source [How Wisconsin Came by Its Large German Population, 1892], Theodor Wettstein, began recruiting in the Wupper valley to take a ship of emigrants to America. According to another source, since Wettstein was "a man of some prominence in that locality, having some important civil positions, many desired to go under his leadership." [The Icelanders on Washington Island, by Alfred Augustus Jackson, et al.] Although many of the reports from the U.S. were generally looked upon with suspicion, a report written by a native of Elberfeld, Dr. Carl de Haas in 1848 from Wisconsin, was widely circulated in the Wupper valley and convinced many in the area that it would be worth the hardships and struggles to relocate to the U.S.
|Barmen ca. 1848|
By early 1848, "about 300 persons in Elberfeld and Barmen had planned to emigrate. They were mostly handicraftsmen and traders -- men of some means, who expected to enter farms in the West." [Jackson, The Icelanders on Washington Island] Theodor Wettstein planned to take his whole family which included his wife, Lisette, and his seven children: Theodor, 12; Otto, 10; Lina, 10; Hermann, 8; Pauline, 6; Adolph, 3; and Laura, 3 months (at the time of the passenger list). Since Wettstein had four young sons whose futures caused him "much anxiety", he felt that the prospects for success were far better in the new world than in Germany. According to one source, although Wettstein was "a prosperous merchant" in Barmen, he "failed in business in 1848" which caused him to emigrate to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. ["Otto Wettstein: Three Generations with Otto I, Otto II and Otto III," Blue Grass Blade (Lexington, KY) October 11, 1908]
|Possible drawing of the George Washington steam ship|
(pharmacists), "farbers" (painters) and maids. Most of the company was composed of families. Ages ranged from a 66-year-old painter from Elberfeld to babies one and under. It appears that at least a couple of the one-year-olds died on the voyage to America.
One of my (many) questions is how they travelled to Bremen from Barmen. The 160-mile journey (which would take about 2 1/2 hours via the A1 autobahn today) would take at least 53 hours to walk. Assuming walking at least 8 hours per day, it would be at least a week. They may have been able to take advantage of rivers in the area on at least part of the journey, but there does not seem to be any convenient water route.
|New York City docks, showing berth for the George Washington|
(At Dock 3, it reads: Steam Ships Washington & Hermann
for Bremen & Southhampton)
From New York City, it is interesting to consider where they went and why. For Wettstein, "he seems to have started with a preference for Wisconsin, and in New York his impressions were confirmed. He came to Milwaukee, and though no definite statement is made regarding the matter, he implies that the majority accompanied him." [Jackson, The Icelanders on Washington Island] Reportedly, "in New York every hotelkeeper and railroad agent, every one who was approached for advice, directed men to Wisconsin." [How Wisconsin Came by Its Large German Population, 1892] Government land was available in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, but was in shorter supply than the more northern states of Wisconsin and Minnesota. According to the 1850 and 1860 U.S. Censuses, at least some of Wettstein's compatriots followed him to Wisconsin. Our ancestor's cousin mentioned above, Abraham Olzendam went first to Massachusetts "in the neighborhood of Boston" where he stayed for ten years before moving north to Manchester, New Hampshire. One family (the Dahlmanns) went first to Melrose, New York before settling in Philadelphia. Another family (the Schilds) headed west to Benton County, Iowa. Our William Rittershaus can be found working as a blacksmith in Blair County, Pennsylvania in 1850, but soon after settled in Tazewell County, Illinois, where he married, raised a family, and farmed the rest of his life.