Ostermayer, Heinrich Traugott (1788–1854)


By: R. Carson Fisk

Type: Biography

Published: June 22, 2022

Updated: June 22, 2022


Heinrich Traugott Ostermayer, author of an early travel account through Texas, was born in Biberach in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, on November 2, 1788. He was the son of Johannes Ostermayer, a lace maker and member of the municipal court, and Maria Barbara Doll and was one of at least ten children. Several of his siblings died at an early age. Details of his early life are not fully known, though the Ostermayer family was prominent in the area. Ostermayer apparently assumed operations of his father’s velveteen factory in Württemberg, and the factory engaged in the large-scale manufacture of cotton ribbon and silk until he was forced to close operations in 1841 due to financial constraints brought on by regulations of the German customs union.

Heinrich Ostermayer married Christine Johanne Wilhelmine von Hillern on April 24, 1815, in Biberach an der Riss. They divorced not long after, on July 24, 1816. Ostermayer later married Henriette Christiana Friederike Baas, daughter of a royal forester, on June 9, 1818, though she was purportedly the natural daughter of King Frederick I of Württemberg. Ostermayer and Baas had eleven children; four died in infancy.

In 1848 when he was fifty-nine, Ostermayer, along with daughters Mathilde Ostermayer and Ida Hermine Ostermayer and their fiancées and his son Heinrich Richard Ostermayer, embarked on a trip to Texas. Ostermayer had been commissioned as an agent for the Adelsverein to aid in emigration efforts. He left his home on August 22, 1848, and traveled to Antwerp. After a seventy-seven-day trans-Atlantic crossing on the sailing ship Louis during which he witnessed a number of hardships, on November 19, 1848, Ostermayer arrived in Galveston where his son and daughters remained. A few days later, Ostermayer headed to Indianola (which he referred to as “Indianpoint”) via the steamship Globe. From there, he traveled overland to New Braunfels. He arrived there on December 20, 1848, and stayed for approximately four months, though approximately one month was spent at Marienthal with its founders Heinrich Hessler and James Ferguson, proprietors of the New Braunfels mercantile firm of Ferguson and Hessler. These two men helped Ostermayer when he unexpectedly found himself with limited funds, and he later noted his appreciation for their aid. He took various day trips as well, visiting Darmstädler Farm established by the Darmstädter or “The Forty.” He left New Braunfels on April 22, 1849, and his return to Germany took him from Indianola to Galveston, where he visited his children, all then married. He then traveled to New Orleans, again via the steamship Globe, where he stayed for seven weeks. From New Orleans he left on June 29, 1949, on the sailing ship Vesta and arrived at Le Havre, France, on August 13, 1849. He traveled to Rotterdam, The Netherlands, on the steamer Rotterdam before ending his travels in Mannheim in Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

Ostermayer chronicled his trip and observations and also offered practical advice in a 198-page booklet titled Tagebuch einer Reise nach Texas im Jahr 1848–1849, translated as A Diary of a Journey to Texas 1848–1849, published in 1850. In addition to numerous aspects of daily life in mid-nineteenth-century Texas, he gave detailed observations and commentary on geography, climate, and the people, wildlife, plants, and trees that he encountered. He visited and recorded his interactions with contemporaries, several of whom, such as Hermann Seele and Louis Ervenberg, played significant roles in encouraging and facilitating growth on the Texas frontier. The booklet included appendices providing a glossary of terms, a drawing of farm layouts and tools, and the layout of New Braunfels. It further included recommendations on matters such as emigration planning and employment needs in and economic prospects for Texas. Ostermayer’s diary offers a vivid and valuable first-hand account of the opportunities and difficulties facing settlers and emigrants coming to Texas in the mid-nineteenth century. The booklet undoubtedly helped influence prospective German settlers to come to Texas and aided them in their planning, travels, and settling in the frontier. Ostermayer wrote: “What I say here comes from a clear, true German heart; may my words not be lost but bear fruit for my many German brothers who feel themselves compelled, destined to seek a new home across the Atlantic Ocean.”

Ostermayer did not limit his writings to his travels in America. In 1851 he published the 158-page Kronik der vormals kaiserl. königl. freien Reichsstadt Biberach, translated as Chronicle of the Former Imperial City of Biberach. This booklet offered details on his hometown, Biberach an der Ris.

The details of Ostermayer’s death are not known. Various sources list him as having died in October 1854 in New York, possibly en route to visit his daughter in Virginia. After the original passage to the United States, Ostermayer’s son, Heinrich Richard Ostermayer, remained in Galveston and married and raised a family. He and his wife, living near Jamaica Beach on Galveston Island, perished in the disastrous 1900 hurricane. Generations of the Ostermayer family remained in the Galveston area, and Ostermayer Bayou on Galveston Island still bears the family name.

Sabine Betzler, “Von Biberach nach Texas, eine Reise im Jahr 1848,” Heimatkundliche Blätter für den Kreis Biberach 17 (June 1994). Heinrich Ostermayer, “Diary of a Journey to Texas, 1848–1849,” Carol Buchanan, trans., Bay Area Genealogical Society Quarterly 6 (September 2007); 7 (December 2007); 7 (March 2008); 7 (June 2008); 7 (September 2008). Paul R. Ostermeyer and Theodor Ostermayer, Die Ostermayer von Biberach a. d. Riss, Württemberg. Stuttgart, 1931.

Categories:
  • Exploration
  • Explorers (German)
  • Peoples
  • Germans
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature
  • Memoirs, Diaries, Letters, and Travel
Time Periods:
  • Antebellum Texas
Places:
  • Central Texas
  • East Texas
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • Galveston
  • Hill Country and Edwards Plateau Region

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

R. Carson Fisk, “Ostermayer, Heinrich Traugott,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 07, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/ostermayer-heinrich-traugott.

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June 22, 2022
June 22, 2022