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« Wendish Immigration B… | Home | Identifying Wends »

Wendish Settlers 1849 - 1853

by Dr. George Nielsen

Tuesday 29 April 2014 at 8:02 pm.

This article first appeared in several issues of the 2003 and the October 2010 issue of the Texas Wendish Heritage Society Newsletter. It was last revised on April 15, 2012.

Before the Ben Nevis entered the harbor at Galveston, three sets of Wends had already landed in Texas. The members of the first group arrived in 1849, the second in 1852, and the third in 1853.

The Wends who were the first to migrate, in 1849, did so as part of the German migration to Texas. Their motives, most likely, were economic, similar to those of the majority of the Germans. Certainly the motives were not religious. They all named Bautzen as their place of origin, although George Helas identified himself as a farmer. If they were indeed from Bautzen or a farming area near Bautzen, they would have been more cosmopolitan in their views and more at ease in a German setting than a Wend living in an isolated village. And when they settled in Texas, they assimilated into the German community.

The best evidence for their Wendish heritage is a letter which they sent to Bautzen in 1855 and which was published in the Wendish newspaper, Serbske Nowiny. The editor, in his brief introduction, called them Lusatians. That label in itself does not make them Wendish, because many Germans lived in that region. But because the editor did identify two of the five signatories as Germans, one could conclude that the first three were not Germans and were therefore Wends because residents in Lusatia would be either German or Wendish. The Wendish surnames were Helas, Seydler, and Wagner.

George Helas

The Helas family, composed of George, age 43, Mathilde 40, Clara 12, Bernard 6, and Otto, 9 months, migrated on the Hamburg on December 15, 1849.  Along with the family was an unidentified person, Maria, age 48.  George purchased some land in Austin County, near New Ulm, in 1851 for $200 and nine years later, in 1860, he told the census recorder that his total wealth amounted to $2,500. 

His wife, Caroline Mathilde died on September 22, 1867, so George moved to Flatonia where he lived with his daughter Clara, who had married a merchant, H. W. Yeager.  He was still living at her home at the time of the 1880 census, having reached the age of 74. 

Fr. Gustav Seydler, Sr.

F. G. Seydler migrated in 1849, also on the Hamburg, and first bought some land and settled near New Ulm. In 1854 he moved to High Hill, about five miles from Schulenburg. He lived there until his death on November 20, 1869.  His wife, Augusta Fiebeger also from Bautzen, continued to live at High Hill until her death on August 20, 1890.  There is no evidence of any direct influence by Seydler on subsequent migration, but we do know that there was correspondence with people in Bautzen. In 1850 forty-four friends sent him an ornate silver chalice inscribed with their names.

His five sons, F. Gustav (1831), Julius (1832), E. Fr. (1836), Fr. Herman (1844), and Herman Rudolph (1846), all born in Saxony, also migrated. The oldest, Friedrich Gustav, worked as a mason in Houston. The others all settled in Fayette County and chose farming, merchandising, and teaching for their occupations. Two of Seydler’s younger brothers, Friedrich Herman (1823) and Carl Wilhelm (1825), also migrated with them and also settled in Fayette County.

The sketch of Robert Wagner is based on information provided by Mrs. Martha Prince.  Her husband, Johan Luther Prince III is a great-great-grandson of Robert Wagner and also a descendant of the Wend, Johann Tschornack.  Mr. & Mrs. Prince are members of the Wendish Historical Society. 

Other than the information provided by the 1855 letter, nothing definite is known about Friedrich August Robert Wagner in either Europe or Texas until his name appeared in the 1860 census.  (New Homes in a New Land lists a Friedr. Wagner as migrating on the ship Franklin in 1852, but the town of origin is given as Rohrbach instead of Bautzen). According to the census he was single, a merchant, and lived with the Koch family in Austin County. At one time owned a business in New Ulm. He evidently was extremely courteous to his customers and highly solicitous, so his friends called him “Herr Schoen-Diener.” Although a merchant, he was a member of the Agricultural Society of Austin County.

On May 10, 1863 he married Marianne Constant, an immigrant from Berlin.  The baptismal records of Trinity Lutheran Church in Frelsburg, Colorado County, listed the baptism of four of their children. The 1870 census shows him living in Industry, age 52, and a grocer. His wife Mariane was 30 years old. The three children living in the census year were, Bertha, age 6; Hermann, age 4; and Walther, age 3. 

