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   McDade German Catholic Family Mysteries   

By Roy Pfeiffer 

     INTRODUCTION - This story focuses on questions arising from the earliest known correspondence between Germany and McDade.  Most letters from Germany were written by a Bavarian Innkeeper and his wife to their children in Texas.  The Innkeeper, Johann DEINHARD and his wife, Margaretha, lost 4 children to the promise of the New World, 2 sons and 2 daughters.  The daughters immediately married and settled near McDade; the sons roamed a few years with Georg Michael dying of a fever in Austin County still unmarried and Johann Evangelist eventually starting his family in the city of Austin.

For anyone wanting to read the letters in consecutive order prior to this discussion, start with the lowest letter number.  These numbers are composed of year_mo based on their dates and are: 1847/07, 1848/04, 1853/02, 1861/04, 1861/05, 1867/00, 1868/07, 1869_03, 1869/06, 1869/12, 1870/03, 1870/06, 1872/03.

Of the daughters settling in McDade, Barbara was the wife of Peter KELLERMEIER and Maria Anna was the wife of Georg Anton PFEIFFER.  Both raised large families.

The letters have something to say of people left behind in Germany and historical events of those times and also mention the names of others who came to Texas  from their locale.  While they are able to answer some questions, they raise many others, including the big one: what was said in the letters leaving Bastrop County for Bavaria?

The following list includes the names of persons either mentioned in the letters or known to have been associated with the PFEIFFER and KELLERMEIER families in Bastrop or Travis Counties:

FEHR; GALLIT; GEOLATESON; Schröder/Schroeder/Schrader; Takler; Görlitz/Goerlitz; Kastner; Jacobs, Father John Adams; Tarrillion, Father Peter; Furth, Leonard, Mary, Frank; Jenner, Helen; Gury, Father Victor ; Prettner/Predner/Pretner/ Prethner/ Bretner, Martin, Marianna, Magelen; HARRING/HERRING, Johann, Michael, Leonard, Joseph, Ludwig, Mary; Eiffenger; Wagner; Schmid/Schmidt/Schmitt ; Beck; Meuth; HOPPE

As indicated above, names may be written in a variety of ways.  Although Civil and Church records may show this variety, I have chosen to substitute correctly spelled German or English spellings when not in doubt.  For anyone doing further research on the principal families mentioned herein, these alternate spellings are included:




Ruby PFEIFFER Holden is remembered with gratitude for both her 1914 family story and for having the foresight to place in the University of Texas Library the papers held by her grandfather at the time of his death.

For anyone wanting to read the letters in consecutive order prior to this discussion, start with the lowest letter number.  These numbers are composed of year_mo based on their dates.


[   ] denotes something added to the original for clarity. 

October 22, 1914

When Grandpa PFEIFFER (Antone [Georg Anton PFEIFFER]) became of age, about the year 1838, he sold the estate which was left him and put the money in a bank - his only sister having died very young, also both his parents. 

Being left an orphan he had no permanent home, so naturally traveled a great deal.  He was a butcher by trade and has lived in Ireland, traveled over England and lived in London.  But that was over sixty-five years ago.  In 1847, when Grandpa was about 28 years old,he and a friend named Hoppy [HOPPE] came to America and rented a farm between Elgin and Austin on Brushy Creek.  Mr. [HOPPE] stayed in America

But Grandpa returned to Germany and near his old home in northern Germany met Fraulein Mary DEINHART [Maria Anna DEINHARD].  They were married in 1849 and on a vessel loaded with merchandise they once more sailed for Texas.  They were shipwrecked and when they landed at Galveston Island they had nothing except the clothes they wore.  Grandpa had in his cargo rich silks and laces, and guns and ammunition - mostly, things that would sell for a good price here in this new state. (when Grandpa heard of his partner [HOPPE?] He had been killed during the Confederate War in about the year 1862 or 3.)  So they had nothing with which to work but started for Bastrop just sixty-five years ago.  One of Grandmas sisters came with her from Germany and two brothers.  One brother died in Galveston about 1890.  And the other died in Houston about 1900.  Mrs. KELLAMIRE [wife of Peter KELLERMEIER, Barbara DEINHARD]is buried at catholic cemetery - her sister.  Grandma and Grandpa were reared about 50 or 60 miles from each other.  She was disinherited when she left Germany.  When her mother died she willed her $1,000 but was taken by her father. 

