The Heinsohn Family in Texas

– Our German Roots –

Hinrich Diedrich Heinsohn

The information below was compiled from research in Germany conducted by Ray Heinsohn, beginning in about 1996. He personally wrote and visited German churches and public archives looking for Heinsohn records. He also employed Margarete Jelten from Bremerhaven as a researcher. The information detailing Diedrich Heinsohn's birthplace, occupation, involvement in the Baptist religion, his third wife, and youngest children was all compiled by Mrs. Jelten and sent to Ray, who translated her narrative into English. A few inconsistencies in dates and spellings have been uncovered. In such cases, the best documented cases were used.

Hinrich "Diedrich" Heinsohn was born at Oederquart on June 17, 1788 to Johann Heinsohn and Anna "Dorothea" Mahler. Oederquart lies near Freiburg on the left bank of the Elbe River where the river is very broad and leads into the North Sea. The land there is good farmland and there are many fruit trees. On the other side of the Elbe lies Schleswig-Holstein where the earliest Heinsohns lived. The name began as Heinrichson (or son of Heinrich). The oldest son's name was often also Heinrich, as in Heinrich Heinrichson. Eventually the surname Heinrichsohn was shortened to Heinsohn. The first name Heinrich is "Hinrich" in low German. Hinrich Diedrich Heinsohn was our ancestor's full legal name, however he was known by the name Diedrich.

Diedrich's parents had married July 5, 1787 at Oederquart. His father, Johann, was the son of Diedrich Heinsohn and had been born in about 1754. Diedrich's mother, Dorothea, was the daughter of Johann Mahler. Between 1800 and 1810, Diedrich Heinsohn was first apprenticed as a carpenter and then became a journeyman carpenter. Professional "wandering passes" were issued so that carpenters could travel about, improve their skills and, after about three more years, become master carpenters. Because there were no photographs, these passes contained exact physical descriptions of the journeymen. (Unfortunately, Diedrich Heinsohn's "wandering pass" can not be found.) During this time Diedrich traveled from the area near the mouth of the Elbe River westward over the Weser River to the area around Jade on the coast of the North Sea.

On March 6, 1813 his father, Johann Heinsohn, died at age fifty-nine and was buried March 12, 1813 at Oederquart. The following year Hinrich "Diedrich" Heinsohn married Anna Marie, the daughter of Heinrich Wilhelm Rodefeld. As was the custom they married first in a civil ceremony on March 9, 1814 at Varel in Oldenburg, followed by a religious ceremony the next day under the auspices of the Evangelical Lutheran Church at Varel.

During the next fifteen years their seven children were born. The first child was Wilhelm Heinsohn, born April 28, 1814 at Varel. He was christened in the Evangelical Lutheran Church on May 25, 1814. Their second son, Friedrich was born in 1816 at Stollhamm. Heinrich was born January 15, 1819 at Iffens near Stollhamm and christened on February 3, 1819. Eilert "Gerhard", their fourth son, was born February 13, 1822 at Jaderberg. A daughter, Catherine Marie Heinsohn, was born June 22, 1824 but died on January 24, 1826 at Jaderberg before her second birthday. Johann Gerhard was born February 4, 1827 at Jaderberg. The youngest child, Anton, was born November 17, 1829 at Jade.

In 1843 we know that Diedrich Heinsohn, plasterer and carpenter, bought a house on four acres at Jaderberg. The house was listed in the fire insurance as being worth 560 Thalern and the property was worth 675 Thalern. The house included a carpenter's workshop and a stable for small livestock. At the time everyone lived very modestly. On May 23 of that year the oldest son, Wilhelm Heinsohn, married Wübke Margarete (or Meta) Harfst at Jaderberg. Meta was born at Jade on September 16, 1821.

The following year, on October 22, 1844, Anna Marie Heinsohn died at age fifty-four. On February 4, 1845, the 57-old widower, married a fifty-year-old widow Anna Elisabeth Bruncken Denker. Her first husband, Eylert Denker, was a tenant farmer who died when he was thirty-five years old and left behind two small children. The children were grown when she married Diedrich Heinsohn and later, between 1849 and 1850, both died.

During the next five years all of Diedrich Heinsohn's surviving children immigrated to Texas. Friedrich, 29, and Johann, 18, were the first to immigrate. They arrived in Galveston on the "Ferdinand" in 1845 while Texas was still a republic. On June 8, 1847 Heinrich Heinsohn, a shoemaker, married Ahlke "Kathrine" Müller at Jade. Kathrine had been born on May 5, 1821 at Varel to the farmer, Gerd Müller, and Ahlke Margarete Tor Horst. That same year 18-year-old Anton Heinsohn entered Galveston on the "Helen and Elise". In 1848 his 26-year-old brother, Gerhard, emigrated from Hamburg to Galveston. Two years later their remaining brothers also left Germany. Heinrich and Kathrine and their two-year-old son, George "Diedrich", immigrated aboard the "Neptune". Wilhelm and Meta immigrated aboard the "Solon" with their 6-year-old daughter, Marie, 4-year-old Diedrich, and 2-year-old Heinrich.

