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Tribute to Luise Ervendberg

By Myra Lee Adams Goff

Hey you NB history buffs out there, can you name some early founders? OK- Prince Carl, von Coll, Zink, Ervendberg, Lindheimer, Koester, Seele. Good. Now name some of the early women. Stumped? That’s because there is so little written about them.

Recently I ran across a tribute to Luise Ervendberg, wife of Pastor Louis Ervendberg. It was written on the occasion of her death in 1887 by Hermann Seele and translated by Curt Schmidt.

Maria Sophia Dorothea Luise Muench was born in Hannover, Germany in 1820.  At age 17 she emigrated to America with her uncle. They settled in the Chicago area and it was there in Illinois that she met L. C. Ervendberg. They married in 1838 and a year later a baby was born who survived only three months. This marked the first of many tragedies in Luise’s life.

Times were financially tough for the couple and so Luise reluctantly agreed to follow her husband to the Republic of Texas. They settled in Houston where the pastor had a small congregation and in 1840 they moved to Blumenthal. In 1844 Prince Carl came through and offered Ervendberg a position in the Adelsverein to help organize churches and schools in the new colony. Ervendberg accepted the call and Luise gave up her home and friends again. By this time she had borne three babies (One survived).

Because of advanced pregnancy, Luise did not accompany her husband to Lavaca Bay where he would meet the emigrants for the first time. She was to join him after the baby was born. In December, 1844, Luise gave birth to a son and a month later she departed alone carrying her two year old daughter and newborn son. (He died at seven months)

With a wagon laden with household goods and a wagon sheet for protection from the cold January sleet, she drove her milk cows slowly, stopping only to spend the nights by a campfire.

After this lonely, slow agonizing trip, she finally arrived at the Guadalupe and rejoined her husband in time to cross the river with the first emigrants.

Pastor Ervendberg was assigned a lot (now First Protestant Church) and Luise once again busied herself with fulfilling her duty as wife, mother, and pastor’s wife effectively.

Then the tragedy! Hundreds of emigrants died at the coast in1846.  Luise tended to the sick in the settlement. even taking care of 60 orphaned children. The couple finally adopted the 19 that had no one to claim them.

Ervendberg organized the German Protestant Church and established the first school. In 1849 they began the first orphanage in Texas on the Guadalupe in order to raise their own five children and the orphans. For reasons too numerous to state here, Ervendberg’s career as pastor fell apart. They decided to return to Illinois. She left with her three daughters, and he was to follow shortly with their two boys.

Waiting for him in Illinois, Luise learned that her husband had intentionally met one of the orphans and left for Mexico. Returning to Texas, Luise put ads in the “Zeitung” begging him to return, but to no avail. Consequently, she was granted a divorce in 1859. She never saw her boys again and word traveled that Louis had been murdered in Mexico.

Luise’s burden of running the farm became very difficult and she decided to marry again, this time to Balthazar Preiss. She bore him two children but this marriage ultimately ended in divorce.

Now her children were grown and she was looking forward to a more carefree old age. But this was not to be. Her daughter Bertha died, leaving behind six children. As a grandmother, Luise stepped in to raise the children.

An old saying goes like this: “If everyone threw their hat in a ring, you would scramble to get your own back”. I wouldn’t want Luise’s hat!

The January sleet falls on the Ervendberg children sitting by a camp fire as their mother manages the cows. 1845 Artist: Patricia Arnold

The January sleet falls on the Ervendberg children sitting by a camp fire as their mother manages the cows. 1845 Artist: Patricia Arnold