Selections from
Walter Schlicher's Dörrenbach 992-1992

Translated by Bishop Jude Speyrer

Editor's Note: In 1992 the Town of Dörrenbach, Germany celebrated the 1000th year anniversary of its establishment. For that occasion Walter Schlicher authored a book, entitled, Dörrenbach 992-1992. Bishop Jude Speyrer has translated portions of the German text of the book which relate to emigration from Dörrenbach as well as portions which refer to Speyrer individuals. These selections are not necessarily continuous or in correct order.

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"The previous century's tendency to emigrate had bypassed Dörrenbach. This means that the living conditions of the average person there, dismal as they were, must not have been as bad as in the rest of the country."

"Whoever looks for reliable reasons to explain why emigration takes place will usually find a scattering of motives, based on vague statements and assumptions. Reasons usually given are, for instance, to better one's position, to seek one's fortune, to travel to one's husband, father, son or daughter. By way of explanation, one need not expect some over-arching change in the lives of uncomplicated people."

"Widespread destitution, universal poverty, and a bleak future must have become terribly unbearable for the young if it rendered attractive, as their only escape, abandoning even hearth and home. And it was chiefly the continent of North America, that promised, freedom-loving and wonderful land which, like a magnet, drew people on."

"That it took guts and an entrepreneurial spirit in addition to travel money to bring this off is beyond question. For until then, most -- except for military service or travel as a journeyman -- had never strayed beyond the shadow of the town steeple."

"When after the Hambacher Festival in 1832 or the Badisch-Pfalz Uprising in 1848/49, emigration in our area intensified, it was not only because of political persecution but also because of despondence over the political situation -- that too had an effect on life in Doerrenbach. It is striking that every single year from 1843 to 1855 had its share of emigrants."

"It is often suggested that the breaking up of large estates forced by the legal requirements of the ``Code Civil'' (who inheritance laws are blamed for the breakup of vast and efficient land holdings), resulted in ever-dwindling parcels which could barely feed the family of even one farmer. (However, one easily forgets that earlier conditions -- one owner, many landless farm-hands -- were for country people not exactly a blessing from heaven either.)"

"What threw sharper light on the reason for this passion to emigrate was the sudden surge in population. Furthermore, when one is so dependent on what one as an individual is able to produce, as in those days, then a series of poor crops as in 1841/42 or of failed harvests as in 1846/47 and in 1853, could lead to nothing short of famine."

"Many a small laborer must have come to understand that while freedom of trade may have conferred a greater amount of independence, it added little to his earning power."

"The possibility of emigrating furtively to the exterior -- in order to evade through desertion, either a criminal sentence or a pressing domestic problem -- also played a role."

"If after 1855 and for some 30 years when it was no longer so necessary, no list of emigres can be found, this may well indicate improving economic times in Germany; it hinges probably also on the War Between the States in America from 1861 to 1865. Likewise in the case of the German-French War of 1870-1871."

"From earliest evidence found in the regional archives of Bad Bergzabern, emigration from Dörenbach in the 19th century began in 1830."

"As sellers of property, the following names of would-be emigrants appears in the ``Alphabetical List of Property Owners Within the Tax District of Dörrenbach'' of 1843 such as Gg. Jakob Krumm (1840), or John. Anthes (1845) Friederich Wagner (1843) Friederick (1843) Conr. Speyrer (1851) and Johs. Speyrer (1853). All of them -- except Krumm -- appear on the following mentioned tablee."

"Left over, and unable to be found are Ludwig Speyrer, Jakob Schoedinger, Johann Mattern -- all in America."

"Without passport, that is, without official permission, four single, young men left Dörrenbach on September 4, 1843 and sailed from Le Havre de Grace for the United States: a linen weaver, Michael Keiser, farmers, Michael Speyrer, Friedrich Wagner and George Wuest -- east with an average of 250 Guilders in his pocket -- to seek ``their fortunes in America.'' Exactly quoted from the records. They all had ``a brother'' already in America. (Identical too are the itinerary and destination for all who follow until 1845, inclusive.)"

"Catherine Friend, born Speyrer, traveled to her three brothers with her four children, after she had already been for the last six years living with her husband Michael ``in a broken marriage.'' A missing passport did not keep her from taking this significant step; for which, 1200 Florins, she was well provided."

"On September 29, a batch of three families, altogether with five children: Farmer Friedrich Hey and wife Catherine born Oerther, with New Orleans as their destination, where their two children already lived. With them from Le Havre came a day laborer, Michael Kuntz and wife and a couple, Caspar Kuntz, apparently related through their husbands. The case of Friedrich Anthes, Friedrich Speyrer, Adam Schaurer and Christop Fried followed the very same path. Farmers by trade, without permission, in order to better their condition they went by way of Le Havre to New York. They left in April and June respectively of 1849, had from 140 to 200 florins in their wallets and were the only emigrants in that year."

"Cincinnati as a destination turns up again in 1850; for the day laborer Thomas Bohlinger (with three daughters, but no wife), Joseph Schwoegler, a carpenter (with wife and one daughtrer) the first man with 1200 florins in cash, the other with 100 florins. Micahel Voelkel (with a wife, son and daughter) sought to make something of himself there as an innkeeper. He had 1000 florins to call his own but it looks very much like he was accompanied by an unmarried tailor -- Caspar Speyrer -- who in no way with his 50 florins could play the role of big spender. Let us hope that the new world was kind to him."

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