Barbara Mehlheimer’s Letter: A Daughter Found, Photos and a Family Reunited – 52 Ancestors #308

Barbara Mehlheimer (1823-1906) married George Drechsel, apparently twice, once in Germany and once after their arrival in the US. They raised 6 children in Aurora Indiana, the eldest born in 1848 in Germany before their arrival, and the youngest born in 1862 a decade after their arrival.

I wrote about Barbara Mehlheimer and George Drechsel in their own stories back in 2016. When I publish these articles, it’s always with the hope that someplace, someday, somehow they will connect with the right person. Yes, the articles are cousin-bait. Over the years, these articles have been wonderfully effective. It always makes me feel good to provide another researcher with well-documented information.

I’d be fibbing if I told you my motives are entirely altruistic. They aren’t. From time to time, one of those cousins or a complete stranger has something absolutely wonderful to share with me.

Ernest Lent III, my newest cousin, found me recently by posting a comment on an earlier article. He descends from Barbara and George’s lost daughter, baptized as Teresa Maria Drechsel, known better as Mary. Born December 28, 1862, she was living and working at the Kirsch House in Aurora, Indiana in the 1880 census.

The Kirsch House, something akin to a hotel or B&B with rooms to rent, a restaurant and bar, located beside the train depot in the photo above, was owned by Mary’s sister Barbara Drechsel and her husband, Jacob Kirsch.

The building at 506 Second Street doesn’t look a lot different today. But Mary wouldn’t stay in Aurora long. She climbed aboard the train in the station and headed east.

In 1881, the Aurora Lutheran church records show that Mary was living in Cincinnati, then nothing. Radio silence. That is, until recently – 139 years later.

I’d like to share this wonderful journey with you, including our amazing discoveries.

Email from Cousin Ernest

I appreciate your detailed research so much. It certainly helped fill in some gaps in my family history that I assumed were irretrievable.

The few details that I can add to the information about my Great grandmother Mary Drexler are that she was married to Gustav Brehm on September 12, 1883 in Chicago and that she died on April 19, 1953 in Chicago.

I am attaching a photo of Mary Drexler taken around the turn of the century, one of her father George Drexler, and a photo of George at the cooperage where he was employed.

George is the person seated in the bottom row on the far left of the photo. I’m sorry, that particular photo is quite faded now and somewhat damaged.

Wait? What? There Are Photos????

Ernest, I hate to tell you, but these are not just a “few details.” I have never seen these photos before. There are no known photos of George Drechsel. That is, until now.

Do you have ANY idea how important this is to me???

Drum roll….Ernest’s photos….

There are, or were, no known photos of George Drechsel. George had obviously put on his good suit, shirt and bow tie, but his shoes look quite worn.

Here’s George, colorized and enhanced, courtesy of MyHeritage.

George died in 1908 and his wife, Barbara, in 1906. Since she’s not in this photo, and there doesn’t seem to be one of her, I wonder if this picture is George sometime between 1906 and 1908 when he would have been between 83 and 85. He doesn’t quite look that old to me. Maybe more like 60, which would have meant this photo was taken in the 1880s, probably about the same time a photo of Mary was taken. But where was his wife, Barbara Mehlheimer Drechsel, then? Maybe her photo has been destroyed, or yet to be discovered.

George Drechsel along with workers at the cooperage, bottom left corner. In the 1850s, there were at least three cooperage companies in Aurora, making barrels for the steamboats plying the Ohio River. The Wymond Cooperage spanned the entire two blocks adjacent Hogan Creek, behind the Kirsch House, beside the train depot. You can see one of their barrels in the photo.

Mary Drechsel probably circa 1881-1883, after moving to Cincinnati and before her marriage. The photo was taken by J.P. Weckman of Cincinnati, Ohio, listed on the back of the photo.

Mary would have taken the train back and forth from Aurora to Cincinnati as did many of the Aurora residents.

Jogging a Memory

Ernest’s photos jogged a memory for me. A couple years ago, another cousin contacted me. She had some photos too, and in those photos were some people I couldn’t identify.

Barbara Mehlheimer Drechsel’s daughter, Margaretha (1851-1889) married Herm Rabe and had 7 children before she died. Margaretha’s granddaughter contacted me and sent along photos, some of which neither of us could identify.

In this picture, taken in July of 1898, we know that the tallest young lady in the center rear is Eleanor Rabe who would have been 13 in 1898. But who were the rest of these people. We know they were all Barbara’s grandchildren, according to the note with the photo.

I immediately identified the female at bottom right as my grandmother, Edith Lore, born in 1888, but the rest remained a mystery.

Eleanor Rabe had older siblings, but she is clearly the oldest or at least the tallest here. Her one younger sibling was John who was born in 1887, but this boy’s name is Curt, not John.

Let’s make a list of the first names in the photo:

Back row, left to right.

  • Nora – a child, definitely NOT Nora Kirsch born in 1866 who married Curtis Benjamin Lore. I think this is actually Curtis L. Lore, born in 1891, daughter of Nora Kirsch, sister to Edith on the bottom row. They lived in Rushville and it wouldn’t make sense for one daughter to be in Aurora without the other daughter.
  • Eleanor Rabe (identified by her daughter)
  • Lilly – This is probably Lilly Giegoldt, born in 1883, daughter of Lou Drechsel who married Johann Georg Giegoldt.

Front row, left to right:

  • Stella – Stella Brehm born in 1884 to Mary Drechsel and Gustav Brehm, identified by Ernest.
  • Edna – Edna Brehm born in 1888, daughter of Mary Drechsel.
  • Curt – Curt Brehm born in 1889 to Mary Drechsel.
  • Edith Lohr (misspelled, it’s Lore) who is actually Barbara Melhleimer’s great-granddaughter

Before Ernest’s email, I had absolutely NO IDEA who Stella, Edna and Curt were.

Conversely, Ernest had never seen this photo before either.

Look what arrived next:

Well, Roberta, this is getting a bit surreal – first a picture of your grandmother Edith and my grandmother Edna in the same picture – and now this!

Obviously taken within minutes of your photo….

As you might imagine, we chattered back and forth for a few days.

I asked if Ernest thought this unidentified photo might be Mary.

Ernest replied with the genealogists lament that most of us are all too familiar with:

Unfortunately, I never spoke to my grandmother Edna about her family, my interest in genealogy came too late, I’m afraid.

My Dad told me very little about his grandmother Mary Drexler Brehm. He said she was a very strict lady who practiced, in his words, “tough love.” He said that as a young woman in Chicago she would ride streetcars to pick up big baskets of laundry which she would wash and fold and then ride back to return them. I don’t think he ever knew her well, she lived in Chicago and he grew up in Columbia, South Carolina.

I’m sending a photo of Mary when she was elderly, holding my Dad. My grandmother Edna is standing behind her as is my aunt Edna Louise Lent. Mary lived to be 89 years old.

The second picture (below) is of Mary perhaps in her 30’s – I’m not good at telling someone’s age.

The third picture is a family group. I think Mary is second from the right, my grandmother Edna standing in the center, my aunt standing next to her. I’m wondering if you recognize any of the other women.

The Branch Blossoms

Of course, I was excited to add Mary’s family information to my tree. I had always wondered what happened to the “lost sister.”

Ernest noticed:

Thank you for adding Mary Drexler’s information to your family tree, it seemed to me that it somehow symbolically reunites the family.

Rest assured that I asked Ernest if he has done a DNA test. He has, and we match. He’s in the process of transferring his DNA file to Family Tree DNA where so many of our family DNA tests reside, including Kirsch lines and other family members, along with my Mom.

The Letter

Then, almost as an afterthought, Ernest added something very important:

I have an old letter, written in what appears to be an archaic German script, that I’ve been unable to get translated. It was among the effects that my Dad left when he died and I’m not sure to whom it was written or who sent it.

Several people who speak German have looked at it and were unable to make out the gist of the letter, just pick out a few words. If I can attach a photo of the letter do you know someone who might be able to help?

It could be just a “having a good time, wish you were here” letter but it could also contain valuable information.

OMG a letter? Seriously?

Ernest, send it right away!!!!

Here is the letter in 4 parts – sorry some are upside down and sideways, I couldn’t reconfigure them.

I’ve been wondering what it may say for years now, I’m very hopeful that you can get them translated.

Perhaps an epiphany lies within!

OMG!!!!

Ernest continued:

I’m quite eager to learn what the letter says! I’ve been trying to get an accurate translation for years, thinking that having been preserved for over a hundred years it may have something important to tell us. And even if it doesn’t, I’m excited about it because it’s such a direct connection to our family and our past.

In Her Own Hand 

As it turns out, the letter is from Barbara Mehlheimer Drechsel (1823-1906) to her daughter, Theresa Marie Drechsel (Drexel, Drexler), known as Mary, who lived in Chicago at the time.

I had to sit for a while and just stare at this handwriting – holding space with Barbara. This is HER very own handwriting. Not only that, but she COULD write, probably having attended Lutheran school in Goppmansbuhl, Germany in the late 1820s or 1830s. Clearly, she raised her children to speak fluent German. My grandmother, three generations later, still understood German.

These letters to her much-missed daughter were scribed by candlelight using a quill pen dipped in a bottle of ink, at night, when Barbara was bone-tired from dangerous physical work like boiling clothes at 65 years of age. Work, of course, that was never ever done because clothes simply got dirty again and had to be boiled all over again a week or so later. She was “retirement age,” but there was no such thing as retirement.

It looks like Barbara prepared to write by drawing faint lines across the pages to keep her sentences straight – except for page 4 where she stopped drawing guidelines about halfway down the page – and sure enough, her sentences began to list to right. We don’t think about things like that today.

