The Wendish Research Exchange

035.000 Kilian to Dutchman, Serbske Nowiny, 9 Jun 1855, p. 180-181; 16 Jun 1855, p. 189-190; 23 Jun 1855, p. 197; 30 Jun 1855...

mersiowsky - 5-10-2015 at 11:04 AM

Letter from America from the clergyman Kilian

To Mr. Teacher Dutschmann in Weigersdorf

At Rabbs-Creek, Bastrop County in Texas, March 19, 1855

Dear Friend!

Undoubtedly you and my acquaintances have waited a long time for a letter written by my hand, but I did not write earlier before I knew for sure whether or not we would be able to carry out our intention to found a special colony. But now I am able to inform you that some part of our group, whose money was not entirely used up through large donations for the poor and other large expenses, moved back here under the leadership of the steadfast miller, Korla Wićaz from Dauban and his friend, the miller Jan Dub, from Brauske, who together bought a large portion of land for the purpose of settling there. It was not a simple matter to find such a large portion of land, for in Texas it is difficult to find the real owner of large land portions. The government had given large estates to such as had served the state well. But many of these had already died and their properties are under guardianship so that the property cannot be sold, or they live at great distances, or are unknown, or some person might falsely step up to claim the land as their own. So it is an easy matter to be cheated and to stand in danger of losing the acquired lands and be ejected should the real owner suddenly appear with the necessary papers and deeds. Because of these very reasons the territory on which the city of Austin is located got into such litigation in recent days. So Wićas was forced to conduct some difficult investigations that took him up into the government at Austin before the real owner of the tract they desired could be determined. Finally, he learned that the one who sold the portion of land and who had paid taxes on it was not able to sell it. The real owner had died in Galveston and no one knew if there were the heirs. But should any of these heirs appear within the next 20 years the anyone living on that land could be ejected. Therefore, if it is one’s object to purchase land, the books at Austin must be examined closely. Because the proposed land purchase could not be completed, Wićas discovered and bought a different tract. In the meantime the 25 families lived under clear skies in huts or as they say “in camp”. That lasted already six weeks. 1) Korla Wićaz from Dauban, 2) Jan Dub from Brauske, 3) Familie Dub from Rodewitz, 4) Lowka from Klein Radisch, 5)Šewc from Förstgen, 6) Lowka from Reichwalde, 7) Domaška-Jurc from Kaschel, 8) Krupar-Hola from Jahmen, 9) Pjekar (Hofmann) from Jahmen, 10) Iselt from Klitten, 11) Hans Kašper from Kolpen, 12) Handrik from Weicha, 13) Nowak from Gröditz, 14) Bjar from Gröditz, 15) August Gröschel from Särka, 16) Wukaš from Buchwalde near Hoyerswerda, 17) Jan Kzišank from Groß Saubernitz, 18) Kambor from Wunschow, 19) Bartl-Mertynk from Thomaswalde, 20) Familie Šołta from Wunschow, 21) Hokr from Förstgen, 22) Brytscha from Dubrauke, 23) Ernst Adolf Mjerwa from Klix, 24) Ferdinand Mjerwa from Neudorf, 25) Mikš from Löbau.

Polnik from Weigersdorf, with whom I am at present residing, lives one hour away from this camp. All of these families, including Matej and Jurij Selnik, living 40 English miles away on some rented land, as well as Schmidt from Reichwalde, who is renting 3 English miles away, will own some of the league of land purchased by Wićas and Dub in mid February. In this week the families listed here will occupy the purchased land of about 4000 acres in area. During the past week the land was measured and 100 acres were set aside for church and school.

