German Coerced Migration

Grand Duchy of

History of the Duchy of Schleswig-Holstein

In pre-history the lands which became Schleswig-Holstein were always divided at the Eider River. The Germanic Jutes lived north of the river (Schleswig), and the Germanic Angles lived south of the river (Holstein). And, south of the Angles were the Saxons (Saxony). Therefore, Schleswig-Holstein-Saxe was the ethnic homeland of the non-Celtic peoples of England.

From before the time of Charlemagne, possession of the provinces on the southern Jutland Peninsula was contested by the Kingdom of Denmark and the rulers of the many Germanic kingdoms who ruled the lands which eventually became Germany. In 811 CE, Charlemagne signed the Treaty of Heiligen which fixed the southern boundary of Denmark and the Duchy of Schleswig at the Eider River.

By the 15th Century, the Duchy of Schleswig was bound by marriages and alliances to the Duchy of Holstein, a vassal state of the Holy Roman Empire. And in 1460, the two Duchies were formally united by the Treaty of Ribe wherein the two duchies were declared Up Ewig Ungedeelt, or "Forever Undivided." However, the King of Denmark was always the Duke of Schleswig but not always the Duke of Holstein. And when he was the Duke of Holstein, he was a vassal of the Holy Roman Empire [HRE]. Thus in more modern times, the military boundary shifted south across Holstein to the Elbe River and then back north over and over again depending on which principality ruled Holstein.

A few persons to study:

1. Jan Jansen Van Breestede was born in about 1596 in Bredsted (modern spelling)t, Duchy of Schleswig (now Germany). Jan Janssen and family immigrated to New Amsterdam in about 1624. Born in Breestede, Jan Janssen was probably the son of Dutch merchants. And as a son of merchants, immigration to the newly founded colony presented an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a wonderful business opportunity.

Corporate profit was the leading cause of early colonization from Northern Europe. Whereas the Spanish and Portuguese sailed for conquest and to spread Catholicism, English and Dutch merchants organized parties of colonists to settle their corporate colonies. Circumstantial evidence leads to the belief that Jan Janssen was an employee of the Dutch West Indies Company; as he was appointed to Peter Minuit's Council in 1626.

2. Hendrick Schoonmaker, son of Joachem, was christened 11/29/1624 in Hamburg (die Grosse Hansea Stadt), Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. Hendrick's parents are believed to have been Dutch merchants, living in the largest city of the Hanseatic League. But, was Hendrick Dutch, German, or even Danish. Reportedly, Hendrick's parents were married in Breestede, Duchy of Schleswig, then a Danish territory. Cursory examination of the spelling of names in the Schoonmaker family leads to appreciation of possible Danish origin.

In 1653 Hendrick immigrated to New Amsterdam. As the son of merchants, it was possible for Hendrick to have booked passage to the New World without having migrated to Holland. Evidently, Hendrick was recruited for military service for the Dutch West Indies Company with the rank of Lieutenant.

The Forty-Eighters and Social Revolution

The modern history of Schleswig-Holstein begins at the end of the Napoleonic Wars with the rise of nation states in the early 1800s. In 1814, the German Confederation was reinstated with Holstein as a member. But, Denmark resisted incorporation of Schleswig. Thus the seeds of the coming Schleswig-Holstein War were sewn:

a. In 1460, the Duchy of Schleswig and the Duchy of Holstein were united forever by the Treaty of Rive.
b. In 1814, The Duchy of Holstein was incorporated into the newly reconstituted German Confederation with a Danish Duke or King as sovereign..
c. But, Schleswig remained a semi-autonomous region of the Kingdom of Denmark.
d. And, Saxe-Lauenburg on Holstein's southern border became another autonomous region of the Kingdom of Denmark.

Concurrently, the churches of the southern Danes and North Frisians began to switch from Danish to Low German. And over time, the peoples in the lower 2/3 of Schleswig began to identify with the German Confederation as opposed to the Kingdom of Denmark. Thus, language would become a major factor in shaping the modern border of the Kingdom of Denmark. And, the many causes of the oncoming war would come to be known as the "Schleswig-Holstein Question."

Conditions were rife for revolution in post-Napoleonic Europe. Social consciousness and labor reform were in direct conflict with autocracy. A severe economic crisis in 1846 increased unrest, especially among the poor in the German states, where peasants and urban workers were hit especially hard. The Communist Karl Marx and others were  inciting political revolution. Between 1845 and 1848, violent revolutions broke out in Europe. And, most fizzled by 1848. But, Schleswig-Holstein was the exception.

The crushing response by the endangered autocrats throughout Central Europe set thousands in flight, especially from the ethnic German states. This politically progressive group of migrants would come to be known as the "Forty-Eighters." The first wave was from the southern German states whose Social Revolution was more dream than fact. Fleeing for their lives, they piled into ships and schooners out of Atlantic ports, heading to America and freedom. Their primary destination was the American Midwest, adding to the ethnic German population of Iowa and Wisconsin in particular.