Yet, Barbara’s writing is beautiful, old-world script, despite the fact that she was fatigued and writing in the dark when she had trouble seeing. Other than her photo and fragments of DNA shared by her descendants, this letter is likely the only tangible thing that was actually physically, personally hers that remains on this earth some 132 years after she wrote those pages and almost 197 years after her birth. For most of us today, that’s the equivalent of someplace around the year 2160, with our great-great-great-grandchild unearthing a 4-page handwritten letter we sent today and sharing it with another great-great-great-grandchild – the two of them not previously knowing that each other exists.

Indeed, a mother’s hand – still healing after almost two centuries.

Barbara Mehlheimer Drechsel’s Family

Before going further, here’s a list of Barbara Mehlheimer Drechsel’s children and grandchildren. These relationships are important in sorting out the contents of the letter.

  • Barbara “Babbit” Drechsel 1848-1930, married Jacob Kirsch in 1866 and operated the Kirsch House, a hotel and restaurant/tavern beside the train depot.
    • Ellenore “Nora” Kirsch 1866-1949, married Curtis Benjamin Lore in 1888 in Aurora. Their first child, Edith was born in 1888 and their second child, Curtis, a daughter, was born in 1891. Two additional daughters, Mildred and Eloise were born in 1899 and 1903, respectively.
    • Georg Martin Kirsch 1868-1949, married Maude Powers in 1888 in Aurora, died in Shelbyville, Indiana in 1949. Son Edgar was born in 1899 and daughter Cecile born in 1892.
    • Johann Edward Kirsch 1870-1924 married Emma Miller in 1891 in Dearborn County, Indiana and lived in Aurora during the 1890s. He died in 1924 in Edwardsport, Knox County, Indiana. They had Juanita born in 1892, Deveraux “Devero” born in 1899. Two daughters born later died as infants.
    • Caroline “Carrie” Kirsch 1871-1926 married Joseph Smithfield Wymond in 1902 in Aurora. The wealthy Wymond family owned one of the cooperage companies and whoo-boy, is there a story about this man that rivals any soap opera. Sadly, they had no children.
    • Margaret Louise “Lou” Kirsch 1873-1940 married Charles “Todd” Fiske in 1899 in Aurora and after his suicide, married Arthur Wellesley. She had no children.
    • Ida Carolina Kirsch 1876-1966 married William “Billy” Galbreath in 1921 and had no children.
  • Margaret Drechsel 1851-1889, married Herm Rabe in 1873, lived between Aurora, Indiana and Cincinnati, Ohio, just a few miles away.
    • Mary “Mayme” Rabe 1875-1961 married Albert Weatherby in 1892 in Cincinnati, Ohio. They had three daughters, Lorine 1893-1975, Juanity 1896-1986 and Margaret 1904-1994.
    • Frederick George Rabe 1876-1879
    • Louisa B. “Lou” Rabe 1879-1863 married Irvin Isaac Denison in 1919 and had possibly had one child.
    • Caroline Louise “Leah” Engel Rabe 1880-1951
    • Wilhelm J. Rabe 1883-1886
    • Eleanor Rabe 1885-1961 married Guy Nicholas Young and had 2 daughters, Marian 1908-1978, Eleanor 1910-2006 and two sons, Donald 1915-2000 and Guy 1929-1997.
    • John Rabe 1887-1893
  • Caroline “Lina” or “Lena” Drechsel 1854-1938, married Johannes Gottfried Heinke in Cincinnati about 1895. She may have been married previously with one deceased child, according to the census. Much of her life is a mystery.
  • Johann “John” Edward Drechsel (Drexler, Drexel) born 1856 and died sometime after 1877. It’s believed that he married and had a child in 1882, but there is conflicting information. If so, his wife, Elizabeth Louisa “Lizzie” Uffman remarried in 1888 in Cincinnati. One John Drechsel was married, a tailor and living with her parents in the 1880 census.
    • Alfred Drexel born 1882 in Cincinnati
  • Emma Louise “Lou” Drechsel 1859-1949 married Johann Georg Giegoldt in 1881 in Aurora, Indiana. They lived between Cincinnati and Aurora.
    • Barbara Margaretha Josephine “Nettie” Giegoldt 1882-1908
    • Carolina Louise Lillian “Lilly” Giegoldt 1883-1951, married Theodore Ludwig “Louis” Bosse/Busse and had two children, Raymond born in 1911 and Wilbur born in 1915.
  • Theresa Maria “Mary” Drechsel 1862-1953, lived in Cincinnati from 1881-1883. She married Gustav Brehm in Chicago where she spent the duration of her life.
    • Stella Brehm born 1884
    • Edna Marie Brehm born March 4, 1888, died 1975, married Dr. Ernest Lent in 1913 in Iowa.
    • Curtis Brehm born July 1889
    • Drexel (or Drexler) Brehm born 1900

Christoph Saves the Day

Oh, my faithful German friend Christoph. What would I do without him?!

I hate to always be asking questions and favors – but Christoph is always so very gracious. I told Christoph that he didn’t need to translate the letter word for word. Mostly, I wanted to know who it was from and if the contents shed any light on our ancestors or family history. For all we know, it could have been something totally unrelated.

Fortunately, for us, it wasn’t.

From Christoph

Here is my translation of the letter.

I also add the original German text (with all spelling mistakes) below my translation, just for your records. As you will see, some blanks remain and maybe those will be filled by somebody else in the future. But I think that the main content of the letter is clear anyway. I labeled the blanks in [] brackets and also my comments at some places.

In fact, page four (the one with several “Gutbei” at the end) seems to be a separate letter that was first misplaced and thus sent later (see translation). It is clear however, that it is the same handwriting and from the same person. Since she signs as “your good mother Mrs Drexler, Aurora, Indiana”, I would conclude that the letters were written by Barbara Mehlheimer Drechsler (1823-1906).

Her writing suggests that she had some school education, but still several words are misspelled and interpunctation is missing at times. This is true even more for the English words, she even misspells her daughter Mary`s name “Märi”. There is also “Luiswil” instead of “Louisville”, “flauer” instead of “flour” and then “Gutbei” instead of “Goodbye”. In essence, she seems to spell all English words just the way they sound to her as a native German speaker.

Barbara Drechsler also mentions a “Mrs. Kirsch” at two occasions. I do not think that this refers to her daughter (she would have called her by her first name), but rather to her daughter`s mother-in-law Katharina Barbara Lemmert Kirsch (1807-1889), who seems to have been living very close to her house – maybe across the street?

Next, a “Lina” is mentioned. Lina is a short form of “Carolina” and from the letter it seems it is one of her daughters, too. So this would have to be Caroline Drexler married to Gottlieb Heinke. Similarly, “Luise” would have to be Emma “Louis” Drexler Giegoldt. I am not sure for all the other names, but maybe you have a better clue than me.

When Barbara writes “the father”, I do not think it is her own father, she is speaking of, but rather her husband – father of her daughter Mary. I do not know about this in American English, but it certainly was a habit in German still one generation ago. Quite similarly, my grandmother sent my mother letters, speaking about “father”, when in fact she referred to her husband – her daughter`s father.

As for the date of the letter, it only says March 17th, no year. But I think it is possible to draw out the facts and with their help narrow it down to a certain range.

Barbara`s daughter Mary already had a son, so it would have to be after 1883. But Katharina Barbara Lemmert Kirsch, who died in 1889, was still alive. So if I conclude right that she is the “Mrs Kirsch” mentioned, then the letter would have to be from between 1883 to 1889. What do you think?

So much for my comments. I hope you enjoy your ancestor`s voice from the past! (“Roberta and Ernest, I heard that you are interested in your ancestors` past, so I arranged for an interpreter to make my voice heard to you!”)

Best wishes
Christoph

Christoph, I would hug you if I could!

The Translation 

Letter of Barbara Mehlheimer Drechsler – Transcription and Translation

– page 1 –

Aurora, Indiana, March 17th

Dear children, we greet you all warmly from our hearts. I had intended to write for a long time, but had not found the time so far. Here, many are sick from the [“Krüh” – not clear, what it means. Someone suggested to me it could be a dialect word for scabies. Alternatively, it could be a variant of the word “Grippe” (flu), but these are both just guesses.]. Our father has fallen down and has hurt himself at the hand. It was not too bad, but still he is sick now anyway and cannot work. We had to give up going to church. I do not know, who will take it. [That makes no sense to me, but that is what she wrote.] I always have to take care of somebody over there. The Mrs Kirsch has no maidservant. Furthermore, they all have been sick every few weeks. Babedt [Babette?] has had “remidis” in her right leg. Cähri and Eidi have been sick. Luli and her husband are in Louisville, they both have been sick. Mr Roberts has died, he was 69 years old. Brindi is large and fat and our Luise has caught a cold, when hanging up the laundry out in the snow. I have burnt my left hand, while taking the laundry out of the kettle and it was so …

– page 2 –

… heavy and I lifted it diligently and in the necktie and his shirt was just sliding over my left hand. It frizzled and my entire hand was full of blisters. I immediately have put flour on it and said a prayer. Now my hand is well again. All this happened two weeks ago and last week I have already done the laundry again.

Mary, did you write down, what I have written to you? Put it in your bible, where it will remain safe. And if you have not received it, please let me know, since then I will resend it, it takes away the pain and cures. Now we are all healthy again. Mary, have you received my last letter from Christmas time? I had put inside a thaler painting for your little one and if you did receive it, you are a lucky one! Mister Nibaum had to work so hard, so I always am afraid that you may not have received it.