Wagner’s death evidently took place within the next decade because his wife Marianne, married Ernst Uhlig on January 3, 1880, at the Deutsche Evangelical Lutheran Church in Houston. The pastor of that congregation was Caspar Braun, the clergyman who had welcomed the Wends to Houston and to the first Christmas in Texas. Braun may have performed the ceremony, but at that time he was in ill health and died later in the year.

         The following letter is the one that identifies the three Wends and reveals their misgivings with the objective of creating a Wendish colony.

[Preliminary remark by the editor of Serbske Nowiny.]

Three former Lausitzers who emigrated to America, namely the messieurs F. G. Seydler from Bautzen, R.Wagner from Bautzen, and Jurij [George] Helas from Bautzen, together with two Germans, who in the past year moved to Texas with the Sorbs (Karl Eifler from Schöps and  J. G. Gedlich from Ruppersdorf near Herrnhut) have sent us a letter. In the letter they issue a major reproach to Mr. Kilian and the planned Sorbian colony in Texas and admonish them for participating. We will publish this letter and Mr. Kilian, who has received a copy of the letter from us, can use his discretion on how he will defend himself.

State of Texas, Austin County

New Ulm, February 22, 1855

In the summer of the year 1854 it happened that almost 600 people, mostly of Sorbian nationality, gathered themselves at the Bautzen railroad station to bid farewell to their native land, in which they as children spent many happy years, and to search for a new home in a foreign country.  Who can imagine the feelings that must have passed through the minds of many of them as they thought of building a new colony? The only person who can do that is one who has already left dear friends behind and emigrated to a strange country, and who is already acquainted with the conditions in the new fatherland. Only he can sympathize with those who, after entering America, will soon find their lofty sentiments disappearing, and that instead of beautiful dreams, one will confront deep apprehension and hard everyday needs. We will therefore consider, 1) how the Sorbs (Wends), on the question of founding a colony, were in error and 2) how they were exploited and cheated. 

It is a big mistake if one thinks that several hundred people could establish some sort of a colony here. When the Sorbs arrived, [1854] they thought that according to the present laws, every incoming family would receive a grant of 160 acres of land from the Texas government.   (1 acre equals 12 Dresdener Scheffel.) But this hope could not be fulfilled because such a gift could be granted only to those persons who had settled here before the end of 1853. Where should these Sorbs find land to establish a colony? Was there sufficient money at their disposal to buy land in an already settled area and in addition to buy cattle, implements, and food for one year? They did not have the means to do that. Or would they prefer to settle on the frontier next to the wild Indians, because there the land was cheaper? Yes, even if they had brought along a big army to protect against Indian raids, they definitely would not put themselves in that position even though a dollar would buy 1000 acres. 

But in order to further achieve this unplanned colony, several of these Sorbian emigrants with sufficient wealth bought some of this wild but wooded land, nearly 4000 acres (4250 Dresdener Scheffel). However it is difficult to build good farms out of such land. It takes lots of money, effort, and stamina and that under unpredictable weather conditions. And besides, the portions of land assigned to each family for supporting itself are too small, as any one who knows the present situation can see. But they would not listen to good advice and will suffer for it. Already upon entering America the largest part of the Sorbian emigration separated from the leaders, and scattered in many directions. For this reason the colony, so to speak, appears stillborn. 

Now let us consider how the Sorbian emigrants were treated unfairly and were cheated. After the agents and assistants organized the pious emigrants according to their requests, the emigrants traveled to Hamburg. There it was firmly determined that each passenger was obliged to pay $55 for the ocean crossing. Was that a cheaper price? No. For at that time the crossing could have been made on any other ship for $50. So $2000 was thrown away. Furthermore each of them, had to pay $3 to Mr. Kilian, the pastor of the colony, so another $1500 were thrown away. Then everyone changed his money to the kind used in America. Whoever gave the administrator some money to exchange, gave up anywhere between 25 and 100 Taler for the treasury of the new colony, and again forfeited several thousand. It was from this treasury that the fares for the poor were paid. The poor migrant will never be able to pay it back, so everyone who lost such a percent, has lost it forever. And no one can regain in America what was promised whenever and wherever because no foreign agreements have any validity in America. From all this everyone can see that the Sorbian emigrants have been cheated of their money because of the stupidity and dishonesty of their leaders and many have been driven to death or into need because of it. Although advice came from all sides not to go through England, the leaders insisted on their plan and thereby were drawn into the throat of the dreaded cholera epidemic. And as they arrived in America, the word was, “Every man for himself, the money is all gone.” And the pitiful people had to roam around during the cold, wet season in a strange land, begging so as not to die of hunger.

