Pfeiffer & Schwartzel Family History


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"We are not a nation, so much as a world... " Thus Herman Melville, writing at the 19th century's midpoint, defined as America given form and essence by the varied people who arrived on its shores to make a new life.  They were borne, in Melville's day, on the first flood tide from western Europe:  the famine-stricken Irish whom the novelist saw languishing on Liverpool's quays and the German peasants whose brave hymns rose amid the bowl of ocean storms.  They were the English artisans, Scandinavian farmers, and all the others who in ragged armadas set sail with their hopes and belongings. In the decade before the Civil War, two and a half million new immigrants joined America's twenty-three million inhabitants and our ancestors were among the many.

The Schwartzal and Moellmann families both have their roots in central Europe and they were among the many immigrants which traveled to America in the mid 1800's.  Decades of war and political upheaval, such as the French Revolution (1789) and the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte (1815), fostered among many Europeans expectations of greater freedom and economic security. This spread radical new notions of liberty and equality, which prompted revolutionary movements in various countries during the 19th century.  France had uprisings in 1830, 1848, 1851 and in 1871. The distant young republic, United States, where democracy reigned was viewed as the promise land.

 If any one trait distinguished the American-bound migrant, it was probably the sheer courage to leave behind all that was familiar and strike out for a world of unknowns. The census of 1850 shows that 110,000 Germans immigrated to Ohio, 120,000 to New York, 80,000 to Pennsylvania, as well as, to many others to other areas of this country.

 The task of leaving one's home forever and going to a strange land was very difficult, resulting in great hardship along the way.  In the mid 1800's, journey to the nearest seaport was itself for most immigrants a very difficult journey.  Many had to walk hundreds of miles carrying everything they owned on their backs.  For many, they were escaping inscription into the military, thus were considered to be criminals.  Joseph Schwartzel did manage to get permission to leave Germany.  My great grand parents on the Pfeiffer side of my family apparently did not have permission and in later years, long after settling in this country, would not talk about where they came from or even tell their children about their families in the old country in fear of their whereabouts being passed back home. 

 Many of the Germans from Bavaria, Baden, and Wurttemberg areas of Germany would meet infuriating delays trying to go down the Rhine river, often making their way by foot or cart until they could get passage on a barge or other boat.  Wiesbaden, where Joseph and his family lived was located on the Rhine and they probably followed the path of many down the Rhine to America.  At state borders along the way, the vessels would stop to pay tolls or deal with cargo; they might wait for days until the next departure.  From Mainz to Cologne, they might have traveled on a grain barge, camping out on deck. Disembarking, they could make their way to Utrecht and from there to Amsterdam, slowly by horse-drawn canal boat.  The more prosperous Europeans made their way by railroad and river steamer.

As the immigrants arrived at ports they often fell prey to an astounding variety of swindlers, despite the efforts of benevolent societies and local officials. Provisioners swindled immigrants by selling them bad food and drink - a trick that could lead to extreme hardship.  Before the 1850's, when regulations outlawed self-provisioning, only cabin class passengers received provisions from the crew.  Long afterward, however, steerage food was often barely "sufficient to stare off starvation."  For many the crossing to America was by sailing ship.  The lucky traveled by the newly invented steam assisted sailing ship which had paddle wheels in addition to sails.

 Arrival at the seaport, the immigrants often found 2 or 3 thousand other immigrants awaiting passage to America.  The wait at the various ports often lasted for several months.  The sailing ships were very unreliable and at times the winds blew for long periods of time from a direction which did not allow the ships into the harbor, thus adding to the delays.

 Once on board ship, the horrors often were just beginning.  On sailing ships, a stove or open fire on deck served the whole steerage - unless weather made it impossible.  After weeks at sea, spoiled food and tainted water weakened travelers already wearied by overcrowding and seasickness.  Violent storms would pour water into the hold, where terrified people could do little more than pray and hang on for dear life.  Many a immigrant was buried at sea.  The passage to America often lasted two months or more at sea.

 Arrival in America, I am sure, was a welcome relief.  Around 1850 about 70% of all immigrants arrived at New York City at the state's center for immigrants, Castle Garden, an offshore circular structure which was later destroyed by fire in 1890.

The perils the immigrants left at the ports of Europe were often found at the ports of America.  Swindlers, confidence men, bad conditions, and disease awaited the new comers.  Many of the immigrants were sick from the voyage and were sent to Staten Island where they waited in isolation. As the immigrants left New York many traveled the Erie Canal to the West. 

As our ancestors arrived in this country, much of what we take for  granted today did not exist and had not been invented.  Electric lights, the car, telephone, were yet to be conceived, much less the radio and television.  The Civil War had not been fought and Custer's last stand was a long way off.  Vast areas of the west, such as, Yellowstone had only been visited by a few white men.  Travel was by foot, horseback, horse drawn carriage, river boat and railroad.  By the 1850's, railroads were the preferred, and most costly means of westbound travel.  Special immigrant trains - which reportedly "stretched to the length of a monstrous serpent" - offered cheaper and slower service than their regular counterparts, which also pulled cut-rate "Immigrant Cars".  These might be screeching, spring less boxcars with hard benches or none at all.

 So, What brought the Schwartzels and Moellmanns to the Louisville area ? 

