THE WARNCKES OF NEW BERLIN

 

Heinrich Sr. and Elisabeth Eitzman Warncke of Wittorf Germany came to America in 1868 under the auspicies of the the Evangelical Church of Visselhoevede, Hannover. On the 1st of May 1868, Heinrich, 29, and Flisabeth 25, along with their two Small children, Maria, 2 1/2, and Heinrich Jr., 18 months, sailed out of Bremen, Germany on the SS Baltimore. Eighteen days later, on May 19 they landed in Baltimore Harbor, Maryland.  From there they went to Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio where they lived until 1874. At that time they came by train to settle in New Berlin, Texas.  Elisabeth's brother, Herman Eitzman, came with them but soon returned to Ohio.

 

Upon their arrival in New Berlin, the family stayed with the Herman Schultze family for approximately two years.  Two of Heinrich's brothers, Fritz and Wilhelm, who came to the U.S. by way of New York on August 10, 1869, also lived in the area. Heinrich and Elisabeth purchased 172 acres of land about two miles south of New Berlin from Ed Tewes July 26, 1876.  The purchase price was $1141.65 @ 12% interest and was paid off on January 1, 1878. An adjacent 220 3/4 acres were purchased in May 1882 from John Smith et al for $883.00 cash.  The Warncke cattle brand was registered in the Guadalupe County Courthouse on February 26, 1876.  Working side by side, the couple cleared the land for farming, hand dug a well, built a house, and set about the business of raising crops, poultry, livestock, and whatever else it took to sustain their ever growing family.  Produce and other farm goods were taken by wagon to San Antonio and sold at the market.

 

The pair had thirteen children in the years 1864-1889.  Elisabeth was twenty years old when she had the first and forty-five the last.  It is said that Heinrich Sr. acted as midwife.  Maria and Heinrich Jr. were born in Germany.  Sophie, Kate, Anna and one unidentified child were born in Henry County, Ohio.  Minna, Mathilda, Willie, Fritz, Lillie, Louisa, and Adele were born in Texas.  The unidentified child is buried in Henry County, Ohio.  Anna died in Bexar County on January 18, 1875 and was buried January 20 in the New Braunfels Cemetery, "# 30, in the four bit section, fee paid to Sextant Kelner.The eleven surviving children all married, except Sophie.  They produced 59 grandchildren and 133 great grandchildren.  There are seven generations in 2001.

 

Despite the language barrier, they were well established and respected in the community.  They were members of Jaegerlust Shooting and Bowling Club, subscribed to the German language newspaper, Die Braunfelser Zeitung, educated their children, and were active in community affairs.  Daughter Kate Penshorn was appointed to the New Berlin School Board of Trustees in 1921, the first of three females to hold that position.  Two sons-in-law, Gus Penshorn and Emil Penshorn Sr. served as trustees, as did grandson Alfred Warncke Sr.

 

Determined to go to church they became members at Comaltown Church in New Braunfels, a wagon  ride of about twenty miles over rough terrain and low water crossings.  When Comaltown Church disbanded, they attended First Protestant Church also in New Braunfels.  In 1900 Redeemer Church in Zuehl was established and Elisabeth joined that church where she remained a member until her death in 1921.

 

A portion of the homestead was set aside for a family cemetery.  The first marked grave is that of Anna Helmke, born August28, 1879 and died December 2, 1880.

 

Heinrich Sr. was born March 11, 1839.  He died March 19, 1908, in his home of la grippe and circulatory disease at the age of 69 years and 8 days.  According to his death record, he was a citizen.  His occupation was farmer.  As was the custom, his casket was set up in the parlor of their home and large blocks of ice were set underneath.  Many bouquets of red roses and other flowers were placed all around the casket.  Otto Muelder, the storekeeper, was the undertaker.  Pastor Knicker of Redeemer Church conducted the services.  His Bible verses were John 5 24-27 and John 5. 40.  He was buried in the Warncke Cemetery.

