Land of Opportunity: Leaving Maximilian I’s Tyranny, Family Arrives in New York Harbor

Tyranny forces family to leave Bavaria for the land of opportunity, but no welcoming committee greets them as they arrive in New York Harbor.

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When my great-great-grandparents, Joseph Leis and Agatha Hoover, left Bavaria with their four children, Peter, 15; Agatha, 12; Adam, 8; and Paul, 4, for the land of opportunity, there was no Statue of Liberty or welcoming committee to greet them when they arrived in New York Harbor on June 29,1844. I try to imagine how they felt when they left their family and homeland, with its green countryside and beautiful Bavarian Alps. Napoleon had already left his mark on their country, proclaiming Maximilian I Joseph the first absolute monarch of Bavaria.

In America, immigration provided the human energy that would fuel the farms and factories of a growing nation. Immigrants were cheap labor for the factories and new farms blooming on the prairies of the Midwest. The family settled in Bismarck, Huron County, Ohio. Today the town is known as St. Sebastian.

Ten years after their arrival, Peter Leis married Margrate Irish, who arrived in America from Prussia. Their marriage took place in St. Sebastian Catholic Church in Bismarck, Ohio, on June 10, 1854.

To this marriage 14 children were born; six in Bismarck, and eight in Bellevue, Ohio. John, their eldest son, was my grandfather. John married Emilie Jung. The Jung family came to America via Canada.

After coming to the United States, the Jung family changed their name to Young, the English version of Jung.

The Leis family that arrived 150 years ago is only one branch of our family tree. In graveyards across the country my ancestors sleep. Joseph Leis is buried in St. Sebastian Cemetery (Bismarck) Ohio. His tombstone says:

Joseph Leis 
Joseph, Son of Mike and Margareta (Bullion) Leis  
Born: 1787 Bavaria, Germany  
Got in New York June 29, 1844  
Died: In Sherman TWP, Ohio, 1869 August 13  
"Here you have your rest, tired out in the cold grave, the Creator was not disappointed who gave you this earthly life. " 
The inscription is in German.

Olivia M. Roth
Silver Spring, Maryland


Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then CAPPER’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from CAPPER’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.