Waller and Montgomery County Stories Generally
Media and Reference Materials
Contact: Nick Wallingford - firstname.lastname@example.org
German version (18MB .pdf of the section of the book this translation relates to)
In August 1846 my great great grandfather Otto Hegar came from Germany to the port of Galveston on the ship Colchis. Also on the ship was Sophie Hessig, traveling with her sister Charlotte and her husband Ernst Weigand. Sophie's brother Albert Hessig was also on board. Our family's romantic story has always been that Otto and Sophie met on the ship and fell in love.
Sophie's sister and brother-in-law, Charlotte (Lottie or Lottchen) and Ernst Weygand (German spelling was Weigand, I believe) wrote letters back to Germany that were published in newspapers for prospective immigrants. Ella Gieg gathered and published a number of accounts. In book 5 of Auswanderungen aus dem Odenwaldkreis (published 1997) are Charlotte's letters. A distant relative Paul Clinkscales found the book and had the letters translated. They provide a wonderful glimpse into life in Texas for our ancestors. One thing we learned is that the Hegars and Hessigs were acquainted in Germany - there goes the romantic story. The Sophie and Mr. Hegar (Otto) mentioned are my great great grandparents.
I have added some formatting, translated the introduction and converted some of the measurements, but did not substantially change the translation.
One guilder is 40 cents, there are 60 kreuzers in a guilder, making a kreuzer a bit over 1/2 cent. A thaler (the origin of our own word 'dollar') is 1 1/2 guilder, or 60 cents.
Ernst and Lotte Weygand report from Texas that approximately 80 people moved between 1844 and 1848 from the southern part of the Odenwald district to Texas. Among them was the family of Ernst Wilhelm Weygand (02.05.1810, Darmstadt, Germany), formerly a tax collector in Beerfelden. His wife, Charlotte, called Lotte (03.03.1819, Michelstadt), was the daughter of Michelstadt pastor Friedrich Hessig. The couple was married on 31.7.1837 in the Church of Michelstadt, and their children were born in Beerfelden, where she also received her holy baptism. At the time of their emigration in 1846, they had two children: Alfred Friedrich (24.08.1838) and Philippine Emilie Caroline (04.02.1841). Two siblings also emigrated with Lotte Weygand - brother Albert (03/01/1818) and sister Sophie (02.08.1829). According to the note in the parish book in Michelstadt, Albert died on 02.29.1852 in Texas, and the sister in 1904 in Hockley. She was Fritz Hegar (from Darmstadt) in Texas. Ernst and Lotte Weygand reported in detailed and impressive letters of their journey and their first experiences in their new home at Spring Creek, a small river north west of Houston, where between November 1848 and May 1849, in several sequels, two letters from them were published in "The German Emigrants", to be always recorded for their historical value. Unfortunately, despite extensive inquiries into the whereabouts of the Texas, the descendants of the Weygand family have until now not be identified.
Spring Creek, Texas
20 May 1848
Good, best Father!
To this day without a letter from you, I nevertheless take pen in hand to at least let you have some news of us; however, I will remark that we would have written long ago had we not awaited the arrival of a letter which was supposed to have been mailed to Galveston, according to a notice we received last fall.
I heard from Schuetz [Adam Schuetz, from Fuerth, came to Texas with 9 people on the same ship with Ernst and Lotte.], who received a letter from Fuerth [town] at the beginning of September, that my letter of last February reached you. You will have also learned from Hegar's father that we rented another house 1 1/2 English miles away after planting our share lot with corn, because we were afraid of getting sick if we had stayed all summer in the house which we described previously. This move gave us the chance to get rid of Balz who was often rude and insolent, especially when drunk, and Susanne, who usually only worked for herself all day long. [Balz and Suzanne appear to be a father and daughter, who came from the same town as the Weygands. No further information is known about them.] We moved into the house in question on March 28  of this year, planted the adjoining field with sweet potatoes, and started a garden. Although not used to plowing since our youth, we nevertheless were able to handle the plowing of the corn field by ourselves.
We harvested about 250 barrels of corn [about 3000 liters] of which we were able to sell a portion and still have enough to live on; the sweet potatoes did not yield much and neither did the garden since there had not been enough rain. We had to abandon the garden in our own field because of the distance. Hegar, who married in November, did not want to build on his land for now; instead, he and Schuetz rented a farm of 36 acres four miles from here and moved there at the end of November.
Albert and I started our house and thought to have it finished by Christmas, but unfortunately the work did not progress as fast, because the site was 1 1/2 miles away and I had such intense headaches in December and January that I had to stay in bed for a long time. It became time to plant the fields, so we stayed home and began to plant the approximately 25 acres (40 hessian morgen) and to build the fencing. We probably will not have to pay rent this year, since the latter is such hard work and is supposed to be the job of the owner. He lives 70 - 80 miles from here. Working the land keeps us busy from early in the morning until late at night all week long. If this year is not as dry as last year we can count on approx. 550 - 600 barrels [6600 - 7200 liters]. We don't plant much sweet potatoes, because they don't mature until October or November, and we plan to move to our own place as soon as the corn is harvested. We do not have a garden this year because one of our neighbor ladies, an American, supplies us almost daily with vegetables such as beans, onions, cucumbers etc. Details about what has happened in our family you will learn from Lottchen's enclosed letter. You will recognize how much our circumstances, and Lottchen's views about the country, have changed in a year. All of us thank God that we are here; we are now quite healthy and always so cheerful, that we sing together every evening. Hymns are not forgotten and Lottchen sings all day long.
You found a description of the local agriculture in the letter written by Albert to the widow Helfrich in Fuerth. The answer to it arrived here eight days ago. Hegar also received a letter from his father six weeks ago from which we learned that you visited Darmstadt and had hopes of a move. We were amazed how much the letters cost. Hegar's father paid 3 guilders 3 kreuzers [$1.20] for two pages.