Travel costs in Texas are so high, that had all the poor been moved along, no money would have been available for purchase of land. Also, with such numbers piling up here it would have been difficult to provide them with food, for in this year a poor harvest is expected. Finally, we missed the right time to sow the corn (Turkish wheat). Corn may be planted up to the end of March. Under such conditions many poor families remained in Houston. Also Janaš from Weissenberg finds himself there and supports himself with watch-making. His wife gave birth to a child but it soon died. Janaš, who suffered a cholera attack in Galveston, recovered in the local hospitals and returned to the great comfort of his family to Houston. Many poor families moved 85 English miles inland (5 English miles equal 1 German mile) and either work or rent at Industry, New Ulm, Frelsburg, and at other places. What is meant by “renting?” Renting means:a field is rented for a year and a portion, generally one-third of the crop, goes to the owner of the land. That is very common here. Teinert also is renting in Frelsburg after I led him with much luggage 85 miles inland. The costs for the hauling luggage were high -- $2 for every 100 pounds from Houston to New Ulm. We are located 40 miles still farther inland. For my luggage I had to pay $120 up to here. The heavy chests containing books and my wagon are still in Houston. We have been hurt by these heavy transportation costs because of the great amount of luggage we brought.

Most of these poor people would like to follow at the end of the year or even earlier, if they save their wages and the renters bring in a good crop. But it is not sure whether or not they will join the colony. Nor is it sure whether more affluent people who might arrive from Europe in the fall would join our colony or prefer to found a new colony with the poor.

In this country people prefer not to live close together because many cattle are raised and that activity calls for much pasturage. For transportation men, women, and children ride horses. Travel with cart or wagon is weary because the deep rivers and streams have no bridges. Therefore my wagon remains in Houston for sale. -- Now I would like to say a few things about my trip from Weigersdorf to here.

After overcoming the hindrances of which you are aware, I traveled with my family on the 13th of September 1854 to Hamburg. The others had arrived there already on the 5th of September, and the Gröšl and Mierćin families from Sarka, had arrived on the 11th. The next morning before dawn the steamship took off from Hamburg and arrived at Grimsby, England on the 12th at 8 o’clock in the evening. There they spent the night. Then they traveled by railroad to Liverpool where, because of the cholera, they were held up until the 26th of September. The Gröšel and Mierćin families as well as Madlena Sonsel (unmarried) arrived there on the 16th of September. My family and I traveled day and night by train and arrived at Hamburg on the 14th of September. From Hamburg we traveled through Cologne, Ostende, Dover, London to Liverpool because I was told that by going this way we would be able to join the others the soonest at Liverpool. Following the advice of Agent Behn I left my luggage at Hamburg. The agent had promised to send it later, but none has arrived yet. So I went from Hamburg to Cologne and from there farther to Gent, through Aachen and reached Verviers, the Belgian custom-house, where our luggage was examined. In the rush it happened that my pass had not been returned to me and I discovered it just as the locomotive began to move. Then in the evening in Mechelen there was such a crowd that I barely reached the car leaving for Gent. I called to my wife to leave her seat in the car because it was going to Brussels. She did not hear and remained seated. The rail agent had not understood her for there French is spoken. I believed that she, together with my little son Gerhard and Hana were in a car destined for Gent and I rushed as well for a car going in that direction. So it happened that I traveled to Gent but my family went to Brussels. I arrived at the city of Gent in the evening and after stepping off I watched closely if my wife would do likewise, but I saw nothing of her. At the railway station I finally met a Flemish [Dutch-German] person who directed me to the inn, “hotel des Hollande”. There I spent a night worrying how my wife and son might be doing. The next morning I sent the aforementioned Flem to the station to seek my wife. He returned that same day with her, having found her in Antwerp where other German emigrants had taken her and helped her find a place to stay. In the meantime I was having my trouble with the police in Gent who found it very difficult to believe how anyone could possibility could lose a wife and travel pass at the same time. Finally they sent written inquiry to the custom house at Verviers, and after a few days my pass arrived and I could travel on. In an attempt to regain lost time, and to arrive earlier at Liverpool I planned to travel through Ostende, but again I was delayed so that it was the 20th of September when I arrived at Liverpool.

