Land of Opportunity: Grandpa Traveled to Frankenmuth, Michigan
On April 18, 1848, Grandpa Helmreich and his bride, four other couples and several other people left Bremerhafen, Germany, on the sail-ship Regina bound for America, the land of opportunity. Despite unfavorable weather and other disagreeable experiences, they landed in New York on the afternoon of June 3, after being on the ocean three days short of seven weeks. They proceeded on their journey to Bridgeport, then on to Dierkers Barn in Saginaw, Michigan, where they were met by Pastor Sievers, who came to America in October 1847. The immigrants were to follow him about four weeks later; none of them came to Frankenlust Township in Michigan. Some went to Monroe, others to Wisconsin, and some stayed in Frankenmuth.
During the winter, Sievers and a few men from Frankenmuth looked at land by the Tittabawassee River, but found the soil was poor – wet and swampy. Sievers later went 11 miles north of Saginaw on the Squaconning River, where he found what he was looking for and bought 600 acres. He divided it into sections for his people who were to come during the summer of 1848. Wearing high boots and equipped with crude instruments, he tramped through the land to measure off the section, accompanied by hordes of mosquitoes.
At Dierkers Barn, the immigrants organized St. Paul’s Congregation on June 22, 1848, naming Sievers as their pastor. On June 25, the congregation held its first service with Holy Communion. Sixteen people partook of the Lord’s Supper. Four couples were also married that day.
The colonists moved on to their new home in two groups. Some drove the cattle through the forest, with Sievers as their guide. The other group sailed down the Saginaw River on a scow with an attached raft carrying 8,500 feet of lumber, stoves, windows, flour, food, household goods and most necessary tools, which Andreas Goetz had bought and brought from Detroit for $350. When this group came near the Squaconning River, which was the only way to Frankenlust, they had difficulty getting their scow and raft through the weeds and wild rice, so they did not get there that day. Because they had all the food with them on the scow, the other group did not get anything to eat that evening; only Mr. Hachtel had his meal. He bought one of the best cows, and to be sure she would get to Frankenlust safe and sound, he traveled with the group overland. When it came time to milk the cow, having nothing to milk into, he laid himself under the cow and milked directly into his mouth. He had his meal. The next day the two groups got together again and started to build a shanty. That night it started to rain. It rained for two weeks, so the colonists sat on their boxes and trunks, holding their umbrellas over their heads. A big share of their belongings spoiled, but they all remained in good humor and thanked God that He had led them to a fertile country.
The group going overland heard the sound of cannons being shot in Saginaw, it being the Fourth of July. When they arrived in Frankenlust, they slept the first night under the stars. The place they slept in eventually became a cemetery, where the settlers now rest in peace.
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.