This basic story has been supplemented in later years by the remembrances of Ruby's older sisters, Altah Belle PFEIFFER Burns about 1950 and younger sister Elberta Mae PFEIFFER Harvey in 1991.  These sources bring more surnames into the story: HERRING [HARRING], Fair [FEHR], GALLIT and GEOLATESON.

WHERE THE RUBBER HITS THE ROAD - Getting to Galveston, as hard as it might have been, was, no doubt, the easy part of starting one's family in Texas.  These early emigrants were not met by friends or relatives as they walked the gang-plank, then taken to an established home for a good meal and rest before facing their future.  Each came with a small amount of currency and a few possessions, thought essential for getting started.

On leaving the ship, they were immediately on their own for food, shelter and transportation to their land destination.  It is true that some contracted for services to their final destination and initial settlement, but not, I think, those coming to McDade.  However, after the first arrivals, they could probably count on a warm welcome by their countrymen already settled there.

WEALTH - While family stories speak of wealth generally, in terms of our currency or articles of value, the letters and documents from Germany talk specifically of Florins, Guilders, etc., but sometimes using abbreviations or words which have not yet been translated.  Thus, the meaning of those descriptions remains shrouded in mystery; however more to the point, how much capital did Anton and Maria bring to America and what would it buy?

German immigration records indicate that Anton and Maria left for  America with 2000 Florins.  Was the German currency carried with them or available to them via banking transactions between banks in Germany and Bastrop, TX?  In this time of gold currency in the United States, were Florins also acceptable for business transactions in Texas?  How was the money from Germany used; What did they buy with it?  How much did the trip to America cost?

Letter 1861_05 from Erhard DEINHARD to his brother Johann in Texas talks of great financial success at home, obviously intended to make Johann envious.

SAN ANTONIO TO HOUSTON BY WATER - Letter 1861_04 written by Johann DEINHARD of Houston to his brother-in-law, Anton PFEIFFER living on Sandy Creek near current-day McDade, mentions riding a horse to San Antonio, looking for work; then, finding none, selling the horse and returning to Houston by water.  What was this trip like?  Is there a history of commercial water travel, however short, between San Antonio and the Gulf of Mexico? 

FAMILY DISAPPEARS AFTER 1870 - A frequent visitor to McDade between 1852 and 1866 was Johann DEINHARD.  As he moved between Houston and San Antonio looking for work (and perhaps a wife as well), he stopped in to visit his two sisters Barbara (KELLERMEIER) and Maria (PFEIFFER).  His sisters were older and already involved with growing families, but Johann seemed to find it difficult to settle down.

While other male members of his extended family, including an older brother Michael, had gotten a release from military service before coming to America, Johann had not.  This led to legal problems which were troubling to his aging, widowed mother in Germany whose other children had all either died or gone to America by 1863.  Many of the saved letters from this period deal with the problems of selling the family property, an "Inn". Johann retained an interest in the property but the government still had a claim against Johann. 

Johann finally married a Swiss emigrant in 1866 and settled down to raise a family in Austin.  Johann Evangelist DEINHARD and Elizabeth Louiza Madter had 3 children, all christened at St. Mary's in Austin.  They were Maria Margaretha in 1868, Franklin Leonard in 1869 and Ellen Norah in 1871. 

No member of this family is found in US Census reports after 1880.  In the 1880 Census the older daughter, Maria Margaretha was listed as "Molly" and lived with the PFEIFFER family on Sandy Creek near McDade.  The younger daughter was listed as "Lenorah" and was living with the KELLERMEIER family, also near McDade. 

