Contact Us
Records :: Letters, Journals, Diaries: Henry Maas Letter
Home / Records / Letters, Journals, Diaries / Henry Maas Letter

The following is taken from "die Families Grauer"  by Jack Grauer, 2001, pages 4-12 through 4-18.

A letter Henry Maas wrote to his descendants in 1914 about his leaving Oldenburg, Germany, and settling in the Iowa Frontier in 1854 near what is now South Amana.

Contributed by Jeanine Wichman, August 2001. Copyright © 2001 Jeanine Wichman

"A Record of Events Experienced During Our Journey From Germany
to North America in 1854"

By Henry Maas (written before 1914)

"With the beginning of a New Year, our mind busies itself with the recollections of the past, as well as meditations of the present, and with spirited hope of the future. One is amazed at the gigantic, almost unbelievable progress of the last 50 or 60 years in art and science subjugating the different elements and forces of nature for the welfare of man. With the speed of a flash of lightning the desires and commands of man are flashed into every direction, and one is enabled to converse or dispose of business. Huge steamships with the equipment of a palace cross the ocean; Pullman cars speed across the continent, running on a schedule with the steamships as though they were a unit. Great efforts are being put forth to rapidly improve the airplane.

In order to contrast the present time with that of 60 years ago., I feel inclined to relate the events of our journey to and settlement of Iowa County (Iowa), up to the present time. Before I proceed, I will give a history of my native home 'Neuenhuntorf' in the county of Bern of the Grandduchy, Oldenburg. Also a record of my ancestry, so that my descendants may know that they are of pure German blood.

The name 'Maas' is derived from a river, which flows from France through Belgium, Holland and thence into the North Sea. At the beginning of the 12th century Eastfriesiens and Dutch immigrated into the province now known as Oldenburg. In Hunte and the Weserregion they discovered the rich marshland and settled in 'Stedingerland'. In order to protect this lowland from floods and tides they built dams and canals. Engaging in agriculture, they became quite wealthy. This aroused the envy of the dukes and bishops of Bremen and Oldenburg. They began to molest them, which resulted in a continuous bitter strife. Until the time of Charles, the 'Stedinger' succeeded in defending their rights. At the time, the dignitaries of Bremen made representation to the Pope, accusing the Stedinger, because of their religion, as heretics. In consequence Charles the Great gathered an army to subdue the Stedinger. In this he succeeded. Toward the close of the 12th century their fate was decided in a battle at Altentesh, where the Octum unites with the Weser River. The monument, St. Veit, marks the place, where those who fell in battle are resting. At the time of Reformation, nearly all of the congregation at Neuenhuntorf belonged to Anton Guenter, duke of Oldenburg. His resting place is in a mausoleum on the cemetery of Neuenhuntor.

In addition to the duke, there were nine peasants, whose names have remained prominent until this day, for the law did not permit an estate to be equally divided among the children. The real estate must be bequeathed to the youngest son. (Should this not be the oldest?) While a remuneration of the other children was permissible, it was not permitted to encumber the real estate too severely. For that reason, the homesteads of that time are nearly all preserved. The names are as follows: Maas, Wenke, Vallers, Widemann, Wardenburg, Lange, Neuhaus, Vogt, and Schroeder. The descendants founded the following villages: Buttle, Koeterende, Neunhundorfer, Moor, Alenthundorf, and Mooriem on the west side of the Hunte.

My grandfather, Gerd Maas, moved to Buttle. His brother, John and his half-brother, _____Karsten, lived in Koesterende. Gerd Maas, my grandfather, was married a second time. From the first marriage, he had a daughter, who was united with Klaus von Kampen. This union was blessed with a son and a daughter, Klaus and Metje. The latter was joined in marriage to J. Sosat in Hammelwarden. His second wife was Anna, Nee Grube from Allenhuntorf. Three sons were born of this union: Harm, Brand, and Gerd. Gerd was a sailor. He was drowned in the Weser River in 1855 at Hammelwarden and was buried at the same place. Harm and Brand moved with their families to the United States in 1854 and settled in Iowa at South Amana.

Beginning To Talk About America

While attending school, I heard much of America. Arend Lange was very enthusiastic. He has a sister living in Baltimore. She sent many reports from across, which sounded very tempting. The same was true of Wilken Timmermann from New York. In 1851, my brother, Gerhardt Maas, made the acquaintance of a certain ____ Nabel from America, who was visiting at Wuesting. Brother Gerhard and his friend, John Grummer, grew so enthusiastic, that they left for America with Nabel in 1852.