– page 3 –

I want to let you know, how it went on for the dear Lina. They have been sued, since their milk had been found to be too slurry. How could it have been their fault? They sell it just the way it has been sent to them. They had to pay eighty thaler [dollars ?] fine. That was an awful lot of money for something that had not been their fault. Lina has to work pretty hard. She has to wash big […?], in one of them sweet milk, in the next one buttermilk and in the last one butter. Lina would love me to come and help her, if only I could. Mary, please do not write this in any letter, since I am not supposed to know, because they know that it hurts me. A mother is not free from worries and cannot help nonetheless. My writing is not nice, I can only write at night. I hope and wish that you are all at good health and happy and that you all have work. So please be so good and write me soon, Mary, so that we hear something from you.

– page 4 –

Beloved child, we send you all the greetings from us all. I have to write you another time, since I have not received a reply yet. I do not know, what to think. I hope, you are not all fallen ill! If you do not have the time, then you still have your girls. They may write us a few lines. I always get a hiccup, whenever I think about you. So please be so kind once and write us a little letter about how you are doing.

The father has recovered completely, so thank God we are all healthy again.

The Mrs Kirsch has now a diligent maidservant, so now I do not have to go over to her anymore.

I had put this letter aside and then could not find it anymore. So I wrote another one and sent it to you. Now I have found it again, and so I decided to send it to you as well, so that I do not owe it to you. I hope for your reply soon! I remain your good mother Mrs Drexler. Aurora Indiana

Goodbye, dear children all!
Goodbye, dear children all, be diligent and good and pray as well, so that the good God will help you. Remain healthy all of you!
Goodbye, dear children, goodbye!

Unraveling the Threads

I didn’t want to interrupt the flow of the original letter in Barbara’s own voice, but we do need to see if we can extract additional information from her letter.

Aurora, Indiana, March 17th

Dear children, we greet you all warmly from our hearts. I had intended to write for a long time, but had not found the time so far. Here, many are sick from the [“Krüh” – not clear, what it means. Someone suggested to me it could be a dialect word for scabies. Alternatively, it could be a variant of the word “Grippe” (flu), but these are both just guesses.]. Our father has fallen down and has hurt himself at the hand. It was not too bad, but still he is sick now anyway and cannot work. We had to give up going to church. I do not know, who will take it. [That makes no sense to me, but that is what she wrote.] I always have to take care of somebody over there.

The Mrs Kirsch has no maidservant. Furthermore, they all have been sick every few weeks.

Mrs. Kirsch is indeed very likely Barbara Drechsel Kirsch’s mother-in-law. In fact, I have no idea who else it could be since Katharina Barbara Lemmert and her husband, Philipp Jacob Kirsch were the original immigrants.

In August 1887, Katharina Barbara Kirsch, then a widow, executed a deed to their farm in neighboring Ripley County. She turned 80 the next day and her son who lived with her was disabled from the Civil War. Both she and her son, according to the deed, were living in Dearborn County. I know that her son lived with his brother, Jacob Kirsch, at the Kirsch House until his death. I’m sure that Katharina Barbara Lemmert Kirsch did as well. She died on February 1, 1889, so the letter would have had to have been written before 1889, given that it was dated March 17th.

Barbara goes on to provide some newsy information about her other children to their sister living in Chicago.

Babedt [Babette?] has had “remidis” in her right leg.

Probably rheumatitis. Babbit is Barbara Drechsel Kirsch’s nickname, listed as such on one census.

Cähri and Eidi have been sick.

Cahri was likely Caroline Kirsch, the daughter of Barbara Drechsel Kirsch, born in 1871 who lived at the Kirsch House.

Eidi is probably Ida, born in 1876, also Barbara Drechsel Kirsch’s daughter.

Luli and her husband are in Louisville, they both have been sick.

I’m presuming this is Emma Louise Drechsel, known as “Aunt Lou” who was married to Johann Georg Giegoldt in 1881. They had two daughters, born in 1882 and 1883. I wonder why Barbara didn’t mention the girls.

Mr. Roberts has died, he was 69 years old.

Based on the 1880 census, I can’t find a Roberts in that region that would be roughly the correct age. I wonder why this was important to Mary and her mother. Generally, we find the family interacting with German families.

Brindi is large and fat and our Luise has caught a cold, when hanging up the laundry out in the snow.

Caroline Louise Rabe, born in 1880, would have been the age to hang clothes on the line. I have no clue who Brindi refers to. Everyone in this family had nicknames, some of which bore little or no resemblance to their actual given name.

I wonder if Brindi is a pet or perhaps a pregnant daughter. The only daughter pregnant during this time would have been Margaretha Drechsel, whose nickname I don’t know, who had Eleanor Rabe in March of 1885 and John Rabe in September of 1887. Of course, Mary, the recipient of the letter was pregnant with Stella who was born in June of 1884 and Edna Marie born on March 4, 1888, so she would not have been the person being referred to as “Brindi.”

I have burnt my left hand, while taking the laundry out of the kettle and it was so …

– page 2 –

… heavy and I lifted it diligently and in the necktie and his shirt was just sliding over my left hand. It frizzled and my entire hand was full of blisters. I immediately have put flour on it and said a prayer. Now my hand is well again. All this happened two weeks ago and last week I have already done the laundry again.

This sounds just horrible, but provides perspective on the daily dangers of simply doing laundry. Boiling laundry. Probably miserable at best and horrid in the summer. I had to look the definition of frizzle up and it means to “fry or grill with a sizzling noise.” Ugh – my hand hurts this many years later just thinking about that boiling water. Poor Barbara.

I have never heard of flour as a remedy for burns but googling reveals it as a folk remedy with many warnings against this methodology today.

Mary, did you write down, what I have written to you? Put it in your bible, where it will remain safe. And if you have not received it, please let me know, since then I will resend it, it takes away the pain and cures. Now we are all healthy again.

I surely wonder about that remedy. Was it the flour remedy she was referring to, or something else? Apparently, something she sent earlier. I hope the family still has this Bible someplace, probably given to Mary in the church in Aurora when she was confirmed about 1873 or 1874.

Mary, have you received my last letter from Christmas time? I had put inside a thaler painting for your little one and if you did receive it, you are a lucky one! Mister Nibaum had to work so hard, so I always am afraid that you may not have received it.

“Little one” tells us that Mary had at least one child, so that dates this letter after 1884. Mary’s first child, Stella, was born in June of 1884. I was unable to figure out what a thaler painting is or was, but a thaler was the official coin in Germany until 1908. It could be interpreted as roughly similar to a dollar at that time, which of course was worth much more than a dollar today.

– page 3 –

I want to let you know, how it went on for the dear Lina. They have been sued, since their milk had been found to be too slurry. How could it have been their fault? They sell it just the way it has been sent to them. They had to pay eighty thaler [dollars ?] fine. That was an awful lot of money for something that had not been their fault. Lina has to work pretty hard. She has to wash big […?], in one of them sweet milk, in the next one buttermilk and in the last one butter. Lina would love me to come and help her, if only I could. Mary, please do not write this in any letter, since I am not supposed to know, because they know that it hurts me. A mother is not free from worries and cannot help nonetheless.

I am presuming Lina would be Caroline “Lina” Drechsel who married Johannes Gottfried Heinke in Cincinnati, although that wasn’t until 1895. There’s certainly a big piece of Lina’s life missing during the 1880s. In the 1880 census she was living with the Heinke family as a servant and noted as a cousin. In 1881 she is shown in the City Directory as a housekeeper. Maybe the Lina that Barbara references is someone else since it does refer to “they,” inferring that Lina was married. There may be an earlier marriage we don’t know about. All of the pieces don’t add up for her. Maybe this mystery will be solved one day too.

My writing is not nice, I can only write at night. I hope and wish that you are all at good health and happy and that you all have work. So please be so good and write me soon, Mary, so that we hear something from you.

– page 4 –

Beloved child, we send you all the greetings from us all. I have to write you another time, since I have not received a reply yet. I do not know, what to think. I hope, you are not all fallen ill! If you do not have the time, then you still have your girls. They may write us a few lines. I always get a hiccup, whenever I think about you. So please be so kind once and write us a little letter about how you are doing.

I suspect hiccup means that she cried.

The word “girls” in this sentence suggests that Mary had already had her second child who was born on March 4, 1888, unless she had a child in 1886 that we don’t know about that died.

This is perplexing because this page appears to be the older letter that Barbara enclosed, written before March 17th. We know that the original letter was dated March 17th, and that Barbara had not heard from Mary or at least had not received a letter since Christmas. Mary’s second child was born March 4th, 1888.  We also know that Mrs. Kirsch died in February 1889, so this entry is confounding. Mary’s first child, Stella, was born in June of 1884. No letter year scenario fits all three pieces of evidence well.

The father has recovered completely, so thank God we are all healthy again.

The Mrs. Kirsch has now a diligent maidservant, so now I do not have to go over to her anymore.

I would presume this means Barbara Drechsel Kirsch’s mother-in-law again.

I had put this letter aside and then could not find it anymore. So I wrote another one and sent it to you. Now I have found it again, and so I decided to send it to you as well, so that I do not owe it to you. I hope for your reply soon! I remain your good mother Mrs Drexler. Aurora Indiana

Goodbye, dear children all!
Goodbye, dear children all, be diligent and good and pray as well, so that the good God will help you. Remain healthy all of you!
Goodbye, dear children, goodbye!

It’s of note here that Barbara did not mention Margaretha who was married to Herm Rabe, unless that’s the reference to Brindi who is fat. That might place this letter in 1887 when Margaretha was pregnant.