It is a pity that many honest Sorbs let themselves be duped in this way. Pitiful is the word to describe it even though it happened because of the stupidity of the leaders. To announce oneself as a leader of men is an easy matter, but to lead men wisely is something else. And he who offers himself as a leader of men and then through stupidity lacks discretion and through rascality causes misery, that calls for the highest reproof. 

Those Sorbs who arrived in America, as already mentioned, have, for the most part scattered to seek work in order to live. Only a few families remained to found a colony, and for this purpose acquired some land. But a difficult time is facing these people because it is too late to plant maize [corn]. The time for preparing the land for cotton has also already passed. So the colonists have missed the first corn and cotton harvest and they will need to live an entire year from the pocketbook and that might have some dire meaning in these bad times.

F. G. Seydler senior from Bautzen

Robert Wagner from Bautzen

Juri Helas from Bautzen

Karl Eifler from Schöps and J.G. Gedlich from New Ruppersdorf, members of the emigrated Sorbs.   

[Translated from Sorbian to German by Dr. Siegmund Musiat and from German to English by William H. Nielsen]

         Information about the Wends who migrated in 1852 is based on the work of Howard Mitschke. He discovered that Matthias Mitschke (2 Dec 1817) and his family departed from Bremen on the Oceanus on August 22 and arrived at Galveston on October 24. Matthias’ home village was Kaschel, Saxony and his Hof Name was Krautz. Other members of the family were Maria (1817), Johann (1841), Mattheus, (1843), Christoph (1846), Andreas (1849).  

         After living in the Industry-New Ulm area, they moved to Serbin. Two more children, Ernst (1853) and Carl August (1859) were born in Texas. 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.

         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 direct ties with the Ben Nevis passengers, but there is some circumstantial evidence that there was.  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, listed a George Suncel, age 72, and living with his son, August. If George Suncel was 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. In all likelihood these persons belong to one family and there was correspondence between the husband in Texas and the wife in Europe. 

The 1853 immigrants continued the string of Wendish migration and sought out the earlier Wends, but there were distinct differences between them and the previous groups. The 1853 migrants were not from Saxony but from Prussia and they were members of Johann Kilian’s parish. In addition they directly influenced the 500 Wends who followed in 1854.

[ADD MAP and place the following title under the map.] Title: Village of Origin for 1853 Migrants and Location of Old Lutheran Churches

If it had not been for the 1853 Wends, the Ben Nevis group might have sailed for Australia. Some Wends, such as Johann Zwahr and Andreas Urban, who had lived in the same general area of Lusatia and who held similar religious views as these 1853 migrants, had already settled in Australia. The 1853 settlers decided to try Texas instead because the fares were cheaper and because they had heard negative reports about the conditions in Australia. (For more about these reports see Thomas A. Darragh and Robert N. Wuchatsch, From Hamburg to Hobsons Bay).  They found Texas suitable and sent five letters to family and friends in Europe praising their new homeland. These letters were passed from person-to-person and from village-to-village and were instrumental in persuading the 1854 group to sail for Texas.  One of these letters, written by Johann Kasper, survived because it was printed in the Serbski Nowiny, a Wendish newspaper.

 We know the identity of these 1853 settlers because Johann Kilian, while still living at Weigersdorf and serving as pastor of the Old Lutheran parish, compiled the list.  These were members of his parish and the final draft of his list was most likely sent to the Prussian officials.  Our thanks go to Dr. Joseph Wilson for transcribing and editing the list and for translating the Kasper letter that survived.