A few remarks about conditions here: Every 2 - 6 miles along the road there are farms which cultivate 10 - 70 acres each. We were the first Germans, but now already more than 30 - 40 families have settled within 12 - 15 miles from here. Although he could turn over his products more easily, nevertheless the American does not like to live in a close neighborhood, primarily because of the cattle which has to be penned in every evening.
Roberts now has about 1000 - 1200 head which require 4 - 6 people to herd them into the pens every evening, where an equal number of Negroes are required for the milking. Last year 4 families from our group were allowed to get 15 - 18 pints each free of charge from his cow pen. Of course, most of the cows are not milked at all, otherwise he would need 20 employees.
Most of our neighbors are industrious and decent people, most of whom own lots of cows and horses which they all ride as if they were born in the saddle. Many have the fault of being too fond of whiskey and fearsome gamblers, risking even 100 - 150 dollars or cows, horses, or even Negroes. The other day Roberts lost 1000 dollars at a horse race in Austin, about 250 miles from here.
Food for the American, and ours as well, is simple in the wintertime: meat, bread, sweet potatoes and coffee three times a day, rarely green vegetables. However, in the summertime there appears meat 2 - 3 times a day, even two or three kinds is not rare, eggs, butter, sweet potatoes, vegetables, cucumbers, milk and coffee. Meat is boiled only rarely: almost always it is fried because it is tastier that way. Whoever shows up at mealtime is invited and sits down without much ado. More than six persons rarely eat together; when they get up, another six follow.
They frequently give balls and dances (the latter are called frolics); one of the men will play the violin, most of the men know how to play this instrument. At the balls there is great feasting, at the frolics only coffee and cake are served. Extraordinary amounts of water are consumed and in some households coffee 4 - 5 times a day; our neighbor Mitschel requires approximately 300 pounds annually.
The Americans indulge in hunting, e.g. they will shoot deer, turkeys, geese and ducks. A turkey weighs about 25 hessian pounds, we have actually weighed some of them; they have the best meat. A few minutes from our house in the woods live a few Indian families, who make their living by hunting. They sell turkeys for 20 - 25 cents. Last winter Mitschell shot a bear which weighed 300 pounds, the meat is even more tender than pork. Mitschel gave us a piece of about 30 pounds.
The climate is not as hot as in Germany. Many believe that even at 30 degrees Reaumur [100 deg F] in the shade the heat is not as oppressive, because there is always a little wind. Even in the summer it sometimes gets so cool in the morning that one has to pull up the quilt, since the wind has access to all parts of the houses which are only built for heat. The thermometer climbed to 30 degrees Reaumur at noon on May 31, to 31 3/4 Reaumur [103 1/2 deg F] at 2 pm on August 4 this year.
This was the hottest day in the last 10 - 15 years, according to our neighbors; the heat was so oppressive that one thought it was coming out of an oven. Except for this day, we did not mind the heat throughout the entire year, even when our clothes were drenched in sweat because of the work; in the olden days I used to walk through the Gammelsbacher and Kailbacher valleys and suffered more from the heat than here. I am convinced that the climate here is appropriate for Germans, as long as they practice moderation in food and drink, and in that regard I would advise anybody to emigrate who desires a better life, enjoys work, and has healthy limbs.
After 1 1/4 years our capital has advanced to the point that we "can live like kings", to use Lottchen's words. I might add: even much better and more carefree! We have 18 head of cattle and 40 pigs (maybe 50 in three more weeks), whose upkeep costs next to nothing, since only the pigs get a little corn now and then to get them used to the house. Steers and pigs supply more a surplus of meat for the household, the milk is given to the dogs and the pigs. The work horses are fed only from the fall until May; e.g. riding horses, more or less, according to how much they are used. Horses which are not tamed only graze. Since Hegar left I have bought a brown horse in addition to my white one, which cost me 50 dollars. As soon as the work in the fields is completed I will fatten him up and then trade him for a mare in order to secure the future breeding.
Going back to emigration: Whoever brings a starting capital of 500 to 1000 dollars, and has the courage and the energy to work, can acquire land and cattle property which will double in 4 - 5 years. He who has nothing, only has to work for an American for 3 - 4 years in order to earn a sizable property. Even though he will not get much cash, but rather cattle or produce, it will not matter, he can trade it for whatever he wants. Wages are 8 or even 10 dollars per month; but he can rent a farm after he has got cattle and horses, pay one third of his harvest in rent, and increase his fortune by selling the products he does not use himself, or by exchanging it for more land or livestock. The prices for horses are about the same as in Germany; a good milk cow will cost about 8 - 9 dollars, and usually a worker will be given one cow with calf per month. Whoever goes to the trouble of taming young cows for the farmer can have as much milk as he wants. Last year we had 9 cows on loan which cost us nothing. I got a cow with calf for the big mirror, the same for 28 pounds of feathers, the same for a pair of trousers and a flaxen sheet, the same for a pair of trousers and four linen shirts, and 3 cows with calves and a steer for Zentgraf's rifle (I had to pay the doctor a cow and a steer for 1 1/2 dollars).
I tell you, best father, we are quite happy here; it is all very different from Germany. The people are very different; nobody is despised for not having a cent in his pocket. Our neighbor's wife, who owns about 800 head of cattle and 100 horses, was unable for 4 months to pay Lottchen 50 cents for lace, because she had no cash. Lottchen would have mailed her letter a long time ago, but we did not have the 10 cents. (Every simple letter which crosses the border of Texas or enters Texas from the outside costs 10 cents)
It is impossible to describe the way of life here, especially social life. Nobody walks or rather rides past another without greeting him and inquiring how he is, even if they are total strangers. If an entire family visits another, nobody thinks of cooking something special or to make up beds, etc; meals are prepared as usual and bedding is spread on the floor.
