and Gertrude Engels were from Senheim, Prussia, which
is part of the Hunsrück-Mosel area of Germany, “situated
on the river Mosel.” As reported by Arnold Gossler from
the website listed above,
“There were no large cities here, only small towns with
fewer than 1000 residents, and in the year 1852, the poverty
was great. The people had little land, and other opportunities
didn't exist, so many could not feed themselves. There was much
theft going on, and this put a burden on the community, one that
they didn't know how to handle. As a result, the mayors of five
communities, Senheim, Grenderich, Liesenich, Mittelstrimmig and
Altstrimmig, in the counties of Zell and Mosel, developed a plan
to send the poor to North America.
“They decided to send those who were willing to America,
at the cost of the community, because at this time many people
from all parts of the country were going there. Delegates of
these communities acquired funds from a local steel mill and
arranged an all-inclusive contract with an emigration agent in
Koblenz, and in return were able to get rid of large groups of
people. These people, or so they said, were a burden to others,
and a threat to their personal property.
“In the wake of the euphoria of being able to emigrate
at the cost of the community, most voiced approval, and no consideration
was shown for the few who were less enthusiastic. Acceptance
of travel money from community funds was under the condition
that the immigrants would give up their German citizenship and
never again set foot on German soil. They got rid of a large
number of people and it was hoped that those who remained behind
would profit from it. The preparations proceeded in spite of
this being against the will of some.
“So it came about that on the 26th of May 1852, about 530
persons, all on one day, were loaded onto two ships and transported
on the nearby Mosel River, from Senheim and Beilstein, via Koblenz
to Rotterdam, and the journey to North America began. Two mayors
from these communities accompanied the group to Liverpool in
England and ensured their departure.”
Mr. Gossler also sent Deb Weber a listing of the births and
deaths of Peter and Gertrud Engel (nee Wirtz). Sadly, they had
six children, but only Josef survived past 15 months.
Anna Engels and Gertrude
Deb Weber writes: Shortly after arrival Josef and his family
were sent to Michigan to be with other people from his country
or nearby. Josef was 17 at the time; when he met and married
my great-great-grandmother, they moved to Gresham, Oregon. Josef
was a carpenter, and helped to build a church which stands today
Church in Gresham, Oregon built by Peter Engels in 1886, destroyed
by a fire in 2004
His children did speak German, and spend time with
others who did also in the neighborhood. His wife, Anna, lived
to be 96, and their daughter Gertrude, my paternal great grandmother
lived to be 98! It was said by Grandma that Josef was a stern
man who made his wife "walk behind him." I am unsure
if they officially became citizens, but I do know their children
were all born in America, and I even have a record from the church
in Nauganee, Michigan stating when Gertrude was christened.
Grandma always wanted to write the "Great American Novel" and
so told this story to me when I was very, very young. I would
crawl into bed with her first thing in the morning when my parents
were visiting, and she would regale me with stories of the family.
This had a profound effect on my interest in the family history.
After grandma passed away I found her documentation and notes
on how the family got here, and who they were.
Grandma [told me] that when Josef came from Michigan out to
Oregon, he kept his own coffin with him, "in case the Indians
got him". Once he arrived in Oregon, he sent money back
to Michigan to bring his family out by train to San Francisco,
then by boat from there to Portland, Oregon. My grandmother told
me that the boat sank on its way back to California, but I haven't
had any luck finding documentation about that, and suspect she
might have taken poetic license on that story. The name of the
ship was the "Ajax".
Grandma wrote in her notes that her mother used to go to a friend's
house in Oregon to "speak German". The language is
not used in our family today, however. Grandma and Grandpa were
both of German descent, and they both stayed in Oregon, where
their ancestors had been since Grandma and Grandpa were born.
I still have an aunt who lives there, too. I do have a very fragile
ceramic bowl which came from Anna Otto-Engel, believed to have
been from the old country. I also have the ledger from Grandpa
Engels carpentry business.
The author, Deb Weber (as a baby), her father Stephen Harrison
Joseph Weber and June Persons-Weber