Biography of Ernst Raven

Chapter I

Ernst Raven’s Life in Germany

By the late 1700's, Germany had progressed from a land of warring, feudal tribes to a land of city/states, and confederations of such, which were called Duchies, were autonomous, ruled by Dukes of hereditary descent, usually the first born son and so on down the line and by marriage between royal families when no more male heirs were available. Eligible male offspring to the throne were called Prince and female offspring were Princess. Royalty ruled and lived in opulence and privilege from their palaces and royal courts, which were staffed by well-educated, intelligent, politicians, scholars, and craftsmen.

Ernst Raven Sr. was born in Hanover, Prussia in 1778. Ernst Sr. was such a craftsman and was in attendance to the Court of Duke Ernst I, ruler of the Duchie of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha*, three city states merged into a confederation.  Life at Court was rigid and formal for the public eye. However, life was casual and more like normal everyday people interacting in private especially between the royal family and their staff.

Ernst Raven Sr. held the royal appointment as Royal Bookbinder to Duke Ernst I.  At that time, books were not common as today.  Usually only royalty and highly educated people could read, so books were not easy to obtain and usually manufactured in small quantities by bookbinders to the Court.  Ernst also did personal custom work for the royal family.  Elaborate, fine hand carved and tooled leather bound books, with gems and precious metals encrusting the covers of the books for the royal family and as gifts from the royal family were his specialty.

Ernst Raven Sr. married Charlotte Luederssen about 1803. Ernst Raven, Jr. was born August 13, 1804, in Hanover, Prussia and was apparently the only child of Ernst Sr. and Charlotte as there is no record of any other children born to the couple.

Click on map to enlarge
Hanover, Prussia in 1800's
* Note: You will be seeing the term Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in several places connected with the Ernst Raven Family history. To read more about Saxe-Coburg-Gotha of the German Empire click HERE.

Ernst Jr. spent a lot of his time, growing up in the royal court.  His father taught him the craft of bookbinding.  He was friends with, played with and was schooled along with the children of the Duke and Duchess. One of them, Prince Ernst, in later years became Duke Ernst II, ruler of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.  The other son, Prince Albert, later became the husband of Queen Victoria, Queen of England.  When Ernst reached adulthood, he was very well-educated, comfortable around royalty and was a proficient bookbinder.  Ernst took over the appointment as royal bookbinder from his father and was quite adept at the job.

Ernst operated a printing and bookbinding facility in Gotha, printing government and business stationary and forms; manufacturing hardbound ledgers and books of all types for government, business and personal use.  He personally made the special order books for Prince Ernst, the royal family and other wealthy clients.  He was in demand for the books he made with fancy, exotic leathers, jewels, and gold embellishments, which were popular in Europe for personal use and as royal gifts. Customers furnished their choice of jewels, gold, and specifications and Ernst made the books. 

Ernst courted and married Johanne Frederiche Auguste Mentzel in Gotha, Germany on Feb. 7, 1830.  She was born on Dec. 14, 1809, in Gotha. .  While living in Gotha, Auguste gave birth to Gustave Herman Leopold (Herman Lee), born Aug 5, 1831; Bertha Amelia Therese Eleanore (Bertha E.), born Dec. 18, 1833; Louise Emma Theresa born 1836 and Christian Heninrich (Hugo Henry) born Oct. 1837. 

Chapter II

Ernst Raven Family Moves to America

In 1838, Ernst left his bookbinder position, sold their home and booked passage for the family and belongings on the sailing ship Johanne from the German port of Bremen to Baltimore, Maryland.  The family arrived at the port of Baltimore and were processed through immigration on August 6, 1838.  The family settled in Baltimore and lived there until 1843. Ernst reputedly was agent in Baltimore for German immigrants. While living in Baltimore two more children were born. Julius was born in 1841. Anna was born in 1843.

Chapter III

Ernst Raven Family Moves to Texas

 Ernst was appointed as agent and Consul to the Republic of Texas by Duke Ernst. The family booked passage and sailed from Baltimore to the port of Galveston in the Republic of Texas.  Julius and sister, Anna, became very ill while aboard ship. The Raven family stopped in New Orleans to nurse Julius and Anna back to health. However, both children died and were buried in New Orleans.

The Raven family arrived at Galveston in 1844.  Ernst had land grant no. 17 for a section of land in Texas as a member of the Fisher Colony. They settled first in Caldwell, Burleson County, Texas.  While living in Caldwell, Fernando was born. Later in 1844, they moved to Cameron, Milam County, Texas. While living in Cameron Ione was born. In 1845, Texas finally accepted Statehood in the United States.  In 1848, when the town of Austin was formally established, the capitol of Texas was moved there and the Raven family made their permanent home in Austin. 

Chapter IV

The Raven Life in Austin, Texas

Ernst opened and operated a bookbinding business on Congress Avenue in Austin.  He had a thriving business, making ledgers and record books for the State of Texas as well as local governments and private businesses.  He also had a contract with the State to maintain and repair the furniture in the capitol building and other state property.  He was active in Austin government and politics.  He served terms as alderman of the City of Austin.  Ernst was active in Austin's Masonic Lodge, serving as secretary.  He attained the degree of Knight Templar.  Ernst was an officer in the Austin Sons of Texas chapter, the parent organization of the Sons Of The Republic Of Texas.

 Early in his tenure in Texas, Ernst met and became friends with Gordon Granger. This was a friendship to last the rest of their lives.  Granger was a career U.S. Army officer who served in The Mexican war in Mexico, in Texas, the southwest, and later distinguished himself as an outstanding field officer during the Civil War, being promoted to the rank of Major General.  After the Civil war, General Granger was appointed the first military governor of Texas, in Austin, during the occupation and reconstruction years. 