Was this family torn apart by the death of the mother, Louiza?  If so, what happened to the son?  Did he die or was he adopted by another family in Austin?  The somewhat reliable story of 1914 says the father, Johann, lived on in Houston until 1900, but says nothing of his wife and three known children.  Further, all seem to have been missed by census reports after 1880. 

In summary, by 1870, Johann was settled in Austin with a family; by 1872, his legal problem in Germany was solved; by 1874, his mother was dead; by 1880, of this family of five, only two daughters can found.  Then, nothing!

 Letters 1869_03, 1869_06, 1869_12, 1870_03  and 1870_06 are impelled by the legal situation introduced above, but do provide additional historical information.  For a detail description of the route taken by the "new" railroad between Regensburg and Nurnberg, see letter 1869_06 written when this little old lady was over 70.  For mention of going from Austin to San Antonio for medical attention, see letter 1869_12.

  RELIGION - Letters from early times, as well as family stories, show both the importance of religion in the lives of early German Catholic emigrants and the difficulty in continuing practices brought from Europe.  However, since history deals primarily with the lives of the wealthy or powerful, one is unable to learn much of the common people, even from reading history.  From church birth, marriage and death records, one gets a sense of the importance of religion in the lives of early emigrants.  As an example, it is from a family story that I learned to picture Maria Anna DEINHARD PFEIFFER's final days on earth, blind and continuously fingering her rosary.  From letter 1870_06, to a son in Texas, I learned of Margaretha DEINHARD’s horror on suspecting that her son-in-law, Anton PFEIFFER, had lost his faith.

 It may not have been the first time that Anton PFEIFFER caused his in-laws to be concerned for their daughter's welfare.  Although Anton is warmly greeted as son-in-law in letter 1847_07, this young couple’s first letter from Germany and written approximately 9 months after they left Germany, there is no record of their marriage in the DEINHARD's church in Laaber.  Further, each registered for permission to immigrate at different locations, on different dates and each claimed to be unmarried.  Anton was the son of an unwed mother and carries his mother's surname.

There is little doubt that the PFEIFFERs and DEINHARDs were acquainted with one another as families.  Although they lived in separate counties, the counties were adjacent to one another and Anton had gone to school in Dortkirchen, about six miles from Maria's home in Laaber.  Additionally, Anton's grandfather was an Innkeeper, as was Maria's father. 

Unlike Peter KELLERMEIER and Barbara DEINHARD whose marriage was recorded by a Catholic priest at the Courthouse in Bastrop, the marriage of Anton and Maria seems never to have been recorded by either church or state.  The KELLERMEIER marriage is dated January 17, 1849, just over a month after her arrival at Galveston.  "PFEIFFER" was listed as a witness to the marriage.

 WHY IS THERE NO RECORD OF PFEIFFER BURIALS AT Three Oaks? - RUBY'S STORY, as well as those of several other members of the family, say both Anton PFEIFFER and his wife were buried in the "old Catholic cemetery," now known as Three Oaks.  Why, then, is there no record of these burials?  Does it have anything to do with his "loss of faith"?

 Records show that Anton  contributed to the Catholic Church of Bastrop County; and he and Maria had 6 sons and 2 daughters baptized into the Catholic faith.  Further, obituaries, when available,  indicate that they were respected members of their communities; however, the Church seems not to have been involved in their burials.  One son and one daughter died before the age of 10.  Their most notorious son, Henry, was hanged with the McLemore boys, Christmas 1883.  Another son, William, was reported by some to have "hacked a boy to death with an axe, across the yard fence."  After that, Will, as he was called, appears to have slipped quietly out of the picture.  Who did he kill and where did he go?

Except for Henry, the PFEIFFER family seems to have departed McDade leaving no trace.  In addition to the grandparents having no designated grave site, there are no reported family memories of Will nor of the burial of the children who died young. 

