Americans of German or Alsatian descents comprise the largest self-reported ancestry group, and the largest flow of immigration occurred between 1820 and World War I. German immigrants were drawn to America for a myriad of reasons. Productive land and political or religious freedom attracted many people. Others came desiring to make a fresh start in the New World and arrived seeking economic opportunities greater than those in Europe.
Texas attracted many Germans who entered through Galveston and Indianola, the peak years of emigration being after the Civil War. “They were a diverse group, including peasant farmers and intellectuals; Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and atheists; Prussians, Saxons, and Hessians; abolitionists and slave owners; farmers and townsfolk; frugal, honest folk and ax murderers.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_American)
John F. Koenning and his second wife, Dorothea, and their children were the first generation German immigrants for our Koenning family line. Though we are not sure about their reasons for immigration, it is likely John came seeking productive land on which to farm and better economic opportunity for himself and his children. We think they left Germany from the port of Bremen and arrived at either Galveston or Indianola in December 1873.
Note: “The majority of arrivals from Germany to Galveston and Indianola left from the port of Bremen. The passenger lists for Bremen were destroyed during World War II and there are no passenger lists for the port of Galveston before 1892, due to the hurricane of 1900. It is not possible to identify the name of the ship the family arrived on.” (Bettac Report, 1, 2)
Johann “John” Friedrich Könning/Koenning was born May 23, 1817 in Prussia. He married Helene Dorothea Becker before 1840 and they had three children together, Johann Friedrich, Jr. (1840), Louisa Maria Dorothea (1851), and an unnamed child (1854). Helene died in 1854.
Note: “Given the age gaps in the children’s ages, there is no doubt there were children who died or who may have been females who married and are not readily located…”(Bettac report, 1)
Following her death, John married Anne Dorothea Elisabeth Berger on June 5, 1854, in Tüchen, Reckenthin, Ostiprignitz, Brandenburg, Germany. (Her birth date was November 10, 1821, also in Prussia.)
John and Dorothea had three children – Joachim “Joe” 1857, Wilhelm or William Marion (1860) and Caroline “Lena” (1864). All three children were born and christened in Brandenburg. Also, William gave Brandenburg, Germany as his birth place on his naturalization papers, so I am fairly certain, it was where the Könning family lived.
Note: The family surname was spelled Könning on Johann and Dorothea’s marriage record so the change to Koenning must have occurred after arriving in the United States. Johann was Anglicized to “John.”
After arriving in Texas, John and Dorothea moved to Fayette County located in the Blackland Prairies region of south central Texas. In the decades following the Civil War, this county, like others in this part of the state, had a surge of German and Bohemian immigrants. The development of smaller farms increased dramatically primarily because of the intensive cultivation by the immigrants groups.
When the 1880 United States Federal Census was enumerated, John, Dorothea and two of their children are listed as follows: John F. Kenning (64), Dorothea Kenning (59), William Kenning (20 and Lena Kenning (17). (Note the misspelling of the name.) Unfortunately, this is the only document found for John and Dorothea.
There is some indication they also lived in Lavaca and Jackson counties before their deaths. Their children and families lived near by – John in Gonzales County; Joe in Lavaca County; William in Jackson County; and Lena in Lavaca County. Undoubtedly, they maintained a close family connection during their final years.
Bobby Koenning, a descendant, who is also researching the Koenning family, shared a handwritten letter with family information written by Dora Lee Koenning. She was the daughter of William and Emma Redman Koenning and granddaughter of John F. and Dorothea Koenning. She confirms that John and Dorothea “Dora” were her grandparents and came from Germany. Here are some quotes from her letter:
My Grandpa was John or William Koenning.
My Dad, William Koenning, May 11, 1860, Died August 31, 1945.
My Dad’s Half Bro. and sisters. Oldest sister remarried in Germany. No name remembered. Bro. John Koenning. Do not remember. Sister married Shultz. They lived in Shiner. I called her Aunt Shultz by her married name. I never saw her.
Dad’s sister Lena Koenning Rhode. She lived in Schulenburg. I visited her several times. She had about 5 children.
Dad’s Bro. Joe Koenning. Wife name Helene. They lived in San Antonio. I visited with them a few times.
