A1 -Mj - MAC 1994
It is both interesting and important to note that among the people of East Friesland,
surnames, as we have come to know them, existed in a totally different format. The given or
Christian name of the father became the surname of the children. For instance, in the case of
the Gerdes family, Gerd Harms' children all had the surname of Gerdes. This makes the task
of tracing the genealogy of the family very difficult. It would have been impossible except for
the very precise church records kept by the Lutheran Church in Aurich. The practice of the
father's given name becoming the children's surname ceased when the East Frieslanders came
Mv Grandfather. Albert John Goeke
Albert John Goeke was born on September 26, 1912, in Quihi, Texas. He was the son
of itinerant farmers. In his early childhood, he lived with his parents and siblings in Archer
County, Texas. They lived on his grandfather's farm. Here, already as a small child, he was
expected to carry his load. One of the main crops raised was cotton. Already at five years old,
his parents took a fifty pound flour sack, put a band on it, and he used this to pick cotton
because he couldn't carry the large sacks that the adults used. He also had to hoe the cotton.
He told of their little dog that would follow them into the fields. This dog once saved him from
being bitten by a rattlesnake.
At age six, he started school in a little one room country school called Black Flats.
World War I was still fresh in the memories of most people. Albert and his family spoke only
German at home and so when he started school, he knew no English whatsoever. He related
how that the children would make fun of him by saying, "There goes that damn Dutchman."
When he brought home his books and some very simple assignments, he remembers crying and
saying "Ich kann nicht. Ich kann nicht." (I can't. I can't). His teacher, however, was very kind
and helpful. It wasn't long before he was doing very well in school. As a matter of fact, he did
so well that by the end of the first grade, he was able to read third and fourth grade books. He
always enjoyed reading very much.
In 1919, Albert remembered a very good cotton crop. It was not without its difficulties,
however. There was a plague of grasshoppers which were devastating many cotton fields.
In order to help stop the spread of the insects, they took dried horse manure, ground it up fine,
and added some black strap molasses and strychnine. They put this mixture along the fence
rows. The children were then given long ropes with newspapers tied to them. They would go
to the middle of the field and drive the grasshoppers toward the fence rows. The grasshoppers
would then eat the mixture and die. This, he said, is what saved their cotton crop.
A few years later, Albert's father bought an unimproved farm near Seymore, Texas.
His father had gone ahead of the family and built a small, two room house for the family to
live in. The land had not been cleared for farming, so Albert, still a child, had to help clear the
land. His father bought him a small three-pound axe, and while his dad would cut the trees
down, Albert would trim them with his small axe.
Several years and several moves later, the family moved near Smyre, Texas, close to
Lubbock. Here they lived in a one room house. They made a dugout about five feet deep
which extended about two feet above ground. Here they did their cooking and stored their
food. Albert also did his homework here by lantern light. Once a terrible storm started brewing
and the family feared a tornado. They went down into the dugout and when the storm had
passed they emerged to find that a tornado had leveled their house. They lived in a tent until
they once again moved. They determined to head back south. They had no means of transpor23
Church Records. Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Quihi, Texas. Research done by Richard Balzen, shows
that surnames were not changed as had been done in Germany.
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 September 18, 2014.