THE LIFE STORY OF
AS TOLD BY HIMSELF
(Translated from the German by
Prof. W. F. Arendt)
Submitted by Daryl Gehlbach with this note: I have finished scanning into computer text the memoirs of Wilhelm Fellwock, my wife's ancestor. I have double-checked the scanned version against the original and to the best of my ability made sure they are the same down to the improper punctuations. I kept pages as a unit, rather than run all the text together. You can edit out my page breaks and reduce the number of pages to print. I did insert a number of comments into the text and set them off by brackets. For example, if there was a hand-written comment or a word was underlined.
My Dear Anna: (Anna Fellwock-Haberkorn)
To comply with your request I shall relate a few things from my life. I was born in Nauhausen near Koenigsberg in the section called Neumark of Provice Brandenburg, Germany. There I was confirmed March 24, 1854. My father Martin Fellwock was born September 19, 1805, my mother Louise Fellwock (nee Lehmann) on November 29, 1813. In the summer of 1844 one of my father's brothers, Michael, the second oldest, with his family emigrated to America, a country which at that time was little know in our region, They settled in Town Libanon (now Lebanon) where, because the children were small and their possessions few, they experienced hard times. And at that they lived in the forest primeval.
In the summer of 1846 my father's oldest brother Fritz Fellwock and his brother-in-law Michael Sasse and their families went to Wisconsin. With them went Johann Oertwig. They settled in Town Theresa, Dodge County, Everyone brought along what according to the standards of those days was a considerable capital; they could provide sufficient elbow room for themselves and bought at once more than 80 acres of land at the government price of $1.25 per acre, a thing which hundreds of poor could not do.
Johann Oertwig in the fall of 1847 married the oldest daughter of Uncle Fritz Fellwock, Marie, who as you see was my cousin and your grandmother. She died in child-bed October 26, 1858.
Now back to Germany. My sainted parents in comparison with many others enjoyed a fairly good living, especially when we children grew up. They had two acres of farm land, one acre of pasture (meadow), a house and garden with a barn, a horse, cow,
two hogs and a goat, but no chickens because they cackle and scratch too much. They had cherry and plum trees and two pear trees, in addition also gooseberries and grapes. And the proceeds brought money. We did not have to eat dry bread as so many had to do, except for a large piece which we took along to school; and how good it tasted! I have often wished that our children might have such an appetite.
When in the spring of the year the storks looked up their nests and the larks sang their songs as they soared high into the air then the digging commenced. The land which we owned had to be worked with a spade. That was labor which bent the back and made the arms tire. After that came the sowing and the planting till way into the summer, after that the hoeing and spraying. The later was the most laborious of all, I planted and cultivated more Wurstkraut than two horses were able to pull. In addition there was all the work with the vegetables. The income from the produce was indeed good. Everything was sent to Stettin either by water or by land. One thing however was missing: we had to buy our bread. This fact together with the high taxes which had to be paid every month often made life rather difficult for the parents as they desired to forge ahead.
In the summer of 1852 father received a letter form Uncle Fritz in America, the first one he received form [sic] him there. Our joy was great. The letter is still in existence. In this letter he writes that since he knew our situation he would consider it better for all of us if we should come there. The beginning would be difficult but the prospects for the future much better. This was the first invitation. Father was not as yet really convinced,
but when later on another letter arrived in which Uncle invited us and in which he gave us information on details of what we had to do for a successful voyage father changed his mind, Yes, and I? I was full of joy, Even though I up to that time had done the work glad it nevertheless I felt the pressure of it more and more. I thought if others found their living over there we would find ours too, and the faithful God be praised we did find It.
It then became our resolution to leave and the slogan was, Hurrah; we go to America.
In the spring of 1854 steps were taken to sell our small estate. Purchasers were soon found. One of them purchased this, another one that. When Pentecost came everything had been sold. The proceeds amounted to 1400 thaler. A thaler at that time had the value of 65 cents.
From the company in Hamburg to which father applied we received the information that the sailing vessel Copernicus (steamboats at that time were unknown to us) would leave July 28th and that we could obtain passage on it. The price per person more than 10 years old was 48 thaler and for those under that age one half the amount mentioned, The food was included. A few days before leaving we held our auction, and many objects to which we were attached left us never to be seen again.
