The Immigration Diary of
Michael Friedrich Radke, 1848

This diary is presented to help us understand why families wished to leave Prussia/Germany, to emigrate to America or Australia, in the 1840's. This diary had been in the possession of Judith Radke Craig and her family of Huntingburg, Indiana, for many years. However, it was meaningless to them until translated by Mrs. Sabine Jordan, who was doing a study of German heritage in Dubois County, Indiana. The account, published in 1982, is presented here with minimal editing.
If only all families had such outstanding records written by their forefathers!

Family Stories Page

Michael Friedrich Radke
A son of the farmer, Christian Friedrich Radke
in Kyowsthal near the Battlement Old Stettin
in the Kingdom of Prussia, Germany, Europe

I was born in the year 1812, on January 7 in Kyowsthal. From 1806 to 1815 many bloody battles were fought against the French. All of Germany was inundated by the French who had penetrated into Russia. There God came to our help and said, "Up to here and not farther." Then God beat this evil enemy with great coldness and hunger, and the rest of the enemy saw themselves forced to retreat. And so the German people, with renewed strength and God's help and assistance, drove this great emperor Napoleon, with all of his power, out of Germany and to Paris in France.

Our Prussian king at the same time was Friedrich Wilhelm Rex, 3rd King of Prussia, who had to live through all of these times of need and battle. In 1840 he left this earthly life and went into his eternal home. In his place his son, the Crown Prince, started the government of the King and he is now 4th King of Prussia. He is also called Friedrich Wilhelm.

So in these years of war I was born. My father was a farmer who had to suffer many losses through this war. The entire village where my father lived was burned down by the French in 1812, so my parents and all the inhabitants of the village were burnt out. After the war my father rebuilt but sold the farm and built again a house and farm in Friedrichwilhelmsthal near Golnow, and so I learned to be a farmer like my father.

In the year 1828 my father died there, and since I was still too young in order to take over his business, my mother sold the farm. I learned to become a distiller and I was stationed on the properties of noblemen and a Yonkes [Junker?]. I also served in the Battlement of Old Stettin as a soldier with the 2nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Company, as Sergeant.

After the year 1834 I left the military. Then I had to work for myself, my mother, and 4 brothers and sisters, as head distiller. I had to take care of their livelihood because I was the oldest among my brothers and sisters. I had to take my father's role and had to take care of them. I have done what is a child's duty towards his elders and brothers and sisters. In 1836 I traveled to Berlin, which is the capitol of Prussia, 20 miles from Stettin, where after a short stay I got a job with Baron von der Rieben as head distiller, in Giesendorf 1 1/2 miles from Berlin.

The first of October 1837 I married a farmer's daughter, Caroline Wilhemine Bate, from Giesendorf. She was the daughter of the farmer Martin Bate from Sieten, located between Berlin and Potsdam. She was born on the 27th of March, 1811, in Sieten. She had worked for her parents on the farm. On the 16th of January, 1838, I came to the estate of Dalem, also 1 1/2 miles from Berlin, where I also worked as head distiller.

In the year 1839, the 7th of July, in the morning at 3 o'clock, a son was born to us. He received in holy baptism, in the Evangelical Church, the name Friedrich Wilhelm. In 1840 on October 22, we left Dalem and went to Charlottenburg, 1/2 mile from Berlin. On the first of April 1841, I was employed on the royal Thiergarten [a park] as overseer, and I took care of the gardening, that is, of the flower beds near the goldfish pond and the Floraplatz. The same year, on August 18, 1841, in the morning at 8 o'clock, a daughter was born to us in Charlottenburg. In holy baptism, in the Evangelical Church, she received the name Caroline Emilie Auguste.

In 1843, 13th of September, in the morning at 2 o'clock, a son was born, who in the Evangelical Church in holy baptism received the name Hermann Albert Rudolf.

In 1845, August 22 in Charlottenburg, a daughter was born who in holy baptism received the name Loise Therese Amalie. She died on the 4th of February, 1846. Her earthly life was 5 months and 13 days.

During my lifetime I had to fight through severe trials. I worked day and night and walked in many places, spent many a sleepless night, and the money I earned there was scarcely enough to feed my family. At the same time I saw thousands emigrate to different parts of the world, to America and Australia. When thinking about it more closely, I realized that all of these emigrations were nothing more than the fault of the poverty that progressed with gigantic steps. And so within me, too, rose the thought to emigrate!

