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Setting the Record Straight by George Nielsen

Monday 16 March 2015 at 12:57 am.

Theis article appeared in the October 2010 issue of the Newsletter of the Texas Wendish Heritage Society of Serbin, Texas. (www.texaswendish.org)

Accounts of Wendish migration to Texas refer to two Wendish groups that preceded the landing of the Ben Nevis in 1854. The first group included the Seydler and Helas families that migrated in 1849 and five years later provided shelter for many of the Ben Nevis passengers. The other group migrated in 1853 and sent back rosy letters to loved ones in Prussia praising the conditions in Texas. But now, thanks to the efforts of Howard Mitschke, we have a record of seven more Wends who preceded the Ben Nevis. They originated from Kaschel, in Saxony, and sailed on the Oceanus, which departed from Bremen on August 22, 1852, and arrived at Galveston on October 24, 1852. Six were part of the Mitschke family and included the following:

Matthias Mitschke gen. Krautz (2 Dec l 817)

Maria Kubitz (25 Aug 1817) Children:

Johann (30 Dec 1841)

Mattheus (Sept 1843)

Christoph (28 Dec 1846)

Andreas (4 Nov 1849)

We do not have any evidence that the Mitschke family either wrote letters to Europe or sheltered any passengers from the Ben Nevis when they arrived. Two more children, Ernst (1853) and Carl August (1859) were born in Texas. After living in the Industry-New Ulm area, they moved to Serbin.

Listed next to the Mitschke family on the passenger list was a fellow Wend, George Sonsel. As with the Mitschke family, we cannot document any association with the newly arrived Ben Nevis passengers, but there is some circumstantial evidence that there was an association. Number 110 on the 1854 passenger list is Hanna Sonsel, a widow, and five children, one named Carl August. Is it possible that George Sonsel was her husband and migrated first in order to establish a home? If Hanna Sonsel is listed as a widow, did George Sonsel die in Texas before his wife boarded the ship? The 1870 census for Colorado County, however, lists a George Suncel, age 72, and living with his son, August. If George Suncel is the same person as George Sonsel, then the person who compiled the list of 1854 immigrants did not know Mrs. Sonsel well and incorrectly assumed that a single woman with children would have been a widow. We know that Pastor Kilian did not compile the list of people who traveled on the Ben Nevis and he, most likely, knew the family. Evidence of his familiarity with the Sonsels is a Kilian letter reporting that Mrs. Sonsel died of typhoid fever at New Ulm on March 15, 1856.

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