From: Alison D. Martin
Date: Saturday, July 17, 1999 9:54 AM
Subject: [WVA-L] German Roots?

"Ever wonder what it was like for your ancestors to travel across the ocean to get here? I was lucky enough that one of the passengers who came with my 6th great grandfather on the ship Osgood and arrived in Philadelphia on Sept 29, 1750, wrote down his experience. I have read it probably a hundred times and find it fascinating as well as humbling. This is supposed to be typical of the immigration experience during this time. Just thought I would share. The man who wrote it was Gottleib MITTELBERGER."

He wrote...

"Both in Rotterdam and Amsterdam the people are packed densely like herrings so to say in the large sea-vessels. One person receives a place scarcely two feet wide and 6 feet in length in the bedstead, while many a ship carries four to six hundred souls; not to mention the innumberable implements, tools, provisions, water-barrels and other things which likewise occupy such space.

On account of contrary winds it takes sometimes 2, 3, and 4 weeks to make the trip from Holland to England. But when the wind is good, they get there in 8 days or even sooner. Everything is examined there and the customs-duties paid, whence it comes that the ships ride there 8, 10 or 14 days and even longer at anchor. till they have taken their full cargoes. During that time, every one is compelled to spend his last remaining money and to consume his litte stock of provisions which had been reserved for the sea; so that most passengers, finding themselves on the ocean where they would be in greater need of them, must suffer from hunger and want. Many suffer want already on the water between Holland and Old England.

When the ships have for the last time weighed their anchors near the city of Kaupp (Cowes) in Old England, the real misery begins with the long voyage. For from there, the ships, unless they have good wind, must often sail 8, 9, 10 to 12 weeks before they reach philadelphia. But even with the best winds the voyage lasts 7 weeks.

But during the voyage, there is on board these ships terrible misery, stench, fumes, horror, vomiting, many kinds of sea sickness, fever, dysentary, headache, heat, constipation, boils, scurvy, cancer, mouth rot, and the like, all of which come from old and sharply salted food and meat, also from very bad foul water, so that many die miserably.

Add this to the want of provisions, hunger, thirst, frost, heat, dampness, anxiety, want, afflictions, and lamenations, together with other troubles as......the lice abound so frightfully, exspecially on sick people,. that they can be scraped off the body. The misery reaches a climax when a gale rages for 2 or 3 nights and days so that every one believes that the ship will go to the bottom with all the human beings on board. In such a visitation the people cry and pray most piteously.

Children from 1 to 7 rarely survive the voyage. I witnessed misery in no less than 32 children in our ship, all who were thrown into the sea. The parents grieve all the more since their children find no resting place in earth but are devoured by the monsters of the sea.

That most of the people get sick is not surprising, because, in addition to all other trials and hardships, warm food is only served three times a week the rations being very poor and very little. Such meals can hardly be eaten on account of being so unclean. The water which is served out of the ships is often black, thick, and full or worms, so that no one can drink it without loathing, even with the greatest thirst. Toward the end we are compelled to eat the ships biscuit which had spoiled long ago; though in a whole biscuit there was scarcely a piece the size of a dollar that had not been full of red worms and spiders nests.

At length, when, after a long and tedious voyage. the ships come in sight of land. so that the promotories can be seen, which people were so eager and anxious to see, all creep from below on deck to see the land from afar and they weep for joy, and pray and sing, thanking and praising god. The sight of the land makes the people on board the ship, exspecially the sick and the half dead, alive again, that their hearts leap within them, they shout and rejoice and are content to bear their misery in patience, in hope that soon they will reach the land in safety But alas...

When the ships have landed at Philadelphia after their long voyage, no one is permitted to leave them except those who pay for their passage or can give good security; the others who cannot pay; must remain on board the ships til they are purchased and are released from the ships by their purchasers. The sick always fare worst, for the healthy are naturally purchased first; and so the sick and wretched must often remain on board in front of the city for 2 or 3 weeks and frequently die, whereas many a one, if he could pay his debt and were permitted to leave the ship immediately, may recover and remain alive.

The sale of human beings on board the ship is carried out thus. Every day, Englishmen and Dutchjmen and high German people come from the city of Philadelphia and other places, in part from great distance say 20 30 or even 40 hours away and go onboard a newly arrived ship that has brought and offers for sale passengers from Europe, and select among the healthy persons such as they deem suitable for buisness, and bargain with them how long they will serve for their passage money which most of themare still in debt for. When they have come to an agreement, it happens that adult persons bind themselves in writing to serve 3, 4, 5, or 6 years for the amount due by them according to their age and strength. But very young people from 10 to 15 years must serve til they are 21 years old. Many parents must sell or trade away their children like so many head of cattle; for their children take the debt upon themselves, the parenst can leave the ship free and unrestrained; but as the parents often do not know where and to what people their children are going , it often happens that such parents and children, after leaving the ship do not see each other again for many years and perhaps in all their lives. It often happens that entire families husband wife and children are separated by being sold to different purchasers, exspecially when they have not paid any part of their passage money.

When a husband or wife dies at sea, when the ship has made more than half of her trip, the survivor must pay or serve not only for himself or herself but also for the deceased. When both parents have died over half way at sea, their children, exspecially when they are young and have nothing to pawn or pay, must stand for their own and their parents passage, and serve til they are 21 years old. When one has served his or her term, he or she is entitled to a new suit of clothes at parting and if it has been so stipulated, a man gets a horse and a woman, a cow. When a serf has an opporotunity to marry in this country, he or she must pay for each year which he or she would have yet to serve...5 or 6 pounds."

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Arrow Up Compiled by: Paul E. Pennebaker, 25-Jan-2000