William Ernest Lipps was born as Ernst Lips on 7 June 1824 in a little town in Germany by the name of Gottsbüren in the province of Hesse Cassel. 1
The godfather of Ernst was Johan George Niemeyer, his grandfather. Ernst was baptized on 13 June 1824 when he was one week old.2 His father was Johan Christoph Ludwig Lips, a linen weaver, and his mother was Catharina Elisabeth Niemeyer.3
Ernst had one brother, Carl Frederich Lips, born 19 December 1826 in Gottsburen.4 His godfather was Carl Blankenberg. Carl Frederich lived only a few months, dying 2 March 1827. Their mother, Catharina Elisabeth soon died on 1 April 1827. Ernst went to live with his grandparents, Johan George Niemeyer and Ann Catherina Engel Niemeyer. With the death of his grandmother in 1835 5 when Ernst was approximately 10 years old, he had to live with his father and stepmother.
Johan Christoph Ludwig had married Anna Maria Godicke in 1828 when Ernst was four years old. Johan and Anna had six children together, four living to adulthood. But Anna was very mean to Ernst. He had to steal his food to keep from starving. So when Ernst was 15 years old he decided to run away.
During the years between 1830 and 1880 many people from Gottsburen and surrounding villages were immigrating to America. A few were already there as soldiers during the Independence War between 1776 and 1783. They, after returning to Gottsburen, must have told about the unlimited possibilities in America, which many families had seen as their only way to escape from the very difficult times during the early years of the 19th century.
In 1839 he stowed away on a sailing vessel bound for New York.6 He was discovered after three days at sea. The captain said it was too late to take him off the ship. He worked as a cabin boy for fare.
He found favor with the captain who delivered him to a German settlement in New York. He couldn't speak a word of English. He evidently knew he had an uncle in New York by the name of Charles Niemeyer whom he found.7
At first he got a job selling newspapers on the streets of New York. The other paperboys called him "Dutch Billy" which he hated. He learned to speak the English language in less than six months. He had only one given name, Ernst, which he hated so he decided to add William and changed the spelling of Ernst to Ernest, giving himself the name William Ernest Lips.8 He may have chosen William because it was the English spelling of Wilhelm, the German name given his younger step-brother, Wilhelm Heinrich Lips. It is also possible that Wilhelm was the name of a godfather, as it was not unusual at the time to have several godfathers. It was customary to be named for a godfather. In all known records of him, he is listed as William Ernest, Wm. E. or W.E. Lips or Lipps. He was a self-made man, self-educated and never went to an American school.
Later he bound himself out and served a four year apprenticeship learning to make boots and shoes.9
At some point before 1850, William Ernest and his uncle, Charles Niemeyer, came to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. There he continued to work as a shoemaker while his Uncle Niemeyer worked as a carpenter. 10
On 30 May 1850 William Ernst marries Mary Harriet Cringle.11
Mary Cringle was born about 1835 in New York. It is thought she was Pennsylvania Dutch which is German.
She was left an orphan when a little girl and lived with an older sister in Louisiana until she was fifteen years old at which time he met and married William Lips.,12
Soon after their marriage, around 1851, William and Mary came to Texas. At this time thousands of German immigrants were coming to Texas. Many came through the port of Indianola brought by Prince Carl Solms-Braunfels who promised land grants. Perhaps this is one reason Ernst came to Texas. But this project was a disaster. In 1850 residents of DeWitt County where Ernst lived numbered 1,716. Concrete and Price's Creek were principal areas of settlement. By 1857 nearly half of the county's population were Germans.13
Ernst established a ferry boat at Hell Gate near Cuero in DeWitt County. Their first born child, Richard, was born in Hell Gate in 1852. (There may have been another child born before Richard who died in infancy.) Several other children were born in Hell Gate, Charles born about 1853 and Aryanna A. born September 1855.
The ferry operated at Hells Gate was located in a section of the Guadalupe River northwest of Cuero. It was considered dangerous because of the treacherous deep holes and jetting rocks. At one place, two rocks extended out from the bank in the river with a passage way or entrance between them. This was the named, Hells Gate. 14
| The State of Texas Personally appeared before me W.A. Blair|
DeWitt County of the District Court for said County and the State
William E. Lips, and who after being duly sworn as Law direct, upon his oath, states that he was born on the 6th of June A.D. 1825 in Gottsbüren Germany from whence he emigrated to the State of Texas one of the States of the United States of North America in the year 1839 in the month of October and that since he emigrated he has remained a resident of the United States, and of the state of Texas four years last past; and that it is his bone fine intention to become a citizen of the United States of Americaand that he doth absolutely renounce all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign Prince, Potentate, State of Sovereignty and in particular to the Duke of Hesse Cassel Prince of Germany whereof he is now a subject
Sworn to Subscribed
Before me this 1st day of
November A.D. 1857
In the 1860 Federal Census of DeWitt County, Texas, William is working as a ferryman. His ferry known as the Lip's Ferry was established at Hochheim in 1862.15 For some unknown reason, Mary is not listed with the family on this census. There are four children at home, Richard age 10, Charles age 7, A.A. (Aryanna) age 4 and E.D. (Elizabeth Doretta) age 2.16 Born after this census is taken is Sally Abigal born 17 Aug 1860.
