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Kleinpeter Family History

During the reign of LouisXIV, the area along the French and German borders of the Rhine River was in constant turmoil. War, famine, disease, poverty and religious oppression caused as many as fifteen thousand people to leave their homeland. They sought passage to the English colonies of America.

Johann Georg and Gertrude Hetz Kleinpeter of Strassburg, Germany were among those seeking a better way of life for their family in America. They, with their children, left sometime after the year 1759 and settled in Frederic County, Maryland. At that time in England and in the British Colony of Maryland, it was impossible for Catholics to have religious freedom. Subjects who did not practice the faith of the crowned heads had their property confiscated and faced imprisonment.

Meanwhile in the Catholic Louisiana Territory, the first Spanish Governor, Antonio de Ulloa, came to the immense and sparsely populated area in 1766. Seeking settlers, he gladly welcomed the Acadian Catholic Exiles, who had been deported from Acadia in 1755. When word of the large Spanish land grants being given to new Catholic settlers in the Louisiana reached the Acadian and German settlers in Maryland, some of them chose to take their families to this new territory, where they would have the freedom to practice their Catholic faith.

In 1769 sixteen Acadian families, seven German families and six German bachelors sailed on the Ship Bretana to the Port of Orleans. One of these German pioneers was Nicolas Ory, who settled in Iberville Parish. Upon his death three years later, his son and son-in-law returned to Maryland to settle his estate. They enticed other German families in Maryland to make the move to Louisiana with them. Among these were the families of Johann and Gertrude Kleinpeter and Paul and Catherine (Ory) Sharp.

Spanish Documents and family oral and written history tell us of the incredible journey taken by these German pioneers.

They departed their home in Haggerstown, Maryland and travelled to Fort Pitt, Pennsylvania, where they stayed for 5-6 weeks while a barge was built to carry the families down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. They made their departure July 1, 1774 and upon the advice of an Indian guide, they travelled by night to avoid the hostile Indians. Spanish documents list the 21 travellers and their ages. Johann and Gertrude and their ten children made the journey along with Paul Sharp ,his second wife, Catherine and his children. They arrived in the heat of August 1774 and soon most were very sick with fever. Johann and three of his children died soon after arriving in Louisiana.

In a letter to the Spanish governor, Commandant Dustine states that he had tried to offer them land grants in the Lafourche de Chitimancha district, but they steadfastly refused stating that they had come to join their relatives and settle near them. They were given land grants above Bayou Plaquemine where they were, "getting along very well" and had started building a church on November 20.

The Kleinpeter's faith brought them to Louisiana where their close ties with their family helped them to settle the region. They set about the task of farming. They were hard working people. They realized that the location of their original land grants, where the land is only five feet above sea level, left them at the mercy of the flooding of the river.

The men began to clear land on higher ground on the bluffs of the river along Bayou Fountain. They were given new Spanish land grants in that area. After they cleared the land, they brought their families over and built houses. This area became known as the "Dutch Highlands". As one drives along Highland Road today, it is this very land that these settlers cleared so long ago. They were industrious farmers growing both cotton and sugar cane successfully.

To trace the history of the land that is to become The Settlement one must recall the original settlers that travelled by barge in 1774 and see their relationships. Travelling on board with their families were two fourteen year olds that would eventually marry: John Baptiste Kleinpeter, Sr. and Catherine Sharp. These two married July 4, 1781 and went on to have ten children. Catherine's brother, Joseph Sharp, built Mount Hope Plantation on Highland Road. The Sharps and Kleinpeters had neighboring land on the Highlands. Catherine and John Kleinpeter's son, John Jr., married Amelia Sharp, the daughter of Joseph Sharp and Marianne Choquet.

John Jr. and Amelia Sharp Kleinpeter married March 4, 1811. We believe that they built their raised Acadian planter's home around the year 1820. Oral history tells us that the plantation was called Willow Grove. They went on to have nine children.