My Grandmother’s name was Dora. They lived near Schulenburg before they moved to Jackson Co. I can’t remember where Mamma came from before she came to Jackson Co…
Grandpa Koenning came from Germany. I don’t remember hearing any name spoken but Frankford (Frankfurt), so guess they lived near that town or in the country…
Grandpa John Koenning and Grandma Dorothea Koenning landed at old Indianola, TX when they came from Germany to U.S.A.
A photo of the gravesite for John F. and Dorothea Koenning was located via the internet and the inscription provided death dates. John died August 22, 1892 in Jackson County, Texas. Dorothea died August 7, 1892, also in Jackson County. They are buried together in the Earl-Quinn Cemetery outside Ganado, Jackson County, Texas. The cemetery is located in a wooded area that is on Lavaca Water Authority property.
Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010.
Ancestry.com. Brandenburg, Germany, Transcripts of Church Records, 1700-1874 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
Ancestry.com. Germany, Prussia, Brandenburg and Posen, Select Church Book Duplicates, 1794-1874 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.
Bettac, Suzanne, Koenning Report #1, April, 28, 2008.
“Deutschland, Preußen, Brandenburg und Posen, Kirchenbuchduplikate 1794-1874,” index and images, FamilySearch,https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JQXR-QZR.
Fayette County is located in the Blackland Prairie region of south central Texas. In the 1870’s and 1880’s this area attracted German immigrants seeking rich farm land. One such family was that of John Friedrich and Dorothea Berger Könning. When they emigrated from Germany, they were accompanied by their children Joachim, William, and Caroline. Our ancestor, Joachim, was about 16 years old upon arrival to America. All three children were christened in Brandenburg. Also, William gave Brandenburg, Germany as his birth place on his naturalization papers, so I am fairly certain, it was where the Könning family lived.
Note: The family surname was spelled Könning on Johann and Dorothea’s marriage record so the change to Koenning must have occurred after arriving in the United States. Johann was anglicized to “John.”
In 2008 we employed Suzanne Bettac, professional genealogist, to research the Koenning family. Here was information she reported concerning their emigration from Germany.
No passenger list can be located but based on the naturalization of his siblings John Jr and William, it can be assumed correct that he traveled from Bremen to the port of Galveston.
Note: The majority of arrivals from Germany to Galveston left from the port of Bremen. The passenger lists for Bremen were destroyed during WW II and there are no passenger lists for the port of Galveston before 1892, due to the hurricane of 1900. It is not possible to identify the name of the ship the family arrived on.
Although “Joe” Koenning is never located in the household of his parents on a census, his obituary did establish that his siblings were William Koenning and Mrs. Helen (note name) Rhode and was the link to locating his parents. (Bettac Report, 2008)
Joachim or Joe was the oldest son of Johann and Dorothea Könning. (John, Jr. was the son of Johann and his first wife.) Joe was born in Brandenburg, Germany on September 17, 1857. The first time he was found on the United States Federal Census was in 1880. He was living with the Christian Reinecke family in Fayette County and was recorded as a “Boarder” and “Farmhand.” His parents and younger siblings, William and Lena, were also recorded on this census as well as his older step-brother John, Jr. and his family. Though in separate households, all were living in Fayette County.
During the same period of time, there was another German immigrant family by the name of Wemken living in Fayette County. The oldest daughter of Alerd or Albert and Wilhelmine Wemken was Helene Catherine Margarethe. She and Joachim met sometime in the late 1870’s, were attracted to each other and began courting. They married on November 12, 1881 in Lavaca County, Texas. Joe’s grandson, Melvin Koenning, said he heard the story that his grandfather drove and horse and wagon to Lavaca County and bought a 750 acre farm at 25 cents an acre. Joe and Helene would call this area of Texas home for many years.
Within the first year of their marriage, Joe and Helene were expecting their first child. On October 3, 1882 a son was born in Shiner and they named him Adolph Henry. In the following years, their family grew to a household of ten people. The children were born in this order – Adolph (1882) Frieda (1884) Henry (1886) Louis (1889) Olga (1891) Minhelda or Minnie (1892) Rudolph (1894) and Walter Paul (1900). All were born in Shiner, Lavaca County, Texas.
