By Myra Lee Adams Goff
Twenty-six-year-old Ernst Gruene applied for his passport to emigrate to Texas from Germany. He is described in his passport as a very tall, (over 6’2”) blond, handsome man. Later family accounts describe him as not only good-looking, but very charming. In Germany he was a flax farmer and planned for his move to Texas by bringing linen fabric made from the flax that would be used for clothing and other linens. We have several pieces at the Sophienburg and even a skein of raw flax.
Ernst sailed on the Margaretha from Bremen, along with his 19 year old wife, Antoinette nee Kloepper, as well as his mother, Marie Engel Gruene.
Ernst’s wife, Antoinette, was not remembered by family in such a fond way as her husband. She was a little over five feet tall, inclined to be “pudgy”, could not read or write, never learned English, and was definitely the boss. On the flip side of this little lady, family praised her homemaking abilities, and especially her cooking. She wouldn’t allow anyone else in her kitchen and she was fastidiously clean, not allowing dust to settle. One favorite family story went like this: The couple slept in twin beds, but on cold nights, Ernst would crawl into Antoinette’s bed to warm it up for her. Then when she went to bed it would be warm and he retired to his cold, cold bed. (Now, that’s the boss!)
Originally intending to go to Fredericksburg, the family stopped in New Braunfels because Ernst had contracted cholera on the trip from the coast inland. In New Braunfels the women nursed him back to health with dirt-dauber nest tea and the family never left New Braunfels.
An interesting story about Ernst has to do with a visit that he made to a nearby Indian camp on the Guadalupe River. He wanted to buy a quarter of venison but the chief refused to sell it to him. Ernst reached into his pocket for his snuff, sniffed, and then sneezed. Offering the chief a sniff, he too sniffed and sneezed. Then all the warriors sniffed and sneezed. The peace pipe was brought out and after that the chief gifted Ernst with half a deer.
The couple rented a little log house on Comal Street where Ernst, Jr. was born. That house is on display at the Witte Museum in San Antonio. Next, Ernst bought farmland in Comaltown where Heinrich was born .Then he bought 10 acres on what is now Rock St. where Johanna was born. This is the house that Anna Lisa and Danny Tamez have renovated beautifully and turned into a vacation rental. How fortunate that we have this early 1850s home preserved. The original barn on the property that the Gruenes lived in while the house was being built is at Conservation Plaza and is known as the Welsch Barn because it was given by the Welsch family who later owned it.
Recently the Ferdinand Lindheimer Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas was treated to a morning at this renovated Gruene Farm home. A program was given by Roxolin Bose Krueger who is, incidentally, a g-g-granddaughter of Ernst and Antoinette Gruene. Recollections of the family were based on memories of her aunt, Roberta Posey Mueller and put into a book called “Oma, tell me about olden times” which is for sale at the Sophienburg.
You’re wondering if Gruene, Texas is the same family? Yes, Heinrich Gruene developed the Gruene community and he was the second son. He lived in the famous Gruene Mansion and he built his parents a retirement home nearby.
The family says that Ernst Gruene was really a good dancer. I’ll bet he could “Waltz Across Texas” at the oldest dance hall in Texas – Gruene Hall!