CONNECTION OF THE DEINHARD SISTERS TO THEIR MOTHER IN GERMANY - The letter of 1872_03 indicates either extremely poor mail service between Germany and Texas or neglectful children.  Based on a difficult passage (RUBY’S STORY said 6 months) from Bremen to Galveston 1846-1847, and the fact that the first letter to Germany written by Anton and Maria had been received and was replied to on 7 Jul 1847, service seems to have been pretty good.  Johann, although obviously not a good communicator, is apparently a better source of information than either Maria or Barbara.  Was this simple neglect or something worse?  It would be wonderful to find other letters, particularly those to support a hope of warm relations between these families, all experiencing hardships.

ANTON PFEIFFER AND FAMILY IN BAVARIA –Although there is no known close relative of Anton in America, it must be remembered that he had no living sibling.  Letter 1868_07 is a reply to a cousin’s letter asking about family, especially in Lengenfeld.  The letter also provides some interesting insight into his attitude to his brother-in-law, Erhard, who has died since his letter 1861_05.  Was a letter such as this sent or was Anton just getting something off his chest? 

THE FIRST TRIP TO TEXAS- RUBY'S STORY says that Anton PFEIFFER made two trips to Texas, one in 1847 when he and  "HOPPE" rented a place on Brushy Creek and another in 1849 when he returned with Maria DEINHARD and settled on Sandy Creek near McDade.  While these times are wrong, it is possible that he made a trip to Texas before the 1847 trip when he settled with his wife in Bastrop County. 

Records show that he finished the equivalent of Grammar School December 13, 1830 and became a Journeyman Butcher on April 7, 1838.  Thus, he may have traveled during the period either before or after his apprenticeship as a butcher.  The most likely first trip to Texas was in 1841. 

Choice of the 1841 date is based on the fact that Anton got, during the 1840 and 1841 period,  both a passport and a release from military service.  Another piece of supporting evidence is a story that Peter KELLERMEIER came to America in 1841 to escape military service.  There is no evidence that Anton PFEIFFER and Peter KELLERMEIER were acquainted with one another in Bavaria or that they traveled together to America in 1841; however, one might suspect Anton PFEIFFER and Peter KELLERMEIER knew one another and left for America together.  Letter 1853_02 mentions, as news, that Michael KELLERMEIER has been kicked by a mule.  Also, the KELLERMEIER name is common in church and cemetery records in Laaber.

 WHERE DID ALL THE HARRINGS GO - Immigration records from Velburg and Neumarkt, each being a seat of government somewhat equivalent to the city of Bastrop, raise the question.

Sep 1846, Anton PFEIFFER, 29, with 1700 Florins, and Johann HARRING, age 58, with 0 Florins,  arrived from their home village of Frickenhofen seeking permission to emigrate.  This is not as surprising as it first appears; Johann was  a father figure to Anton whose mother had died in 1833 when Anton was only 15 years old. 

Court records following the death of Anton's mother, who died at the birth of her second child, indicate that she and Johann were living together at that time.  Later Johann became guardian of Anton and trustee of the property he inherited from his mother. 

More surprising than all this is the number of HARRINGs who also decided to immigrate from this locale.  From the village of Roggenthal and also seeking permission to immigrate at Velburg were:  On 9Sep1846, Johann Leonhard HARRING, 40, 300 Fl.; Johann Michael HARRING, 38, 300 Fl.; Johann Leonard HARRING, 34, 300 Fl.; Joseph HARRING, 31, 300 Fl. 

While some of the HARRINGs  from Roggenthal may have gone to places other than Bastrop County, Texas, it is surprising that only one appears on the 1850 US Census of Bastrop County.  He is listed as

 [163/175 "HARRING, Michael" 40   m GER Farmer].  Although the age is not a precise match, at the time of the census, he is living adjacent to [162/174  "Peper, Antoine"  31   m   GER     Farmer   500 who is positively known to be Georg Anton PFEIFFER, age 32.] 

So what happened to the other HARRINGs, especially to Anton's "step-father" who would have been just over 60 in 1850? 

GERMAN FAMILY 1850 US CENSUS ERRORS - Although interested primarily in the families living in community with PFEIFFERs, KELLERMEIERs, DEINHARDs and HARRINGs, census errors are likely preventing many from connecting with their family ties to McDade and Bastrop County. 

