Last week in the first installment of the German settling of Lisbon, Menomonee Falls and Germantown, we learned of how Michel Rodenkirk was well-settled, and urged his fellow "Eitel" area German residents to follow in his family’s trail via a long letter of instructions.
The "Eitel" is a heavily flooded area north of the Mosel, west of the Rhine River somewhat south of Aachen and Bonn, which was used as a gateway to the Ardennes Forest invasion route to Belgium/France in 1939, and again during the Battle of the Bulge in December and January 1944-45.
The letter continues:
We had made arrangements for passage to Chicago, however we went ashore at Milwaukee on Lake Michigan, 80 miles above Chicago.
(He goes on about how he got to the northwest of Milwaukee and found good land to homestead. The United States Government had opened up Wisconsin for homesteading in 1836, and there was a big push to claim land at $1.25 per acre, $100 for 80 acres. There were ways you could claim land, or even buy it from prior claimers for basically twice the original claim price — thus $200 for 80 acres at that time period.)
We have a good home, 20 by 22 foot, built of logs. We also have a wagon, a yoke of oxen, which cost $50, and a cow, costing $18, chickens and other domestic animals.
Our cow has increased to cattle and they graze (at) night and day in the open woods, and whenever they do come home, we give them a handful of salt and a little meal. Salt is not expensive here, as it costs 12 shillings ($2 in Prussian money) per 300 pounds.
The trip across the ocean took 52 days, despite storms and high waves, thanks to God, all went well. The trip thru America took us 18 days to arrive in Milwaukee via the Great Lakes and Erie Canal. Who ever takes this trip had better take good care of his money. We had a friend who was robbed of $2,200 dollars in Albany. Their plight was great as they could only travel a short distance before they ran out of money for the rest of the way.
Here in our wood we hear nothing of robberies; hardly anyone has a lock on their door. So far we have not seen a snake, but there are foxes, groundhogs, deer, elk, prairie chickens, and berries and many varieties of plants, trees, and herbs. We have several kinds of maple trees for sugar, four kinds of oaks, large bass woods, nut trees and iron wood. Iron wood gets so hard an iron nail can not be driven into it (makes good tool handles).
For fuel wood, we use the ash. Meanwhile, many of the fallen trees of dead timber lie crisscross in the forest, making it exceedingly difficult for travel.
I find great joy in walking thru the forests, admiring the tall trees of enormous sizes, 40, 50 feet high, without a branch all even thickness ... they are beautiful.
My children may pick the finest living places by government lot. Here in West Konsin we no longer need fear "Martini” (tax term date) … Nov. 11 in Germany. Meat I have three times a day, except for Fridays, or other days of abstinence. White bread, like Wittlicher Weck, eat every day. I wish you here … never yet have I regretted making the trip. Often I have asked the two youngest children whether they could like to return to our old home. They always answer, "No, not for a thousand dollars"
We wish we could always answer "No, not a for a thousand dollars.”
We wish we could have you here for several days, or as long as you might want to stay with us, I could like to give you a treat, even if it cost me dearly. Tools are very expensive here, especially for good ones. Bring an ax for use on the trip, bring no chains, little tinware for that we have enough here, and for travel across the sea, iron pots and pans are best, for your cooking, as tinware does not stand up to the way of the wear and tear. For your sea voyage, make your own "Zgiebch" and take along sufficient oatmeal and wheat flour. If you can obtain potatoes, use them for vegetables. Also carry along ham, butter, brandy, spices, coffee (sugar and whatever else might like to eat on your trip across the sea), for on the sea you might like to eat on your trip across the sea, for on the sea you will not buy anything. For 4,000 miles, you shall see nothing but sky and water. If you plan on traveling through the woods here, bring several pairs of boots and shoes and durable clothing. It is important on the ship, and then when you get here, to have a cast iron waffle iron and a cake pan.
Unmarried and single people will have a good income here in America. In a short time, they can earn more than they may need or what they can inherit from their parents.
Meanwhile, our church affairs are still in a bad way. The community hopes to build a church next year. Now unless we wish to travel great distances, we must have our prayers and devotions in our own home. The Gospel we find in our books and must currently be content with that.
To be continued next week.