The World In 1854                  

On March 12, 1854, a treaty of alliance between England, France and Turkey was signed; on March 28, Great Britain and France declared war on Russia.

The Russo-Turkish war which began in 1853, grew out of a dispute regarding holy places in Palestine. In January 1854, the allied fleets entered the Black Sea; allied armies disembarked at Varma May 29; the Danube was blockaded June 1. On November 6, Miss Florence Nightingale and nurses arrive at Scutari. Hostilities ended February 29, 1856 and a treaty of Peace concluded the Crimean War in Paris, March 30, 1856.

In Rome, on December 8, 1854, the Pope proclaimed the "Immaculate Conception of the Virgin" as a dogma of the Church.

September 1854, Livingston left Loanda on his famous trip through the wilds of Africa.  He discovered Victoria Falls, November 17, 1855.

The Nation In 1854

This was the "Ante-Bellum" era, when the questions of slavery and of "Southern rights" were the burning issues of the day.  In 1850 Henry Clay  made a valiant effort to settle the differences between the North and the South, and submitted a series of compromise resolutions to Congress.  His 8-point program was supported by Daniel Webster, and several of the measures were adopted, but there was a strong undercurrent of dissatisfaction and the movement for secession continued to grow stronger.

Nationally, the biggest political event of 1854 was the founding of the Republican Party, which was the result of the dissatisfaction of various groups of politicians who were united on a common ground of opposition to the extension of slavery into new states and territories of the union. There was a coalition meeting on February 28, 1854 at Ripon, Wisconsin, of Anti-slavery Democrats, Whigs and Free-Soilers who believed that a new party should be formed with a single platform.

On October 16, 1854, Abraham Lincoln entered the national political limelight with his famous "Peoria Speech". Before this time he was only known in Illinois as a lawyer and a politician. This speech, which had previously been delivered in Springfield, Illinois on October 4, 1854, was Lincoln's first public denunciation of slavery.

Another political development of 1854 which was a blot on the American escutcheon, was the growth of the "Know-Nothing" Party, an anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant movement which had started in the 1840's, revived in 1852, and grew to be a threatening political force in 1854.  The official name was the "American" Party, but its popular name was the "Know-Nothing" Party because when its members had their secret meetings, the password was "I don't know".

Their platform denied foreigners and Roman Catholics public office, and required a 21 year residence for foreign born persons to qualify for citizenship.  The Know-Nothing Party was responsible for atrocities all over the country, such as the Bloody Monday of August 6, 1855, in Louisville.  August 6, 1855 was election day in Louisville where a riot occurred.  The Know-Nothing Party, formed to keep immigrants "in their place" was dominant in Louisville's politics at that time.  When election day rioting ended, over 22 - mostly Irish - lay dead on the streets; and the Know-Nothings remained in power.  The summer of the riot, an anti-Catholic text, The Battle of Freedom by S.H. Ford, was published in Louisville.

The first Y.M.C.A. in the United States was established June 7, 1854, in Buffalo, N.Y.; the cornerstone of the first railroad bridge across the Mississippi River was laid between Rock Island and Davenport, Iowa, September 1, 1854.

By 1854, the Gold Rush was well over, but settlers, adventurers, and speculators were pouring across the Mississippi River into the West, most of which was still virgin territory.

Franklin Pierce was president.  The census of 1850 showed that the United States had a population of 23 million.  The movement for equal rights for women was getting started.  There was a great temperance movement across the entire country.

Louisville In 1854

Our City, according to a contemporary writer was, "strictly a river town where business was principally measured by its boat traffic."  This was in the middle of a decade which was the period of Louisville's greatest development in river trade and travel.  While the era of the railroad was "just around the bend" so to speak, the steamboat was still the great carrier of produce and of prosperity for Louisville. The year was almost the apex of the Golden Era of the passenger packet, but the L&N railroad had already been established, and Louisville was destined to become a hub of a great new transportation system.

Strategically located on the great waterway at the "Gateway to the South", Louisville was indeed the mistress of the commerce of the South.  Her greatest need was for a bridge (or, as they thought then, a tunnel) to connect the North with the South.  Such a bridge or tunnel would have proved invaluable later in the prosecution of the War Between the States, to say nothing of the commercial advantages to the city.

Louisville was a town of 50,000, with tax assessment valuation of $32,281,354.  James S. Speed was mayor.

There were five immense Market Houses located in five different places on Market Street, in the center of the street. Market Street was the principal shopping street, exclusively retail.  Fourth Street was entirely residential south of Jefferson.  Main Street was the wholesale street - actually one of the most important commercial streets in America at that time.  Broadway was the "outskirts: and the widest and most beautiful street in the city.  The eastern limits of the city were Cave Hill; in the west, Portland.  The worst feature of Louisville was the MUD - and the series of ponds and quagmires in the very streets.  People had to go blocks out of their way, even on horseback and in carriages, to avoid lakes and ponds and impassable streets of mud.  In rainy weather it was indescribable. 

During the days of slavery there were two slave markets in the blocks between Second and Brook Streets and Main and Jefferson

In 1854 prices were a bit less than today.  Beef ranged from 6 to 8 cents a pound, pork was 5 cents, potatoes 25 to 40 cents a bushel, eggs 4 to 8 cents a dozen, butter 15 to 20 cents a pound; they priced spring chickens by the dozen - 75 cents to $1.50.