gedruft ben Gottlieb Friderich Zenifeb, 1756

Translated from the German
Member of the German Society of Pennsylvania

John Jos. McVey

Copyright, 1898,

In rendering G. Mittelberger's "Reise nach Pennsylvanien" into English, it has been the translator's aim to reproduce the author's work with the greatest possible accuracy consistent with grammatical correctness, photographing, as it were, the quaint and naïve language of the original, although at the sacrifice of elegant diction. In a few instances, where it seemed necessary to make the author's meaning clear, a word or brief remark has been added to the text in brackets [ ], or a note at the foot of the page.--[Carl Theo. Eben]

*Note: This transcription of the English translation of Gottlieb Mittelberger's Journey to Pennsylvania was typed by Imogene Bennett and prepared for the internet by Glenn Gohr in June 2003.

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 13


In the month of May, 1750, I departed from Enzweihingen, Vaihingen County, my native place, for Heilbronn, where an organ stood ready to be shipped and sent to Pennsylvania. With this organ, I sailed the usual way, down the Neckar and Rhine to Rotterdam in Holland. From Rotterdam I sailed with a transport of about 400 souls, Würtembergers, Durlachers, Palatines and Swiss, etc., across the North Sea to Kaupp [Cowes] in England, and after a sojourn of 9 days there, across the great ocean, until I landed in Philadelphia, the capital of Pennsylvania, Oct. 10, 1750.* From home to Rotterdam, including my sojourn there, I spent 7 weeks, caused by the many stoppages down the Rhine and in Holland, whereas this journey could

*In the list of names of Foreigners arriving in the ship "Osgood," William Wilkie, Captain, from Rotterdam, and taking the oath of allegiance Sept. 29th, 1750 [O.S.], is that of Gottlieb Mittelberger. --Penna. Archives, 2nd Series, Vol. XVII., p. 324.

End Page 13

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 14

be made swifter; but from Rotterdam to Philadelphia the voyage lasted 15 weeks. I was nearly 4 years in that country, engaged, as my testimonials show, as organist and schoolmaster with the German St. Augustine's Church in Providence, having besides given private instruction in music and in the German language, as the following certificate will show, at the house of Captain Diemer.

Whereas the Bearer, Mr. Mittelberger, Music Master, has resolved to return from this Province, to his native Land, which is in the Dukedom of Würtemberg in High Germany; I have at his Request granted these Lines to certify that ye above nam'd Mr. Mittelberger has behaved himself honestly, diligently, and faithfully in ye Offices of Schoolmaster and Organist, during ye Space of three Years; in ye Township of New-Providence, County of Philadelphia and Provice of Pennsylvania, etc. So that I and all his Employers were entirely satisfied, and would willingly have him to remain with us. But as his Call obliges him to proceed on his long Journey; we would recommend ye s'd Mr. Mittelberger to all Persons of Dignity and Character; and beg their Assistance, so that he may pass and repass untill he arrives at his Respective Above; which may God grant,

End Page 14

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 15

and may ye Benediction of Heaven accompany him in his Journey. Deus benedicat susceptis ejus & ferat eum ad amicos suos maxima prosperiate.
Dabam, Providentiae Philadelphiae
Comitatu Pennsylvania in Ame-
rica, die 25. Apr. A.D. 1754.

John Diemer, Cap.
Sam Kennedy, M.D.
Henery Pawling, Esqr.

Henry Marsteller,
Matthias Gmelin.

I have carefully inquired into the condition of the country; and what I describe here, I have partly experienced myself, and partly heard from trustworthy people who were familiar with the circumstances. I might possibly be able to relate a great deal more, if I had thought that I should ever publish something about Pennsylvania. For I always considered myself far too weak for such an undertaking. But the fatalities which I suffered on my journey to and fro (for in the country itself I fared well, because I immediately found good support and could get along well), and the evil tricks of the newlanders, which they intended to play me and my family, as I shall relate hereafter, have awak-

End Page 15

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 16

ened the first impulse in me not to keep concealed what I knew. But the most important occasion for publishing this little book was the wretched and grievous condition of those who travel from Germany to this new land, and the outrageous and merciless proceeding of the Dutch man-dealers and their man-stealing emissaries; I mean the so-called newlanders, for they steal, as it were, German people under all manner of false pretenses, and deliver them into the hands of the great Dutch traffickers in human souls. These derive a large, and the newlanders a smaller profit from this traffic. This, I say, is the main cause why I publish this book. I had to bind myself even by a vow to do so. For before I left Pennsylvania, when it became known that I was about to return to Würtemberg, many Würtembergers, Durlachers and Palatines, of whom there are a great number there who repent and regret it while they live that they left their native country, implored me with tears and uplifted hands, and even in the name of God, to make this misery and sorrow known in Germany, so that not only the common people, but even princes and lords, might learn how they had fared, to prevent other innocent souls from leaving their fatherland, persuaded thereto by the newlanders, and from being sold into a like slavery.

