Friday, March 9, 2012

The German Pioneers

Marietta Register, Semi-Weekly, May 18, 1888

An Address, Delivered in the City Hall during the Centennial, April the 7th, 1888, by Mr. Bernard Peters, the Editor of the Brooklyn Times.

Mr. Peters, the author of the following address, came to this county with his parents in 1834 when a lad and grew to manhood in Marietta.  His father and his father's brothers were among the earliest German settlers in this vicinity.  We publish his address in full as it can not fail to be of marked interest to the old German settlers and such of their descendants as are yet living.  After having been introduced by Gov. Foraker Mr. Peters said:

Ladies and Gentlemen:

By the committee who have had the arrangements for these centennial exercises in charge, I have been requested to speak on this occasion of the German Pioneers who settled in this county during the first half of the present century.  The Governor of Ohio, who has just introduced me as a native of this city, must stand corrected in this particular.  I am not a native of this city, nor of this State, but a native of Germany.  I was brought here by my parents, into this county and city, at so early an age that, living among the New England settlers of Marietta from youth to manhood, they made me over into quite as much of a Yankee as though I had been born on the soil of Massachusetts. 

According to my understanding of the matter, the first German settlers of Washington county came from the Rhine Palatinate.  They came to the United States in the summer of 1833 from the vicinity of Durkheim, a little city of some 6,000 inhabitants, located in the gap of the Valley of the Isenach, a small stream flowing through the Hardt Mountains, and distant, due west, from Heidelberg about twenty miles.  This is indeed an interesting region.  Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay, years ago, while standing on the Geisberg eminence - a spur of the Black Forest just south of Heidelberg and from which vantage he surveyed this beautiful and interesting landscape, pronounced it "the garden of Europe." 

The pioneers to whom this address will be chiefly devoted were two brothers, sons of John Peters and his wife, Barbara (nee Wagner), who had reared a family of seven sons, and whose ancestors, from time immemorial, had lived and died in this section of Germany.  The names of the pioneers were Jacob and Charles Frederick.  I ought, perhaps, to explain, that Peters is an Anglicised form of the name.  In German it is Peter.  In this country, as in England, the name invariably takes on the letter s.  This the genius of the English language seems to require, and this demand, sooner or later, will be satisfied, either by the children or the grandchildren of those coming from Germany, who have this family name and who live among English speaking people.  My own name was translated for me by the Rev. C. L. F. Hensel, then rector of St. Luke's Church of this city; and for thirty years I wrote it as he translated it for me without knowing that in the original tongue it was written without the letter s. 

My father's name was John Philip Peters, the youngest of the seven brothers.  He followed the pioneer brothers to this country in 1834.  The emigration of the Peters brothers to the United States was brought about in this wise.  In 1832 there arose in the Palatinate and through the southern section of Germany a somewhat famous commotion among the peasantry by which a demand was made of the then ruling authorities for a larger measure of liberty for the people.  It was doubtless a preliminary symptom of the greater commotion that took place sixteen years later, in 1848, and which led to an actual and somewhat remarkable outbreak, but which was crushed with a relentless hand by Emperor William, recently deceased, who as Crown Prince made himself famous as a soldier by the energy and skill with which he made an end of the movement in '48.  That insurrection furnished the inspiring cause, for emigration to the United States to Carl Schurz and Gen Frans Sigel - the latter of whom subsequently distinguished himself in our civil war in the military service of this country, while the former became famous, somewhat in the war, but more particularly in the civil service of the country - first in the United States Senate, afterwards as a Cabinet officer during the Administration of President Hayes.

