Adolphus Sterne is significant in history Nacogdoches for his role as a financier and recruiter in the Texas Revolution. To view or print a brochure about Adolphus Sterne and sites associated with him, please click this link Adolphus Sterne Brochure, or for more information, please continue reading.
Adolphus Sterne, 1824
Adolphus Sterne was born to Emmanuel and Helen Sterne on April 15, 1801 in Cologne, Germany. According to a 1937 letter written to The Daily Sentinel, Sterne was a full-blooded Jew, though Dr. Archie P. McDonald, the editor of Sterne's diary, states that Emmanuel was an Orthodox Jew and Helen was a Lutheran, therefore Adolphus was only half Jewish. Sterne's original religious affiliation is such a debated topic because to become a Mexican citizen, it was necessary for him to join the Catholic church. While he accepted this condition in order to become a citizen, his son Charles, mentions that his father did not take part in some events, such as the baptism of Sam Houston into the Catholic Church, because they fell on Jewish holy days.
When Sterne was sixteen, he worked in a German passport office. Upon finding out that he was going to be conscripted into military service, he forged a passport and left Cologne for the United States. Sterne landed in New Orleans in 1817, where he worked as a store clerk and rose to the level of Worshipful Master and second degree Scottish Rite Mason.
Downtown Nacogdoches, c. 1900
Sterne Arrives in Texas
In 1824 Sterne received an appointment from the Mexican government to sell goods to the soldiers in Nacogdoches. According to the family, Sterne made his way North to Natchitoches where he met Thomas J. Rusk and they proceeded to Nacogdoches, though this is ten years before Rusk's documented arrival in the state.
Sterne opened the Adolphus Sterne General Merchandise Store off of the Plaza Principal in 1826 and sold goods to the Mexican soldiers and increasing numbers of Anglo immigrants. Sterne fit into the mix of cultures in Nacogdoches well, not only because this German immigrant spoke English, but according to multiple articles about Sterne, he also spoke French, Spanish, Portuguese, Yiddish, Latin, and several Native American dialects.
Sterne's mercantile store required him to make frequent trips to Louisiana for business. On one of these trips to Natchitoches, Sterne was introduced to the Bossier family and their adopted daughter, his future wife, Rosine.
Painting of Rosine Sterne located at the Sterne-Hoya House Museum
Sterne empathized with Hayden and Benjamin Edwards and their followers and soon became involved with the Fredonian Rebellion. Sterne used his mercantile store and contacts in New Orleans to smuggle ammunition and weapons in barrels of coffee into Texas to aid the rebels' cause. Upon the defeat of the Fredonians, the Mexican Government in Nacogdoches incarcerated Sterne in the Stone Fort. According to local history, Sterne found that he could remove the old iron bars from the window of his cell and talk with his friends on the outside of the jail. Eventually a friend brought a makeshift ladder, which Sterne climbed down to a waiting horse and a clean change of clothes once his guards had fallen asleep. Every night Sterne cautiously returned to his cell before the guards awoke. Sterne used this tactic to attend dinners and parties. Legend has it that Sterne and his guards once attended the same party and the guards swore that they had seen a ghost, another version of this story is that Sterne and his guards were friendly so both parties agreed that the incident would go unmentioned. This was how Sterne attended the Thomas' Christmas party where he proposed to his future wife Rosine, who answered, "yes," once he got out of jail.
Shortly after that Christmas party, Mexican officials released Rusk from the Nacogdoches jail but kept Sterne imprisoned because they worried that his wealth and connections could help finance an uprising. They sent Sterne first to Matamoros and then to Mexico City where he was held an additional two years while officials tried to make a case against him and try him for treason. The Masons of New Orleans, where Sterne had been a high ranking member, went to the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the State of Louisiana for help in getting their comrade released. In cooperation with U.S. Senators and Congressmen who were also Masons, Sterne was pardoned on the condition that he renew his oath of allegiance to the Mexican government, a condition which he quickly accepted.
After being pardoned from his charges in 1828, Sterne sailed from Matamoros to New Orleans and made his way to Natchitoches to the plantation of Madame Bossier, foster mother of Rosine Rolf. Adolphus and Rosine had written to one another during his imprisonment, but few letters actually had made it through the Mexican security. In spite of the fact that Rosine had never received word that Sterne had been released, he was welcomed in the Bossier home, and he and Rosine quickly married on June 2, 1828, and moved to Nacogdoches. Adolphus and Rosine were married for thirty years and people viewed their marriage as "nearly ideal as possible." The couple had seven children, Eva Helena Eugenia, Charles Adolphus, Joseph Amador, William Logan Placide Rusk, Laura Theresa, and Rosine.