It was my desire to bring my children, while they were still with me and not in different places, to a place where they could find work and bread, as long as they would work hard and be frugal, where each of them could prepare for a happy and calm future. In Germany the poor man compared to the rich man is like a despised creature, or like a scarcely noticed creeping worm, who must slither and creep along in the dust in order not to be stepped on to death. So it is that the poor man must adjust himself and bend himself under the rich, who nevertheless scarcely seem to notice him! The poor man slaves for the rich one, but once the poor man has completed his day's work, what did he earn for his sour sweat? Only 7 1/2 to 10 silver groschen--which is 20 cents in American money--and on that the poor man is supposed to live with his family, pay his rent and pay his royal taxes. If he doesn't pay punctually, all that he owns is taken away from him by officials of the law, so that gentlemen who already have enough will get what is theirs. If one appears before a court of law, or an official, or a police officer, he must always appear in a bent position and with a bare head.

What will become of the poor children? How many of them have to beg for their daily bread in front of people's doors? Parents who are still able to send their children to school have to pay the school, up until the children are 14 years old, money for books, clothing, food and drink. And after school is over, what is one to do with the children? They have learned professions where they are treated like dogs, to suffer hunger and thirst, and if they survive the difficult and miserable years of apprenticeship, what do they have? Then they become journeymen and they go to beg their bread in strange places before the doors of other people. And even if they get work, what do they earn as journeymen? The highest income per week is 1 Thaler--62 cents in American money. Or are the children to go into service and work for an entire year for nothing more than 6, 12 or 16 Thaler?

Speaking particularly of the boys, once they reach their 20th year, and are healthy, they must become soldiers and serve for 3 years. Now suffering starts, for during exercises and maneuvers they must endure hunger and thirst and cold. To keep them alive, every 5 days they receive one black loaf of bread, and every 10 days they receive 25 silver groschen. After 3 years of service a soldier is released from his regiment, and up to his 32nd year he is among the first to be called to the Landwehr [like the national guard]. Annually, 2 Sundays he must go for sharpshooting. For 2 and 3 Sundays he must go for meetings of his regiment. Every 2 years he must go for 14 days to 4 weeks for exercises and maneuvers. Then from his 32nd year on up to his 40th, he is with the 2nd regiment or 2nd level of troops. Even after his 40th year he continues to be a member of the Landsturm [like the civil defense].

During times of war, the Landwehr are the first troops to go to battle with the regiments that have just been drafted. The 2nd level of troops and the Landsturm must man the battlements. And so one is a soldier as long as one lives, and a tortured creature.

I was tired of this life, and therefore I decided to leave Germany with my wife to look for a better life in another part of the world, namely America. So on the 23rd of February, 1848, we traveled the 1/2 mile from Charlottenburg to Berlin. Our last residence was with a farmer, Ziehe, at Krume Strasse No. 13, in Charlottenburg.

Leaving was painful. I left there my youngest sister, Friederike, 21 years old and unmarried. The 26th of February, 1848, we traveled by railway from Berlin to Bremen, 54 German miles. In Bremen we stayed at the inn called Three Lions. Then on the 1st of March we traveled from Bremen to Bremerhaven, 7 German miles distance, where we boarded the 3-mast sailship called Johanis. In France a revolution had broken out, but in Germany everything was calm.

On the 5th of March, 1848, we left German soil. We were 226 emigrants. With God's help, and under the leadership of Captain von Fritzen of the Johanis, we sailed into the North Sea. It was about 75 German miles to the English Channel. We had a good wind and at 8 o'clock in the morning we saw the towers and the chalk cliffs of England. But then the wind blew in the wrong direction and drove us back again into the sea, where from the 8th until the 13th we had to fight against storm, thunder, lightning, hail and rain. The waves towered like high mountains before us, and deep abysses opened between them. During this time my wife, my oldest son, and several others on the ship became seasick, while my other children and I stayed healthy.

Early in the morning on the 13th, we again had a good wind and we came again to the coast of England, where once again we saw the towers and the chalk cliffs. This time we sailed into the German Canal between England and France, which leads into the Atlantic Ocean. On our right side we saw England and the city of Dover and several other villages, and on our left in the far distance we saw France and the city of Galle. On the 14th we saw big whales--the sailors thought this meant a strong wind or storm ahead.

15th [of March, 1848]: Not good wind, stormy and rainy weather.

16th: We got into the ocean, good wind and sunshine. 1,000 German miles until we will reach Baltimore.

17th: Almost completely calm.

18th: Calm and warm sunshine.

19th: Weak but good wind, and warm sunshine.

20th: Stormy and bad wind--waves frequently break over our ship.