In 1851 they made an act of donation of 764 arpents of their land on Ward's Creek to two of their sons, William Charles and George. These boys had married sisters, Carmelite and Mary Ann Brown.

The Civil War caused much hardship for these two brothers and their families. William Charles and Carmelite had the tract of land that is where Wimbledon Subdivision is today. They had seven children. William Charles was mustered into service for the Confederacy on May 15, 1862. One of the "East Baton Rouge Invincibles", of 9th Infantry Battalion, he fought in the Battle of Baton Rouge and the Siege of Port Hudson. The 48 day siege is the longest siege in military history. It pitted 30,000 Union troops against 6,800 Confederates. The Confederates were surrounded. Supplies and the reinforcements of fresh troops were cut off. The entrenched men weak and starving, yet they held their positions. They were reduced to eating their starving horses, mules, dogs, birds and rats.

Even their spring had dried up. With the fall of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863 it was finally decided to surrender. On July 9, 1863 a treaty of surrender was signed. The Union troops brought a long line of wagons full of rations into the fort for the starving men. William Charles was paroled as a prisoner of war and sent home. He died soon thereafter. He was 37 years old.

George and Mary Ann Brown Kleinpeter had 12 children, although two died very young. He and Mary Ann lived in the family home and had 6 living children at the start of the Civil War. The Confederate troops came to the farm on July 4, 1862 and "seized for the use of the Confederate States of America 29 bales of cotton." Imagine George's reaction when this same cotton that he had worked and harvested was then "burned to prevent its falling into the hands of the enemy" right in front of him. Perhaps he was told that he would be reimbursed for this sacrifice, that could have easily amounted to a year's income. Nevertheless, he saved the receipt given to him by Captain Krump of Company E Louisiana Rangers and the family still has it to this day.

Five months later some Union soldiers came to the farm on Christmas night and stole two saddles. Mary Ann, who was then 5 months pregnant with her 9th child, made her way to the Provost Marshall to file a complaint. He wrote a note for her to take to Col. Paine, a Union officer, seeking his assistance. (The city of Baton Rouge was under Union occupation at the time.) We still have that note and wonder if Mary Ann and George ever got those saddles back. The Federal Government sent a post card to George in 1878 stating there was an extension of the time allowed for claimants seeking reimbursement of property taken for "actual use of the Federal army". It was also noted that those Claimants who were "loyal to the United States from the beginning to the end of the late war" should "give the matter immediate attention." We're not sure of what type of attention George and Mary Ann gave the matter, but we do know that they kept that post card, and we still have it today. We may have missed the deadline of March 10, 1879, but we are hanging onto these "just in case."

George and Mary Ann went on to have 4 more children.

The youngest of which was Robert Lee Kleinpeter born December 16, 1872. Rob never left the farm. Mary Ann was 81 years old when she died in 1908. When George was too old to work in the field, Rob and Mr. Louis Johnson, a much loved hired hand, carried on without him. Stories are told of how George would ring the dinner bell to call Rob in to eat lunch when he was working in the fields . Sometimes that dinner bell would ring well before noon. Mr. Johnson told us that Rob would say, "Come on, the old man must be getting lonely." and off they would go for a mid-morning lunch and a visit with George. On October 8, 1911 George died at age 91 and was buried in the family cemetery next to Mary Ann.

Everyone must have been surprised when Rob, a bachelor at the age of 49, fell in love with the friendly and out-going New Orleans "city girl" that had come to visit his cousin on the farm next door. Caroline Nowell had befriended Gertrude Kleinpeter and took her up on the offer to come visit in the country. Carrie met Rob and had her picture taken milking a cow. Upon a dare from Gertrude, Carrie mailed that picture to him and wrote on the back, "How's that for an amateur?" Correspondence started. The two were married April 26, 1922.

