Journal Of The Life And Culture Of San Antonio

Bexar County Chief Justice August Siemering, 1830-1883

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By Richard L. Puglisi Jr.

Born on February 8, 1830, in Brandenburg, Germany, August Siemering graduated from the Diestweg Seminary. Like many other well-educated men, he left his homeland for the United States with the “Forty-Eighters” after the failed revolutions of 1848 in Europe. In Texas, Siemering became one of the early influential German immigrants as a writer, editor, and political leader.

Most likely arriving in Texas in 1851, he visited a number of German communities such as New Braunfels and San Antonio before he settled in Sisterdale in Kendall County, about fifty miles north of San Antonio. Because Siemering had taught in Berlin’s public school system before emigrating, he became the teacher for the school in Sisterdale. At this time, a few communities were dubbed “Latin Settlements” due to the high number of university educated German immigrants among the settlers, and Sisterdale was the largest of those settlements.

In 1853, Siemering began contributing articles to the San Antonio Zeitung, a German-language, anti-slavery newspaper. Along with many other European immigrants, Siemering viewed slavery as repugnant. That same year he was elected secretary of the newly formed Die freie Verein (The Free Society), which was a political organization created to oppose slavery. That group called for a meeting of anti-slavery German Texans in conjunction with the Staats-Saengerfest (State Singing Festival), to be held May 14, 1854 in San Antonio.

Before the meeting, Siemering wrote an article in the New Braunfels Zeitung stating “that the object was to secure for the Germans the position in political affairs to which their intelligence and power entitled them.” When the two-day meeting began, Siemering was elected as one of the three secretaries. The controversial platform that the convention adopted was protested by German and non-German conservatives. While the radical idea of directly electing the President of the United States would have weakened the Southern position in national politics, the most extreme aspect of the platform was its declaration that slavery “is an evil, the removal of which is absolutely necessary according to the principles of Democracy. Since slavery concerns only the states, we demand that the federal government refrain from all interference in matters pertaining to slavery. However, if a state determines on the removal of this evil, it may call on the federal government for aid in the execution of its decision.”

In 1856, Siemering moved to Fredericksburg to take a teaching job at its first public school. There, he married Clara Schütze, the daughter of another teacher from Gillespie County, in 1859. Together they would have two sons and six daughters. Although Siemering was a staunch abolitionist, he was impressed into the service of the Confederate Army in 1861. After attaining the rank of lieutenant, he resigned his commission in 1864 and moved to San Antonio. Siemering would later reflect that the Civil War “had been like a nightmare. No more European immigrants had come since 1860 [and] thousands had left the state.”

In San Antonio, he established and edited two newspapers in 1865, the German language Freie Presse für Texas (Texas Free Press) and the English language San Antonio Express first published September 27, 1865. The next year he was appointed Chief Justice of Bexar County. He served in this position just until August 18, 1866 when the office was changed to County Judge by an act of the legislature and new elections were held. He chose not to run, but continued to contribute articles to various newspapers, and in 1869, published Apuntes históricos interesantes de San Antonio de Béxar (Interesting Historical Notes of San Antonio de Béxar) by José Antonio Navarro. In 1876, he wrote a novella about the Civil War which won an award in a writing contest. Siemering would rise to prominence in the Republican Party and was the party’s candidate for lieutenant governor in the 1880 general election, but was defeated by Democrat J.D. Sayers. Three years later, on September 19, 1883, August Siemering died and his obituary declared that he would forever have “the respect and esteem of all who knew him.”

 

Biesele, Rudolph Leopold. The History of the German Settlements in Texas: 1831-1861. Press of Von Boeckmann-Jones Co., Austin: 1930., pg. 197.

Ibid., pp. 198-199.

Lich, Glen E. The German Texans. The University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio, San Antonio: 1981., pg. 97.

“Death of Judge Siemering.” San Antonio Express, September 21, 1883.

 

Bibliography

Biesele, Rudolph Leopold. The History of the German Settlements in Texas: 1831-1861. Austin: Press of Von Boeckmann-Jones Co, 1930.

“Death of Judge Siemering.” San Antonio Express 21 September 1883.

Gold, Ella. “August Siemering.” The Handbook of Texas Online. 8 April 2007. <http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/SS/fsi6.html>.

Lich, Glen E. The German Texans. San Antonio: The University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio, 1981.

Lich, Glen E. and Dona B. Reeves. German Culture in Texas. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1980.

Smart, Terry L. The German Heritage in Texas, unpublished book manuscript, 2007.