Finally came the day of departure form [sic] our old home and dear relatives. There was much weeping and the farewell was painful. This was July 26th. We lived four German miles (16 Amer. Miles) from the nearest railway station. From there we traveled via Berlin to Hamburg, at which place we arrived at the fixed time. We had to lay over there for several days because our ship on account of the great number of emigrants had already left. This
ship never reached New York, it went down "with man and mouse". For us another ship was equiped so that with several hundred comrades we could on August 1st go on board. With the exception of one German the sailors from the Captain to the bellboy were English. The meals were really good, but in the beginning there was not much eating. As soon as we entered the North Sea the dragon of the ocean, sea sickness, came and took away our appetite. Many were severely ill, but I quickly conquered the trouble and felt well and healthy to the end. It was a checkered company of people who for ten weeks had to be together on this vessel. The first three weeks the weather was cool, then there came four weeks when the weather was warm and even hot so that the drinking water which was meted out to everybody, a quart a day, was not sufficient and we suffered form [sic] thirst. At the same time there was such a calm that the sails flapped and it often seemed as though the ship did not move at all. Among others we had with us four young Sweded, rough people. One of them let himself be lowered by means of a rope put about his body for a bath in the ocean. The next time he went down without the rope; he wanted to swim as fast as the ship was moving. But poor Swede, where are you? There was much excitement among the many spectators. If the first pilot had not at the right time thrown a rope into the water he would have perished. He was half dead when he was pulled up into the ship. After that this kind of sport was forbidden by the captain. The last three weeks were pretty cool, our drinking water sufficed. Hunger is bad, but thirst is much worse. Several times we had severe thunderstorms, these cannot be described, you have to experience them. By and by a person became aquainted with
the fellow travelers and found out where their home was and to which place they were traveling. We attached ourselves to a family by the name of Adelmeier; a grandson of this man dwells, as you know, on the farm which was once upon a time owned by Albert Zahn. Thus the time passed; now and then we noticed other vessels on the ocean. Finally on the evening of October 10 you heard the shout: LAND! We were not able of course to see it, but the joy that resulted did not permit us to sleep that night. When we the next morning slowly entered the harbor of New York we saw very engaging scenery, and we saw other people. Finally the ship anchored at the pier and with the help of the faithful God we were able to put our feet on the soil of the new world. It's immpossible [sic] to describe our feeling. Such things one has to experience. When finally our trunks and possessions had been checked by the customs inspector they were taken into sheds. At that time there was not as yet a Castle Garden or Ellis Island like now where the immigrants are taken care of, At that time the newcomers were without any protection. When we after much trouble had purchased tickets for Milwaukee, which cost $13 per person, we traveled westward in the world, the world that was new and strange to us. The first station was Dunkirk on Lake Erie, where we had to lie over on Sunday and we had an opportunity of viewing the town with its few houses. Then we went along Lake Erie to Toledo, Ohio, where we saw the first apples, and we got to taste them. While on the first railway trip, we had cars with wooden seats where we at least could sit in comfort, now in order not to be compelled to lie over a long time we had to travel in cattle cars. That means that to Chicaco we were shipped like freight, But there was no use to
scold and resist. Again Saturday had come. On Sunday we could, to kill time, look at Chicago. The next day on account of a storm we could not leave till evening, and then we started out for our longed-for goal, Milwaukee. We were in good health when we set foot on Wisconsin soil. Then we traveled toward the little village of Theresa. The trip had to be made per wagon, but where in the strange city should we find vehicles? But finally we found some, though they were not the ones which Uncle Fritz Fellwock had described for us and which eight years before, as he said, had brought him into the forest. And how we were disappointed when the vehicle came! We thought they would be big wide wagons like those in Germany. But far from it! The men loaded the boxes, sacks of bedding, mother and the children on the lumber wagons with the high seats. Father and I usually walked along the road, where your auto has dashed along many a time. Oh what the condition of the roads was at that time! Where there wasn't a tree stump there was sure to be a rock. Here we saw the first sugar maple trees. Now and then a log cabin came into view. I began to imagine what was in prospect for us. When we had traveled through Ohio we had seen great country estates with attractive orchards, fine grazing cattle, big corn fields and on them fine pumpkins. Most of all we marveled at the fences that were very straight. How they got to be that way we ourselves discovered later. Now of these beautiful things there was no trace in Wisconsin along our road. Once more we had to stay at a boarding house for the night. With the help of God we finally on the evening of October 25 arrived in Theresa. About our departure from Hamburg father had written to the relatives. It may be that he had forgotten to write about our arrival in New York. The