On a sad note, Barbara also didn’t mention her son, John. We know little about him other than that he was living in Cincinnati by 1877 according to the Aurora church records. He, or at least someone by his name, is listed in the city directory there as a tailor, and is married in 1880 to Lizzy Uffman, living with her parents. Their one child, Alfred, was born in April of 1882. John is not shown in the City Directory after 1881, but a note in the Cincinnati Enquirer Newspaper on Sept. 5., 1882 states that a massive fire in Aurora burned an entire block, a factory, hotel and other buildings. The article says that the property of John Drexel was damaged. There is no other known John Drexel, or similar surname, in Aurora, and the last we knew of John, he was living in Cincinnati. It’s possible that they meant his father, George.

Even more confusing is the May 6, 1880, Cincinnati Daily Star report under the “Aurora, Indiana” heading that says, “Mr. Jacob Kirsch and wife attended the funeral of Mr. John Dreckler in Cincinnati yesterday (Wednesday.)”

If this John Dreckler is Barbara Kirsch Drechsel’s brother, which is likely, then the Alfred born in 1882 is not his child. That John Drechsel/Drexel/Drexler may be someone entirely different. We do know that John’s wife remarried in 1888. There may be multiple John Drechsel’s involved – and “ours” remains a mystery.

A Gift from the Past Reunites Our Family

I’m extremely grateful to Ernest for reaching out and sharing. It allowed us both to connect the leaves and branches and flesh out our trees. Ernest summed this up just perfectly:

Thank you for adding Mary Drexler’s information to your family tree, it seemed to me that it somehow symbolically reunites the family.

This is so gratifying! What a direct connection to our family, to hear our great grandmother speaking to her children over the years through her letter.

First of all, please convey my deepest thanks to Christoph for opening up this insight into our family with his wonderful translation. And to you Roberta for making this happen. I’ve been wanting to know the contents of the letter for years now.

It makes no great pronouncements, It’s just a simple newsy family letter and it’s all the more intimate because it tells of incidents that occurred, accidents that befell them, what’s going on with the neighbors.

Barbara telling Mary about the lawsuit involving Lina and the milk (but don’t tell anybody else because I’m not supposed to know) is such a natural thing to do.

Barbara, possibly in her mid-sixties at the time the letter was written, is still doing laundry by boiling the clothing in a kettle, heavy work and dangerous too.

She has sent something to Mary which she’s supposed to write down and put in her bible which “takes away the pain and cures.” A spell or charm perhaps.

There is such a lot of information to be gleaned from the letter – actually two letters, it seems.

There’s a clue within the letter that may make it possible to narrow down the year it was written. The first paragraph makes mention of so many people being sick and even one death.

The “Russian Flu” was an epidemic that swept through Indiana starting in late 1889 and lasted through 1892. There were hundreds of deaths in Indiana attributed to the flu in 1890. The epidemic spiked in January of 1892 with over 400 deaths in that month alone and then began to decline. It’s possible that the sicknesses mentioned were a result of the flu.  Kind of interesting considering our current pandemic.

Ernest is right. Further research shows that there was a significant spike in deaths in January of 1888 as well, even higher than the peak of the flu in January of 1890. If the March 17th date was in 1888, that would accommodate almost all of our date hints:

  • Written before Mrs. Kirsch died on February 1, 1889 – so the letter must be 1888 or earlier because Mrs. Kirsch was deceased by March 1889.
  • After Mrs. Kirsch deeds her land and moves to town in August 1887.
  • Barbara refers to the “little one” in her letter when describing a thaler painting sent the previous Christmas. Mary’s second child was born on March 4, 1888 and the first in 1884.
  • Page 4, apparently an earlier letter, clearly refers to “girls,” so this had to be after the second daughter’s birth on March 4, 1888 unless an unknown child was born in 1886 and subsequently died. It’s also possible that page 4 is actually from a later letter.
  • However, if Barbara has not heard from Mary, by letter, since Christmas, how did she know that Mary had given birth to a daughter on March 4th, 1888 in order to refer to “girls?” A telegraph message sent to the train depot might be a possibility, or page 4 was from a later letter.
  • Indiana deaths experienced a spike in January 1888, and the March 17th letter refers to the illnesses and death, noting that in March, people are better.

It’s so much fun to peep through that remaining keyhole into their daily lives. My best guess here is that the Match 17th letter was written in 1888. Regardless, it was written near that time and provides us with a rare and wonderful glimpse into Barbara’s life, narrated in her own words.

Thanks again to Ernest and Christoph – and everyone who saved those letters!

Addendum: German Letter Transcription

– Seite 1 –

Aurora Indiana März den 17.

Liebe Kinder seid Alle Herzlich von uns
allen [gegrüßt]. Ich wolde schon lange schreiben, und kam
nicht dazu. Hier sind vühle Laide krank an der
Krüh, unser Vater ist gefahlen aber Er
hat sich weng weh gethan an der Hand
das hätt nichts aus gemacht aber doch ist Er
krank und kan nichts mehr schaffen wir musten
die Kirche auf geben wer es nimt das weis
ich noch nicht, ich mus hald imer wen drüben
aus helfen die Misses Kirsch hat keine Macht(=Magd)
Sie wahren auch Alle baar Wochen krank
Die Babedt [Babette?] hat remidis in rechten Bein
gehabd die Cähri und Eidi wen krank die
Luli und Ihr Mann die sind in Loiswill
Sie wahren baide krank. Der Raberts
ist gestorben Er war 69 Jahre ald die Brindi
st gros und fett u. unsere Loise hat sich
weng verköldet mit Ihren wasch aufhängen
in den grosen Schnee. Ich habe mich gebründ
in meine Linke Hand ich habe die Wasch
aus den Kössel gehoben, und das wahr, so…

– Seite 2 –

…schwär, und ich hebd hald dichdig und in den
schlips über und sein Hemt [stok?] schleidet
sich gerahte über meine Linke Hand das
hat gebüzeld es wahr die ganze Hand vol
Blasen, ich hab gleich recht Flauer drauf,
und habse besprochen jezt ist Sie gans gut
das wahr in zwei Wochen alles geschehen ich
habe die lezte Woche schon wieder gewa-
schen, Märi hast Du das auf geschrieben
wo ich Dir geschikt hab, lechs in die Bibel
da bleibd es sicher, und hast Du es nicht so
las mirs wissen, so wil ich Dirs schücken
den das nimt den schmärzen und heild
so sind wir Goott sei dank wieder
Alle Gesund. Märi hast Du den letzten
Brif beken zu Weihnachten ich habe
für den Kleinen ein Dallerbild einge-
legt wen dus bekomen hast, so machst
du ein großen Pungt. Der Mister
Nibaum die hatten, so zu thun gehabd
das wahr arch, da denk ich immer Ihr habd
den Brif nicht bekomen.

– Seite 3 –

Ich wil Euch noch schreiben wie der
Liebe Lina noch gegangen ist, die sind
verklagt worden über die Milch weil
sie zu din wahr, was haben Sie dafür
könt wie Sis schücken, so verkaufens Sie
und mussten 80. Achtzich daler bezahlen
wahr das nicht ein Sinden Geld wo Mann
nichts davür kan, die Lina mus noch recht hart
schaffen Sie hat so grose [Höfen?] zu waschen
in ein ist Sismichl in ander Butter Milch
in andern Butter, die Lina nehmet mich gern
wen Ich komen könt Märi schreib nichts in kein
Brif den ich sol nichts wissen davon weil Sie
wissen, daß mirs wehe thut. Eine Mutter ist n
nicht frei von sorchen, und kann doch
nichts helfen. Mein Schreiben ist nicht schön
icht mus nur Nachts schreiben. Ich hof und
Wünsch das Ihr Alle recht Gesund und zufrieden
seid und und wen Ihr alle Arbeit habd. So
sei so gut und schreib bald Märi daß wir
auch was fon Eüch hören

– Seite 4 –

Hertz gelibde Kind seit Alle herzlich
gegrüsset von u[ns] Allen.
Ich mus noch ein mahl an Eüch schreiben, weil ich
noch keine Antwort bekomen habe. Ich weis nicht was ich
denken sol, Ihr werdet doch nicht Alle krank sein! Wen
du nicht Zeit hast, so hast du doch eine Mädchen die könen
doch so vühl thun und konen uns ein baar Zeilen schreiben
Ich hab immer Hetscher wen Ich an Dich denk, so ist es
vorbei. So seid doch ein mahl so gut und schreibt uns bald ein
Briflein wie es mit Eüch geht. Der Vader ist wieder gans
gesund, so sind wir Gott sei Dank Alle gesund. Die Misses
Kirsch hat eine fleisiche Macht jezt brauch Ich nicht mehr zu
nüber gehen. Ich habe diesen Brif weggelecht und hab
Ihm nimmer finden könen, so hab ich em anderen geschrieben
und an Euch geschückt, jezt hab ich im gefunden, und so
wil Ich im auch wieder zu Euch schücken so habd mir
nichts vir ungut. Ich Hof eine badige Andwort. Ich ver-
bleibe Eüere gute Mutter Misses Drexler. Aurora Indiana

Gutbei Libe Kinder Alle!
Gutbei liebe Kinder Alle seid Fleisich
und gut und dut auch Beeden, das Eüch
der Liebe Goott auch Hülft seid alle gesunnt
Gutbai Liebe Kinder Gutbai.

Jacob Lentz Speaks: Rescue From the Death Ship – 52 Ancestors #211

Granddaughter, can you feel me beside you here today?

Can you sense my presence?

Can you hear me as I tell you my story about the death ship – the Zee Ploeg?

Have you come back for me?

