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
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.