The following four letters are from Johannes Engelhorn to his brother Julius Jacob in Germany. The letters are a composite of several translations, translators unknown, and by Mrs. Heinke Schlaeger, Denver.
Johannes came to Allamakee County, Iowa in 1852 via New Orleans. He married Anna Eva Barthel of Winneshiek County in 1854.
Dubuque, Iowa, June 13, 1852
Finally, I take with tolerable healthy hand the quill to let you know that the three of us [Johannes evidently did not count his nephews which, if he had, would have numbered his party at five.] are still healthy and in well being together. On the 13th of March we left Mannheim with 279 people aboard the steamship on the river Rhine and at 1:00 o'clock we arrived in Cologne (Köln). We stayed there one day - a city worth seeing. They have many deceivers there. [translator's note: Fathers from the Monastery?] A local story that is well known concerns the two black and white speckled horses which look out from the third floor window.
From Cologne, we left on Monday the 15th of March at 7:00 o'clock in the morning on the train, traveling through Paris and Belgium. We went through many tunnels and over high mountains. A steam machine sits in the middle of the mountain with 200 horsepower, that pulls the wagon [train car] on [up] one side and at the same time lets the wagon down on the other side. There are ropes made of braided steel 1 ½ inches thick. We arrived in Paris on the 18th of March at 3:30 p.m. The night before we were in Lille, the first French city, where we arrived at midnight and in the morning at 7:00 a.m. departing for Paris. From 3:30 p.m. until 9 p.m. we were in Paris, where I could see a lot at night. I saw big houses and the endless streets. I enjoyed the heavy red wine.
We left at 9 at night and on the 19th of March at 5 in the morning we arrived in Le Havre. On the 18th we saw our suitcases for the first time, but in what condition! All beaten up and torn. Nothing was stolen from our things, thankfully. The locks were all damaged and everything was trampled. The zwieback [toast] was trampled and the potatoes were frozen. Two of the locks must have been opened on the way, as I see from the brass on the corners of the trunk. Overall, my suitcases were in good shape, but the locks were broken. We had to put two pieces of rope around the trunk so that the lid would stay down.
We had zwieback packed in a barrel and also groceries, 14-20 lbs. of dried bread, 30 lbs. of butter instead of 4-6 lbs., and everything had to be baked real well, and a lot of eggs to make pancakes. Because after being seasick, not everything tastes good. Not to forget good medicine, because one often suffers from constipation. That's why we bring along lots of prunes. Also not to forget wine and brandy, which helps against 300 kinds of sickness. Also cigars and tobacco. From Mannheim until departing Le Havre I smoked 128 pieces. In Le Havre I bought lots more groceries because what we had brought along was only half enough. I especially bought bacon and meat because much of what we had didn't smell too good anymore. We had to stay in Le Havre for thirteen days.
On the 29th of March we left Le Havre at 5 o'clock. I could have left sooner but I didn't like most of the ships. I went with the three masted sailing ship “Tirroll,” with Captain Ellieth. The ship was 165 feet long, 40 feet wide and 56 feet high with masts of 80 feet in height. Of great interest, we sailed past the island of Ilsasia, St. Georg which still belongs to Europe. On the way to America after thirty-nine days we saw fully the island of Holland [perhaps Nassau?] with its firelight. On the 9th of May we arrived in Mayik, [Merrboden?] the tenth island of Florida. On the 16th of May, after 48 days en route we went with a steamboat on the Mississippi. [Hans Rausch dates the arrival in New Orleans on May 18 after 42 days at sea.] On the 17th of May at 2 o'clock we dropped anchor. On the 18th of May at 3 o'clock in the afternoon we arrived in New Orleans. We stayed in New Orleans for two days and then went on to St. Louis, a distance of 1206 miles. We stayed in St. Louis for four days. I met someone there by the name of Diehl. His advice was not to travel with a lot of money.
I have traveled around in the state of Illinois for nine days. This is where the family Nies has been for twenty-five years. One can more easily make a living in America than in Germany but you must get along with other people and be self reliant.