Bless you, child.

Listen.

Listen…

You can hear my whispers on the cool Nordic winds that whip through your hair. It’s not the wind. It’s the breath of time and the power of memory.

It’s me.

I am standing with you as you look out over the fjord where my life, and that of my wife and her parents unfolded in unimaginable tragedy.

I tried, oh how I tried to tell you the story.

It was there, right there, in the North Sea.

Can you feel me near you?

I am here with you.

Your mother was born half a century after I died. She never knew my name, nor did her father.

But you do.

You found me, and then found my truth.

I am so relieved that someone is interested in my life, although I passed over some 147 years ago this past spring.

My name is Jacob Lenz, or at least that’s how it was spelled in Germany.

The original document is in the “Weinstadt city archive”, which kindly gave permission for the reproduction. Document was graciously retrieved by Niclas Witt.

You can see that’s how I signed my immigration papers before I left my home village of Beutelsbach, but I’m getting ahead of my own story.

In Ohio, where I settled in 1829 or 30 after a long, long journey of 12 or 13 years, it was spelled Lentz, because that’s how it sounds. Since that’s what’s on my tombstone in the Happy Corners Cemetery, that’s how you spell it today of course.

In Ohio, I bought land that I had only dared to dream of in Germany, near the cemetery where you first found me, but that’s not where I began my life. It was an incredibly difficult journey. We nearly didn’t make it. In fact, not all of us did.

Life Began in Germany

I was born in the small town of Beutelsbach, Germany on May 15th in the year of our Lord 1783.

The old Hans Lenz family home stood for a long time after I left.

My birth was recorded in the local church records and I grew up there, a good Lutheran boy.

You can see the church in the middle of the village, even today, surrounded by those beautiful vineyards.

I began working in the vineyards as soon as I was old enough, just as my ancestors for time immemorial had done – trimming the vines, harvesting the grapes and making wine.

I don’t remember ever not being in the vineyards. From the time I was first able to toddle, I went with my parents each morning and all of the village residents, most of whom were family, were working there too. I grew up in those vineyards among the grapes.

It was a good life as a vinedresser, well, until it wasn’t anymore. The wars and devastation took a terrible toll.

And then, those dreadful years descended upon us like a plague of locusts. One would think God himself was angry. The crops failed and finally, in 1816, summer never arrived. At all.

There were no grapes, nor any other food. No crops. Some of our neighbors thought that the Biblical end of times was upon us. Hunger was our constant companion. So was the fear of death. We suffered.

Can you imagine how terrible it is to witness the hunger of your wife, children and parents and be unable to do anything to ease their suffering? Oh, the ache in my heart was far worse than the pain in my belly.

Finally, the King of Wuerttemberg lifted the restrictions on emigration because there were too many hungry people in Germany. Maybe some would leave, reducing the number of people who sought relief and who pathetically begged for food when there was none to be had.

I turned 33 years old the 15th of May in 1816 although I was far too worried about the unrelenting cold weather to remember by birthday. Crops in the vineyard had already failed for the past three years, and 1816 promised to be even worse.

I had married Frederica Ruhle in our little village church more than a decade before. Our oldest son, Jacob Franklin turned 10 in November of that year with no summer, but there was no celebration. By the time November rolled around, everyone knew something was terribly wrong and that there would be no food to survive the winter.

Worse yet, on a cold day in August, yes, a cold day in August – August 22nd, 1816, Frederica gave birth to our daughter Barbara. I’ll never forget, because there wasn’t enough food for the children we already had, yet God blessed us with another.

What was a father to do?

As our plight became increasingly desperate, I realized that the sun would never arrive and we would descend into the winter darkness with the crops never maturing. Tragedy would follow as starvation came knocking at our doors. Riots over the small amount of food available, even flour, were already occurring in the cities. Desperation abounded. The grim reaper was waiting like a gleeful vulture.

I looked over the mountains and down the rivers, and although I was afraid, I knew that America would be our Salvation.

America!

America!

Some of the Separatists in the neighbor village, Schnait, had already left a year or two before and wrote letters home encouraging us to join them. Maybe we should follow. Maybe they were right. It seems that God has smiled upon their countenance, but not ours.

In February of 1817, with no bread in the house, I no longer had to dream. I was done with dreaming and praying, seemingly to no avail, so I acted.

In order to receive permission to emigrate, Wuerttemberg citizens had to pay all of their debts and advertise publicly for any unpaid debts. I paid everyone, although we had to sell almost everything, but we received permission to emigrate and I knew we must leave very soon – before someone changed their mind and before what few provisions we had were exhausted. The horrible demon breath of starvation was hot upon our necks.

To America

We weren’t traveling to America alone.

Frederica’s parents, Johann Adam Ruhle and Dorothea Katharina Wolfin joined us. They were old by then. Dorothea Katherina – we called her Katharina – was about 62 and Adam was 53. Everyone had been suffering for the past 4 years, but 1816 was the worst. Knowing the future was bleak and uncertain, we took our family with us. We could care for them in America. We couldn’t even provide for ourselves in Germany.

Besides, Frederica’s two brothers, Jacob Christian Breuning, 34, and Johann George Ruhle, 23, who had never married were leaving with us too, as well as her sister, Johanna Margaretha Ruhle, age 17, and many hands makes light work. We would own land in America.

Land!

Land of our very own and we would work it together as a family! We would grow grapes! I could smell that earthy soil as I stood, eternally hungry, in Germany. Yes, yes, America was the answer!

A large group of people, 75 or more, was leaving together from Beutelsbach and Schnait, most of us related one way or another. After all, our families had lived there forever and you could see from one side of the village to the other. You could even see the next village and walk there easily, about a mile or maybe 20 minutes – if you didn’t stop at anyone’s house along the way to talk. Of course, that seldom happened.

The vineyards grew on the hillsides behind the houses, and people from both villages walked to the vineyards everyday to tend the vines and grapes.

But the spring of 1817 was different.

Before the green sprouts of spring leaves emerged, or should have, Frederica and I, we packed our few belongings, gathered our four children together and said our goodbyes all around, knowing it was the last time we would ever see our German family members. It was heartbreaking.

Perhaps some of them would follow us to America. We were hopeful. We told them we would write and the minister could read them our letters.

Of course, what we didn’t know is that not all of us would make it to America. The price of passage would be death for many.

What would we have done had we known?

I don’t know.

Heilbronn

The village of Beutelsbach grew up beside the river, Rems, between the river and the mountains long before written records. We floated down the Rems to the Neckar River to Heilbronn, where we met up with other immigrants. A large barge would be loaded with emigrant families and whatever they were taking along, which wasn’t much, I assure you. Space was very limited and we had sold everything except for a few clothes.

In the village of Heilbronn, we stayed at the inn named Zum Kranen, The Crane, while the barge was loaded, by crane, with immigrants and our meager possessions for the trip to Amsterdam.

On April 30th, as we tried to wait patiently, a commissioner, Friedrich List arrived and asked us why we were leaving Germany. (1) Adam Ruhle, my father-in-law, an outspoken man, probably uttered more than he should have:

“You just have to look at the tax documents and you will find out by yourselves [the reasons for] our complaints. From a land property of 6 Morgen [according to Wikipedia, a Morgen in Wurttemberg was about 3500 square meters = 37700 square feet] I had to pay 279 Gulden taxes in 3 years. The king`s tax amounts to almost nothing, but the local taxes is exorbitant. If you complain about it, the district mayor does not respond. The citizens are not allowed to look at things.”

Another man from our village, Georg Friedrich Hähnle, had assets remaining of 1000 Gulden and he said:

“The forestry district does not even give greenery to the citizens, and there is also a shortage on dung. If all citizens were able to seel, then half of all citizens would emigrate. The head forester does not either give out wood. Hence people have to take it by theirselves, which is punished immoderately. If one would like to talk about everything [meaning: about all complaints], one would not be finished today.”

And another, Johann Georg Dentler, said:

“The forester treats us despotically. Two years ago, we had to collect the wood, without being allowed to take even a single stick home with us. There is no vine since four years, which has ruined the [lives of the] vintners.”

And yet another, Daniel Gaup:

“The taxes are unbearable and the worst is the sculduggery. Since half a year, a complaint against the district mayor has been filed to the authorities, and the plaintiff would have emigrated as well, if he were not to wait out the outcome of his complaint.

This citizen`s name is Hansgeprg Hammer and he has a property of 8000 Gulden. I have taken with me a letter from him to a good friend in America, in which he writes that he will emigrate next year. Besides him, many more citizens are willing to emigrate due to the bad governance. One is able to find everything [all complaints] in a protocol that has been sent to the authorities. We are at least 25 citizens, who emigrate because of these reasons. I could tell you a lot more, if only there would be the time for it.”

The commissioner asked, “Why didn`t you complain to the district office?”

“We are put off filing complaints; complainers are held captive in eternity. It is a lost try right from the start.”

And then he asked further, “Why didn`t you complain at the higher authorities?”

“A poor man like me cannot go that far to file a complaint to the high authorities. I am not influential enough for that. The other citizens will lose lots of money through their complaints and they do not know yet, how the matter will end. The costs already amount to over 2000 Gulden.”

The commissioner: “What are the complaints?”

“They are about various sculduggeries of the district mayor and several complaints against the forester and the bailiff.”

The commissioner wrote those words in a book and left. I couldn’t wait to climb onto that barge and get underway, because I was afraid we would not be allowed to leave. Complaining in Germany wasn’t safe!

The Neckar and Rhine

We floated down the Neckar and Rhine rivers on barges towards the sea as the winter ice slowly melted.