Something else about the climate: starting October 22 we had an icy cold; the thermometer fell to 3 degrees Reaumur [39 deg F] in the morning and at night, and climbed seldom above 13 degrees [61 deg F] at noon; on October 30 it climbed once to 19 degrees [75 deg F]. This winter we had no snow, but ice several times. Spring was very pleasant, we had several good rains, but no heat, although the thermometer frequently climbs to 27 - 28 degrees [94 deg F] (the thermometer hangs on the northwest side).
Regarding the animal kingdom: Apart from the domestic animals cows, horses, sheep, dogs, geese, ducks, chickens, guinea hens, rabbits, cats (and rats, mice, lice, fleas, bedbugs) like in Germany, there are also bears and wolves (so numerous that they catch calves and pigs near the houses), panthers, of whom Mitschel shot three last winter, skunks, squirrels (who do much damage to the corn), hares, deer, wild geese, ducks, cranes, prairie hens (as big as domestic hens), grouse etc. Also alligators, moccasin and rattle snakes whose bite can kill within minutes; the chicken snake which is the most common looks for chickens in the trees and in the houses, and often scares the sleepers in their beds during his wanderings. lts bite is not dangerous. I killed one which was 7ft. 7 inches hessian long and 2 1/ 2 inches thick. The number of bird species is extraordinary; there are easily several hundred kind, among them some of the most incredibly colorful plumage and most delightful singers, especially the nightingale, which even at night produces the most wonderful melodies in the trees around our house.
Nobody can imagine the splendor of the flowers which bloom almost year round on the prairie and in the woods. As far as fruit there are mainly peaches. One of my neighbors has about 200 trees which bore so much fruit that whoever felt like it was welcome to come and get sacks of them. Whoever rode past, dismounted, ate his fill, and filled his pockets. I drove over several times with the carriage to fill several sacks and baskets. We ate all day long and dried large quantities in the sun. 50 pigs were fattened from the fruit which the wind knocked down! Elderberries, figs, wild cherries and grapes, two kinds of blackberries, which ripen from April until July, are mixed with sugar and sweet cream and frequently eaten three times a day like a vegetable; they are a delicacy! But the main summertime treat are the many kinds of melons, especially the water melons; those are sown among the corn and thrive extraordinarily well, you can find some 2 feet long and 8 - 10 inches across; sometimes we ate 10 - 12 per day.
Wood species are oaks and pines, mainly 15 kinds of the former, such as red oak, post oak etc. Hickory furnishes the best yokes as well as very good nuts. Walnuts, sassafras (a deciduous tree) often 2ft. across, laurel, beech, birches, and many vines.
Albert can already ride quite well and must bring in the cows every evening and hold the calves back during milking. I frequently even have to forbid him the fast riding because he wants to gallop like the Americans. Everybody rides here, and when you see somebody walk in the street, it is either a Negro or a German. When a woman rides, it is not rare to see her with one or two children on a horse, one in front and one behind her in the saddle; even girls of 8 - 10 ride by themselves.
In October we learned that Spiess from Brendlingen, Kuechler from Scholleck, Lerch and Flach from Michelstadt have gone to Braunfels; quite a few rumors are being spred about Spiess. In December we got a letter from Vogel [Adam Vogel from Michelstadt, his wife and 4 children came to Texas in 1844 on the ship "Ferdinand".], according to which the grandchildren of the forest master Louis and the Irigs of Maehacker are also in Braunfels, as well as Schaefer from Hesselbach. Vogt does not like it there any more because the wages are supposed to be too low and paid by credit vouchers which do not represent the full value; he had the fever for 16 weeks. Everything costs twice as much in Braunfels as in Houston.
Why doesn't Heinrich Wagner get here? [Heinrich Wagner was a schoolteacher in Stockheim, Weiterstadt and Sprindlingen, and married to Emilie Hessig, a younger sister of Lotte and Sophia.] Does he want to continue living a godawful school master's life with the fortune which does not even sustain him? Here he could really live and would have to work only· 4 - 5 months a year. Whoever has the desire to come here should learn to handle cows and horses, rough carpentry, cabinetmaking, saddle making, blacksmithing, wagon building, shoemaking, and he would not want for anything. A cabinetmaker gets 20 dollars a month. I have to end my letter and ask you, dear father, and brother-in-law Wagner, to write me soon in detail about all the news in Germany and Europe since we left, especially in recent times. We have heard in a letter from Fuerth about changes in Hesse, hunting and fishing are supposed to be free now, and the assembly is said to consist mainly of farmers etc. Were you able to sell the uniform and did you get anything of what was still due? Did another debt come up beside the 5 florin [$2.00] in Beerfelden? Would it be possible to get the money out of the retirement account? It would earn more interest here than in Germany for our good children.
My heartfelt thanks to you, best Father, and brother-in-law Wagner for all you have done for us. When you shouted "You will be happier and more content than those from whom you part" as we were leaving, I did not think that this prophesy would come true ·in such a short time. But thank heavens, we only have one wish remaining to make our happiness complete: To see you and the rest of your dear children here with us. You would not believe how happy we are here in the evenings when we sit and chat with the children. Alfred will say: I wish a letter would come and grandfather were in it, then the passage would not cost him anything. And little Emily adds: And Augusta were in it too, I would give her an old pig and three piglets and a rooster and so on and so forth! Oh, if you were here, what joy you would have from our little Texan boy, our as yet unbaptised Edward, as he chases the pigs and chickens around with a big whip. How you would enjoy seeing the thousands of horses and cows on the prairie and all the beautiful flowers on the fences.
Thank you, dear Wagner, for your gorgeous memento (the mountain house), which has brought us many pleasant conversations. Give our regards to our friends and all who remember us in friendship, esp ......... Lottchen and the children send greetings to Mrs. Hassler and Mrs. Reubold. lf you write, do not send the letter per messenger, but by mail, except if Heinrich Wagner or another of the Wagner brothers comes directly to us. lf that opportunity arises, you could use some of the money which you have collected for me, to send a book, picture books for the children, knitting yarn, and sewing thread. In case you have cash, I think it would be best to send it the same way Hegar's father has sent him money. Albert wants me to tell you to tell Michel Rexroth to get over here, he could do some good business here. Did my glasses ever turn up? We also forgot the little hand lantern and two parts to the spools on the spinning wheel, which we really need now for spinning wool.
