Another Dörrenbacher Arrives in Leonville!

by John A. Speyrer

No, we have not had another recent German visitor to Leonville. Rather I am referring to a visit which was much earlier and which turned out to be rather extended. This visit began on the fourth of November in 1881. It was on that date that Christopher Cuntz joined the descendants of a fellow Dörrenbacher to make his home in Louisiana. I never knew Christopher Cuntz since he died in 1932, the year after I was born. I remember many references to him but he was always called Christophe Cuntz.

Reproduced below is the short diary he made of his voyage to America with misspellings and grammar unedited:

To whom it may concern and for a souvenir to my children.

I Christopher Cuntz has been born in the village of Dörrenbach near Bergzabern, Pfaltz, Bayern, Germany on July 8th, 1859. I leaved my father's house for the voyage to the United States on October 1st 1881 at 7 o'clock a.m. I have taake the train in Bergzabern at 8:20 a.m arrived in Ludwigshafen on the Rhine River at 11 a.m. on October 2nd at 6:30 a.m.

I took the Steamer Gutenberg on the Rhine River for the City of Colonge arrived at 8:30 p.m. Next morning I took the train at 6:30 a.m. for Bremen arrived at 5:30 p.m. on Oct 3rd. On Oct. 5th a.m. I took the train for Bremerhaven arrived at 11 a.m. I took took the steamer Hohenzollern for the United States and leaved Germany at 12.30 p.m. on October 5th 1881.

I arrived in Havre (France) on October 8th at 11:00 a.m. I departed from Havre on October 9th at 10 a.m. passed on the Azoren Island on October 14th at 11 a.m. passed on the Bahama Island on October 24th and on October 26th at 8 a.m. We stoped at Havana on the Cuba Island. We leaved Havana the same day at 2 p.m. for Galveston (Texas) arrived there on October 29th at 9 a.m. Landing 410 passengers, we leaved Galveston at 4 p.m. for New Orleans. I arrived in New Orleans on October 31 at 1 p.m. and after a start of 2 days I tooke the Steamer Fanchon for Port Barre and arrived in Leonville, La on November 4th at 9 p.m. at Mr. Jules C. Speyrer's store with 25 cents in my pocket and my cloth I haved on me.

We haved storm on the ocean Oct 7th - 14th -15th and very bad storms on Oct 21st through 28th writing by my self - Christopher Cuntz

I found the reading of his short diary intriguing, but wished its' author had written more of his feelings upon leaving his family and country of his birth. He was never to return to Germany and one can be certain that there was more on his mind than a listing of the statistics of his voyage. Nonetheless, we are happy that he did write the little diary and that we did get a chance to read it.

Notice that the trip from Dörrenbach, Germany to Leonville via Cuba and Galveston took exactly one month -- from October 1 through October 31th. The trip between New Orleans and Leonville was usually two and one-days in length. While we have no idea when his little diary was written, it was surely after the death of his brother, Louis who died in 19.. since on another page of his diary he mentioned that his brother lived with him until his death.

The Cuntz family has been intertwined with the Speyrer family for many years, as Christophe Cuntz was from the same village in Germany as was Conrad Speyrer. (It may interest readers to know that Ludwig Speyrer who presently lives in Dörrenbach, Germany is presently married to a Helene Cuntz so the relationship between the two families continues. See another page in this issue for a very recent photo of Ludwig and Helene). Obviously, Christophe Cuntz decided to settle in Leonville because his fellow Dörrenbacher wrote him that a decent livelihood was possible in Leonville and that perhaps life might be easier in America than in that poverty and famine ravaged area in Germany.

The famine had not been confined to Germany since in the middle part of the nineteenth century there was also an exodus of immigrants from Ireland and other European countries which were experiencing a severe failure of the potato crop which hitherto had been an inexpensive and common food. The irish potato (which was really indigenous to America) had become a staple of the diet of the common folks of Europe centuries earlier.

But let's get back to Christopher Cuntz. Father Jules C. Speyrer, in his History of the Speyrer Family in America, writes that Christophe Cuntz was ''... soon joined by his brother Louis. Together, they operated a blacksmith shop on a site located in the center of Leonville.'' He continues:

Many of us remember Christophe Cuntz as a very short man. He was a hard working neighbor who was not without a sense of humor and had a charitable disposition. He always had food for the hungry and time to lend a hand. He was never without a word of advice and warning to the lazy and unreliable who thought they could take advantage of his generosity. Mrs. Christope Cuntz (Azelina Stelly) told us that when she and her husand were about to be married, the priest quickly summoned the best man and bridesmaid to be his Godparents, because he had never been baptized. From then on he remained a faithful Catholic. I will always remember him as he appeared on his way to Sunday mass, dressed up in his little brown suit and with a spontaneous and cheerful hello to everyone he met on his way. During the latter part of his life, he operated a small grocery store. The town gossip has it that at his death he left many a hard earned dollar to his three daughters and one son.

Christophe Cuntz died on August 25, 1932 and is buried in Leonville very near the tomb of Jules Conrad Speyrer, the first Speyrer he met upon arrival.

Editor Note: Many thanks to Ben ``Jr'' Stelly for furnishing a copy of Christophe Cuntz's diary of his voyage of immigration. Christophe Cuntz married Ben ``Jr'' Stelly's grandfather's (Armand Stelly) sister.

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