Ernst Gruene

Texas Ancestor of

Preston M. Geren, Jr.

Preston M. (Pete) Geren III

Charles L. Geren


A Journey to a New World

And A New Life





FREEDOM from the demands of ruling Royalty!


FREEDOM from excessive taxes! 


FREEDOM from military conscription! 


This was the "Siren Song of Texas" that lured the 26 year- old Ernst Gruene to leave his native Netze, Koenigreich Hannover.  Ernst was engaged to be married, so family lore tells, but, when the young lady found she could not dissuade him of these plans, she broke the engagement.  The departure date for Texas was eminent, and he felt he should take a wife with him.  So emergency measures were needed to replace the demurring fiancˇ.  


Here the family lore parts company.  Our branch [descendants of the eldest son of Ernst] have always been told that he went to the Pastor of his Church and asked that the Pastor announce that Ernst was seeking a bride to accompany him to Texas within a month, and to attest to his suitability as an husband.  Antoinette Kloepper was purported to have said she "would go anywhere with that handsome man."  As reported in her book "Oma, tell me about olden times," by Roberta Posey Mueller [descendant of Ernst's only daughter], Ernst sought the services of a Matchmaker.  


By either means, the stories again converge with the fact that, when he went to Antoinette's home, he found her doing the family wash. She continued with her chore while he talked with her, and he was very impressed with her industrious ways.  The truth, as reported by Roberta, was that she was very embarrassed!  After all, who looks their best while bending over a washtub, and she was afraid that he had heard of her remark.  This was the romantic setting for Ernst's proposal, and they were married August 7,1845.  


The wedding was a typical German affair lasting three days, and the guest list was composed of those people who would be sailing with them to Texas.  Ernst's father, Andreis Gruene, was a widower with four children when he married Maria Engel Bleckrnann, who was 25 years old at the time.  They had only the one son, Ernst.  The passport issued on August 18, 1845, by the Kingdom of Hannover, lists Ernst as a 26 year old male, 6'2" in height, of fair, healthy complexion, blond hair and beard, nose small as was the mouth, and the teeth were healthy.  


Traveling with the bride and groom were his Mother, age 50, and a serving lady, Wilhelmine Kippenberg age 19.  Although not described in the Passport, family recollection and pictures of Antoinette indicate she was of very short stature, tending to be pudgy, and, rather than having the pleasant disposition accredited to Ernst, she was known to be very bossy.  Three weeks after the wedding, this party of four departed on the Honeymoon trip.  They first went to Bremen, where there was a delay of eight days.  From there they traveled to Boag, where they made connection with a large sailboat leaving for Galveston, Texas.  They were eleven weeks at sea, and encountered many severe storms.


During one of these Ernst was almost washed overboard, but managed to save himself. It could have been catastrophic as he had some $5,000 dollars in $20.00 gold pieces, sewn into his vest.  The first recorded example of Antoinette's strong mindedness was the result of this incident.  Pointing out the dire situation in which the three women would have been, had he not saved himself, she demanded that she be given half of the money, which she then sewed into her clothing.  On hearing this story, her great grandson, an attorney, commented that she might have been the start of the idea of community property laws in Texas.


On arrival in Galveston November 25, 1845, they had to lay over for five weeks in an old cotton shed.  From there they went to Indianola, where they remained for eight weeks, living in tents, while arranging transport of their goods and themselves to Fredericksburg.  It was a hard, slow trip in the wagon with a team of oxen, and, by the time they reached New Braunfels area on May 5 1846, Ernst was suffering from cholera.  It was decided to stop at this point to allow Ernst to recover before proceeding to Fredericksburg.  They rented a split log cabin on Comal Street in New Braunfels.  This cabin was located near the beautiful Comal River, and allowed Ernst to get to the river to bathe in its cool waters, in an effort to bring down his fever.  During this enforced stay in New Braunfels, it was decided to remain, rather than to continue on to Fredericksburg.  Ernst Gruene, Jr. was born while the family lived in the split log house on Comal Street.  About a year and a half later, a farm was purchased, and it was while living there that a second son, Henry, was born.


From here, Ernst purchased a farm on what is known today as Rock Road and the house which he built, albeit renovated many times, is still occupied today.  He expanded the farm, built a split log barn, which is now located in Conservation Plaza in New Braunfels and called the Welsch Barn after later owners.  Although he had been a farmer in Germany, farming in Texas was an entirely different thing.  Fortunately they had a neighbor, an Irish man who spoke no German, but was an experienced Texas farmer, who permitted Ernst to learn the new ways by watching how he worked his farm.


There are many stories, learned long after the event that indicated his modesty and generosity, a particular one being related to the Church bells.  He was devoted to his Church, the German Protestant as it was called in those days, and, when asked for money to buy bells, he readily agreed, but exacting the promise "no name."  He was also known to have helped many people with loans, and it is assumed they were all repaid, as no one recalls him ever mentioning losing money in this manner.  He ultimately moved his family to what was known as the Gruene Farm, and is today the town of Gruene, noted for its dance hall.


At first all three of the Gruene men worked the family farm, built mills, etc., but then Ernst Jr. moved his family to "the city" i.e. New Braunfels, where he had a mercantile business and also dealt in real estate.  Tragically Ernst, Jr. died at the age of 48, leaving his wife, Wilhelmine [Minna] Lange, and three children:  Edward Ernst, Hulda, and Alma.


Ernst, Jr. and MinnaÕs children were (1)Hulda Gruene who married Frederick Ernst Giesecke, Professor of Architectural Engineering at Texas A&M and the University of Texas. Hulda and Frederick had four children, (2) Alma Gruene married Hermann Clemens and had 2 children, Earnest, an attorney in San Antonio and Antoinette (3)Edward Ernst Gruene married Emilie Zirnmer.


Hulda and FrederickÕs 4 children are (1) Bertram Ernst [married Lois Yett], an architect in Austin, Texas, who had two sons, now deceased.  (2) Alma [married McCloud Hodges, Jr.], and their children were McCloud Hodges III and Linda Cordelia, (3) Linda Emilie [married Preston M Geren, Architect/Engineer] and they had three children, Linda Lee Nichols, Preston M. Jr., and Alma Caroline Key. (4) Minnie [married Professor Edward Wight] and their two children are, Susan and Jerry.


Preston M. Geren, Jr. has two descendants, Preston M. Geren III [Pete] a former congressman from Texas, and as of May, 2009 is continuing to serve as Secretary of the Army until President Obama names a replacement. His older brother, Charles Lupton Geren, is a member of the Texas Legislature.



Submitted by: Preston Murdoch Geren, Jr., May 21, 2009


Thanks to Roberta Posey Mueller and her niece, Roxelin Bose Krueger for quotes from their book "Oma tell me about olden times" which more often agreed with the stories as our line told them but occasionally show that, like the children's game of Telephone, there are times when it comes out somewhat different at the end of the line.




Used with permission of Linda Geren Nichols, sister of Preston M. Geren, Jr.