This story was written as if told by Emily (Dreger) Holder, but it was actually written by her niece, Anna (Dreger) Wanka. It was told to Anna by her aunt, Emily (Dreger) Holder, with whom she lived at the time. Emily was the sister of Anna's father, Andrew Dreger, Sr. It was written as an English Class assignment. The parents in this story were Gottfried Dreger & Julia (Raider) Dreger.
"A Few Recollections
(as told to me by my aunt)
|Eng. III per. I.|
|April 19, 1922|
When I was young, in my early teens, I accompanied my parents on their frequent rambles throughout Europe. Growing tired of travel and intending to make a permanent home somewhere, we finally settled down in a quite suburb of Versailles. Our rest was quickly broken however, scarcely two months later by a letter bearing a foreign stamp addressed to my father. It was from a lifelong friend of his, Don Marco Pompai, a prosperous Portuguese plantation owner of Brazil. He urged my father to pay him a long-promised visit. He enthusiastically assured us that once we were there we would never leave. He gave us very explicit directions for reaching him, for he lived in the great jungle land that extended far into the interior. Of course we went. Father could never resist a new adventure. Thus it was that I passed six eventful years in Brazil.
A few weeks later, having packed our belongings hurriedly, we left France and embarked on a steamer bound for Rio de Janeiro. I always did dread a long voyage and this one proved to be the worst, for it was long, monotonous, and the days and nights dragged along slowly. I had a few pleasures, but they occurred so rarely in the five weeks I spent on board that, as simple as they were, they were a relief. One old, Gnarled, swarthy French sailor told me some stories, gave me a handful of strange coins and one day he showed me a picture of his father and mother whom he had not seen nor heard from for thirty years. But the pleasures he gave me were checked by his death. He, stiff with rheumatism, persisted in trying to climb the ropes as he had done so nimbly in his younger days. One day while slowly climbing the rigging, he fell to the deck and broke his back. He died instantly. I was the horrified spectator of the accident and it always remains impressed indelibly on my memory. The steamers of the old days and now are not comparable. Ours was a slow old tub with sails and weak engines. When the engines refused to move the vessel, the sails would take their turn. (The sails were used the most thus it was that our voyage was so lengthy.) After many days, we at length saw the blue coast line of Brazil. It was a welcome sight. The sailors and captain had suffered too, and were as happy as we at the pleasant prospect of a change. On our arrival in the beautiful harbor of Rio, we met with a disappointment. We wished to explore the famous city and visit the museums and libraries there, the best that can be found on the continent. But scarcely had we gathered our belongings together preparatory for landing, the captain informed my father that we must be transferred to the only ship that would go to Santos this fortnight, the little coast tug that carried passengers from Rio to Santos. Furthermore, that it left in half an hour. Father did not wish to stay in Rio more than a few days so he decided to leave immediately. Many interesting things can be seen and heard in a few moments. As I leaned over the railing and looked about me I forgot my disappointment and became absorbed by the view. Ships, never had I seen such a variety. Haughty ships of war, tiny rafts, awkward coffee rafts swarming with blacks, dainty yachts decked with flags, a pleasing contrast to the black hulled fishing vessels reeking with the odor of dead fish. In the distance, the shouts and clanging of harsh bells brought my eyes to that quarter. The wharves were the scene of great disorder and tumult. Loading and unloading, running about from ship to shore were strings of toiling blacks. Crowds of natives, curious perhaps, lined the wharves staring listlessly at the passengers who descended the gangplank. On a tall pole planted in the middle of the wharf waved the flag of Brazil while far in the background I could see a steeple, doves wheeling around it where the soft chime of the bells floated upon the sultry air. Finally with a startling "toot toot" our boat arrived, and in a few minutes we left the harbor and turned down the coast. We were the only passengers to go to Santos, so we left to amuse ourselves alone, but the boat, traveling perhaps a half mile from the coast, gave us the pleasure of the scenery. The city soon disappeared and we were passing by a wide strip of beach covered with the huts of the native fishermen. The beach stretched far inland where the low hills met the white sand and where the giant palms rose to magnificent heights growing in large clumps forming a pleasant oasis. Finally the beach disappeared and giant cliffs appeared, rugged and weather beaten, deeply scored and scarred at the foot of them by the waves that dashed against them ceaselessly. So high were they, that only a fringe of jungle above peeped over. Gnarled creepers hung for hundreds of feet over the cliffs, pleasantly relieving the dull browns and grays. Long necked birds wheeled above them, their discordant "squawk" sounding above the noisy dash of waves like a foghorn heard in the distance.
Our little ship made fast headway, until a last the cliffs merged into a low plateau. Here I first caught a fair idea of the jungle, though it was from a distance. As far as the eye could reach, as far as the mountains several leagues distant, stretched a matted mass of woven forest, tall and ancient, a natural landmark of the ages. It was impassible due to the weaving and growing that had been going on for centuries. In color, a vivid green, splotched occasionally by a brilliant red or white patch of flowering trees. Thus we continued for scores of miles until the morning and afternoon were gone. At twilight we entered Santos. Instead of being a harbor, it was a great coffee station. Coffee everywhere, in boats, piled on wharves, being sorted, sacked carried everywhere. Laborers busily engaged in their tasks were still working late as it was. Dressed in white with wide brimmed yellow straw hats, in the semi-darkness they stood out clearly. We landed, and with the aid of a few Negroes we and our possessions were safely brought to our white-washed hotel where we were to spend the night until morning when we were transported across the mountains, through the jungle, to the plantation three hundred miles inland.
Gottlieb and Julianna Dreger and their family traveled to the USA from Europe via South America. There were three sons; Andrew (the eldest, born 1867 in Valnic Province, Russia--a German village, now Poland) Julius, and Adolph-- also daughters; Emily, another sister who died, and perhaps other children who also died before the family reached California.
All of them were German nationals, born in Russia. They left Europe about 1884 (a guess) after living in Versailles, France. From there they sailed to Santos and Sao Paulo, Brazil. To the best of my knowledge, they stayed six years, working on a coffee plantation--except for Andrew who worked in Sao Paulo as a mechanic in a bicycle shop.
Then, with a desire to come to the USA, and no direct route of passage, they left for Antwerp, Belgium, and from there went to Pennsylvania. Andrew remained in Antwerp, because they were short of funds. He joined the family two years later when his father sent him passage. The Dregers settled in Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia.
Andrew and his first wife moved to Michigan to settle and clear land. His wife and son died in a cabin fire. He then left Michigan to join his parents and the rest of the family who, by then, had moved on to California, settling in Anaheim and Long Beach.