My father gave Gerhard $200, instructing  him to remain two years and then to return and report. Nabel went to Milwaukee, Gerhard and John Grummer to Indiana. There they worked in various places along the section and on the farm. John Grummer desired to see the 'wild west' before they returned to Germany and went to 'Iowa', working for a farmer named Johnson where Amana now is.

Late in the fall of 1853, both returned safely in Germany. In answer to many questions, both praised America. Since the prospects in Germany were not so bright, repairs on mills and dams requiring much money and work, many desired to emigrate, among them my parents, especially my mother. Everything was offered for sale. Our place was sold to Mr. Adiks for $3,000. Now more neighbors became interested. Arend Lange sold his place for $3,000 to Sims. Harm Mass sold his place to Paradis; J.F. Lange and Diedrichs, Herman Lange and Klaus Otte, also J.H. Mehrens. It was agreed to leave for America May 1, 1854. However J.F. Lange decided to stay because of the advanced age of his parents and bought our place from Adiks for $3000, where he still resides.

A number of young people decided to emigrate, among them Oer Munderloh and family, Herd Monnich and family, and 'Fredrich Pundt' from Bordewisch. These three worked together as ship carpenters at Elsflelth. Pundt took a position on a ship headed for New York. There he waited for the rest with a friend, Bulling. Munderloh and Monnich came later with a steamer to New York, thence to Peoria, Illinois, where a sister, Mrs. F. Wenke lived. Finally all met in Iowa.

The Trip to America Begins

Everything was in readiness for the journey. In Bremen, a contract was drawn up with a transportation company. According to this contract, all were to be transported within a ship still under construction at Brake, which was to be in readiness by the first of May. The following were included in the contract and the price of transportation paid:

Brand Maas and wife, Ahlke and children, Gerhard, Henry, Anna, and Gesine; Mr. and Mrs. Ahrend Lange, Geshe and three children, Ahlke, Karsten, and Arend; Mr. and Mrs. Harm Maas and three children, J. Hinrichs, Ferd and Diedrich; Mr. and Mrs. Herm Lange and two children, Anna and Mathild; Mr. and Mrs. John Mehrens and six children, Herman, Diedrich, Henry, Christ, Gerhard, and George. Finally a youth named John Grummer.

In addition, J. Lange and 'Becha Wichmann' from Altenhutdorf decided to join the emigrants.

With tearful eyes and joyful expectations we took leave from home. Our neighbor, G. Graene, took us to Huntebrueck, where we boarded a small steamboat, Oldenburg, which took us to Elsfleth. From there we took a larger ship down the Weser to Brake. There we ere to take the larger ship across the ocean.

Here we met with disappointment. When the ship was launched, it tipped over for want of ballast. The transportation company lodged us in a hotel of Mr. Frinke, until we could proceed on our journey. However, another ship, the Juno with Captain Baake, was lying in readiness. Both ship and captain enjoyed a good reputation. It also contained a large cabin in the forepart and so we decided to go with the Juno, which was in accord with the conditions of our contract. We were glad to get aboard.

The Juno was dragged by a towboat to Bremen and we followed on a ferryboat. At Bremen the ship was ready to sail. All the other passengers were already on deck. It was quite windy and many were seasick. Our cabin was toward the front of the ship, beneath the deck under the fluke. The anchor chains were our neighbors. A board wall separated us from the other passengers. No remonstration would help, the anchor was raised and with the tide our ship drifted slowly toward the North Sea. We saw the wreckage of a ship and some seals. The wind was favorable, the sea heaving and our cabin bobbed up and down and many began to call 'New York'. Our captain did not sail through the English Channel, but around Scotland. Suddenly we were pursued by a ship. At intervals of ten minutes, we heard two shots, and the third time a cannonball whistled close by. Our ship halted. The other ship was an English Man-of-War. Several officers came aboard, examined our papers. O.K.'d them and we could go on. A few days before Pentecost, we saw another ship back of us. It was a fast sailboat. It passed very near our ship and was loaded with passengers. Calls of 'hurrah' and waving of handkerchiefs went to and fro. It was a new ship and according to our estimate, the same ship we were to take at first. It seemed as if it still had insufficient ballast, because it leaned conspicuously with a slight wind.

