Braeutigam-Kensing tales rife with woe
By Irene Van Winkle
One of the most ornate buildings in the heart of Kerrville is Pampell’s, once a popular drug store, soda shop, opera house/movie theater. First, it was a hotel, and afterwards, it housed an assortment of enterprises.
Lately, however, it appears to be closed for business.
Steve Kensing, a retired teacher who regularly visits the Hill Country from his San Antonio home, has been researching his ancestry diligently for years. Steve’s journey of discovery was triggered by something Milton Pampell told his father long before.
There is a large family plot at Glen Rest Cemetery toward the back of the main entrance where the Braeutigams are buried alongside the Pampells.
Although the Pampells are known well, he said the Kensing and Braeutigam lines are evocative of true native families here. Since their arrival as early pioneers, their stories were riddled with heartbreak and struggle. Alice Braeutigam Sauer’s genealogy provided much information Steve gleaned on his family.
“I am so happy to have a forum where I can tell the story of the Braeutigam family, which so far, has not been publicly documented in the Hill Country,” he said. “There are those around who would still remember the name, Pampell, but the other two would have long since been forgotten in these parts.”
Steve said Johann “August” Braeutigam, was a local blacksmith whose shop was located at Water and Quinlan streets, where Hastings now stands. He was born at Drei Kricken (known as Grapecreek, and later, Luckenbach), but the road taken by his ancestors on both sides was arduous.
August’s father, Johann Wolfgang (1829-1884), was just 17 when his parents, Johann “Valentin” (1791-1846) and Marie Elizabeth Pfeifer Braeutigam (1795-1870), and two sisters, emigrated to America in 1845 from Kaltenlengsfeld in Saxony, Germany.
Steve said that they came when the Adelsverein (Society for the Protection of German Immigrants) gave families 640 acres from the Fischer-Miller contract, while a single man got half that amount. The land had to be cultivated within a certain period of time before a clear title was granted.
Soon after coming ashore, Valentin died at Port Carlshaven (Indianola), leaving Johann Wolfgang to care for his mother and siblings. Johann Wolfgang took his family and settled near Luckenbach, trading his father’s title for a saddle. Before he moved to his new homestead, in 1850, he wed Christine Kensing (1831-1924) from Hanover, Germany.
“Her story is one of tragedy,” Steve said, “as she was just a young girl when her family arrived in Texas in 1845.”
Her parents, George “David” Christian (1792-1848), a blacksmith, and Henriette Brehmeier Kensing (1792-1846) brought their three sons and two daughters. The children used names other than their given ones.
“Adam,” the oldest, was christened Heinrich Friedrich Ludwig; Johann Friedrich used “Heinrich” (Henry); Heinrich Friedrich Karl used “Karl” (Carl); and “Christine” was christened Justine Louise Charlotte. Only Dorothea was known by her given name.
Upon arrival at Indianola from Galveston, the Kensings found their conditions deplorable and interminable.
“The immigration contract promised them food, lodging and transportation, but none was available,” Steve said. “Cholera and dysentery ran rampant through the coastal village. Immigrants were forced to find shelter wherever they might. Some dug crude caves from the dunes. That proved inferior as the winter was far wetter than most.”
This spelled disaster for the Kensings — mother Henriette, son Adam and daughter Dorothea fell ill and died, and were presumably buried at Indianola.
Seeking better prospects, David took Henry, Karl and Christine to Victoria, where he opened a blacksmith shop. Sadly, David died soon afterward, in 1848. This left the oldest living son, Henry, to care for his younger siblings, much as Johann Wolfgang Braeutigam did for his.
The Kensing children made their way with an oxcart caravan to New Braunfels, where they joined another group heading to the new settlement of Fredericksburg. They established themselves, and operated a blacksmith business.
With time, Henry and his wife, Johanna (nee Borchers), also an early German immigrant and two years his junior, settled on Beaver Creek in Mason County, raising seven children. The Borchers had sailed on the same ship as the Kensings to America.
Yet again, another cruel twist transpired in 1865, when the couple was brutally killed. The account has appeared in various publications, including an account by teacher and relative Henry Bierschwale in the 1896 book, “Fest Ausgabe” by Robert Penniger, written for Fredericksburg’s 50th anniversary.
