Unit Served: Texas 20th Infantry
John Andrew Geupel (pronounced GUY-PULL) was born in Wunsiedel, Bavaria (Germany) on the 18th of April in the year 1829 under the family name Johann Andrew Geupel. The death of his parents sent him to an orphanage where he learned the skills of a Tinner. Out to see the New World, John was 19 years old when he boarded a transatlantic sailing ship, The Magdalena across the Atlantic. Four weeks later, the ship docked in New York harbor at Castle Garden wharf. The date was May 21st 1848 when John stepped off the gangplank and made his first step on American soil.
After a visit with his brother in Evansville, Indiana, John began his life long search for land and opportunity. It was his WONDERING YEARS and it took John until the year 1852 to reach the port city of New Orleans in Louisiana. He worked in Tin Shops along the way to pay his fare and see the country. His skills as a Tinner had improved and a fledgling new frontier, – known as Texas, – needed his talents. He followed other Germans across Texas to find work at a Tin Shop in Waco Village on the Brazos River. Then in 1857, a better offer came from the Rogers Plantation near the small town of Marlin. Its where he met Sarah Atline Griffin, a full blood Cherokee Indian.
News came that Yankee invasion forces had taken New Orleans and the entire state of Louisianan fell to the enemy. It was April of 1862 (a full year after the Civil War had begun) and the deaths of soldiers and civilians at the battle of New Orleans frightened them. Soon, their fears were warranted when a Yankee blockade encircled Galveston Island. Men banded into volunteer troops to fight against the Yankee invasion and protect the Texas homeland. Without hesitation, John joined them. He enlisted in the Confederate Infantry under Elmore’s Company F – of the Texas 20th Regiment.
In the homes around Marlin, wives of the soldiers’ gathered in groups to sew uniforms, darn socks, and ready the men for battle. It was these same cupids in her sewing group who played matchmakers pairing John and Sarah together. As the story goes, John and Sarah became engaged in an old fashioned tradition. Confederate uniforms were a butternut color made from the stain of walnut shells. Of course, the walnuts also stained the ladies’ fingers. Young couples seen courting were considered formally engaged if her fingers were stained the same color as his uniform. But it wasn’t matching colors that engaged them in holy matrimony. The cupids were too late. Earlier, John had proposed, and Sarah had already accepted his hand in marriage.
John was marched off to war to fight the Battle of Galveston on The Strand, January 1st, 1863. The battle against superior Union forces was turned in the favor of the Confederates by Major Magruder’s ingenious battle-plan, the fighting strength of the men, and two small Cottenclads. While John and the infantry kept the Yankee’s occupied on the beachhead, Magruger’s Cottonclads launced their surprise attack from the rear. And, it worked. This heroic campaign defeated the Union to preserve Galveston and save the lives of many Texans for years to come. John was mustered out of the Confederacy in May of 1865 near Harrisburg in what is today, Houston, Texas. John and Sarah were married Christmas Eve, 1865, eight months after John was discharged from the Confederate Infantry. They moved to Cleburne, Texas along with Sarah’s daughter from a previous marriage, Marie Francis McCant. John and Sarah had four children, all of whom were born in Cleburne. John’s search for land took him to Palo Pinto County, where others feared to go west of the Brazos River. Hostile Comanche Indians in the mid 1870s had folks afraid to move in the area. Those few brave souls included John and Sarah and built their home and settled in what was called, The Live Oak Community.
John set up his tin shop in the near-by town of Santo providing tinware pots, pans, and utensils on the Texas frontier. Again, Texas needed John’s services but this time as a Tinner. If folks couldn’t afford to pay him, John traded for what they had, which was often an article he didn’t need. But folks depended on him, and John served the Live Oak Community for many years.
Much like the early fate that befell his parents, tragedy struck John again, when his beloved, Sarah, passed away September 7th, 1886. She was only 53 years old. It isn’t known what caused her death. In the following years, John lived with his daughters’ families. He rode a horse from the Miller’s home, in Santo, to the Taylor’s home in The Live Oak Community. He did this on a rotating basis staying with one a while and then the other. The trail was traveled so many times that when Grandpa Geupel lost his eyesight, the old horse took him back and forth without his guidance. Family members attested to his good-natured ways, and when things didn’t go his way, he simply stated, ‘It don’t make no hoot.’ At the time of his death, Oct 22nd 1919, Grandpa Geupel was 90 years old. He was buried next to his beloved wife, Sarah, in Landreth Cemetery in what he called, the New World of the Live Oak Community, in Palo Pinto County, Texas.
A long time ago, – when John Geupel stepped off the wharf, – on that bright Spring day in New York harbor, – little did he know that his first footprint on American soil would begin the Geupel family dynasty that has lasted more than 150 years.