The revolt of '32 if it can be dignified by that name, was led by two Professors and many of the students of Heidelberg, and for a short time it is said to have had an immense popular following.  The Professors in question were Wirt and Siebenpfieffer.  The denouement took place some time in the summer of '32 and came to a culmination at a popular gathering assemble at Homburg auf der Hohe, since then a noted watering place.  At this gathering Wirt, the most popular and most eloquent of the two Professors, made a speech in favor of popular rights, in which, in scathing and fitting terms of rebuke, he denounced the tyranny of the Government.  At the conclusion of his speech, either by a committee of the students or of the citizens present, he was presented with a magnificent sword.  This was ominous, and its significance could not be mistaken, and as the result, either at once or soon thereafter, the offending Professors were apprehended and thrown into prison and the threatened revolt was thus summarily and promptly nipped in the bud.  The imprisonment was of short duration.  The Professors were never brought to trial, as they soon escaped from prison.  The popular impression was that the escape was connived at by the authorities in order to get rid of two popular prisoners, and to avoid the onus of their conviction and the sympathy which their execution would surely have evoked for them and their cause from one end of Germany to the other. 

The Peters brothers, who subsequently became the pioneers of Washington county, were constituent parts of that great Homburg Assembly.  They fully sympathized with the spirit of the occasion, and being animated by the desire for larger liberty which actuated the German masses at that time, and which the gathering in question represented, they were overwhelmed with chagrin and disappointment when the leaders of this movement were apprehended and imprisoned, and when the hopes that inspired their countrymen were thus promptly suppressed.  As the quite natural result they, as did thousands of others of their countrymen, lost hope of ever seeing a better day for Germany.

Naturally, and as was the case in every kindred event in Europe, and from that day to this, they instinctively turned their thoughts toward the New World and to the then recently established Republic of America, where a third of a century before the people had secured their independence and had succeeded in forming and placing on a firm foundation one of the most beneficent governments hitherto known in the history of the world.  The younger of the Peters pioneers, Charles Frederick, left his native land in the spring of '33, a year after the gathering at Homburg.  His brother, Jacob, followed a few weeks later.  The third brother, John Phillip, followed in the summer of '34.  All the brothers, and the families who accompanied them, took shipping at Havre de Grace, in France, at that time the important port of embarkation for all South German emigrants.  The first brothers, Charles and Jacob, shipped in vessels that sailed for Baltimore. 

Charles Frederick, with his family, made an overland journey through the Cumberland Valley and on the National Pike to Wheeling, Va.  This national highway, constructed chiefly through the influence of Henry Clay, the well-known and popular American statesman of that era, was then in its glory, and was to that age quite as great a boon and quite as marvelous a wonder as were at a later period the transcontinental railways that now link the Atlantic coast to the Golden Gate.  Charles Frederick left his family for a time at Wheeling, and proceeded down the Ohio River as far as Cincinnati; this on a prospecting tour.  The present Queen City of the West was then little more than a good-sized Western village.  During the summer of '32 sickness had extensively prevailed through the Ohio Valley.  Especially was this true of Cincinnati.  The effects of the ravages of the cholera of 1832 were everywhere visible, and the inhabitants all more or less betrayed the signs of the work of this fell destroyer.  In fact, the summer of 1833, when this visit took place, was not yet free from the seeds of the contagion that prevailed the year before.  In addition to this the heat of '33 is said to have been intense and almost unendurable.  Under these circumstances the visit to Cincinnati was discouraging, and Charles Peters soon returned to his family at Wheeling, where he found his brother Jacob and one or two other families who had crossed the ocean with Jacob and who had followed Charles to Wheeling.  Among those in this company, my impression is, were Theobald Seyler and Daniel Zimmer, with their families.

The Peters brothers now resolved to start afresh on a new prospecting tour to find a place for settlement.  They left their families at Wheeling with the new comers and started on foot down the Ohio River.  They proceeded on the Virginia side as far as Ben Wood.  There they crossed the river to what is now Bellaire, and proceeded down on the Ohio side, continuing probably a five or six days' journey to Marietta.  During this journey they found not a single family, not a single person, if I am correctly informed, that could speak a word of German.  Luckily the elder of the two brothers, Jacob, had in early years, spent some time in England, and had acquired some little knowledge of the English language, and he was thus able, in a limited way, to make their wants known.

