October 10, 1932 in King Ranch, Kleberg County, TX) the son of German immigrants Robert Justus Kleberg and Rosalie (Philippine Sophie Caroline Luise) von Roeder, was born in DeWitt County, Texas, on December 5, 1853. At age thirty-two, he left a promising career in law, and, having no experience in the cattle ranching industry, became the sole manager of the historic King Ranch. Kleberg led the King Ranch from 1885 until his death in 1932. During that time, it became not only the largest cattle ranch in the United States but also one of the most prosperous. Today, the ranch remains an iconic feature of American frontier life, harkening back to a mythical age when the Wild West was tamed and settled.
Robert Justus Kleberg II was born into a distinguished German-American family. In the early nineteenth century, the Kleberg and Roeder families were among the first German immigrants to settle in Texas, where they founded the town of Cat Spring. Life on the frontier was difficult, but first-generation immigrant Robert Justus Kleberg I made a name for himself in the community and played a key role in the political and social life of Texas throughout much of the nineteenth century. His son Robert II was born into privilege and certainly benefited from the opportunities afforded by the family’s position. Like his father, he received a university education and worked, at least for a time, as a lawyer. In 1885, while serving as opposing counsel in a court case in Corpus Christi, Robert Kleberg II first encountered legendary cattle king Richard King. That meeting, and his eventual win against King, marked a definite turning point in the life and career of this young second-generation German-American.
The great success of the King Ranch started with the vision of Robert II and his commitment and devotion to the land and the people who worked it. Over the years, he made key improvements to King Ranch in the areas of livestock and health, pasture management, and ranching facilities. His story, though, would be incomplete if one failed to mention the significant contributions he made to the urban and economic development of South Texas: for finding artesian water that allowed for the introduction of farming and ranching in the area, for his role in the development of a railroad line from Corpus Christi to Brownsville, and for his efforts to build up towns and create community life.
Written by Les Walker
Lone Star Brewing Company
Harry Jersig possessed a full head of thick, curly hair at age 79. Jersig was born in 1902 in Comfort, about fifty miles northwest of San Antonio. His father was the well-to-do son of German immigrants. After graduating from the University of Texas, Harry became an enterprising candy salesman who paid a Hill Country youngster named Lyndon B. Johnson 25 cents a day to tag along with him and open the ranch gates. Jersig prospered even after his employee left for other pursuits, and by 1940 he was enough of a success to be invited to buy into San Antonio’s sputtering, twice-defunct Lone Star brewery, which had been founded in 1868. Jersig, who had a brother-in-law in the beer business, took a more ambitious approach to the proposition. He talked two established brewers into buying the entire operation, engineered a public stock offering, began building a brand- new plant, and kept only the name of the old brewing company.
Jersig became president and took full control of the financial reins in 1948, but by that time Lone Star was already Harry Jersig’s beer. Jersig wanted to build an image for his beer, and he felt that the best way to build his beer’s image was to become involved in the community. That was a commitment that Jersig assumed personally, and he ended up heading everything from the United Fund to the chamber of commerce and was honored for his civic accomplishments by everybody from the Catholic College Foundation to the Exchange Club. He was also one of the handful of San Antonians who helped start the San Antonio River Authority, which has been so vital to the city’s development. Jersig wanted his brewery to be just as involved as he was, so he built a lake and picnic grounds next to the plant, throwing parties and running an aquacade to bring people in, and when the aquacade closed in 1957 he replaced it with a museum adjacent to the plant. Over the years Jersig sent traveling shows to little towns all over Texas, entertaining the citizens with teams or ponies, trained dogs, and chimpanzees.