One might wonder why our German Heroes of the Revolution would choose so obscure a place as Iowa in the Midwest as a destination. Perhaps, "German Letters" were the answer. We know that previous ethnic German immigrants to Iowa wrote home. And in the best tradition of the "Pennsylvania Letters" with which William Penn enticed ethnic German settlers to Colonial Pennsylvania, our ethnic German settlers from earlier days wrote home, extolling the virtues of immigrating to Iowa.

This would also apply for Louis and Wilhelm Beyer, two brothers from the north German duchy of Holstein, who arrived in Davenport in 1843 and 1844. The letters these two brothers sent back to Germany were instrumental to channeling the influx of immigrants from Schleswig-Holstein to Davenport. . . They wanted to tell their friends back home how good it was in America. And they tended to exaggerate a little bit, because they were lonely and liked to have some of their compatriots come over and join them.

    "The Story of the Forty-Eighters in Davenport, Iowa," Christoph May, 2010  <> 16 March 2015.

By the 1840s, Schleswig-Holstein existed as an autonomous region within the Kingdom of Denmark. And, the two Duchies comprised a high percentage of the total population and economic vitality of the Kingdom. In 1848 when the King of Denmark declared a new constitution annexing Schleswig as a separate principality into the Kingdom of Denmark, the ethnic German majority in Schleswig rebelled. Enter their ethnic German brethren from Holstein.

Some cite the First Schleswig-Holstein War as a war against Danish oppression, complete with "dreams of German unity" which resulted in a violent revolution aimed at achieving independence from the "Danish yoke." Hyperbole abounds when fomenting revolution. With sights set on union with their German brothers, the autocratic Kingdom of Prussia and the German Confederation, including Austria,  rose up in their defense. Enter the Prussian and Austrian Armies.

The First Schleswig-Holstein War (1848-1851) started out with a hastily assembled Schleswig Holstein Army. From records of the veterans who immigrated to Davenport IA, we learn that the fledgling army consisted of multiple regiments which fielded battalions of infantry, squadrons of cavalry, artillery batteries, and various support units.

Mitglieder des Davenport Vereigns der Kampfgenossen
aus den Schleswig-Holstein'schen Befreiungskriegen

Members of the Davenport [Iowa] Society of the Veterans
 of the Schleswig-Holstein War of Liberation

Fighting Formations Artillery Support
6 Jagercorps (Cavalry)
2 Dragoon Regiments
15 Infantrie Battalions
1st Infantrie Regiment
1 24 lbs Artillerie Batteries
3 12 lbs Artillerie Batteries
6 6 lbs Artillerie Batteries
4 Festung Batteries
Pioneer Corps
Mariner (Navy)
Research Notes:
-The only veterans association in America from the Schleswig-Holstein War was formed in Davenport IA in 1872.
-The military designations of units and their quantity were gleaned from the Honor Rolls of the Davenport Veterans Society dtd 1877.
-Having "lost" the war, the strength of the Schleswig-Holstein Army in January 1851 is cited as 800+ officers and 43,000+ soldiers.
-My "hastily assembled" comment still stands. There is no way a well-trained, well-organized army like the one herein described could be formed and deployed on short notice. At the onset of hostilities, ethnic German units from both Schleswig and Holstein mutinied from the Danish Army, taking their equipment with them. I posit that the remaining units were built around auxiliaries and reserves who had previously served in the Danish Army and were equipped with arms stolen and captured from the Danish Army.

     "The First Schleswig-Holstein War 1848-50," Nick Svendsen, 2008 <> 17 March 2015.

Initially, the Army was successful. They took the Fortress of Rendsburg, capturing rifles, cannons, and supplies. And later in concert with troops from the German Confederation, the Army secured most of Schleswig. But, not for long.

As the year 1848 progressed, the revolutions in the many German states came to nothing. Most who fought for the many revolutions fled, many to America. And, some continued the fight by joining the last ongoing revolution and the Schleswig-Holstein Army. That was the good news. The bad news was that Prussian and Austrian troops from the German Confederation withdrew their support in deference to the other crowns of Europe. Exit the Prussian and Austrian Armies. Now, Schleswig-Holstein stood alone.

The war raged back and forth across Schleswig until 1851. On 7/25/1850 in the major battle of the war, the Danish Army decisively defeated the Schleswig-Holstein Army at Idstedt, north of the City of Schleswig. But, fighting continued until a "protocol" was signed by the major powers. Thus, the First Schleswig-Holstein War resulted in a tie. Belligerents were to return to their original borders. That means that Schleswig and Holstein would remain attached to the Kingdom of Denmark by a "person union" with the king. Enter the Danish Army.