As an example, Barbara DEINHARD is known to have come to Texas with her brother Michael, arriving Galveston on a ship named Johann Dethard 15Dec1848.  Her marriage to Peter KELLERMEIER was recorded in Bastrop County civil records by Father John Adams Jacobs as having taken place in Bastrop County 17Jan1849 with "PFEIFFER" serving as a witness.  There is also evidence of their having started and continued for many years with their family in Bastrop County.  However, no name similar to KELLERMEIER appears on the 1850 Census. 

Suspecting that emigrants from the same locale of Bavaria stayed together as a group during their first years in America, I believe the following 1850 Census listing represents Peter and Barbara KELLERMEIER

164/176                "Kleinert, Peter"                     24                m                GER

164/176                 "Kleinert, Barbara"                23                f                GER

 This would put the PFEIFFERs, HARRINGs and KELLERMEIERs in consecutively number dwellings at the time of the 1850 Census.  If the KELLERMEIERs are not with the PFEIFFERs and HARRINGs, where, in Bastrop County, could they be? 

Letter 1867_00 is an interesting epistle to Anton from a friend, Leonhard HARRING, proving there is yet a Leonhard HARRING in Bavaria. 

WHAT BABY DIED ON THE TRIP TO AMERICA - This mystery relates to both PFEIFFERs and HARRINGs and involves someone, not mentioned before who also requested permission to immigrate at Velburg on 3Sep1846, the same day as Anton PFEIFFER and his 58 year old "step-father" Johann HARRING. This was a female with a 3 year old child.  Her entry in the register  follows:

PFEIFFER, Maria Anna (28), Unmarried with son Johann (3), Servant, Pelzenhofen, 250F, 3Sep1846

 There are many confusing things about this entry and its relationship to McDade and several family stories.  From the above RUBY'S STORY, one might think Maria Anna PFEIFFER was Anton PFEIFFER's wife, registering and perhaps traveling as unmarried for some unknown reason - the person we know as Maria Anna DEINHARD; however, this cannot be.  Maria Anna DEINHARD is also registered for immigration in another town, Neumarkt, quite near to Velburg.  Her entry follows: 

DEINHARD, Maria Anna (22), Unmarried, Innkeeper's daughter, Letter, 300F, 23 Sep1846 

The above immigrant is definitely the ancestor of McDade PFEIFFERs, but what happened to Maria Anna PFEIFFER and her 3 year old son?  And what does it mean that she was unmarried with child?  Is the meaning of that , in any way, like the fact that Anton's mother was unmarried with 2 children, the second child having been born while she was living, "betrothed" according to court records, with Johan HARRING in Pelzenhofen? 

Was the child who died on the way to America the son of Anton PFEIFFER, offspring of a union with a previous Maria Anna from Pelzenhofen?

Who is the "Mary A" with Michael HARRING at the time of the 1850 Census?

THE KELLERMEIER-DEINHARD UNION - Letters which might explain how Peter KELLERMEIER and Barbara DEINHARD found one another so fast are missing as well as any stories about this event.  Although at least 2 of the letters from Germany talk of Barbara's going to America, none speaks of a pending marriage to Peter KELLERMEIER.

Letter 1848_04 is the one written closest to the time of Michael and Barbara’s departure for Galveston.  As the letter explains, King Ludwig has been removed by force; and there is much controversy over what form of government will replace him.  These concerns may have crowed out a discussion of Barbara’s plans on arriving in Texas.

If Peter KELLERMEIER came to America in 1841, where had he been during the years until January 1849? 

INTENT AND PURPOSE - Getting acquainted with one's ancestors is not a solitary job.  Each hard-working pioneer family left so few documents behind, the story is incomplete without combining one's effort with others.  My hope is to get a response from anyone who has anything to contribute to an understanding of the German Catholics who settled in and around McDade. 

Stories resulting from a lively imagination will be welcomed as well as those backed by evidence.

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