JOACHIM BECOMES AN AMERICAN CITIZEN
For immigrants to the United States, the naturalization process was an extremely important event in their lives. The laws have changed significantly since Joe Koenning gained his United States citizenship through naturalization, but nevertheless, it must have been a big day for him. At that time, the duty was assigned to Congress by the Constitution but was carried out by “any court of record. ” For Joe that was the Lavaca County District Court and the day was August 22, 1892. I thought the wording of the naturalization document was significant enough to include.
The State of Texas, County of Lavaca, Be It Remembered, that on this the 22 day of Aug. A.D. 1892, personally appeared in open Court Joe Koenning, an alien and subject of the Empire of Germany, and made verbal application to the Court to be admitted to become a citizen of the United States of America; and in support of said application, he produced to the Court the declarations on oath of A. Fahr and Aug Kuekne, Sr., both citizens of the United States of America, that said Joe Koenning has resided within the United States five years at least, and within the State of Texas one year at least and that during that time he has behaved as a man of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the same.
And the said Joe Koenning having shown to the satisfaction of the Court that he has faithfully complied with all the requirements of the Naturalization Laws of the United States Congress and is entitled to the benefit of the same; And he having also made oath in open Court that he will support the Constitution of the United States of America, and that he absolutely and entirely renounces and abjures all allegiance and fidelity to every foreign prince, potentate, State or sovereignty whatever, and particularly to the Emperor of Germany William 2nd of whom he was a subject.
It is therefore ordered, adjudged and decreed by the Court, that the said Joe Koenning be admitted, and he is accordingly admitted, a citizen of the United States of America, and that Letters of Citizenship issue to him.
Note: To become a citizen of the United States, Helene Koenning was not required to go through the naturalization process. Until 1922, women were not naturalized through court action; instead they acquired citizenship ‘by right of; their husbands’ or fathers’ naturalizations.
When the 1900 United States Federal Census was enumerated, the Koenning family was still located in Lavaca County. The surname was transcribed incorrectly as “Hoenning” as were several of the given names, but this was our ancestor. Listed with Joachem and Helena Hoenning as well as their children Aolf (Adolph) Frieda, Heinrich (Henry) Louis, Olga, Minnie and Rudolph. Walter Paul was born in 1900 but after the census was taken. Joachim was farming and his oldest son Adolph was assisting him as a “Farm Laborer.”
The Koenning family had been living in Lavaca County twenty-nine years when the 1910 United States Federal Census was taken. Six of their children continued to reside with them – Adolph, Henry, Louis, Minnie, Rudolph, and Walter. Their two oldest daughters, Frieda and Olga, had both married and established their own households. Joachim continued to farm with his five sons assisting him on the home farm.
During the years between 1914 and 1918 all the world’s great powers were engaged in the World War I, sometimes called “The Great War.” This conflict involved most of the world’s great powers and was centered on Europe. In the United States men between the ages of 18 to 45 were required to register for the draft. Even though Joe did not fall in this category, his sons did, and World War I Draft Registration Cards were located for them. None of them was called to serve, but nevertheless, like all people in America, the Koenning family must have been impacted by this terrible world conflict.
When time rolled around for the 1920 United States Federal Census, Joe and Helene’s household had changed considerably. Only their daughter Minnie was living with them. Their name is incorrectly transcribed in the census. Listed are “Joseph Kockning, Helana and Minnie Kockning.” It was interesting to note that in answering the question on the census record concerning professions Joe, Helene and Minnie all answered “None.”
JOE AND HELENE MOVE TO SAN ANTONIO
By 1930, Joe and Helene were living in San Antonio, Texas and had been located there about four years. On the 1930 United States Federal Census, they are listed with their daughter, Minnie, and three grandchildren, Ellry (Ellery), Maurine, and Victor, and they resided at 1934 West Magnolia Street. Again the name was incorrectly transcribed as “Koennig.”
We do not know why Joe and Helene decided to leave their Lavaca County farm and move to San Antonio. Their son, Adolph, lived there along with some grandchildren, so perhaps they wanted to be near family to lend or receive support. The 1930’s were difficult times for many folks in America and families were called on to help each other in whatever way they could.
Joe Koenning died in San Antonio on October 1, 1936. Coincidentally and sadly, this was one day following Helene’s death. Both were buried in the Mission Burial Park, South, San Antonio, Texas.
Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census [database online] Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc.,2005.
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census [database online] Provo, UT, USA, The Generations Network, Inc., 2004.
Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census [database online] Provo, UT, USA, The Generations Network, Inc., 2006.
Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census [database online] Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census [database online] Provo, UT, USA,The Generations Network, Inc., 2002.
When Adolph Henry Koenning was born in Shiner, Lavaca County, Texas, he was among many first generation German-Americans in this small town in south central Texas. He made his appearance on October 3, 1882 and was the first child of Joachim and Helene Wemken Koenning. Shiner was a ranching and farming community and a draw for German and Czech immigrants in the late 19th Century.
Since the 1890 United States Federal Census is not available, the first time we find a record for Adolph was on the 1900 census. Joachim and Helene had added considerably to their family since his birth in 1882. Beside Adolph, they had six more children. Their name is spelled incorrectly on the census, but I feel certain that Joachem Hoenning (42) was our ancestor. Listed with him are: Helena (39) Aolf (17) Frieda (15) Heinrich (13) Louis (11) Olga (9) Minnie and (8) Rudolph (5). Joachim and his son, Adolph, recorded their occupations as “Farmer” and “Farm laborer” respectively. Even though the other children were in school, it is likely they helped with the farm chores at an early age.
By the time the 1910 United States Federal Census was taken, Adolph was continuing to live with his parents on the family farm and working as a “Farm laborer.” Two of his sisters, Frieda and Olga, were not listed since they had married and begun households of their own. Along with Adolph, the other children listed are Henry A., Louis J., Minnie, Rudolph W., and another son named Walter P., age 9. More than likely life on the family farm for this immigrant family was a hard scrabble one with full participation of all the children.
At some point, Adolph met an attractive German-American girl named Marie or “Mary” Kram. Her parents were Joseph and Anna Margaretha Kram. She and her family emigrated from Germany to America in 1888 when she was only 2 years old. Adolph and Mary courted for a time and married December 19, 1911 in Lavaca County. We have a wedding photograph of them, and Mary wore a lovely dress and veil. The marriage record was signed by an Evangelical Lutheran pastor. (His signature is not legible.) The record does not indicate if the ceremony was in a church.
We are not certain if Adolph continued working on his father’s farm immediately after his marriage. Chances are he did. Nevertheless, they did not wait long to start a family. In 1912 they had their first child, Victor, and one year after that Gertrude Kathlena was born on August 17, 1913. Another son, Melvin H., was born September 30, 1913.
Adolph’s World War I Draft Registration Card shows that he was no longer farming when he recorded the information in 1918. He gives his occupation as “Merchant.” This is only a supposition, but perhaps he could not provide for his wife and three small children by working as a farm laborer. See Adolph Koenning WW I Draft Registration (click link) adolph-koenning-ww-i-draft-card-scan0001.
When the 1920 United States Federal Census was taken the Koenning family was living in the town of Taylor in Williamson County, Texas. They were residing in a rental home and Adolph recorded his occupation “Auto agent.” We do not know why Adolph and Mary chose to move to this area, but more than likely it was because Adolph was able to find work there.
As an adult Adolph’s daughter, Gertie, shared memories of her youth with her children, L.K. and Cynthia, and many of these memories were about the dire circumstances in which her family lived during the 1920’s. She spoke of how her family “picked up stakes” and moved to California. We know from family data that Adolph’s father-in-law and mother-in-law, Joe and Margaretha Kram, moved there before 1920, so perhaps having some family out west drew them in that direction. However, more than anything else it was probably Adolph’s hope for better employment opportunities.
Unfortunately life did not get much better in California for the Koenning family. It became even more difficult and sad with the death of Mary on April 30, 1929 in Modesto, Stanislaus County, California. This had a terrible impact on Adolph, Vick, Gertie, and Mel.
By 1930, Adolph (46), Gertie (17), and Mel (14) are living in New Braunfels, Comal County, Texas. According to the 1930 United States Federal Census they resided in a rental house on East San Antonio Street. Adolph’s occupation was given as “Salesman” in retail industry, general merchandise.