Written by Les Walker
The Latin Settlements
Many German immigrants to Texas were called “solid peasant stock.” Many were. The first generation largely farmed, but very quickly some of the first and second arrivals sought employment in urban areas. Some settlers came with a variety of skills and quickly engaged in various trades or professions. A few Germans, however—and they would be known as idealists rather than farmers—established the so-called “Latin Settlements” in Texas. Five settlements were founded by highly educated Germans, almost all younger man, who departed a troubled mid-19th century Europe. The 1848 revolution in Germany, an example of failure in its object to shift political and economic power, did add to the reasons for emigration and not necessarily for farmers. Some men who did not otherwise see opportunity in frontier farming became exiles. Latin, until three generations ago, was an academically common language necessary for higher learning and a sign of a proper and worthwhile education. But where major human goals are to bring in a crop or earn a profit, Latin is no necessity. A small number, therefore, of university students and young professionals who found Europe politically hostile tried their hands on the Texas frontier. Milheim in Austin County, Latinum in Washington County, Bettina in Llano County, and Sisterdale and Tusculum in Kendall County were founded. Bettina is one of the most interesting examples of the effort. Nearly 40 young men, calling themselves Die Vierziger (both in reference to their number and to the troubled 1840s in Europe), subcontracted settlement rights from the German immigration society that managed much land beyond New Braunfels and Fredericksburg. Nearly all of these men were—or had just been—students at Giessen and Heidelberg. Experience they had in architecture, languages, medicine, education, mathematics, and law; they had no experience in farming. Yet their idea was to establish a communistic agricultural community on the Llano River which would soon attract 200 German families. The settlement was named Bettina after Bettina von Arnim, a German writer and an “ideal woman” to the young men. Arriving in 1847, the group built two notable structures: a thatched storage shed and a shingled adobe house. In the next year, they managed a corn crop of nearly 200 bushels. By late summer—and with a Texas winter on the imagined horizon—the colonial effort failed. Some of the young men apparently worked hard; some reportedly sat in the shade of oak trees philosophizing and thinking of pleasant student days. The latter were accused of trying to live according to a perilous maxim: Ede, bibe, post mortem nulla voluptas. (“Eat and drink, for after death there is no pleasure.”) As readers of Horace’s Odes, they remembered Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero. (“Seize the day; have little trust in tomorrow.”) Whatever was on their minds, a knowledge of Latin among certain other skills was neither sufficient nor necessary for frontier agricultural success. Almost all of the men drifted away, some to other areas of German settlement, some to urban settings. The name Bettina only remains on a few older maps. And what was true of Bettina was nearly true of the other settlements. The little communities provided individuals—who were often successful in their academic fields—to places like Houston and San Antonio. Others stayed. Sisterdale, Latium, and Millheim still exist with populations of about 100 (including “newcomers”). Tusculum provided an impetus for present-day Boerne. At one of the old locations, some have seen and heard a ghost who, beyond doubt, dates back to the settlement days. Ghosts are not unusual in Texas, but this one speaks fluent, academic Latin. THE INSTITUTE OF TEXAN CULTURES 2014 Texans One and All — The German
William A. Menger's Western Brewery (1855–78), located on Alamo Square in San Antonio, is usually considered the first commercial Texas brewery. By its last year of business in 1878, it was the largest operating brewery in Texas. In 1859, Menger also opened a very popular hotel next to his brewery. The Menger Hotel still contains the large cellar, constructed of three-foot-thick stone walls, that was used to chill the beer produced by the brewery. The cellars were cooled by the Alamo Madre ditch that flowed through what is now the patio of the hotel. Menger hired Charles Degen as his brewmaster. When Menger died in 1871, Degen continued with the brewery until it closed in 1878.
KLEBERG, CAESAR (1873–1946).Caesar Kleberg, rancher and wildlife promoter, son of Mathilda (Eckhart) and Rudolph Kleberg, was born on September 20, 1873, at Cuero, Texas. Rudolph Kleberg served in Congress from 1897 to 1903. Upon graduation from the Cuero schools and after attending St. Edwards University in Austin, "Mr. Caesar" went to Washington, D. C., where he was employed as his father's congressional secretary. He moved to the King Ranch in 1900 to begin work for Henrietta King and was chief assistant to his uncle, Robert J. Kleberg. Caesar first lived and worked on the Santa Gertrudis Division, but he made his mark during his thirty-year tenure as foreman of Norias, forty miles south of Kingsville.
His numerous friends included presidents, governors, Will Rogers, and the people who worked under him. He was a Democrat, an inheritance from his father, and was a delegate to five national party conventions. He was also a Mason. As a mentor of his younger cousins, the original five stockholders of the King Ranch Corporation, he was a major contributor to transforming the ranch from a traditional western operation to a modern beef-producing and horse-breeding business. Kleberg was a member of the Texas Livestock Sanitary Commission, and he and his uncle pioneered measures in tick eradication throughout the state (see TEXAS FEVER). He had a part in the development of railroads in the Rio Grande valley and was one of the incorporators of the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway. He also helped found Kingsville, as an officer of the Kingsville Town Improvement Company.
