Tag Archives: New York

The Meyer family arrival in New York

What a day it must have been when the Meyer family finally saw land. Weeks of living in the cramped dark steerage quarters of a ship with only the endless ocean for scenery were at an end.Soon they would set foot on land for the first time in over a month.

Nearing the New York bay where their ship would drop anchor they must have stood on the crowded deck, along with the other passengers and sailors,to get a glimpse of their new home. As they sailed into the harbor they would have seen the multitudes of church steeples, public liveries, factories, store and other structures that lined the bay.

Those who arrived before 1855 were hardly noticed in any official way. Once the ship was declared disease frèe the passengers were taken ashore.The Meyer family may have simply walked down a gangplank and right onto the boards of the pier. But not all ships could find a free dock. Many anchored out in the harbor. Passengers were loaded onto barges pulled by steamers.Their baggage and trunks would follow later.

Did our Meyer family have some friends or relatives there to meet them? If they did they are unknown. Had they been given specific directions on where to go now that they were ashore and how to get to their final destination?

The piers were often haunted by con men who spoke their languages. They would attempt to allure bewildered immigrants into boarding house or offer to help them procure tickets to their destinations often charging two or three times the fair price. Still others just took the money and left.

Perhaps Johann bought some coffee and flour rolls for the family and then went to procure what was needed for the next leg of the journey.

I can picture the children growing accustomed to their surroundings, listening to the foreign words and splashing each other with water they found at a fountain while sour faced women tried to soothe crying babies and wait for their husbands to return.

Did our Meyer family spend their first night in America somewhere in New York city or did they head directly North for Lewis county? Had Johann already purchased the land he was going to or did he do that after he landed? Remember his grandson Pierre felt he had purchased the property sight unseen. We may never know. But we do know it was fall. Lewis County is not a very populated area, even today. It was certainly a rural area when they arrived. Johann still had to build or procure a home for his family and find a way for them to survived their first winter in a new home. He must have had enough money still left to provide for much of what they would need in the coming months ahead.

The Big Move

Imagine, you’re waiting on the crowded dock, pictured above. It’s a day in late Aug or early Sept in the year 1849, the year the Meyer family emigrated to the United States. Now imagine, in addition to yourself,you must also keep track of your spouse, 6 children (ages 1-10) and all your worldly possessions. A mix of exhaustion, excitement and fear run through your mind. Have you made the right decision? Is this move really going to be better for you and your family?  Will you and the family even survive trip? Never mind, it’s too late now to turn back.

Perhaps Margaret, the eldest child, is holding her, year old brother, George, while her mother tries to keep track of the four others and her father their possessions. They don’t dare lose sight of them now, for any moment they will hear the announcement they can finally go abroad.

Are John, Catherine and Anna, the three middle children, getting antsy. They’ve been waiting for days to board the ship and are tired of having to stay so close to their parents. Maybe little Maria, age 3 is crying, in need of a nap and frightened of the throngs of people around them.

For the past few years the family watched as others left their beloved Alsace. They’d read the letters of those who’d gone ahead and listened to the various agents who came to their village touting of the riches to be found in America. But it wasn’t until this year, when agents from  Lewis County, New York came talking up the county where the farmland was fertile and plenty, they paid much attention. To Johann and Marguerite a place with plenty of land for their own and eventually their children sounded to good to pass up.

Life in Alsace has been getting harder and harder with each passing year. Years of frequent wars, harsh winters and epidemics make leaving look better and better. Jobs are scarce and prices keep getting higher and higher, as a growing population struggles to survive. And the prior year brought both war and famine to their area. What will the future bring if they stay? Will their children have any hope for a good future? And so after much discussion and debate Johann and Marguerite made the difficult decision to emigrate.

First they had to pay off any debts and taxes they owed and obtain passports confirming their identity. Plus they had to have enough cash to buy their passage, sustain their journey and allow them enough to start over in the U.S. In the last year Johann has set about taking care of his obligations and selling off all of his holdings to enable him to sail for America. Now everything is done, it is time to leave.

Because of the cotton trade, departing cotton ships leaving the port of Le Harve, France are always looking for paying passengers. It is their best choice. Plus the route is shorter taking only 20-30 days.