It goes without saying that it is extraordinarily advantageous for German who comes here to know some English. We have already learned English fairly well. Albert the best. Alfred and Little Emily speak only English when they play with the neighbor's children. I can send Afred by horse 6 - 7 miles away and he will deliver a message correctly in good English. He sends his regards to his Mr. Preceptor (instructor), the boys of the pharmacist, and the Breimers' Wilhelm, and says for them to come to him and he will teach them to ride the right way.
Something else about the houses in Texas: in this part of the country most of them are made from raw or partially trimmed logs, with the spaces in between filled in by shingles or planks; others are made of boards, they have no foundation, instead 1 1/2 - 2 ft. high post oak blocks are set on the ground, and the houses are put on top. All are roofed with shingles. In Houston as well as in Galveston they have already many brick homes and more are erected daily. There they have stores and department stores bigger than the ones in Frankfurt, where you can get everything you might want; in the same store you can buy potatoes and cheese, shoes and straw hats. There are no basements, instead meat, milk etc. are stored in the smoke houses, and the sweet potatoes are dumped on the ground and covered with dirt and shingles. Milk is put in tin cans; it is so rich that the cream sits on top and is almost as solid as butter; the latter has to be salted right away, because it would otherwise spoil in the heat. Right now, at 11:30 on May 26 the thermometer indicates 18 degrees Reaumur [73 deg F] and we do not have any significant heat; we could use rain, otherwise it does not look good for the corn harvest; we also cannot plant sweet potatoes if there is no rain.
Our youngest lad is wearing nothing but a thin shirt; he is fat and sassy and resembles little Emily; he is a happy, lively little tyke just like his godfather.
Water bowls and glasses are unknown here, instead gourds are used of which there are many kinds, for instance for dipping water, for storing milk, fat, coffee beans, sugar, soap etc. There are even a kind of bottle gourds, in which the American carries his whiskey on his horse. We were just having bread which is better than the best available in Germany, since we have an abundance of milk, butter and eggs to bake it with; it has the same taste and is as good as the Horlespretzels, and when we top it with fresh butter, onion rings and cottage cheese, you won't be able to top it with anything in Germany.
Nobody needs to bring any bellows, for that we use here the spread out, dried turkey wings which are more than a foot wide. The tails of those birds are used like fans. In the first days of April we already had German potatoes, and 4 weeks before that the most beautiful salad; cucumbers for the last 6 - 7 weeks, and beans as well. There is a kind of salad which is available year round; if it rains, it will sprout in 3 - 4 days; you can eat it raw or cooked, and you can make mustard from the seeds.
Dear Father, you see how often I had to put down my pen by the way I cover subjects out of order; with all the work here and the noise from the children this is unavoidable. Right now our little Texican is laughing at me and says "Take me, take me" (I am supposed to pick him up). So I must conclude, especially since I am running out of space. We have a nice swimming place nearby in our Spring Creek. Greetings and embraces to all. May heaven grant us that you come here and live as happily here as we are. Eagerly expecting an early reply I remain yours sincerely WEYGAND
Dear Emily! [Lotte's sister, wife of Wagner]
It is about time for me to take pen and paper in hand to write you further about our fate and our current circumstances. You ought to have received Ernst's letter of February 22 (1847); it contained the description of our entire trip and everything we had experienced until then. But it is not easy to describe, because you can imagine what we, especially I, went through. How often I wanted to write to you, but I must say I was afraid to, because homesickness is very hard. Oh, one would have to be without a heart and feelings if one could leave indifferently one's homeland and everything one loves and cherishes!
Oh, dear Emily, it is terrible, it is indescribable. I often thought that the grief would break my heart when I had to think about everything I was reminded of: I will never see this again, it is all over and done with. But God granted me strength and power over and over again to endure my hard fate. Oh, the night we left Michelstadt! I kept thinking it was not happening, but it did. I want to know if our departure affected you, too? I felt the whole world crashing down on me.
Ernst gave you a detailed account of our trip to Antwerp in his first letter. Maybe you can imagine a little bit how I felt. It was no small matter for me to travel 70 hours in one stretch on a train almost without stopping. I hope you learned from the letter how the sea voyage went. At the beginning, when we could still see some land, I stood on deck and said a farewell to all of you and and to all of my home country. Oh, it was terrible! You can imagine what I endured en route. The constant motion and the seasickness bothered all of us. I also did not believe that we would be able to make land before my delivery. Often the motion was so bad that at night in bed one had to hold on with both hands. I was awfully worried because giving birth on board ship is no small matter. I witnessed that with a woman who gave birth 4 weeks into the voyage. Of course, there was no midwife, no doctor, no nobody who had even an inkling about such matters. The woman was close to despair; it was her first baby. When absolutely nobody came to her aid, a male cousin of hers came to her rescue and delivered the baby. Just imagine this kind of despair! Briefly, whenever I think about it, I would advise any woman to just go ahead and jump into the water instead of undertaking such a sea voyage. The dear Lord heard my prayers and allowed me to reach land safely.
The children were very happy to be back on firm ground. They soon got so used to seeing Negroes that they were delighted to spot one. On the first day little Emily ran away when she saw one approaching from afar. I was also glad when we were back on firm ground. But now our worries commenced in earnest, because our money had just "flown away" despite all of our economizing. You cannot imagine how expensive everything is here. We tried to earn a little money but 3 florin 45 kreuzers [$1.20] was all we could get for some washing and ironing. I don't need to elaborate what happened with the association, etc., because you know it all from Ernst's letter. It is out and out fraud: Whoever wants to risk their life can go there; almost all of them turn back, half of those starve.
