Land of Opportunity: Stowaway Emigrated to Avoid Going to War

Teen changes his name, never reveals original name or parents’ names after he emigrated as a stowaway.

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Jacob Smith originally came to the land of opportunity from Prussian Germany, which is now Poland. The country was at war at about the time Jacob was 16. For fear of having to go to war, Jacob stowed away on a ship to America. Because he was a stowaway, no passenger list includes his name and no record of which ship he emigrated on exists. His parents did not come to America, and for fear of their safety, Jacob never revealed their names or where in Germany they lived. Jacob never told anyone when or where he changed his name after coming to America.

He settled in Pennsylvania, near Allentown, in an area known as Pennsylvania Dutch. He enlisted in the Union Army there when he was 17, serving one year before mustering out.

After his discharge from the army, he was united in marriage to Emmaline Glasser in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He moved to Verona, Missouri, living there for 10 years, in which time four children were born. Two died in infancy. Jacob later moved to Marinville, Missouri, where he took up the trade of shoe repair; he worked at it for the rest of his life. They lived in Marinville for several years, then moved to Aurora, Missouri, where they lived the rest of their lives. They are both buried in Maple Park Cemetery, Aurora, Missouri.

George Smith
Muskogee, Oklahoma


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.