This is a continuation of the long letter from Michel Rodenkirk, who immigrated from the German Eifel to Wisconsin (or as he wrote, "West Konsin"). The letter was written locally and sent to his relatives and friends back in Germany in "Die Eifel," the gateway for future invasions of France (and the Battle of the Bulge later on).
He had gathered supplies, money and eventually got to Antwerp, from where he went on a 52-day crossing of the Atlantic with his family. That was followed by an 18-day trip to the "northwest" of Milwaukee, where he built a 20-by-22-foot cabin. As we re-enter his long letter midway, he is describing his neighbors:
"All of our homes are somewhat different, and 400-600-1000 steps apart. My nearest neighbor lives about 500 steps away. In adjoining houses live the Schneider family, Theisch, Keller, Junk, Herrriges, Tull and the Hammes Family. Then he goes on to tell of "certain Catholic Buckecker from Switzerland, a few English men and also some Lutheran." He added the disclaimer, "Each treats the other kindly and all visit back and forth.”
As the letter is written on Dec. 26, 1846, he tells about Christmas and Wisconsin weather, but also how important it is to have a lot of cut-up wood for heat and cooking.
His letter continues:
"We have an abundance of wood prepared. When I see the great wood piles burn, it pains my heart, and my wife is moved to tears (because of all the cork preparing it).
Any available wood is burned except what is used for rail fences, which keep our cattle out. Our cattle stays out in the forested open, winter and summer, and graze. Large bells are hung on their necks and one may hear them a mile away. Throughout the year our cattle finds a lodging place or places under trees. I have erected some shelter for my cattle but it was with difficulty that I keep them away from the cabin even when the weather is bad. They prefer to lie in the open. Our scythes are narrow but nearly twice as long as we had in Germany. The blades are not hammered (sharp) but sharpened with a stone.
Now, if you should plan to undertake the trip to America, make sure that you are on time at the depot or dock, as neither ships or trains will wait a minute for you. They are gone like a shot.
Now who ever makes the trip will be impressed with the omnipotence of God, as it is still impossible for me to describe our voyage adequately. In all, we were en route a total of 75 days, 2 ½ months. Back home we always thought that England is far, far away, but after five days of travel we were nearing England, and after 10 days, we were alongside Scotland and Ireland, and then it was out into the Atlantic, the open sea.
In a way, this shows the speed of our ship. The slant of our ship often made it impossible to stand without hanging securely onto something. At times, gusts of wind almost threatened to over turn the boat, but, like a floating egg, it would always right itself.
The last 10 days we sailed along the American shores, and then entered the world famous, beautiful New York harbor. We were, of course, exhausted and walked with difficulty on firm soil. We remained in New York for one day. The sumptuous meals served us in America do not agree well with the exhausted pilgrims. The next night we traveled 45 miles north by steamboat, up the Hudson River to Albany, and then on as I have already related it was 17 days to Milwaukee. From Milwaukee, it was two days afoot to where we finally settled, and started our cabin.”
Then the letter goes on with advice to others that might try to get to “West Konsin:”
“Single men, with a good job may easily save enough money in one year for an 80-acre farm. The government permits one to claim two 80-acre farm sites for one year, and at the end of the year another member of the family, 21 years of age, may renew the claims-homesteading process.
Insurance costs 12 shillings, or 2 Prussian dollars. Having acquired a claim one may immediately reside on the land without ado over additional taxes. Anyone may establish a land claim with out much trouble. You don’t have to be dickering about the price on unclaimed land. It is set ... $100 for 80 acres.
There are still vast, vast uninhabited areas available but there are no established roads.”
Continued to a conclusion next week.