When Texas and the other southern states left the union in 1861 and formed the Confederate States of America, Duke Ernst II appointed Ernst as Consul to the Confederate States of America, with official office in Austin, Texas.  Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was the only foreign government to officially recognize the Confederacy.  The 1861 Confederate Legislative convention at Richmond, Virginia, in its' minutes confirmed Ernst as the only legitimate foreign diplomat to the Confederate States of America.  The position he held until the Confederacy was dissolved. Letters of Ernst Raven with regards to his appointment as Consul of Saxe-Coburg may be viewed by clicking on ERNST'S LETTERS.

Prior to the Civil War, Ernst was in what in those days would be the equivalent of our later national guard.  (A State home defense company in Austin, The Travis Rifles, Light Infantry Division, Texas State Troops.)  In mid 1861, the company was called up for active duty with the Confederate Army and designated Co. G, 6th Texas Infantry Regiment.  At the time, Ernst was fifty-seven years old, too old for regular army service.  He and other members who were rejected for active service, augmented with local civilians who also were rejected became the Travis Confederate Guard, Light Infantry Division, Texas State Troops.  Ernst's two eldest sons, Herman and Hugo, and his son-in-law, Thomas J. Campbell all served the duration of the war in the Confederate Army.

At the close of the war the southern states came immediately under occupation and administration by the U. S. Army.  General Granger arrived in Galveston on June 19th, 1865, announced that Lee had surrendered in April.  Lincoln had freed the slaves in 1863 and he was the new first military governor of Texas under Generals Sheridan and Hancock.  He appointed and activated a temporary special company of Texas Rangers, including Ernst Raven, to protect the buildings and property of the State, as well as keep the peace and protect the local citizens until the U.S. army arrived to do that job.  One of these soldiers was Neill McCashin, a recent immigrant from Ireland and Ernst's future son-in-law.  Even though Texas was admitted back into the union in 1870 it was still under occupation and military rule from mid-1865 until 1876.  All civilian offices during this period were not elected, but appointed or approved by the military commanders.  Ernst was among these appointed officials.

Ernst, advancing in age sold his thriving printing business and retired.  In 1874 he and Auguste, took a first trip back to Gotha to visit family, old friends and to see how things had changed.  Naturally, they were disappointed at the changes over the thirty-six years they had been away.

Before they left on the trip they had commissioned the design and manufacture of an obelisk about six feet tall, made of native Texas limestone from the quarries near Austin.  It was inscribed with a Texas lone star and an inscription describing their love for their homeland.  They had it shipped with them back to Gotha and had it erected in a Gotha park. It and other monuments disappeared from the park sometime during the Nazi and Communist eras.  It was discovered in 2006 after the re-unification of Germany in the back yard of a residence in Gotha by members of a local garden club.  They re-installed it, minus the pedestal, which has not been found yet, back in the city park where Ernst had it installed in 1874.  The Gotha Club located a Raven descendant, John Raven of Johnson City, Texas, and sent him a published copy of the story.   The story that John Raven received may be viewed by clicking on, The Texas Stone Story.

(In 2014, Ken Sprecher, a Raven cousin visited Gotha. Ken's visit is documented and can be viewed by clicking on Gotha, Germany. The article contains new photos of the Texas Stone as well as the Raven House.)

Saturday February 7, 1880 was one of the biggest events to ever occur in Austin.  The event was the fiftieth wedding anniversary banquet and ball for Ernst and Auguste and was held at Turner Hall.  Austin had always had a distinct German presence and lifestyle since it’s inception.   Almost all aspects of daily and social life in Austin were German in nature due to the fact that most of the populace of Austin was of German origin.  This is evidenced by the long list of the famous German banquet halls, beer gardens and live music venues in Austin and surrounding area: "Turner Hall, 201 W. 18th Street, Scottish Rite Temple”

This building has a history that dates back to 1872, when the Scottish Rite Society built Turner Hall. It serves as a men's club and exercise facility (turnen = to do physical exercises, in German). In 1914, the Ben Hur Temple bought the building with the intention of building a training center for its members. Shortly thereafter, the Scottish Rite bodies of Austin decided that they should build a "cathedral" on the site. They bought the Ben Hur Temple for $15,000 and in 1915 the building was dedicated. The building served to state cultural events with an auditorium seating 800. A handsome pipe organ was installed, and it served the Shiners of Austin for many years. The building is unique in that it blends southwest mission style of architecture with Arabic accents. It is a recorded Texas Historic Landmark."

Ernst had rented Turner Hall for the event and provided such elaborate food and drink for the guests and representatives of the press, all who had received gold engraved invitations from the Ravens, were so impressed that all the local media outlets were inundated with glowing descriptions of the quality and quantity of the many gifts they received as well as the food andentertainment.

Gold Invitation

The Austin Weekly Statesman (Austin, Texas) · Thu, Feb 12, 1880 · Page 3 described the wedding in detail. You can read the newspaper article by clicking on ERNST & AUGUSTE WEDDING. This article was supplied by Kathye Fuessel, a Raven relative of the Willie Holt Raven, Jr. clan.

Ernst and Auguste had leisure time now to enjoy their children and grand children, however it didn't last long as a little over a year and a half later,  he grew seriously ill and died on September 18, 1881.  Ernst was laid to rest in Austin's Oakwood Cemetery with other family members who preceded him in death. 

The Bio research and write-up by M. L. Smith

Auguste & Ernst Headstones in Oakwood

Cemetery in Austin, Texas

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