On the 2nd of June we went from St. Louis to Dubuque, 520 miles away. Martin and I got off along the way to look for Gottlieb in Freeport, Illinois, but he was not there. In March he had gone back to Pennsylvania. He didn't buy any land and he didn't start a job. With a high toll on the oxen we went 70 miles on to Dubuque. I bought myself a soldier's license for $32.50 and then I was allowed to buy 160 acres. It was Congress land, real Indian land. I could have selected in the state where ever I wanted to. Elizabeth here is married to a Swiss man. He is located 100 miles above Dubuque and I have been there. He helped me find my land. I have nice fields where I can farm potatoes, wheat and corn. I also have a nice forest of oak trees. I also have various types of limestone on the land, Kalkstein [chalk], Mauerstein [limestone?] and I think lead.
I am first going to build a log cabin, which in the winter I can use as a stable. I have a lot of fine oak trees on my land to use for the construction. The mortar I'll make myself, I have the limestone for raw material. This is how I will build myself a nice house and adjoining workshop. In America a business brings a lot of income. Where I bought the land there is a city [Lansing] nearby with a lot of building going on and a lot of money to be made. Many have been warned not to come to America with a large family because most have been unsuccessful or unlucky. I'll tell you the latest in the next letter.
On the tenth of July the two boys [Julius Jakob & Martin] and I will live with Christine [his sister]. I hope to have a house built in four days. When I have everything in order I'll go into the city to start my profession. The three will have to understand the reason and take care of the entire property. Mine [Wilhelmina, his other sister] will stay in Dubuque to learn American cooking, because Americans know how to eat, but about drinking they don't know much. I help as much as possible, so I'll get money. I'll be able to buy cattle cheaply in the fall. I have already bought a pair of oxen and a wagon for ninety dollars. I still have to buy a lot of housewares. On tools and utensils I have already spent one hundred dollars.
It's good for single girls here. These girls are taken right from the ship. They get good wages and good husbands, however the English language has to be learned quickly. I had to practically defend my sister so that I could keep her. A good acquaintance of the young Frau Giese, the bride of Heinrich Zahn from Heidelberg whose names were Bartholomaus and Bierbrauer traveled with me.
(Part of a second letter from Johannes Engelhorn to his brother Johann Jacob. The letter is incomplete.)
Lansing, 4 July 1852
For you the trip is tough at sea. On the ocean I would have gladly returned back, but it was done, one could not return. Mine [Wilhelmina, his sister] was sick for days at sea. She suggested that no one should make this trip. It's not as dangerous to go on the Mississippi from New Orleans to St. Louis. Two men had to make coffins constantly. People sickly by nature and full of anxiety died out of fear. I was always there helping many of the people, many with cramps. I used my hands to massage and help relieve the cramps so at least the people had peace until they died. I didn't let the two sisters sleep very much during the night, because they had to cook for the sick. The two boys [nephews, [Julius Jakob & Martin], I put at the head of the ship where there was always fresh air. During the fast trip, 1209 miles in seven days, the heat took its toll. Because of my heartfelt name and well dieted life and through God's help all five of us stayed fresh and healthy. The sicknesses weren't so bad by New York, but the fraud [“deceit”] is very prevalent, what you don't find in the south. But I would not advise anyone for or against it.
The advice I have is it's very difficult the first years here but if one has about 150 acres to work it is possible. The soil is a mixture of black dirt and sand and from the way it looks most everything would grow well here. It appears to be excellent tobacco ground. Only one problem, in the springtime it stays cold very long and one has to count on five months of winter. It is like in the mountains of Europe. To climb hills is exasperating to me but I like it better than all flat land. All I'll need now is six to eight hundred dollars to buy some livestock. I would have a lot more enjoyment from my land if I had one or two hundred steers running around in front of my eyes. Right now I only have two oxen and two cows. I must have other people work my land for which I have to pay $2.00 per acre and also feed and house two men. So have the goodness and speak with Herr Burgermeister [the mayor] in that he will send me some money as soon as possible. If you and your brother-in-law Diehl want to undertake the trip to America, land is available close by me. Two of my neighbors next to my land have nicer land than me. One has 280 and the other 220 acres to be sold. The asking price is $5.00 per acre for one and the other $3.50. Not far from me there is also Congress land available for $1.25 per acre. Perhaps one could still get a soldiers license [soldaten landwehr] as I did for the same price. If you would like the Province [countryside?] as I have described it to you and are willing to undertake the hardships and dangerous trip it would be best you are my neighbor and as soon as possible as the immigration is heavier than ever before. Every week people come to the Province where I live to buy land. Many come from the old states in the new land where the Indians lived 3-4 years ago. One hundred miles from here Indians still live but the region has been forbidden to them. Examples are the states of Pennsylvania and Ohio, these two states are almost settled like Europe.
