FERDINAND FRIEDRICH ENGELKING was born on 10 February 1810 in Schlüsselburg, Germany. His parents, Friedrich Christian Engelking (1779-1850) and Friederica Elizabeth, née Niemann or Niermann (1775-1848), married on 9 October 1795 and had nine children, – four boys and five girls 3- of whom Ferdinand was the eighth-born. The father served as burgomaster of Schlüsselburg and was apparently a man of considerable wealth and position.
After Ferdinand had completed his pre-university education, he took up the study of law. Where he received his law degree is uncertain. Amanda von Rosenberg stated that he had studied law in Halle, while Flora von Roeder (in These Are The Generations) wrote that he had studied at the university in Bonn and graduated from the university in Heidelberg. Charles Nagel gave Bonn University as the school from which he had graduated. After graduation, Ferdinand served as a law clerk in the Prussian administration.
He left this position to emigrate to Texas in 1839. Here he made his home with Ludwig Sigismund von Roeder and his family, who had come to Texas in 1834 and settled near Cat Spring. Ferdinand became attracted to the youngest von Roeder daughter, Ottilie Elizabeth Caroline (or Carolina, as she was called by her descendants). They obtained a marriage license in San Felipe, county seat of Austin County, and were married in lndustry on 18 August 1842.
After their marriage, the young couple bought 800 acres near the center of Austin County and named their new property Milheim. On their highest hill and near a stream, fed by a small spring that supplied them with water, they built a large home. Their marriage was blessed with 16 children, of whom eleven grew to maturity and established families of their own. Five died at an early age, two on the same day. All were buried in the family cemetery near the Engelking home.
Ferdinand did not find enough legal work in Texas to justify his opening a law practice. However, Amanda von Rosenberg reported that he was a judge in his county, and he must have been active in the political life of his area.
Not liking farming, he established a general-merchandise store. Since gymnastic clubs (Turnvereine) were popular among the German immigrants, Ferdinand built a gymnasium in the back of his store that contained exercise bars, weights, tension springs, and a one-lane bowling alley. At first the game was played with nine pins, but when Ferdinand learned that in America the game was customarily played with ten pins, he added another pin.
Ferdinand’s father, Friedrich Christian Engelking, made a will in Schlüsselburg, Germany, on 9 August 1848. Ferdinand did not receive a legacy because he had already received 4,800 thalers in gold from his father.
It is thought too that his father disapproved of his migrating to America. In 1849 Ferdinand returned to Germany to visit his family and possibly inquire into the will. Whether he realized any further bequest from his father’s estate, is not known. His father died on 15 September 1850.
On 8 October 1849 Ferdinand boarded the Franziska in Bremen for the return voyage to Texas. An account of this voyage and his association with the Von Rosenberg family is related in the letters of Amanda von Rosenberg, contained in Reinhold Froelich’s Die Familie Froelich (The Froelich Family).
One of Ferdinand’s keen desires was that his’ children be given the best possible education. Seeking a competent teacher, he discovered Ernst Gustav Maetze, a graduate of Breslau University, working on a farm in New Ulm, Texas. He induced Maetze to come to Milheim to teach his children. This was the beginning of the first school in the Milheim area. The first classes were held in the sitting room and library of Mr. Maetze’s small frame house. It became obvious that the community needed a school-house, so Ferdinand built one on a site convenient to his many children. It was not long before the number of pupils outgrew the Engelking school, so a new school was built, this time by the concerted effort of the whole community. It was built near the teacher’s (Maetze’s) home and was plain in the extreme, being built of rough boards with an old-fashioned, shingle roof, a bare, wooden floor and one large fireplace. The exterior was not painted. This account of the early Milheim schools is drawn from the book by Charles Nagel, who was one of the outstanding pupils educated in the Maetze school.
During the Civil War Charles Nagel fled from Milheim to St. Louis to avoid being conscripted by the Confederate Army. He graduated from the St. Louis Law School in 1872 and later became the first native-born Texan to serve in a presidential cabinet. In 1909 he became President Howard Taft’s Secretary of Commerce and Labor. Nagel praised Ernst Gustav Maetze as “the greatest teacher I ever had.”
W. E. L. Keuffel was another of Maetze’s outstanding pupils. He was a founder and partner of the Keuffel & Esser firm in Hoboken, New Jersey, manufacturer of surveying and drafting instruments. In his later years, after he had become quite wealthy, he made several trips to Milheim, Texas, to revisit his birthplace and his old schoolmates.
Ferdinand Friedrich Engelking died on 15 August 1885, and his wife, Carolina Von Roeder Engelking, died on 9 February 1905. Both are buried in the Old Engelking Family Cemetery on the original Engelking homestead. This cemetery is presently located on the Jesse Kisling ranch at Milheim and is maintained by a family trust fund. Other members of the Engelking family buried there are the five who died in childhood; Friedrich (Fritz) Engelking, the second child, and his wife; Caroline Engelking Regenbrecht, the thirteenth child, and her husband; and n grandson, Peter Engelking and his wife. In one corner of the cemetery rest the remains of “Uncle Wash,” a black man, who was Ferdinand’s employee, not a slave, and who was killed in an Indian raid. Charles Nagel wrote in his book that the Milheim area had only one slave who belonged to the family that operated the water-powered grist mill. Like many of the German immigrants of the time, the settlers in Milheim and Cat Spring were opposed to slavery and Texas’ participation in the Civil War .
Rudolph A . Engelking