David Levi Kokernot, controversial officer in the Texas revolutionary army, was born in Amsterdam, Holland, on December 28, 1805, the younger son of Levi Moses and Elizabeth (Cohen van der Beugel) Kokernot. In 1817 he immigrated to New Orleans with his father, a dry-goods trader, who apprenticed him to a ship's pilot in preparation for maritime and river trading. In 1830 Kokernot was commissioned warrant officer in the United States Revenue Cutter Service and in that capacity was reconnoitering smugglers near the Sabine estuary when his ship was wrecked. He was eventually rescued and taken to Anahuac, Texas. In 1832 he moved his family, comprising his wife, Caroline Josephine (Dittmar), daughter, mother-in-law, and two brothers-in-law, to Anahuac, where he participated in the Anahuac Disturbances. In the same year he purchased a labor of land at a site now within the limits of Baytown, where he established his family and engaged in farming. He also had several boats for trading along the coast and in the nearby bayous. At the beginning of the Texas Revolution, Kokernot joined Capt. James W. Fannin's company at Gonzales. As a private in the battle of Concepción and the Grass Fight, he was commissioned second lieutenant on November 28, 1835. He succeeded in evacuating his family from Lynchburg to Galveston Island and probably reached the San Jacinto battleground after the victory. He may have been ordered by Sam Houston to recruit a company and round up cattle and horses east of the San Jacinto River, "except those of honest citizens." (The document supporting this order bears an inauthentic signature of Houston.) Kokernot evidently was overly zealous in carrying out the order and harassed a group of Anglo-Americans who were settled on the Trinity River and its tributaries and were reputedly opposed to the revolution. He was reprimanded, and President David Burnet ordered him to return the livestock. Kokernot was sent to sea for the summer aboard the privateer schooner Terrible. After Houston's inauguration as president in October 1836, Kokernot was put in charge of a ranger company on the Sabine River. From 1838 to 1849, when he moved to Columbus, he was a resident of Liberty County. These were bitter years when he had to contend with the ill-feeling of those neighbors against whom he had been sent by Houston in 1836. Houston successfully defended Kokernot against charges of theft of livestock, although his defense was based more on the antirevolution sentiment of the plaintiffs than on his client's innocence. Although his parents and brother were practicing Jews, Kokernot himself apparently had no religious affiliation before his conversion to Christianity about the time he moved to Columbus, when he became a devout Methodist. He moved to Gonzales County in 1853. He and his wife were the parents of two sons and seven daughters. His sons, Levi Moses and John William, established large cattle ranches in Gonzales, Pecos, Jeff Davis, and Brewster counties. During the Civil War Kokernot served briefly in Louisiana and later in a Lavaca County home guard. At his death on December 10, 1892, he was buried in the Kokernot family cemetery near Kokernot in the Big Hill district of southeastern Gonzales County.
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Galveston Daily News, October 18, 1874. Kent Gardien, "Kokernot and His Tory," Texana 8 (1970). John H. Jenkins, ed., The Papers of the Texas Revolution, 1835–1836 (10 vols., Austin: Presidial Press, 1973). Bertram Wallace Korn, The Early Jews of New Orleans (Waltham, Massachusetts: American Jewish Historical Society, 1969).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Kokernot, David Levi,”
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