German citizens immigrated to Texas in the 1830s to escape economic, social, political and religious problems in their homeland. Johann Friedrich Ernst was the first German to immigrate to America.
Ernst and his followers initially settled in New Orleans. In 1831, he was granted over 4,000 acres in what is now known as Austin County, forming the "German Belt." Germans are the largest ethnic group in Texas of direct European descent. From the 1850s through the 19th century, they comprised more than 5 percent of the Texas population. The 1990 U.S. Census found that 17.5 percent of the Texas population has German ancestry.