Marvin Hunter ran a version in the “Frontier Times” in May, 1924, but it was said to be full of discrepancies.
Descendant Ima Kensing Chase (her father, Lee Roy William Kensing, was Henry and Johanna’s great-grandson), submitted at the “Fort Tours” website what she said was a true account by Wilburn P. Kensing of Corpus Christi in 1971. Wilburn believed that Bierschwale’s version was the most accurate. Bierschwale was present before Johanna died, and was trustee for the couple’s orphaned children.
The account was translated into English by Alma Mosel, granddaughter of Johanna Kensing Krieger. A similar story in Penniger’s book was told by her sister, Emma Kensing Ludwig.
Comanche raids were a pervasive threat in the area. On July 26, 1865, despite warnings to wait until the next day, Henry and Johanna set out for home, unarmed, just before sundown, confident that their strong pair of horses would take them back swiftly. They left his brother’s (Karl) home at Squaw Creek, where Johanna had stayed with her sister-in-law, possibly as a midwife. Johanna herself was about four or five months pregnant.
“About a mile from there suddenly six Indians appeared from the side of the way from the bushes on horses,” read the translation. “He turned his team hoping to turn back, but the Indians blocked the way and forced him into the direction of Beaver Creek. After the Indians had chased them about a mile farther, they suddenly encircled the wagon, stopped the horses, threw a lasso around the wife’s neck and pulled her off the wagon. Kensing at the same time jumped off the wagon but received an arrow in the breast. He tried to escape but was followed by an Indian who stabbed him with a lance in the back that killed him instantly on the spot.”
Johanna struggled fiercely, but outnumbered, she was raped, scalped and stabbed, and then left in the bushes to die, wearing only her stockings. The Indians left the Kensings where they lay, chasing after the horses, which they unhitched and took away. (The horses were later found at the San Saba River, abandoned and in poor shape.)
The next day, a man found Henry’s body, and then another man, S. Lehmann, arrived and found Johanna, barely alive. Fearful of upsetting her, he did not tell her that Henry had died. A doctor from Fredericksburg came to tend her, and when she gave birth to a premature son, she never learned he was stillborn.
Her wounds were so dire that, due to infection, she was treated in the barn (which still exists) rather than the house.
Johanna clung to life for two days, telling her story, but finally succumbed. She was buried beside Henry at Karl’s farm. Seven (out of eight) children were left orphans, aged five to 18. Bierschwale was executor of the estate, and auctioned the Kensing land to raise money for their care.
Johann Wolfgang and Christine Braeutigam had nine children: Johann “August” (1851-1916), Anna, Richard, Otto, Emma, Max, Emil, Christine and Henry.
August was christened at the original Vereins-Kirche (church) in Fredericksburg, and attended school at Grape Creek and Luckenbach, where Hermann Topperwein taught. In 1870, the Braeutigams sold their homestead, moving into the abandoned Fort Martin Scott near Fredericksburg. Johann Wolfgang prospered, but paid a fearsome price.
“A saloon or biergarten was opened near the road (now Highway 290 from Johnson City),” Steve said. “In the 1880s the Gillespie County Fair was held on the old fort grounds. Business was so successful that in 1884, Johann was murdered in his saloon for the cashbox.”
Penniger ran an account of the sad story, “The Murder of John W. Brautigam,” in 1890:
“Mr. Wolfgang Braeutigam, or John Braeutigam ... was a well-liked person and was about 55 years of age at the time of his unfortunate experience. On September 3, 1884, four strangers entered his establishment and asked for some drinks. When he served them the drinks, one of the men drew his revolver and sought to empty the money chest. Mr. Braeutigam, who was a courageous man, reached for his musket which was standing in the corner when the robber’s bullet struck him fatally. The money till contained only a small sum.
“Since the business establishment was located some distance from the nearest residences, it enabled the perpetrators to escape unmolested. One of them was shot by a ranger in the lower country when he resisted arrest. Another was delivered to the local jail and met with death when the jail was destroyed by fire. A few years later, the third one was shot to death above Mason, and the fourth one, presumably the one who committed the murder, a fellow named Fannin, escaped.”
Meanwhile, the oldest son had already moved on.
