Fritz Sens 1847 Letter

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This letter is from Fritz Sens (b. May 28, 1810, d. June 12, 1885), sent in 1847 to relatives at Bützow in Mecklenburg, Germany, describing immigrant life in Colorado County. Fritz Sens is buried in Cat Spring (Kollatschny) Cemetery in Austin County. A friend of Verna Hartman McDowell (who was kind enough to share this letter) transcribed the original letter from German to English.

Dear parents, mother-in law and all relatives and friends:

I am sure you wanted to hear from us for quite a while. I would have written earlier, but there was little to tell about us. But now, having the hardest part behind us, I like to let you know how we are doing. We did not like to stay in Houston because the mosquitoes bothered us as much as in Galveston. So I traveled alone to Columbus, rented a place to stay and drove back to get my wife and children. It took us three weeks to get from Houston to Columbus, a distance that usually takes five days. But it rained all the time and 36 hours before Columbus our wagon broke down. For 10 days we had to stay in the woods suffering from mosquitoes and heat. At last an other wagon arrived and brought us here. It's healthy here and no mosquitoes. After our arrival, the first thing for me to do was carving shoe lasts in order to start work. I had brought some leather with me and had already orders for 30 pairs of shoes. But I could not finish them all because I ran out of material. Leather is rare here. It has to be imported from New York or New Orleans. Actually everything else has to be shipped, too, because here are very few craftsmen. Soon after coming here I had almost daily visits from Americans, who wanted to buy my guns. So I sold them and got $20.00 for the small one and $24.00 for the big one. They are used for bear hunting, because the locals shoot only small lead. This money I used to buy a 1 1/2 acre piece of land for which I paid $60.00. It is situated about one mile from town. During the winter we have tilled all the land and then planted Turkish wheat, pumpkins, melons, peas lettuce etc. Everything grows 10 times better than in Germany. Yesterday, we finished our house. But don't think that these here are German houses. They are all wooden structures without any stone work. Good trees are split and nailed together. But German houses are German houses! And one day I will build me one! Please talk with H. for me. He might tell you the right mix for asphalt, which I want to have for a roof. Our livestock consists of a cow with a one year old calf, 19 hens, 2 Turkish ducks breeding, 2 turkeys with 9 young ones, 2 sows due to litter and 8 one year old hogs. So far we had to content ourselves with coffee, bread and meat, and are tired of it. Americans, however, love to eat meat and bread year round, wanting nothing else. Fritz caught many fish for us, also turtles, some weighting 20 pounds. I, myself, shot a lot of game animals: 24 geese, deer, ducks, turkeys, partridges and rabbits. And a big bear, about 400 feet from the house. Store bought shoes are cheaper here than in Germany, but very badly sewn. For one pair of boots I get $6.00, for shoes $2.00. And I can make about $4.00 a day by repairing shoes. I was the 3rd German here. Now there are almost 170 (Germans). Among them a gunsmith, who made $350 in 4 months. We are content here in Texas, but by far not as comfortable as you in Germany. We miss many things that you can buy for a few pennies. I wish, one of you could be here for a few days to see Texas. At first sight none of you would like it. But this would change. After all we don't have to worry about our daily bread the way you do. I may be poor, but I am as much as a president. Texas is as big as Germany. It is mountainous towards Mexico with many unexplored gold and silver mines. Many rivers and streams are crossing the country, rich on fish and game and migratory birds in winter. The land looks like a meadow, grass as far as one can see. But no trees, except near rivers and streams. Nothing but pasture land. The farm animals are without a shepherd and go where ever they wont to, some times as far as 20 miles from the house. Some farmer might have about 2000 cows and 200 horses and 200 hogs, but not a penny in his pocket. Money is relatively unimportant. And it is rare because all of it is sent to the United States to buy whatever is needed here. This will not change untilmanufacturing plants will be built and more craftsmen move in. We have blacksmiths, carpenters and cabinet makers, who make $2.50 a day. Other immigrating craftsmen , whose crafts are not needed here, often become farmers. Cotton and tobacco are the main export. German grain supposedly does not do well, except oats. There are no fruit trees other than peach ,figs and wild plums. We have 7 kinds of trees (lumber) :oak, poplar, aspen , pine, mulberry and alder. Also many wild grapes, cactus and a lot of pretty flowers. Wild animals are panther, tigercats, many bears, wolves and herds of deer, weighting no more than 150 pounds. Also closer to the Mexican border there are Buffalo. Besides we have alligators, opossums, skunks, beautiful birds, such as hummingbirds and eagles. And several sorts of snakes including rattlesnakes. But all these wild animals move away from humans. At present there are 3000 Germans in Galveston and 4000 more are expected. I wish I could get some poor (German) cottage people to move here. They all could acquire property and in a short time. Even the black people here are much happier than they are. They own horses and are riding around having fun. Dressmakers can make good money since no ready made dresses are imported. Tailors get $20.00 for a coat and $4.00 for pants. One can not work as many hours here as in Germany, one would get sick. Only black people can stand working in the heat. Greetings to all our friends and tell them that we are happy in Texas. Greet everybody at the gun club from us and all good citizens in town.

Signed: Fritz Sens.

P.S:If some one would want to build a sawmill or grain mill he would get the land free and could make good money. The only important things are establishing a good reputation and understanding the language. There is enough honey and sugar here. Raising sheep would be profitable. Soon I might buy some myself. One sheep in wool buys for only $1.50. A cow costs $10.00 and a horse $140.00. Captured wild horses cost only $70.00, are good to ride and do not eat grain. People drive seldom, but men, women and children do ride horses. Should some one be willing to leave his homeland , and through persistent work provide for himself a care free life here, I would ask him to bring me: 2 shoemaker knives, several pounds of hemp, Oerter (?), and shoe laces.On seed goods: fruit stones and seeds of gooseberries and currants. The last winter was very cold. People who are here for 30 years can't remember such a cold. Ice was 9 inches thick. Usually, winter here is like September in Germany. When it is 24 o'clock here, it is 7:30 AM in Germany.


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