Everyone has a favorite photo. Sometimes it’s a recent family portrait and other times it’s a snapshot of your new car. For my mother, Jeanette (Jaeger) Zemanek, one of her favorites is that of her grandfather, Henry Jaeger Sr., sitting with his grandchildren on the front porch of the Jaeger home in Port Arthur. The year is 1942 and it’s a warm Sunday afternoon, possibly late spring. The family has just returned home from church and Delores (9), Melvern (5), Bernhardt (8), Wilburn (3) and Jeanette (1) pause a moment for an impromptu portrait with their beloved grandfather.
Pictured (left to right): Wilburn, Delores, Jeanette, Henry, Melvern, Bernhardt
Henry died in 1943, just one year after this photo was taken. After his funeral in Port Arthur, he was transported to Burton and interred at the Jaeger Witte Cemetery next to Alvine (Tonn). Jeanette shared that when the casket was closed after the graveside service, Melvern, who was very close to his grandfather, began crying hysterically.
In 2009 I was the thurifer at the funeral of Fr. Christopher Prince, in Houston. As I led the processional towards the altar, I thought about Fr. Chris’ penchant for taking photographs. He said that you should always take pictures with those you love because you never know if you will see them again. This photograph is likely the last one Henry took with all his grandchildren and is a family treasure.
Henry C. Jaeger Jr. wrote extensively about his family. The following passage has been adapted from his book, The History of Early Pioneer Families of Winedale:
Henry, the oldest son of Peter and Regina Jaeger, was born on March 12, 1864 in Winedale, Texas. He took full charge of the family farm, while his father, Peter, was operating the ox freight line.
In 1890, while living on his father’s place, he and his brother Rudolph built the first (local) sorghum cane mill to cook molasses. All the farmers in the community brought their cane to have it cooked into molasses. This operation continued at the Peter Jaeger farm until 1915, when the cane mill was moved to Henry Jaeger’s farm.
Henry Jaeger and hi wife Alvine née Tonn bought the von Bieberstein farm in 1899 and moved there in 1900. Their main crops were cotton, corn, sorghum cane, and feed. On this place was a five-room house built by Heinrich Lebenheim in 1847, which remains standing to this day. This house was far superior to any wood frame or log house built in those days. The entire framework was mortised and secured with wooden pegs. The sills were made of tree trunks 18 inches in diameter placed on a solid stone foundation with only manhole openings as a vent.
Henry and Alvine sold this farm to their youngest son Henry Jr. and his wife Lillie née Neumann in 1932. They remained on the land, living with their son and daughter in law. Henry Jr. and Lillie continued to farm and cook molasses and later operated a dairy and grocery store for many years.
Alvine, who was born on February 15, 1872 in Pudewitz Posen, Germany to Gustav and Wilhelmine Tonn, died on March 7, 1936 in Winedale. Her granddaughter, Joyce Schkade, recalls leading the procession on foot from the house to the gravesite (about a quarter of a mile).
In 1939, Henry moved to Port Arthur with Henry Jr., Lillie, and their four children. He died there in 1943 and is buried with his wife in the Jaeger Witte Cemetery.
Henry and Alvine’s wedding photograph.
Henry and his daughters Elsie and Ida, around 19
Henry Jaeger Jr. oversaw construction of cradles around his parents’ graves.
Henry and Alvine’s graves today.