Painting of the Stone Fort
Sterne's Role in the Texas Revolution
Upon returning to Nacogdoches, Sterne worked hard on his business and became one of the wealthiest men in the state. Due to his parole, Adolphus Sterne was unable to actively and openly participate in the coming Revolution, but that did not prevent him from using his resources to aid those who could participate. The Sterne home received many well-known revolutionaries such as David Crockett and Sam Houston. Houston not only lived with them for a while, but also was christened in their home and Rosine Sterne was his godmother when he took his oath of allegiance to Mexico.
Sterne used his business to help aid in the revolution by having guns and ammunition smuggled to him from New Orleans in barrels of coffee beans. This was not the only assistance Sterne had from New Orleans. In 1835, Sterne went to New Orleans to raise a volunteer company, later called the New Orleans Grays, to help the Texans overthrow Mexican rule. Members of the Grays fought and died in Goliad and at the Alamo; only two survived. When the Battle of Nacogdoches began in 1832, a company arrived from San Augustine to aid in the struggle, and Sterne, who lived on the outskirts of town, gave them directions of the best routes to take and what defenses the Mexican troops had set up. The Texans defeated the Mexicans, and chased them beyond the Angelina River. Sterne assisted with burying the Mexican soldiers he considered friends or those who were fellow Masons. The rest of the fallen Mexican soldiers were thrown into any opening, even wells, and quickly covered. One of the wells turned "tombs," was located at The Red House, formerly the headquarters of General Piedras and later the home of Thomas J. Rusk. C.A. Sterne, the son of Adolphus stated "as late as 1845…there was a two foot depression over this old well. These bodies, which were thrown in the wells, were taken from the upper story of the cuartel [barracks], where they were firing at men in the street…so great was the carnage that the bloodstains stayed on the floors for many years. I've seen the stains many times."
Historical Marker for the Bivouac and Banquest for the New Orleans Greys
Many consider the Battle of Nacogdoches to be the first shots of the Texas Revolution, as the actions taken against the Mexican Army in Nacogdoches had a domino effect in the rest of the state. Sterne used his resources to supply and to continue sending reinforcements to the Texan Army and he also took part in negotiations with the Cherokee tribes to make certain there would not be an uprising in East Texas while the Texan Army needed to be focused elsewhere.
"The Treaty" Plaque located at Eugenia Sterne Park
After the revolution, Sterne received this letter from Sam Houston, which was placed in the cornerstone of the state capital.
My Dear Senator,
I wish to thank you in the name of the people of Texas for your efforts in raising, arming, and equipping the cavalry regiment which took such a glorious part in the Battle of San Jacinto.
Sam Houston President
Life After Revolution
Although Charles Sterne recalled fond memories of celebrating the anniversaries of the Texas Revolution, Adolphus's diary only mentioned one party, occasionally mentioned the anniversaries, and one time admits that "nothing doing to commemorate it well." After the Texas Revolution, Adolphus Sterne was very active in the establishment of the new republic. He was a member of the first Legislature of Texas, representative to the Constitutional Convention of 1833, founder of a Masonic Lodge in Nacogdoches, he was the regidor (position in the municipal government), the alcalde interno (interim Mayor), the holder of municipal funds, judge, notary public, clerk of the Board of Land commissioners, justice of the peace, and the Postmaster in 1843. Sterne also commanded a company in the Battle of the Neches in 1839, which forced the Cherokees from East Texas.
Painting of Adolphus Sterne located at the Sterne-Hoya House Museum
As Archie McDonald wrote in his biography of Sterne, "he shared some of the faults of his day, including the keeping of slaves." The 1835 Census lists Sterne as keeping one slave, a woman named Fabita who was thirty-nine years old. The 1850 slave schedule shows an increase in the number of Sterne's slaves from one to five. These slaves are not listed by name but according to the record, they ranged in age from ten to fifty, there were three females and two males, and three were black while the other two were mulatto.
Adolphus Sterne entry on the 1850 Nacogdoches Slave Schedule
Adolphus Sterne died unexpectedly in 1857 in New Orleans, likely due to pneumonia. Sterne was temporarily interred in New Orleans until his family could move him to Oak Grove Cemetery. Rosine lived on as a resident of Nacogdoches for forty more years.
