FIRST -- European Cigar Manufacturer in Texas - Industry, TX
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Raven
N 29° 58.711 W 096° 30.205
14R E 740879 N 3319028
Quick Description: A state historical marker by Friedrich Ernst Memorial Park in Industry, TX, denoting the first recorded European to manufacture cigars in Texas (as well as presumably the first German settler, although never officially recorded as such).
Location: Texas, United States
Date Posted: 10/20/2020 5:55:48 PM
Waymark Code: WM139QH
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member model12
Views: 2

Long Description:
Per the Texas State Historical Association's "Handbook of Texas" site:

"Johann Friedrich Ernst, the first German to bring his family to Texas, was born Christian Friedrich Dirks, son of Meine and Sybille (Grimms) Dirks, on June 18, 1796, at Burg (Castle) Gödens near the village of Neustadtgödens, just north of Oldenburg in Lower Saxony. He began to use the name Ernst after his departure from Oldenburg. In 1800, after the death of his father, who was employed at Burg Gödens, Ernst moved with his mother to Varel in the Duchy of Oldenburg. In February 1814 he joined the Oldenburg Regiment of the Duke of Oldenburg, and he remained a soldier until June 1819. He reached the rank of quartermaster sergeant and received a medallion from the duke for his participation in the campaign against Napoleon. He married Louise Gesine Auguste Weber (see STOEHR, LOUISE W.) in Oldenburg on October 25, 1818; they had seven children. In June 1819 the duke appointed him clerk at the post office in Oldenburg.

In September 1829 Ernst, his wife, and their five surviving children fled Oldenburg; he was subsequently charged by the Duke of Oldenburg with embezzling a large amount of money from the post office. He and his family escaped by way of Bremen, Osnabrück, Münster, and Brussels and eventually sailed from Le Havre for New York, where they arrived in late 1829. For a time Ernst and his family ran a boardinghouse in New York. There he met Charles Fordtran, also a German. They became friends and decided to move together to Missouri. On the ship to New Orleans they read a prospectus about the favorable conditions in Austin's colony in Texas and changed their destination. The Ernst family and Fordtran sailed on the schooner Saltillo for Harrisburg and arrived before March 9, 1831; they were the first German family to arrive in Texas.

On April 16 Ernst obtained a league of land on the west bank of the west fork of Mill Creek in Austin's colony; Fordtran's grant was nearby. In February 1832 Ernst wrote a long letter to a friend in Germany describing Texas in glowing language. This letter appears to have been circulated widely in Germany and to have encouraged others to immigrate. Ernst became well known as a benefactor to new emigrants from his homeland: his house served as a hotel and a boardinghouse for travelers, and he even assisted new settlers financially. He acquired the nickname "father of the immigrants."

He became a justice of the peace in Austin County and sold lots from his league to new immigrants. The resulting settlement, Industry, was the first German town in Texas. Ernst became involved in a variety of other activities: cultivating tobacco, making cigars, recording rainfall and temperature data at his farm, establishing the Teutonic Order in Texas, and chartering a university, which never came into existence. He wrote several letters to the editor of the Telegraph and Texas Register regarding his tobacco enterprise and weather data. Also, he proposed to the Congress of Texas that the republic formally encourage German immigration. President Mirabeau B. Lamar at one time considered proposing Ernst as envoy to the Netherlands. Ernst died sometime between May 16 and July 10, 1848.


The Texas Historical Commission dedicated an official Texas historical marker in his honor right near his final residence in the town of Industry, in a public park now known as "Friedrich Ernst Memorial Park". It reads:

"Christian Friedrich Ernst (Dirks) was born in Germany in 1796. Friedrich Ernst was inducted into the German army in 1814 and served for five years. He married Louise Gesine Auguste Weber in 1819. They became the parents of Caroline, John Friedrich, Ludwig, Wilhelmine, and Hermann Ernst.

In 1829 the family sailed to the United States and settled in New York. In 1831 they came to Texas as part of Stephen F. Austin's second colony and are thought to be the first German family in Texas. Ernst received a land grant of 4,428 acres of land on Mill Creek in present day Industry where he grew produce and tobacco and was
the first recorded European to manufacture cigars in Texas.

Ernst became active in civic affairs in the area, serving as a Justice of the Peace and as a member of the commissioners court. He supported the establishment of Hermann's University and served on its first board of trustees. Ernst, who wrote a series of letters to German officials to encourage their citizens to move to America, was called the Father of German Immigration to Texas. Ernst died in 1848 and is remembered through this park located on land he once owned and a scholarship in his name.
FIRST - Classification Variable: Person or Group

More Information - Web URL: [Web Link]

Date of FIRST: Not listed

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Raven visited FIRST -- European Cigar Manufacturer in Texas - Industry, TX 10/3/2020 Raven visited it