In November 1838, 700 Lutherans from the Saxony region of Germany emigrated with their pastors to St. Louis, Missouri in pursuit of religious freedom. The trip from Bremenhafen through the Bay of Biscay, across the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico took two months.
Here are two episodes of their journey.
On Tuesday, November 27th a new storm threatened. All hatches were shut and no one was allowed to venture out from cover. The storm grew ever stronger and reached its highpoint on November 28th. Two sailors were ripped away from the rudder; one of them was seriously injured. — The oceans gradually stilled. — Along with praying and singing, the urge to eat and drink was not diminished in the least among the passengers. The ship's stores were not meant to accommodate so may stomachs. So it happened that a talkative woman from Dresden, Mrs. T--st--n, began to reminisce about kitchens back home and she spoke these nostalgic words: "Oh, how lovely it would be to have some potato dumplings again!" — The words had scarcely left her mouth when, as if from a ghost, a whisper rose from many sections of the steerage compartment. "Dumplings! Dumplings!" The silence was broken by loud applause from the crowd and yearning for homemade food dominated everyone's thoughts. With snappy eloquence Mrs. T. stated how such a delicious dish could not be expected from the ship's kitchen for the entire voyage and that if everyone would help, the work would soon be over, etc. — she made the necessary preparations and invited everyone to participate.
Come on, everyone. Lend a hand.
The men were given aprons and any other article which could serve the purpose.
In less than 15 minutes the entire steerage compartment was turned into a dumpling factory. For the sake of speed, the potatoes were grated raw in the provincial Thuringian manner and the haste with which everything was done gave slim promise of the results the emigrants were seeking. The fire was already crackling under the huge ship's kettle; a hundred hands were forming the delicious dough into appetizing balls. All at once the doors of the cabin opened and —
With heavy steps upon the floor
Several shocked members dropped the half-formed dumplings and they rolled along the ship's floorboards. Others stood in utter amazement, not knowing what to do. — A suspenseful pause followed. — The fate of the dumplings was undecided. The twinkle returned to people's eyes and the cry of "keep going, keep going" echoed from many parts of the ship. The work continued in silence and at 2 o'clock the first batch was completed. The second batch was done at 4 o'clock. If the dumplings were not up to the standards of a proper kitchen and their considerable mass laid heavy on the stomachs of several people for many days, it was because of the lack of proper ingredients and the shortness of the time. Everyone pressed in around the kettle and a small dispute broke out, so one of the ministerial candidates had to act as an unbiased judge in dividing up the dumplings.
There was very warm weather on Tuesday, December 25th, the first day of Christmas celebrations. While in the old homeland the cold of winter might paint frost flowers on the windows, here on the Olbers the sultry winds of summer prevailed. Oh, but many an emigrant would have preferred the icy cold to the pleasant warmth if only he could have returned to his former abode.
The sermon for this important ceremony was delivered by Pastor Stephan and the song of the Stephanists glided over the peaceful waves of the sea
like a greeting coming from the familiar homeland:
Now sing, all glory to God on high!
As Noah rejoiced on the mountain peak
Unto the Lord let our voices reach
To God the Creator all honor
O Lord Jesus, O holy child,
Think of us in your tiny berth,
In joy we remain poor and few
Deliver us from war and strife,
After forty days endless rain
When comes the final Judgment Day
But the eye of many a father was damp when he thought about the homeland and how the children jubilantly jumped around as Christmas gifts were distributed, even if they were modest gifts. — That was all over now. Here there was no Christmas tree to delight the poor children, who sadly pressed themselves up against parents lost in their own thoughts. — For them it was a melancholy Christmas night!
Copy of text provided by the Concordia Theological Seminary Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46825
Imaging and translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks