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 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 Friedrich Könning/Koenning was born May 23, 1817 in Prussia. His wife Anne Dorothea Elisabeth Berger Koenning was born November 10, 1821, also in Prussia. They were married June 5, 1854 in Tüchen, Reckenthin, Ostiprignitz, Brandenburg, Germany. Before immigrating to America, John and Dorothea had three children – Joachim “Joe” 1857, Wilhelm or William Marion (1860) and Caroline “Lena” (1864). 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.”
John F. Koenning had another son, John Friedrich, Jr, born September 24, 1840 in Brandenburg, Germany, and two daughters, born about 1838 and 1842, names unknown. John and one of the daughters came to America. Evidently, Dorothea was not their mother. “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. It is also possible that John F. Koenning was married more than once, which may account for the gaps in the children’s ages.” (Bettac Report, 1)
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.
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,” http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hcf03
“Germans to Texas,” www.wtblock.com/stblockjr/texas.htm
Koenning, Bobby, Email correspondence and letter written by Dora Koenning, June 29, 2010.
Wikipedia, the free encylopedia, “German Americans.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_American
Written by Lucy Ann Nance Croft, 2015