Sterne-Hoya House Museum
The Sterne House was constructed in 1828 on Lanana Creek near where it meets Banita Creek and is one of the few frame structures in its original location in the state, dating back to pre-revolutionary days. The 1837 Tax Roll lists Sterne as the owner of 56,852 acres, valued at $39,281. Adolphus Sterne was very interested in gardening and he dedicated some land to his collection of exotic plants. Sterne's daily diary entries began with the weather, how the crops and plants were doing, work performed in the garden, and whether any mail arrived, unless he was travelling. The north garden was dedicated to flowers, some of which he brought from Louisiana or had imported from France. In the center of the flower garden was a summerhouse covered in morning glories and roses. The south garden was a vegetable garden. The west garden was the orchard, which contained a variety of fruit trees and had a butter bean arbor that Sterne favored as a place to read.
Sterne Land Purchase Document
For more information about the Sterne House visit:
1922 Sanborn Map - Home is shown on Bois D'Arc
In 1982 the Archaeology Department at Stephen F. Austin State University conducted a dig on the Sterne property and found artifacts dating back to late Prehistoric Caddoan and Archaic cultures. Some artifacts found on the site include bricks, ceramics, bottles, marbles, buttons, beads, nails, half of a pair of scissors, a clock key, a bone button, and a shell button.
Excavation site at the Sterne-Hoya House Artifacts found at Sterne-Hoya House excavation - (a) scissors fragment,
(b-e) porcelain doll fragments, (f-g) ceramic pipe bowl fragments,
(h) marble, (i-m) machine cut square nails
Adolphus Sterne's Headstone at Oak Grove Cemetery Masonic Symbol on the back of Sterne's Headstone
Sterne's gravemarker is located south of the main entrance to Oak Grove Cemetery near Thomas J. Rusk's memorial. The marker has a thick marble tablet styled top with a decorative limestone base. The stone was created by Underhill & Co. of Austin, Texas and their name is carved on its base. On the back of the stone is Masonic insignia, an organization that he was a member for most of his life and an affiliation that helped him to gain his freedom from prison. To located Sterne's grave in Oak Grove Cemetery, visit http://preserveamerica.sfasu.edu/OakGrove/ and enter his name into the search.
- Adolphus Sterne, 1824, Find A Grave, www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin-/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=7272531 .
- Downtown Nacogdoches, "Downtown scene in Nacogdoches with many wagons and horses. c. 1900," East Texas Research Center, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas, http://digital.sfasu.edu/cdm/ref/collection/EastTexRC/id/11197 .
- Painting of Rosine Sterne located at the Sterne-Hoya House Museum, 211 South Lanana Street, Nacogodches, Texas.
- Stone Fort Hand Painted, George Louis Crocket Papers, A12, Bundle 1, Folder 5, http://digital.sfasu.edu/cdm/ref/collection/EastTexRC/id/5771, East Texas Research Center, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas.
- Historical Marker Bivouac and Banquet for The New Orleans' Greys located across from Eugenia Sterne Park on Pillar Street, Nacogdoches, Texas.
- "The Treaty" Plaque located at Eugenia Sterne Park, 700 East Main Street, Nacogdoches, Texas.
- Painting of Adolphus Sterne located at the Sterne-Hoya House Museum, 211 South Lanana Street, Nacogdoches, Texas.
- Adolphus Sterne Entry on 1850 Slave Schedule, "United States Census (Slave Schedule) 1850, Nacogdoches," Family Search, pg. 1, https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-267-12391-52628-11?cc=1420440&wc=6145830 .
- Sterne-Hoya House Museum, 211 South Lanana Street, Nacogdoches, Texas.
- Sterne Land Purchase, Lois Foster Blount Papers, 1750-1980, A/107, Box 23, Folder 24, East Texas Research Center, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas.
- Backyard excavations at the Sterne-Hoya House along the W103 line showing A) the well, B) the original fire kitchen fireplace base, C) other fireplace base, Photographs courtesy of Dr. George Avery, Stephen F. Austin State University Anthropology and Archaeology Laboratory.
- Miscellaneous 19th Century artifacts, a) scissors fragment, b-e) porcelain doll fragments, f-g) ceramic pipe bowl fragments, h) marble, i-m) machine-cut square nails, Photographs courtesy of Dr. George Avery, Stephen F. Austin State University Anthropology and Archaeology Laboratory.
- Adolphus Sterne Headstone, Oak Grove Cemetery, Nacogdoches, Texas.
- Masonic Symbol on the back of Adolphus Sterne's Headstone at Oak Grove Cemetery, Nacogdoches, Texas.