What follows is a letter written by Pierre Meyer searching for more information on his Grandfather Johann Meyer in 1939.
Dear Miss Anne E. Crawford, September 20th, 1939
Thanks for the information in your letter of September 9th.
The three land purchases you referred to, if they were made by my grandfather must have covered some other land other than the farm on which father was born in Naumburg ( authors note: this would be Naumburg, Lewis County, NY) on May 10, 1954. Grandfather Meyer came to America and originally settled on a farm near Belford. We have no record of the year he came but believe it was the year 1848 or 1849 and perhaps it was 1850. He came to America with his first wife and I think five children, four daughters and one son, John. He built a log house on a farm in Belford Where George was born. His wife died either in the winter or early spring after George was born and was buried in the clearing not far from the log house. The following year, probably 1851 or 1852 he moved with his children to Naumburg. Don’t know whether he moved on the farm in Naumburg, where father was born, or bought it after he moved his family to that village.
He married as his second wife, Julianna Schlieder (known as Julia) who was the widow of Frederick Seyfert. Frederick Seyfert and his wife, Julia with four children, came to America in the spring or summer of 1846 and settled on the first farm on the right hand side of the river road, between Naumburg and Carthage. The house is still standing. She was living in the Seyfert farm at the time of her marriage to John Meyer, and at that time he owned the adjoining farm towards Carthage, which must have been bought in 1852. In the fall of 1853 he started to erect a very fine home on the farm. A superior house to those found on a farm in those days, The family moved into the house about three weeks prior to father’s birth on May 10, 1854. The house is still standing. At the time it was built it was the largest house in that vicinity and may travelers took it for a tavern as it was larger than many of the hotels in those days. Father’s brother, August Lewis Meyer, was born in the same house in the year 1856. When he as about six months of age he was adopted by his half-sister, Theresa Seyfert Hoffman, and now living in Newark, NY. Several years prior to father’s death, he visited the old farm, went through the old house. Father said the interior of the house, including the wood box, which he use to fill as a boy, was just as it was when he was a boy.
Grandfather Meyer must have been a man of some means. At the time he came to America he had sufficient capital to buy the farm from land agents in New York City or prior to coming to America (author’s note: he may well have bought the land before coming. Land agents were active in Alsace touting the wonders of buying land in Lewis County, NY ) Don’t think he would have made the purchase if he he’d inspected it before buying. At any rate, he had sufficient capital to dispose off it at a loss and move to Naumburg where he bought a very good farm, and as stated, built a large house.
Grandfather Meyer disposed of the farm and other real estate he owned in Lewis County and moved with his wife and unmarried children to Wisconsin when father was around 9 years of age. Don’t know when, the year was 1863 or 1864 but I believe it was the year 1863. They settled on a farm west of Sheboygan, near Cascade. Just when grandmother Meyer disposed of her property, which she inherited from her first husband Seyfert, I do not know. Believe he died in the year 1848.
The above information has been give to you with the thought that it might aid you in locating other land purchases Grandfather Meyer made prior to the year 1860 in the town of Croghan, which I would greatly appreciate if you would look up in the Lewis County records for me and in turn I am willing to pay you for the trouble.
When grandmother Meyer died she instructed her son, August L. Hoffman, to have her tombstone made with “Mayer” instead of Meyer, saying that was the correct spelling of the name. Father’s cousin, Ernst Schlieder told father and I many years ago that on the early tax records in Naumburg, the name was “Mayer.” I do not know whether the spelling of the name was changed from Mayer to Meyer while they lived in the Naumburg district or after moving to Wisconsin.
The trip to Wisconsin was made by traveling over land to Cape Vincent and taking a boat from Cape Vincent to Sheboygan Father told us many times about the trip when the family moved to Wisconsin.
To the best of my knowledge, grandfather Meyer came from some small village in the Alace-Lorraine section of Germany and was 3/4 German and 1/4 French. Of his ancestry I do not know which side was French descent. They came here after the the Prussian and French war at the time Alsace-Lorraine was lost to France. Grandfather Meyer and his wife, after living in Wisconsin a few years, moved to Wayne County (NY) and settled on a small farm near Farifield about six or seven miles from Newark, NY. In the year 1870 he divided with his wife the wealth they had acquired and she went to live with her daughter, Thersa Seyfert Hoffman in Newark and he went back to to Germany to live with his brother’s family. When he got back to Germany he only stayed two days there and returned to America again due to the outbreak of the war in that section, at which time Germany regained the Alsace-Lorraine territory. Grandfather Meyer spent about 1-1/2 years in America visiting all his children and then returned to Germany again in the year 1872 and died in his 90’s sometime after 1900.
Father was no hand at corresponding with his relations other than his own brother, August, and frequently with his half-brothers and sisters in Wisconsin. As a child I do not ever recall him receiving a leter from his father. At the time of his death he left a small estate, which was settled by the attorneys in Germany – a check was sent ot his sister in Wisconsin and in turn was divided equally among the children. I have not not been able to obtain any information from any one of father’s half-brothers or sisters or descendants as to where the family came from in Alsace-Lorraine, or where he died. There is no question in my mind but that the family was German or at least he stood for the German ownership of the district in which he came form, otherwise, he would not have made the trip to his old home in 1870, staying two days and returning to America and then in turn going back to his home land two years later for permanent residence, if he had not been in sympathy with Germany.
A stated, you will be doing me a great favor Miss Craword if you will dig up what records are available covering land purchases made by Johann Myer or Mayer. He was always know as John in the family.
Authors Notes: Alsace was a part of France when Johann Meyer immigrated with his family to the United states. There had been a war with in the 1815-1818 period but the Franco Prussian war he refers to was not until 1870. After 1815 Alsace faced economic and demographic factors that led to hunger, housing shortages and lack of work. These conditions led many to seek life elsewhere including the U.S. and were the most likely factors in Johann’s decision to move his family to the U. S. The years between 1830-1850 saw many from that region move to new areas.
Charles is correct in that Johann could very well may have gone to Alsace and decided to return to the U.S because of Franco Prussian war – the dates work. Whether or not he was sympathetic to the Germans or just wanted to escape a period of war is unknown. After the Franco Prussian war Alsace was controlled by Germany until after WWI. Also it is important to remember that the united Germany we think of today did not exist until 1874.
Coming soon- What are the names of all Johann’s children and where did they live?
My family also lived in Cape Vincent at one time. This is getting interesting.