We passed villages and castles and more hillside vineyards – sights like we had never seen before.

You’ve seen these sights yourself Granddaughter, those same castles. The Rhine was our highway to America.

The land flattened as we approached Amsterdam and windmills appeared on the horizon.

The vineyards and Germany were behind us and there was no going back now.

Amsterdam

We were supposed to sail for America from Amsterdam on March 30th, but our departure was delayed, first by one thing, and then by another.

Once in Amsterdam, after many false starts, we contracted with a sea captain for passage. The contact for our voyage stated that the captain, 21 sailors and 400 passengers would sail for Philadelphia. By the time everyone was crammed into the ship, more than 565 passengers were on board, with supplies for only 400.

I was proud that I was able to pay our way, although it took every penny and we were packed into the bottom of the ship, Zee Ploeg (Sea Plow), like sausages, all passengers together in a space smaller than our home in Germany. Still, we knew that life would be better once we landed in America so we didn’t mind the discomfort.

We had hope, something that no longer existed in Germany.

Others who immigrated to America earlier had written letters back home describing the bountiful harvests and freedoms there, and we knew that God would deliver us., although he seemed to be testing our will.

But that was all in the past. We were sailing to America now!

Embarking

At first, we were delayed leaving the port of Amsterdam because of bad weather but we were able to live on the ship. Lord knows, there was no money to rent a room. In fact, there was no money left at all.

At last, after a few weeks, on May 25th we departed with one Captain Manzelman at the helm, a man I never trusted. He seemed mean, but we needed him and after all, a ship is a ship. A deal is a deal, and we had already paid.

At long last, we sailed into the sea, but then had to stop for several weeks, a month or more, on the island of Texel near the Netherlands. More foul weather. Perhaps it was an omen, but a man died and had to be buried. Yet another storm was brewing.

We had already used much of our ration of food allotted each person for the journey, and the captain’s mood became sourer and fouler with each passing day. That man is the devil incarnate – mark my words.

We took on more supplies and water in Texel, and a few weeks later, finally set sail again as soon as the winds abated. But it was only the lull before the next storm.

Pummeled by another storm, we had to return to Texel, again. Everyone, passengers and crew alike, avoided the captain who seemed angry that we existed. We felt like he wanted us dead, and truth be known, he did, as we would soon discover.

Finally, finally, on the last day of August we set forth again into the Atlantic, expecting to be in America in just a few weeks.

Our spirits soared!

America, here we come!!!

Forsaken by God

Less than one day into the Atlantic, the wrath of God descended upon us in an angry torrent. A terrible hurricane tossed our ship like a cork in the sea. The massive waves first threw the Zee Ploeg ship skyward into the air, then as we descended into the abyss, crashed over us like deafening thunder. People, passengers and crew alike were drown and swept overboard. Our food was washed into the sea as well, and what wasn’t, was ruined. The water casks crashed through the deck into the passenger hold, below, as did the cannons.

We prayed to the Lord to save us, for food and for fresh water, but day by day, we drifted with none in the unceasing storms. Dying little by little, inch by inch. I can’t even think of that horror. It haunted my waking hours and my dreams until the day I died. I could barely speak of it and Frederica could not.

In the darkest of nights in the worst of gales, we heard a monstrous thunderous crashing, then splintering. The mast twisted, shrieking amidst the squalling of the storm and broke in two, like a mere twig. We knew we were doomed, never expecting to see the light of day. We clutched each other as the water rose in the bowels of the ship and awaited our fate. Frederica hugged the baby to her breast. We held each other as tightly as we could and prayed. We would die as a family.

By some miracle, that ship stayed afloat.

A day or two later, more damage to the ship – the bowsprit snapped too. The sea broke the windows in the ship, and water poured in from every hole.

My God, my God, what have we done to deserve this?

Then, our young Elizabeth, just four and a half years old, died. Wet and ice cold, we huddled together for warmth below deck, starving – with no food or water. The stench of death and sewage enveloped us. We no longer knew whether to pray for life or death. Death seemed more humane.

To make matters worse, the captain tried to poison what little food we had. The men, starving or not, well, we had to take matters into our own hands. We were a captainless, rudderless mass of starving humanity adrift on the angry sea. Completely forsaken or at least forgotten by God. Why? Why?

Oh God, why?

A couple weeks later, we drifted by the Faroe Islands and tried to gain their attention with a shot, but that was not to be and we drifted on, devoid of all hope, starving and utterly forlorn.

Death became our constant companion.

Two Months Later – Norway

At the end of September, after being adrift for nearly two months – I don’t rightly recall the day as they all ran together by then, we thankfully, thankfully, shipwrecked into the shore of Norway near an island called Herdla.

You know the place. I saw you there today, standing at the monument honoring the passengers on the Zee Ploeg.

Lakes, salt, sun, universe, eternity and heaven – the symbols on the monument..

I was with you Granddaughter, as you came back to see me. My heart swelled with pride.

See the islands behind you – that’s where the Zee Ploeg came to rest, rocking back and forth, teetering precariously on the rocky island near the Skjellanger lighthouse.

“Please God, we beseech of you, do not let us break free and wash out to sea again.”

We gave thanks because we were sure that the people ashore would help us as soon as they could see us through the fog. In the name of all humanity, how could they ignore or refuse our great suffering?

Herdla was a small island, maybe a mile long and a quarter or half a mile wide. Fishermen in boats kindly brought us food, but the sight of the dead and nearly-dead on the death-ship, reaching out, screaming in an unknown language and desperately begging frightened the local people. We must have appeared mad, and indeed, we were crazed with hunger and thirst.

They didn’t know what to do with us, whether we were just starving or also carrying some plague that would kill them too. There were so many dead. Some we buried at sea as we could, but when the sea was too rough, our dead family members simply remained with us below deck amid the stench.

Perhaps the people on Herdla wondered if we were even of this world. We looked like the walking dead.

They were kind enough to allow us to bury some of our deceased in the churchyard. I hope they said prayers over their bodies and for the souls of our relatives.

We were dying every day now. Entire families perishing, one by one.

The wailing never stopped. The screams and moans of unimaginable night terrors, except it was real and there was no escape. The only escape was death itself.

Bergen

The men in Herdla sent an emergency message to Bergen, the capital of Norway, further down the fjord. What were they to do with a ship full of starving, sick castaways?

We didn’t know anything about Norway. In fact, we weren’t supposed to be anyplace close to Norway. Driven by the storm, after the mast and bowsprit broke, we could neither navigate nor control the ship, nor did we know exactly where we were.

Fortunately for us, the Norwegian people, at least near the sea, were at least somewhat familiar with Germans. Hanseatic League German merchants had been trading with Norwegians for hundreds of years. A few people spoke a little German and all people living by the sea understood a shipwreck and hunger.

Norway itself was struggling. The country had been gifted to the Swedes by the Danes just three years before, and many of the bureaucrats in charge had little experience.

We were devastated, crushed, when they decided that we could not remain in Herdla and in fact, we could not come ashore at all. It appeared that our incredible relief at being washed up on the island and being discovered was premature.

Overwrought, we were trapped on the ship in our misery which deepened day by day.

Elsesro

The Zee Ploeg was towed to a shipyard north of Bergen, called Elsesro, where we were quarantined on the ship in this bay, right beside the buildings with the red roofs, for 30 days.

This is how Elsesro looked in 1814. It’s still recognizable today – even the red roof buildings

I stood beside you as you stood witness at Elsesro overlooking the sea, where the Zee Ploeg was tied, feeling our sadness across two centuries. Palpable, you can still touch our grief, and through it, you touch us.

The disabled Zee Ploeg was tethered to the dock beside one of those warehouses with the red tile roofs, just beneath you Granddaughter. Perhaps, if I could have peered up into the future, I could have seen you perched upon that hill, reaching out to me through the mists of time.

I was with you in Elsesro today, my Granddaughter.

You stood where we stood, where our children played and we heard their laughter once again as the sun grew warm. You touched the trees that were saplings when I staggered upon that land, falling upon the ground in thanksgiving after emerging from that hell-hole ship, reeking of death.

You stood just a few feet away.

Ahh, some of those sturdy trees are gone now, as am I, but the stump remains, just as part of me remains in you.

Purgatory

We hoped that our fate had turned for the better at Elsesro, but we questioned if it could be so. We didn’t know the language and wondered what would become of us. America was never further away. Germany was in the past. We were in limbo. Purgatory on Earth.

While incredibly relieved to no longer be adrift, we looked out at this bay for 30 long days, wondering if we would leave before that time, feet first.

Death seemed to be the only way off of this terrible ship.

God, it seems, wasn’t yet done testing our will.

Those 30 days and nights were endless, relentless. Still, more people died. And more. And more.

When that eternity had passed, we were allowed to depart the ship. We had no place to go, we still had no food, our clothes were in tatters and as the local residents described us, we “were more dead than alive.” Begging was against the law, but what choice did we have?

Thank God, some of the residents at least took the pitiful wailing orphans into their homes, hearts and families.

You met one of their descendants today, Granddaughter, Christian Rieber. He built that lovely memorial for the Zee Ploeg survivors in Herdla where we stood together.

Christian’s ancestors died on the Zee Ploeg and we tried to comfort the orphans, but could not.

The Zee Ploeg was so badly damaged that she could not be repaired. The breaking masts had crashed through the deck and broken the sides.

Not knowing what to do with us, the Norwegians are a resourceful lot.

At Elsesro, another ship with no masts called the Noah’s Ark was tethered to the Zee Ploeg, upon her deck. Those of us left alive lived between the two ships lashed together in the cove, cold, miserable and suffering as the gloom of winter fell upon us.