In 1870 William is making shoes again. They are still living in DeWitt County, in or near the town of Clinton, the county seat at the time. There are seven children at home. Richard is not with the family and is assumed has died between 1860 and 1870. The census lists William's age as 45 and Mary's age as 35. Charles, now the oldest is 17 years old, Aryanna is 15, Elizabeth is 12, Sally A is 10, John is 7, Fred is 4 and Nancy Catherine who was born in Hocheim 9 February 1869. Also boarding with them is Jacob Lawrence, a ferryman age 33.17
When ready made boots and shoes came on the market, William Ernst established a windmill at Concrete, a small community between Cuero and Yoakum and made flour and meal.18
After the windmill in Concrete failed, he moved his family to Hocheim where he built and operated another ferry boat. He also built one in Gonzales.19
On 24 June 1874, Aryanna marries Martin Broer.20 William had sent a note written on a small piece of paper, to the County Clerk of DeWitt County by Martin Broer. It read, on one side, "To the County Clerk of DeWitt County," On the other side was written, "Gonzales, June 24, 1874, Mr. Boston, This is Mr. Martin Brewer, Please give him the document he will want. Yours very respectfully, William E. Lips." The note is attached to the marriage license of Martin Broers and Aryanna Lips.
It wasn't until 1873 that the first bridge was built, a wooden truss near Cuero. Later by 1889 four iron bridges had been built near Cuero and Hochheim.21 But William continued to work as a ferryman through 1880 living in DeWitt County. The youngest children which included Fred age 14, Nannie age 11, Mollie age 9, and Nettie age 7, all in school, were listed on the 1880 census. Sally Abby and Uriah Owen, a dentist, had recently married on 21 April 1880 and were living with them at the same residence.22
Not much is known of the family for the next ten years but it is believed that Mary died around 1891.23 She died after an illness that some of the descendents describe as "creeping paralysis," which caused her to be beddridden. It was described by others as "...a stroke that paralyzed her throat so she couldn't swallow." Bess Taylor, youngest daughter of Otis Lips, remembers her father taking her as a child."...to the cemetery where his mother was buried." It was near Cuero and the river, but the cemetery was grown up in weeds even then, and they were not able to find the grave. Her burial was probably in the town of Clinton." 24 A letter from Katie W. Ward, daughter of Nannie Lipps and William Johnston says her grandmother died when she was a baby. She heard that her grandmother was a sweet person, quiet and very reserved. She died young. 25
William is listed as a widower in the 1900 census. He is living with his daughter, Nannie and son-in-law, William W. Johnston28 who in 1902 became sheriff of Gonzales County27 and their two children Kate and Ernest on Waters Street in Gonzales. His occupation is beekeeper. Also living with them is Otis B., the youngest son of William. In the house next door are living another daughter, Nettie Patterson and her husband W. H. and their children Earl and Inez.28
William died in the Johnston home on 26 October 1909. His granddaughter, Katie W. Ward says that her grandfather lived with she and her mother and father from the time she was a little girl until she was seventeen. He was feeble for years and she and her mother nursed him until his death. He was a wonderful person. She loved him dearly. He was a real Christian, studied and read his Bible everday and really lived a Christian life.29
His obituary was published in the Gonzales Inquier Newspaper:
"Died, Tuesday morning at 9:45 o'clock in the home of his daughter, Mrs. W. W. Johnston, Mr. W. E. Lipps, aged 85 years, four months and nineteen days. The interment will be made in the I.O.O.F. cemetery this afternoon at 5 o'clock. Rev. L. L. Williams conduction the services.
The funeral cortege will move from the residence of Sheriff and Mrs. Johnston. The active pallbearers are Messrs. W. H. Kokernot, N. D. Cone, Sanders White, N. P. REid, F. M. Hampton and R. F. Nixon. Honorary pallbearers--A. W. Harmon, John Steen, Sr., Jim Schwab, John Dubnose, Sr., H. C. Davis, G. N. Dilworth, J. W. Nixon, J. P. Randle, W. N. Lawley, R. K. Wyatt, H. K. Wood, J. H. Freeman, W. B. Green, Chas. F. Clark, L. M. Kokernot. Descendent came to this country from Germany, landing in New York abou5 56 years ago and has lived in this county since that time, where he raised a large family ofr seven daughters and four sons, all of whom survive him with the exception of Charlie Lipps, who died in Eagle Pass, and Mrs. Libbie Broer.
The nine children surviving him are Mrs. W. W. Johnston, Mrs. J. A. Crawford of this City, Mrs. J. W. Dismukes, Mrs. W. W. Patterson of Texaco, Mr. John Lipps of Anthony, N. M., Mrs. A. J. Martin of Brownwood, Mr. Fred Lipps of Mexico, and Mr. Otis Lipps of Gonzales. The Inquirer extends sympathy to the bereaved family in the loss of their venerable father."30Children of William Ernest Lipps