The Journey to America
A story of the Kregel family immigration
Louise Christina Kregel Borcherding told the following story many times in the German language of the Lowland. The Lowland was near the Neatherlands and the language was closer to Latin than the language of the Highlands of Germany. Louises grandson, Edward Walter translated it in to English.
In 1865 twelve year old, Louise Christina Kregel lived with her family in a small village on the outskirts of Hanover, Germany. She remembers that the next day they were leaving for America. The Wilhelm Henry Kregel family had owned an acreage, 4 miles from the village, where they grew wheat and rye for the flour to make into bread. In an enclosure was a flock of sheep that supplied the wool for yarns that was used for clothing, stockings, mittens, hoods for the girls and womens shawls.
Early next morning the entire family (W. Henry, his wife Sophia, Henry Jr., William, Louise Christina, Caroline, Mina, and baby Christine) was up and there was a feeling of anticipation, this going to America, the land of promise where people were free and everything free for the asking. They boarded a train in Hanover and rode on an open flat car with a long seat down the center. They faced toward one side and the back of the seat was their wooden chests with iron straps to strengthen them. For the chests had to be fastened down on the ship. When they arrived at Copenhagen the ship, Anna, on which they had passage, had a full load and left the day before. So they had to board a similar sailing vessel by the same company, named Clara. The ship, Anna, was never heard from again and no doubt went down in a storm.
So the Clara sailed out into the channel and as the beautiful city faded away in the distance, there were some tears shed. They knew they would never see their homeland again. A good breeze filled the canvas and the ship plowed through the waters at a good speed and one passenger remarked that they would soon be in America. The Captain answered that the people should not get their hopes up too high, for they may have a calm.
After two days of good sailing there was calm and the canvas hung limp and the sailors wrapped most all the canvas on each of the yard-arms. The North Atlantic stream flows very swift from the cold to the warmer waters and Clara was carried quite swiftly toward the English Channel in the four days of calm. Hopes ran quite low and there was a feeling of frustration with people packed in a rather small ship with belongings all about.
Then as suddenly as they ran into the calm, the little canvas billowed out and with a shout all the sailors went up the rope ladders and unfurled all the canvas and again were on the way to America!!
After a week of sailing it became very dark. In late evening storm clouds loomed up in the west. All chests were checked to see if they were well fastened down and the captain ordered everyone to try to fasten down anything they could in the cabin. All canvas had been furled and when the storm struck, the ship was at the mercy of the sea. They did have good helmsmen who battled the huge waves in short shifts, for no man could stand the strain for too long. What would happen if the rudder broke or a cable broke? were mentioned during the storm.
Louisas father read passages from the Bible and the family offered up prayers for they were a religious family. Suddenly a man fully dressed with heavy boots, heavy winter overcoat and cap came into the cabin and was amazed at the calm of the Kregels. Henry Sr. asked, Where are you going? At that instant it occurred to him (the man) there was no place to go. He settled down and joined in on the prayer and walked back or rather stumbled to his cabin in a much better frame of mind. No doubt this was the storm that wrecked the ship, Anna.
Then as suddenly as it came, the storm passed and again there was a short calm. Then the canvas billowed out, there was a great shout of Thanksgiving. Again Louisas father offered a prayer with his family around him for having been brought through this ordeal that even the most seasoned sailors feared. (For the little wooden ship was very small compared to the liners of today, built of steel and other strong materials with radar and communications.)
After bobbing across the Atlantic for 7 ½ weeks they saw the lady of welcome with outstretched hand and again a great shout went up on board for arriving safely in America.
However, their troubles were not over. All passengers and goods were unloaded at Ellis Island and they waited there for over a month, where they were checked for disease, etc. So much red tape, one would say today. None were sick, why so long?
At last they were off to Chicago by train. Then the stationmaster put them on the train to Rock Island, Illinois instead of the Dubuque trail. There were no tracks from Rock Island to Dubuque, so they had to go back to Chicago with pack and baggage and finally after another few days were in Dubuque.
It was now November. A man, Bolsinger from Millville, was at the depot with a team of 4 oxen on a long rack on two heavy wheels. The chests and belongings were packed onto the wagon and the family walked behind changing off carrying baby Christine. As they arrived near the Holy Cross area a short distance north, it was dark and the oxen stopped. Bolsinger whipped the oxen but they lay down and would not go farther. So the driver who was a big man told the family, The beasts must be tired and wont move. So they wrapped the baby well for it became quite cold that evening. Everyone was real tired and slept well. When it was time to get up the big man boomed out, Everybody up, now I know why the beasts refused to go forward! They all ran forward to see, and straight ahead was a ditch some 20 feet deep. W. Henry Kregel said, The animals sensed it better than man.
They moved on and in the area north of Luxemburg where the Bries farm is today (this was written many many years ago), there was a sawmill sawing logs for pioneers to build houses and barns for livestock. They traveled on to Guttenberg where their belongings were unloaded. Henry found an acreage for sale (with) a log house by a spring, north of Guttenberg on Buck Creek. Henry Kregel purchased the land and also a team of horses and wagon. Henry Jr. was sent to the sawmill to get a load of lumber for an addition to the log house. Additional bedrooms were built of rough sawed boards.
In the log house was no floor but ground. On Saturday the rooms were swept clean and the floors were sprinkled with fine sand that was hauled from the beaches along the river. The boys worked for farmers in the neighborhood and Louise Christina went to work for a middle aged couple on the island, now Abels Island.
~contributor's notes: This story was part of the genealogy compiled by my aunt, Fredena Krueger Shrader after her trip to Germany in 1968. Louise Christine Kregel Borcherding and Fredenas mother, Caroline Kregel Krueger were first cousins. Both Louise and Carolines parents are buried in a cemetery near a schoolhouse on the Vuegene Borcherding farm (in the late 1960s and early 1970s) north of Guttenburg, Clayton co. Iowa. Both families came to America in 1865 its not known if they came on the same ship.
~contributed by Lyn Martin
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