If the brother Thomas is still to be saved, for him I would know a place. The man has 300 acres including a house and cattle, and also a third of the household goods. But as I said to his two boys I would like their parents to come to America but they don't care for them to come. Julius [Johann in one translation] says, “I don't know, the way I live now, I don't hear shouting and cussing anymore.” He considers himself lucky. Almost forgot, those that like to go to church don't fit on my place. There is no school here either. It follows for a man who has children that they should go to school. There are many Swiss in my county and it's likely they will name the county “Das Deutsche Sich-lament.”
Once I have fixed up the farm somewhat, I'll give it to Christine and Martin. I'll supply a house and household items, tools, sheep and cattle and they will have to give me half from the business and I'll work in my profession. I have several times been offered two dollars per day but I am not able to get away before spring and the house and some acreage, [“approximately 40 morgen”] are fenced in. I believe apple, pear and cherry trees will grow well. I have about three or four hundred nut trees on my property. The nuts are a little smaller than the ones from the big nut tree in Niederfeld. To [build] the special house I will surely have I will have all the required walnut lumber. [nut tree wood]. I do not have sugar trees [sugar maples?] but the property next to mine which is for sale has many sugar trees.
I would prefer the money be sent to St. Louis. I don't want the money to be sent to Dubuque. I'll drive next week to Dubuque to pick up sister Wilhelmine. I have found a place in Lansing for her by some English people. There she will earn ten dollars per month and will learn English. In Dubuque she is with Germans and receives earnings of five dollars a month.
(Part of a letter from Johannes postmarked Lansing, arrived in New York 23 November, and in Schwetzingen, Germany 14 December. )
Lansing, 17 November 1852.
Since six weeks ago I found a job in a mill with two gears. But the water is so strong that it could drive eight gears. One could build two sawmills by next summer. Farmers nearby are happy to have their flour in our country. So far, we had to sell the grain there and then we had to buy the flour. I work there and get paid by the day. I make three dollars per day. I don't hear any German words all day long. Always English, so one has to learn it. If I take myself a good man, and could rent my farm and house, four to five cows, two pairs of oxen, without the small animals, 40 acres tilled land in the fall. Must build a fence so that the animals can't get onto the tilled land. From the whole proceeds I give half. My farm is very nice, but I like my profession better. If one owns the wealth of Julius Diehl, he is certainly better off here in America than in Germany. But one has to work hard on the land for things to go well, but after a couple years of sweat and toil, one can be wealthy enough to buy a riding horse for 80 to 90 dollars.
The oldest daughter of uncle Hirt from Hockenheim has a man by the name of Stief. Johann Adam Hirt lives in the state near us. Peter Hirt bought his land near Dubuque and settled down in our area. Therefore, we have here and in the area a German Suhlanmand [community.]
I can show the way by land to California. It is a trail [Fussweg] with ruts approximately six inches deep. It is the way the Indians used to go through my land to California. But I do not desire to go there. This fall there were approximately 300 Indians four miles away from me, they stayed there for awhile. I was curious about these guys and their camp. I went to them and they kept me and butchered a dog and fried him whole. I enjoyed eating the dog meat. Then they let me go again. I felt if I had not eaten the dog, then their feelings would have been hurt and maybe they would have taken my life.
The money belonging to my sister Mine [Wilhelmine] I have invested at 10%. She is still working in Dubuque, ten dollars is her monthly wages. Christine is with me. Martin, son of Thomas, makes a pretty good blacksmith. He shoes the horse quite well. The little one I'll let learn a profession after one year.