Kleberg oversaw the restoration of the white-tailed deer, the turkey, and bobwhite quail to rangeland almost completely denuded of them. In 1924 he released Nilgai antelope from southern Asia on the Texas range, the first such release in the western hemisphere. The Nilgai have multiplied to such numbers that they are commercially harvested at Norias as a gourmet wild game meat. Kleberg, who never married, died at the Santa Gertrudis Division of the King Ranch on April 14, 1946. In his will he established the Caesar Kleberg Foundation for Wildlife Conservation, endowing a fund to support wildlife research and conservation around the world. In 1981 the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute was established on the campus of Texas A&I University; it was funded by the foundation to support research in wildlife diseases, commercial uses of wildlife, and the ecology of native plant and animal species.
The Man Who Brought a Knife to a Gunfight
In 1828, a man arrives in San Antonio de Béxar, and no man messes with him or stands in his way because his reputation has preceded him. The Tejanos had read about him in magazines and newspapers - and they knew him already.
His name is James “Jim” Bowie. Some say he was the baddest “bad boy” to ever step foot in Texas and it was said that he wielded a mean knife. If you don’t know how Bowie obtained this reputation read on and learn about his legend.
Jim’s legend began at a truly epic knife fight that took place between James Bowie and Major Norris Wright (Jim’s nemesis), right before Jim came to Texas.
Now when I say epic, I am not just throwing that word around loosely, James Bowie, the man was as tough as coffin nails. To understand the significance of this knife fight in history we have to go back a couple of years before the fight.
In 1826, Jim Bowie was a businessman and an ally of an older southern gentleman, Samuel Levi Wells III, in Natchez, MS. Sam Wells was a major political force in Natchez at the time and Sam had a political rival, Dr. Thomas Harris Maddox, another major political force in Natchez. Wells and Maddox were like the political version in Natchez of the Hatfields and the McCoys.
One day, Jim Bowie needed a bank loan and one of the bank directors at the bank denied his loan because the loan officer was a Maddox supporter and Jim was a Wells supporter. This banker also spread some rumors about Jim Bowie’s business dealings around town. This banker’s name, Major Norris Wright, the sheriff of Rapides Parish.
Jim heard about the rumors and went to confront Wright and found him in Alexandria. An argument ensued and then Major Wright physically attacked & assaulted Jim Bowie, without notice; caught Jim off guard.
Major Wright beat him down with his cane like a dog, and then stood back, pull his pistol, took aim and shot at Bowie, but missed (Bowie rolled out of the way at the last second) in front everyone present. Jim was humiliated, to say the least.
When Jim Bowie left that fight, wounded and hurt, he swore,
“I will never be caught without a good weapon, ever again!”
The next day Jim went to the local blacksmith, Jesse Clifft, and commissioned the forging of a lethal weapon (design by Rezin Bowie), a knife that could “cut a human in half”. That knife would later become world renown, as the “Bowie Knife”. And just like American Express; Jim never left home without it.
Well, eventually the two political leaders insulted each other to the point that the only solution was to settle this with a Gentlemen’s Pistol Duel.
Sam Wells III vs. Dr. Thomas H. Maddox.
Incidentally, Sam Wells III chose Jim Bowie as his second. This is a big honor and an equally big responsibility. Dr. Mattox chose Major Wright (Bowie’s Nemesis) as his second. Can’t make this stuff up.
On September 19, 1827, both James Bowie and Major Norris Wright attended the duel on a sandbar of the Mississippi river because duels were outlawed in their county.
At 10am Bowie and duelist, Samuel Levi Wells III, enter the sandbar carrying their pistols, followed by their supporters (back up) and their doctors. Major Wright arrived with Dr. Thomas Maddox, their weapons and their group. To put this in modern day terms, James Bowie was a Green Bay Packers Fan and Major Wright was a Chicago Bears fan and they both went to watch their team play each other - with about 16 other fans.
Now, Sam and Tom, you know how this works. Stand back-to-back. On my mark take 10 paces, turn and shoot.
The duelists each fired 2 shots and missed, and as neither man was injured (just grazed) they resolved their duel with a handshake.
In case you didn’t catch that, both duelist got their shots off at each other, both duelists missed, both duelists then shook hands and considered their issue resolved. At this point the story should be over, but oh no, this is where it starts to get good.