End Page 16

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 17

And so I vowed to the great God, and promised those people, to reveal to the people of Germany the pure truth about it, to the best of my knowledge and ability. I hope, therefore, that my beloved countrymen and all Germany will care no less to obtain accurate information as to how far it is to Pennsylvania, how long it takes to get there; what the journey costs, and besides, what hardships and dangers one has to pass through; what takes place when the people arrive well or ill in the country; how they are sold and dispersed; and finally, the nature and condition of the whole land. I relate both what is good and what is evil, and I hope, therefore, to be considered impartial and truthful by an honor-loving world.

When all this will have been read, I do not doubt that those who may still desire to go there, will remain in their fatherland, and carefully avoid this long and tedious journey and the fatalities connected with it; as such a journey involves with most a loss of their property, liberty and peace; with not a few even a loss of life, and I may well say, of the salvation of their souls.

From Würtemberg or Durlach to Holland and the open sea we count about 200 hours; from there across the sea to Old England as far as Kaupp, [Cowes] where the ships generally cast

End Page 17

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 18

anchor before they start on the great sea-voyage, 150 hours; from there, till England is entirely lost sight of, above 100 hours; and then across the great ocean, that is from land to land, 1200 hours according to the statements of mariners; at length from the first land in Pennsylvania to Philadelphia over 40 hours. Which makes together a journey of 1700 hours or 1700 French miles.

This journey lasts from the beginning of May to the end of October, fully half a year, amid such hardships as no one is able to describe adequately with their misery.

The cause is because the Rhine-boats from Heilbronn to Holland have to pass by 36 custom-houses, at all of which the ships are examined, which is done when it suits the convenience of the custom-house officials. In the meantime the ships with the people are detained long, so that the passengers have to spend much money. The trip down the Rhine alone lasts therefore 4, 5 and even 6 weeks.

When the ships with the people come to Holland, they are detained there likewise 5 or 6 weeks. Because things are very dear there, the poor people have to spend nearly all they have during that time. Not to mention many sad accidents which occur here; having seen with my own eyes how a man, as he was about

End Page 18

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 19

to board the ship near Rotterdam, lost two children at once by drowning.

Both in Rotterdam and in Amsterdam the people are packed densely, like herrings so as to say, in the large sea-vessels. One person receives a place of scarcely 2 feet width and 6 feet length in the bedstead, while many a ship carried four to six hundred souls; not to mention the innumerable implements, tools, provisions, water-barrels and other things which likewise occupy much space.

On account of contrary winds it takes the ships sometimes 2, 3 and 4 weeks to make the trip from Holland to Kaupp [Cowes] in England. But when the wind is good, they get there in 8 days or even sooner. Everything is examined there and the custom-duties paid, whence it comes that the ships ride there 8, 10 to 14 days and even longer at anchor, till they have taken in their full cargoes. During that time every one is compelled to spend his last remaining money and to consume his little stock of provisions which had been reserved for the sea; so that most passengers, finding themselves on the ocean where they would be in greater need of them, must greatly suffer from hunger and want. Many suffer want already on the water between Holland and Old England.

End Page 19

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 20

When the ships have for the last time weighed their anchors near the city of Kaupp [Cowes] in Old England, the real misery begins with the long voyage. For from there the ships, unless they have good wind, must often sail 8, 9, 10 to 12 weeks before they reach Philadelphia. But even with the best wind the voyage lasts 7 weeks.

But during the voyage there is on board these ships terrible misery, stench, fumes, horror, vomiting, many kinds of sea-sickness, fever, dysentery, headache, heat, constipation, boils, scurvy, cancer, mouth-rot, and the like, all of which come from old and sharply salted food and meat, also from very bad and foul water, so that many die miserably.