relatives on that account were much worried about us, the whole settlement knew about our coming. Now we were in a little village, but still four miles away from our relatives. Mother and the children once more had to spend the night here. As for as father and I were concerned the great longing did not permit us to rest. People gave precise direction and though dark, evening had come we went to the relatives and arrived at their place, after having asked questions a few times, at 9 o'clock. The joy of seeing each other again, of kissing and shaking hands with the uncles and cousins male and female was really touching. And how much there was to relate! The next morning our loved ones and our baggage was gotten and I could look around to see where we were. I enjoyed the sight very much. We were given a very cordial, affectionate welcome. At the end of November father through the meditation of Uncle Fritz [handwriting above line says Johann Friedrich Fellwock] bouqht 66 acres costing $10 per acre. Now we were well established farmers, but--without cleared land, and at that we had $300 debts and had to pay 10% interest. Until the end of November I had good times, I helped relatives to do their threshing and various other things. In December the real seriousness of life began. Every day the tough sugar maple trees had to be cut down, which work resulted in stiff arms and calloused hands. By and by however we became accustomed to it. But the deep snow and the considerable distance--from what is now Wenger's farm--was no fun as you had to travel it twice a day. But we were happy and full of joy in spite of the hard work. There was variation too. The dear Christmas festival came. But how sadly I missed the beautiful church with its organ and with its grand three bells in the tower. Everything had been
very solemn. Here it was merely a log house, stumps and rough boards put on them forced the seats. On a platform stood a table covered with dark cloth. When the pastor stood in front of the table it formed the altar, when behind it, it was the pulpit. We had three kinds of hymn books: Missouri, Parst [I believe this is the Babst hymnal] and Bollhagen. The man who led in singing (Vorsaenqer) had to be sure of himself, everybody had brought along his own melody. After New Year's a choir practiced many songs, just as they are still sung. For everything we missed we had compensation in the fine wheat bread and the cake which my cousins Ernestine and Louise offered abundantly.
In the beginning of January 1855 I could attend the Wedding of Wilhelmine Fellwock, daughter of Uncle Michael Fellwock. At the end of January Marie Oertwiq was baptized, a sister of your mother. The snow was very deep, but in sleighs driven by oxen Schoenikes came with good friends from Lebanon to attend the baptism. That was a performance which is superior to what the auto do today. All these were pleasant occurences in our monotonous, laborious way of life.
In order to be closer to the place of work we on March 25 moved into an old log house on the Oertwig place and hence we were in the immediate vicinity of our dear cousin Merle Fellwock, With feelings of deep gratitude we later on separated from our benefactors who had done 90 much for us. Johannes remained there and from there attended school. Gette (Henriette Fellwock-Schultz [handwriting above line inserts "was confirmed" at this point] at Easter. Miene (Wilhelmine Fellwock-Melke) helped in the house of Uncle Michel, the little one (the nestling Ernstine Fellwock-Steinbach remained with mother. Now we lived alone,
but everything which father could not himself manufacture was missing and had to be bought. A water bucket was purchased. Another one father made out of a hollow linden tree. He made a tub out of a hollow elm. A table, two foot-stools he had manufactured when we stayed with Uncle Fritz. Too bad that we had forgotten to bring along from the old country our silver-table-ware.
Now we bravely worked and made room for the log cabin on our property. We obtained large vats so that with Louise who later was known as Aunt Jagow, I on the holy eve before Easter could cook maple syrup, This represented the first proceeds from the farm. Thus the time passed. After Pentecost I for 3 months worked in Mayville and received $9 per month. I worked on roads. The first money that I earned I got for working on the street west of the depot. Stumps and stones had to be removed. In the fall I worked for two months in Le Roy. There I received $13, which sounds a little better. In the meantime we worked industriously on our log hut with the result that in the beginning of December we could move into our little house. We just barely made it. Now we lived on our own soil. When of the middle of December I could attend a double wedding for which occasion I received a $1 felt hat my joy knew no bounds. We were owners of a cow and had chickens. In 1856 I for 7 months worked at what was called Rolling Prairie, now Burnett. I there received $13 per month. This money sufficed for a plow and oxen. The oxen had not been trained too well. One day the parents desired to go to Mayville. We borrowed a wagon from Uncle Fritz. The oxen were hitched to the wagon and away we went, I walked along side with the long whip. Since the parents had business in the village which detained
them somewhat long they sent me home. Up to Naver's I walked bravely alongside of my oxen. But there I placed myself on the wagon thinking that they would find the way down the hill. And-- they did find it! With all four legs at the same time down they went. I lay down and tried to, hold to the sides of the wagon. Finally the oxen had exhausted their steam. That was my good fortune. My parents never found out about this adventure.