At this point in the story the people who showed up to this duel were disappointed at the results. I think they were restless and wanted to see some blood shed (this might be banter, but it makes sense if you think about it).
Think back to Junior High or High School fights. Everyone there is so amped up; they want to see carnage; they want to see their buddy win! What these people got wasn’t carnage, or bloodshed - they got a handshake!
As Sam and Tom (both duelists) turned to leave, Bowie came forward to meet and join them. Seeing this, Maddox’s friends ran forward to also join the group. Two men in this group had previously fought and still had an ongoing issue to settle. One man’s named Cuny and the other man was Crain.
General Cuny, is recorded as having called out to Crain, “Crain, this is a good time to settle OUR difficulty!”
With that, Crain drew his pistol, aimed and fired, missing General Cuny but striking Bowie in the hip (lower abdomen) and knocking him to the ground. Cuny and Crain then exchanged shots again, with Crain sustaining a flesh wound in the arm and General Cuny dying from a shot to the chest.
What Bowie did next is what has made him a legend.
Bowie was furious and rising to his feet, drew his knife and charged at Crain who had shot him but, Colonel Crain, being also a badass, perfectly timed his defensive response to the charging Bowie and when Bowie came within range, struck Bowie so hard on his head with an empty pistol that it broke the pistol and sent Bowie to his knees with a big knot on his forehead!
Then, at that moment, Major Norris Wright (Bowie’s Nemesis) saw his opportunity to kill Bowie in the melee, so he drew a pistol, and shot at the fallen Bowie, missing, because again, Bowie saw him aiming and rolled perfectly out of the way at the opportune moment. Then, Wright charged at Bowie as he drew his cane sword and stabbed Bowie in the chest!
The thin blade was deflected by Bowie’s sternum, but still went through his chest and punctured his left lung. At this point, Bowie was not only in a daze from the blow to his head and from being shot in the hip, but now, he had a sword in his chest.
If you were a betting man and were there watching this fight you would’ve bet everything on Major Harris to win. And, just like a bull fighter at end of the bull fight, Major Wright, standing over Bowie, reached down to pull the blade free and go for the Coup de grâce, in front of everyone watching.
When all of a sudden, Bowie reached up, grabbed Wright by his belt, and pulled him down upon the point of his Bowie knife and gutted him instantly, wildly and with “extreme prejudice”.
Human innards flew everywhere! By some accounts even Wrights heart was sliced - violently out of his body!
Wright died quickly (some say while he was still standing) and as Bowie attempted to get on his feet, with Wright’s sword still protruding from his chest, was shot and stabbed again by other members of Wright’s group.
As Bowie was standing attempting to pull the sword from his chest, two more men (Blanchard brothers) fired at him, and he was struck once in the arm. One of the Blanchard brothers lunged at him, like wrestlers do. Bowie saw him flying in the air through his peripheral and, instinctively spun around to meet him “swinging his blade” and cut part of that man’s arm - almost clean off!
And just like that, James Bowie had turned into an 1800’s version of Chuck Norris and just annihilated everyone and everything in his path with just his knife!
When the dust settled 10 minutes after the fight started, the surviving spectators could not believe their eyes! They saw a badly injured and bloodied Jim Bowie - still standing! And, surrounded by pieces of human body parts that laid all around him. According to the accounts, still holding Wrights cane sword with one hand and his now very bloodied knife with the other.
The Battle of the Sandbar left 2 dead, and another four wounded. But believe it or not, James Bowie was not part of the 2 dead.
Even after being shot numerous times and stabbed in the chest with a cane sword, James Bowie still went “Beast Mode” on his attackers slicing and stabbing, and lived.
In the end, it was Colonel Crain (one of Maddox men), of all people who helped carry Bowie away to medical attention, with Bowie recorded as having thanked him, saying his now famous remark.
"Col. Crain, I do not think, under the circumstances, you ought to have shot me."
One of the doctors who treated Bowie’s wounds went on record saying this: “7 stabs and 4 gun shots! How he (Bowie) lived is a mystery to me, but live he did.”
In the early 1800’s many men Talked the Talk, but few Walked the Walk. Jim Bowie was the real deal. Texas was blessed to have him.