New Ulm, Austin Co., Texas, Dec. 26, 1853

Dear Friend,

Since now, with God’s help, we have arrived in America, we shall not delay giving to you and to all who remember us with love a report of our trip and our circumstances. — We arrived in Bremen Aug. 31 and stayed there two days. On the third day, we were transported onto a ship [the Reform] on the Weser River. We put to sea on Sept. 4; there were 90 passengers on this two-masted ship. Our voyage was very good, because we mostly had a good breeze.  But the 53rd day, Oct. 26th at 11 o’clock at night, our ship hit a rock off the island of Cuba; its front part hung on this rock, but the back part was thrown back and forth by the waves and water was running with great force into the ship. As a signal of the distress that we were in, a lantern was quickly hung up, and since we were near the island, it was soon noticed. We had to stay in fear and danger on the wrecked ship for about four hours, and we would have had time enough to pull many things from the water, but nobody was thinking about saving possessions because no one knew if he would save his own life. At three o’clock in the morning, a small ship arrived which took us to land. Our possessions already were mostly in the water, and since the ship then soon sank, our possessions and trunks were all lost; only what we had on us and with us, such as clothes and bedcovers, were saved. —The island of Cuba belongs to Spain and is mostly inhabited by Spanish people. When we got to shore, we could not communicate with anyone; we had to send for an interpreter five English miles away. We were taken to the town of Neuwied, [possibly Nuevitas] well cared for and richly bestowed with money and goods. After a three-day stay, a steamer took us to the city of Havana, where we were very well received and given bountiful help by the German Society and the consul.

After three days, we were transported from Havana on a steamer to New Orleans and sent to the German society there. There too, they looked after us well and clothed us from head to foot. The next day we traveled to Galveston, also by steamer. On this occasion we also saw the famous Mississippi River. When we arrived at Galveston, each [adult] received six dollars from the consul and each child three dollars, which money the German Society in Havana had sent there.

In Galveston we stayed a day and a night and then traveled on Buffalo Bayou to Houston. In Houston we quickly found wagons and Mr. [F. G.] Seydler, the master mason from Bautzen, and from there we traveled overland to New Ulm, where we arrived after a week. Two Bautzeners lived there as farmers, namely Mr. Seydler and Mr. [George] Helas.  We two brothers are working for Mr. Helas; we get half a dollar a day and good meals (meat and coffee three times a day). Christiana Kasper is also working for Helas and getting at present four dollars a month. Hanna Kasper with the children is living with a neighbor and is fine; her oldest daughter, Helena, is working for the neighbor and gets a dollar and a half a month and meals.

If anybody wants to come here, we would advise them not to travel from Bremen but from Hamburg. Generally it is said that the Hamburg ships are better provided with food than the Bremen ones. We experienced that, too, because the food was bad and there was little water. Our shipwreck must be attributed to the lack of order or the lack of skill on the part of the captain. As far as this area here is concerned, we like it; the earnings are good and there is great freedom in all things, both secular and spiritual.  Everyone may exercise his religion according to his own knowledge and conscience, nobody asks you about your religion. The only thing everyone asks is if you can work. There are even churches and schools here. We also advise anyone not to drag along a lot of things, because you can get everything here; especially axes and such are better here than in Germany.  It would be good to bring along clothing. Also a person should not buy rifles unless they are very good. Here, everybody can go hunting, and rifles are both good and cheap. Whoever brings along a few hundred Talers, [the German equivalent of a dollar] can buy farms or real estate anywhere here, and whoever brings nothing along but his working hands can make his living.

Give our brother George our greetings, also our good friends and acquaintances.

Johann Kasper, Hans Kasper.

My address must be written in English. Mstr. Johann Kasper by Mstr. G. Helas, New-Ulm, Austin County, Texas.

Even though the Prussian Wends of the 1853 joined as a group to cross the Atlantic, they did not create their own little community in Texas.  Some remained in the New Ulm area, others soon moved to the Serbin settlement, while others settled in other communities. Nevertheless, a feeling of kinship remained for a time and members of the group maintained some ties, such as serving as attendants at baptisms and marriages. 

Matthes Matthiez (b. 11 April 1821 at Kaschel) was listed first on Kilian’s list and most likely served as a leader or spokesman. He may have had a higher status in the community by virtue of the fact that his father owned one-half of a farm, which carried more prestige than positions such as cottager and laborer. Matthes also knew life outside the village, having served in the military for two years and living in Dresden for two years. He died on December 4, 1880 at Serbin.

His wife, Dorothea Rehle (b. 10 July 1822 at Kaschel) died at Serbin on May 4, 1900.