Add to this want of provisions, hunger, thirst, frost, heat, dampness, anxiety, want, afflictions and lamentations, together with other trouble, as c. v. the lice abound so frightfully, especially on sick people, that they can be scraped off the body. The misery reaches the climax when a gale rages for 2 or 3 nights and days, so that every one believes that the ship will go to the bottom with all human beings on board. In such a visitation the people cry and pray most piteously.

When in such a gale the sea rages and surges, so that the waves rise often like high

End Page 20

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 21

mountains one above the other, and often tumble over the ship, so that one fears to go down with the ship; when the ship is constantly tossed from side to side by the storm and waves, so that no one can either walk, or sit, or lie, and the closely packed people in the berths are thereby tumbled over each other, both the sick and the well--it will be readily understood that many of these people, none of whom had been prepared for hardships, suffer so terribly from them that they do not survive it.

I myself had to pass through a severe illness at sea, and I best know how I felt at the time. These poor people often long for consolation, and I often entertained and comforted them with singing, praying and exhorting; and whenever it was possible and the winds and waves permitted it, I kept daily prayer-meetings with them on deck. Besides, I baptized five children in distress, because we had no ordained minister on board. I also held divine service every Sunday by reading sermons to the people; and when the dead were sunk in the water, I commended them and our souls to the mercy of God.

Among the healthy, impatience sometimes grows so great and cruel that one curses the other, or himself and the day of his birth, and sometimes come near killing each other. Misery

End Page 21

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 22

and malice join each other, so that they cheat and rob one another. One always reproaches the other with having persuaded him to undertake the journey. Frequently children cry out against their parents, husbands against their wives and wives against their husbands, brothers and sisters, friends and acquaintances against each other. But most against the soul-traffickers.

Many sigh and cry: "Oh, that I were at home again, and if I had to lie in my pig-sty!" Or they say: "O God, if I only had a piece of good bread, or a good fresh drop of water." Many people whimper, sigh and cry piteously for their homes; most of them get home-sick. Many hundred people necessarily die and perish in such misery, and must be cast into the sea, which drives their relatives, or those who persuaded them to undertake the journey, to such despair that it is almost impossible to pacify and console them. In a word, the sighing and crying and lamenting on board the ship continues night and day, so as to cause the hearts even of the most hardened to bleed when they hear it.

No one can have an idea of the sufferings which women in confinement have to bear with their innocent children on board these ships. Few of this class escape with their lives; many a mother is cast into the water with her child as

End Page 22

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 23

soon as she is dead. One day, just as we had a heavy gale, a woman in our ship, who was to give birth and could not give birth under the circumstances, was pushed through a loop-hole [port-hole] in the ship and dropped into the sea, because she was far in the rear of the ship and could not be brought forward.

Children from 1 to 7 years rarely survive the voyage; and many a time parents are compelled to see their children miserably suffer and die from hunger, thirst and sickness, and then to see them cast into the water. I witnessed such misery in no less than 32 children in our ship, all of whom were thrown into the sea. The parents grieve all the more since their children find no resting-place in the earth, but are devoured by the monsters of the sea. It is a notable fact that children, who have not yet had the measles or small-pocks, generally get them on board the ship, and mostly die of them.

Often a father is separated by death from his wife and children, or mothers from their little children, or even both parents from their children; and sometimes whole families die in quick succession; so that often many dead persons lie in the berths beside the living ones, especially when contagious diseases have broken out on board the ship.

Many other accidents happen on board these

End Page 23

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 24

ships, especially by falling, whereby people are often made cripples and can never be set right again. Some have also fallen into the ocean.

That most of the people get sick is not surprising, because, in addition to all other trials and hardships, warm food is served only three times a week, the rations being very poor and very little. Such meals can hardly be eaten, on account of being so unclean. The water which is served out on the ships is often very black, thick and full of worms, so that one cannot drink it without loathing, even with the greatest thirst. O surely, one would often give much money at sea for a piece of good bread, or a drink of good water, not to say a drink of good wine, if it were only to be had. I myself experienced that sufficiently, I am sorry to say. Toward the end we were compelled to eat the ship's biscuit which had been spoiled long ago; though in a whole biscuit there was scarcely a piece the size of a dollar that had not been full of red worms and spiders' nests. Great hunger and thirst force us to eat and drink everything; but many a one does so at the risk of his life. The sea-water cannot be drunk, because it is salt and bitter as gall. If this were not so, such a voyage could be made with less expense and without so many hardships.

