Wrong Boat Created Communication Problems

Germans had tough time traveling on boat with Italian immigrants.

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My great-grandfather on my mother's side was Ferdinand Koeliker, who married Jeger Kungunde. He was born March 3, 1836.

Great-Grandpa Koeliker was the county male goat keeper in their area of Switzerland. He kept the only male goat for the county. The females were brought to him for breeding. This was his livelihood.

My Great-Aunt Seraphine worked in a silk mill. Her husband abused her so badly that she took her 2-year-old son and jumped into a river from a cliff. Both drowned. The child was found the next day and Seraphine was found nine days later. Her husband was jailed because of his ill treatment of her. He hid a match in his hair and set the jail on fire. It burned to the ground. He was put in jail in another town and not allowed to go to his wife's funeral. She was known as a beautiful woman.

My Great-Grandfather Ferdinand Koeliker had a daughter, Lina, who was born September 22, 1867. She married Emil Gaugler from Hochwald and Biiren, Switzerland.

My Grandfather Gaugler had a sister, Rose. Their families came to the United States together in 1906. My mother was only 6 months old. When the two couples and all their children went to embark for the United States they went to a boat-but not the right boat! They spoke only German-but got on an Italian boat.

They could not communicate with anyone on the boat except by gestures, which didn't work too well! They had brought some food with them, but the best my mother could tell was that they did not even get into the dining room. By feeding her chopped dried fruits they had and, I presume, some other foods-perhaps my grandmother nursed-my mother survived.

Aunt Rose and her family stayed in New Jersey but my grandparents-perhaps lured by the promise of work-moved to Erie, Pennsylvania. Eventually Aunt Rose's daughter and son-in-law and two children moved to Erie, too. That daughter is still living in California.

When I was in college in Nyack, New York, I spent the weekend with Great Aunt Rose and Great Uncle Casil when I could. That was more than 50 years ago. During one of my visits, she said to me in her broken English: "I like it here. In this country the woman is the boss." I'm not sure she was 100 percent right on that!

Mrs. Arlene Futrell
Stokes, North Carolina


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.