Marie “Mary” Kram Koenning

Mary Kram with sister, Lena.
Mary Kram with sister, Lena.

Fräulein Marie Kram was born in Germany on September 1, 1886. She was the fifth child of Joseph and Anna Margaretha Kram. There is some information that indicates the family lived in Eichenzell, Hesse, which is located in central Germany.

When Marie or “Mary” was two years old, her family joined many other German immigrants and sailed for America. The New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 record Jos., Marg., Wilh., Emil, Carol., and Maria. They departed from Bremen, Germany on August 1, 1888. Southampton, England was also given as a Port of Departure, so they must have stopped there before heading to the United States. They arrived in New York on August 24, 1888. The ship name was “Trave.”

Trave Passenger Ship
Trave Passenger Ship

Unfortunately, we have no diaries or family records that shed light on Joseph and Margaretha’s reasons for leaving Germany and coming to America, but sometime after their arrival, they headed to Texas. It is likely there were other kin that had settled there. By the time the 1900 United States Federal Census is taken, they are living near Shiner in Lavaca County, Texas and they have two more children. Recorded on the census are: Joseph (46) Anna Margaret (40) Anna (20) William (17) Emil (15) Carolina (14) Marie (13) Charles (11) and Ida (8). Joseph’s occupation was “Farmer” and he indicated he owned the land.

Shiner, Lavaca County was in a part of Texas where numbers of German and Czech immigrants settled. This excerpt from an article entitled “Shiner Facts, Figures and History” gives insight into what was occurring around the time the Kram family settled there.

 After 1870 increasing numbers of Central European immigrants began to settle in the county, displacing many of the original American planters. Over the course of the next two decades many of the county’s large land grants were divided into smaller, self-sustaining units; between 1870 and 1880 the number of farms grew from 905 to 1,925, and by 1890 the figure had risen to 3,062. The new immigrants worked without hired labor, relying on the aid of their families, which made production of cotton-and farming in general- much more profitable than it had been previously. As a result, cotton production increased steadily, from 3,528 bales in 1870 to 9,976 bales in 1880; by 1890 the number had risen to 26,842 bales, and in 1900, 38,349 bales came from the gins. During these years production of many other crops increased similarly, including corn, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, honey, sugarcane, and molasses.

The next record we have of Marie is on the 1910 United States Federal Census. She was still living with her family in Lavaca County. Her oldest sister and brother, Anna and William have left but the Kram family had three more children. Recorded are: Joseph (56) Margstha (50) Emil (20 Caroline (24) Marie (23) Ida (18) Herman (14) Josepha (13) Christina (12) and Louise (8). Note that Margaretha was spelled incorrectly.

A young man by the name of Adolph Henry Koenning lived with his family in Lavaca County, and like Mary he lived on a farm. At some point, he and Mary met and there was a mutual attraction. They began courting and married December 19, 1911 in Lavaca County. We have a wedding photograph of them and Mary is in a lovely dress and veil. The marriage record was signed by an Evangelical Lutheran pastor. (His signature is not decipherable.) The record does not indicate if the ceremony was in a church.

Adolph and Mary Kram Koenning Wedding Day, December 19, 1911, Lavaca County, Texas
Adolph and Mary Kram Koenning Wedding Day, December 19, 1911, Lavaca County, Texas

We are not certain if Adolph continued helping on his father’s farm immediately after he and Mary married. 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, 1915.

Koenning children Gertrude, Victor and Melvin.
Koenning children Gertrude, Victor and Melvin.

Adolph’s World War I Draft Registration Card shows us that he was no longer farming when he recorded the information in 1918. He gave 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 Adolph, Mary, and their three children were living in the town of Taylor in Williamson County. They were residing 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 Adolph found work.

As an adult Adolph and Mary’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 Mary’s parents, Joe and Margaretha Kram, moved there before 1920, so perhaps having some family out west drew them in that direction. More than anything else it was probably Adolph’s hope for better employment opportunities.

We have heard from family lore that life did not get much easier for Adolph and Mary in California. Information gleaned from census records indicates that other Koenning and Kram family members were living in California, so perhaps having a large extended family was a support and comfort during hard times. Nevertheless, life circumstances took a bitter turn when Mary became quite ill and died at the young age of 42 on April 30, 1929 in Modesto, Stanislaus County, California. She was buried in Park View Cemetery in Manteca, San Joaquin County.

Note: The death year differs on Mary’s tombstone and her death certificate – The tombstone reads 1928 and the death certificate states 1929. I opted to use the date on the death certificate. Perhaps the tombstone was placed at a much later time by a relative and the death certificate was not available.

Mary’s son Melvin shared this memory of his mother and might serve as her obituary.

 Even though she was German, she had an Irish temper, mad as a hornet one minute and laughing the next! koenning-mary

 Sources

Ancestry.com. New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database online] Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2006.

Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census, (database online) Provo UT, USA: MyFamily.com, 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: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005.

Ancestry.com. U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.

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 Facts, Figures and History,” www.shinertx.com/facts.htm.

Written by Lucy Ann Nance Croft, 2011

Mary Kram Pedigree Chart (click link) mary-kram-pedigree-chart-scan0001