At length, when, after a long and tedious

End Page 24

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 25

voyage, the ships come in sight of land, so that the promontories can be seen, which the people were so eager and anxious to see, all creep from below on deck to see the land from afar, and they weep for joy, and pray and sing, thanking and praising God. The sight of the land makes the people on board the ship, especially the sick and the half dead, alive again, so that their hearts leap within them; they shout and rejoice, and are content to bear their misery in patience, in the hope that they may soon reach the land in safety. But alas!

When the ships have landed at Philadelphia after their long voyage, no one is permitted to leave them except those who pay for their passage or can give good security; the others, who cannot pay, must remain on board the ships till they are purchased, and are released from the ships by their purchasers. The sick always fare the worst, for the healthy are naturally preferred and purchased first; and so the sick and wretched must often remain on board in front of the city for 2 or 3 weeks, and frequently die, whereas many a one, if he could pay his debt and were permitted to leave the ship immediately, might recover and remain alive.

Before I describe how this traffic in human flesh is conducted, I must mention how much

End Page 25

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 26

the journey to Philadelphia or Pennsylvania costs.

A person over 10 years pays for the passage from Rotterdam to Philadelphia 10 pounds, or 60 florins. Children from 5 to 10 years pay half price, 5 pounds or 30 florins. All children under 5 years are free. For these prices the passengers are conveyed to Philadelphia, and, as long as they are at sea, provided with food, though with very poor, as has been shown above.

But this is only the sea-passage; the other costs on land, from home to Rotterdam, including the passage on the Rhine, are at least 40 florins, no matter how economically one may live. No account is here taken of extraordinary contingencies. I may safely assert that, with the greatest economy, many passengers have spent 200 florins from home to Philadelphia.

The sale of human beings in the market on board the ship is carried on thus: Every day Englishmen, Dutchmen and High-German people come from the city of Philadelphia and other places, in part from a great distance, say 20, 30, or 40 hours away, and go on board the newly arrived ship that has brought and offers for sale passengers from Europe, and select among the healthy persons, such as they deem suitable for their business, and bargain with them how long they will serve for their passage money, which

End Page 26

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 27

most of them are still in debt for. When they have come to an agreement, it happens that adult persons bind themselves in writing to serve 3, 4, 5 or 6 years for the amount due by them, according to their age and strength. But very young people, from 10 to 15 years, must serve till they are 21 years old.

Many parents must sell and trade away their children like so many head of cattle; for if their children take the debt upon themselves, the parents can leave the ship free and unrestrained; but as the parents often do not know where and to what people their children are going, it often happens that such parents and children, after leaving the ship, do not see each other again for many years, perhaps no more in all their lives.

When people arrive who cannot make themselves free, but have children under 5 years, the parents cannot free themselves by them; for such children must be given to somebody without compensation to be brought up, and they must serve for their bringing up till they are 21 years old. Children from 5 to 10 years, who pay half price for their passage, viz. 30 florins, must likewise serve for it till they are 21 years of age; they cannot, therefore, redeem their parents by taking the debt of the latter upon themselves. But children above 10 years can

End Page 27

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 28

take part of their parents' debt upon themselves.

A woman must stand for her husband if he arrives sick, and in like manner a man for his sick wife, and take the debt upon herself or himself, and thus serve 5 to 6 years not alone for his or her own debt, but also for that of the sick husband or wife. But if both are sick, such persons are sent from the ship to the sick-house [hospital], but not until it appears probable that they will find no purchasers. As soon as they are well again they must serve for their passage, or pay if they have means.

It often happens that whole families, husband, wife, and children, are separated by being sold to different purchasers, especially when they have not paid any part of their passage money.

When a husband or wife has died at sea, when the ship has made more than half of her trip, the survivor must pay or serve not only for himself or herself, but also for the deceased.

When both parents have died over half-way at sea, their children, especially when they are young and have nothing to pawn or to pay, must stand for their own and their parents' passage, and serve till they are 21 years old. When one has served his or her term, he or she is entitled to a new suit of clothes at parting; and if it has been so stipulated, a man gets in addition a horse, a woman, a cow.

