Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 January 2013
In 1881 a seventeen-year-old boy apprenticed to a mortician in the town of Oldenburg faced conscription into the German army. Like many others in his region, Ignatz felt no particular loyalty to the new German Reich, nor did he have any interest in military service, so he decided to leave home for America. Lacking money and papers, his only choice was to stow away on a ship leaving Bremen bound for New York. On board he met a seventeen-year-old girl named Anna, from nearby Nordwalde, who was traveling to America with her parents and her two sisters. When the ship's authorities searched for stowaways, she managed to hide him under her down comforter. Perhaps not surprisingly, by the time the ship reached New York Ignatz and Anna had become good friends, and the girl's family agreed that the boy should accompany them to Hanover, Kansas, where they knew other recent German immigrants and planned to make their home. When they arrived in Hanover, Ignatz found there was already a mortician in the town, so he decided to become a carpenter. Soon he and Anna married, his carpentry business flourished, they had ten children, and their family became a permanent part of the town. Because Ignatz and Anna were my great grandparents, I have always had more than a passing interest in the subject of German immigration to America during these years.