Andrew (Andreas) Urban, a Wendish Craftsman

This article, introduced by George Nielsen and written by Pat Larsen, first appeared in the July 2016 Newsletter of the Texas Wendish Heritage Society, Serbin, Texas.

One aspect of Wendish life that is generally ignored in Wendish studies is the daily activity of making a living. While most Wends took up farming, there were also some who became craftsmen. One of the craftsmen was Andrew Urban. A descendant of his, Patricia Swayze Larsen, has examined his life and his contribution to the community. Patricia spent her early childhood in Thorndale but then, as a student and later spouse of Brig. Gen. Philip N. Larsen, she lived in San Antonio and the Washington, D. C. area. She is an ardent family historian and is well versed in her Wendish heritage.

If you have an ancestor who impressed you with his approach to making a living, please write about that person and share your information with us.  George Nielsen.

The Household of Faith

This article by George Nielsen first appeared in the October 2016 Newsletter of the Texas Wendish Heritage Society.

Helping fellow members of the faith has a long history with the Texas Wends. Both German and Wendish newspaper articles that reported the departure of the 1854 migration from the Bautzen train station also stated that the poorer immigrants received financial support from those who were well to do. And both articles mentioned that the poor people would repay their benefactors when they arrived in their new country. Unfortunately, there are no documents that spell out the details of this support and any attempt to piece together the program from scattered incidental comments, could very well raise more questions than it answers.

While we do know that the support was limited to the cost of the ticket, which was 55 Taler, we do not know how many poor people received support. One source states that the amount in the fund was 8,000 Taler, which would cover 145 tickets, and another source says it was 6,000, which would pay for 109 tickets. So a safe estimate would place the number of Wends who received assistance at slightly over one hundred.

That mechanism for transferring the money from the haves to the have-nots could have been the V. L. Meyer shipping company. When individual passengers or a family unit boarded the train at Bautzen they took with them only personal items and shipped the bulky possessions separately. Because the shipping company provided the transportation, food, and other costs, the emigrant did not carry cash, but turned over all the Taler to the shipping company. The shipping firm exchanged the Talers for Dollars in Hamburg and later returned a portion to the appropriate person on arrival in Texas. The value of the fund administered by the shipping company in Hamburg was 12,000 US dollars. It is possible that the account of the emigration society held by the shipping company included the six thousand Taler for the poor as well as the Taler the emigrants deposited for exchange and later distribution.

One Taler and 12 Neugroschen was the equivalent to one Dollar, or 100 Taler was equal to 75 Dollars. You can get an idea of the purchasing power of a Taler if you remember that the lay leaders promised Pastor Kilian a salary of 1,000 Taler plus fees. So in Texas terms his annual salary was 750 Dollars. In purchasing power that amount could pay for 750 acres of Delaplain League land.

One problem with this program of aiding the poor was the possible death of a recipient. If a person died, who would pay the treasury for the 55 Taler investment? Kilian wrote that about 2,000 Taler was lost because of the death of the poor. At the cost of 55 Taler a person, about thirty-six of the seventy-four who died on the journey were poor. This 2,000 Taler loss presumably was pro-rated and when the American dollars were distributed, everyone received a lesser amount.

The account held by the shipping company was closed on August 8, 1855, when J. W. Jockusch of Galveston, consul for both Prussia and Hamburg, sent a bill of exchange for $123.42 to H. Ernst Knolle of Industry. Knolle, in turn, presented it to the Association of Saxon and Prussian Lutherans, who in turn gave it to Pastor Kilian for the Serbin congregation. Presumably the consul acted for the shipping company by distributing the dollars that remained.

While the leaders were looking for land the poor remained in Houston looking for work. When ownership for the Delaplain was transferred to the Wendish leaders (March 21, 1855) the poor were given the option to join the Wends in Bastrop County and to set up farms on the congregation’s land. There are no records that show how many took advantage of the offer, but infrequent references suggest that not many did. Working for a daily wage may have been a more realistic choice, but the practice of making church lands available for use by the poor was made a long-standing alternative and St. Peter’s congregation also adopted the practice on its fifty acres.

