About Detlef Dunt:
In 1832 Friedrich Ernst, an early German emigrant in Texas, wrote a letter back to family and friends in the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg extolling the virtues of Texas and inviting them to join him and his family across the sea. The letter created a sensation and caught the attention of one Detlef Thomas Friedrich Jordt. Jordt, a man of some means, decided to travel to Texas to see for himself if Ernst’s glowing praise of Texas was credible. In 1833 he made the trip and after many difficulties arrived at Ernst’ settlement, which he had named Industry, on Mill Creek in Austin County. Jordt remained with Ernst for several months and then returned to Germany to author (under the pen name Detlef Dunt) the first book about Texas by someone who actually had first-hand knowledge of the then Mexican province. The book, which begins by reproducing Ernst’ letter, is a delightful collection of observations concerning the social and political morays of the Anglo colonists in Texas, the climatic and physical geography of the area, the possibilities for agriculture, and the practical, day to day requirements of a future emigrant. Dunt, an educated, well-rounded, and no-nonsense German from the patrician class of Northern Germany, basically seconds Ernst’s favorable assessment and thus the book amplifies the influence of Ernst’ letter. This initiates a process of chain emigration that over time influences many thousands of German emigrants to seek new home and community on the quasi frontier of South Central Texas, leaving a demographic and cultural stamp that persists to the present.
About the book:
Anders Saustrup translated Detlef Dunt’s Reise nach Texas. Anders, a transplanted Dane, had met a Texas girl in Denmark after World War II and followed her to Texas.His wife hailed from a renowned family of Texas German educators and civic leaders, the Trenckmann family. Anders was a true eccentric, but few if any had a broader knowledge of Texas German history and culture. Anders signed a contract with the University of Texas Press to do an annotated translation of the Detlef Dunt’s delightful and significant little book in the late 1990s. By the time of his death in 2006, he had completed the translation (and it is masterful), but had not yet completed the introduction or annotations.
Anders served as my mentor for my first book, Nassau Plantation. (See the ‘about’ tab for more on this.) I thought it was important that Anders translation make its way into print. I spoke with both UT Press and his sons, got a copy of the unfinished manuscript and set about making it ready for publication. In the meantime I had met a Norwegian scholar, Geir Bentzen, who had a broad knowledge of Texas history and was fluent in both English and German. I invited Geir to join me in the project and he was a great addition. With his knowledge of Scandinavian languages, he was able to research Danish archives that had recently become available online. He uncovered a lot of fresh material about Jordt (Dunt), who had family ties to Denmark as well as Northern Germany that had been unavailable to Anders.
The two of us worked on an in-depth introduction and extensive endnotes. We also included a bibliographical essay of early German language writings about Texas.
As one of the first published descriptions of Texas from this time period in general, Dunt’s book clearly has a broader significance than the story of Germans in Texas. It helps us to a fuller understanding and appreciation of this period of Texas history. This broader significance helps to explain the favorable reception of the book, which included a nice review in Texas Monthly, and why the book sold out within a week of its release in June 2015.
The book is available from University of Texas Press and Amazon. An audio version will soon be made available through Amazon.