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Thread: The Germans in Acadiana

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    The Germans in Acadiana

    Book offers info about Germans

    Not much is known of the Germans in Acadiana. Most works seem to have spotlighted the Cajun families, but now it’s time to take a look at the little community of Roberts Cove, an unincorporated community located three miles northwest of Rayne in Acadia Parish. It really isn’t a town but rather a scattered rural community with the St. Leo’s Catholic Church complex as a community and cultural center.

    The Rev. Peter Leonard Thevis, a native priest of Langbroich, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany, was asked to come to New Orleans by Archbishop Jean-Marie Odin in 1867, mainly because of the large number of German immigrants there. It was actually on Jan. 13, 1880, that the Rev. Thevis, accompanied by his brother Peter Joseph Thevis, his nephew John Gerhard Thevis, and Herman Grein arrived in Rayne by train, and actually to the prairie land three miles north of Rayne to look over the area. The site selected for the future colony was known as Roberts Cove. It was named for Benjamin Roberts, the original owner of a Spanish land grant.

    In 1881, 13 families joined them. These German Catholics were fleeing the Gangelt, Geilenkirchen district of Germany to avoid religious persecution and military impressments. The Rev. Hennemann, OSB, of the Benedictine order, purchased land that included a house which served as both rectory and chapel and another building which served as a school house in the spring of 1883. The Benedictines helped to establish the parish of St. Leo IV in 1885.

    Roberts Cove was staunchly Germany until the World War I period when harsh anti-German wartime legislation initiated a decline of the German language and the other cultural elements. Now there are few remaining German speakers and relatively few overt manifestations of German culture, yet the community is still viewed as a German ethnic enclave.

    Roberts Cove is known for its annual Germanfest in October. The event is held the first weekend in October at St. Leo’s Catholic Church, and this year it fell on Oct. 4-5. Visitors are treated to local German food, heritage, and genealogy. German singing and German folk dancing is performed by descendants of the original settlers, and the Roberts Cove German Heritage Museum is open for visitors.

    With the publication of a new book, Roberts Cove can now take its place among the unique places that can be found throughout the state of Louisiana. The Center for Louisiana Studies at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette has released Reinhart Kondert’s tribute to this community, and Lawrence and Mary Cramer have provided the genealogy. A History of the Germans of Roberts Cove, 1880-2007 is an excellent publication, and it will be a welcome addition to any Louisiana library collection, both public and private.

    This hidden treasure in the heart of Acadiana is now a wonderful book written by Kondert. He shows how these early residents escaped the hardships of their native Germany and adapted to the new homeland becoming innovative pioneers in rice culture. They established their own church and school in order to maintain their ethnic cohesiveness, and they passed on their language and culture of the fatherland to their future generations.

    After World War I, the citizens of Roberts Cove gave less thought to maintaining their German identity. The generations since this time have dispersed, intermarried with outsiders and lost but all but a vague recollection of their Teutonic heritage. Just when it appeared that their past history was fading away, a group of concerned individuals launched efforts to keep alive the memory and customs of the community. In the early 1950s, Father Gerard Wolbers of St. Leo’s Church began interviewing the last of the original colonists. He also encouraged the singing of German songs and introduced a German architectural style in the new church constructed in 1954.

    It was also in this period that a crusade was begun to rejuvenate the ethnic and historic consciousness of the Cove’s inhabitants. This was done by Charles Zaunbrecher, a native priest of St. Leo’s and descendant of a Roberts Cove pioneer. Family reunions were begun in 1956, and today these celebrations are enjoyed by hundreds of people in the Louisiana version of the Germanic Oktoberfest.

    The book includes a comprehensive genealogy of the founding families, namely (in alphabetical order): Achten, Berken, Bunt, Cramer, Dischler, Gielen, Gossen, Grein, Habetz, Heinen, Hensgens, Huesers, Jabusch, Jacobs, Janssen, Knipping, Leonards, Meyer, Moeder, Neu, Ohlenforst, Olinger, Reiners, Ronkartz, Schaffhausen, Schatzle, Scheufens, Schlicher, Spaetgens, Stamm, Theunissen, Thevis, Vondenstein, Virtz, and Zaunbrecher.

    The source:
    http://www.2theadvocate.com/entertai.../30391314.html

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    Strangely enough, none of the German surnames in my family tree coincide with the ones you listed here. I've got a few families that came straight to New Orleans from Rheinland-Pfalz and Baden-Württemberg. Mine are:

    Edelmeier (or Edelmeyer/Edelmayer) from Reiheim
    Wick (or Wiche) from Württemberg
    Bethlere (or Bethelerine) from Württemberg
    Klime (or Keime) from Württemberg

    I can only guess that they would've separated from the families you mentioned for religious reasons. The ones in your article were all Catholics, while mine were Calvinists and Lutherans. Very interesting nonetheless
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    I have looked up this Edelmayer fellow and I believe he comes from Rheinheim, Baden, which is now part of Küssaberg. This also squares with his ancestry from 'Reihem, Switzerland', which really is Rietheim, Switzerland directly across the border. I felt compelled to do this, because I mistook 'Reiheim' for Hessian dialect, pointing to Reinheim, Hesse-Darmstadt. This is contradicted by the typically Badish 'Reinhen' spelling used elsewhere, though. I am sorry if this was already known.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hauke Haien View Post
    I have looked up this Edelmayer fellow and I believe he comes from Rheinheim, Baden, which is now part of Küssaberg. This also squares with his ancestry from 'Reihem, Switzerland', which really is Rietheim, Switzerland directly across the border. I felt compelled to do this, because I mistook 'Reiheim' for Hessian dialect, pointing to Reinheim, Hesse-Darmstadt. This is contradicted by the typically Badish 'Reinhen' spelling used elsewhere, though. I am sorry if this was already known.
    Hmm, that certainly could be the case. The only real documentation for the Edelmeyers that I have, outside of handwritten family trees, is an immigration record for one Johann Adam Edelmeier and his two sons, but it doesn't list what area of Germany they arrived from.

    Additionally, I just found an online version of a book entitled The Settlement of the German Coast of Louisiana by Professor J. Hanno Deiler. I actually found a bit of information on my Edelmeier in here from an old census. On p. 89 it says:

    Johann Adam Edelmeier, of Reiheim, Palatinate. Calvinist; 50 years old. Cooper. Two boys, 10 and 14 years of age. A daughter, Maria Barbara, married Lionnois, a sailor from Lyons. Three arpents cleared. Two pigs. "A very good worker who deserves attention."
    1726: Six arpents cleared
    1728: Marie Christine Edelmeier baptised
    1731: Five children. One negro, two cows.
    Last edited by Psychonaut; Thursday, October 23rd, 2008 at 02:58 AM. Reason: spelling/link
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    This would refer to Reihen, which was Reyheim, Palatinate of the Rhine.

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