DescriptionFriedrich Ernst: Autograph Document Signed Regarding a Celebrated Texas Murder Case. "Fr. Ernst J. P." One page, docketing on verso, 7.5" x 12.25", July 1842, lined paper, manuscript subpoena to the Sheriff of Austin County for witnesses to the murderer of Henry Caruthers, ink. The letter reads, in full: "Republick of Texas County of Austin Sub poena to the Sheriff of said county, greeting. You are hereby commanded to summon Dr. T. Dubronner 1. William M Campbell 2. Joseph M Campbell to appear before the Justices Court to be held at San Felippe on Monday the 25th of this month, then and there to give their evidence in the case of the Republick of Texas versus Jackson Bell, Samuel Shelburne, Elijah Jackson and Madison Jackson charged on oath of having by violence caused the death of Henry Caruthers, a citizen of this county. Their testimony is requested on the part of the defendants. Herein fail not and make due return of this writ according to law. Given under my hand and Seal this 17th of July 1842 Fr. Ernst J. P." To the left of Ernst's signature is the unique German verein seal of the Teutonia Orden [Teutonic Order] established by Ernst and other immigrants in Cat Spring and Industry, Texas.
Johann Friedrich Ernst (1796-1848), the first German to bring his family to Texas, was born Christian Friedrich Dirks at Burg (Castle) Gödens 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. 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 and eventually sailed from Le Havre to 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. 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" for his work with emigrating German citizens, and Sam Houston nicknamed Ernst "The Baron". Ernst 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.
The document is in fine condition, with two vertical and one horizontal mailing folds. The two vertical folds show mild separation along the bottom half of the document. The ink is still bold and striking on this document. The document itself is interesting to read even today, as it concerns the events surrounding a celebrated Texas murder case that is over 150 years old. From the collection of Darrel Brown.
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