Evidently they did not live in New Braunfels for any length of time. From Gertrude’s high school transcript we find that she enrolled in Thomas Jefferson High School in May 1930. This high school is located in San Antonio, Texas. The transcript also gave her address as 1924 Magnolia Street, San Antonio and her father’s occupation as “Coffee Salesman.” Adolph and his children must have liked San Antonio because his traveling days were over. He stayed here for the rest of his life.
Family anecdotes are always treasured. Adolph’s son wrote this about his father.
Adolph Henry Koenning was born on a farm near Shiner, Texas. He had reddish-auburn hair and green, hazel eyes that crinkled when he smiled. He loved sports and watched soft ball games every night at San Pedro Park, San Antonio, during the season. He always hid gum in his pockets for the grandchildren to find when he visited.
When asked about his grandfather, Adolph Koenning, L.K. Croft shares these few memories.
Because he was small in stature, we called him ‘Little Granddad.”…He was a man of quiet demeanor…Little Granddad must have cared about his appearance because I recall he always dressed nice – especially when he joined us for Sunday dinner…I remember that he was a carpenter and kept his tools organized and placed on his garage wall…His oldest son, Victor, took Little Granddad ‘under wing.’ In fact, he lived in a small apartment behind Victor’s house.
Adolph Henry Koenning died on November 30, 1948 in San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas. He was buried in Mission Burial Park South.
Adolph H. Koenning, death certificate no. 46011, Texas Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin, Texas.
Adolph H. Koenning, obituary, San Antonio Express News, November 30, 1948.
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census, (database online) Provo UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2004.
Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census, (database online) Provo UT, USA: MyFamily.com, Inc., 2006.
Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census (database online), Provo UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census, (database online) Provo UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.
Ancestry.com. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database online] Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2005.
Gertrude Kathlena Koenning’s story begins August 17, 1913 in the little town of Shiner, Texas, located in Lavaca County. Both of her parents, Adolph Henry and Marie “Mary” Kram Koenning, were of German ancestry. Gertrude or “Gertie” was their second child, born about one year after her brother Victor. After the little burg of Shiner got its start in 1887, it soon became the home of many German and Czech immigrants with farming and ranching the primary industries. Of course, today it is well known for Shiner Bock Beer produced by the K. Spoetzl Brewery.
The Koenning family stayed in Shiner for about 7 more years. During that time they had their third child, Melvin, on September 30, 1915. As a boy, Adolph helped on his father’s farm, but evidently he did not continue in farming. On his World War I Draft Registration Card, he gives his occupation as “Merchant.” This is only a supposition, but perhaps he felt he could not provide for his wife and three small children by working as a farm laborer.
When the 1920 United States Federal Census was taken, the Koenning family lived in the town of Taylor in Williamson County. They resided in a rental home and Adolph recorded his occupation “Auto agent.” History tells us that the years following World War I were difficult for many people in America. We do not know why Adolph and Mary chose to move to this area, but more than likely, it was because that is where he found work.
As an adult Gertie shared memories of her youth with her children, L.K. and Cynthia, and many of these memories were about the dire circumstances in which her family lived during the 1920’s. She spoke of how her family “picked up stakes” and moved to California. We know from family data that Gertie’s maternal grandparents, Joe and Margaretha Kram, and eight of their children, moved there before 1920. It is likely that having family out west drew them in that direction. More than anything else, I think it was the hope for better employment opportunities.
Unfortunately, life did not get much better in California for the Koenning family. It became even more difficult and sad with the death of Gertie’s mother Mary on April 30, 1929 in Modesto, Stanislaus County, California. This had a terrible impact on Adolph, Vick, Gertie, and Mel. Here are some of Gertie’s recollections of that time and shared by her daughter, Cynthia.
Mom’s mom (Mary) died of uterine cancerwhen Mother was only 15.Little granddad (Adolph) was a carpenter who hauled the 3 kids from California to Texas and back to California again several times. Mother did all the cooking and house work. Once she was old enough, she canned spinach in a California factory. She would never eat canned spinach after that!
