Long Sea Passage Brings Family to Land of Opportunity

Few personal effects brought on board, as family struggles to make passage to land of opportunity.

| Good Old Days

My husband's grandparents left Doelitz, Pomerania, Germany, April 11, 1866. Their family consisted of four boys, ages 12 to 3, and a baby girl, age 4 months. With nearly all the money they had in the world spent for the cheapest passage, this family started on the long voyage to America’s land of opportunity on the ship, Eugenie, with Captain Cahnbley in charge. Their personal effects were few, and their only food those several weeks on the sea was bread and crackers they had made before leaving Germany. On a sea voyage, bread that old takes on strange tastes, odors and colors.

It is not likely that the children's mother sang "Rock a Bye Baby," as a lullaby on the journey, for the voyage was very rough. Waves of mountainous proportions swept entirely over the boat, and even though the hatches were closed, considerable amounts of ocean water found its way to the holds of their steerage passage. It took them almost three months to make the journey. Seven weeks of this time they were afloat on the ocean in a sailboat – in those days steamboats were few and seldom used by the poorer classes. They landed at the Port of Immigration Station at New York about June 6.

Great disappointment was this immigrant family's first reaction on arrival in America, for the baby girl, who had smallpox, was placed in quarantine on Castle Clinton, later known as Ellis Island. They immediately learned the hard way that this nation safeguarded the lives and health of its citizens. The mother and babe were taken to a hospital and quarantined, and the father waited for their release.

Money – what was it? Something they had very little of, so the family separated. The four little boys, with no money in their pockets and their fares paid in advance, were compelled to continue their journey with an uncle and his family to the "extreme west," as it was called at that time: the land of Indians, buffalo and deer.

They came as far as St. Joseph, Missouri, by rail, which took a week, then traveled two days on a steamboat, which was more to their liking, up the Missouri River as far as Brownville, Nebraska. They then traveled by oxen team to Muddy Creek in Johnson County, near Auburn, where they stayed two weeks while waiting for the boys' parents to join them. The baby died in New York. Reportedly the mother later sent money to a New York nunnery to repay it for taking care of her and arranging the burial. The family then continued on to Jefferson County, Nebraska, arriving at their homestead just in time to spend their first Fourth of July in America.

During that first year, 20 acres were broken and planted with corn and pumpkins. They were very hungry, and they worked long and prayed for a crop. Being very poor was not a sin, but to stay poverty stricken would have been unthinkable to the pioneers, for they were healthy and industrious. They measured their stride against hardships, anxiety, droughts and disappointments and won. If one was to eat, he had to work; this law of self-preservation applied to men, women and children alike.

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