Refugees from the Social Revolutions ex-migrated from the German principalities, many to the American Midwest. And after the loss of the war, many veterans also ex-migrated. But, what of the families who stayed behind?

During the war, the Prussian Army swept north through Holstein into Schleswig only to sweep south again. At the conclusion of the war, the Danish Army settled in Holstein as an occupying force. Not liberators: occupiers. And as in the American Revolution, the occupying army quartered troops in private homes, commandeered horses, wagons, and provisions, and generally made themselves unwelcome.

So, what was the final straw which would push our Holstein families out of their homeland and put them on the difficult road to America? Conscription. If your principality is a vassal state, you send your young men to fight in their army. And if you decline this civic duty, your only recourse was to leave.

Of note, there was a Second Schleswig-Holstein War (2/1864-10/1864) which began on 2/1/1864 when Prussian troops attacked across the Eider River out of Holstein into Schleswig. And, the war ended on 10/30/1864 with the Treaty of Vienna. With the treaty, Denmark ceded both duchies with Schleswig going to Austria and Holstein going to Prussia. And with the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein were now a part of Prussia and the German Confederation; and ultimately, both duchies became part of the future German Empire.

But, let us return to the thirteen years or so between the wars. Having been pushed out of their ancestral home, our families migrated to their port of departure. Having survived the two month voyage to the New World, our families debarked on a foreign shore where they spoke a foreign language. Then, they spent the two weeks aboard a crowded riverboat wending up the Mississippi River to Davenport IA at the head of navigation. Welcomen; folks, you're home.

The Wiese/Arp and Stamer/Tank families were part of that history in Schleswig-Holstein. Whether or not these families were politically active, we do not know. However, we do know that they were part of the "Forty-Eighter" experience.

3. Peter Arp was born 1801 in the Duchy of Holstein. And, he would have experienced the many depredations suffered by an ethnic German living under Danish rule. Peter and family embarked at Hamburg, Germany, on 4/12/1747 aboard the Barque Harriet for America. And, the family included two boys and four girls.

Barque Harriet
Departed 4/12/1747 from Hamburg
Arrived 6/9/1847 at New Orleans

Peter and family arrived at New Orleans on 6/9/1847 and traveled up the Mississippi River by steamboat in the company of over ninety other persons from Schleswig-Holstein. This group and the many others from Schleswig-Holstein who followed were the forefathers of the major ethnic group in Eastern Iowa.

And, daughter Margaretha Gretje would marry James Wiese.

4. Joachim Wiese was born 1772 in Probstei, Duchy of Holstein. During Joachim's life, both Schleswig and Holstein were part of the Kingdom of Denmark. Growing up an ethnic German in this Danish province was probably difficult. History tells us that ethnic Germans began a series of revolts which culminated in the ill-fated 1848 Revolution. Although Joachim did not immigrate to America, two of his three known children did--Claus and Joachim.

5. Son Joachim "James" Wiese was born 8/26/1806 in Ratjendorf, Duchy of Holstein. And, he grew up on the family farm in Probstei. At this time, the Duchy of Holstein was part of the Kingdom of Denmark, and life was difficult for ethnic Germans. So difficult in fact that James' youngest brother, Claus Wiese (b. 1813), and family fled Holstein for America, settling in Clinton Co IA. Next, James' middle son, Claus Wiese (b. 1840), followed suit, immigrating in 1856 aboard the Ship Washington to New Orleans. Family history states that son Claus was fleeing to avoid service in the Danish Army.

Ship Washington; Ship's Master: Plaatz
Departed 9/1756 from Hamburg
Arrived 11/1856 at New Orleans

After son Claus' immigration, Joachim and family followed. They departed 4/9/1858 aboard the Barque Sir Isaac Newton, arriving in New Orleans on 6/7/1858. They next traveled up the Mississippi River by steamboat, arriving two weeks later in Davenport IA.

The Hamburg bark SIR ISAAC NEWTON was built at Lübeck by the shipwright Hans Jacob Albrecht Meyer for the Hamburg ship-owner Robert Miles Sloman in 1839. Bielbrief 25 April 1839. 149 Commerzlasten.
Sir Isaac Newton, flying the Hamburg flag; Master H. H. Paap
Departed 4/9/1758 from Hamburg; Arrived 6/7/1858 at New Orleans

The Legacy of the Forty-Eighters

After 1848 and through the decade of the 1850s, an estimated 1.5 million ethnic Germans immigrated to America, especially the Midwest. Truly self-evident, these were the "free-thinkers," the best and the brightest, the "Flower of the German Nation."

The American Civil War halted the many migration streams from Europe to the East Coast of America. And after the war, ethnic German migration resumed but at a slower pace. But, the 48ers had left their legacy amongst the family members they left behind. And, their descendants constituted the next wave.

