A Little Piece of History

The following is a copy of a letter sent from one of my ancestors (Nikolaus Frett) on August 30th, 1841 after arriving in America from the Eifel Region in Germany. The letter was addressed to “the merchant Marhoffer” of Virneburg.

 

A copy of this letter in German can be found in the book,  “Wir verlangen nicht mehr nach Deutschland” (We no longer yearn for Germany), which gets its name from a line in the letter written by Nikolaus Frett.

 


“We left our wives and children in the city of Chicago, and we three, (Frett, Adams and Schmitt), went into the country to look for an opportunity, and we found it thirty English miles from the city of Chicago near the village of McHenry, where there is an English free school and a house of correction.
The village is only three miles distant from us. There I bought land of 160 acres, which according to German measure makes 200 morgen, at $2.50 per acre, in German money, 6 marks. The land lies in a good situation and also is a beautiful area.


Also, we have very fine meadow land upon which the grass is so high it reaches above my head. This will perhaps seem unbelievable to you, but it is true. I would not have believed it myself had I not seen it. The forest is composed of many trees and hazel bushes like none such as found in Germany and they grow in great masses. Also, in the woods, the wild lemons, (plums), grow in abundance. When we bought the land we hardly knew what to say as we glimpsed the splendid fruit and high grass.”
Nicholaus Adams from Hirten also has as much land as we. Jacob Schmitt of Muenck has sixty acres. We three took ours altogether in one piece. We also bought two oxen that are as heavy as the largest one to be found in Germany. Also, a double span wagon and a cook machine, (cook stove), which is artfully constructed. One can cook on four fires at once and at the same time have an oven baking. We also bought two cows and a plow, besides household gear which one needs to farm. The oxen cost forty dollars, and wagon thirty-three dollars, the stove twenty-two dollars with the utensils included, the plow seven dollars, and the two cows twenty-four dollars. When we get things somewhat arranged, we can keep a hundred head of stock at our own place.


Here it is not like in Germany that one must support the cattle with his labor; here the cattle support themselves. They run out day and night, cows, hogs, oxen, horses, etc. Cows come home evening and morning by themselves. Feed is absolutely free. One can make as much hay as he wants and where he wishes without paying for it. Here one knows nothing about taxes. One does not need to worry about beggars as they do in Germany. Here a man works for himself. Here one is equal to the other. Here no one must take his hat off to another. We no longer yearn for Germany. Every day we thank the dear Lord that He has brought us, so to speak, out of slavery and into paradise. This also I wish from my heart for my dear friends, sisters and brothers, who continue to live in Germany as if under lions and dragons, fearing every moment to be devoured by them.


Costuming in America is similar to the best people in Germany. It is particularly handsome in the case of men. One cannot distinguish the farmer from the gentleman, they all stand on the same plane. If a women should cross the street without a hat she would be laughed at. In New York, I bought my wife and daughter, Maria, a new mantie, (coat) , of American cut.  Board is also cheep in America. The common men lives better than the highest in Germany.

One cannot describe how good it is in America and the many remarkable things to be found here. If one should write about them, they would sound too unbelievable.”