From Ostende the steamship left for Dover towards evening. The sea was rough. In the II cabin, where we were assigned, there were some people suffering from sea-sickness. At 2 o’clock that night we arrived at Dover. From there my family and I traveled through London and other cities to Liverpool. There, at the cost of Agent Mayer, our group was quartered in three homes. We could not continue because some more had died of cholera.

Not until the 26th of September did we leave Liverpool, leaving the sick behind in the Liverpool hospitals. Several who recovered later followed us to Queenstown. In the Irish Channel the weather was peaceful. Now since many passengers took sick with cholera, Captain Herron did not dare to continue, but instead entered the port of Queenstown, Ireland. There the healthy emigrants were loaded on the old frigate “The Inconstant.” Only the sick remained on our old ship “Ben Nevis” until the ship “Elisa,” which had been retired, could be outfitted as a hospital. The English physician, Blennerhassel, who was assigned to us died already on the 30th of September. Even though he was Reformed he demanded that I grant him the administraton of Holy Communion and he received it out of consideration of his plight. On the order of the authorities the physician Dr. Scott visited us, and the German physician Dr. Hanka whom Meyer had sent us, served on the “Inconstant” and another one on the “Elisa”. Later Dr. Kelly was assigned to us as the journey continued. The featherbeds and furs of the dead and those who took sick were cast overboard or burned. So we spent three weeks under quarantine in Queenstown, where agent Meyer arrived and provided those who had lost bedding with new covers, but featherbeds were outlawed. During the quarantine the owner of the “Ben Nevis” suffered a loss of 1300 Pound Sterling. We had no other expenses beside those we paid ourselves. The British ship crews treated us well but of the Irish that cannot be said. My wife and I were spared of the cholera. When cholera quit, measles broke out among many children.

We left Queenstown on October 23. Soon a strong wind arose which caused many to suffer from sea-sickness and at night the luggage and chests were tumbled about and mixed up so that many emigrants lived in fear. Several days later the weather calmed a bit, but when we neared the Azores the wind began again. As the island of St. Maria came in view, conditions improved, but progress was slow until we passed the British isle of Antigua on the right and the French isle of Guadalupe on the left. Then we passed the Englsih isle of Montserrat and as we reached Santo Domingo or Haiti the weather became so calm for three days that the ship just lay still and we suffered from intense heat. Again the wind arose and we passed the isle Grand Kayman, then the isle Cuba. Entering the Gulf of Mexico we approached, after a long time, the Island of Galveston. There a contrary wind held us for five days until December 15 when we reached the gate to Galveston, a shallow bay that the larger ships could not enter. Our ship, the “Ben Nevis” was among the larger ones which offered some comfort, but the kitchen was not furnished for such a large number of people and other inconveniences existed as well. In general our voyage would have succeeded well had it not been for the cholera. Violent storms we did not suffer. The steamship: “Arctic” which left Liverpool before us, collided with a French ship as it neared New York in a fog and sank with a heavy loss of life. That disaster and many other shipwrecks cause us to say that the mercy of God brought us safely to Galveston. When the weather was calm and no one suffered from cholera we had our services, evening devotions and sang.

