Did you ever wonder what life was like for the immigrants back in the mid-1800s? What challenges did they face? What were their main concerns? What were they doing? Were they employed? Did they have friends or relatives in America?
I was able to get a glimpse into the life of two immigrants from a family letter. The letter was written to my great-great-grandfather Louis Breuninger from his older brother Karl in 1840. Although I do not know exactly when the two immigrated, Louis’ naturalization papers say that he arrived in New York in April 1840. From the letter below I know that Louis and Carl were living in Ohio in June of 1840.
Fortunately my grandfather Schumm saved a lot of stuff that belonged to his grandfather Louis Breuninger. Among the items he saved was the wooden trunk that contained Louis’ belongings when he came to America, Louis’ tall leather German boots, his rifle, many important documents, and a stack of letters that Louis received during his lifetime.
It is thrilling to have so many letters that were written to Louis. Many of them were from his father back in Württemberg. His father was a schoolteacher in Bachlingen and that man had the tiniest handwriting I have ever seen. Louis and Karl must have had very good eyesight to have been able to read those letters. A more recent batch of letters was from relatives in Wisconsin.
The unfortunate part is that the vast majority of these letters are written in the Old German Script. I can read enough of the Old German Script to translate some church records but trying to translate an entire letter is beyond my capabilities. I paid to have a couple of Louis’ letters translated but it was too expensive to continue with the rest. It is also difficult to find someone that can read the Old German Script these days.
The letter below is the oldest letter in the bunch. It was written to Louis from his brother Karl in 1840. They had very recently immigrated to America. Carl was living in Cleveland and Louis in Canal Dover, Ohio. There was a growing German population in Cleveland that included many Lutherans. I wouldn’t be surprised if Louis and Karl had connections from Württemberg in Cleveland. Notice the reference to Schrozbergers in the letter. The Breuningers lived near Schrozberg.
With the greatest longing, I have already waited 14 days, either for information from you, or for you yourself, because I wrote, in answer to your precious letter, that I had picked out a very nice place for you. It, unfortunately, is now already occupied, and there is no other, at least not available. Therefore it is best that you stay where you are for now, and see what you can learn until later, when we have our debts paid, and have got together some money, when we probably can arrange to discuss things further, if we stay healthy.
Unfortunately, I have already had my arm in a sling for 8 days, because of a serious cut I received when a pair of steers ran away with me. I have been unable to work for almost 10 days, but, thank God, it is starting to go better. I am now back to my old job, but this month made only $5, as I have a lot to learn yet. It is very hard, but here I will become a skilled butcher, for my teacher is one of the best butchers here. I can already cut up a carcass alone, and make various sausages.
Yet, for me, my goal is to find a place for you, whatever it might be. I always make provision for this, even if it is the hardest thing in America. I will not delay coming to you. I would best like to be close to you.
Time always passes slowly here on a Sunday, because I have no fellowship, until the last 8 days, also a Schrozberger, a cousin from Ley, friend of the Swiss man Lang. He studied at the hotel, and worked at the smithy. As I was on the way home I met him there, as I had ridden my horse to the blacksmith to get it shod. He immediately found work there as stable cleaner.
This Lang told me that the cousin, like us, left home and got married, and also brought more, not as pleasant news, which I have neither time nor room to write to you. He would like to be with you and would like to know if there would be work available for him. He says little Gruensteidels are in Buffalo and came over with him. In this
I send many hearty greetings to you and Ley, and close, asking you to please answer as soon as possible, I stay yours.
Your loving brother
Write to me whether maybe there would be a place available in your area, and soon.
The letter was addressed to Louis Preuninger. The letters B and P were sometimes interchanged in German writing. I have seen the name as Preuninger in the old German records.
Louis and Karl moved to Green Bay, Wisconsin, by 1850. I do not know what happened to Karl but Louis moved to Van Wert County about 1869.
Louis has my vote as one of my handsomest ancestors. It must be the nicely trimmed beard. If you look closely at his photo you can tell that his individual photo looks like it was cropped from a larger photo. There appear to be people standing on either side of him.
How I wish I could see the original photo in its entirety.