Our first concern was where to start. But because of me we had to wait a while, because I was glad to be almost due and did not want to start another trip. You know the rest. Our little Edward came into this world on November 13 (1846), and he was in such a hurry that we did not even get a midwife. I spent the morning ironing, had lunch with the others, went to bed around 1:30 and by 3 o'clock he had arrived. Ernst went to get the midwife and Mrs. Schuetz. Since the former was not at home, the latter delivered the baby. I would have been in despair if Mrs. Schuetz had not been here; I will be forever grateful for what she did for me. The midwife came later and said that all was alright. My appetite returned. If only I had had something! I did not want to eat a lot of meat and we had nothing else. 3/4 of a pint of milk cost 7 1/4 kreuzer [5 cents], and 2 eggs 1 1/4 kreuzer [1 cent], that is enough to spoil one's appetite. I ate browned flour soup every morning, browned only in grease, because a local pound of butter costs 1 florin [40 cents] and it weighs 4 lots less (than a German pound) [1 lot = 1/2 ounce]. Thank God I remained healthy and always also made sufficient milk. Every day I fixed a gruel for the little one which he enjoyed. How often I wished to have some of your milk just once to make a soup with. When I got too hungry, I could eat bread for 7 1/2 kreuzer [5 cents], but after an hour the hunger returned. I cannot enjoy tea or coffee without milk. What is the use of telling you more about Galveston, since Ernst has already told you everything else. Luxury items are available like in German cities, but everything is horribly expensive. We had to pay the midwife we had 5 dollars, and it would have cost 10 if she had actually been present at the birth.
We stayed in Galveston from November 1 until December 4 (1846). On Alfred's birthday (August 24) I fixed hot chocolate from Darmstadt for the children, albeit with water and without eggs, but it still tasted great to them. The springer and anise cookies lasted us until Galveston; and we also used the last eggs there. We were never bored in Galveston, because many of our shipmates were still there and visited us almost daily. If it had not been so horribly expensive there we would have been sorry to leave. So then we boarded a steam ship to Houston on December 4. Our little Edward was only three weeks old and it was so terribly cold on that day that I was afraid it would hurt him and me. I kept praying to God to please keep us healthy, because the climate in Texas is very unhealthy for Germans, and many have died already. There are said to be 70 - 80 orphans in the colony already. The weather is very changeable; one can require summer and winter clothes on the same day. Roses were blooming in Galveston all through November. In the morning it is cold and by 10 AM it is already very hot. Some days the air is so humid that the clothes are totally wet.
After sailing for one day and one night we arrived in Houston around 7 AM. Herr Schuetz, whom you already know from Ernst's letters, had rented a place where we were 16 in one room and the beds were on the floor; it was like a barracks. One time Mrs. Schuetz made me a salad from German potatoes which were brought to be planted, and it tasted like candy to me. I was unable to eat, and still the child was supposed to nurse. I fixed him gruel three times a day, and almost every day the we got some milk from neighboring farms. Very few have milk in the winter since most of the cattle leave.
Thank God our little one gained in height and weight despite the hardships he had to endure. My jaundice went away and my appetite returned. But what kind of food is available here! Three times every day black coffee, bread and meat. And what kind of meat? Only smoked or salted beef and pork, I could not eat the com bread. It is awful if one is not used to it. The cornmeal is about like fine wheat meal. You put as much as you want to bake in a bowl, and then add salt and enough water to make a dough you can shape in little loaves. Beforehand you put a pan specially made for that purpose on the fire and heat it including the cover, then grease the inside with fatback and put the little loaves inside. Under the pan and on the cover you put hot coals and bake it approximately 1/2 hour. This happens three times a day. If it were not for the cornbread, one would not have to do much cooking, but this is work. By and by I got used to it and now I even like it a little. In Houston we bought a bale of fine wheat flour for cooking; it cost 7 1/2 dollars. From that we sometimes made a kind of dumplings with water (jokes and Alfred referred to them as lumps); of course they were quite firm. With that we usually made a brown gravy, because here eggs also cost 30 kreuzer [20 cents] a dozen. Oh, what beautiful cooking that was, I stayed hungry all day long.
Now it sometimes got so cold that it we almost could not cook; because all is frozen together. Often I stayed in bed for two days with our little one to keep him from freezing to death, because it got so bad that my covers did not thaw out for two days. Every drop of water in the room froze. Oh I cried my fill, because all my limbs hurt! One morning it snowed so much that my bed was snowed in. I had trouble breathing, that is how much covered me and the children in the bed. All the Texans said they had never seen such a severe winter. At the same time it often got as hot around noon as the summers at home. Sometimes the air is so humid that the clothing and the floor in the room get wet, such air is unhealthy. On days like that one cannot dry the laundry. Despite our miserable lodging we still sometimes get visitors from the neighborhood, but everyone agrees that it impossible for all of us to stay in this house in the summer; it is said to be very unhealthy for that many people to stay in one room. But houses are not built as outsiders would think, one has to know it well. That is why we preferred to rent a house the way the people do it here. Instead of rent one pays one third of the harvest, i.e. corn. We obtained a house and surrounding land 2 miles from our own land, and moved there on March 28 (1848). So, pack up again. Let me tell you, I feel nauseated when I think about all the many packings.
