Wilhelm Martin, born in Germany in 1848, came to the U.S. and applied
for citizenship in his adopted country in 1870. He married Frances
Jane Brooks, a doctor's daughter at Goose
Their son John Martin one day would serve as a Harris County Commissioner
from Precinct 2 and become the namesake of a well-traveled road east
Farming his land in the community of Cedar Bayou that's now part of
never doubted his citizenship, having met all the requirements and
gone through the proper procedures.
Then all of a sudden in the midst of the First
World War, federal authorities informed Martin he was not a citizen
then and never had been. He was an alien, they claimed.
Moreover, since Jane Brooks (born at Goose
Creek in 1859) had married him, she too would be classified as
an alien and her citizenship revoked.
Jane Brooks Martin - the granddaughter of Dr. Harvey Whiting, who
treated soldiers wounded in the battle
at San Jacinto - an alien?
A descendant of pilgrims who came to America on the Mayflower in 1620
As soon as the war ended, the Martins took their case to a federal
And they won and lived happily ever after as bona fide citizens of
Friederich supported his family by selling produce from his farm at
Cedar Bayou. Accompanied by son John, he traveled by wagon to Houston
to sell the produce. John shared stories of those early years with
his son J. Raymond Martin -- the main source of information for this
column. Today the Martin family history is preserved by Raymond's
son Matthew, a medical doctor in Greensboro, NC.
The ordeal that Friederich and Jane Martin experienced - when their
citizenship was questioned - was not uncommon in that volatile era
of World War 1.
Prejudice against German Texans got so bad then that farmers of Brandenburg
in West Texas changed
the name of their community to Old
Glory, and many Schmidt families in Texas and throughout the country
changed their name to Smith. Another example: The German Cemetery
in Houston became the Washington
Immediately after the war, the hard feelings persisted. For instance,
Gov. William Hobby in 1919 vetoed appropriations for the German department
at the University of Texas at Austin.
Hostilities against German Texans actually began long before World
War 1. During the Civil War many German immigrants sided with
the Union. Go see the monument - Treue
der Union -- in Comfort
Dedicated in 1866, the monument honors the memory of 34 local area
Union loyalists slain by Confederates in 1862 in the Nueces Massacre.
der Union is one of the few monuments dedicated to the Union on
former Confederate soil. Among others is the 32nd Indiana Monument
at Cave Hill National Cemetery in Kentucky. Most of the soldiers in
the 32nd Indiana unit - like those killed in the Nueces Massacre --
were from German families.
It really wasn't until after the World
War 2 that the anti-German sentiment began to fade in Texas and
throughout the country. Since the 1950s and '60s, for example, events
celebrating German heritage have sprung up over Texas, particularly
in the Hill Country
where thousands of fun-seekers every year attend the Wurstfest in
Braunfels and Oktoberfest in Fredericksburg.
© Wanda Orton
Baytown Sun Columnist
3 , 2017 column