It seems that everyone, Tejanos and Texans, loved and respected this man. Jim was a close friend to Juan Seguin, Gregorio Esparza, Carlos Espalier and many other Tejanos from San Antonio de Bexar. Jim embodied in his lifetime - what the "Spirit of Texas" would become.
Therefore, if you find yourself in a discussion about who was the baddest man to ever step on Texas soil - don’t forget to mention the legend,
Jim Bowie - the man who brought a knife to a gunfight!
Sandbar Fight, Wikipedia
The Sandbar Fight, Legends of America
By Julian MarDock
Deep in the heart of Texas Hill Country is the oldest shooting club in America. New Braunfels Schuetzen Verein (shooting club) held its first prize shoot July fourth, 1849. It carries on a much older tradition. Shooting clubs in Germany predate the gun. King Henry I of Germany began sanctioning Schuetzen clubs the early 900. The tradition was not limited to Germany as other clubs were formed in Bohemia and Switzerland. These early competitors used crossbows as in the Swiss legend of William Tell.
The gun was invented in China, where the Ming rebels used the gun to overthrow some of the greatest warriors in history, the Mongols. When the gun was introduced in Europe, schuetzen clubs adopted the gun for their competitions. Germans then invented the rifled barrel around 1500 which was greatly improved by August Kotter in 1520 in Nuremburg.
The Schuetzen rifle arrived in America, brought here by German immigrants to Pennsylvania. Unknown to the military authorities of the day, the accuracy and utility of the “Pennsylvania” rifle was discovered by American frontiersmen. Rifles were made in smaller calibers with longer barrels to get more efficient combustion and greater economy of powder and lead in the wilderness, far from resupply. These were the Kentucky rifles that won the American Revolution and later the West. The first time the armies of the world saw rifles was when Daniel Morgan and his backwoodsmen brought theirs to help lift the siege of Boston in 1775. British and Mexican armies learned about the dangers of attacking Americans behind walls at New Orleans and Texas.
The New Braunfels Schuetzen Verein was chartered in Germany as part of the preparations for emigration to the wilds of Texas. Practice with rifle competition was deemed useful for defense and hunting.
In its 171-year history, NBSV members have competed with muzzleloading and centerfire cartridge rifles as they became available. There have been at least five ranges and clubhouses. In the early years these were located within the city limits. Today, the range and clubhouse are located just outside the city limits.
After World War I, .22-rimfire competition at 100 yards began along with the standard centerfire cartridges at 200 yards. Before 2002 it was iron sights only for those under 70. Today the club holds competitions for both scope as well as iron sights in .22 rimfire only shooting at 100 yard targets. There was talk this year at the annual scheduling meeting of having one competition with deer rifles offhand at a metal silhouette, 200 yards.
Shooters may enter either offhand or “rest” stances. Slings and shooting jackets are not permitted in offhand shooting although a palm rest is allowed.
The rest consists of a metal bar with two spikes designed to stick in a plywood board with different heights for the shooters. This might be said to be like shooting out a cabin window.
The club slogan is, “Where Friendly Shooters Gather”. The club holds practice shoots that begin at 2 PM on Sunday, late enough for church and a change of clothes.
Members may shoot modern competition bolt-action rifles as well as antique falling block rifles. Some of the antique rifles have been rebarrelled from centerfire calibers and many have been restocked and modified. Many of these older rifles have been passed down for generations or sold to newer members. Modern scopes compete with older Unertls. All of these combinations have found success. It is an ancient tradition of armed citizenship that has remained current through these changing times.
The season runs from March to October and visitors are welcome at all shoots. The website is www.nbsv.org. A calendar and club contact information is on the site.
By Steve Dean
Swiss Alp Hall is a historic dance hall named for the small settlement in which it is located, on U.S. Highway 77, eleven miles south of La Grange in southern Fayette County in the rolling hills of the Blackland Prairies. The hall’s music and social activities have been important features of local Central Texas culture and identity since the area’s earliest European settlement.
The settlement called Swiss Alp was established about 1865 by German Lutheran immigrants, who were soon followed by Wendish families from Serbin in Lee County (Wends are immigrants from the former Lusatia, a region in present-day eastern Germany). The origin of the name “Swiss Alp” has been lost to time. August Brune, one of the community’s earliest merchants and farmers, built the first Swiss Alp dance hall in the late nineteenth century, likely in the 1870s. It is notable that this hall was built specifically for dancing. Unlike most of the halls raised in surrounding German and Czech communities, Swiss Alp Hall was never dedicated to fraternal, religious, or other general cultural functions. Although the foundation date of the original hall is not recorded, the second and current hall was erected, according to local memory, between 1896 and 1900. The current hall shows some signs of reused materials, possibly from an earlier hall.