I did not like Houston, where we had to pay half dollar per day for the room, at all, and I could hardly wait until they came to pick us up. After we spent 10 days there, they came with 2 wagons to get us. The one in which we travelled was covered by a tarp, like the traveling tightrope walkers where you are. The horses were very good and the driver was a 15 year old son of the farmer. The other wagon which was loaded with the boxes was very bad; it was drawn by 6 oxen and driven by a Negro. We left Houston at noon but had barely gone a hour before one of the slats on that wagon broke. After it was fixed we moved on, but only as fast as as one of our cowwagons would move because the roads here are so bad. One time the wagon with the boxes even toppled over and it took a long time until all was put back in order. We travelled a little further until we reached a farm where we spent the night. So, the first day we covered 3 miles. Here we had to bring the beds from the wagon into the room. The next day we covered 6 miles, so that I often thought I would have to push the wagon. We had nothing to eat except bacon and bread. I was just glad that my little one was so good. On the third day we covered 12 miles. It was so cold that I had to wear my coat and shawl. Oh my, it was a terrible trip. Every evening we had to unload the beds, and then reload them in the morning. In the evening and in the morning we made coffee for a change. On the fourth day we finally arrived at our destination. We had to stay a few days with Mr. Roberts, because the other place had to first be vacated for us. Also it was really too cold for a baby there, because the old house had no fireplace and the little stove, which Ernst had bought in Houston, would arrive only with the next wagon. But since the weather did not seem to change, and since we did not want to embarrass these people, we moved on the third day; it was about 10 minutes away. Here we were also 16 people in one place and had to sleep on the floor. Oh, let me tell you I thought I would die if I considered living like this for a long time. You cannot imagine this house. Your barn is a palace compared to this. We had to cook outdoors. All they eat here is cornbread, which I could not eat at all, because I immediately developed a swollen face and came down with jaundice, so that I eat until had to stay in bed until almost Christmas and could hardly eat a bite. Sometimes I just took my little Edward to bed with me and cried my fill and thought: if only I could be in Germany once more and had a little piece of bread or a few potatoes. Oh, dear Emily!
continued on November 7 (1847)
Finally, after 5 months, I can continue my letter; but when you hear what has happened to us you will realize that it was impossible to write. In the middle of June I got the fever, and sometimes it was so high that I lost consciousness; I could no longer walk and it took almost 2 months before I could do anything. After I had been sick for 2 months, Sophie and little Emily took sick. Sophie also got the fever very badly. She became so weak that she could not leave her bed for even a moment without fainting. Even though little Emily also got it very badly, she recovered faster and always maintained her appetite. Now you have an idea of our conditions. Three of us in bed and unable to lift a finger! And the baby and the housework! My milk dried up so that we had to wean little Eduard, who naturally reacted badly. Oh, I often cried and wanted to leave this world, because such a life is something terrible. Ernst had to milk every morning because we had 12 cows. In the meantime Mr. Hegar fixed breakfast. Albert and Alfred had to be there for the milking, because one cannot milk alone. As long as the milking is being done, a second person has to hold the calf. You also cannot sit like in Germany when you do this. Ernst had to do most everything, because Albert and Mr. Hegar had to work with the corn. I was fortunate that our dear Lord allowed Ernst to stay healthy. We had a doctor but learned later that he did not know much. But we considered the proximity, because doctors here charge 3 dollar per hour distance, not including medicines. He visited us nine times and charged us 26 dollars including medicines. After we recovered Mr. Hegar got sick, recovered in 3 weeks. Ernst and Albert only came down with huge purulent sores, which are very common here and very painful; they are also accompanied by fever. Alfred and our little Edward got off the lightest. As long as we were sick we let the Negroes do our wash, we had to pay a half a dollar per dozen pieces, not including soap and ironing.
Everything is so expensive here, and it takes an awful lot of money just to obtain meat and everything. Had we not brought so many things which we could sell for a good price, we would have been even worse off. How I regretted the money that we spent on Balz, Schrinn [Possibly an error; the original letter might say Schwinn] and Susanne. They were with us 4 months, that was all. But everybody has the same experience. Nobody retains the personnel which they brought out. Last year some very rich people arrived who had with them seven employees, all craftsmen, after they were here a fortnight, they had only one and all the money was lost. Currently Balz is with a German only 6 miles from here; all summer long he was with an American and he also got sick there. His bed and board was so bad that he soon left and did not get a kreuzer wages. Susanne is already at her 5th place of employment since she left here. As soon as she spends a few weeks any place Balz moves her again, and that way she does not earn a kreuzer's wages anyplace. She has it very rough with that uncouth Balz. We cannot look after her because one has to be afraid of him. All in all I am glad that they left us on good terms, because it costs a lot to have outside people here since we have to buy everything.
In the beginning Sophie and I really had to pull ourselves together. Mainly for doing the wash, especially when one is not used to it; in the beginning my hands bled all the time. There is not much cleaning, especially since we have only one room. I do our sewing and mending at night, when our little one is asleep; because during the daytime he is very whiney because of his teething. He was barely 9 months old when he learned to walk. Alfred does not get much learning, just as I had expected; because there is always too much work. This summer there was an English school 2 miles from here, but it cost 2 dollars per month. When Alfred gets older we want to send him there, provided we keep our health. Apart from that he has already become very useful to us. He rides to herd the cows in and helps with the milking; he also fetches the water because we have as yet no well at the house, and must fetch the water in a barrel by horse a ways away from the house.
Even though we lived in a miserable barracks I was sorry to leave. The day before Balz hired Susanne out, and since the former had several times been very rude without any provocation, Ernst told him we would not try to hold him back if he decided to leave as well. He was O.K. with that. You have learned from Ernst's letter of Schirmer's death and the circumstances surrounding it, so we lost within a short time all the money we had advanced for these three people. I would discourage everybody from bringing other people with them; because those people will be discouraged even on the boat before they ever do any work at all, despite their best earlier resolutions. Susanne did almost no work and wanted 4 dollars per month. Balz did nothing but walk around all day with his pipe in his mouth and wanted 10 dollars per month. Where was that supposed to come from? And both ate enough for six people. I was very glad when they left, because Balz was too rude; the entire household had to conform to him; now they both work 2 miles from here for an American. We are barely making it. Ernst and Albert are learning little by little to work the fields; our neighbor, Mr. Mitschel, is assisting them a lot with that. The Mitschels are very decent people. They live only a short distance from us, and since we have no well and have to fetch our water in a barrel, Sophie and I go there once a week with the children and wash everything that got dirty during the preceding week. That is the custom here, because the wash cannot be put off or it will mildew.
