Family Sends Teenagers to Land of Opportunity

Hope for farmland drives immigrants to send teenagers ahead to pave the way to the land of opportunity.

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The century was new as teenagers Martha, 15, and Minnie, 16, set sail across the ocean to the Land of Opportunity. The Claussen sisters arrived in New York with the grand sum of 15 cents between them and train tickets to Davenport, Iowa. Thanks to the other travelers, they didn't go hungry. A cousin met their train and provided them with employment on his farm. The girls went to work to earn money to send back to their parents in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. There was no longer any farmland available in that area; so Father Ludwig, Mother Christina, and their eight children dreamed of the opportunities the New World would provide.

They finally raised enough money for their passage. Johann "John," the oldest son, stayed behind in Germany to fulfill his military obligation. Grandma and Grandpa Claussen, along with Detlaf "Dave," Gustaf "Gus," Ludwig Daniel "Louie" (my father), Emil, Bertha and my Great-Grandmother Lorenz arrived at Ellis Island on March 1, 1903. The problems that arose during their processing were terrifying. The fear of having to get back on the ship and return to Germany was very real. Older people were not being admitted into this country. Somehow they convinced the immigration official that my Great-Grandmother Lorenz would not become a financial burden to this new land. Her family assured them that they would provide for her.

Joyfully the family headed for Davenport, Iowa, where Martha and Minnie waited for them. Grandpa Claussen died within the year. The family's dream of owning its own dairy farm was shattered.

Grandma, being of sturdy German stock, held the family together. They grew a garden, and with the aid of a hand cart, she and the boys peddled fresh vegetables door to door, up and down the streets of Davenport. Grandma hired the boys out to milk cows for other farmers. The money the boys earned they gave to Grandma to provide for the family.

The Claussen children grew up to become good United States citizens. Dave, Gus and Louie worked for the Red Jacket Manufacturing Co. Emil became a commercial artist. Only John became a farmer. He worked on farms in the Davenport area but decided he wanted a farm of his own. The farms in Iowa were all too expensive, so he headed for South Dakota, where he homesteaded near Hayes.

Beverly Claussen Caviness
Greenfield, Iowa


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.