End Page 28

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 29

When a serf has an opportunity to marry in this country, he or she must pay for each year which he or she would have yet to serve, 5 to 6 pounds. But many a one who has thus purchased and paid for his bride, has subsequently repented his bargain, so that he would gladly have returned his exorbitantly dear ware, and lost the money besides.

If some one in this country runs away from his master, who has treated him harshly, he cannot get far. Good provision has been made for such cases, so that a runaway is soon recovered. He who detains or returns a deserter receives a good reward.

If such a runaway has been away from his master one day, he must serve for it as a punishment a week, for a week a month, and for a month half a year. But if the master will not keep the runaway after he has got him back, he may sell him for so many years as he would have to serve him yet.

Work and labor in this new and wild land are very hard and manifold, and many a one who came there in his old age must work very hard to his end for his bread. I will not speak of young people. Work mostly consists in cutting wood, felling oak-trees, rooting out, or as they say there, clearing large tracts of forest. Such forests, being cleared, are then laid out

End Page 29

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 30

for fields and meandows. From the best hewn wood, fences are made around the new fields; for there all meadows, orchards and fruit fields, are surrounded and fenced in with planks made of thickly-split wood, laid one above the other, as in zigzag lines, and within such enclosures, horses, cattle, and sheep, are permitted to graze. Our Europeans, who are purchased, must always work hard, for new fields are constantly laid out; and so they learn that stumps of oak-trees are in America certainly as hard as in Germany. In this hot land they fully experience in their own persons what God has imposed on man for his sin and disobedience; for in Genesis we read the words: In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread. Who therefore wishes to earn his bread in a Christian and honest way, and cannot earn it in his fatherland otherwise than by the work of his hands, let him do so in his own country, and not in America; for he will not fare better in America. However hard he may be compelled to work in his fatherland, he will surely find it quite as hard, if not harder, in the new country. Besides, there is not only the long and arduous journey lasting half a year, during which he has to suffer, more than with the hardest work; he has also spent about 200 florins which no one will refund to him. If he has so much money, it will slip out of his

End Page 30

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 31

hands; if he has it not, he must work his debt off as a slave and poor serf. Therefore let every one stay in his own country and support himself and his family honestly. Besides I say that those who suffer themselves to be persuaded and enticed away by the man-thieves, are very foolish if they believe that roasted pigeons will fly into their mouths in America or Pennsylvania without their working for them.

How miserably and wretchedly so many thousand German families have fared, 1) since they lost all their cash means in consequence of the long and tedious journey; 2) because many of them died miserably and were thrown into the water; 3) because, on account of their great poverty, most of these families after reaching the land are separated from each other and sold far away from each other, the young and the old. And the saddest of all this is that parents must generally give away their minor children without receiving a compensation for them; inasmuch as such children never see or meet their fathers, mothers, brothers or sisters again, and as many of them are not raised in my Christian faith by the people to whom they are given.

For there are many doctrines of faith and sects in Pennsylvania which cannot all be enumerated, because many a one will not confess to what faith he belongs.

End Page 31

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 32

Besides, there are many hundreds of adult persons who have not been and do not even wish to be baptized. There are many who think nothing of the sacraments and the Holy Bible, nor even of God and his word. Many do not even believe that there is a true God and devil, a heaven and a hell, salvation and damnation, a resurrection of the dead, a judgment and an eternal life; they believe that all one can see is natural. For in Pennsylvania every one may not only believe what he will, but he may even say it freely and openly.

Consequently, when young persons, not yet grounded in religion, come to serve for many years with such free-thinkers and infidels, and are not sent to any church or school by such people, especially when they live far from any school or church. Thus it happens that such innocent souls come to no true divine recognition, and grow up like heathens and Indians.

A voyage is sometimes dangerous to people, who bring money or goods away with them from home, because much is spoiled at sea by entering sea-water; sometimes they are even robbed on board the ship by dishonest people; so that such formerly opulent persons find themselves in a most deplorable condition.

