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.
Bettac, Suzanne, Bettac Report, 2008.
Guide to Genealogical Materials in the New Orleans Public Library’s Louisiana Division & City Archives. http://www.nutrias.org/guide/genguide/naturalizationrecords.htm
Koenning, Melvin, Personal Family Recollections.
Lavaca County, Marriage License file number 497, Lavaca County Clerk’s Office, Hallettsville, Texas.
Minutes of Naturalization, District Court, Lavaca County, State of Texas. August 22, 1892.
Joe Koenning obituary, San Antonio Express, October 2, 1936, San Antonio, Texas.
Joe Koenning, death certificate number 48151, Texas Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin, Texas.
Texas Handbook Online, “Fayette County,” http://www.tshaonline.org
U.S. Citizenship Information, http://www.uscitizenship.info/ins-usimmigration-insoverview.html
Written by Lucy Ann Nance Croft, 2011 and updated 2015.
Joachim Koenning Family Group Sheet (click link) Joachim Koenning FGS – Document