OBERKALBACH, HESSEN, GERMANY
Village of My Berthold and Ullrich Ancestors
Why They Left the Homeland
Before 1830, emigration from this area was illegal. After 1830, one had to apply for permission to leave. A few did leave the area but on 25 May 1833, the town councils of several villages in the area composed a letter to those in charge of emigration in Kurhessen proposing planned group emigrations to the U.S.A. in order to relieve the serious social problems. In 1837 at least 3 ships from Bremen to Baltimore had a large number of Oberkalbach area people on board.
The years 1845 through 1850 were years of great hunger in this area, similar to the potato famine in Ireland. There were crop failures and excessive rain. Mothers were so desparate to quell their children’s hunger that they would mix ground up tree bark with flour in order to fill their stomachs. In 1847, 11 ships came to Baltimore carrying over 100 emigrants from this area. In 1852, at least 12 ships arrived at Baltimore with 232 emigrants from this area. Again in 1854 there were 10 ships with considerable numbers. There were probably more ships bringing people from these villages, but many ship lists did not list the names of the villages from which they came, so there is no way to know for sure.
Of those who came, some were adventerous young people, both men and women, but many came as families. If life proved better in the U.S.A., they sent letters home inviting others to come. This seems to have been the case in Hardin County, Ohio, Butler County, Pennsylvania, Wheeling, West Virginia, and Milltown, New Jersey, where quite a few from the Oberkalbach area settled.
Wilhelm Praesent in the book Bergwinkel Chronik gives the words of a song that was sung in the villages about this time:
Jetzt ist die Zeit und Stunde da,
Now the time and the hour are here,
Wir ziehen nach Amerika.
We’re moving to America.
Der Wagen steht schon vor der Tuer,
The wagon is standing by the door,
Mit Weib und Kinder ziehen wir.
We’re moving with our wives and children.
Adjes, ihr Freunde und Verwandt’,
Goodby, dear friends and family,
Reicht uns zum letzten mal die Hand.
Shake hands with us for the last time.
Wir sehn einander nimmermehr!
We won’t ever see each other again!
O weinet nicht, weint nicht so sehr!
Oh please don’t cry, don’t cry so hard!
Und als man auf dem Wasser schwimmt,
And when we’re floating on the water,
Da werden Lieder angestimmt.
We will start to sing songs.
Wir fuerchten keinen Wasserfall
We’re not afraid of a disaster
Und denken: Gott ist ueberall.
And believe that God is everywhere.
Und kommen wir nach Baltimor,
And when we get to Baltimore,
Da recken wir die Hand empor
We will raise our hands
Und rufen aus: Viktoria!
And shout: victory!
Jetzt sind wir in Amerika!
Now we are in America!
Copyright 2000-2008 by Sue Foster. Please contact me for permission to copy.
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