The birthplaces of their children illustrate the migration of the family.  Three of the eight children were born in Kaschel: Andreas (7 Sept 1847), Hanna (15 Aug 1849) and Maria (28 Aug 1851). Agnes (9 Oct 1853) was born on board the ship and was baptized by George Schelnick. The rest were born in Texas. Johann (1 Mar 1856) at New Ulm, Carl August (30 Ap 1858) at New Ulm, Theresia (19 June 1860) at Willowbranch [Willy Branch], and Ernst (25 May 1863) at Willowbranch. 

The second generation also illustrates a typical residential pattern of the segment of the Wendish immigrants who stayed in the general Serbin area and married Wends: Andreas married Magdalena Zwahr; Hanna married Johann Mitschke; Maria - Ernst Mitschke; Agnes - Johann Fritschke; Johann - Maria Schellnik; Carl August  - Maria Magdalena Mertink; Theresia - Carl August Nowak; and Ernst - Agnes Deo.   

Other travelers with the family were Maria Matthiez (27 Sept 1809), an unmarried sister, and Johann Schmidt (age 16) a nephew. Johann Schmidt died at New Ulm in 1862.

Johann Matthiez (b. 9 Dec 1816) was the older brother of Matthes. He never married and died at Serbin on March 10, 1880. The 1870 census lists with real estate worth $250 and personal property of $100. He lived with his nephew, George Schmidt.  George Schmidt was the father of the Rev. Hermann Schmidt, the third pastor at St. Paul’s, Serbin

George Schelnik (b. at Dürrbach on 27 Jan 1824) a farmer, joined the Serbin settlement as early as 1857. He died on June 29, 1867 at Serbin. 

His wife, Maria Hollass (b. at Klein Oelsa on 1 April 1819) died on Sept 20, 1889 at Lincoln. The widow is listed in the 1870 Bastrop County Census as possessing $800 in real estate and $200 in personal property.

Children: Johann Carl (1854) married Maria Stephan. Maria (b. 3 Jan 1858) married Johann Matthiez (1856).

Others traveling with the family were Hanna Hollass (24 June 1795), Maria’s mother, Hanna Hollas (24 Feb 1826), Maria’s sister, and Christoph Hollas.

      Johann Kasper (b. 17 Oct 1807 at Kolpen) died at New Ulm in October 1855 one month after the death of Hans Caspar and two years after he migrated.

 His wife Hanna n. Schramm (b. 2 Nov 1819) married twice-widowed Joahnn Pampel, living in Industry, in 1858. They later moved to Serbin where Pampel died in 1867. The widow, Hanna, and four children were in the 1870 Bastrop County Census listed as Anna Pampel with $300 in real estate and $200 in personal property. She is also in the 1880 census living with Traugott and Anna. She died on August 16, 1888.  

Children: Magdalena (26 Nov 1841 at Kolpen) married Heinrich Becker; Johann (17 Jan 1845) was a Civil War casualty in 1863. Hanna (25 June 1849), Johann Traugott (10 June 1852) who married Magdalena Fritsche in 1879; and Maria (24 Feb 1855).

Hans Kasper (April 1812) and Johanne Christiane. Hans was the first of the heads of households to die in Texas. He died on September 26, 1855 just two years after he migrated. On January 27, 1856 Michael Hering from Sandy Creek married the widow of Hans Kasper who was living at the Lower Pinoak Settlement (Serbin).

August Polnick [Polnik] (12 Mar 1823 at Förstgen) was a mason and farmer. The family lived on Rabbs Creek before the Ben Nevis arrived and when the Kilians could not find housing in the New Ulm area, they went on to live with the Polnicks. Later the Polnick family temporarily joined the Wends at the Lower Pinoak Settlement (Serbin) and then moved to Fedor where August died in 1876.

His wife Maria Wagner (3 Feb 1823 at Weigersdorf) died in 1889 in The Grove.

The children of this family were the most scattered of the 1853 families. Children: Johann and August, died on the voyage. They were the only fatalities. Andreas (16 October 1850 at Weigersdorf) (see photograph) survived the voyage. Andreas married Johanna Ida Angermann and, evidently for reasons of health, lived in Scurry County, Bosque County and then finally at Fordyce, AK where he died. Carl August was born on 23 Dec 1854 while the Polnicks lived on Rabbs Creek. He married Henrietta Ida Symmank and lived at Aleman in Hamilton County. The two daughters were Anna Magdalena (25 Nov 1856 at L.P.S.) and Maria Ernestine (25 Sept 1859). Anna Magdalena has not been further identified while Maria married Heinrich Koslan and lived at Manheim until her death in 1881. 