When they reached Marietta they put up at the John Brophy hostelry, the famous hotel of the early days of Marietta.  The wife of Brophy was a French woman, born on the borders of Germany, and therefore spoke fluently not only the French and English, but the German as well.  This, as might well be imagined, gave satisfaction to the Peters brothers.  Mrs. Brophy was a shrewd and thrifty business woman of that period, and it was she that persuaded the brothers to locate in this county.  Charles proceeded to Salem township, and purchased a farm from Squire Campbell, on Duck Creek, in the neighborhood of the Lancasters.  This some years later he sold to Jacob Lauer, after which he removed to Marietta.  He resided here until 1839.  He then sold what possessions he had and removed to West Point, Iowa, where he lived until he reached the advanced age of 86. 

His brother Jacob, having imbibed a great fear of fever and ague that prevailed largely in those days along the bottom lands of creek and river, went out some six miles to Fearing township and purchased a farm from Lewis Johnson, on the hills about a mile from Duck Creek, where he resided for some years.  He subsequently sold this place to a family by the name of Arndt, and removed to Watertown township, becoming the first German settler in the Deming-Wolcott settlement.  Jacob remained on this Watertown homestead until he reached the advanced age of 88, when he was gathered to his fathers.  His son, Charles Frederick, now in his seventy-first year, and who is present in this assembly, still lives upon this old homestead.  He was 16 years of age when his father moved into Washington County, and it is to him I am chiefly indebted for such facts as I give, and which are beyond my personal knowledge.

In June of 1834 Conrad Bohl, of Wachenheim, also in the Rhine Palatinate, came into this country.  For a time he owned a farm near Bonn, but in a few years thereafter he sold his interest in that farm and followed Jacob Peters to Watertown.  Some years later Conrad Bohl was followed to Watertown by his brother Nicholas.  These were the German pioneers in that section of the country.  Some years later these were followed to Watertown by Louis Cutter, the father of Judge F. J. Cutter, now a resident of Marietta, and by Carl Wagner, an uncle on the mother's side of the Cutter family.

John Philip Peters, Conrad Bissanz (Anglicised, at least in pronunciation, as Bissant), and Bernard Wagner came in 1834, some time in the month of September, a few months later than Conrad Bohl.  Bernard Wagner bought a farm from Squire Joel Tuttle, seven miles from here, on Duck Creek.  He lived but a few months.  Contracting a fever, he died suddenly in the winter of '35.  The widow, left in this helpless condition with two children, and no one to care for the farm, had the sympathy of the vicinage, and some months later married Christian Schimmel, a most conscientious and industrious man, who lived on the Tuttle farm for a generation or more, in fact, till his death, leaving the wife a widow the second time, but this time with children of advanced years, and in circumstances that enable her in old age to live in peace and comfort in this city.  She is living here with one of her sons - patiently awaiting her release from earthly bonds and trials.

Conrad Bissanz bought a homestead a mile nearer Marietta in Fearing township, in the Chapman neighborhood, just beyond Stanleyville, where he lived and prospered for a full generation.  He subsequently sold and removed to Marietta, where he died at an advanced age.

At an early period Valentine and Jacob Spies, two brothers, came into this county and settled on adjoining farms, on the banks of the Muskingum, just below Lowell.  For some years the home of one of the Spies brothers was quite a center for social and festive gatherings of the Germans then residing in the county.  The occasions are memorable because they were the first festive gatherings among the Germans in this county of which I have any recollection.  After the Peters brothers had bought their farms and had their deeds on record they left for Wheeling to bring their families to their new homes.  While absent on this trip Theodore Schriener and one or two other German families came to Marietta.  Theodore Schriener was the Rev. Theodore Schriener; he married a daughter of Squire Joel Tuttle and organized the first German church in this county, and of which he remained pastor for nearly a score of years.  He was a very affable man and made himself exceedingly useful to the early German settlers.

