Carr, Onzelo & Jannie
Onzelo: September 19th, 1914 - December 16th, 2002;
Jannie: February 18th, 1925 - February 19th, 2018
Farmer, WWII Veteran // Homemaker, Seamstress
Onzelo and Jannie Carr lived in a freedom colony in eastern Bastrop County at the border to Fayette county. The small Black village called "Center Union" had two churches, a school and a community center. Throughout the colony also lived German-Wendish immigrants who owned land and several shops. Property patterns were mixed, and Blacks and Wends were close neighbors in many regards. Some Wends recall the Carrs' ability to speak German. It would fit the biographies: Onzelo was a WWII veteran who had been stationed in Germany. Jannie grew up in Lee County surrounded by Germans. However, family members and Black neighbors say that the Carrs did not speak German. Can the diverging accounts be reconciled? It could be that little German went a long way in Center Union. We also know that other members of the community spoke German.
Below, you can listen to Mike Rehling's recollection of Onzelo speaking German. Mike's aunt Martha owned the Goebel store, and many customers came from the Center Union community. The case of the Carrs reminds us that the perception of language abilities can be tricky - especially, when language use serves as a marker of ethnic identity, and is perhaps limited to specific interactions.