Still, it was better than dying one by one, adrift at sea.

The Noah’s Ark Tragedy

Elsesro, where you stood today, was where the tragedy of the Noah’s Ark took place, as if there hadn’t been enough tragedy already. More terror and death.

In January, on the 14th, in the dead of the winter during yet another horrific storm that blew in from the north, the Noah’s Ark broke loose from the Zee Ploeg, crashing into the sea and drowning many of the people who had already survived a shipwreck and starvation, sweeping them out to sea. Then another 20 died in the next fortnight from terror.

The survivors, nearly drown, became very ill. Today, you might call it pneumonia or maybe they had heart attacks, but we didn’t know why back then. Slowly, more died and were buried in the churchyard behind St. Mary’s Church, the church in the neighborhood where the Hanseatic League Germans lived.

Thank goodness those Germans spoke our language and we could at least have the comfort of a funeral service we understood to bury our unfortunate dead. They wrote the names of our dead in their church book, giving us at least some semblance of normalcy and consolation.

Those we had to bury at sea had nothing more than a prayer, and those swept overboard…I can’t bear to think…

22 Kong Oscar’s Gate

You probably didn’t know there were hospitals in 1817, but one, of a sort, existed in Bergen, left over from the war with Sweden three years earlier where captive soldiers needed treatment. That’s where the desperately ill were sent, often to await the grim reaper. 22 Kong Oscar’s Gate, meaning house 22 on King Oscar’s Street.

The building that served as our hospital isn’t there anymore, of course, but I walked beside you when you climbed the cobblestone street, the same one I trod, and visited the building in that location today to see where we lived.

I was fortunate, if you can even use that word to describe our plight, that most of our family was in the hospital and had been since October. They had to carry us off of that ship. We couldn’t walk and were very nearly dead. So I wasn’t on the Zee Ploeg on January 14th when the Noah’s Ark accident happened.

More than 100 people had died by this time, including all 30 babies born during the journey. We no longer knew who was still alive. Confusion reigned.

After the Noah’s Ark accident, many more were sent to the hospital to recover, or die. Twenty more died that next week. There were funerals every day. Graves couldn’t be dug fast enough.

Thankfully, kindly townspeople brought us food, and clothes, for we had none.

The Lawsuit

I know the Bible teaches us forgiveness, but I could not forgive that despicable captain for what he had done to us. Manzelmann, of course, had secreted food away and he didn’t suffer the same fate as we did. Then, he tried to poison us. He was seen acting suspiciously and slipping poison into the kettle of gruel.

Some of the ruined food was saved and indeed, it proved exactly as we suspected – POISON. We should have made him eat it. We had to dispose of that poisoned food, meaning what little food we had was wasted as we starved. His murderous intentions and incompetence in so many ways caused the terror, torture and deaths of our countrymen and cousins. He didn’t care.

In essence, he killed our beloved daughter, Elizabeth. No, I could not forgive that man.

By January 8th, I was once again able to walk, so Johann Fidler and I filed suit against Captain Manzelmann, asking for our passage money to be refunded so that we could pay our Norwegian benefactors and once again purchase passage to America.

Manzelmann claimed that he was not responsible for our predicament, that we needed to sue the company in the Netherlands that we contracted through for his services. Under the dark of night, Manzelmann stole board a ship and returned to the Netherlands, leaving the misery and devastation he caused behind, never having to answer for his actions. We should have hung him on the ship when we had the opportunity.

The Zee Ploeg was too badly damaged to be repaired or rebuilt and her wood became part of those warehouses you saw at Elsesro today, Granddaughter. Who knows, maybe part of her still remains in those rafters.

New Beginnings – A Wedding and a Baby

On February 8th, my wife Frederica’s brother, Johann George Ruhle, married Catharina Koch, a girl from Schnait who was also emigrating. Her mother was a Ruhle, related to my wife, and her grandmother was a Lenz, related to me. Actually, in those two villages, there wasn’t anyone who wasn’t related, several times over.

George and Catharina courted while we floated down the Rhine past those majestic castles and after we climbed aboard the Zee Ploeg in Amsterdam.

Those castles were a romantic sight alright and enough to inspire anyone. In June, they announced their engagement, although we certainly suspected. They would marry after we arrived in America. We all celebrated and well, they might have celebrated a bit too much.

Georg and Catharina married in Bergen in the old Cross Church, just around the corner from the hospital where we had all been taken. The door was always open then too.

I walked beside you in the church today, my Granddaughter. The inside looks much the same as it did when we fervently prayed for safe deliverance.

We sat in these pews and prayed at this alter, day by day, to God to deliver us to America. With no resources, we were entirely at his mercy.

Was there a way for us? Was there any salvation on this side of the grave? How many more would die? I would rather die than go on alone.

I know it sounds odd to say that we were fortunate to be so ill, but the hospital is what saved us. We weren’t on board when the Noah’s Ark broke free, plummeting into the sea.

The hospital was barren and stark. The townspeople of Bergen brought us food and a few clothes. We were so grateful because, austere as it was, it was so much better than the ship. Somehow, we had been transformed from hopeful emigrants to pathetic beggarly refugees.

As we could, we wove and repaired fish nets and anything else we could do, but we were far more of a burden to the people of Bergen than anything else. They too had suffered at the hands of Mother Nature, with starvation knocking at their doors as well. They had little to share, but shared what little they had.

Not to mention that having been defeated in the Napoleonic Wars, they had been overcome by Sweden just three years before. They were terribly poor, just eeking by. Thank God for the blessings of the bounty of the sea, or we would surely have perished altogether.

A Secret

Let me tell you a little secret. No one can hear, can then?

Frederica’s brother’s wife, Catharina, when they married in Bergen, was “with child.”

Shhh….

There was no way for Georg and Catharina to marry on the ship, and although they were properly penitent for their immoral behavior, celebrating their upcoming marriage prematurely one would say, it was too late. A child, we thought, would brighten all of our spirits. This child seemed ordained by God, especially since the baby was born in February, even though his mother was starved during her pregnancy. We gave her as much of our food as we could.

Little Joseph Ruhle was born at the hospital on February 28th. We rejoiced and baptized him right away right around the corner at Cross Church, where his parents were married.

We were so thankful to have a place to worship so close by, less than a block away, around the corner just past the green house.

I proudly carried little Joseph to the church myself as his mother rested! He was the newfound joy in our life. The symbol of our hope for our new lives.

I saw you lovingly touch that baptismal font inside the church today, Granddaughter. We gathered around that font as baby Joseph Ruhle was baptized. We were so grateful to hear him cry, full of life, despite the odds. That day seemed to be the turning point. Frederica’s father, Adam, the baby’s grandfather proudly served as his godfather. Joseph’s birth gave us all renewed hope. Yes, life was improving now!

Things were looking up.

But Baby Joseph too was soon cruelly ripped from us, exactly three months later in May of 1818. We sorrowfully wrapped his tiny body for burial and said our goodbyes. The funeral was held the next day, on May 28th in St. Mary’s Church with a German service, his little body laid to rest in the pauper’s corner, beside the rest of the Germans from the Zee Ploeg who had perished.

More than 2200 people were buried in that field above the church. It’s a Park now, still known as “The Grave.”

Most of the graves weren’t marked then, and all are gone now.

I saw you here too, Granddaughter, searching for his lonely grave in the rain today.

None of us could afford a stone. No one knows now where his little body was left behind, his grave lost to history forever.

We washed you with our raindrop tears, but do not grieve, we are with him now.

The Rappites

After baby Joseph died, our despair seemed to deepen with every new day. We knew that we could not stay in Bergen forever. The Norwegians didn’t want us, and we couldn’t blame them. We didn’t want to live as paupers, taking charity. We couldn’t support ourselves. We still needed to find a way to America, but there were very few options.

Frederica’s half-brother, Christian Breuning managed to arrange passage for himself on a ship for America in July. The Rappites from the Harmony settlement in Indiana were willing to pay the passage for anyone who would join their colony, but of course their way of life was very strict and included complete celibacy. Being a young father, I didn’t feel that was the right answer for our family. Lucky for you, Granddaughter, because your mother’s grandmother, our daughter Margaret wasn’t born until the last day of December in 1822, the day before our 3rd anniversary setting foot on American soil. If we had joined the Rappites, well, to put it daintily, you wouldn’t be here.

Christian Breuning left Bergen on August 13th on a ship that held 80 Rappites, although we understand that the Rappites later felt the German boys were too rowdy for their settlement. Some passengers disappeared after arriving in America and never made it to the Harmony settlement, apparently having a change of heart. We always wondered what happened to Christian.

After Christian departed, our countrymen continued to die. Three of our cousins from Schnait named Daniel Lenz died and are all buried with the others in the poor section in Fredens Bolig Cemetery, above St. Mary’s Church. Conrad Lenz died too. One grief on top of another.

The Ship Prima

The Norwegian grey skies and never-ending winter rains had begun, the sun disappeared for days at a time, and darkness was descending on the country.

The people of Bergen were as desperate to be rid of us as we were to be gone. We could not return to Germany without money, as the king made it very clear when we left that we would never be allowed to return. Germany didn’t need any more poor people and the Rhine was in essence a one way river. Our families there were all in desperate straits as well, with the crop failures and high taxes and could not sponsor our return.

Finally in the late fall, the Norwegian government found the captain of the ship Prima who agreed to transport us to America and allow us to be sold into indentured servitude after arrival in order to pay our passage. Indentured servitude would take another 7 years. Surely Frederica’s parents, Adam and Katharina Ruhle would never live that long. She would be 70 and he would be 61 by then. Who would even purchase them? Indeed, 11 people on the ship were too old to be sold after we arrived in America.