Anna Wagner (13 April 1820 at Weigersdorf), Maria’s sister, who had not married also traveled with the family. She died in Thorndale in Feb. 1902 in the home of Carl August, her nephew.

Thanks to Bettie Polnack Fry for assistance on the Polnick family.

Johann Domaschk (Thomaschke)-Janak (20 Nov 1818 probably at Reichwalde) died at Serbin on 12 Oct 1857 four years after his migration. 

His wife was Hanna n. Sarodnik (30 April 1826 at Wunscha). After the death of her husband, Hanna married Johann Hohle and gave birth to three more children. She died at Serbin on 12 May 1870.

Two children, Christoph (10 Sept 1848) and Hanna (5 Nov 1850) were born in Europe and two children Johann (4 October 1854) and Maria (25 April 1857) were born in Texas. Children from the second marriage were Hanna Theresia (2 August 1859) Johann Ernst (17 Sept 1861) and Carl August (9 March1866).

The children of this family illustrate the scattering of Wends to secondary Wendish settlements where they married Wends. Christoph was a blacksmith in Giddings, Hanna married Andreas Miertschin and moved to Thorndale, Johann married Maria Theresia Schellnik and moved to Warda, and Maria married Adolph Pampel and moved to Loebau. Hanna Hohle married Johann Schellnick and died at Mannheim, Johann Hohle married Emma Symmank and died at Loebau, and Carl August married Emma Symmank and died at The Grove.  

Christoph Krause

Christoph (23 Mar 1817 at Mücka) and Maria Krause (21 Feb 1828 at Oelsa) migrated with their infant son, Johann. After landing in Houston and meeting the earlier Wends, Christoph and Maria settled at Frelsburg. Johann died within a year and their second child, whom they also named Johann, also died at an early age. The five subsequent children, three girls and two boys, all reached adulthood. Sometime between the birth of the third child, Hannah, in 1857, and the birth of Matthäus in 1860, the family moved to Serbin area, and made it their permanent home. Christoph died in 1869 as a result of a riding accident leaving a widow and children ranging in age from twelve to less than a year. 

Hannah married George Schmidt; Matthäus married Magdalena Schurk; Maria married Matthes Bohot; Johann Hermann married Anna Maria Lehmann, and Agnes first married Ernst Bamsch and after his death, Johan Hohle, Jr. All were Wends and all died in Lee County, with the exception of Agnes who died in Houston.  

Thanks to Weldon Mersiovsky for the information. See also his family history, From Shipwreck to Settlement—Krause: a Wendish Heritage. (1991)


Johannn Hottas (Hattas)

Johann (Feb 1828) traveled with the Domaschk family that originated from his home village of Reichwalde. The next year Johann’s father, Andreas, and his family (# 18 on the Ben Nevis Passenger List) sailed on the Ben Nevis to join him. On January 6, 1856 Johann married Maria Schmidt [Kowar] at Serbin. Maria was the daughter of Matthaus Schmidt, another former resident of Reichwalde, who had migrated with his family on the Ben Nevis.  Two years later she died. On January 1, 1859, Johann married Magdalena (Lena) Kieschnick who had migrated on the Ben Nevis. The Johann Kieschnick family (# 8 on the Ben Nevis Passenger List), at that time, lived in Brenham and the wedding took place at Salem Lutheran Church where J. G. Ebinger was the pastor. The couple then returned to Serbin. Lena gave birth to seven daughters, five of whom survived. The couple continued to live in Serbin until their deaths at the turn of the century. One of these daughters, Maria Therese, married Andreas Biar. These are the grandparents of Bill Biar, whom we thank for the information and for all of his help in translating many German documents.

ten comments

Emily Sonsel Tisinger

Hanna Lade Sonsel came on the Ben Nevis in 1854. George, her husband, came earlier. They lived in the Frelsburg-New Ulm area. Hanna died a year after she arrived. I gave some information to Weldon at the Aug. 18 meeting. George lived with his daughter, Magdelena, after Hanna died. George is buried in Pilgrim’s Pride Cemetery in Bellville. Hanna & George are my great great grandparents. My great grandfather is Carl August Sonsel who is buried in Nada, Tx.

Emily Sonsel Tisinger - 08/19/2012 21:58
George Nielsen

Emily, Thanks for helping solve the mystery. Weldon clued me in. If you have not done so, look at the Civil War article for the service records of the Sonsels.

