The Discovery of J. H. Dunk

Last month I was reading through the post titled “Serbin in the News by Weldon Mersiovsky” on The Wendish Research Exchange website under the “Wend Blogs” on “Weldon’s Wendish Works”.  I found the information to be very interesting.  There were several references about some kind of disagreement between two doctors named Molette (also spelled Mallette and Molett) and Manning.  There were also articles about train collisions, train wrecks, history, crops, rain and deaths.  I found them all interesting but the one I did some research on was reported by the Hereford Register on May 31, 1901 and The Schulenburg Sticker on June 6, 1901.  Both newspapers reported the awarding of a patent to “J. H. Dunk, Serbin, wire fastening clip.”  For those of you who have read my blog in the past, you know that I am interested in patents and have written about several Wends who have been awarded patents, so I had to research this one further.  Finding the patent was easy, but the harder questions to find answers to: 1. Was J. H. Dunk German or Wendish, and 2. who was J. H. Dunk?

First, I tried to answer the question of was J. H. Dunk Wendish or German.  I looked through the list of “Texas Family Names” found on the “Forum” of The Wendish Research Exchange but the name Dunk was not there.  Then I looked through the books I purchased that contain the baptism and confirmation records from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Serbin.  There I found a baptismal record from 1860 that listed as a witness “Heinrich Wilhelm Dunk, only son of Johann Heinrich Dunk, farmer on Long Prairie Branch”.  Had I answered my second question while looking for the answer to my first question?  Was Johann Heinrich Dunk the J. H. Dunk who was awarded the patent in 1901? So I turned to Weldon Mersiovsky, the expert Wendish Genealogist.

While I waited for Weldon’s response to my email, I went on and searched for Johann Heinrich Dunk who lived in Serbin, Texas.  What I found was the grave of Johann Heinrich Dunk on which had some interesting information.  First, Johann was born in Germany on April 14, 1814 and died in Paige, Texas on June 12, 1890.  That ruled him out as the patent holder, but there was something else I found on the site: Johann Heinrich Dunk was born Johann Heinrich Dung, the name listed on the headstone.  There was also a document attached to the site that was originally typed in German that someone had written the English translation on it, stating that Johann Heinrich Dong married Anna Elisabeth Hempel on November 11, 1837.  That brought up a third question: when was Dung changed to Dunk?

About the same time as that discovery, I heard back from Weldon that Dunk is German not Wendish, but that John Henry Dunk is the great great grandfather of Joyce Bise, the Executive Director of the Texas Wendish Heritage Society.  I traded a few emails with Joyce trying to find out more about the J. H. Dunk that was awarded the patent.  I asked Joyce if she knew about the patent and if the Dunk name had originally been Dung.  Joyce shared some of her family tree with me and did not know when the name had been changed from Dung to Dunk.  I shared with her what I found regarding the name change and a copy of the patent.  It looks like the name was changed when the family emigrated to the U.S.  However, Weldon Mersiovsky spoke to another member of the Dunk family who had heard a story about the name change that had a different reason for the name change.

A first cousin of Joyce Bise by the name of Ray Mickan told Weldon that the family changed their name from Dung to Dunk during the Civil War because someone told him the difference between Dung and Dunk.  This person fought for the Confederacy, but it is unknown whether or not he volunteered or was drafted.  So I went to work trying to see if I could find this person.

While searching, I came across a record on of an H. Dunk who served with the “5th Field Battery, Texas Light Artillery”.  Having already written about Julius Seydler having served with Cruzbauer’s Battery of the 5th Texas Artillery, I went back to what I had found previously.  According to the book Victory at Calcasieu Pass by Michael Dan Jones, the 5th Texas Artillery was predominately formed by Germans from Fayette County in central Texas.  When I looked at the roster for Cruzbauer’s Battery, I found the name of Henry Dunk.  When I revisited the Ancestry record I noticed that for alternate names it had “Henry/Dung.”  Heinrich W. Dung/Dunk would have been about twenty three years old at the start of the Civil War so its possible that the story told by Ray Mickan is true.  Putting everything together I received and discovered resulted in the information below.

Johann Heinrich Dung (grave stone found) and Anna Elisabeth Hempel had five children:

Heinrich W. (August 14, 1838 – January 7, 1911) (witness found in 1860 Baptismal record, possibly changed surname to Dunk during the Civil War),

Anna Elisabeth (September 9, 1842 – July 9, 1937),

Maria (August 2, 1844 – March 5, 1927),

Johannes Wilhelm (February 2, 1846 – March 8, 1926),

Dorothea Elizabeth (June 27, 1851 – January 27, 1885).

All five children were born in Prussia/Germany and all five, at some point, immigrated to Texas.

Heinrich W. Dunk, the eldest son of Johann Heinrich and Anna Elisabeth, married Anna Kattner.  Together they had six children, three boys and three girls:

Frank (August 4, 1867 – March 3, 1947),

Pauline (October 1, 1869 – October 22, 1936),

William H. (September 1, 1872 – August 9, 1950),

John Henry (July 10, 1877 – August 26, 1950) (Patent Holder),

Bertha Marie (November 26, 1881 – May 6, 1958),

Amalie Mary (November 1, 1884 – February 5, 1960).


John Henry Dunk, the grandson of Johann Heinrich Dung and the son of Heinrich W. Dunk was the J. H. Dunk who was awarded a patent.  The patent was filed for on November 6, 1900 and was awarded on May 21, 1901.  The patent is number 674,403 with the title “Wire-fastening clip”.  It was designed mainly for metallic fence posts and the object of the invention was “to provide a cheap and simple construction of clip which may be adjustably secured to the fence-post in such manner that it may be readiy raised and lowered, whereby the wires may be spaced as desired without necessitating boring of the post.”

The mystery of who J. H. Dunk was has been solved thanks to the help of Weldon Mersiovsky, Joyce Bise and Ray Mickan.  I think all of us may learned a little something in the process.

I also tried to find the history of metal fence posts but I was unable to find anything definitive.  I did find two patents for metal fence posts.  The first was awarded in 1926 and the second in 1928.  The one awarded in 1928 looked like it could have incorporated J. H. Dunk’s patent but it did not mention it.  I do not know how long the rights to an invention last, but I do know that the licensing rights are limited and had probably expired for J. H. Dunk’s patent at the time of the 1928 fence post patent.  Click on the links below to see the J. H. Dunk patent and the documents showing the name of Johann Heinrich Dung.  The book Victory at Calcasieu Pass can be found online at





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