T aIn APd MAP ('II X101
the state of Texas. The other dreams of the Wends did not meet with the same fate. The Wends
in Germany were bilingual, speaking both German and Wendish. Wendish was their mother
tongue, but they had to speak German in order to conduct business with the German neighbors.
Unbeknown to the 1854 colonists, they settled into an area already steeped in German culture.
So, while they spoke Wendish at home, they again had to resort to German as their "business"
language. Gradually the Wendish language died out all together and German took its place.
Then, in the early 1900's, English had to be spoken in order to conduct business. Gradually,
German died out and only English was spoken. My paternal grandparents, Albert Goeke and
Helen Horn, were married in 1936 in the German language.
Of my Wendish forebearers, the families Birnbaum, Pilak, Symank, Zoch and certain
of the Kieschnicks, remained in and around the Bastrop and Lee County area. Later, of course,
as the families got larger (and they got larger very quickly what with families of ten to twelve
children being started) they moved out of the area into the "big city". The families of Mickan
and Neitsch made their moves earlier, first moving to Williamson County (Walburg, Texas)
and then to Coryell County (Copperas Cove, Texas). Others of the Kieschnick family, for instance,
my great-great-great grandfather, Johann Kieschnick, moved to Washington County,
then back to Lee County, and later to Williamson County. As a point of interest, it should be
noted that this same forefather, Johann Kieschnick, Johann Kieschnick, fought in the Civil War.9 He served for
about two years as a member of Waul's Legion.
My Great-great-great-great grandfather. Harm Harms Gerdes
Harm Gerdes was born on February 23, 1807, in Aurich-Oldenburg, East Friesland,
Germany, the son of a peat digger, Gerd H. Harms.20 Harm took up occupation of his father,
namely, peat digging. Peat was burned in lieu of wood and coal in East Friesland.21 No doubt,
the family income was also supplemented by farming. In any case, the family, like many East
Frieslanders of the day, were very poor. In 1835, Harm Gerdes was married to Eite Ehmen.
Five children were born to this union.
It was likely the poor economic conditions and dim prospects for the future that led
Harm Gerdes to make his way, along with several other East Frieslanders and their families, to
Texas. Harm Gerdes and his family arrived in Texas around 1856. They settled in what is now
called Quihi, Texas, about thirty miles west of San Antonio. Here Harm Gerdes acquired land
Perhaps one of the most memorable things about Harm Gerdes surrounds the circumstances
of his death. In the last 1800's, Indians still roamed the Hill Country of Texas. They
often stole from the early settlers and sometimes even attacked them. On the cold and icy
morning of March 14, 1867, Harm Gerdes noted that some of his horses were missing.
Thinking that they had simply gotten away, he went to look for them. He would never return
alive. While looking for the horses, a band of Indians (probably Apaches) surrounded him.
They had his horses. The Indians captured Harm, stripped him of his clothing and made him
walk nude for several miles. He was a big man and when he objected, they prodded him with
spears. Ultimately, he was killed by them. When Mr. M.M. Saathof and a search party found
him, he had from 18 to 28 spear wounds (the number has varied through oral tradition).
According to one account, he was also scalped.22
19 Civil War Muster List, Texas State Archives, Austin, Texas.
20 Castro Colonies Heritage Association. The History of Medina County. Texas, (National
ShareGraphics, Inc., Dallas, Texas), p. 279.
21 Ibid., Castro Colonies, p. 279.
22 Ibid.. Castro Colonies, p. 280.
Texas State Genealogical Society. Stirpes, Volume 34, Number 1, March 1994. San Antonio, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth39868/. Accessed April 26, 2015.