 

Upon his death, Elisabeth was named heir and executrix of the joint will they had made in 1898.  In 1909, Elisabeth made a new will naming her children as heirs. She made a special provision for "Sophie, my afflicted daughter" (Sophie suffered with epilepsy).  She remained on the homestead until about 1918-19 when bad health caused her to move in with various of her children.  Elisabeth, daughter of C. H. Eitzman and ? Koenfeldt Eitzman, was born in Ottingen, Rotenburg on the Wumme River, Hannover, Lower Saxony Germany, November 26, 1844 and died December 31, 1921 at the home of her daughter and son-in-law Louisa and Erich Bloch.  She was 77 years old, cause of death listed as stomach cancer.  Otto Muelder was undertaker.  Her doctor was M.B. Brandenberger. She was a shareholder in the LaVernia Farmers Gin Co. and had made loans to various people, including business owners at a rate of 6% interest.  Her obituary gives a glowing account of her kindness and position in the community and makes reference to the large attendance and many flowers at her funeral.  Pastor Knicker conducted the services at Zuehl Redeemer Church on January 2, 1922.   Her Bible verses were Romans 8: 11 and John 5: 24-25. She was buried next to her husband in the Warncke Cemetery.

 

Stories handed down through the generations give insight to the personalities of this family.  One can only imagine the determination these people had.  The decision to come to a "foreign land" must have been difficult.  Would they ever see the family and homeland they left behind?  How would the climate and living conditions compare?  It is told that Elisabeth was teased because she brought her ice skates to hot, humid South Texas.  The winter of 1886 was one of the coldest on record, and Elisabeth skated on the frozen stock tank.  She would have been in her early 40's.  Heinrich Sr. enjoyed German march music and played the phonograph loud enough for the neighbors to hear.  This usually happened on Sunday mornings.  He also frequented Muelder's Saloon.  In later years when Elisabeth would leave on her Sunday afternoon visits, the teenage grandchildren would sneak into her parlor and play that phonograph and dance.  They said Grandma always pretended not to notice the mess they left behind.  This remarkable woman had thirteen children in twenty-five years, endured the death of two small children and a grown daughter, to say nothing of hardships she must have faced and conquered.  She also took care of and tended to Sophie's needs at a time when not much was known about epilepsy.

 

Many discrepancies and questions arise when doing research.  Among them is the question of Sophie's birthdate.  Her tombstone reads 1868, but her baptism record in Henry Co. Ohio shows she was born in Ohio in 1869.  That is logical since the ship's list does not list her as a passenger, and all passengers were listed no matter the age.  The other puzzle is who was Anna Helmke?  Anna Helmke's parents were Dietrich and Maria Mahlman Helmke.  Maria's parents were Herman and Anna Katherine Maria Warncke Mahlman.  Anna Helmke was the granddaughter of Anna Katherine Maria Warncke Mahlman.  Was Anna Katherine Maria Warncke Mahlman the sister of Heinrich, Sr.?  Another question is who are in the unmarked graves in the Warncke Cemetery?  This is an on going project and much is yet to be found.  Not too much is known about the years in Ohio.

 

In 1976 the homestead was registered with the Family Land Heritage Program sponsored by the Texas Department of Agriculture, signifying that for at least 100 years part of the acreage is still owned and operated as a working farm and ranch by descendants of the original owners.  Great granddaughter Marlene Warncke Young and husband Wilbert Young are owners and operators of this land located on Warncke Road.

 

The Warncke Cemetery was registered as a Historic Texas Cemetery by the Texas Historical Commission in 2001 and a marker was erected on the site located on Warncke Road, 1.2 miles from the intersection of FM 775 and Warncke Road.  The cemetery contains twenty-seven marked graves and five unmarked graves, as well as a memorial marker for a grandson of Heinrich Sr. and Elisabeth, PFC Elmer G. Bloch.  He was killed in World War II in Tunisia and his body could not be returned to the United States for burial.  He is interred in Beja, Tunisia.  The earliest marked burial was 1880 and the last burial was in 2000.  This cemetery has been well maintained through the years by descendants.  The original picket fence that surrounded the cemetery was replaced by a cyclone fence.  The crepe myrtle trees planted on the grounds are well over fifty years old.  Ancient oak trees stand tall on the site.  Wildflowers cover the grounds in the springtime.

 

In the year 2001 the family tree branches into many business and professional fields, continues to grow and flourish, and stands proudly in tribute to Heinrich and Elisabeth whose desire for a better way of life began one hundred thirty-three years ago.  Direct descendants and their families who still live in the New Berlin area include Shirley Baumann; Bobby, Jerry, and Rodney Brietzke; Betty Doege; Frank Doege Jr.; Jimmie Penshorn; Lula Bell Rakowitz; Carolyn Schultze; Dorothy Mae Vader; Janie Wallace; Irene Wiedner; Mark Williams; and Marlene Young.

 

 

 

Written by Vivian Warncke McKee