Benton County Missouri GenWeb  
German Immigration 1830-1850 by Ewald Albers of Zeven, Germany (translation by Hella Albers)
Only 8.5 ounces of drinking water a day When immigrants were nothing but ship’s freight More than six million people left Germany during the last 200 years. Most of them went to the United States to begin their new life. Many immigrants mastered their fates by initiative, economy and industry. With justifiable pride they very frequently reported about their success to friends and relatives left behind. Those who had less success did not write as often, sometimes never. Sometimes they did not give their first sign of life until after years as those who were unlucky did not want to describe their bad situation; it would not have matched the image of the land of opportunity. After their arrival in the US, the immigrants would rather write about how the passage had been. This often contained bad messages and one would think that this should have prevented many people of even considering emigration. Especially the period between 1830 to 1850 saw news that can only be described as horror news. During the era, a passage on a sailing ship took 45 to 60 days, depending on the weather. The freight boats transported coffee, rice, tobacco, cotton and other goods from America to Europe. On their way back, they "exported" people. The cargo compartments were broken down to steerages by means of wooden boards in order to have capacity for as much "freight" as possible. A traveller described the quarters as follows: "The ship had 28 beds, each four ells (about 7 feet) wide and three ells (about 5 ½ feet) long. Five people were to sleep in each bed. However, only four could sleep there at a time. So I almost always slept on a crate. As soon as the ship was at sea, I tied myself to the crate with ropes so I could not be thrown off." The immigrants very often complained about the bad treatment by the crew, feeling treated as cattle. Bad food was complained about very often. "The provisions were bad, the way they were fixed even worse. The bread had presumably made several journeys. It was not until the last eight days when the old bread had been eaten that we got better bread. The pork was completely spoilt even though better pork was in store for we got good pork during the last week. The water used for cooking was comparable to manure regarding dirtiness, color and smell and must have been bad already when it was taken aboard for the drinking water stayed good, but everyone got only a quarter" (less than 8.5 fluid ounces). Even though the Bremen Senate tried to achieve improvements the stated defects remained for a long time. We probably could have read similar sentences by the passengers of the brig Carl Ferdinand had their letters been kept in their old homeland. This sailing ship arrived in the port of Baltimore on August 4, 1837, coming from Bremerhaven. Several of the passengers reached Cole Camp in Missouri by land. Of the 110 steerage passengers whose names are given (the entries about the other passengers could not be deciphered), 78 came from the Zeven/Bremervörde area: The Claus Müller family of six (6) and his parents- in-law Blancken as well as Elisabeth Peper came from Glinstedt, Johann Ficken from Langenhausen, Johann Brockmann and Hinrich Brauer from Friedrichsdorf, Christoph Meier, Hinrich Meier, Johann Meier and Jacob Harms from Ostereistedt, Johann Jagels and a Mr. Viebrock (a carpenter) from Selsingen, Christian Meier from Apensen, Hinrich Stürmann from Elsdorf, Friedrich Steffens from Frankenbostel, Hinrich Dittmer from Sottrum. The Carl Köhncke family (5) as well as Jacob Bögel and August Wechselberg came from Zeven, Johann Dierck Otten from Brüttendorf, Johann Christian Balster and Wilhelm Niclaus Hoops from Oldendorf, Johann Dohrmann from Brümmerhof, Tibke Blohm from Bülstedt, Gerhard Gerken from Westertimke, Hinrich Harms from Hanstedt, the Hinrich Holsten (4) and Peter Knoop families (4) from Breddorf, the Claus Otten (6) and Johann Gerken families (3) as well as Peter Haase from Hepstedt, the Cord Gerken family (6) and Gesine Böschen from Tarmstedt, two Bremer families (5) from Seebergen, the Hinrich Göhrs family (5) as well as Metta Pape and Johann Gottlieb Backhaus from Grasdorf, the Johann Schröder family (6) from Dannenberg and Johann Kücks from Adolphsdorf. The journey of the Gerken family of Tarmstedt presumably ended tragically: The cabinet maker Cord Gerken, who had been born in Ostertimke, and his wife Metta Rodenburg Gerken as well as five children left but only the father and the children arrived in Baltimore. The mother most probably is included in the 1 % of the passengers who died at sea. The age and occupation of the passengers has been recorded. Most men are farmers but we also find shoemakers, tailors, glaziers, cabinet makers, carpenters, smiths, millers, harnessmakers, brewers and weavers. Single girls are recorded as "servants". The ships agents in the bigger places in the Bremervörde/Zeven area probably bought passages for groups when they knew of enough people willing to emigrate. It is for this reason that the passenger lists of the ships very often show a local focus. The ship party usually ended in the port of arrival. From then on, everyone was on their own again. There are no files about where the immigrants went to. However, during the last years we begin to learn more about them as we hear of their descendants. These pieces of information show that the steerage passengers ended up across the whole United States in smaller and bigger groups. Several families went to different places before settling down for good on the vast continent. The passenger lists to the North American ports are currently being printed. This way, people who are interested can find out more as reading the old handwriting is no longer an obstacle. However, there are not only the errors in hearing and spelling mistakes from the original lists but also mistakes have been made while copying the lists.