Did Caroline Kokernot’s mother stay in Texas during the Battle of San Jacinto?

Kendon Clark, a descendant of William Maley, reminded me of a tradition within the Maley family that I did not write about. What I did write is that during the Texas Revolution David Kokernot rushed his family to Galveston and placed them on a New Orleans bound schooner for safety as the war threatened their home on the San Jacinto River. His mother-in-law, Juliane; wife, Caroline; two toddler daughters; and sixteen year old brother-in-law William Maley went to New Orleans. Only William’s fourteen-year-old brother George remained in Texas. In New Orleans the family stayed with David’s brother, Louis, who lived with their mother. There Caroline gave birth to the couple’s first son, L. M., in June. The whole family returned to Texas, probably in July.

Maley family oral history holds that Juliane did not go to New Orleans, or that she returned early, and helped the war effort by nursing the wounded, feeding soldiers, or providing a wagon and oxen, depending on the account. Some accounts suggest that the two land grants she received were rewards for her service. Another suggests that William, too, remained behind in Texas. These stories are persistent and seem reliable, because they come from Maleys who heard them second hand, rather than third or fourth hand. Yet I discount them and wrote my account as I did because they contradict better evidence, and because there is another explanation for them.

David Kokernot writes about these days before and after the battle in his Reminiscences of 2 Nov 1878, which are reprinted on pages 183-188 of my book. He does not explicitely say who went to New Orleans, only that “Fortunately we found a vessel ready to sail for New Orleans, and we put our families aboard of the schooner, which conveyed them in safety to the city.” His description of his subsequent activities in Texas does not mention any of his family members besides George Maley. David’s Reminiscences are unreliable, but his errors always seem to be ones of self-aggrandizement or of detail, such as dates or names. Since the Juliane story would be neither, I am inclined to believe that David was saying that only he and George stayed behind.

Customs records in New Orleans are very complete and would include a passenger list showing the family members arriving there. Unfortunately, the Koscuisko, the only vessel which traveled from Texas to New Orleans in the correct time frame, evaded customs. Only the port log, published in the newspaper, documents its arrival. For the return journey to Texas, there are no port logs or customs records available for these months in the newborn Republic.

The weeks before the Battle of San Jacinto were a time of panic for civilians fleeing the approach of the Mexican Army. Some families stayed behind, but it seems logical that Juliane would want to accompany her seven-month-pregnant daughter to New Orleans to care for her until well after her son’s birth on June 6. They may not have known it before their arrival in New Orleans, but David’s mother was not there. She had gone to New York to marry Alexander Hart, making it less likely that Juliane would leave Caroline without either mother present for her lying-in. Protecting their Texas home or aiding the war effort would seem like insufficient motivation.

Juliane’s two land grants were not rewards for service. As a widow with a family, Juliane was entitled to the same headright as a man under Mexican law—a league and a labor, that is, 4428 plus 177 acres. She received her headright league on August 19, 1835, as described on pages 58-60. It straddled Cedar Bayou near the league David received at the same time, about twenty miles from their home on the San Jacinto River. Neither of them lived on or used the land and they both sold their leagues to James Morgan less than six months later (page 62). The Republic of Texas honored the same headright obligations as Mexico and in 1838 granted Juliane a certificate for the labor she had not received earlier. In 1839 her acreage was surveyed in the Cove area and was formally patented in 1847, probably by her son William, since Juliane was already dead and George was in Gonzales County.

Another piece of evidence argues that Juliane did not stay, or return early to Texas. In 1894, Juliane’s children tried to reclaim by lawsuit the league she had sold to James Morgan in 1836, arguing that Juliane had not consented to the sale, despite four witnesses to the contract. The lawsuit file (pages 243-244) contains several interesting depositions, including one by Caroline describing their flight to New Orleans. She said “My mother and me went back to New Orleans and stayed while the war was going on in Texas, and after it was over we all came back to Texas…My son L. M. Kokernot was about one month old when we came back from New Orleans” (pages 82 and 226). Additional depositions reveal other interesting, but unrelated, assertions: William and George had a brother who died in Philadelphia, and their father, George Sr., died in Philadelphia before the family left for Texas, not en route as most Maley descendants have written.