By 1930 Adolph (46), Gertie (17), and Mel (14) were living in New Braunfels, Comal County, Texas. According to the 1930 United States Federal Census they resided in a rental house on East San Antonio Street. Adolph’s occupation was given as “salesman” in retail industry, general merchandise.
Evidently they did not live in New Braunfels for any length of time. Gertrude enrolled in Thomas Jefferson High School in May 1930. This high school is located in San Antonio, Texas. Her high school transcript shows they received her records from schools in both Modesto, California and New Braunfels, Texas. The transcript also gave her address as 1924 Magnolia Street, San Antonio and her father’s occupation as “coffee salesman.” Gertie graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School on June 1, 1933. Gertie’s daughter, Cynthia, shared this anecdote about her mother during this time.
During the depression, when she was a student at Jefferson, she was elected cheerleader but had to bow out because they couldn’t afford the uniform. She was a real looker – nick-named “Venus” by one of her boyfriends.
Speaking of boyfriends – it was at Thomas Jefferson High School that she met a very special boy named Lloyd Croft. They began dating, and as the saying goes, “the rest is history.” During the next few years the relationship gradually grew more serious. A year after “Gertie” graduated from Jefferson High School, they married. The ceremony took place on February 9, 1934 at the Austin Street Methodist Church in Seguin, Texas with the Reverend L.J. Rode officiating.
Both Lloyd and Gertie grew up in quite modest homes, so having to eke out a living those first few years of married life was not new to either of them. Gertie’s brother, Mel Koenning, was a photographer with the San Antonio Light newspaper and helped Lloyd get a paper route. For several years he delivered newspapers to residential customers. Gertie worked as a clerk at Woolworth’s. Those were meager times, indeed.
Nevertheless, Lloyd and Gertie had many joy-filled times, too. One very happy occasion was the birth of their son, Lloyd Koenning, on February 12, 1935. They decided to call him by his initials – “L.K.” One time Lloyd told L.K. that his birth was their first wedding anniversary gift!
In 1937 Lloyd embarked on a new venture, and though he did not know it at the time, his life and fortune were about to change. He and his parents, O.C. and Ethel Croft, founded the Croft Trailer Company at 1423 North Flores Street in San Antonio. Through the next years, the company became quite successful and eased the family’s financial stress.
Just as the San Antonio business developed and expanded, Lloyd and Gertie’s family life also blossomed and changed. To their delight Lloyd and Gertie’s became parents again when their daughter Cynthia Elaine was born on October 17, 1940.
During the next years much of Lloyd’s time and energies were consumed by his business while Gertie tended to their home and the needs and interests of L.K. and Cynthia. Normally as children grow and mature, there is an increased involvement in school, church, and community activities, and that was certainly true for the Crofts. Both Lloyd and Gertie did their part in assuring that L.K. and Cynthia lived a full life in a healthy and wholesome home environment.
In her autobiography Lucy Ann Nance Croft wrote about her mother-in-law and the impact she made on her life.
I have known few people who had as captivating a smile as Mother. Of all her endearing qualities, her smile revealed her scintillating personality and inner-loveliness. She was a loving and lovable woman.
When I joined the Croft family, I immediately felt Mother’s warmth and charm. As a new daughter-in-law, I found it comforting to be so well accepted. For the most part this was because of Mother. Also, I knew that L.K. and his mother had an unusually close mother-son relationship, and for many this might have presented problems. I can honestly say that this was never a threat to me.
Another astounding aspect of Mother’s personality was her openness and honesty. I had come from a reserved family, and sharing feelings was (and still is) difficult for me, so to be around a woman who was comfortable doing that was a new experience. In fact, if I ever envied anything it was her ability to “bear her soul” with such ease.
Like Father, Mother was very outgoing and friendly. With that contagious smile and her sparkling dark eyes, she found that people gravitated to her. I am sure, however, that it was more than her amicable manner that attracted those around her. It had to be her warmth and sensitivity that made everyone feel comfortable, accepted, and safe. She was never intimidating in any way. Family and close friends were most important to her, and she was forever doing considerate things for them. She was particularly thoughtful of other people’s birthdays and anniversaries and loved sending a card or a personal note. I think that there is an art to writing a good letter, and Mother had mastered it. When you received a letter from her, you felt as if she was right there talking to you. Little did she know she was practicing what has almost become a lost art—particularly in this age of e-mail and cell phones.