There was a Frederick Dannecker who located in Washington County in 1832, but he only remained here for a short time - not more than two or three years.  Among the first settlers in Fearing township the following names have been furnished to me by Mr. Christian Best:  Theobald Seyler, Christian Scherber, John Schnieder, John H. Best, G. C. Best and Christian Newshafer.  These are said to have located in Fearing and Salem townships.  The date of their arrival here is fixed as having taken place in 1833.

To these I may add the following names:  John and Henry Smith.  The first was the founder of the hardware store of Rodick Brothers.  The other was a carriage builder, who is yet living.  There were also Jacob and Michael Giddle.  The first was wharfmaster for the Halls, Willis and Ely, for years, when steamboating on the Ohio River meant something.  I may also mention Jacob Thies, the shoemaker; John and Louis Leonhardt; the Cislers, who have grown to be an important and prosperous family among you.  I might here refer also to the able, eloquent and eccentric Dr. Ceolena, who was the first pastor of the First German Church in Marietta, and who, to the work of preaching joined the business of practicing medicine, and who for a year or two made a great sensation and gained the goodwill of some of our best citizens, among them the family of the historian, Dr. S. P. Hildreth, a man of mark in those days. 

There were two others who deserve mention in this connection.  They spoke the German, one of them (Nelson) quite fluently, but they were Danes and not Germans.  These were Oliver Nelson and Henry Hartwig.  Hartwig was a blacksmith, Nelson was a carriage builder.  Nelson married the eldest daughter of Conrad Bohl, of Watertown.  The Hartwig family, after residing here for many years, removed elsewhere.  One of the sons, Henry, Jr., gained quite a reputation as a river engineer.  Nelson had but one child, a boy, who died early, and his father's grief over the boy's death carried him soon after to the grave.  Nelson as I remember him, was a man of education and of remarkable force of character.

It is also claimed, on what authority I cannot say, that one Casper Schmitz and another German, Casper Schaechtelein by name, came into this country in 1817.  As far as my knowledge goes they left no descendants, and perchance may have made this country only a temporary home, removing subsequently into some other locality.  Be that as it may, the fact is worthy of mention.  I am very sure that very early there were Germans in this country who came from Pennsylvania, but were natives of that State, and who, though they spoke the German, it was the Pennsylvania Dutch, and who were not, therefore, German settlers directly from the Fatherland.

Others, perhaps, deserve to be mentioned in this connection; but as I have resided away from Marietta and have only paid an occasional visit here for the period of more than a generation, I think this will have to suffice.

In conclusion, pardon me for saying this, for truth and justice demand it:  The Germans who came here early were men of thrift.  They have shorn your hilltops of their wild native forests; they have converted your country into a land of plenty.  They have materially helped to advance among you the march of civilization, and by their ready assimilation with those who preceded them to this Northwest Territory from New England they have helped to build up a State that ranks first among the honored States of this Union.  I think I may safely and properly add that these Germans as a class have always appreciated the blessings of this free Government, and have in a practical way demonstrated the fact that they have understood the importance of having all safe and good government founded on law and order, on religion and education.  These Germans - these early Germans - knew nothing of what is now disturbing this and other Governments, underSocialism and Anarchy.  They did not forget the lessons of duty and obligation that bound them to employers and clamor for rights without qualification.  They were indeed grateful to those who gave them a chance to earn an honest living, and they were ready early and late to do an honest day's work, for an honest day's pay.  The liberty they came to find, and finding which, they were happy and content, was the liberty that is conditioned on law, on order, on good government - in a word, the liberty that gave them a fair and an equal chance in the race of life.  Thousands of them, under these inspirations, have become men of property, have honored every calling and every walk in life and have made their mark in Church and State - thus becoming worthy co-workers with that patriotic, and sturdy Christian stock that came here from New England, and that planted an infant colony on this spot one hundred years ago this day, and here illustrated the wisdom of founding the State on the church and the school-house, and thus giving to their descendants a true and an abiding Christian civilization.

1 comment:

Susan Sheppard said...

If they are Palatinate Germans, then they are the same as Pennsylvania Dutch.