If Juliane was in New Orleans just before and after the Battle of San Jacinto, what is the source for the stories of her aiding soldiers? As it turns out, she did aid the war effort after her return. A German mining engineer, Eduard Harkort, was assigned by James Morgan the task of fortifying the Galveston waterfront against an expected Mexican attack after San Jacinto. Harkort was scouring the countryside for timber to haul to Galveston. His diary has been published, but it ends abruptly on July 17 while he was searching and mapping Galveston Bay in the vicinity of Edwards Point. He had taken ill and died of yellow fever three weeks later, on August 11, at the Kokernots’ home nearby. He had doubtless been nursed in his final days by Juliane Maley. Harkort came from Westphalia, only a hundred miles from Juliane’s birthplace in Hesse Kassel in today’s Germany. Imagine the comfort Juliane provided Harkort, a fellow countryman who spoke the same German dialect as she. Imagine also, the stories Juliane told her children and grandchildren about nursing the sick victim, Eduard Harkort.


Did Caroline Kokernot’s mother stay in Texas during the Battle of San Jacinto? — 5 Comments

  1. This was a greAt article to read as I am a descendant of the Maley’s. Being a descendant I do have to tell you that Caroline’s mother’s name is misspelled…her mothers name was Julianna not Juliane. I was wondering if you had anymore information on Caroline? specifically who her father was did he die in Germany or the United States?

  2. Thank you for your comment. I have looked for further information on Caroline’s father, mostly without success. His name was almost certainly Johan Wilhelm Dittmar simply because the Kokernots carefully followed Jewish naming tradition for the other three of their firstborn males and females (page 208, note 32 in my book). That same note also explains the family tradition that Dittmar died at the Battle of Waterloo. The tradition is from Belle Maley Cook, daughter of Robert Maley, a son of George Maley (the younger). That could be wrong, but it seems unlikely that Juliane Maley would have emigrated to the United States as an unmarried woman with a young daughter. Also, the same family tradition holds that Juliane and George Conrad Maley were married before coming to the United States.

    Why do you insist that my spelling of Juliane’s name is incorrect? I have seen it spelled many different ways in original documents but I can’t recall seeing your spelling. David Kokernot used the spellings Juliana and Julian in his own hand on her land grant paperwork. The spelling of her name actually became an issue in the 1894 lawsuit over that league because of Kokernot’s spelling. George Maley was asked how she spelled her name and he replied “My mother spelled her name in German, which I could never translate.” George himself used the spelling “Julian” in his deposition. Caroline was illiterate so could not say how she spelled it, but when asked how she pronounced it the clerk wrote “Julian” as her answer. All this is on pages 243-4 in my book. I chose to use “Juliane” consistently because that is the German usage today.

  3. So sorry for the confusion…I meant to spell her name as Juliana not Julianna. The reason I state that this is the spelling of her name is because it is how the state of Texas printed/spelled her name on my DRT certificate. Although I have seen it spelled a few different ways while trying to do more research. Im thinking that I need to read your book as it seems there might be more information provided then what I have been finding on the internet. I thank you for the information on Caroline’s father…there has always been talk in the family that he had died in the Battle of Wayerloo. It is nice to be able to trace back to whom these facts came from. If you have anymore knowledgeable information of any of the Maley’s I would love to hear it. Thanks for your time.

  4. I was also wondering if you could help me out with some family loar about George. It is said that George was at and fought in the battle of San Jacinto. It is also said that he was present when Houston addresed Santa Anna under the oak tree. Have you heard this story?? Do you have any knowledge on this situation? Thanks again

    • It is highly unlikely that George, like his brother-in-law David Kokernot, participated in the Battle of San Jacinto based on the same evidence as for David. All participants were eligible for a grant of land and neither claimed it. As I narrate in my book, George apparently spent the days before and after the battle with David; George was, after all, only fourteen. The oak tree incident occurred the day after the battle but, by David’s account, he didn’t show up on the battlefield until the fourth day. Besides, David would surely have boasted about it had he been there for such an historic event. It’s impossible to prove George wasn’t there but I believe he wasn’t.

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