Recently at a funeral of someone who belonged to a family of German ancestry, typical of the area, who immigrated during the 1840-80s, there was talk of a letter sent Dec. 28, 1846, by a successful German family to homesteads northwest of Milwaukee, imploring his extended family in the Germany "Eifel" area to seriously think of following the enterprise he and his family showed in coming to "West Konsin" in late 1846.
I looked at the long letter, which fits the "everyman" who made the decision to follow in their footsteps.
A lot of the earlier homesteaders to Wisconsin (and to Lisbon, Menomonee Falls and Germantown) were from New England and New York, mostly English, Scottish and Irish. However, a crescendo of Germans to the area soon became the largest ethnic group, even to this day in Wisconsin.
The letter which follows, which was edited in parts for length, will be presented in several weeks of installments, in the format of telling the "everyman” story of German settlers to the Lisbon, Falls, Germantown area.
State of West Konsin, Dec. 25, 1846
Dearest mother, all sisters and brothers, and sister-in-lag, relatives and acquaintances of the Eifel,
Sincere greetings to you all.
(The "Eifel" is the wooded hilly area north of the Mosel River, south of Aachen and Bonn west of the Rhine Pin; It was used by Hitler in both 1939 and again in late 1944, as the gateway to the Ardennes, Belguim and the Forest, familiar to Americans as the the Battle of the Bulge, Dec. 16, 1944, to Jan. 16, 1945.)
Thanks to God we are all well and hope the same of you. I do hope that by now you have received my letter of Oct. 22, telling you where we have finally landed. Should you have received this letter, I hope that news from you is on the way (to us). I will tell you again briefly about our trip.
Emigrants to America generally pay half fare from Cochenn (Kochem on the Mosel River) to Coblen (Koblenz) on the Rhine River, 20 silver Groschen to Kohn (Coeln - Cologne), then from Kohn, to Antwerp (Holland) by railroad, two dollars per adult, older than 10 or 12 years, children below that age pay half fare, and babies under one year free. From Antwerp to New York adults pay 80 franks while minors pay 70 franks.
From New York you should acquire passage on a steam ship to Albany. Now from Albany to Buffalo you will travel the Erie Canal. You could go by railroad or steamboat. Now at Buffalo, you again travel by steam boat to Milwaukee in West Konsin. The trip from Albany to Buffalo costs 5-6 dollars. (He went on about being registered/recorded when they got to America and also on the trip to Buffalo.)
One should not trust every German thieving tricksters approaching, you as an exchange agents. These people are usually bad characters.
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 letter then went on to tell of the exchange worth of money.)
Eight English shillings make a dollar, 10 Guilders are worth $4. Prussian money is not good here. Whoever emigrates should exchange his money for gold, “Parisian drafts” on a good New York bank are good. The drafts I had were good and I deposited them in New York and after traveling 1,800 miles to Milwaukee … sold them without a loss.
Next week’s “Retrospect” will continue this lengthy letter of an “everyman German emigrant” to the Lisbon, Menomonee Falls, Germantown area.