Our little one has to sit a lot on the floor with the children. The house in which we live has only one room and is very cramped, since we also have to cook in the fireplace in the room. It is mean cooking because one has to stoop down a lot; your cooking is child's play by comparison, but I was always glad that at least we had something to cook.
Mr. Roberts from whom we bought and bartered 4 cows kept them with his cows because we had never milked a cow. He had his female Negroes milk them and one of us fetched the milk every morning and evening in a pail which was always full; it held 12 - 15 pints. The cows are not milked at noon. Usually Ernst fetched the milk. A few times I went and got it when he was not available and I did not want to let him down (1/4 hour walk), carrying the baby on one arm and the pail in the other hand. I was totally exhausted when I got home. One never knows what one can do! I am willing to work as much as I can, if only God will keep us healthy. The ghastly fever is very dangerous to Germans. By now Sophie can milk pretty well, and Ernst too, because the men here can milk too. Our butter churn has really been useful. We do not have many vegetables because the bugs are very active here, and a lot of the seeds did not germinate. Salad season is already finished; it just got hot. We made our own vinegar and it turned out pretty good. Our chickens who by now number almost 100 do not lay well; they lay more in the winter than in the summer here. Alfred and little Emily enjoy the little chicks a lot and often say: if only we could give some of them to Auguste. The Mitschels have a boy Alfred's age and a girl little Emily's age and they often play together and we often listen to them speaking in English already. Alfred has almost no fear of snakes; recently he called out "Look, Mama, a snake!" Sophie and I were alone in the house with the children and went outside to look. He and Sophie beat it to death. Little Emily does dishes, fetches wood etc. Now she wants to learn to knit. She often remarks that it is absolutely certain that you all come here, since that is what grandpa said. Alfred and little Emily have decided which piglets and chicks will be given to Auguste and they wonder whether you will be able to eat the bread here. Alfred wants to go for a ride with Auguste, because here girls even as young as 12 - 14 years know how to ride by themselves. You never see anybody walk, even when it is only a mile away, people will ride there. Sophie already knows how to ride pretty well, this week she rode for 2 German hours. She is going to get married soon. Mr. Hegar has rented a farm 4 miles from here. Even though it is not too far from here we will be sorry, because they will not be under the same roof. Sophie will write you the rest.
continued March 30, 1848
After writing for two evenings I got another fever, but not so bad this time, I was back on my feet in eight days. Nevertheless it took a long time to get back to writing. Sophie got married at the end of November and you can imagine that my work did not leave me much time for writing, especially since my good little Edward also got sick. In the fall he got little blisters in his mouth, similar to trench mouth in your country, but the blisters soon spread over his whole body and made it difficult for him to sit down. He was so whiney that I had to carry him around in my arms all day; in those circumstances I could barely wash and cook. This is a very virulent illness children get here; we needed several home remedies which the Americans recommended. However the poor little thing did not get better so that we ended up taking him to a doctor. He gave him powder and ointment but it took two months before they began to work. We have gone through a lot with him, but he also gives us much joy now. I was very glad that we did not have another rough winter, because we do not have a house and in general cold affects us here more than it did in Germany. This year Christmas was not as sad as last year. For the Americans Christmas is the same as New Year's in Germany; all night long they fire shots and drink whiskey. Sophie and Hegar were here and the Mitschels took supper with us. We were quite cheerful. Here one can have fun without having to spend too much. Cake and everything else you bake is put in the same pan with coals on top and underneath. It is a very boring type of baking ...
In the fall Ernst and Albert started a new house on our land and we thought it would be finished by New Year's. However, before Christmas Ernst came down with a severe headache, which got so out of hand that over New Year's he had to stay in bed and take medicines. This made them get behind in their work and it came time to start the plowing. So we had no choice but to stay, especially since the place where we stayed had not been rented out again. I also would have hated to leave because we have such good neighbors. A road runs about 20 paces in front of our house. It is 4 miles to the house where Sophie lives, and 8 to the mill where the post office is too. It is the only mill from 15 - 18 miles around and all the people have to bring their corn there. Five miles from here is a store where one can buy everything one needs for everyday. Shoes and boots are store bought here, and are thrown away when they need repairing because there are no cobblers here; besides it would be not worth fixing. If a shoe or boot pinches an American, he simply cuts a slash into it. A pair of men's shoes costs the equivalent of 3 florins 30 kreuzers [$1.20] out here in the country. Those last 2 - 3 months, then they are thrown away. In clothing there is about as much luxury here as in Germany, but everybody can do what he wants, and nobody cares what one wears. In the summertime men ride in shirtsleaves or they wear cotton smocks; I have seen some ride past without shoes or socks. The women wear cotton bonnets like Sidonie Scharfenberg used to have one, with a big rim. Straw hats are seldom seen, as are veils. In the summer one cannot go outside without a hat, or one would soon die. However it is not as hot as I thought at first because usually a soft zephyr blows. The children do not need stockings in the summer, and even grownups do not have any. If you visit even high born women in the summer, they will walk around the house and porch barefoot. Cotton cloth is not as good here as in Germany, the colors are usually bad, and the bolts are narrower. I wish I could have a piece of printed cotton again. It is available here, but even if one buys it in Houston, it is more expensive than in Germany and of much poorer quality. Cotton for knitting is not available here yet. Only woven stockings are worn. People spin their own, and I am sorry now that we did not bring about 25 pounds cotton. I recently knitted some lace, 25 kreuzers [17 cents] per length. One does not see much money here. If somebody buys something here, it is usually in trade for corn or cattle. In Houston one could get cash, but it is 36 miles away. This is considered a long ways here, because after a rain it is hard to get their in a wagon, since there are no stone roads here. There is not much rain here, but heavy rainstorms with high winds. Last year there were two of those.