A sad example of a Würtemberger shall be mentioned here. In the autumn of A. D. 1753

End Page 32

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 33

a certain Daser of Nagold arrived with his wife and 8 children in a wretched and unfortunate situation at Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. For not only was he robbed at sea of goods worth 1800 florins, but he had on that account a long law-suit with the English captain of the ship at Philadelphia, which suit, however, he did not win, but had even to pay the cost of the litigation. Mr. Daser had to pay 600 florins for his own passage and that of his family. But as he had been robbed of his money, all his goods and chattels together with the boxes were sold at public auction or vendue for a trifling sum, so that he became more and more distressed with his family. Then, as he proceeded to borrow money to purchase a plantation, he was shamefully cheated by his creditor. He had agreed with him to repay the borrowed money in two years; but the person who made out the obligation or bond, as they call it there, wrote at the instigation of the unscrupulous creditor in two days, instead of in two years. Mr. Daser signed this, never suspecting that he signed his own ruin, because he did not understand English. The result was that, as he did not repay the money in two days (N.B. He had not ever received the money, the time having expired in consequence of his own negligence and various idle pretenses of the creditor), all that he still

End Page 33

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 34

called his own was sold and even taken away from his body. He would even have been sent to prison, or been compelled to sell his children, had he not been saved by my intercession by Captain Von Diemer, who always had a kind and tender regard for Germans. Said Captain Von Diemer provided Mr. Daser and his family for mercy's sake until the end of his litigation with victuals, money, beds and shelter, at the same time giving security for him, so that Mr. Daser remained free from the debtors' prison. Before my departure Captain Von Diemer promised Mr. Daser and me with hand and mouth that, as long as he lived, he would help provide for the Daser family and their needs. Mr. Daser dined with us 8 weeks and slept with me, but his many sad reverses have made him quite desponding and half crazy. Shortly before my departure his two oldest daughters and his oldest son were compelled to bind themselves in writing to serve 3 years each.

I avail myself of this opportunity to relate a few remarkable and most disastrous cases of shipwrecks. In the year 1754, on St. James' day, a ship with some 360 souls on board, mostly Würtembergers, Durlachers and Palatines, was hurled by a gale in the night upon a rock between Holland and Old England. It received three shocks, each accompanied by a tremendous

End Page 34

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 35

crash, and finally it split lengthwise asunder at the bottom, so that the water entered, which rose so fast that the ship began to sink early in the morning. At the last extremity, when the people endeavored to save themselves, 63 persons sprang into a boat. But as this boat was too overburdened, and another person reached it by swimming, holding persistently on to it, it was not possible to drive him away till they chopped his hands off, when he went down. Another person, in order to save himself, jumped on a barrel which had fallen out of the large ship, but which immediately capsized and sank with him. But the passengers in the large ship held on partly to the rigging, partly to the masts; many of them stood deep in the water, beat their hands together about their heads and raised an indescribably piteous hue and cry. As the boat steered away, its occupants saw the large ship with 300 souls on board sink to the bottom before their eyes. But the merciful God sent those who had saved themselves in the boat, an English ship that had been sailing near, and which took the poor shipwrecks on board and brought them back to the land. This great disaster would never have been known in Germany if the ship had gone down during the night with all its human freight on board.

The following fatal voyage, where all the pas-

End Page 35

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 36

sengers were Germans, has probably not become known in Germany at all. In the year 1752 a ship arrived at Philadelphia which was fully six months at sea from Holland to Philadelphia. This ship had weathered many storms throughout the winter and could not reach the land; finally another ship came to the assistance of the half-wrecked and starved vessel. Of about 340 souls this ship brought 21 persons to Philadelphia, who stated that they had not only spent fully six months at sea, and had been driven by the storm to the coast of Ireland, but that most of the passengers had died by starvation, that they had lost their masts and sails, captain and mates, and that the rest would never have reached the land if God had not sent another ship to their aid which brought them to the land.

There is another case of a lost ship that has probably never been made known in Germany. That ship sailed a few years ago with almost exclusively German passengers, from Holland to Philadelphia, but nothing was ever heard of it except that a notice was afterward sent from Holland to the merchants of Philadelphia. Such cases of entirely lost and shipwrecked vessels are not reported to Germany, for fear that it might deter the people from emigrating and induce them to stay home.

End Page 36

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 37

I cannot possibly pass over in silence what was reported to me by a reliable person in Pennsylvania, in a package of letters which left Philadelphia Dec. 10, 1754, and came to my hands Sept. 1, 1755. These letters lament the fact that last autumn, A.D. 1754, to the very great burden of the country, more than 22,000 souls (there was a great emigration from Würtemberg at that time) had arrived in Philadelphia alone, mostly Würtembergers, Palatines, Durlachers and Swiss, who had been so wretchedly sick and poor that most of these people had been obliged to sell their children on account of their great poverty. The country, so the letters state, had been seriously molested by this great mass of people, especially by the many sick people, many of whom were still daily filling the graves.