This was Captain Manzelmann’s fault – that evil, despicable man. He had brought this disaster upon our heads. Passage to America should not cost us another 7 years, 7 very long dear years of our lives. It has already cost us one and a half years, and we were destitute refugees in Bergan, not near America yet.

By the time we sailed to America, were auctioned and served 7 years, it would be nearly 10 years since we left Germany, hoping to start a new life. Adam and Katharina’s life would be over. They would have sacrificed and suffered for nothing.

I had paid the first passage for the entire family, but without a penny to my name, we were reduced to charity and utter dependence in Norway. Our sole request was that we would be sold together as a family. With that agreement 270 Germans, us included, climbed aboard the ship Prima and set forth again.

Frederica cried as we boarded the Prima. Terror was in our hearts. Our unsteady legs shook, but we had to climb aboard that ship.

Our child’s body along with so many of our countrymen already rested beneath the sea with more left behind in St. Mary’s churchyard. Of the almost 600 people that sailed on the Zee Ploeg from Amsterdam, only about 350 left Bergen. That doesn’t count the newborns who perished of course, and it doesn’t count the few orphans who survived and stayed behind in Bergen with their new families either.

The first few weeks on board the Prima were almost normal, as voyages go. Captain Woxland chose the southern route due to the lateness of our sailing. Along the coast of Portugal, we caught the never-failing trade winds and sailed across the sea to the West Indies. We heaved a collective sigh of relief, but once again, the unholy seas turned on us.

Captain Woxland had to fight a raging storm, a hurricane that nearly caused our ship to capsize. Terror filled our hearts once again, but Woxland was a skillful Captain and a good man, not at all like Manzelmann.

To help quench our fear, we prayed aloud and sang songs. The Lord had brought us this far and surely, surely, He would not let us perish now. We did not arrive in the fall as planned, and not in Philadelphia as we intended, but weeks later limped into Baltimore midwinter, on New Year’s Day 1819. We had been delivered. We had escaped the dragons of the sea for the sixth time. Thanks be to God.

Of course, we were yet to be sold, auctioned, but we would never have to set foot on another ship, nor would we, for the rest of our lives. Nor would our descendants for five generations, until you, that is. I don’t know, my dear, if you are brave or foolhearty! But you are assuredly one or the other.

Your Return

Granddaughter, I’m so glad you returned in the ship in the sky. I hope you can feel my love and gratitude across the years.

I’m so thankful that you made your way back to look out over the fjord to the island across from Herdla. Never was anyone so glad to be cast upon rocks!

The simple church on the hillside there gave us such hope as we saw the boats approaching from the shore with food. We rejoiced, watching the arrival of our saviors.

I’m so grateful that you returned to give thanks in the church in Herdla for the people who saved us. They’re buried in that churchyard by the sea, you know. We owe those good people our life, and yours.

It’s fitting that a replica of the Zee Ploeg graces that church today, commissioned by Christian Rieber, a fourth generation descendant of one of those pitiful orphans. Our descendants sure have done us proud.

I’m sure you know of the Norwegian custom of building a replica of a shipwrecked ship and donating it to the first church the survivors worshipped in to give thanks to the Lord Almighty for their rescue. See the Zee Ploeg hanging there from the rafters? Now you know why.

You walked in our footsteps in Elsesro too. A place of great relief and also of great sorrow.

So much to bear, when life was already unbearable. Elsesro’s peaceful beauty today belies the tragedy tucked away beneath years of forgetfulness.

The hospital, our place of salvation and our makeshift home for so many months is gone now, but you visited us there too. Our spirit remains. We trod those same ancient cobblestones as we walked up and down the hills streets of Bergen, and around the corner to the Cross Church.

By Thomasg74 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 no, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21771343

I saw you at the church door today, exactly where we stood too. We passed through that very door.

I was so touched that you walked up the aisle in the Cross Church were Frederica’s brother was married and baby Joseph was baptized with his grandfather standing proudly beside the baptismal font. That was one of our few days of happiness and joy in Bergen.

Bless you for your prayers for our souls there. We pray for yours as well.

The Cross Church provided us with peaceful respite then, just as it did you today.

Sermons at St. Mary’s Church were in German, a comfort to us, and Lord knows, we walked up the streets to that church for another funeral every week, it seems. Sometimes every day.

By No machine-readable author provided. Mortendreier assumed (based on copyright claims). – No machine-readable source provided. Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=979904

We stood in St. Mary’s Church beside you today, just as we stood there the day we buried baby Joseph, and Daniel Lenz, all three of them, and Conrad Lenz and so many more.

The tiny bones in the cemetery on the hill behind St. Mary’s Church are long returned to dust. You did what we could not do, standing in our stead at the grave of that sweet baby boy and others that we left behind in that pauper’s field.

The burying ground is a park now, but we walked that sacred land with you. Our dust still remains.

Our memory lives again. We became you. You carry us in your veins. Remember, our and your DNA rests in the Bergen cemetery too, beneath the sea, and in churchyards in Germany, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana.

Frederica’s parents, Dorothea Katharina and Johann Adam Ruhle never made it to Ohio with us to see our new land. We lost them along the way.

Thank you, Granddaughter for rescuing us from the death ship of oblivion. For finding us and telling our story of that tortuous journey. The wonderful people of Bergen saved us then, and you saved us again. As long as someone remembers us, knows our story, we aren’t entirely dead. Well, we may be dead, but we aren’t gone and forgotten.

If you doubt that I was with you today, look upon this rainbow across the harbor at Elsesro, a gift from me and your ancestors already here – your mother too! We struggled to help you find your way to Norway and we are smiling, ear to ear!

You made it!! We never doubted your resolve. After all, you carry our blood.

The rainbow begins, or ends, in Elsesro, in the shipyard – just like it begins and ends with you. Indeed, Elsesro is the pot at the end of the rainbow, on the left end of the faint double rainbow, the beginning of the next generation.

Need God speak louder?

You, Granddaughter, are our pot of gold – although you think that we are yours.

Yes, that journey was terrifying, devastating and our hearts still ache, but it was the path to you. We did survive and live on through you. You make us proud!

Know that as we watched you sail away on a very different ship, we stood on the mountain top watching over you. As we will, Granddaughter, all the days of your life.

Grateful acknowledgements:

Many people played a part in in bringing the life of Jacob Lentz, his wife Frederica Ruhle, her parents, Johann Adam Ruhle and Dorothea Katharina Wolfin, and Frederica’s siblings together in Germany, then in Bergen, and finally in the US. I am eternally indebted to the following people who helped me along this path in so many different ways with rescuing these ancestors, and their story, from oblivion.

  • Christian Rieber – Benefactor for many Zee Ploeg descendant historical contributions including the monument and pavilion being built nearby and the museum documentary. Christian is an inspiration for all generations.
  • Sigmund Steinsbo – Our gracious host on our Herdla day – thank you so much for driving.
  • Arnfrid Dommersnæs Mæland – Bergen historian extraordinaire who served as a wonderful liaison in Bergen. I couldn’t have had this amazing Bergen experience without Arnfrid. Most of the historical images and some of the contemporary photos are courtesy of Arnfrid.
  • Arvid Harms – Arnfrid’s husband, wonderful, patient  and amazingly unique companion (who drives a very cool Bentley).

  • Arne Solli – Bergen historian and researcher.
  • Herdla Church – Steward of the Zee Ploeg ship replica.
  • Herdla church historian – Generously provided access to church and prepared a historical presentation.

Herdla Church visit, left to right, Arvid Harms, Arnfrid Dommersnæs Mæland, church historian, me, Sigmund Steinsbo

  • Herdla Museum and staff – Welcoming guardians of the Zee Ploeg video (in both Norwegian and English) that resides in the museum. The Zee Ploeg monument and pavilion are also located on this lovely property.
  • Gunnar Furre – Herdla Museum Director who hosted our visit and tolerates Zee Ploeg descendants who return like homing pigeons.
  • Yngve Nedrebø – Historian at the Bergen archives.
  • Håakon Andersen – Amazingly talented creator of the Zee Ploeg ship model.
  • Liv Stromme – Assistance with Zee Ploeg research.
  • Lisbeth Lochen – Assistance with Zee Ploeg research.
  • Martin Goll – Assistance with Beutelsbach and Schnait research.
  • Niclas Witt – Assistance with German archival material and retrieval.
  • Jim – My husband who accompanies me on any number of insane adventures and claims to like it:)

Wonderful traditional Norwegian dinner in Bergen with Arnfrid, Arvid, me and Jim. The perfect evening. Jacob Lentz may have been there too, but if so, he didn’t eat much nor drink any of the local brew.

Researchers wishing to remain anonymous:

  • Tom – My cousin, retired professional German genealogist and research partner, whom I adore for many reasons.
  • Chris – Native German speaker, my friend who loves history, is eternally curious, finds the most amazing resources and rounds out our research team perfectly. I met Chris on this trip too, but that’s a story for another time.

Without the consistent combined efforts of Tom and Chris, Frederica Ruhle would never have been identified, which ultimately led me to Beutelsbach, Schnait and then Bergen in person. None of this would have happened without them. These men have never-ending patience and there isn’t a big enough thank you.

I am amazed, over and over again how, through genealogy, we meet complete strangers and emerge fast friends. For that gift, I guess I have to thank Jacob Lentz.

Footnotes:

The interviews by Friedrich List were extracted from the book by Günter Moltmann 1979, “Aufbruch nach Amerika. Die Auswanderungswelle von 1816/17,” and translated by Chris.

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