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A Letter to Germany

January 17, 2013

Barbara Clara Barton immigrated to the United States in 1851 and two years later, married John Sturmer–also an immigrant from Prussia. They met in Galena, IL and married there before moving to Grant County, Wisconsin. Barbara’s brother, Philip (1833 -1897), continued living in their hometown of Lieser, Rheinland, Germany. On June 5, 1864, 30-year old Philip wrote his brother-in-law (Clara’s husband, John) about coming to America. Whether or not he came to visit, he did not move to the States. Some months later, on Feb 21, 1865, he married Maria Anna Mehn in Leiser, Germany and both were still there at their deaths many years later.

The letter has many interesting pieces of information about life in Grant County and the U.S. in the toward the end of the Civil War. The war had been dragging on for three years and (as we know in hindsight) would wear on for another year before it ended.  Some of the stresses of life in wartime America were mentioned in John’s letter. Here is a translation from the letter written in German:

Beetown, Wisc. 7 July 1864

Dear Brother-in-law, Philip,

I received your letter of June 5 on July 7. I learned from it that you are still healthy and that you would like to visit us in America. We would be glad if we could see someone from the home country. If you would like to come, then come. I will not give you advice and cannot–why, you might not like it. Then I will be reproached. You are independent and know your situation. You must act accordingly. It is a long voyage, but for an unmarried person it must be fun to travel, and many come. In the month of April and May 64,000 arrived. You write, life is difficult. Here, it is not as good as it was before the war and why, the prices for food and clothing, horses, cattle–everywhere are high. Therefore, for a man with a large family who must buy everything and has nothing to sell, times are hard. I have a big family and if I had no property, life would be easier as it is for you. Wheat failed this year, first because of drought because we had no rain for two months. Second, we had a kind of pest. They smell like a sort of bedbug. They ruined 70 – 80 acres of wheat fields.

(page 2)

Dear brother-in-law, if you want to come, then I will give you the travel route as well as I can: from Lieser to Antwerp, then on to New York, from there via steamer to Albany, then per railroad to Buffalo, then via steamer to Milwaukee, then from Milwaukee via train to Bridgeport or Wisconsin Bridge, from there you have 18 miles to us or a 6 hour way. If I would know the day when you arrive at the Big Bridge, I could meet you. At the Big Bridge, you go straight to Patch Grove and from there to Tafton [now called Bloomington]. I live five miles from Tafton and 2-1/2 miles from Beetown. When you arrive in New York, don’t let a recruiter talk you into becoming a soldier. They are very obstinate. You can also travel from Buffalo to Chicago, then via train to Dunleith [now called East Dubuque] and then on steamship to Cassville; then you have only 9 miles until Beetown. The best money for you is the Dutch 10 Guilder, which is 4 dollars. It is nowadays more valuable than paper. One dollar in gold last week was better than 2 dollars in paper money. [The] five Franc is also good money. We have sent our authorization two weeks ago to my cousin , Johann Sturmer, in Filzen, so that he should sell everything as well as he can. If he refuses the authorization he should have it transferred to you, if possible, but I think he will do it for me. With this I will finish and remain your

John Sturmer.

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