52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: New Beginnings

One of my resolutions this year is to participate in 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. This activity, instituted by genealogist Amy Johnson Crow, is designed to give amateur genealogists like myself a way to share their research. Each week, participants are provided with a prompt to guide them in writing a biography or short story about an ancestor. I’m starting the year two weeks behind…

This week’s prompt is “Fresh Start.” I originally thought to begin with Anna Marie and Victor Witte, who were the first of that family to come to America in 1853. But my thoughts turned to Anna Marie’s parents, Carl and Marie Louise Hagedorn.

As you walk down the steps to the historic section of the Jaeger Witte Cemetery, you will encounter a large rosebush growing out from the middle of four graves. Three of these graves are enclosed by a wooden frame, with a plain flat headstone identifying them only as Hagedorns. The fourth grave is situated outside of the frame and is unmarked. It is believed that the three graves within the frame are those of Carl Hagedorn, his wife Marie Louise (Knipping), and their son Ferdinand. You might know that the Hagedorns were the first individuals to own the land where the cemetery lies.  It is believed that their son Ferdinand was first person buried on the land.

Carl Dietrich Rudolph Hagedorn, son of Carl Frederich and Christine Elizabeth (Spooleder) Hagedorn, was born on July 14, 1786 in Lubbecke, Westphalia. Like his father and grandfather, he was ordained a Lutheran pastor, but that was not his life’s work. At one time, he was the pastor at Gut Staw, a small village and farming community. Later he moved to Weibeck, in Oldendorf, a town in the district Minden-Lübbecke of North-Rhine Westphalia, in what is now Germany. He was the magistrate and a large estate owner. He married Henrietta Bernadine Meyer in January 1822 and they had two children, Louis Phillip Carl and Ferdinand Carl Clemens. Henrietta died soon after the birth of their second son in 1824.

According to oral history, Carl Hagedorn married Marie Louise Knipping on February 2, 1826, in Lachen, Bavaria when he was 41 and she was 22.  She was the daughter of Christian Phillip and Anna Elizabeth (Herschel) Knipping. They had five children: Anna Marie, Carl Deitrch Rudolph, Ferdinand, Caroline Marie Amalia, and Adelhaid “Adele” Rosalie.

Hagedorn family

Seated are Marie Louise and Carl Hagedorn. Behind them are their son Rudolph and daughter Adele.

In 1853 Carl and Marie Louise along with their daughter Adele, age 15, left Hannover, Lower Saxony. They boarded the Neptune on October 1, 1853, in the port city of Bremerhaven and arrived in Galveston on November 28, 1853.

While researching the Hagedorn family, I was pleased to find a copy of the diary kept by Christiane Haun, who was a passenger aboard the Neptune. In it, she writes:

“The third cabin is occupied by Herr and Madam Hagedorn, who owned a nice estate in Heibeck. It is hard for me to say much about them, since I am convinced that they will not find what they seem to hope for in Texas, even though they have a married daughter there. besides, the gentleman is already 69 and so excessively timid that it sometimes makes one tired; his wife is much younger and more pleasant and very intelligent. The fourth and last little cabin comprises the lodging place of Adele Hagedorn, their daughter, just 15 years old but advanced far beyond her years in intelligence and maturity, as well as pleasant and amusing. She and I are always together, and  really take pleasure in her company.”

Carl, Marie Louise, and Adele travelled to Washington County and lived for two years with their daughter Anna Marie and her husband Victor Witte, who had made the same journey to America three years earlier.

Carl and Marie Louise purchased about 100 acres of land next to Anna Marie and Victor on September 24, 1855 and lived on this land until his death, sometime between 1860 and 1870. Before he died, he set aside a small tract of land to be used as a family cemetery, later known as the Hagedorn-Witte Cemetery.

Following her husband’s death, the Hagedorn homestead was divided among the five children. Marie Louise went to live with her daughter Adele and her husband Herman von Bieberstein. There is some question as to when Marie Louise died. The US census shows her living with them as of 1880. There is a Marie Louisa Hagedorn recorded in the Texas death listings as having died on May 5, 1905 in Caldwell, Texas. However, neither Marie Louise nor Marie Louisa Hagedorn are recorded in the 1900 census. The 1890 census was damaged in a fire in the basement of the Commerce Building in Washington, D.C. in 1921, and without this, information, it is not possible to determine whether or not Marie Louise was alive in 1890.

1917 split picket fence

This picture from Henrietta Witte’s burial was taken on May 17, 1915. Behind it you will see the split picket fence surrounding the graves of Carl and Marie Louise, their son Ferdinand, and their niece Marie Lissette Witte. 

Hagedorn section 2

This picture, taken in January 2020, shows the graves as they are today. The headstone defines the three graves as being Hagedorns, but there is nothing to indicate who each individual is. Oral family history tells that Marie Lissette Witte is buried just outside of the wooden frame. A large rosebush has been growing from the center grave for over a century.

At the time the Hagedorn family left home, Germany was experiencing a crisis of unemployment, low or falling wages, and poor working conditions. Even prominent landowners were not safe from  economic disaster. The promise of jobs, higher wages, and better working conditions in America was enough to drive Carl Hagedorn, at age 69, to travel two months to reach his new home.  And despite Miss Haun’s misgivings, Carl indeed found what he was looking for–freedom, independence, and a new life.

The Hagedorn Rosebush in full bloom.



Galveston immigration database


Washington county deed records Vol N, pages 622-623

1860, 1870, 1880, 1900 United States Federal Census

Hagedorn, Knipping, Herschel family histories as recorded by Melissa Jackson.

Ancestry.com Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials 1500-1971

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