Where There’s a Will
From 1820 to 1870, a second wave of German immigrants landed on the shores of Galveston Bay, seeking a new life. The collapse of the old agricultural society and the dawn of the industrial age displaced peasants, and artisans found themselves jobless. Improvements in medical care led to a reduced death rate but the resulting overpopulation made communities vulnerable to depletion of resources The German Confederation, formed in 1815, gave citizens the right to move away. The promise of religious and civil freedom, political security, and economic opportunity was enough to pull them to the new world. Departing primarily from the port in Bremen, immigrants sailed for months across the Atlantic Ocean. These were solid middle-class peasants, mostly from land-owning families and in a few cases, university-educated professional people, such as Victor Witte (one of the founders of Latium, or Latin Settlement). The “German Belt” stretched from Texas’s Coastal Plain to the Hill Country, including the larger towns of New Braunfels and Fredericksburg
Those who did not want to stay in cities, where they would be subject to local authorities, went on to purchase land and resume their agricultural livelihood.
Farming is not an easy endeavor, and although free and independent, farming families had to contend with weather, accidents, and disasters that could ruin them at any moment. Farmers had to find ways to diversify their activities to avoid relying too much on one type of crop or livestock. Henry Jaeger Sr.’s primary crop was cotton, and he also raised sheep and dairy cows. His wife Alvine and all of the children worked hard in the fields, garden, and with the animals to ensure survival of the farm.
Little Henry and his mother Alvine in the garden.
Henry Sr. hauling cotton to the gin.
When Popo and Granny purchased the farm in 1931, they worked the land while raising four young children. They faced financial hardships so in 1939, they leased the land and moved to Port Arthur for better work opportunities. They returned to the farm in 1946 and Popo opened a small store. He raised sheep for a year and sent the kids to the fields to pick cotton. He also had a flock of over 2,000 turkeys and ran a dairy barn for a period of time.
Sheep (left), dairy barn (right)
Store (left), turkey flock (right)
Despite all of this, money remained tight and after selling his dairy barn and turkeys, he moved to Houston in 1955 for more work opportunities. He returned to the farm in 1957 and reopened the dairy but continuing to face hardships, went back to work in Houston in the 1960s. The family moved to Houston, then eventually back to the farm, but even in their retirement, Popo and Granny continued to work. The working spirit brought over by their ancestors and the will to succeed kept them going even into their final years. Roosters, bee hives, ducks, cattle, pear trees, and potatoes replaced their cotton fields. Lanis divided his time between the fields and his welding business.
Pear trees (left), bees (right)
Ducks (left), roosters (right)
Cow (left), Lanis welding (right)
Granny and Popo with their potatoes.
One story I remember well took place in the early 1990s. One afternoon as members of the family were departing following a get together, Popo and Granny mentioned that they had to pick their potato crop. The family stopped and went out to the fields to pick the potatoes by hand while Lanis went through with the tractor. With all of the help, the crop was picked that day!
The old saying goes, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” This sentiment holds true of the Jaeger family, who endured many hardships but never stopped moving ahead. They are a testament to the persevering spirit of their forefathers who took a chance on a new life in Texas and never gave up.