Following its founding, Swiss Alp was settled in the 1870s. Among the earliest recorded settlers are Chris Steinmann, A. Franke, and Mrs. Auguste Bolling; popular young merchants George Vogt and Charles Bruns (Brune); and L. C. Melcher, proprietor of one of the finest gins in the county at the turn of the twentieth century. Near the site of the hall, the Brune family established a dairy farm that endured into the 1970s, and in the 2010s many outbuildings from earlier dairy use still stood nearby.
In 1933 Henry Tietjen moved his family to Swiss Alp from Rutersville and purchased the Swiss Alp store and farm from August Brune. Tietjen’s purchase included the hall, and he and his heirs immediately began to enlarge it. As the hall grew in size and popularity, it drew audiences from around the region and performers and bands from throughout the region and state. Swiss Alp Hall has gone on to become a classic example of a historic hall that has seen virtually all of the changing trends and styles of Texas popular music over the last century or more. The hall resounded with early German brass bands and Czech or German polka bands, big-band sounds, country and western, and, more recently, various forms of rock-and-roll. Thanks to its centralized location between the major cities of San Antonio, Houston, and Austin, the hall became a key venue for regional touring acts. Legendary names such as Adolph Hofner and Bob Wills have graced its stage, as well as regional breakout artists like Johnny Winter, B. J. Thomas, Sunny and the Sunliners, and Roy Head and the Traits. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the hall continued to highlight the local Czech and German polka bands, as well as the country styles that were once so popular in this region settled primarily by Central European immigrants.
Structurally and physically, Swiss Alp Hall is a 7,000-square-foot rectangular wood framed hall, German immigrant in origin, with a barn-like structure and gabled roof, pier-and-beam foundation, with awning style wooden flaps maximizing the South Texas breeze, and an exposed roof structure. Its 3,000-square-foot wood floor is designed for dancing. The present hall has been enlarged several times and has been owned by three families since it was built around 1900—the Brunes (circa 1900 to 1933), the Tietjens (1933 to 2005) and the Ustyniks (2005 to present). In its most recent, early twenty-first century incarnation, the hall has hosted many of the best-known Texas artists, from Asleep at the Wheel to Kevin Fowler, Roger Creager, Stoney LaRue and others. Next door to the current hall is a café, remodeled from an earlier 1950s gas station and store that provided the small community with groceries and gasoline.
Johann Friedrich Ernst, the first German to bring his family to Texas, was born Christian Friedrich Dirks, son of Meine and Sybille (Grimms) Dirks, on June 18, 1796, at Burg (Castle) Gödens near the village of Neustadtgödens, just north of Oldenburg in Lower Saxony. He began to use the name Ernst after his departure from Oldenburg. In 1800, after the death of his father, who was employed at Burg Gödens, Ernst moved with his mother to Varel in the Duchy of Oldenburg. In February 1814 he joined the Oldenburg Regiment of the Duke of Oldenburg, and he remained a soldier until June 1819. He reached the rank of quartermaster sergeant and received a medallion from the duke for his participation in the campaign against Napoleon. He married Louise Gesine Auguste Weber (see STOEHR, LOUISE W.) in Oldenburg on October 25, 1818; they had seven children. In June 1819 the duke appointed him clerk at the post office in Oldenburg.
In September 1829 Ernst, his wife, and their five surviving children fled Oldenburg; he was subsequently charged by the Duke of Oldenburg with embezzling a large amount of money from the post office. He and his family escaped by way of Bremen, Osnabrück, Münster, and Brussels and eventually sailed from Le Havre for New York, where they arrived in late 1829. For a time Ernst and his family ran a boardinghouse in New York. There he met Charles Fordtran, also a German. They became friends and decided to move together to Missouri. On the ship to New Orleans they read a prospectus about the favorable conditions in Austin's colony in Texas and changed their destination. The Ernst family and Fordtran sailed on the schooner Saltillo for Harrisburg and arrived before March 9, 1831; they were the first German family to arrive in Texas.
