My grandfather came to America in 1884. He, his sister, his mother and father were leaving the refined city of Berlin to find a new life away from the increasingly militarized country of Germany. Here are some exerpts of his memories that he wrote in 1957 about that trip. Can you imagine the great adventure these people took upon themselves to come here. They left their friends and family and all familiar things to come to a strange land with people who spoke a strange language - all for the sake of personal freedom.
Part of his memories - he was 8 years old at the time:
Oh, I can remember very well when we left Berlin in 1884, and the trip we took over here. Berlin was not a bad looking city at that time. There were some very nice parks there. The streets were all paved, as I remember mit Asphalt und Stein. The streetcars were drawn with horses, (not mules as they were here). I remember taking the tickets or transfers from the passengers as they got off the horse cars, and using them on my kite tail string. I remember Dad making the kites or buying them, and taking me up to Tempelhofer Feld and flying them. (Feld means field.) Dad must have liked me, as he always took me to the parks and shows. He stuffed his pockets with cigars and off we went. I do not ever remember him taking Emma or Mother.
Well, father left Germany about six months before Mother, Emma and I left. But the trip I remember very well. We got on the train and went to Hamburg. From there we took a German ship, I believe, over the North Sea to England. This was the first time in my life I saw negroes. From England we went to Scotland and laid over for a week waiting for the Atlantic ship. It was the Anchor Line. We were two days crossing the North Sea and two weeks on the Atlantic getting to New York.
Here is something I will never forget. When we were crossing the ocean, I got to playing with some girl about my age on deck, but somehow or another she hit me in the nose, and oh my, how the blood did fly! I went to the railing of the ship and I can see the blood running down the side of the ship. Then a sailor came along and showed me a little place on deck where I could wash my face. I do not remember seeing her again until we got to New York. We only looked at each other and laughed. Well anyway, when we got to New York as I remember, we got on the train and went through many towns, exchanged trains, and finally reached Kansas City, Kansas, which was called Wyandotte, Kansas. We got off the Missouri-Pacific train at the foot of 5th Street at about 9 o’clock in the evening, and Father had a man to take us to his home. When we got near the home, I heard Mother say, “There is where he lives, I can hear him playing his accordion.” Well, when we got in, after a few kisses and hugs, I heard Mother say, “What a Godforsaken country!” You can imagine us coming from a large city to a small town without any street pavement, but lots of ground.
They had to start from scratch and build a whole new life here. We take for granted what our forefathers struggled so hard to give to us.