The first day of Pentecost we had a severe windstorm. The ship labored intensely and nearly all were seasick. It was nearly impossible to stay in bed. A large wave rolled over the deck and everything seemed afire with lightning. Becka Wichmann was struck by a piece of wood in the head, which left quite a wound. Our neighbors were Quakers from Magdeburg and very pious. They sang and prayed very much, but they were averse to peeling potatoes. For this reason, they did not get many in their soup. When the water began to come into the cabin and Beck Wichmann began to call for help. The Quakers made a murderous tumult, so that no one could hear a word. The boatswain, J. Springe, had charge of our deck. He entered our cabin and demanded 'Silence', since he could not make himself heard by his mean. All speaking and cursing was of no avail. He examined Miss Wichmann's wound and told us not to fear, left us and locked the hatchway. This closed out the water, but the air became so contaminated, nearly unbearable. But it had a quieting effect on the Quakers. After a while the storm ceased, the hatchway was opened again, and all gasped for fresh air. The boatswain returned and told us the worst was over. He was an efficient seaman and an acquaintance of my uncle. He served us with kind deeds and advice on the journey.

Several days after the storm we saw another ship sending S.O.S. calls with tattered sails. Our pilot with four sailors went over in a boat. The sea was high. The little boat was tossed by the waves over hills and valleys of water. When they finally came to the ship, they found the entire personal (all personnel) drunk. The captain had lost his course and knew not where he was. It was a Norwegian ship, loaded with wine, coming from France. Our men were rewarded with wine. When we came close to Newfoundland and close to American soil, we experienced much fog and finally arrived in New York Harbor and cast anchor in the Hudson River. Health officers boarded our ship and found everything satisfactory and we received permission to land.

The captain, however did not take us to the pier. A small steamboat drew up and offered to take us to the pier for a dollar. This created dissatisfaction. It was a low trick of the captain, for he was obligated to land his passengers. Some paid, others pleaded, but the captain had no sympathy. We refused to pay and remained on board. Our boatswain informed us that the captain had to land us. The next morning, the steamboat returned, but we remained firm. Our baggage had to be landed, so the customs officials could check on the same. Now he threatened to retain the women and children until the $1 would be paid. The pilot threatened to starve us, but the boatswain provided for us.

At Last! A Landing At New York

The captain had already gone ashore and when the pilot realized that we would not move, he cried aloud to lower the large boat and to bring us ashore on Pier No. 4. After the boat was lowered, we entered and three sailors were to land us. The boat was heavily loaded and when we were about ten rods from the ship two sailors began to quarrel and fight. With a thundering voice, the sailors were ordered aboard. One by the name of J. Brinkman was ordered on board and received from the boatswain a large sausage, which made him shout for glee. Another sailor was ordered to take his place and now we were landed on Pier No.4. All rejoiced to be able to set foot on firm soil of the promised land, which should offer us a new home.

After some questioning, we found our friend, Bulling, who acted as a kind of host to us. Here our comrade Fred Pundt joined us again. But the goal of our journey was not yet in sight. Iowa bordered on civilization and was part of the Wild West. From New York to Albany, we were to take a ship. Our luggage had been transported to the pier and we followed in Indian file. When we arrived there, a general consternation prevailed. The ship had sprung a leak and sank in the water.  Three-quarters of a foot of water inside caused boxes and trunks to swim. Our companions of the Juno, who landed sooner than we, were unfortunate ones. Things were reloaded on another ship, our goods were placed on the same and we followed. The deck was filled with passengers. Some laughed, others wept.

The passage up the Hudson began, the day was warm, but the nights were cool. After breakfast the next morning, we had to go ashore, because the boat was sinking. We had to walk up to the railroad station, but our boat was taken in tow by a steamer and brought to the station. Finally, late in the evening, we boarded a train with comfortable seats and the next forenoon we crossed the Hudson at Albany. Here we had to wait till the evening for the next train. A German hotel keeper greeted friendly, offering us his assistance. He said he had a large backyard, where we might make ourselves at home until our train would come, offering us dinner at 25Ë each. We considered this a fair offer and accepted the same. He took us into an enclosed yard, which was filled with passengers. Toward the rear there was a door, but after a while it was closed. Then it was announced that dinner was ready and the train would soon leave. In order to get away, all had to pass through his house. A limited portion of soup was ready on the table. Since we had provisions with us, but few sat down to eat. At the front door, however, the hotel keeper was stationed, demanding 25Ë from each and a redheaded Irishman with a club to enforce his demand. Finally a tumult arose. Some of the guests called for the police, but by that time he had completed his collection. We had been coaxed into a trap.

Finally our train came and we could proceed on our journey. The next day we arrived in Buffalo. Here we witnessed the celebration of the Fourth of July for the first time. Here we also got a look at our baggage and found everything in order. The next evening we boarded a steamer and crossed Lake Erie, arriving in Toledo, Ohio. From there we took a train to Chicago, where we remained overnight. The day following we took a train to Rock Island. The road had just been completed, and we were perhaps some of the first passengers. At Rock island, we viewed the Mississippi, the Father of Waters, for the first time. We crossed this stream on a ferry boat, landing in Davenport. Since Iowa was our goal we halted here to look around, we found a hotel near the river. It was very hot and sultry. We could not sleep inside. The landlord was sick with fever. The next day we found a better lodging place in a higher location with a person named Schmidt. He was a sort of a coppersmith by trade and owned a saloon, a small store, and a hardware store. An open place near the house was given us. We could cook our meals, our baggage was put under one roof, and we could enjoy privacy.

By Horse and Buggy to the Settlement

My father, Onkel Arend, Herman Lange, and J.H. Mehrens bought horses and buggy and started together for Iowa City in order to find a home for all that had journeyed together. They arrived where the slaughterhouse is at present near South Amana and lodged with Mr. Faber. He possessed 40 acres of corn, two log houses, and a barn, they made a deal, paid down some cash. Later they found that he did not own this property as yet, but matters were settled honestly and fairly. His neighbor, an Irish bachelor, had 80 acres of land, a log house and 10 acres of corn. This was bought for $4 an acre. Government land was also to be had in the vicinity.

During their absence Gerd Maas, John Grummer, and Fred Pundt went and hired out on the harvest fields. I remained with the women and the children as overseer of the camp. It was intensely sultry and a cyclone swept over the city, causing much damage. We remained unharmed. After the storm our host, D. Mass, and myself drove to view the ruins. The road was blocked with wood, stones and fallen trees. Two large brick stores collapsed. Dead and dying were lying in the cellar. Near the river we saw the upper part of steamships and their smokestacks lying on the shore, as a result of the fury of the storm.

After 10-22 days our homestead seekers returned. Now we knew where our new home would be. Mother (Ahlke) was ill during the greater part of the journey, suffering intensely from seasickness. Serious stomach trouble developed anew, resulting in loss of strength. She realized that her days were numbered and that she should hardly see the new home. Mrs. G. Lange shared the same fate, suffering much from sickness. All were much depressed, because of these conditions, for both had been filled with enthusiasm for the new home. We bought out the interests of the others in the team and buggy. The spring wagon was traded for a lumberwagon and transformed into a regular prairie schooner. The most necessary belongings of ours and H. Maas were loaded, leaving room for the parents and thus the journey began, we boys walked barefoot following the wagon. H. Lange followed us with horse and wagon. A.L. and J.H. Mehrens hired transportation later. J. Grummer and Fred Pundt having found employment remained awhile.

We were four days enroute. During the entire time it was hot. Drinking water very often was, warm and not of the best quality. At night we were severely molested by the mosquitoes. We arrived on August 1 at 9 o'clock in the evening on the farm sold by Patrick. For three months we had traveled always toward the setting sun, on water and on land, using every kind of transportation. Tired, sick and depressed, we finally arrived at our goal. We ere beginning a new chapter in life in a new sphere of activity. What had the future in store for us? What difficulties were to overcome? To begin, we had to provide a night's lodging. The log cabin had not been inhabited for some time and was nearly hidden among prairie grasses. The first was spent in the wagon, while we children lay beneath it. Crickets and grasshoppers made a murderous racket, while the mosquitoes sang their vesper melodies.

The next day we began with the renovation of our wooden palace. It contained a fireplace, a chimney of hewn timbers, plastered with clay. The roof was of clapboards, the floor of boards from a sawmill and a porch on the South side of hewn wood. The second day my brother drove to Iowa City to get the necessary kitchen utensils, furniture and groceries. On the forth day mother's condition grew so serious that she died during the afternoon. At her side were my sisters, Gesine, Anna, and myself. Father had gone to seek a doctor. The people had failed to understand him. When he returned he found his life's companion at rest and no longer in need of assistance. When my brother returned from Iowa City, we had to seek for a place of burial. A man informed us that at the old trading place, along the road near the timber, where Whiting lived, a few graves could be found. We found this to be correct. There were a few graves on the South side of the road. We buried mother on the North side of the road. A tombstone still marks the place of her burial.

We succeeded in remodeling the old log cabin. Father and J. Maas sawed boards per Armstrong. A small addition was constructed. The cook stove was placed into the fireplace, so as to economize on space. Beds were built one over anther as on the Juno. The old folks slept in the lower beds and the children had to climb into the upper beds. Tables and chairs were dispensed with. While on the Juno we had learned to restrict ourselves to bare necessities. Herman Lange built a hut of long grass, where the cemetery of south Amana is now situated. A. Lange and J.H. Mehrens lived in the two log cabins where the slaughterhouse now stands.

Now my brother returned to Davenport to get the rest of our belongings. Sometime later Gerd Monnich and Gerd Munderloh came with their families from Peoria, Illinois. We had informed them of our whereabouts in this small America. Both had lost a child through death. G. Monnich stayed with Mehrens and G. Munderloh came and stayed with us. Thus three families lived in our small house. Now we were all once united and could sing. Finally the hour has come, where we are in our American home. G. Monnich built a sod house east of what is now South Amana. All had bought land by this time and at present there was plenty of work to prepare for the winter. The drinking water was not good. We had to carry it from the spring, where the slaughterhouse now stands. We had poor success making wells. Monnich and Munderloh were carpenters, Mehrens was a blacksmith. These performed all work of their profession. However, there was a lack of equipment. Blacksmith Mehrens had but a fire of wood and a stone or log as anvil to do his work. The rest of us performed other duties. A few cows and the horses, which we had brought, were in need of hay. The grass had to be cut with a scythe, which was strenuous labor. The prairie grass was tough and full of stubble, so the scythe soon got dull. It was a hot, dry summer. The change of climate, the impure water, made us weak in addition, the same plain meals every day, since many things could not be obtained and money began to be scarce, made us more or less sick.

The beginning of September many of us were ill with a fever. A physician's care was difficult to obtain, and proved useless. Mehrens and Mrs. G. Lange were seriously ill. Arend Lange attempted to cut grass at night, because of the heat. He was immediately stricken with a fever and died in a few days. He was buried west of Mother. Three days after this J.H. Mehrens died. His grave is South of mother's. During this time Mrs. Lange also died, she was buried next to her husband. A certain fear came over us. Many still were sick and no one knew how quick another might be called. With sorrowing heart, but confidence in God, we had to yield to the inevitable. In a short time six of those dear to us became a victim of death, in later years I had a tombstone at mother's grave and had her name inscribed.

Before I proceed, I will try to give a topographical description of our home. From Davenport we were located in a northwesterly direction, in the lowlands of the Iowa River in Iowa County. The soil was heavy, partly mixed with sand. It was covered with a heavy growth of grass. Along the creeks and foothills there was nice timber such as oak, walnut, hickory, willow, and elm. Some of the higher lands were level and some rolling. Much of it contained clay soil. It also was covered with dense grass. The main roads and the old pike roads followed the course of the river mainly. The first settlers followed these on account of the transportation, the water, the woods and the protection. The old trading post, the Indians and the forts had to give way to the march of progress. Occasionally one will still find arrows and other relics of the Indians.

In fall, Fred Pundt and John Grummer arrived and bought government land. Pundt bought where the drainage ditch ends in the Iowa River. Then he returned to Chicago and worked as a ship carpenter. John Grummer went to Benton County and bought near the present town of Luzerne, where some of his descendants still live. The first winter was mild. The fever ceased, and all were able to work. March was quite cold with a heavy snowfall. In spring of 1855, we bought three yoke of oxen and a breaking plow. Prairie land was broken, houses and barns were built, fences erected, everybody endeavored to improve his place. In the fall a number got sick again of the fever. By this time, the stage road was a busy place. Transportation was mostly by oxen. More and more emigrants traveled the road westward, coming from Germany, Sweden, Holland, Scotland, and Norway.

Beginning Of Iowa's Amana Colony

In 1855 a sect called the Amonites (Amana Society) originating in south Germany came into this vicinity and bought land from Whiting and Morrison. This was the beginning of the present colony. Later many more of their faith came and thus the colony expanded. They bought up the property of most of the first settlers. Today they consist of seven towns and villages. They engage in horticulture, agriculture, raising of hogs and cattle. Tobacco and grapes were raised in large quantities, but mostly for their own gratification. Many of them were craftsmen and hence, established many industries. They obtained a reputation in the manufacture of woolen goods. Their organization is communistic. The executive body consisted of elders and a superior, who received instructions from a spirit by inspiration, and these instructions were a law to the members of the colony. Meals were had in common, but the sexes were segregated. Marriages were permitted in emergencies, severe obligations being imposed. Some and prayer occupied much time. The plan of their towns and architecture were 100 years behind the time. Queer Brethren! Their servitude and dependence was repellant to me. The favorite song 'Liberty, my fancy which my heart doth fill, come with all they glory sweet angelic thrill etc.' was so deeply rooted in my heart, that it caused me to regard the superiors of this organization with suspicion.

The following winter 1856-1857 was a very severe one. The Buffalo grass was buried beneath the snow. Cottonwood trees were cut down so that the horses and cattle could eat the bark and buds, but in spite of that many perished. In the Spring they went to Missouri to replace their stock. Iowa also had a snow covering from 3 to 4 feet on the level. We constructed a sled and in the middle of March we could still travel over the snow, even over the fences.

Weddings offered a variation from the daily routine and were observed according to European customs. A Swiss, named Zimmerman, married the Widow Mehrens. Fred Spaerfusz married Ahlke Lange and Ondeas married my sister Anne. The fair sex was in the minority. I was the chief sufferer since my comrades were all older and crowded me aside.

Rain dissolved the mass of snow in the Spring and caused the river to overflow. My brother and I made a boat out of rough boards, which we had sawed during the Winter. Necessity proved the mother of invention. Water and ice was our element from childhood days, having afforded us much pleasure and valuable service.

Many humorous events could be related, but it would lead too far. Such events are common in all new settlements. Whiskey was cheap at that time, 18Ë to 25Ë a gallon by the barrel, or 50Ë by the single gallon. Nearly everybody had some in the home and it was used as a preventative against fever. For some it proved harmful. They became drunkards and ruined themselves and their families. In 1857 we purchased a McCormick reaper. For three years, I cut grain and hay with it by means of two yoke of oxen. Schoots plowed their corn with it. It was so expert work, nevertheless, quite an improvement.

John Grummer lived in Benton county. The Amana Society had erected a flour mill. This mill was closest to him. Twice a year in the Spring and Fall he made this trip with yoke of oxen, to get wheat ground. If everything went well, it took from 8 to 10 days. There was no bridge or ferry, so he had to cross the river as best he could. Mostly on the ice. In the Spring this proved dangerous at times. At one occasion he had to wait a week for colder weather. When it finally arrived, we made arrangements to help him. The ice was thin and smooth. We scattered sand in a narrow path, unhooked the oxen, and began to lead one with a rope. Some distance from shore, he fell through the ice, but he succeeded in breaking the ice and gaining the shore. When the second one arrived at the hole, he remonstrated but in the time of need the devil feeds on flies; that must have been his thoughts for he made a leap into the hole and swam to the shore. Thereupon we lugged the wagon and the cargo, piece by piece, across the ice. The J. Grummer could proceed on this journey. Such and similar incidents are frequent with pioneers.

In the fall of 1855, Iowa City was connected with the world by railway. We were from 25 to 28 miles from Iowa City. Yet it was an advantage since upon arrival, Davenport was the nearest railroad station.

In the spring of 1856, 650 Mormons arrived per railway in Iowa City, direct from England. They camped near Clark's Mill. Preparations were made to migrate across country to Salt Lake City. In 1848 this sect had begun with the building of a New Zion at Salt Lake City. After leaving Iowa City a half a mile from Maas's burial place. They conducted a service, railed at our government, complained about sufferings imposed on them by the heathen. They claimed, as God led the children of Israel through the desert, so would they be led to the New Zion, and since they were in possession of many wives, they soon would become a large people and then convert all heathens. During, the sermon, sentinels were posted so there might not be any intercourse of their people with the heathens. The fairer sex was closely guarded, since they had some bitter experiences at Iowa City in this respect. Monday morning they broke camp. They had two wagons loaded with provisions, pulled by oxen. Each family had a two wheeled cart, loaded with their belongings. The men pulled and guided the cart and the women pushed the same. More contingents followed later.

In 1857 gold was discovered in Colorado. This filled the stage road with travelers. Work on the Rock Island track had also begun by this time. Separately, but mostly in groups, the prairie schooners were seen moving Westward. On some of the wagons was inscribed: 'Pike's Peak'. Even the whiskey bottle was so branded. The travelers were mostly easy-going youths, efficiently weaponed and five or six to a wagon. Many a fat goose, turkey or rooster took French leave and traveled with the troop. But it also had advantages. The settlers sold their products for a good price and for cash right off the farmyard.

In 1858, times became very oppressive. Gold and silver disappeared. The banks handed out paper money and in most cases closed their doors. The Florens bank, Davenport, kept up till the Rock Island railroad was completed and then closed its doors. On the 20th of November 1860, the first passenger train traveled westward. If a person sold something, one had to inquire immediately as to the value of the money for banks would close overnight. At last, business was limited almost to trading. All improvements were put off and wages almost ceased. Everything dropped in value. In Iowa City a dressed hog brought from 2Ë to 3Ë a pound; butter to 3Ë to 8Ë a pound; eggs 3Ë to 5Ë a dozen.

The movement to abolish slavery had already begun. Preachers of various faiths traveled about and testified against slavery, whiskey, and tobacco. Methodists were the ring leaders. They seemed especially averse to foreigners. Camp meetings were conducted. People from the country and town gathered and listened to the harangues of the preachers. Hell was presented with consuming heat and heaven in the most brilliant colors of gold. Many received the spirit in such a measure that they laughed, cried, danced, shouted and acted insane. Of a truth, whoever put his reason to sleep with such a religion, became a hopeless tool of the minister.

Germans Established Lutheran Churches

About this time, a traveling missionary (Lutheran) from Rock Island by the name of Doescher visited our settlement. He organized many congregations in this vicinity. He was common and daring, defied the weather and storms, in fact was equal to the occasion. The first meeting was conducted in our home. All of German descent gathered and thus the first service was conducted. The pastor made Iowa City his headquarters. In 1860, a church was erected. He visited our settlement every three or four weeks. The second time he brought a violin with him to accompany the singing. At another time brought a harmonica. People were as much pleased with this as with a large organ. Later he traveled with a horse, which was quite an improvement. In 1860 he got married.

Immigration from Germany increased. The following came from our community: Otto, Sandersfeld, Moennich, Petershagen, Wichmann, Heiizhusen, Rodick and others. Some came from Mecklenburg. The Amana Society was in need of laborers and thus provided bread and lodging for many. Many bought of the prairie land south of Homestead, which gave rise to a large German settlement.

Pastor Doescher supplied his preaching places with other pastors in the course of time. A person by the name Studt took charge of us. J.Elk, Gesine Maas, Anna Lange, and Elsie Rentz constituted the first class to be confirmed. Reverend Doescher moved to Hampton, Illinois. A pastor named Schuermann bought 80 acres of land in our settlement. In 1863 a church was erected. He had charge of the services. He also taught in the German language. Every other Sunday he preached in our school house.

At this time a learned schoolteacher from Germany, Gerhard Petershagen, settled in our midst. He began giving instructions in the German language in Sanderfeld's schoolhouse. After about two years, he departed for Des Moines. Reverend Doescher's father bought land in the settlement and began to farm. His son, Harry, a teacher, taught school in various places. He got married and bought the farm of his father. He had hired help to farm it while he taught. Teacher Doescher taught religion also. He played the organ gratis at services and helped energetically to build up the congregation. Revered Schuermann was of the 'Missouri Synod' and began to introduce its customs and principles. 'This lead to dissensions.' As time went on, it became more aggravated and caused a division. Reverend Schuermann, weary of the same, resigned in 1881 and went to Dodge County, Nebraska, to his children. Differences subsided somewhat until Reverend Baumhoefener, came from Nebraska in 1883. He began with an iron hand and difficulties started anew. Dissension arose, even between husband and wife. Even at burials, taunts were heard. I was very glad to have donated the ground for the Maas cemetery. Here the people of the Iowa Synod, the Missouri Synod, as well as Reformed and unbelievers could bury their dead in peace. I and several others did not want to be lorded over and had our names stricken. We, of course, were considered lost and condemned by the rest. We, however, have not resigned our hope for a better life even without their supplication.

Beginnings Of The Civil War

Politics now began to grow exciting. The question of slavery created a tense situation, the North and the South agitated until in 1860 war was declared between the two factions. Lincoln was elected President. He decided to cast his lot with the North, the party called the abolitionist. After much shedding of blood, the North gained the victory in 1864. Iowa had 76,242 soldiers in arms. December 4, 1864, it was accepted into the Union. The war cost huge sums of money. The Negroes had gained their freedom. The assertion was made that the freedom of each Negro was bought with the life of a white man. The South experienced hard times and the North suffered severely. Gold and silver had disappeared. The government issued paper; in a short time there was money aplenty among the people. Debts contracted before the war could easily be paid. Hogs sold at 12 cents on foot and other things in proportion. Whiskey, beer, tobacco, coffee, in fact most everything was taxed. But there was opportunity to economize. One could raise his own tobacco. Instead of coffee, one could use barley and rye. Wine was made from wild grapes, etc.

With this period, a movement of huge proportions began to settle the West. Railroads were extended future and further. New towns came into existence. The rich virgin soil was broken up. Log houses and sheds disappeared and stately mansions and barns erected. Better care was given to the stock.

A Meteor Fell in Iowa - 1875

But before I close this account, I wish to make mention of a phenomena of nature, which created great excitement and finally ended up in court. The event occurred on Friday evening, February 12,1875. The ground was frozen solidly and covered with a deep snow. The heavens were clear, the air mild. My wife was already in bed. A bright flash, a sharp report as of an explosion. The house rattled, the windows rattled, the ground shook; I jumped for the door and saw an orange colored streak coming from the East like falling star. It passed hard by the house and during several minutes it produced a rumble as of thunder. I returned to my wife and told her a meteor had fallen for according to the descriptions of Humboldt, it must be that. Just recently, I read the description of a meteor in Humboldt's work. While plowing, my hired man found several pieces about one-forth mile east of our house, which he sold for $65. I also found several fragments. A search was now begun on foot and horseback of the entire community and many small pieces were found. Two professors at Iowa City were eager to get these pieces and paid $2 a pound. I and my neighbor had lost some calves in the timber. We stated in search of them June 28, 1875. On the north side of the river, following the road coming from an elevation, sloping toward the river, I saw a stone. I recognized it immediately as a meteor. I remarked to Steinke that this was a fortunate discovery. The proceeds of it we will divide and buy our women a new dress of cotton fabric. It was quite warm and the stone quite heavy. We lugged it about 800 rods to the store at Amana. It weighed 75 pounds. It was much admired and we received permission to leave it until the next day. Delighted, we went on, but failed to find our cattle. The next day we rode to the store to get our stone. In the meantime the elders of the Amana Society laid plans to come into possession of this stone. The stone had disappeared and we were accused of thievery and laughed at.

It was cunning robbery. We had found the stone on a public highway. It was placed there by the Supreme Director of the course of this world and he who found it had a just claim to its possession. But the court reversed this opinion.

The stone is on display in the museum of the State University of Iowa in a highly polished mahogany case. Three sides of the same are glass and the backside a magnifying mirror. One side of the stone is highly polished and brilliant. I do not begrudge our guest and my foundling this place of honor, but it would be appropriate to record the story of its origin. The manner, persons and degrading means employed of bringing him here. If this were engraved in letters of gold in its polished surface, to be sure, it would be a record of horror in the history of the Amana Society.

Last Reflections Of Henry Mass

Nearly all comrades of the Juno have gone to their rest. Their descendants in part remain here and in part are scattered over the states. I experienced the joy last Fall in company with my wife and daughter, to meet some relatives and acquaintances and also to visit the graves of my companions of youth, namely J.H. Wenke and wife and G. Moennich and wife in the cemetery of Hooper, Dodge County, Nebraska. My days are also numbered. My steps are getting shorter and with the joyful realization to have been a pioneer of a state so richly blessed. Having ended my course, I hope to find my last resting place in its soil."

"Author's note (Jack Grauer): Sub-headlines have been added and commas were inserted occasionally to improve intelligible reading. The writing of Henry Maas is generally exceptionally good, considering that English was a new language to him and he spent his life in rural surroundings."

Note from Jeanine Carpenter Wichman: Henry Maas is Roger Carl Wichman's Great-Great-Grandfather on his father's side of the family. When Roger's mother's father, Carl Peter Feye, came to the United States about 1914 he went to family in Hooper, Dodge County, Nebraska. Carl Peter Feye's mother was a Maas and Carl, along with his parents and siblings lived in Oldenburg, Germany. For many years there was speculation within the Wichman family (not of direct decent of the Wichmann's mentioned in the above story, but distant relatives) whether the two Maas families were related. From Henry Maas's own story, he relates of going to see family (Maas's) in Hooper, Nebraska. Carl Peter Feye arrived in America to go live with his mother's family (Maas) in Hooper, Nebraska. Now we just need to find out how Gensine Maas was related to Henry Maas. Is Gensine Maas a daughter or granddaughter of Brand Maas's (Henry's father) brothers? Unfortunately, as of June 15, 2001 we do not know who Gensine Maas's parents were.

Home / Records / Letters, Journals, Diaries / Henry Maas Letter
Copyright © 2005 IAGenWeb. All rights reserved.return to top