During the years after the settlement had been established, aiding the poor or needy was generally associated with help in housing for widows, individuals who were mentally handicapped, or families whose house was destroyed by fire. Instances such as this were relatively rare.

The most common form of help, and the one that did not require a resolution in the voters’ assembly, was given at the death of a fellow believer. The congregation closed ranks and provided support for the family that suffered the loss. Pastor Kilian generally closed an obituary thanking those who helped. Here is an example from widow Anna Schelnick’s obituary in 1865:

Thanks to the widow Anna Hollass for her visits and demonstrated love; to her widowed sister, Maria Kasper, for her sympathy and demonstrated great love; to John and Anna Schulze, for their demonstrated love; to John and Maria Schelnick, for their love; to aunt Anna Domaschk for visits and love, to Ursula Matthiez for visits and love, to the widows, Maria Mitschke, Anna Schubert, and Anna Malke for visits; to Carl Lehmann, for making the coffin, and to the two grave diggers, the pallbearers, and all of the mourners.

Another Account of the 1854 Migration

Until now we had only four accounts of the 1854 migration written by individuals who were participants.

1. Pastor Johann Kilian left his collection of a diary, letters, and notes. (See the TWHS Newsletter of October 2012 “Death on the Irish Sea.

2. A German, August Haak, also wrote an account of his experiences, which Dr. Joseph Wilson published in the Journal of the German-Texas Heritage Society and subsequently appeared in A Collection of Histories of St Paul Lutheran Church, Serbin, Texas in commemoration of the congregations 150th anniversary in 2003.

3. A third source of information was a letter written by Johann Sommer, also printed in the January 2002 issue of the TWHS Newsletter.

4. And the fouirth is a letter (Ein Brief) written by Johann Teinert many years after the actual voyage.

Now, thanks to the work of Marilyn Luce Miertschin Nickelsburg we have a fifth source – an account written by Johann Kieschnick.

Marilyn Nickelsburg traces her Wendish ties to the Kieschnick and Miertschin families, and has done extensive work on the Miertschin family. A fourth-generation Wend, she was born in Texas (Ft. Worth) but lived in other states – separated from Wendish connections. She married George W. Nickelsburg, a pastor who became professor of religious studies at the University of Iowa. They are now retired and reside in Washington.

The Seach for Patents

I have always found patents and inventions fascinating.  A few years ago I found out that my Wendish great grandfather, Andreas Mattijetz, had been awarded six patents during a ten year period (1888 – 1898), thanks to the help of Kathe Richards and Weldon Mersiovsky of the Wendish Research Exchange.  Since then I have been interested in finding other Wends who have been awarded patents.  With the help of readers of the Texas Wendish Heritage Society quarterly newsletters, I have been made aware of the patents of August Schkade (one in 1889), Herman Symmank and Ernst Matthijetz (one in 1893 and one in 1896), and William Daniel Symmank (thirteen patents between 1959 and 1988).  After writing about these people and their patents on my blog Frank’s Findings on the Wendish Research Exchange, Weldon Mersiovsky asked me if I would be interested in looking for more Wendish patents.  I thought, how hard could that be so I agreed to do it.  It is much harder than I thought.

I started my quest by deciding my source of Wendish names would be the book written by Weldon Mersiovsky, Passengers on the Ben Nevis and Their Families.  Weldon’s book includes lists of Wendish families who immigrated to Texas between 1849 and 1860.  I started my search with the families of 1849 and am now in the process of checking the families of 1854.  The search can be tedious and frustrating at times.  It can also be interesting and exciting.  As I was going through my process, I found out that my first cousin Danny Mattijetz, who is also part Wendish, was awarded a patent in 2001.  I took a break from my research, and with Danny’s help, wrote a short article about Danny’s patent for my blog Frank’s Findings where I have also written about all the other patents listed above.  After that, I went back to my research.

So far I have not found one additional patent that I can truthfully say was authored by a Wendish immigrant or ancestor.  But I am not giving up!  While searching the names of those who arrived prior to 1853, I have found patents issued in the last 50 years by people who share the same surname of some of the settlers.  Could they be descendants of these early settlers? Sure they could, but for me to determine that, I would have to try to build their family trees.  Other things I have found associated with some of the surnames are cancer research papers and addresses and telephone numbers of living people with the same or similar names.  I also found websights with Arabic, Korean and Slavic characters.  None of which I reviewed because I could not read them if I tried!  I was getting a bit frustrated but I continued on.