“August Braeutigam left home in the 1870s to serve as blacksmith on a cattle drive to Dodge City, Kansas,” Steve said. “When the drive was successfully completed, he obtained a horse, saddle and gun and headed for Sacramento, California. While in Gridley Station, Calif., he opened a blacksmith shop, and there was married to a Miss Nellie Haddock (1857-1942), a native of Great Britain.”
In 1875, they had their first and only child, Annie. Drawn back to Texas, August, Nellie and Annie migrated to the Hill Country in stages, passing through towns such as Comanche and Laredo, where August plied his skills as a blacksmith and grocer.
They arrived in Kerrville in 1885, where August opened a blacksmith shop on the corner of Quinlan and Water streets. The site was later occupied by an HEB store, and is now Hastings. The Braeutigams lived in a home August built just east of the shop, which is long gone. He also became involved in civic matters.
“August established himself in local community affairs and politics,” Steve said. “He served the newly incorporated City of Kerrville as an alderman in the second election. He was known for his uncompromised honesty and integrity and his sterling character.”
Nellie, a noted hostess, outlived her husband and daughter, passing away in 1942.
In 1892, Annie married John Lee Pampell of Brenham, a newcomer who ran a grocery store. After getting a loan from Dr. E.E. Palmer, he bought and renovated the M.V. Gregory Hotel’s frame building, adding a stucco veneer.
John and Annie traveled to the 1902 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Mo. and brought back stylish furniture, a fountain and a beautiful dark wood bar that still sits in Pampell’s. In 1928, John added a brown brick facade over the front and Romanesque arches, creating a pediment at the top and arched windows complemented by a false balcony. Part of the upstairs floor was sawed away to create a mezzanine.
The opera house featured popular entertainers. When silent movies became the rage, he showed them to the eager public.
“During the WWI era, he advertised in the Kerrville Mountain Sun that he would be presenting two films about the Great Cause — “The Battle Cry of Peace” and “The Fall of a Nation,” Steve said.
This was close to the Pampells’ heart, since their only child, Milton (1898-1974), was fighting in the war.
“Milton must have had a charmed life going from his father’s confectionary where he could sample the wares to his grandfather’s blacksmith shop where he could learn to use the tools of the trade carried forth from his great-great-grandfather to his grandfather before him,” Steve said.
John also had a Coca-Cola bottling enterprise at 100 Sidney Baker St. (rear of Pampell’s), which Milton continued to operate, along with the fountain. He also bottled phosphates, and served ice cream. The Pampells lived at the corner of Main and Quinlan streets, where now Town Plaza stands.
Annie died suddenly of a heart attack at a family picnic in 1932, but John lived on until 1956.
In 1910, Milton was the first Boy Scout in the new chapter at Kerrville. Later, he operated a pharmacy in the back of Pampell’s He married Lucille Pardue and they built a home on Virginia Street, in which he kept the door of August’s blacksmith shop. He also joined the Masons and Scottish Rites.
In more recent times, Pampell’s was owned and operated by John and Sandy Wolfmueller, and Ken Wilson.
After all his research, Steve’s boyhood memory of Milton finally made sense.
“As a child, I would go into the drugstore with my father,” Steve said. “Mr. Pampell would say to my father, ‘We’re related. My great-grandmother was a Kensing.’ Years later when I began researching my roots, I made the connection. My great-great-grandfather was Karl Kensing, the only surviving brother of Pampell’s great-grandmother, Christine Kensing Brautigam. She lived to be 92 years old. They were among Fredericksburg, Texas’ founding families and were truly pioneers.”
# but I cannot place them very well -- they have faded out of my treacherous memory, for the most part, & passed away. But i still remember the louse you bought of poor Arch Fuqua. I told about that at a Congressional dinner in Washington the other day, & Lord, how those thieves laughed! It was a gorgeous old reminiscence. I just expect I shall publish it yet, some day.”
The statement proved prophetic. Clemens signed the letter, “Good-bye, old shipmate. Forever-Sam Clemens.”
In his June 6, 1900 letter to Dora, Clemens said, “For the romance of life is the only part of it that is overwhelmingly valuable & romance dies with youth. After that life, is a drudge, & indeed a sham. .. I should like to call back Will Bowen and John Garth & the others, & live the life, & be as we were, & make holiday until 15, then all drown together.”