The following is an excerpt from a post written by Cindy and David Johnson and reposted to the “My Pomerania” website.The family in the article – the Priebe family – came from the same area as Wilhelm Boldewahn (Kreis Neustettin).
While Wilhelm Boldewahn did not arrive until 1870 (after the US Civil War), his wife Ernestine Dragorius came with her parents in 1865 during the height of the fighting. Like many Prussians, the Dragorius family entered the US through Canada to avoid the conflict. Since Wilhelm entered later in the 1870s, he was able to land in Baltimore, Maryland.
Why did they leave?
“….. during the time when the last of the manorial system was being dismantled. Farmers gained the right to personal freedom, to move freely, to buy land, and to buy themselves out of services. Property transfers in nearby Grunwald where Karl’s sisters lived, also under the same manor Lord largely took place in the 1830’s. The cost of gaining freedom in Gramenz was ceding to the lord of the manor around 1/3 of the land worked by the farmer. Giving up this much land was not easy. Loss of access to woodlands, loss of protection from the manor lord during hard times caused many farmers to object to the liberation.
19th century politics did not make life easy either. Prussia was modernizing and trying to expand, meaning taxes and wars. Napoleon defeated Prussia in 1806. Reparations to France resulted in increased taxes. Land nearby was ceded to the Duchy of Warsaw, bringing foreign powers near. A few events that would have impacted the Priebes:
|1813-15||War of Liberation from France|
|1816/17||Widespread crop failures (the Gramenz area was minimally affected)|
|1827||Expansion of schools|
|1830||Liberation of farmers mostly complete in the Gramenz area. Reformed and Lutheran Churches merged|
|Poverty and famine through the ’40’s from crop failure and population growth.|
|1845/46||Potato crop failures|
|1860-66||Army enlarged under Wilhelm I.|
For farming families, subdividing property between children became untenable at some point. Most of the Priebe members list farmer or laborer as their occupation on the ship manifest when they immigrated. In other words, some of the members were full or at least part time farmers while others had to contract their labor because there was not enough land for all. The prospect of all descendants owning their own farm in America looked very attractive.”
How Did They Leave?
In the early ’60’s an emigration agency began operating in the area. Emigration to the USA from the area began in earnest. Grunewalt lost 1/4 of its population to a single town in Wisconsin alone for example. Emigration was complex, requiring:
- A birth certificate, which the pastor of the parish would write out.
- A statement of property.
- A character reference to prove that they did not try to escape from their crime or debts,or the responsibility for an illegitimate child.
- The consent of the local caretaker of the poor.
- A document proving that the country of their destination would accept the emigrant.
- Young men had to prove that they had complied their military service or were physically unable to do so.
- They had to prove that they had enough money for the trip to the port, a waiting period there, the passage fare, and the first time in the new country.
- Then they were warned of the dangers and risks of an emigration.
- After all this had been compiled, they got a preliminary receipt, which allowed them to make a contract for the passage.
- Then the planned emigration was made public (newspapers, public posting), to give creditors the possibility to claim their money.
- Only when all this was done would they get their passport allowing travel to the port.
In 1873, the typical annual income for a family members was 630-650 Marks. A ship ticket in steerage with food was 144-210 mark for an adult, 108-165 Mark for a child. One year’s income just for a family of 4. Transport, food and lodging to the port of Bremen or Hamburg, and from New York to Cleveland were needed on top of this. This was a huge expense. It probably cost the Priebe family much of their property to purchase their move to the US.
In 1862, Albertina’s uncle August Priebe (30) who had been living in Schofhütte, Uncle Ferdinand (27) and Aunt Louisa (Priebe) Raddetz (27), children Johanna and Emilie; Aunt Wilhelmina (Priebe) and uncle F.H. Raddatz (Ferdinand’s brother), children Carl, Reinhold, Emilie and Johanna; aunt Emilie (Priebe) and uncle Ernst Baumann and children Johann and Carl sailed from Hamburg on May 3 aboard the sailing ship Gellert owned by Rob. M. Sloman company bound for Quebec. Albertina’s cousins of Carl and August Raddetz, children of Ferdinand and Louisa, were left with grandmother Louise. The US was in the middle of the Civil war. The family would skirt the fighting by entering in Canada. In fact F.H. Raddatz would remain in Canada. The rest of the family could join them after a home was established and safety could be confirmed. From Quebec, Ferdinand, Louisa and their daughter Anna walked across Lake Erie in the winter to make their way to Cleveland.
In 1864, Louise (57) gathered the rest of her family and made the move to join August and Louisa in Cleveland. Louise traveled with Albertina’s father Karl (34) and mother Mina (28), brother Friedrick (7), Emily (5), uncle John (17), aunt Albertine (15), and cousins August (7) and Carl Raddetz (6). Albertina was no more than 4 months old.
From Gramenz, the family most likely traveled by horse cart either to Belgard where they could continue by train. It is also possible they went by cart to Köslin to go by ship to Bremen. There they would wait days or weeks before embarking on the sailing ship Elise and Mathilda at Bremen about April 2 and arriving in Castle Garden in Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan New York on Monday, May 23, 1864.