When researching the names of the Wendish settlers who arrived in 1853 I was feeling better.  At least while searching these names I found posts on the Texas Wendish Heritage Society webpage or the Wendish Research Exchange.  Some of these posts were the writings of George R. Nielsen, Wendish historian.  Others were links to Weldon Mersiovsky, Wendish genealogist, and some were even my own posts on Frank’s Findings.  At least I knew I was spelling the names correctly!  Then it was time to start looking at the Ben Nevis passengers.

While searching for patents for Peter Fritzsche, I found eighteen patents awarded to Peter Fritzsche of Germany awarded between 1989 and 2004.  If anyone knows if these two people are related, please let me know.  I also found multiple patents for Carl Jaeger, and a Karl Jaeger.  The first one I found was awarded to Carl Jaeger, citizen of Germany living in Seattle, Washington in 1910.  There were two more for Carl Jaeger and Bertha Jaeger.  The first one lists them “of Los Angeles, California” in 1912.  The second patent in their names lists them in Houston, Texas in 1936.  There was one more patent awarded to Carl Jaeger “citizen of Germany, residing at Waldhof near Mannheim” that was awarded in 1923.  Another patent was awarded to a Carl Jaeger in 1951 but no details were available.  There also are at least three more patents for a Karl Jaeger between 1931 and 1972.

I found two patents for Carl Lehmann.  One was awarded to Carl Lehmann “citizen of Germany, residing at New York, in the county and state of New York” in 1890.  The other one was awarded to Carl Lehmann “of Hamburg” in 1927.  The patent awarded in 1890 falls in the timeframe for Carl August Lehmann born December 10, 1866 in Yegua, Texas except for the fact that he would not have been a “citizen of Germany.”

Taking a break from searching for patents, I decided to read Weldon Mersivsky’s post titled “Serbin in the News by Weldon Mersiovsky” on the Wendish Research Exchange, under Wendish Blogs, and part of Weldon’s Wendish Works.  While reading through Weldon’s post, I found a reference to a patent awarded to a J. H. Dunk.  After contacting Weldon I found out that J. H. Dunk was not Wendish but German.  However, J. H. Dunk is a relative of Joyce Bise, the Executive Director of the Texas Wendish Heritage Society.  Weldon had also contacted a cousin of Joyce’s named Ray Mickan.  Ray had knowledge of a story of the surname being changed from Dung to Dunk during the Civil War.  You can find out everything I found out on my Frank’s Findings post “The Discovery of J. H. Dunk”.

Continuing to go through the list of the Ben Nevis passengers, I found that patents were awarded to the following people: two for Johann Nowak, one for Wilhelm Nowak, one for Peter Pampel, three for Adam Ritter, one for Hans Schneider, three for Michael Schneider, nine for George Schubert, three for Johann Schulze, four for Carl Schuster, two for Johann Sommer, one for Johann Spann, five for Andreas Urban, four for Johann Urban, seven for Michael Urban and four for Andreas Vogel.

Ben Nevis passenger Johann Nowak was born March 21, 1823 and died Dec. 15, 1907. The patents I found for Johann Nowak was for someone from Vienna, Austria in 1975 and 1978.

Ben Nevis passenger Wilhelm Nowak was born on February 16, 1824 and his death is unknown. Wilhelm Nowak of Celle, Germany filed for a patent on May 20, 1955. A patent was awarded to him on April 28, 1959.

– Peter Pampel, the Ben Nevis passenger, died in October 1855. The patent awarded to Peter Pampel was in 1920 and he lived in Galena, Missouri.

Ben Nevis passenger Adam Ritter was born June 13, 1833 and passed away on September 25, 1907. Adam Ritter of Cincinnati, Ohio filed for a patent on August 31, 1914 and was awarded his patent on August 11, 1916.

– Hans Schneider, a Ben Nevis passenger, was born on May 24, 1829 and passed away on January 23, 1896 at Warda, Texas. Hans Schneider of Hamburg, Germany filed for a patent on March 7, 1908 and was awarded a patent on September 6, 1910.