So long as I was there, from 20 to 24 ships with passengers arrived at Philadelphia alone every autumn, which amounted in 4 years to more than 25,000 souls, exclusive of those who died at sea or since they left home, and without counting those ships which sailed with their passengers to other English colonies, as New York, Boston, Maryland, Nova Scotia and Carolina, whereby these colonies were filled, and the immigrants became very unwelcome, especially in the city of Philadelphia. But that

End Page 37

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 38

so many people emigrate to America, and particularly to Pennsylvania, is due to the deceptions and persuasions practised by the so-called newlanders.

These men-thieves inveigle people of every rank and profession, among them many soldiers, scholars, artists and mechanics. They rob the princes and lords of their subjects and take them to Rotterdam or Amsterdam to be sold there. They receive there from their merchants for every person of 10 years and over, 3 florins or a ducat; whereas the merchants get in Philadelphia 60, 70 or 80 florins for such a person, in proportion as said person has incurred more or less debts during the voyage. When such a newlander has collected a "transport," and if it does not suit him to accompany them to America, he stays behind, passes the winter in Holland or elsewhere; in the spring he obtains again money in advance for emigrants from his merchants, goes to Germany again, pretending that he had come from Pennsylvania with the intention of purchasing all sorts of merchandise which he was going to take there.

Frequently these newlanders say that they had received power-of-attorney from some countrymen or from the authorities of Pennsylvania to obtain legacies or inheritances from these countrymen; and that they would avail

End Page 38

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 39

themselves of this good and sure opportunity to take their friends, brothers or sisters, or even their parents with them; and it has often happened that such old people followed them, trusting to the persuasion of these newlanders that they would be better provided for.

Such old people they seek to get away with them in order to entice other people to follow them. Thus they have seduced many away who said that if such and such relatives of theirs went to America, they would risk it too. These men-thieves resort to various tricks, never forgetting to display their money before the poor people, but which is nothing else but a bait from Holland and accursed blood-money.

When these men-thieves persuade persons of rank, such as nobles, learned or skilled people, who cannot pay their passage and cannot give security, these are treated just like ordinary poor people, and must remain on board the ship till some one comes and buys them from the captain. And when they are released at last from the ship, they must serve their lords and masters, by whom they have been bought, like common day-laborers. Their rank, skill and learning avails them nothing, for here none but laborers and mechanics are wanted. But the worst is that such people, who are not accustomed to work, are treated to blows and

End Page 39

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 40

cuffs, like cattle, till they have learned the hard work. Many a one, on finding himself thus shamefully deceived by the newlanders, has shortened his own life, or has given way to despair, so that he could not be helped, or has run away, only to fare worse afterwards than before.

It often happens that the merchants in Holland make a secret contract with their captains and the newlanders, to the effect that the latter must take the ships with their human freight to another place in America, and not to Pennsylvania where these people want to go, if they think that they can elsewhere find a better market for them. Many a one who has a good friend or acquaintance, or a relative in Pennsylvania, to whose helping care he has trusted, finds himself thus grievously disappointed in consequence of such infamous deception, being separated from friends whom he will never see again either in this or in that country. Thus emigrants are compelled in Holland to submit to the wind and to the captain's will, because they cannot know at sea where the ship is steered to. But all this is the fault of the newlanders and of some unscrupulous dealers in human flesh in Holland.

Many people who go to Philadelphia entrust their money, which they have brought with

End Page 40

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 41

them from home, to these newlanders. But these thieves often remain in Holland with the money, or sail from there with another ship to another English colony, so that the poor defrauded people, when they reach the country, have no other choice but to serve or to sell their children, if they have any, only to get away from the ship.

The following remarkable case may serve as an example. In 1753, a noble lady, N.V., came with her two half-grown daughters and a young son to Philadelphia. On the trip down the Rhine she entrusted more than 1000 rix-dollars to a newlander who was well known to her. But when the ship, on which the lady had taken passage, started from Holland, this villain remained behind with the money; in consequence of which the lady found herself in such want and distress that her two daughters were compelled to serve. In the following spring, this poor lady sent her son to Holland to search for the embezzler of her money; but at the time of my departure, A. D. 1754, nothing had been heard of him as yet, and it was even rumored that the young gentleman had died during his voyage.