Rob and Carrie Kleinpeter were the next generation to farm the land and live in the house. Rob was 49 and Carrie was 32 when they married. Carrie set about learning the farm life with great gusto. A family story tells of how the newlywed tried to help her husband by doing one of his chores while he was away. Rob had the task of watering the many heads of cattle by drawing buckets of water from the well. Carried decided to open the "big yard gate" to let the cattle into the area by the well so that she could draw up the buckets and water them herself. The cattle then caused quite a commotion and two bulls began fighting. Undaunted, the city girl shooed them with her broom and stopped the fight. Rob was not very happy with that tale. We think that he was, however, proud of her determination and pluck. We sure are!

Having married late in life, the couple desperately wanted children. They were thrilled when their daughter, Mary Elizabeth was born three years later on February 19, 1925. Not long after a son, Robert Lee Kleinpeter, Jr., was born December 9, 1926. They raised these two through the difficult times of the Depression. This generation had still more challenges to face. Rob died at the age of 68. It was up to Carrie and the children (ages 15 and 13) to run the farm on their own.

As in the previous generation, a war affected the Kleinpeter family. Robert joined the Navy at the age of 17 and served his country in the Pacific. Although separated by war, they persevered and were soon together again. Carrie began work at LSU and was able to see both of her children through college. After approximately 130 years of gas and candlelight the house was wired for electricity after Robert returned from the Service. A new era had begun.

Dr. Mary Elizabeth Kleinpeter graduated from LSU medical school in 1951. She practiced medicine in Mississippi for a number of years. She returned to the family home on weekends and vacations. In the late 1950s Mary Elizabeth moved back to Louisiana and established a family practice in Port Allen. She has an adopted daughter, Sara Anne Caruso. They both love the farm and its history.

Robert Lee Kleinpeter graduated from LSU in 1950. He married Faye Hamilton in 1952. They lived in the family home with their seven children, Rob, Greg, David, Carl, Brian, Amy and Laurie. They built a more modern home on the place in 1966.

Robert always loved the work of the farm and took pride in this tradition. The children loved the freedom of growing up on the farm. There are many a fond memory and funny tale to be told by those five boys and two girls about their years growing up working and playing on the farm.

Robert and Faye's son, Greg, was the first of their children to marry. He and his wife, Donna, moved into the family home in 1978. They have three children. Their children are the sixth generation to live in the house. The family started a tradition of sharing the history and heritage of Willow Grove with the community in the 1980s when they opened the farm for field trips and birthday parties. Many people from Baton Rouge have enjoyed the peaceful country atmosphere and the fun times that country life offers at the farm. The hay rides through the pastures, feeding cattle and a ride past the lovely centuries-old Oak trees surrounding the family cemetery have brought many in our community to love Willow Grove as we do.

Robert Kleinpeter, and his second wife, Brenda Kliesch Kleinpeter, took great pleasure in hosting many of these events up until the time of his death on March 11, 2002. Robert rests in the family cemetery alongside his ancestors who shared in his love for their land.

It is with this much love and respect for our heritage, that we offer the history of Willow Grove. We hope that all those that choose to build a home at The Settlement will also appreciate its beauty, history and heritage. Their families will be a continuation of those early settlers. May they too build many fond memories and peaceful times on our beloved family homestead. Honoring the past paves the way for the future.

This history was written on behalf of the family of Willow Grove:

Dr. Mary Elizabeth Kleinpeter and Sara Anne Caruso and the families of...

  • Robert Lee Kleinpeter,III
  • Thomas Gregory Kleinpeter
  • David Wayne Kleinpeter
  • Carl Michael Kleinpeter
  • Brian Jude Kleinpeter
  • Amy Kleinpeter Grissom
  • Laurie Kleinpeter Laville

The author of this narrative, Laurie Kleinpeter Laville, would like to thank those fellow family members and genealogists that have contributed information of our ancestors to tell their story. Most especially, Mrs. Lynette LeBlanc Kleinpeter author of The Kleinpeter Legacy. Her book is available at the library or may be purchased through her. Various publications about the Kleinpeter Family may be of interest to the reader. The South Baton Rouge Journal published articles in July 1998 and February 2001 that give more details into the history of this pioneering family.


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