On April 16 Ernst obtained a league of land on the west bank of the west fork of Mill Creek in Austin's colony; Fordtran's grant was nearby. In February 1832 Ernst wrote a long letter to a friend in Germany describing Texas in glowing language. This letter appears to have been circulated widely in Germany and to have encouraged others to immigrate. Ernst became well known as a benefactor to new emigrants from his homeland: his house served as a hotel and a boardinghouse for travelers, and he even assisted new settlers financially. He acquired the nickname "father of the immigrants."
He became a justice of the peace in Austin County and sold lots from his league to new immigrants. The resulting settlement, Industry, was the first German town in Texas. Ernst became involved in a variety of other activities: cultivating tobacco, making cigars, recording rainfall and temperature data at his farm, establishing the Teutonic Order in Texas, and chartering a university, which never came into existence. He wrote several letters to the editor of the Telegraph and Texas Register regarding his tobacco enterprise and weather data. Also, he proposed to the Congress of Texas that the republic formally encourage German immigration. President Mirabeau B. Lamar at one time considered proposing Ernst as envoy to the Netherlands. Ernst died sometime between May 16 and July 10, 1848.
By James and Ann Lindemann
Industry, on State Highway 159 in northwest Austin County, was the first permanent German settlement in Texas. Its first residents were Johann Friedrich Ernst and his family, who had come from Germany, briefly resided in New York, and en route to Missouri learned about free land available in Texas. The Mexican government granted Ernst a league of land on April 16, 1831, and Charles Fordtran, who had accompanied the family to Texas, received a quarter of it as payment for surveying the entire tract. Ernst established his home on the eastern part of his league near the main road from San Felipe to Bastrop. "Ernst's Place" established a reputation as a resting place for immigrants and travelers. Ernst planted fruit trees and began to grow crops, including tobacco, which he made into cigars and sold in San Felipe, Houston, and Galveston. Early residents were described as very industrious, and the cigar industry is purported to be the source for the name of the town. In December 1837 the Republic of Texas authorized a post office. In 1838 Ernst laid out lots on his land for the town of Industry and advertised them for sale. Between 1846 and 1850 Ernst F. G. Knolle and his brother Frederick purchased 3,000 acres of the John F. Pettus league, adjacent to and southeast of the Ernst league. By the time Friedrich Ernst died in 1848, Industry was experiencing modest growth. By the 1850s cotton was the area's major crop. In 1857 Knolle, aided by Andreas Buenger, built the town's first cotton gin, and by the 1890s twelve gins were in operation in the vicinity. Germans, Czechs, and African Americans steadily settled the Industry area from the 1850s until the 1890s, although growth slowed briefly during the Civil War. Between the late 1920s and the 1960s the population declined. Farming and cotton production were the major sources of income in the Industry area until the 1950s. After that, ranching dominated the economy. In 1985 churches, clubs, and civic organizations remained active. The town had a school, a post office, a bank, a public park, twenty-seven businesses, and a population of 600. A substantial number of residents commuted to jobs outside the town. In 1990 the population was 475.
By Sylvia Grider
The Wends (also known as Sorbs or Lusatian Serbs) are a Slavic people concentrated in East Germany near Bautzen and Cottbus in the upper Spree River valley, an area long known as Lusatia. They speak Sorbian, which is divided into two dialects, Upper Sorbian and Lower Sorbian. The language was originally written with Gothic letters, although since 1937 the Latin alphabet has been used. Wends have never had an independent nation, and their homeland has always been surrounded by Germans. During the Middle Ages the Wends survived the raids and massacres of German Eastland horsemen; especially during the Nazi years they were pressured to assimilate the German culture, and gradually they have adopted the German language and many customs, although they still retain a separate identity. In 1840, before overseas migration began, there were about 164,000 Wends in Lusatia. In the 1980s there were only 60,000. Outside Germany, most of the Wends settled in two areas, Australia and Texas. The desire for better economic opportunity was probably the main reason for Wendish immigration to Australia and to Texas a few years later. Although scholars dispute the role of social and religious factors in the process, Texas Wends commonly express the belief that their forefathers came here solely for religious freedom. Around 1848 small groups of Wends began immigrating to Australia, where many Germans had already settled. These pioneers sent letters home, many of which were published in local newspapers, and which influenced Wends still in Europe. A small group of Wends came to Austin County around 1849–50 and were quickly absorbed into the German community. In 1853 a group of thirty-five Wends left Bremen for Texas. They were shipwrecked off the coast of Cuba, but eventually made their way to Galveston, and from there to the communities of New Ulm and Industry.