On the 15th of December our captain went by boat to Galveston to order a steamer that would transport us and our luggage over the barrier into the city. This steamer arrived in late forenoon and the emigrants were forced to hurry to get on board with their luggage. What a terrible noise and big turmoil but fortunately nothing harmful happened. On the morning of December 16 we entered Galveston. My family and I went to a hotel while many remained on board until the luggage was brought to shore. As I arrived in the morning the place was full of chests and trunks and the customs collectors were checking to see if we had anything to tax. They soon tired of it, we paid $50 and by afternoon we were all on board a steamship with luggage and by evening on the way to Houston. Houston lies inland 80 miles from Galveston. Each one paid one and a half dollars for the trip. One dollar equals 1 Taler and 12 neugroschen. Even though 81 had died on the voyage still 500 people were on deck as “Ben Nevis” arrived in America. Not all of these could be taken on board the steamship. Therefore our wagons and a large number of emigrants remained in Galveston but would follow us next Thursday. So everything was aground in Houston under the clear sky and a week passed by before the trip inland could be made. I stayed with the Lutheran Pastor Braun in Houston and concerned myself about the emigrants as well as I could. Many poor families, because of the lack of money, remained in Houston where they sought work until they could follow later if they desired to do so. Neumann from Weigersdorf and Jan Greulich from Gebelzig and others remained in Houston (pronounced Hooston). There the watchmaker Janaš made his livelihood. Rychtar from Mengelsdorf is also there. Hurban from Rackel, whose wife gave birth here, bought land here and will follow. His brother-in-law Wagner from Halbendorf will also follow.

I and my family along with the families Gröšl, Teinert, Kerk from Dauban, Kubica from Dubrauke and Arldt from Weigersdorf had a chance at the weekend to reach New Ulm. New Ulm is located 85 English miles from Houston. We had to pay $2 for every hundred pounds of baggage and we had 8300 pounds on two wagons. Twelve or ten oxen were hitched to each vehicle. From Houston to the River Brazos we walked across wide prairies, which means meadows, often soggy and wet. The way was miserable, but not once did any wagon upset. We made these 85 English miles (17 German miles) in 15 days. Everybody, except my wife and small children, had to walk. At evening bedspreads were stretched out as tents, feather beds brought in and a fire was made nearby for heat and cooking. In rainy weather we found ourselves in uncomfortable condition on the prairie. We had to suffer only a few bad days before we reached the other bank of the Brazos. This was on the third and fourth of January. We had to spend the night there in the prairie that has been flooded. It was hard to find a dry spot. The others remained there, but I, my wife, and Gerhard, both of whom I had to carry across a brook, returned to the banks of the Brazos where we found an inn of some sort. But that place was overfilled and we were not admitted. We were forced to seek shelter from the cold and wet under a leaky roof where we sat out the night. Next morning we returned to our people but had to wade through water. Finally and fortunately we reached New-Ulm where we had to pay $167 for the transport of our luggage.

We received lodging at a farm which was so overflowing with emigrants that we could not remain and were forced to seek a better place. Another reason for moving was that the delivery time for my wife was not far away. The home of the emigrant Matica [Matthiez] from Kaschel and the home of Domaška-Janak from Reichwald were also overfilled. So I decided to leave New Ulm and go to my friends at Rabbs creek (pronounced Räbbskrik). So we traveled there and stopped at the house of Polnik from Weigersdorf, 40 miles farther inland from New Ulm. In the vicinity some of the wealthier people had already bought a portion of land. There in Polnik’s house, which he does not own, I live and there my wife gave birth to a daughter on the 13th of February. Maria Theresia was baptized and died on March 14. On March 17 she was buried on that newly acquired land and with her little body the cemetery, which had been dedicated by me, was used for the first time. My wife is in good health.

As far as our meals are concerned every day we bake corn bread in an iron kettle with lid, with yeast or without, as each desires. We must grind the corn with hand-mills because other mills are too distant.

The Sorbs who migrated earlier are alive and in good health.

What will happen to us, I cannot say at this time. The final design of our colony has not yet been developed so it is difficult to predict with precision. After two or three years one might be able to tell but not now.

Therefore I ask that this letter and the enclosed register of the deceased be passed on to Mr Vice-Director Wanak and to the editor of the Serbske Nowiny with the wish that it be made public.

Because I have heard that several of farmers have intended to write hostile letters to Bautzen because of us, so I ask the friends Wanak, Smoler etc. to send me a copy (Note: It will happen [ed.]) so that I might be able to expound on the assertions of my opponents. I notice that I will have opposition here just as I had in the old fatherland. Yet I hope to find comfort here.

Jan Kilian Pastor

[ W. Nielsen]