Out of the diary of an emigrant
Stories from the Legal Authorities
Friedrich Engelmann was trader from Neubuckow, that had to leave Mecklenburg on account of his financial problems. He emigrated to British Columbia, Canada.
The respective file in the Law Courts in Rostock contain a diary from Friedrich Engelmann, that tells us more about his feelings and memories as well as new impressions of his crossing. Friedrich Engelmann started this diary on the 27th of October in 1860, the last entry is from November, 20th.
After having left Hamburg he rented a room in a guesthouse called "Homers Hotel". Under the date of October 28th we find the following entry:
"At 8 a.m. I took a cab and drove to Blankenese, to plan my departure. After asking around some I met a man there that, after some haggling promised to bring me to an English steamer. The crossing was supposed to start on Tuesday, the 30th. Tuesday I drove to B. again, and we went to the water where we had to await the ship. The ship arrived in the late evening, and since we didn't realize it till it had come very close it was pretty dangerous. It caused a lot of big waves but luckily I could still get on board. I was quite taken aback to hear that it was not an English boat, but that it would only take me to Stade, 7 miles from Hamburg. What to do? I could not call the thing off now, I had to go to Hamburg. The plan had failed and I had lost all my money.
Friedrich Engelmann spent his last money to get away, on November, 1st he found somebody, that offered him his help and got him a ticket for the ship "Gellert" that Friedrich boarded on November, 3rd.
"After having arrived on board I put my mattress and the headpiece in my bunk and lay down. I had to cover myself up with a horse blanket ... what a deplorable bed, the night is long, it is decided - I'm leaving ..."
"Sunday, 4th, at 4:30 a.m. they put a steamer in front of our sailing ship and it started moving. I had already been on the foredeck to enjoy the pretty landscape (the coast of Holstein). At 7 a.m. we had some coffee, bred and butter, at 10 we got a schnaps, at 12 some lunch, beef with soup, with rice, yellow roots and some potatoes. The meat was very good, and there is enough of it, at 6 p.m. they served tea without sugar and a bred with butter, most passengers brought food with them, I haven't so I have to live with this old butter. In the evening we played games, music, cards, nothing I would enjoy, I rather sit by myself and think of my loved ones, I am terribly tired and I'm going to go to bed."
"Tuesday, the 6th... we arrived in the north sea and the misery started. All the sea-sick people, they're just all lying on top of each other, the happy life has come to an end, it is like one big hospital here. Whereever one looks one sees sickness and vomiting, the will to live has left everyone, the sea is getting stormy, so that the ship lifts 16 - 20 feet up in the front, and then just falls into the open abyss. Some big waves hit the foredeck, which lies about 12 - 16 feet higher than the water, the ship is so uneven, that one can't stand on his feet, one has to hold on to something, you see the grim reaper behind every corner...
The ship is very fast, we pass many others, and we will soon see the English coast... At 7:30 p.m. we see the beacon from the English coast. At nine o'clock we arrive at the channel between France and England, the sea is wild and the waves hit the boat so it feels like it's going to break, I hear people scream on the foredeck, there is danger, because there is another ship in front of us without having taken notice of us, we had to go around and got too close to the coast and the danger got bigger and bigger, ha what joy, the sailors all run around, they become frightened and they explain that the danger is very big, the captain is a level-headed man and he gave his orders with calmness and security, he let the ship turn around and we won the sea back the way we came, after all danger is gone I go to bed, it is 12 o'clock.
Wednesday, the 7th at 4 am I got up again ... I went on the foredeck, the ship had turned around again, the sea had settled some, and we could see the English beacon again, the day is coming closer, the sun rises, it is a beauti- ful sight, she rises majestically from her bed ... we entered the channel ... and we can see the coasts of France and England..."
Under "Thursday, the 14th" we find the following entry:
"Whoever wants to emigrate needs the following things and they must not travel with sailing ships because the crossing would take very long and there are no amenities what so ever. Since the bred is bad one should, if one travels on a steamer, take enough bred for about 14 days, some roasted cheese, some ham or bacon, some meat, some tea, coffee, and most importantly sugar, some bottles of raspberry vinegar to mix it with the drinking water, and also a few bottles of wine, it would also not be a bad idea to take along a bed, some sea soap (the regular kind doesn't foam with seawater), tin silverware, cups ...
Sometimes I talk to the captain and tell him that there's much to wish for on this crossing, and he sais that this ship is fit out with everything rather well, and that the emigrants on English ships had it much worse, it was only good that the people didn't know in advance how badly those ships are equipped because many wouldn't have gone..."
The diary of Friedrich Engelmann from Neubukow ends with some entries under the date of Wednesday, 20th, after he had been on sea for approximately 3 weeks, he had gotten it over with the first third of the crossing (the crossings could last up to 90 days with sailing ships).
Article in the "Mecklenburg Magazin" 1994/14 by Rainer Borchmann; translation: Daniela Garling