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Texas

The population of Texas skyrocketed recently (from 9 000 000 in 1960 to 26 000 000 today) and Lithuanians were among many migrants the state attracted. Many of them are Lithuanian Americans who moved in from the north. These are however new trends and the massively growing Texan cities lack old Lithuanian churches, schools or memorials.

However it has been little known that the first Lithuanians moved in to Texas in mid-19th century, soon after the Mexican-American war. They moved in from then-German-ruled Lithuania Minor rather than the Russian-occupied and more economically backwards Lithuania-proper (where serfdom still existed and migration was thus hampered). Having been raised in a German-dominated society these Lithuanians then integrated into German American communities (although their surnames still told of their Lithuanian origins). Together with Germans they also shared a migration goal: to find empty land lots in Texas, after a long journey by ship and then on foot into the interior.

Some descendents of the early Lithuanian Texans funded a memorial plaque in Yorktown after they had learned of their origins through genealogical research. This is one of just a few Lithuanian-related plaques in the USA and, interestingly, it is located in a town where 2001 census counted 0 Lithuanians (37% report German ancestry). The plaque reads: "Lithuanians in Texas. Among the many European immigrants arriving in Texas in the mid-19th century was a small group of Lithuanians who settled in the Yorktown vicinity of De Witt County. Due to their eventual assimilation with the numerous German immigrants in the area, the Lithuanians and their contributions to the history of this region were overlooked for generations. Records reveal that the first Lithuanian family to settle in this area probably was that of David and Dora (Scholze) Stanchos. They arrived about 1852, making them among the earliest documented Lithuanian immigrants to America. By 1874 they were joined by about 70 more immigrants, most from the province of Gumbinnen in what was then part of east Prussia. Leaving their homeland for a variety of religious and political reasons, the Lithuanians arrived in Texas primarily through the ports of Galveston and Indianola. Establishing farms in the area, the Lithuanians became American citizens and contributed to the history and culture of this area. Men from the community fought on both sides of the American Civil War. A small graveyard south of Yorktown known as Jonischkies Cemetery contains the interments of many of these early settlers.".

Notes: the original Lithuanian surnames of David and Dora Stanchos were likely Dovydas Stančius and Dora Stančienė. The original versions of other anglicized or germanized Texan Lithuanian surnames are: Kirlikas (Kirlikcs), Mertinas (Mertine), Lundšėnas (Lundschen), Ragošius (Ragoszus), Joniškis (Jonischkies), Gelžius (Gelszus), Lenkaitis (Lenkeit), Mastaitis (Mosteit), Vaičys (Weichies), Vaišvila (Weischvill), Gudaitis (Guddaitis).

Gumbinnen is the German name of a town known in Lithuanian as Gumbinė. In 1945 this town and surrounding areas were occupied by the Soviet army, its inhabittants (both Germans and Lithuanians) murdered or expelled and then replaced by Russians. The town was renamed Gusev after a Russian communist who died there.

A film about the old Texas Lithuanians.

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