I have already gotten better used to the climate here and the rapid changes from heat to cold do not seem so extraordinary any more. Imagine, sometimes in the winter we have a whole week of warm weather so that we do not even need to build a fire in the fireplace. Then suddenly, in a minute, the wind comes out of the North and brings such cold weather that the fire has to be started in a hurry and we have to wrap kerchiefs around our necks and heads at once. Then suddenly in 2 - 3 days the warm weather returns. Once you get used to it, you think nothing of it. Of course, these changes affect the health, and many Germans have died already. It is especially unhealthy in the cities. Last summer in Galveston they had an outbreak of yellow fever which took away 200 Germans. I wish you were all here with us; once one is established here, one can live carefree and arrange everything comfortably to be one's own boss without having to pay attention to anybody else.
continued on May 18 (1848)
I have waited all the time for a letter from you but in vain. All the Germans have had several letters from their families, except we did not. Maybe one got lost? Or have you not even written yet? What a hard time I have to write you might have gathered from my letters. Thank God we have all been healthy so far, but there is a lot of work, so that washing, mending, sewing etc. leave me little time. For the last 2 months we have started milking again. We have 7 cows who give us as much milk and butter as we can use. I make butter three times a week because you cannot keep cream here as long. I sell several pounds of butter per week, at 15 kreuzers [10 cents] the pound. Alfred and little Emily often wish they could give you some of our milk and butter. We give the whey to the pigs. Best of all is that the milk only costs us the time for milking. We do not have to worry about feed for the cattle; the wide prairies furnish enough feed for the cattle. Milking is done at 6 AM and then the cattle are driven out of the pens, and in the evening around 5 - 6 Alfred rides out and brings them back for another milking. He brings back not only the milk cows but all the cattle, it is because of the dung. This week we bought a house a mile from here for a cow and calf, a sack of flour and a pair of cotton socks. In September after the corn harvest we will put the other one on our land (because here one can put one's house wherever one wants). We will put the other one, which Ernst and Alfred are building, next to it. Then we will finally have enough room and our only remaining prayer will be for good health. We have enough to eat and drink and we wish with all our soul that you would be here. Then nobody will have the power to tell us anything and we can live like kings. Poor people are as respected here as the rich.
We also have horses, and 18 cows and calves, as well as 40 hogs and more than 100 chickens. Last winter we butchered 4 hogs. The fence which Ernst and Albert are building encompasses 24 acres and if our corn does well we will be able to harvest 600 bushels. One household including horses and hogs requires 150 bushels. Every few evenings you have to give the hogs a few ears of com to get them used to the place. Then at night when you call "pig, pig" they come running, even from a mile away, stay close to the house during the night, and in the morning go away again. In the summertime they go more out in the prairie, and in the wintertime into the woods where there are acorns, which make them so fat that they can hardly walk. All of that does not cost much, and we need little money to live contentedly, once we are used to the climate and the local customs. The heat lasts only a few months. This year we have not had much heat yet; in September there are already a few cool days. The houses and everything here are arranged so that the heat is not too unbearable.
The place where we are building is especially beautiful; beside and behind the house are several big oaks; in front of the house is the prairie and to the left the fence. We only don't have any flowers yet, and we still don't have a well and have to fetch water from a small creek. I don't know yet whether Mr. Hegar plans to build on his land. Sophie wishes very much that we won't live too far from each other. Even though we do not live far, we only rarely get together, because the horses have to rest on Sundays after having worked so hard all week long. Sophie would like to have one of the children but I cannot spare one. We visited Sophie at Easter. She had baked a German cheese cake. Alfred has already ridden over to Sophie's by himself. Oh, if only you were all here and we could go visiting together. Father should have a carefree old age; he should not have to work.
We sold little Emily's silver spoons and bought her a mother cow with calf; that yields better dividends; now she already has three head of cattle. One day our children will have a better life than they would have had in Germany. By the time they are grown they will have a herd of cows, pigs and horses. Nobody here has to be afraid of the future, even if they have 15 children.
cont. May 27 (1848)
I will finally conclude my letter because only after you get it can I have hope to receive one in return. Go for it and write us a big letter, all the news! So much time should not pass without correspondence between us. I look forward too much to a letter from you; I am so anxious to hear all that has happened. Give our regards to all our relatives, especially cousin Wagner; tell her to come and see us; does she still see the girls a lot? Doesn't anybody among our acquaintances desire to come here, or have the times gotten better by now? How are the pastry shop people? How does Hannchen manage in the falcon's nest? How is Mr. Arend and everybody in Beerfeld? If only we could go to church here. But except in Galveston there are no German churches here; they have English church every 2 - 3 months out here in the country. Everybody rides there all dressed up. Otherwise Sundays are observed very strictly; nobody works except the Negroes who are allowed to work for themselves on Sundays. I read my hymnal on Sundays and so have my own church service. Tomorrow is Sunday and we will drive over to Sophie's, and Ernst will ride on for another 34 miles and post the letter. Should anybody from our district decide to come here, I would wish with all my heart to receive a few pounds of fine cotton for lacework, and 3 - 4 guilders worth of beautiful pictures for the children. The people could advance us the money and we would pay them back after they get here. A maid gets 3 - 4 talers [$1.80 - $2.40] per month in the country here, but in the cities 5 - 6 [$3.00 - $3.60], occasionally 8 [$4.80]. A man 8 - 10 talers [$4.80 - $6.00], a cow with calf, and if he works for a man for a full year he gets 1/3 of the harvest. Everybody should learn to milk before coming here, because that is a necessity here in the country. I still do not know how to do it well, but Ernst is quite good at it. It is so great to have enough milk, butter and cream in the house to live on. Just come here and you can milk as much as you want to. I wish Mrs. Haessler were here with us. Give her our best regards, and don't forget the wife of the forest master, in brief, anybody who remembers us in friendship. Best greetings and kisses to all of you. If only you were all here; how we would look after Father; he should have a good old age. Keep well, all of you, and keep us in your thoughts. Your sister--- L. Weygand