Monday, July 6, 2009

How Johann Heinrich Wilheim Kleibring Geldmeier became Enrique Kleibring

Foto Courtesy Kleibring archive, property of Edna Comas, MA

Recently, I encountered another Babilonia relative, a descendant from Tomas Babilonia's line- which made me think about Johann Heinrich Wilheim Kleibring Geldmeier, better known in Puerto Rico as Enrique Kleibring.

Kleibring was born in Oppensdorf in Lubeck in Westphalia Province, Germany on 1 May 1830. Like many relatives, he died of tuberculosis on 5 Feb 1890 in Moca, Puerto Rico, at the relatively young age of 59. His son in law, Tomas Babilonia, reported the death to the Registro Demografico before Judge Antonio Quiros Perez and secretary d. Juan Nepomuceno Miranda.

Kleibring's brief diary has details about his arrival in Puerto Rico. This document, El Diario de Viaje de Heinrich Kleibring was inherited by Edna Comas, MA, directly from her grandmother, Sarito Babilonia Kleibring, Heinrich Kleibring's granddaughter. Ms. Comas has done much to preserve her family's history, and appreciate her willingness to share some of these details with me.

Kleibring departed Germany on the ship Gesina in May 1830 and arrived that June in Puerto Rico to find employment as an ironworker. He worked a year on the Hacienda Maria Josefa owned by Charles Schomburg, and then entered into a partnership with Juan Schroeder, after which he took over the workshop in 1859. What he assembled there later became part of the Central Coloso. He worked there until 1867, when he sold the workshop to the firm of Segura and Robers. Anselmo Vive of Aguadilla, was his apprentice and later became a friend. Also mentioned is Federico Schroder, also born in Oppendorf and a schoolmate, who arrived on the same ship with Kleibring.

From Ramon Lopez, Kleibring purchased the machinery from the Hacienda Buena Esperanza for his Hacienda Enriqueta. Part of these lands probably comprised the former Hacienda Las Palmas, once owned by Jose de Quinones and his descendants. On the land of the Hacienda Enriqueta he built a Criollo colonial style home with hipped roof and balustrades that surrounds the upper level. As for the labor force needed to support the family and business, it required slaves and jornaleros (day laborers). [For more on hacienda housing, see Carol F. Jopling's Puerto Rican Houses in Sociohistorical Perspective. Knoxville: U Tenn. Press, 1988] It is not known if lists for the people who worked the Enriqueta are extant.

On Saturday 11 April 1868 he married Maria de los Dolores Sotomayor Riollano (6 Aug 1851-21 Jul 1884, Moca) when he was 33 and she 17. After her death in 1884, he did not remarry. They only had one daughter, Enriqueta Nicanora Kleibring Sotomayor, born in 1870, who married Tomas Babilonia Talavera in 1888. He lived with his daughter's family until his death at Hacienda Enriqueta in Barrio Palmar. Hacienda Enriqueta, which he named for his daughter, was sold to sugar magnate and financier Alberto Esteves Volkers in 1925, who restored and expanded the property in subsequent decades until 1950, when Esteves moved to Aguadilla. It was sold again in 1967 to Dr. Eleuterio Loperena, who restored the building and maintains Hacienda Enriqueta as a museum.

Enrique Kleibring Geldmeier was part of the history of 19th century German immigration to Puerto Rico. Literate and possessed of mechanical and business skills, he quickly learned Spanish and integrated himself into the early years of the industrial growth of the sugar industry. He never returned to Germany.

You can see a panorama of the ruins of the Central Coloso here

There's also a history of the Central Coloso in Spanish

Link on the Hacienda Enriqueta:

"La presencia germanica en Puerto Rico" by Haydee Reichard de Cancio, PhD:

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