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Woerdehoff Family Information based on Rauch family research,
transcribed and provided by Susanne Carpenter

This is in three parts:

Part 1 - The journey from Germany to America
Part 2 - Getting to the Farm and Settling Down
Part 3 - The Ship

Part 1:

I am sending some information recently sent to me by Hilary Rauch. His family including Rufus Rauch, J. Norbert Rauch, Melvin Schulte, Mrs. Norbert Gross, Hilary and Wayne Rauch did the research and were kind enough to share with me and have given me permission to send it to you to include with the information on the Woerdehoff family.

Conrad was the only Woerdehoff in his lineage to make the great gamble of emigrating to America. A “Reise-Pass fur das Inland”, a pass to travel within the country which was also a passport permitting him and his wife and their five children to emigrate to America., was issued to Conrad Woerdehoff by the Royal Prussian government on April 13, 1857. The place of issue was Buren, the county seat. His birth place and residence are given as Hegensdorf, Westfalen, Germany.

Taking the children's ages as given in this document, one can determine that the children as follows made the journey across the Atlantic with their parents: William 13, born 1844; Aloysius (Louis) 8, born in 1848; Elizabeth 6, born in 1851; Mary 4, born 1852; and Herman 11/2, born in 1855. The family of seven sailed from Bremen in the latter part of April 1857.

Although steam navigation had been introduced on the Atlantic by this time, poor immigrants always came by sailing ship, for a few dollars per head, in conditions which were certainly miserable if not abominable.

Emigrants paid a rate based on a twenty dollar fare and about 80 cubic feet of space per steerage passenger. The ships carrying emigrants provided nothing for these passengers but a certain amount of space, water, and a small amount of bread and potatoes; the emigrants had to supply all other provisions and had to cook their own food, utilizing facilities located on the upper deck (and not available to them in bad weather)...

These emigrants - men, women, and children - were often crowded outrageously in any between-deck space that could be made available below the weather deck. Conditions, at times, can be better imagined than described, for there were no air ports or ventilation in the living spaces and no cooking or sanitary facilities below deck. In bad weather - frequent in a westbound Atlantic crossing - the hatches had to be battened down, and we are told: 'Men, women and children screamed all night in terror'. The emigrants, referred to by contemporaries as dirty and ignorant, lived on board the packets under conditions but little better than those prevailing in the better class slave ships. We are told: 'It was not compulsory for emigrants to carry a doctor, although sometimes a physician was given a free passage in return for looking after the health of those on board; ship fever, smallpox, and other contagious diseases were common, and it is a wonder that many survived the voyage. Rations were served out once a week in accordance with the allowance instituted by the British government - just enough to keep starvation away. It was estimated that it cost twenty cents a day to feed each emigrant, and the steerage passage rates were about twenty dollars per person. The emigrants - whether they supplied their own food or not - had to cook or prepare it themselves, and fires for cooking or heating water permitted only above deck on stone surfaces prepared for that purpose. Heavy weather meant not only no needed fresh air but also no hot water or cooked food, no sanitation, and the accumulation of filth, with the breeding of disease, below deck. Out of 6,318 passengers carried on sixteen sailing packets and regular traders arriving in New York during a period of forty-three days, 330 passengers or 5 1/4 percent died in transit.

Thus it probably was for the Woerdehoffs. They sailed from Bremerhaven on the sailing packet Ernestine bound for New Orleans, arrived there on June 17, 1857. There were 309 passengers aboard the Ernestine, including Conrad, Margaretha, and their five children.

Part 2:

In the passenger list, it was noted that the ultimate destination of the Woerdehoff's was St. Louis. However, after landing in New Orleans, they traveled up the Mississippi river to Dubuque, Iowa, most likely by steamboat, and thence by ox-drawn wagon to the Dyersville - New Vienna area where German immigrants had been settled since the 1840's on new farms on the prairie frontier.

On July 13, 1857, Conrad signed an affidavit before the Clerk of the District Court at Delhi, then the county seat of Delaware County (adjacent to Dubuque County), to the effect that it was his intention bona fide to become a citizen of the United States and “to renounce forever all allegiance and fidelity to the King of Prussia, of whom he is at present a subject”. The oath was a prerequisite for buying land from the government. The document spells his name “Konrad Verdehoff” he signed it, in German Gothic script, “Conrad Woerdehoff”. The oath attested to by the clerk of the court, may have served as his “first papers” for naturalization. We have not searched out the record of his citizenship.

Conrad promptly, possibly on the same day, bought forty acres of virgin land from the government in section 9 of Bremen Township, Delaware County; northwest of Dyersville Iowa. The government was selling farm land for homesteads for $1.50 an acre.

With the help of neighbors, Conrad built a log house and planted his first crops. Parts of this area were forest land, not prairie. The first settlers thought that only forest land was very fertile, so at great labor, they cleared the wooded land for their first fields.

Conrad enlarged his holdings, eventually to 120 acres - even then less than the 160 acres, a section of land, which became the standard family -size farm. We (the Rauch's) located this farm in August, 1970; a two story house, sizable and presentable after more than a hundred years, but small even so for a family of twelve; the stone foundations of the original barn now support a newer barn - the original one we were told, had been destroyed in a wind storm.

Conrad and Margaretha had five more children, born on this farm: Margaret (Mrs. Peter Wolterman), born 1859; Anton (married Elizabeth Berfeld), born 1860; Bernadine ( Mrs. Anton Sumpmann), born 1860 - Anton and Bernadine were twins; Catherine (Mrs. Geroge Wolterman), born in 1863; and Henry (married Catherine Adams), born 1866.

Conrad died of pneumonia on May 1, 1870 at the age of sixty. He was buried in Dyersville, in the cemetery at St. Francis Xavier Church.

Margaretha was a widow at forty-nine with nine children at home and a mortgage on a 120 acre farm. She raised the children and she managed the farm, and paid off the mortgage. Anton took over the ownership of the homestead sometime before Margaretha's death. She died on March 7, 1893 at the age of seventy-two, and was buried, not in Dyersville, where Conrad was buried in 1870, but in Petersburg. Her tombstone has a German inscription: Heir ruht / Mar. Woerdehoff / geb. 2 Okt.1821 / gest. 7 Mar. 1893 R.I.P.

It is interesting to note that the Woerdehoff homestead farm remained in the family for three generations, a span of seventy-eight years, until 1935; Conrad and Margaretha, from 1857-1890; Anton and Elizabeth from 1890-1913; finally Ben Woerdehoff, Anton's eldest son, and his wife Henriette Klosterman from 1913-1935. A total of twenty-two Woerdehoff's were born and or raise on that 120 acre farm. The grand total of decendents of Conrad and Margaretha must number in the thousands.

Part 3

This photo is the sailing packet the Ernestine which Conrad and Margarethawith their first five children, sailed to America on. The ship was built in New York in 1834 and originally named the Columbus - sold to a German (Bremen) firm in 1847 and renamed the Ernestine.

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