It is impossible, however, to discuss all these circumstances; besides I am sure that the newlanders and men-thieves, on coming to Ger-

End Page 41

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 42

many, never reveal the truth about these wretched voyages full of dangers and hardships.

Frequently many letters are entrusted in Pennsylvania and other English colonies to newlanders who return to the old country. When they get to Holland, they have these letters opened, or they open them themselves, and if any one has written the truth, his letter is either rewritten so as to suit the purpose of these harpies, or simply destroyed. While in Pennsylvania, I myself heard such men-thieves say that there were Jews enough in Holland, ready to furnish them for a small consideration counterfeits of any seal, and who could perfectly forge any handwriting. They can imitate all characters, marks and tokens so admirably that even he whose handwriting they have imitated must acknowledge it to be his own. By means of such practices they deceive even people who are not credulous, thus playing their nefarious tricks in a covert manner. They say to their confidants that this is the best way to induce the people to emigrate. I myself came very near being deceived.

Some great merchants in Holland attempted not to let me continue my journey home, but to induce me by stratagem or force to return to England and America. For they not only told me verbally in Rotterdam, but even tried to

End Page 42

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 43

prove to me by writing from Amsterdam, that my wife and child, together with my sister-in-law and many countrymen, had embarked for Philadelphia with the last transport last summer. They told me very accurately the names of my wife and child, how old and tall they were, and that my wife had said her husband had been an organist in Pennsylvania for four years; they also showed me my wife's name in a letter, and told me with what ship and captain had sailed from Amsterdam, and that my wife was lodged with four other women in berth No. 22, which circumstantial communication had the effect of making one exceedingly confused and irresolute. But I read to them letters from my wife in which she plainly said that she would never in all her life go there without me, on the contrary that she eagerly awaited my return. I said that I had written to her again that I had made up my mind to return, God willing, to Germany next year, wherefore I could not possibly believe all this. The merchants then produced witnesses, which made me so perplexed that I did not know what to believe or to do. At length, however, after mature deliberation, and no doubt by divine direction, I came to the conclusion that, inasmuch as I had already the greater part of my arduous journey, viz. 1400 hours way, behind me, and had arrived at the

End Page 43

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 44

borders of Germany, I would now in God's name continue and finish my journey, which I did, and thus, thanks to the Most High, I have escaped this great temptation. For I came to see that all that I had been told and shown in Holland with respect to my family had been untrue, as I found my wife and child safe at home. If I had believed those seducers of the people, and had returned to England and America, not only would this account of my journey not have been published so soon, but I should, perhaps, never have met my family again in this world. Those frequently mentioned men-thieves, as I subsequently learned, gave an accurate account of me and my wife to the merchants in Holland, and the newlanders tried a second time to persuade my wife to follow them. The merchants no doubt thought that, if I returned home, I should reveal their whole nefarious traffic and the deplorable condition of the numerous families that emigrated and rushed into their ruin, and that I should thereby cause great damage to their shipping interests and their traffic in human flesh.

I must state here something that I have forgotten above. As soon as the ships that bring passengers from Europe have cast their anchors in the port of Philadelphia, all male persons of 15 years and upward are placed on the follow-

End Page 44

- - - - - - - -

Begin Page 45

ing morning into a boat and led two by two to the court-house or town-hall of the city. There they must take the oath of allegiance to the Crown of Great Britain. This being done, they are taken in the same manner back to the ships. Then the traffic in human souls begins, as related above. I only add that in purchasing these people no one asks for references as to good character or an honorable discharge. If any one had escaped the gallows, and had the rope still dangling around his neck, or if he had left both his ears in Europe, nothing would be put in his way in Pennsylvania. But if he is again caught in wrong-doing, he is hopelessly lost. For gallows' birds and wheel candidates, Pennsylvania is, therefore a desirable land.

- - - - - - - - - - - END OF FIRST CHAPTER - - - - - - - - - - -

Copyright (c) 1998-2003.

Last updated June 1, 2003.

Send comments to Glenn Gohr

Back to Glenn Gohr's Redwine/Riethweil Genealogy Page