Friday, February 19, 2016

Emigrants Out of Germany in the Mid-1800s

What are the reasons people left Germany in the mid-1800s? I've always wondered and could never find the answer. When my cousin visited our great-grandfather's home village last year, a local reporter wrote an article about his visit. In addition, part of the article was about the mass emigration of people out of the Black Forest region in the 1850s. I found this extremely interesting. While it wouldn't explain my great-grandfather's reasons for leaving in 1872, it could explain his brother leaving in 1854. The article was written in German. This is a translation that my cousin had a friend do for him.

Fleeing From Hunger and Poverty

Over 160 years ago many people left the local villages and sought their salvation in America.

More than 150 years ago, similar scenes of people on the run played out in Mösbach, Sasbachwalden, Wagshurst and other communities, as are today holding almost the whole world in suspense. About 150 years ago hunger, poverty, hopelessness, disease and war, led many completely desperate people to seek their fortune in the New World. What personal and family dramas were taking place in the choice between life and death in the homes of local farmers, can only be guessed. The misery was certainly so great that from 1851 to 1861 one third of the inhabitants of Mösbach, where about 950 people lived at that time, emigrated to America.

Rain years had ensured that the harvest rotted in the fields and the often small farms could no longer support the family. Thus it came to bad harvests and then to the great bloodletting in Mösbach that the community supported in such a way that it undertook an extraordinary stroke of disbursing money to the emigrants for the crossing. This was also the case in communities such as Wagshurst, Sasbach and Sasbachwalden, because the authorities in the villages saw it was the only chance to allow its citizens the way to a hopefully good life. From Wagshurst between 1840-1860 about 40 families emigrated to America, around 400 "Saschwaller" received from the municipality the money for the crossing on 26 November 1854 the ship Isabella.

Given the bitter hardship, it was an easy game for the "smugglers" and agents of the shipping companies to sell the hopelessly lost villagers a veritable paradise beyond the ocean, reported the Mösbacher headteacher Josef Fährlander.

Those selected by the parish and by the district office to leave, included in particular the "poor unmarried women with their illegitimate children," and those whose poverty would lead them sooner or later to become a burden. For these involuntary emigrants to America, Mösbach had to muster 1851-1854 the princely sum of 8,000 Guilders.

An agency of the shipping line between Havre and New York had its headquarters in Kehl, and its advertising in the "Ortenauer Messenger" caused poor, simple folk to salivate for a life in paradise. But the reality was that many children and adults died on the week-long voyage.

Roland Spether

Given that Ferdinand Panther and Amelia Traub were not married when they emigrated to America from Havre to New York in 1854 tells me they were among those forced from the village. I'm not aware of Amelia having an illegitimate child or being pregnant when she left but everything about their emigration lines up with this description. It's possible that Ferdinand couldn't make a living so he was forced out and he brought his fiance or she insisted on going with him. Ferdinand came over on the R. L. Gilchrist, arriving in New York on October 24, 1854. They did not marry in Mösbach. It is assumed they married in either New York or in Kidder Township, Pennsylvania, where they lived for fourteen years before moving on to Iowa in 1868.

I'm interested in any other details anyone has regarding these forced migrations out of Germany. Let me know if you have any more information!



  1. Hi Matt, I also have Panther, along with Hodapp, etc from Waldulm n Kappelrodeck...send IM to Ruth Harnist Hundley...