In 1857 I was in Burnett for 2 months and received $16 per month. That was in harvest time. My stay in '58 I have already described. In 1859 I came as a visitor form [sic] Burnett; I was there for 6 months and received $11 per month. I had to work 1/2 month extra; Easter, Pentecost and the 4th of July had brought holidays, besides I was sick for several days. But I did not suffer any ill results. In 1860 we began to build the house. When the lumber was prepared where father and I helped along carpenter received .65 a day. When we did the joining his pay was .75. On July 26 the house was erected. And again I for two months went to the Prairie and earned $16 per month, which was sufficient to buy the shingles for the roof. That is as far as we got in this year. Father who made all the doors and laid the floors had everything finished far enough that at the end of October we could move into the western half. God helped us.
On May 8, 1862 I entered holy matrimony with Wilhemine Grewing; but according to the wise counsel of our Lord this very happy marriage was not to last long, for as early as February 12, 1868 she closed her eyes forever. She left me with 3 little girls (Auqusta, Florentina and Emilie) who were 5, 3 and 1-1/2 years old respectively. Of course we were in the deepest grief. Our
living had improved and in 1864 we were able to build our barn. The pay for labor had gone up too. For weather boarding we paid .75 a day and for the joining $1. On account of the Civil War 1861-65 all produce went up in price, the South had no bread and in the North cotton was lacking. Sacks which formerly cost .25 a piece now were sold for $1, calico was .48 a yard. Wheat went up to $3. In '64 we had harvested 25 bushels of barley. We sold 23 bushels to the breweries and received $2.25 per bushel. The next year I received .67 per bushel. In the fall of 1865 I was able to buy a few young horses with harness for $350. But I gave up my oxen and was allowed $140 for them. Through the grace of God our finances improved and by means of good harvest and prices we advanced in the years form [sic] 1865-1868. Our loving God who inflicts blows likewise heals the wounds. That is a thing which I experienced, because he again gave me a faithful wife and to the dear little ones a kind mother in the person of Ernstine Oertwig, daughter of my beloved cousin Marie Fellwock-Oertwig, with whom I was joined in holy matrimony October 7, 1868. We were blessed with 6 children. Marie, Louise, Anna, Friedrich, Wilhelm, and Johanna. For 41 years I was permitted to travel the way to heaven with her. In the spring of 1869 I bought a machine for sowing and for harvesting. Until now I had done all the sowing by hand and the grain had been cut with the cradle. The former cost $60. the later $190. In 1872 I built the granery. In 1873 our house received weather boarding. Shutters were supplied and beautiful painted. In this year through God's blessing we had a crop as never before. These are the details: more than 600 bushels of wheat and in addition barley, oats, and corn. There was great
joy when on April 21, 1877 the first heir (Friedrich) arrived. Another joy was granted us through God's grace, our dear parents were permitted March 11, 1883 to observe their golden wedding anniversary. I kept a copy of what the Rundschau [local German newpaper] reported about it. God permitted them to live with us for a few years more before He received them into the eternal home. Mother died February 28, 1888 and father January 10, 1894. It was a pleasure to provide a delightful evening of life to our sainted parents who in the beginning had to suffer many wants. This would of been impossible back in Europe. For us children of course the hardships were not such a burden.
Thus dear Anna I will close my report. What follows in our history you yourself have seen and experienced. This is a long epistle. Well, what you are not able to read you have to arrive at through guessing. By all means try to remember the dates, Anna. The other facts will easily suggest themselves.
When I now look back and think of the friendliness of my God how He led me then I have to say with Jacob, Lord, I am not worth of the least of all the mercies etc. May he grant me a blessed end for the sake of His Son. With this I commend you to God.
In faithful affection, Your father,
Juneau, Wisconsin. February 24, 1926
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