George Nielsen - 11/21/2012 00:18
Linda Fritsche

We recently visited the Wendish Museum in Cottbus, Germany. There was a picture of a Wendish woman that was sent to one of Hitler’s “work” camps, because she was Sorbian and not a German. Was it common for Sorbian/Wendish people to be sent to the Nazi camps?

Linda Fritsche - 10/9/2014 15:49
George Nielsen

My knowledge of Nazi incarceration of Wends simply because of their ethnicity is nonexistent. My apologies. If the woman had been sent to the “work” camp because she was Sorbian, I wonder why so many other Sorbs were not treated the same way.
George Nielsen 9 February 2015

George Nielsen - 02/9/2015 22:15
Kristofer Kasper

Dr. Nielsen- I’m trying to track down my side of the family, and the Kasper letter is interesting to me for obvious reasons. My father researched a lot of our history in the 1980’s and 90’s. Through his records, it appears that my family came over via Johann Casparik and Hanna Jatzlau. After reading this letter and The Wendish Texans, I’m curious if this Johann Kasper and Hanna Schramm had any children? If so, any idea where they ended up? Thanks!

Kristofer Kasper - 02/18/2015 06:46
Johnny Kasper

Kristofer, to answer your question, Johann and Hanna did have children. He is my ancestor, as is his son, Johann Traugott (b.10 June 1852-buried in Serbin) who married Magdalena Fritsche in 1879. Following J. Traugott, his son Gustaf Adolf (born 1881 in Serbin- buried in Leobau, Tx, was my great grandfather. He left Serbin, moved to Manheim, Dime Box, and finally to a farm at the corner of Hwy 21 and 77. I am going to Germany soon and will be visiting the church in Lohsa where the Kasper family worshiped. The father of Johann, Hans and George is Andreas Kasper, from Kolpen, Prussia. THe town of Kolpen no longer exists as it was removed in the 1930s to make room for a coal mine.

Johnny Kasper - 12/10/2015 06:29
Debbie Frankenbach

Johnny, I am also a descendent of Andreas Kasper…great,great granddaughter of George Kasper. I saw your post and would love to know if you went to Germany and gained any new information about the Kasper family. I am trying to visit Germany this year. Would love to hear from you

Debbie Frankenbach - 01/1/2017 16:28
Debbie Frankenbach

Johnny Kasper, I am also a descendent of Andreas Kasper. he is my great, great, great grandfather. George Kasper was my great, great. We did not have the first name of Andreas. I am very interested in any information you have especially your trip to Germany. We are trying to go to Germany in 2017.

I hope you are still checking these posts.

Debbie Frankenbach - 01/1/2017 16:35
Johnny Kasper

Hi Debbie,

I did go to Germany and spent some time in the church in Lohsa. It was well worth the visit. It was not easy to get to the books, but perseverance paid off. I stopped by the church every day and finally went to a service, where I met the pastor and the rectory keepers. I then scheduled to meet with them and review the records. There are four books going back to 1733, but i did not get to go through them all. If you email me, I will give you the email address to the rectory keeper, Gunter Wenk. Things move more slowly there, and more analog. I can tell you all the places I went and where I would go again. I would say, bring a photo copy stand and a good camera and try to copy the entirety of the four books. Once you get back, you can’t take more pictures. If you are willing, I can help with the camera and stand. Brush up on your German. Very few speak English. Russian or German, some Polish (former soviet state). the two men who work at the church speak either Sorbian and German or German and Russian. I have been planning to go back myself, one day, funding dependent. I am, as we speak, talking to a direct ancestor of George, I think. The family is of the belief that their George is from Klitten. Send me an email and I can talk more detail. A link to my photos is here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B33Uo8iOcbDPflRCV1U3YmJvNVk3aFdRTC0zSTh1RnlJbUplMlAyVFItbHVOblRFamlpZlk

Best regards,


if you dont get my address from the moderator, let me know and i will send it to you phonetically. i dont like posting it in an open forum. Johnny Kasper - 01/30/2017 21:17
Johnny Kasper

Ps- Johann Kasper was not born in Kolpen, as thought. According to church records, he was born in Teingling, a small hamlet just north of Lohsa. It’s still a town in the round, as they were originally established in the early days.

Johnny Kasper - 01/30/2017 21:20

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