What did the Forty-Eighters contribute to America and specifically Davenport? Germanische Kultur; brains and brawn; and hardworking families to farm our prairie. Perhaps best known contribution is das Turnvereign, the Turners, who sponsored die Schuetzenverein or Shooting Club. Organized in 1862, the club built the Schuetzenpark west of Davenport above Telegraph Road complete with a dance hall, a music pavilion, refreshment stands, a bowling alley, a roller coaster, a zoo, athletic and picnic grounds, and an inn which attracted in excess of 10,000 persons at a time for special events like the Saengerfest. And, the descendants of the Forty-Eighters continued to write back to the Fatherland, enticing their German brethren to come to Iowa.

The German immigration to Davenport during the fifties brought about the most homogenous settlement of Forty-eighters in the United States. In 1850 already, there were estimates that about one third of Davenport's 2,000 inhabitants were German. Since the influx of Schleswig-Holsteiners did not stop until 1857, one can easily imagine how German-looking Davenport was by the end of the decade. It was no wonder then that these immigrants would leave a huge cultural imprint on Davenport, soon making it the most German city in the Midwest.

    "The Story of the Forty-Eighters in Davenport, Iowa," Christoph May, 2010  <> 16 March 2015.

6. Theodor Stamer was born 1858 in Danischenhagen, Duchy of Schleswig. At this time, the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein were in a state of continuous revolt against Danish rule, but had not yet been incorporated into Prussia and the German Confederation.

In the 1860s, Wilhelm of Prussia began a campaign to unite the disparate German states, which culminated in the Franco-Prussian War of 1871. With the defeat of France and the previous defeat of Austria in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, the second German Empire was formed. And, Schleswig-Holstein was its northernmost state.

Having survived the comings and goings of armies during his youth, Theodor Stamer migrated south to Schinkel uber Kiel, a suburb of the great port city, where he lived until his wife's death prior to 8/1908. 

In 1900 at the age of 16, son Wilhelm Fritz began his career as a professional gardener. And, he had many positions. By 1908 Theodor Stamer and his son, Wilhelm Fritz, were living near Mainz in the Rheinland. From there they voyaged down the Rhine to Rotterdam, Netherlands, where they booked passage on the SS Rotterdam to America. Embarking on 7/25/1908, Theodor and Wilhelm arrived at Ellis Island NY on 8/3/1908.

Until recently, no one knew of Theodor's fate; as there was no documentation of son Wilhelm Fritz's immigration. From the naturalization papers for Wilhelm Fritz, their date and port of arrival were found. With this date, Theodor and Wilhelm Fritz were found at Ellis Island with the last name of "Starmer."

The SS Rotterdam's manifest shows Theodor and Wilhelm Fritz Starmer immigrating from Kappel, which is west of Mainz to Ellis Island. And, Wilhelm Fritz is specified as "Son." There destination is listed as Davenport IA, and their sponsor is listed as Karl Krell (Bakery). Note, the 1908 Davenport Directory lists Krell Confectioners at 218 Brady Street.

Nothing more is known of Theodor after Ellis Island. When asked, Wilhelm Fritz is noted for saying about his father: [in German] "I couldn't get him to come with me." Previously, this was understood to mean Theodor stayed behind in Germany. However, we now understand that Wilhelm Fritz was referring to his father's refusal to complete the journey to Davenport, Iowa. Of note, there is the possibility that Theodor continued his journey west to live with a daughter in Pipestone MN.

7. Wilhelm Fritz Stamer was born 10/3/1884 in Schinkel uber Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein, German Empire. His parents were ethnic Germans who grew up in the Duchy of Holstein under Danish rule. But since 1871 and the unification of the disparate German principalities into the German Empire, the family were Germans finally living in a German nation. [The 48ers and Social Revolution]

In 3/ 1900 at the age of 16, Wilhelm Fritz began his professional career as a gardener and landscape architect. As a good son of the German Empire, Wilhelm Fritz enlisted in the German Army on 11/10/1906 in Flensburg and was assigned to the "Queen's Transport Regiment, Ninth Division, Schleswig-Holstein." Wilhelm Fritz was discharged on 7/7/1907.

In about 1908, Wilhem Fritz's father joined him. in Kappel, Rhineland, when they began their journey to America. Traveling down the Rhine River to the Netherlands, the two booked passage aboard the SS Rotterdam, arriving at Ellis Island NY on 8/3/1908. Wilhelm Fritz's whereabouts are not know from his arrival at Ellis Island in 1908 until his enumeration in the 1910 Scott Co IA Census.

As late as the 1920s, you could live in the German neighborhood of Nordwest in Davenport, shop on Washington St, go to the tailor or the butcher or even the doctor without ever having to speak English. So why did the German language to away? Your children had to speak English to go to public school. And over time, English replaced German in the home.




This site is provided for reference only. Except where specifically cited, information contained is conjecture and should not be considered as fact.
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