Looking good was important to Trudy Croft. She was not a vain person, but she worked on maintaining both good health and appearance. Her lovely smile and dark eyes, a slim figure, and her gracefulness contributed to her beauty. But she liked to “help nature out” with her great sense of style and flair in her choice of clothes, the way she wore her hair and applied makeup, and how she carried herself. There was an air of youthfulness and energy about her. A habit she maintained throughout her life was an afternoon nap. Undoubtedly, that daily routine revived her and helped preserve her natural loveliness.
I suppose we all think that our own mother’s cooking was the best. But when L.K. brags about his mother’s culinary skills, it is definitely the truth. I came to marriage knowing my way around the kitchen, but I learned so much from Mother. Perhaps it was because I knew L.K. had certain favorites and I wanted to learn her little “tricks,” but nevertheless I really enjoyed her sharing ideas and recipes. Her Germanic heritage probably inspired her love of baking. L.K. recalls that two of his favorites were Boston cream pie and her chocolate sheet cake, which is, as they say, “to die for.” Of course, she made all her family’s favorites, but she also enjoyed trying new recipes and always seemed to have one to share. One thing I admired was the way she organized her meals by cooking ahead and freezing certain dishes. She was able to enjoy the fun of a dinner or celebration without a lot of hassle.
Since I have become a grandparent, it has made me think back to the time when our children were born and how much it meant to have the support and love of our parents. During those years, we were not living close to either of our families, so we had to travel to see each other. I realize now how difficult it must have been for them to visit their grandchildren so infrequently. Because of this, Mother gave us a movie camera (this was before the days of video cameras) and encouraged us to document all the children’s ages and stages.
Our daughter, Leslie, was Mother and Father’s first grandchild, and how they adored her. Mother was not the hovering type, nor was she one to give a lot of advice unless asked. In her gentle, quiet manner, she bonded with Leslie, and then later with Lyle and Lloyd. When we would visit, she would have little gifts or treats for each of them. One thing Leslie loved was sitting on the vanity stool beside Grandmother to play “makeup.” Mother gave her a little bottle or would let her powder her face or put on some lipstick. Leslie loved it—and Mother did, too. You would hear them giggling and having a wonderful time.
Mother was born on August 17, 1913, in Shiner, Texas, and was of German heritage. I remember how proud she was of that. There had been only a limited amount of research into her family’s genealogy, but she liked to remind us that one of her ancestors was a German baron. She got a kick out of that. Roots were important to her.
Mother’s early life had been a struggle. She was only fifteen years old when her mother died. As it turned out, she became a surrogate mother for her two brothers, Vic and Mel. It all happened during the Depression of the 1920s, so times were very hard for her family. This impacted her life in many ways. In fact, as a consequence she developed insecurities and emotional problems that she had to deal with her entire life. On the other hand, she also had a great strength of character that was demonstrated in her life as a wife, mother, and friend.
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
It seems to me that how one lives their religion is a real measure of their spirituality. This was made real to me as I shared in Mother’s life. How she treated people and responded to their needs with sincerity and sensitivity, and how she grappled with life and its overwhelming obstacles was unmistakable evidence of a deep faith. Her kind, gentle, unselfish ways made an indelible impression on me. I cherish my memories of this loving, lovable woman. Mother died by her own hand on January 5, 1977. (Croft, 40-42)
Note: Gertrude Koenning Croft was buried in the mausoleum at Mission Park North, San Antonio, Texas.
Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census[database online], Provo UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census [database online] Provo UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.
Ancestry.com. Social Security Death Index [database online] Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.
Croft, Lucy Ann Nance, Looking Back: Reflections On My Life, 2007.
Gertrude Kathlina Koenning, birth certificate no. 9235, Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin, Texas.
Gertrude Kathlina Croft, death certificate no. 00250, Texas Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin, Texas.
Gertrude Koenning, student transcription, Jefferson High School, San Antonio Independent School District, San Antonio, Texas.
Guadalupe County, marriage record, Guadalupe County Clerk’s Office, Seguin, Texas.
Mary Koenning, death certificate no. 29-024325, State of California, Department of Health Services, Sacramento, California.