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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Johann Heinrich Wilhelm ("William Henry") Hahn

Relationship to Randy Hill: Paternal great-great-grandfather

Johann Heinrich Wilhelm ("William Henry") Hahn was born on Mar 14, 1834, in Hannover, Germany.

*The following narrative material is taken from the writings of Laurance R. Spellman

Johann Heinrich Wilhelm ("Bill") Hahn grew up in the Kaiser's palace complex where his father worked. Bill was a playmate of Francis, the royal couple's daughter. As they entered the teen years, their relationship was frowned upon. The decision was made for him to be sent to America.

He has a baptismal record, dated on March 23, 1834, in Hannover, Germany at the Evangelical Reformed Lutheran Church. He grew up in the Kaiser's palace complex where his father worked before 1848. He immigrated in 1848 to the United States. He was 14 years old. He came on the brig "Jon. Dethard," arriving in Galveston, Texas. Plans had been made in advance for him to be adopted by the wealthy owner of a large plantation, a man by the name of P.B. "Kit" Taylor. Mr. Taylor owned land in Gonzales County and in Fayette County, near Round Top, Texas. Bill was expected to learn the livestock business, and he started with a brood of pigs. Mr. Taylor owned a fine Arabian stallion of which he was proud. Bill painted a picture of the stallion which Mr. Taylor framed and hung on the wall in his home. The stallion was unbroken and very wild. One day Mr. Taylor told Bill, perhaps in jest, to saddle the stallion and see what he could do with him. Bill took offense at the suggestion, making a comment that irritated Mr. Taylor who threatened dismissal. In spite of Mr. Taylor's apologies and renewed promises of an education, a home, and an inheritance, Bill decided to leave and strike out on his own, replying that being told to leave once was enough.

Bill joined a crew of ox-wagon teamsters, hauling freight from ships at the ports of Indianola, Corpus Christi, Houston, and Galveston, Texas to inland towns, such as San Antonio, Austin, New Braunfels, Fredericksburg, Seguin, Victoria, and Yorktown. On roads that were just trails and streams that were unbridged, it was hard work. He saved up enough money to buy land and start his own business.

He resided about 1856 in Karnes County, Texas. This Karnes County property was his first tract of land, located near the west corner of the DeWitt County line, about 25 miles west of Clinton, Texas. He began to build a blacksmith and woodwork shop.

Not long after the family's arrival, a dispute developed with the previous landowner, a Mr. Harper, about the validity of the land title. The following is quoted from the writings of August B. Hahn: "Perhaps with such improvements as a workshop, home, and the improvised grain grist windmill, he was trying to repossess it; as someone who had been present at the court procedure said, that Harper had not lost the land. I recall reading some of Harper's letters to Dad, in which he said, 'That he was hastening toward death as fast as he could, and that he wanted to leave no lawsuit for his children, etc. and that half a loaf was better than none,' then he made Dad a little offer of perhaps one-half of the purchase price, for a quit claim deed which returned it to his estate, and made it an easy swindle."

The family moved to Round Top, Texas in Fayette Co. which was named for the round tower on the home of a Mr. Soergel, which could be seen for miles.

He was a blacksmith after 1857. Near his home, he built a forge for melting down metals. It was built of rock and masonry. He became an accomplished blacksmith and wheelwright in his community. The townspeople petitioned the authorities to keep him from taking part in the Civil War because there was a consensus that he provided a vital service in the area. He could work with wood, metal or rock. He could conceive of and make tools for virtually any job as well as repair tools. He built wagons from wood and iron. He improved the old wooden plows by fitting them with longer-lasting and more efficient iron points. He was an expert at tempering metals. He made bridle bits from a single bar of iron, rather than the more common three-piece construction. John Wesley Hardin brought his six-shooter to Bill to have the spring replaced. Bill made a replacement from a piece of an old file and tempered it using hot oil. Bill discovered a method of preparing iron for ingestion. He heated a bar of pure iron until it was white hot. Then he held the hot iron over a wooden bucket of water and touched it with a stick of sulfur. Granulated drops of iron would fall into the water. The iron pellets were pulverized, using mortar and pestle, until the powder could be sifted through a silk cloth. The daily dose of iron was the amount that would stick to the flat end of a moistened toothpick when inserted a quarter inch into the powder. He made a specialized buggy for his father-in-law, designed to carry books needed in his work.

He died on Jul 7, 1907, in Austin, Texas. Age at death: 73. He was buried in Nopal, DeWitt Co., Texas at the Spellmann Cemetery. He went by the name William Henry Hahn and was called Bill. (William wrote that he came to America in 1846 at age 14 which would mean he was born in 1832. However, German church records show that he was born in 1834 and immigrated in 1848 at age 14. It was believed that he was born on May 7, 1832, which seems to be erroneous.) Parents: Heinrich Christoph Wilhelm Hahn and Charlotte Wilhelmine Friederike Stammeyer.
He was married to Ernestine Christine Spellmann on Oct 15, 1869, in Meyersville, DeWitt Co., Texas at St. John's Lutheran Church. She was just 15 years old when she married. Children were: Christopher Henry Hahn, Caroline Lydia Hahn, Christopher Frederich Carl Hahn, Mary Anna Ernestina Hahn, William Herman Stephen Hahn, August Bernhard Hahn, Frederich Gottfried Hahn, Franz Wilhelm Thomas Hahn, Louise Christina Hahn, Henry John Hahn, Sr.

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