The best crossing times are between April to September. But this last spring Le Harve had a cholera epidemic. Mayors of the village were asked to stop issuing them, making it harder to leave. Now in August, they have obtained the necessary documents. If they wait any longer they will have to risk a harder crossing or wait until next spring.They sell off the last of their possessions deemed unnecessary for their voyage.

To get to Le Harve they first have to cross France. Like most emigrants from Alsace they probably used empty cotton carts leaving Strasbourg. I can imagine Johann loading the cart with their trunks and boxes while Marguerite added their linens and bedding. In addition to the clothing, tools and utensils they will need once they reach America they are expected to provide their own bedding and provisions on the ship.

The time for final good-byes has come. The family stands outside their home and takes one last look. When the wheels of the wagon begin to rock they turn their heads and with heavy hearts they begin the first leg of their journey, the trek across France. Quite likely, when they reach Paris they stop for a day or two to take advantage of what the capital has to offer and perhaps replenish their provisions.

Finally they reach the port of Le Harve to wait with thousands of others. Johann still needs to book their passage. A colony of innkeepers and shopkeepers lined the port. Was the family well enough off to stay in an inn or did they make do camping on the dock in a shack or make shift tent? Sometimes it was necessary to wait weeks before as ship was ready to set sail.

Once on board they would have to camp out in a crowded steerage area. There was no lighting and it also was not dry. Water seeped in through the ventilation holes. Like most passengers they were probably seasick the first few days. If it was stormy it wasn’t possible to go up on deck for fresh air. There was only one toilet per 100 people. Diseases spread easily. They had to cook their own meals in crowded conditions.

What an exciting day it must have been, after weeks in the cramped dark steerage quarters of the ship with only endless ocean for scenery, when someone announced they could finally see land on the horizon. What was to come was still unknown for now they were thankful they’d survived the crossing.

Ring, Ring, New York Calling

About a week after sending my letter to Harry Bingle the phone rang.  A  Betty from Carthage, NY  called.  When she informed me the Harry Bingle in the nursing home wasn’t the one I wanted, my heart plummeted. She told me the Harry I wanted had died in 1968. Then she told me the Harry I was looking for was her father and Catherine Sauer Meyer her great-grandmother. She went on to say it was just by luck the letter had reached her. Someone on staff knew her and had recognized I was inquiring about her family and had passed the letter on.  Talk about serendipity.

She went on to tell me several of Johann Meyer’s descendants still lived in the area. Her family had kept in contact with the far flung offspring who’d left for Wisconsin but eventually had lost track of them. She was able to verify, the names I had for the girls, were correct. She promised to send me her Great- grandmother’s obituary which said the family had been from Strasburg, Alsace.  And she offered to do more digging in the records in her area when she had time.

Not long afterwards a Mr. Seyforth from Milwaukee Wisconsin e-mailed me.  He’d seen my query on Johann Meyer and thought we were looking at the same family. Several quick e-mails back and forth determined that we were indeed were and we each had information to share.

When I had begun my Meyer search both my Mother and Aunt Gert had mentioned that their parents occasionally made trips to Mondovi, Wisconsin to visit relatives. They weren’t sure who they were or which side of the family they belonged to.  When my new contact mentioned his Seyforth family had farmed near Mondovi I knew they must be the relatives my grandparents had visited. My mother had also mentioned a Jessie Koch and a Trilling from Sheboygan as Meyer relatives who came to their family gatherings. How they were related she didn’t know.

Soon I got a packet of printed material my Seyforth contact.  Someone in his family had compiled the family names birthdates at an earlier time and he included that along with his research. The papers gave the place of origin for the family as Alpheshiem,  Niederetses, France and listed the name of Johann’s first wife as unknown.  (Niederetses, I would later learn meant Alsace) Then it listed his children as:

Margaret  who had married a Phillip Welter and they had lived in Pepin county, Wisconsin.

Anna had married Fredrick Seyforth and lived in Mondovi, Wi.  He was also her step-brother and son of Julia, Johann’s second wife.  (No wonder my grandpa George had trouble keeping this family straight.  He had an uncle who was being raised by one of her daughters and an aunt who had married her son.)