– George Schubert’s nine patents were awarded between 1892 and 1911. George lived in Walnut, Texas and Fort Worth, Texas at the time the patents were filed and awarded. George Schubert who was a passenger on the Ben Nevis, was born June 15, 1818 and passed away on October 8, 1870.

Ben Nevis passenger Johann Schulze was born on October 30, 1801 and passed away in Serbin, Texas on April 26, 1884. Johann Schulze from Osterholz-Scharmbeck, Germany (near Bremen) filed for patents in 1951 and 1953. He was awarded both patents in 1957.

– Carl Schuster, a Ben Nevis passenger, does not have dates of birth and death listed in Weldon Mersiovsky’s book. Carl Schuster of Bellevue filed for a patent on July 6, 1909 and was awarded his patent on February 10, 1914. Carl Schuster of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania filed for patents in 1911 and 1928 and was awarded patents in 1916 and 1931. Carl Gottllob Schuster from Markneukirci-ien, Saxony, Germany filed for a patent on December 4, 1888 and was awarded a patent for his work on December 10, 1889.

Ben Nevis passenger Johann Sommer was born on August 1, 1822 and died in Waldeck on November 21, 1903. Johann Sommer was awarded two patents in 1996 in Germany, but I could not find any details about this person or the patents.

– Johann Spahn, Ben Nevis passenger, was born on November 11, 1820 or 1828 and passed away on December 19, 1907 in Troy, Bell County, Texas. Johann Spann of Tagerwilen, Switzerland filed for a patent on September 18, 1933 and was awarded the patent on July 9, 1935.

– Andreas Urban, passenger on the Ben Nevis, was born on March 6, 1826 and passed away on February 25, 1857. Andreas Urban of AiCuris GmbH & Co. was awarded three patents in 2004, 2005 and 2007. Andreas Urban of 3M Innovative Properties Company was awarded patents in 2011 and 2012.

– There were two Johann Urbans on the Ben Nevis. Johann Urban was born on May 17, 1818 and passed away at Serbin, Texas on September 25, 1903. His son was also named Johann Urban and was a passenger on the Ben Nevis. He was born on January 6, 1852 and passed away at Serbin, Texas on July 31, 1922. Johann Urban of Oberbruch, Germany was awarded four patents in 1899, 1900, 1902 and 1907.

Ben Nevis passenger, Michael Urban, was born on June 18, 1830 and passed away in Houston, Texas on August 14, 1855. Michael Urban from Nuremburg, Germany was awarded one patent in 2009. Michael Urban from Hamburg, Germany was awarded six patents between 2010 and 2014.

– Andreas Vogel was born on February 11, 1813 and was a passenger on the Ben Nevis, but his date of death was unknown. Andreas Vogel was awarded four patents. One was awarded in 2003, one in 2012 and two in 2013.

None of these people as far as I can tell are Wendish but that does not mean that I am correct. If anyone thinks they may be a relative of theirs and/or Wendish, or wants to examine any of these patents, please leave me a comment and I will be happy to share the information.


Review of Satava

Language death occurs usually as a combination of circumstances. In the Lower Sorbian area the cohesion of the language area with its dialectal features was considerably reduced by moving entirevillage populations to other areas in order to get easily to the lignite coal deposits. This in itself required more effort to speak the language across generations. The revivalists in Cottbus thought they could prevent language death by increasing usage but as Harrison put it so well: when it came to getting together and speak Lower Sorbian as it had been spoken 50-60 years ago, nobody showed up. This, as most revivalists will agree with now, is an impossible task (purism never pays off in such efforts). Then, the mere effort to get people together to speak Lower Sorbian in a natural environment – after a few trials people never showed up – there was simply no motivation. Here one can learn a great deal from the revitalization of indigenous languages where goals are set much lower, i-phones  are used without having to be in a class-room situation, and purism (overcorrection) is a no-no. But you tell that to the Sorbs: “Gunter, we aren’t any Indians!” Of course, Lewaszkiewicz is right also – the Sorbs were too enthralled by consumerism rather than making time to maintain and revitalize their language.

my reply to him: