FROM PERL, GERMANY, TO AMERICA. SIXTY YEARS AGO.
By Nicholas Besser
The first family emigrating from Perl District or Saarburg to America left Perl on May 4, 1844.  Peter Besser, his wife and six children, three girls and three boys, Nicholas the oldest not quite 11 years, the youngest only six weeks old, their servant girl, Anna Marie Kelson, Henry Schuster from Castell and Mr. John Blaise took a row boat at Aachen and floated down the river Mosel to Trier, from there a miniature steamboat brought us to Coblenz where the writer was permitted to accompany his father and Mr. Blaise across the pontoon bridge to take a look at the fortress Ehrenbreitenstein.  Next morning the steamer brought us to Cologne.  My only recollection from there is the cathedral.  Mr. Blaise accompanied his friends to Nuremberg, instead of to Rotterdam as had been agreed.  Father had contracted with the agency for the sea voyage from Amsterdam with the American three mast trading vessel "Harry Shelton."  Officers said crew were all from Boston.

We had to wait in port twelve days until all places were taken up.  Most of the emigrants were young men, Swabians and subjects of Baden.  They hugely enjoyed their meals, but, Oh my! When the steam tow boat left us, a veritable hurricane started up behind us, and then the misery commenced.  Only a Yankee captain could have ventured to sail through the canal under such a storm.

On the third day our ship reached the open sea and in twenty-eight days, on June 27 we entered the New York harbor.  Two days later, another ship, that had left Rotterdam 10 days before us arrived.  We went up the Hudson river to Albany, from there by way of the Erie Canal to Buffalo, via Lake Erie to Toledo, Ohio and from there by canal boat via Ft. Wayne to Logansport, from there we took a flat boat down the Wabash river to Lafayette, Ind., where we waited 5 days for a steam Wheeler to Terre Haute.  After waiting 5 days there also, we boarded a steam boat to take us down the Ohio River and up the Mississippi to Quincy, Illinois.  

Father had promised Mrs. Blaise to look out for congress land.  He found a well improved farm near Rock river, Illinois, at $5 per acre which suited pretty well.  From there He started out alone, afoot, via Burlington to Dutch Creek to investigate the opportunities in the "New Purchase" as it was called.  Timber, land and settlers pleased him - just suitable, for young families trying to get a home with limited means.  Hail and hearty he left Brinnings at Dutch Creek one morning to make the distance of 60 miles afoot to Burlington before 7 o'clock in the evening, when a steam boat to go down the river was due. Stimulating upon Creek water and buttermilk he reached Burlington at 6 o'clock and had to make a running jump to get aboard the just departing steamer.

The next morning- after an absence of three weeks in the wilderness without having heard anything of him, he returned to Quincy to the great joy and consolation of wife and children.

The Mormons were living at Nauvoo at that time and blood curdling stories about their doings were in circulation.  Our worry about his welfare was therefore not entirely groundless.

The first opportunity brought us to Burlington- only one steamer a week- Father bought a yoke of large oxen there for $36, a. yoke of 4 year olds at $30 and two cows with spotted calves at $15.  Then we boarded our "Prairie Schooner." John Kramer was engaged as teamster and interpreter.

Near New London father contracted with a cattle man for 50 head of yearling steers at $5 per head to be delivered by November 1.  Then we proceeded on our journey to Dutch Creek.  After resting a day at Gustain Augustins, we passed Mohlands and Schnakenberg's and John Hartmann's place was the last one til section 17 in German township, now the Wilson farm.  D. Schnakenherg was agent for Coleman's claim, 30 acres broken, 40 fenced, a log cabin without windows or doors, price $100.

Chris Crawford was the neighbor, but as there was not a bushel of corn to be had in the vicinity we returned to Clear Creek to the Kramer Bros, only four miles from Hendersons, Grunsels, Cochrans, where we could get corn at 25 cents per bushel.  Then father made another journey to Iowa City, where he purchased 1500 pounds of flour at $2 per 100 pounds. Upon his return he took sick with malarial fever and there days later, the 11th of October 1844- he died. Diedrich Schnakenberg preached the funeral sermon.

Three years later, 1847, Mr. Blaise arrived with his 5 oldest children, also Paul Peiffer from Perl, Michael Berg from Tinsdorf, Wendel Horras from St. Wendell, all with their families, still later came Phil Michel.

Contributed by Kim Icenhower. Thank you Kim!

Reference: Kim Icenhower: "I am the great great granddaughter of Nicholas Besser.  My Grandmother, Irma (Striegel) Haag, the daughter of Mary (Besser) Striegel had copies of these stories, which were handed down to her children.  I was told they were factual accounts of his early life in Iowa."

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