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.
Croft, Lloyd Koenning, Personal Family Recollections, email@example.com
Koenning, Melvin, Personal Family Recollections.
Lavaca County, marriage record, Lavaca County Clerk’s Office, Hallettsville, Texas.
Mary Koenning, death certificate no. 29-024325, State of California, Department of Health Services, Sacramento, California.
“Shiner, Lavaca County, Texas, <http://www.txgenweb2.org/txlavaca/shiner.htm>
Written by Lucy Ann Nance Croft 2011
Adolph H. Koenning Pedigree Chart (click link) adolph-h-koenning-pedigree-chart-scan0001
Adolph H. Koenning Family Group Sheet (click link) adolph-h-koenning-fgs