In the fall of 1854 a newly established congregation of nearly 600 conservative Lutheran Wends, led by John Kilian, left Germany to join their countrymen in Texas. The group constituted the only mass exodus of Wends. Traveling first by railway and steamship to Liverpool, England, the Wends embarked on an English ship, the Ben Nevis, for the journey to Texas. While in Liverpool, however, a number of Wends contracted cholera, and seventy-three of them died on board the ship. After a three week stop in Queenstown, Ireland, to remove the sick and fumigate the ship, the Ben Nevis sailed for Galveston, where it arrived on December 15, 1854. Galveston was having a yellow fever epidemic. From December to January the Wends walked the eighty-five miles to New Ulm and Industry. Two lay leaders of the congregation, Johann Dube and Carl Lehmann, went on ahead thirty miles and purchased a league of land in what is now Lee County. At first services were held in one room of Kilian's two-room house, but the group set aside ninety-five acres for a church and school, later called St. Paul's. This was the first Missouri Synod Lutheran church founded in Texas and is thus the mother church not only of the Wends, but of all conservative Lutherans in Texas. After their first tiny log church was erected, individuals purchased farm acreage and town lots, built crude dugout houses for shelter, and established what became the community of Serbin. In 1860 Serbin had a post office. After 1871, however, a new railroad connection made nearby Giddings the business and commercial center of the region, and Serbin declined in both population and influence.
Over the years, due to religious dissension and economic pressures, the Wends spread throughout south central Texas. Today the leading Wendish centers are in Lee, Fayette, Williamson, Coryell, and Bell counties, especially in the towns of Serbin, Warda, Giddings, Fedor, Manheim, Loebau, Lincoln, Winchester, La Grange, Thorndale, Walburg, Copperas Cove, The Grove, Vernon, Swiss Alp, New Ulm, Industry, Noack, and Aleman. Substantial numbers of people of Wendish descent also live in Houston, Austin, and Port Arthur. While most Wends consider themselves Germans, they have maintained an ethnic identity. Early restrictions against intermarriage have relaxed over the years. Nevertheless, many individuals still claim there have been no intermarriages in their families since the arrival of the Ben Nevis. Early Wends practiced many distinctive customs, of which perhaps the most noticeable to outsiders was the German Lutheran custom of wearing black wedding dresses by Wendish brides to represent the grief and hardship of marriage. This custom died out by the 1890s. Religious conservatism militated against wearing bright colors, dancing, secular singing, or any other kind of frivolity. The Wends valued education, and today St. Paul's still has an accredited parochial school. Church congregations regularly paid for the higher education of promising young men who wanted to become pastors or teachers. In the 1980s Concordia Lutheran College in Austin still received considerable Wendish support.
The proximity of German neighbors eventually resulted in cultural assimilation and adaptation. At the time of their migration, most of the Wends spoke Wendish and German, and those who spoke only Wendish learned German after they moved to Texas. Most of the Wends in Serbin and all of the Wends who settled elsewhere had adopted German as their primary language by the time of World War I. The shift from Wendish to German is documented in the Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt, the principal German-language paper in the area. The newspaper, although largely written in German, also contained articles or letters in Wendish. Wendish, however, was gradually supplanted, reflecting the general shift to German language. By the 1930s the language had begun to die out in Texas, and few people remained who were still completely fluent. In the 1980s only a few people could still speak the language. In rural Wendish areas German continued to be used for church services until after World War II, but today it has also largely died out. The Texas Wendish Heritage Society, founded in 1971, actively seeks to preserve and, whenever possible, revive remnants of the Wendish culture. One project involves an attempt to translate and publish all early Wendish documents. The society, which had about 350 members in 1994, maintains a Wendish museum at Serbin and annually participates in the Folklife Festival of the University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio. The art of Easter egg painting has been maintained as a Wendish tradition. Wendish Fest, an annual festival held at Serbin in September, celebrates the Wendish heritage of the area.
Top photo - Sorbian-inhabited area of Germany shown in pink
Bottom right - Wendish settlements in Texas