A Texas Pioneer

Rev. John August Tubbe

Since the inception of Texas many of the residents have been direct immigrants from many European countries.  The mid 1800’s saw a massive influx of German immigrants to the new state.  They brought with them many talents.  They were some of the first brewers of beer, masons, blacksmiths, and wagon makers.  Some of the state’s first authors, actors, and musicians were of German descent.  By 1900 there were more than 150,000 German immigrants who called Texas home.  One of the first communities to be graced by these talented immigrants was Nacogdoches. 

While researching another project I ran across an interesting man named Reverend John August Tubbe.  I started poking around a little and his story intrigued me and thought I would share with everyone the story of one of Texas’ pioneers and entrepreneurs. 

Rev. Johann August Friedrich Tubbe, was born in Oderberg, Prussia in 1841.   Prussia became part of Germany in the early 1900s.  His father, a linen weaver, died when he was young, leaving his widowed mother, Justina, to provide for the family.  I imagine the lure of a new life in the New World intrigued them.  At some point one of the older sons immigrated to America.  Justina Tubbe and her two youngest children arrived in New Orleans in 1855 after a two month voyage on the immigrant ship Tuisko.   From New Orleans they traveled to Nacogdoches Texas where one of her older sons was already living.

At some point in his early years in Texas the name Johann was dropped and he was known as August Tubbe by most.   At times he was referred to as John instead of Johann.  I imagine the name change was an attempt to fit in better with the English speaking population of Texas and not stand out as an immigrant so easily.

On February 12, 1862 August married Mary Kolb another German immigrant at the home of her parents, John and Anna.  The marriage lasted 56 years until the death of August.  They added a total of 8 children to their lives over the years.  But unfortunately tragedy struck and 3 of those children died at a very young age. 

August and Mary Tubbe

With the onset of the Civil War, newly wed August enlisted in Confederate Army in April of 1862.  He served in Co. A, 18th Texas Volunteers of the Confederacy until the end of the war.  He took an oath of allegiance to the Union at the end of the war, which he took seriously.

Early in his adult years August felt the call to preach.  He founded and preached at a number of churches around Nacogdoches.  While he was raised Lutheran, as an adult he considered himself a Baptist.  He was even a circuit riding preacher for a time travelling by horseback to churches to preach.  He was in the ministry for 52 years and was well known for his two and three hour sermons.

August began farming and ranching on a 160 acre tract where he grew sugar cane, cotton and corn.  This farm grew into a ranch of nearly 2,000 acres and is still owned by the family to this day.   They also raised cattle, horses and hogs.

August wasn’t satisfied with just being a farmer and a preacher.  Being quite an industrial entrepreneur he opened a saw mill with a $5,000 investment.  It was powered by a water wheel and employed 7 young men.  The pay at that time was $1-$2 a day for 10 hours of work.  The mill moved several times and eventually a community called Tubbe Station was built at its location.  Later on the mill expanded to include a cotton gin and grist mill.  Around 1900 the mill was converted to steam power and the lumber was shipped out of the area on the newly opened rail road.  At its peak the mill employed 30 men and cut 40,000 feet of lumber a day!  That is quite the operation for that time.

The life of August Tubbe came crashing down at no fault of his own.  When the United States declared war on Germany in 1917 anti-German sentiment swept the nation.  Newspapers quit printing in German and schools refused to teach it.  He was 75 years old and had lived in Texas since he was 14.  Someone turned him in as an “enemy of the state” and he was jailed out of fear. 

He was jailed in Tyler Texas for 41 days.  A petition from the residents of Nacogdoches is what garnered his release.  But he was a broken man.  The country he had called home for 60 years betrayed him and broke his spirit.  He was a patriot, preacher, farmer, businessman, and family man that suddenly became an enemy of the state.  This cruel act destroyed his spirit and pride he never recovered from it.

Reverend John August Friedrich Tubbe died on November 18, 1918 about year after his release from jail.  His broken hearted widow Mary died on November 19, 1919 and was laid to rest beside her husband. 

I don’t want the tragic end of August Tubbe’s life to overshadow his accomplishments.  I couldn’t tell his story without including the poor treatment he received from our government.  Rather, I want this story to focus on a man that helped forge Texas.  A man that worked hard from sun up to sun down.  A Godly man and a family man first and foremost.  A patriot and entrepreneur.  A man that endured hardship and heartache but never quit striving to be better.   It was men like Rev. August Tubbe that shaped Texas and the United States.  If I could be just a small percentage of the man August was, I would consider my life a success. 

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