Frederich, one of the first sons to immigrate, had stayed at Galveston where he married Auguste Oehring on September 13, 1848. (They had fourteen children together, but only six lived to be adults.) The remaining sons traveled on to Colorado County. Unfortunately, Heinrich and his wife Kathrine both died in Texas in about 1851. Anton Heinsohn married Nancy Stoeltje on October 1, 1852. They had thirteen children (two of whom died very young) and also raised their orphaned nephew, George Diedrich Heinsohn. John Heinsohn married Anna M. Meyer on January 17, 1853 and they had five children. Gerhard Heinsohn married Anna Margrete "Sophie" Fehrenkamp on January 4, 1855 and they had twelve children, two of whom died as children. Wilhelm and Meta Heinsohn, who had immigrated with three children, had six more children in Texas.

Back in Germany the Baptist religion was beginning to spread. A man by the name of Schütte had been preaching Baptist sermons and conducting bible studies at his house near Varel since 1843. Listeners came from the surrounding countryside. These must have included the Heinsohn brothers' father because on January 17, 1851 Diedrich Heinsohn and his wife Anna Elisabeth left their protestant Lutheran church and were baptized into this new faith. The Heinsohns invited friends and held worship services in their own home and more people from Jaderberg became Baptists. The Heinsohn home became a center and meeting place for Baptists around Jaderberg. In the village the Heinsohn home was called "Pülschers Hus" in low German. At that time, there was much mockery of this new religion. The baptisms, involving total submersion in rivers or lakes in the presence of parishioners, were ridiculed by outsiders. Diedrich Heinsohn, the master carpenter, was nicknamed "the Pülscher". It was meant as an epithet.

On January 19, 1853, representatives of the Baptist communities in northwestern Germany met in the Heinsohn house for a conference. Important questions about the development of the Baptist religion in that region were debated. An old document is still preserved from this conference in which it is noted that the wife, Anna Heinsohn, had been a good landlady. It is kept in the records of the Baptist community at Westerstede. In 1854 the Heinsohns' house and property were sold. "Pülschers" remained the house's name however. It was destroyed in the year 1883 and a new house with a carpenter shop was built in its place. They bought another house at the edge of Jaderberg where they remained for the rest of their lives. (It was torn down in 1920.) On July 20, 1856 Diedrich Heinsohn was ordained as a Deacon in the Baptist church.

In the summer of 1859 Anna Elisabeth Heinsohn became ill and died twelve weeks later on September 18, 1859. By October 1859 it was written in the Varel Baptist community record that now that his wife was missing, Brother Heinsohn stood completely alone and so had decided to tell the community that he had become engaged to Sister Anna Müller.

Anna Margarethe Helene Müller was born July 22, 1837 in the neighboring village of Barghorn and was now a young maiden in Jaderberg. She had been baptized at Varel on July 24, 1859 and taken into the Baptist community. In 1860, the 72-year-old Diedrich Heinsohn's marriage to the 23-year-old Anna Müller was officially recorded at Rastede. Quickly three children were born to the couple: Diedrich Christian August Heinsohn on September 10, 1860, Helene Catharina Heinsohn on November 8 ,1861, and Bernhard Christian Heinsohn was born on October 27, 1863.

Heinrich Diedrich Heinsohn died at age seventy-five on June 15, 1864 at nine in the morning of "chest disease" and exhaustion. He was buried on June 17, 1864 in the Jaderberg church cemetery. He left behind his young widow and three children. (It is only assumed that all the children survived infancy.) With the death of the master carpenter and deacon a large gap emerged in the Baptist community at Jaderberg. In the following years the church quickly dissolved. Some followers immigrated to America, some moved to other places, and some died. The Baptists disappeared from Jaderberg.

The Heinsohn name also disappeared. The young Heinsohn widow's marriage to a man named Holjewilken from Jaderberg was officially recorded at Rastede on February 10, 1866. The Baptist preacher performed the religious ceremony at the bride's home in Jaderberg, however the groom was not Baptist and Anna left that religion. It was noted in the Varel Baptist records that she later rejoined the Baptist religion at Bremerhaven, but no date was given. It is not certain whether she settled at Bremerhaven with her new husband and three children. All old Bremerhaven Baptist documents and books were burned in the church during bombing raids, so there are no records tracing Anna and her Heinsohn children. There is a note in the Varel Baptist records that her daughter, Helene Catharina Heinsohn, was baptized on January 15, 1874 at Bremerhaven and served one year in Varel and then moved away again. Today there are numerous Heinsohns living in Bremerhaven, but they have not yet been linked to the Heinsohns from Jaderberg.

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