Catherine (Kate)  had married in New York to Fred Sauer.

John,  who had married Mary Thomsen and lived in Cascade, Wi

Mary married a William Demand and lived in Sheboygan.  She had descendants by the name of Jessie Koch and a Hattie Trilling the names my mother had mentioned.

George  married a Sophie Allman and they’d gone to live in Aberdeen South Dakota around 1900.

Also included in the packet was a copy of this photograph taken in Plymouth, Wisconsin.


Meyer siblings. L-R Mary, Margaret, John and George taken about 1900

Johann Meyer married second, Julia Schleider Seyforth  Her children were:

Theresa who married Mr. Hoffman. ( The family said she was unable to have children and so adopted her half brother Johnann and Julia’s youngest son Augustus and lived in Wayne County, New York.)

Wilamina married a Mr. Sontag and lived in Clifton Springs, New York.

Fredrick married Johann’s daughter Anna Meyer.

Together Johann Meyer and Julia had children:

Charles  Meyer who live in Carthage, New York (father of Pierre and Edith)

Augustus Meyer Hoffman ( child adopted by half sister)  Family stories said his half -sister had been unable to have children so Julia and Johann had allowed her to adopt their youngest child.)

I now had two separate branches of the family to collaborate with.  Together we were able to fill out much of the family tree and account for not only the children of Johann but their children as well.  But there was still some details that eluded me including where in Alsace thy had come from?  Without a village name it would be next to impossible to trace the family back any further. Our collaboration had suggested several names: Strasburg from some of the girls obituaries, Airsheim from John’s marriage certificate and the Aphesheim suggested on the Seyforth document. With the exception of Strasburg I’ve been told the other places had never existed. It was suggested that perhaps the places had been eaten up as the city of Strasburg grew.  I also  needed to know the name of where Johann had died.  Who was the brother he went back to live with?  And of course I wanted what every genealogist wants to know, who were the parents?

For the next several years I added very little to my Meyer research until another descendant of the Meyer family contacted me. But that is another story to be shared another day.

Life in Ladysmith

Prior to marriage Rose had worked for several years as a teacher.  George had worked as a farm hand and a grocery clerk before becoming a cheese maker and buying a cheese factory near Cascade, WI.  About this time he also met my grandmother, Rosalia Anna Uelmen at a dance at one of the nearby lakes.  When he asked her to marry, she agreed but informed him she would not live in a house that was an annex to a cheese factory. He had a childhood friend who had bought a farm in Ladysmith, WI a few years earlier. Hearing it was good place to farm, George sold his cheese factory and bought a farm in Ladysmith, WI, some 250 miles away.

Religion was another obstacle to the marriage. But George didn’t see much difference between his Lutheran religion and Rose’s Catholic religion, so he willingly converted. His mother a staunch Lutheran wasn’t happy  and because of this friction their wedding was small and quiet.  They did, however, take a two week wedding trip to New York City and Niagara Falls. They told the family about this trip many times.  George in particular loved to tell about seeing the Flat Iron building, one of few skyscrapers in the city at that time.

After the trip they picked up their household goods and wedding presents and headed for their new life in Ladysmith. At that time cars still didn’t travel well over large distances, so they went by train. George must have taken his horses and wagons up in an earlier trip.

Imagine my grandmother’s dismay when she gazed upon her first home and found it in a state of total disrepair.  This was probably their first big argument.  Why did he think she would move her precious household goods into such a place?  And to top it off she’d found bedbugs in the bedding already there.  He didn’t think she was going to bring her lovely new down pillows into a place like that did he?

All of my Grandpa’s promises to fix the place up fell on deaf ears.  She wasn’t moving in.  He ended up taking his bride to his married friend’s home where they stayed until the house was fixed up enough for Rose. Still, by Dec. of 1915 they had decided the Ladysmith wasn’t  for them, sold the farm and moved back to Cascade.

Over the years this story was told over and over. Evidently they had great fun while staying with the friends and with each retelling of the story they laughed all the more. Time had allowed them to see the humor in what must have been a bitter disappointment to the start of their marriage.


This photo is of the wood being hauled on their property in Ladysmith.


Another photo from Ladysmith.