Matthaeus Kneschk Gravemarker

Mattheaus Kneschk Marker
Mattheaus Kneschk Marker

Hier ruht in Frieden
Jan Matej Knéžka
Johann Matthaeus Kneschke
John Matthew Kneschk
geboren am 5. März, 1833 in Weisswasser, Preussen
gestorben am 9. Januar 1909 in Sagerton, TX

The accompanying photo is of the grave marker my brother and I made for our Wendish immigrant ancestor, Matthaeus Kneschk, who led his family to Texas in 1877 from Weisswasser, Prussia.

Arriving as most did with little other than the clothes on their back, after settling first near Serbin and then for a time in Williamson County, they migrated in 1904-05 to the newly developed town of Sagerton in Haskell County, drawn by the cheap land made available by the laying of railroad tracks through the region. The site of his grave had been lost until a relative, Norman Kneschk, shared its location with me. In digging the holes for the marker posts, I uncovered the lone brick that had served as his original headstone, a testament to the hardship and poverty they endured.

The marker is made from mesquite wood with cedar posts from the homeplace, the farm which my grandfather, Emil Wolsch (Mattheaus’ grandson), pieced together from the first homesteaders after returning from service in World War I. The rocks at the base of the marker are also from the home place, which lies on the bank of the Double Mt. Fork of the Brazos River near Neu Brandenburg (Old Glory) in Stonewall County. Fairview Cemetery, so named because it overlooks the Double Mt. Fork, is about three miles from Old Glory. Emil’s father, August Wolsch, immigrated with Matthaeus’ family and later married Matthaeus’ daughter, Augusta. Matthaeus is buried next to them.

The Bible verses used for the text (Deuteronomy 1:6-8 and 11:8-9; Genesis 46:1-5; Hebrews 11:9, 13, 16; Numbers 33:8) were chosen to reflect the fear Matthaeus must have felt – illiterate and lacking financial means – as he uprooted his family and moved them across an ocean into the unknown. Encountering the unforgiving climate of the Rolling Plains, where summer heat and drought routinely shrivels crops to a crisp, no doubt his faith sustained him as he and his family adapted to their new home.

As a Wend from Weisswasser, he spoke a dialect of Upper Sorbian. Dr. Heinz Richter, a professor of Sorabistik Studies at the University of Leipzig, provided the Upper Sorbian spelling of his name while Trudla Malinkowa, affiliated with the Sorbian Institute and author of “Shores of Hope”, provided the German and Upper Sorbian translations. I am indebted to both and appreciate them for taking the time to help me with this project.