(To his parents, Johann Marcus II and Eva Katharina (Werner) Engelhorn, received in Altlussheim 10 March 1855)
Lansing, 19 February 1855
I received your letter on 10 Feb. and got the message you would like to come to America. It is good that this desire comes from you. I was going to write you shouldn't come, but now you say Matt Engelhorn, son of Matt is already in the country. You did not give me the date when he started the journey. Even if he has plenty of money, it is not a good time now to come. The Mississippi is frozen up, no ship can sail on it. The railroad is not finished and to go by land is not advisable, the snow is too deep.
My home is large. I have room for many people. As soon as the mill is going in which I am working right now, I hope to be finished by the end of March, I will build a small house on top of the cellar of about 18-21 feet. Once I start I can finish it in two weeks. I had the trees cut already. I have enough food here, 225 pounds of dry goods, three pounds per person, meat; 13-20 p. per person, cream of wheat for soup, also dried fruit, very good potatoes.
You write there are six people in the family. If you come by sailboat from the port, it takes 3-4 days, sometimes 8-10 days. If a storm arises and one gets sick, take some bitters, it works good. You can buy it on the ship.
The best is plum or cherry whisky, you will need on the water and it will be necessary in America. I had a barrel of wine, it was not too much. I sold some for 40 Franks. The best wine is 44 Franks; red wine. Every day I had them cook a glass of wine with [an herb?] that was sufficient. Take enough bags of tea for coffee does not taste as good as tea.
This will help you not to get sick so much and recover fast. You will find out. Do not forget this or the whisky. Be sure and close it tight. Only take a swallow at a time. Stack the boxes on top of each other for often things get lost. Also, take good white wine, the French kind.
In a suitcase pack the bottles in hay or straw, do the same with the [wooden] boxes. If you come by sailboat be careful and don't put your food in the suitcases and keep everything by your bed. The route via Paris was good. You can buy vinegar in Havre and add a drop to your water for thirst. Wear your oldest clothes while at sea, the smoke from the coal ruins everything you wear.
Here in my new home one needs warm clothing. The winters are much colder than in Altlussheim. You can wear the same kinds of clothes you do in Altlussheim. A good overcoat is necessary. Gray underwear, a blue shirt for the trip. For the ship wear something like butchers clothing. Don't wear new stuff on the ship, use things you can throw away after the trip because the water ruins the leather. Bring good feather beds, they are not available here. I wish my mother would send me a mattress cover and head pillow, it would be more comfortable than a straw bed.
We travel here by water which is very comfortable. We take the sled and it is faster. Bring everything you want, the charge for extra luggage is not high, I will pay for it. Bring seeds of all kinds, especially clover. Also beet seed [could be sugar beets or turnips—for animal feed] is $4.00 a bushel. The pay for custom will be German currency, silver or gold. Twenty pieces of Franks in gold is better. Five Fr is 95 cents. It is best to send the money in a box. Add one dollar per 100 for expenses.
You don't need to fear the Indians. They are good people, just don't give them whisky. In the winter they dress like Slovaks. They use cut up leather strips and make shoes. The men wear leather pants and a large wool blanket. The women wear the same, that's their dress. They make their own leather by sticking sticks in the ground and stretching the skin over them. In summer they walk around naked with a patterned cloth around them. They live a poor life and feed off wild animals. They are never a danger. In the spring they have to move 100 miles away. They have no religion.
Since you wanted to hear from me how I like it here I have to tell you that I like it very much and am doing well. Dear mother, you have had a hard life. When you come here you will have a better life. Father won't have to work so hard in America and life will be better. I understand that brother and sister Marie have thought to come to America. But, dear parents, you are old and weak. The voyage will be hard on you. It is my duty to take care of you in your old age. I cannot tell you what to do, you must make the decision. Sister Marie can find a job 100 miles away in Dubuque. I will now end this letter. I have to help…(?)… skin an elk he shot. I want to send this letter off right away. It is 7 miles to the post office. On my land are about 50-60 head of elk.
These letters also appear as Appendix A in the Blue Book.