The Captain and the Germans
A good part of Laura’s damage in Lake Charles was in a part of town still sometimes called Goosport. It was named for Captain Daniel Johannes Goos, who was one of the pioneers of the southwest Louisiana lumber industry.
He was also responsible, at least in part, for establishing a number of German families in south Louisiana with roots quite different from the ones who settled at Roberts Cove and elsewhere on the prairie to grow rice. These emigres, like Captain Goos (pronounced the same as the more common spelling, Goss), were lumbermen and schooner captains.
Captain Goos was born March 23, 1815 in Wyk, on the Island of Fohr, which was part of the province of Schleswig-Holstein. He came to the United States in 1835, stopping first in Philadelphia, but making his way to New Orleans, where he married 16-year-old Barbara Katrina Moeling in 1846. She was a native of Prussia who had just come with her parents to the city.
He was yet to make his fortune. In a marriage contract dated on the day of their wedding, Katrina declared that she “brings into the marriage the sum of $2,000.00 cash.” He declared that he brought to the marriage “no property whatever.” That would change.
He and his young bride moved to Biloxi. For several years he made his living furnishing firewood for steamboats that ran between Biloxi and New Orleans. He’d set up a sawmill at nearby Ocean Springs by 1855, when he heard about the huge pine forests of southwest Louisiana and the fortunes that could be made there. He promptly loaded everything he owned, including three steam-powered saws, onto his first schooner, the Lehmann, and headed west.
He established his mill on the Calcasieu River a little more than a mile north of the young village of Lake Charles. There, he began cutting timber and building a fleet of schooners to carry his milled lumber to Galveston. According to several accounts, he eventually brought ten shipbuilders from Fohr to build and sail his boats.
He became successful enough that southwest Louisiana historian Donald Millet concluded that “if any one man is to be singled out as the ‘father’ of the Calcasieu lumber industry, that man would certainly be Daniel J. Goos.” By some accounts he became the wealthiest man in the region.
He seems to have regularly brought workers from his homeland as his fleet and his fortune grew.
The Lake Charles Echo reported in April 1871 that “Capt. Goos and his Lady paid a visit to their native land, Germany — and whilst there, the Captain enlisted quite an army of his countrymen to come over with him. … “These newcomers … seem to be well pleased with their homes, and express themselves delighted with the country.”
A few months later, in January 1872, the Echo noted that “the little steamer ‘Cassie,’ belonging to Capt. Daniel Goos, arrived here from Galveston, with about fifty or sixty … emigrants, direct from Germany.”
The Echo’s editors seemed to like the newcomers. “They are an honest and industrious class of people and will develop the resources of this lovely, healthy, and beautiful portion of Louisiana,” the account continued. “There is ample territory in Calcasieu Parish to locate at least thirty thousand German families.”
When he died in 1898 at the age of 83, a eulogist wrote that Captain Goos’s married life “was exceptionally happy and fruitful.” The fruitful part was certainly true.
Daniel and Katrina were parents of fifteen children, five sons and ten daughters, and they did their part in keeping a bit of the German culture in south Louisiana. Several of the daughters married men with German surnames such as Funk, Wachsen, and Jessen, and between them the entire Goos brood presented the Captain and his Lady with about fifty grandchildren.
One of those grandchildren was my grandmother, née Fitzenreiter, who always responded in German when my other grandmother, née Vincent, spoke to her in French.
A collection of Jim Bradshaw’s columns, Cajuns and Other Characters, is now available from Pelican Publishing. You can contact him at email@example.com or P.O. Box 1121, Washington LA 70589.