21st: Not good wind, and the sky was cloudy. In the afternoon we saw several big fish near our ship.

22nd: Not good wind, the sky light and clear.

23rd: Strong bad winds and rain.

24: In the morning almost completely calm. In the evening good winds and nice weather.

25: Rather good wind and warm sunshine.

26: Good wind, overcast weather. Several swine fish [porpoises] followed us, length 3 to 4 feet. Their heads looked like those of pigs.

27: Strong good wind, also sunshine. Last night the winds were so strong that the waves frequently splashed over our ship.

28: Stormy but good wind. The waves frequently blew over our ship. Sometimes it rained. I fell down on deck and so had to stay in bed all day.

29: Strong good wind with sunshine.

30: Strong good wind, very warm sunshine. We saw birds, sometimes white, sometimes black, and as big as pigeons.

31: Weak but good wind, also pleasant warmth without sunshine. We saw a ship nearby which turned out to be an American ship.

1st [of April, 1848]: Weak good winds, somewhat overcast but very warm.

2nd: Somewhat stronger good winds, and occasional warm weather.

3rd: Weak good wind, very warm sunshine. A very great fish was seen near our ship.

4: Very stormy rainy weather.

5: Stormy but rather favorable weather, sometimes sunshine, otherwise overcast. We saw sea swallows and other sea birds, and also flying fish which can fly and swim. We also saw a kind of fish called dolphin. They follow those flying fish in the water so that the flying fish found they had to fly out of the water.

6: Very weak favorable wind, warm sunshine.

7: Pure calm, great heat. We were so far south that we were at the 27th degree of the Tropic of Cancer.

8: Rather favorable wind and warm sunshine. A fish was caught by the sailors--a dolphin.

9: Almost completely calm.

10: Complete calm. Great swarms of fish--dolphins--were near our ship, and also sea swallows.

11: In the morning a violent storm started, which became stronger and stronger during the day. It seems as if all of us will perish. Raining weather, many flying fish and a kind of sea gull.

12: Rather favorable wind and sunshine. Great swarms of flying fish.

13: Completely calm. In the evening we saw a ship in the far distance.

14: Not very favorable wind, warm sunshine.

15: Pure calm, warm sunshine.

16: Rather favorable wind and warm sunshine.

17: Rather favorable wind and strong rain.

18: Favorably wind but very stormy, so the waves often splashed over our ship.

19: Pure calm, very warm sunshine. Towards evening we saw great whales near our ship. At night at 11 o'clock a severe storm arose, so that all sails had to be capped.

20: During the day the storm grew stronger and stronger, so that we saw around us high mountainous waves and deep abysses. And sometimes our ship is beaten by strong waves and we give up hope of surviving the furious, foaming, wildly raging sea. We wait and expect with longing our new fatherland. This trip! This trip! The long far trip.

21: Good Friday. With morning the stormy weather calmed a little bit. During the day we had rather favorable winds. During the day we saw in our neighborhood 4 ships sailing to Europe. One that came from the West Indies, then to North America--some of its men came on board of our ship and purchased food from our captain.

22: Pure calm. In the far distance two ships.

23: First day of Easter. Very good favorable winds. In the far distance we could see one ship.

24: Unfavorable winds. We are now in the gulf stream. Whales, pig fish, many sea swallows and sea gulls. We saw 3 ships, and in a small distance we saw a thunderstorm.

25: In the morning at 1 o'clock we passed through the gulf stream. It was very cold but we had a good favorable wind. When the daylight came we saw one ship. One great great fish, and whole swarms of birds. At 9:30 in the far distance we saw a ship with its flag pulled up, and we did the same. At 10 o'clock a pilot came on board our ship, and he took over the command of the ship. After that we saw one other ship. In the afternoon at 3 o'clock, in the far distance we saw American land, what a joy! Towards evening we got into the bay, a great wide stream which leads to Baltimore. On our left side we had the coast of America with thick forests.

26: Completely calm. Dark rainy weather. On our left side we have the state of Virginia with thick forests, some houses and lighthouses. On our right side in the far distance we saw individual groups of trees. We saw entire swarms of big fish, a lot of sea and water birds, as well as geese and ducks. The rising and setting of the sun was charming to see.

27: It was almost completely calm. Big fish, many ducks and many herons. On our left side we saw a beautiful, charming mountain range with trees and bushes. During the night it was completely calm, and we put out our anchor.

28: Rather favorable wind, warm sunshine. On our left side we saw the city of Annapolis, and individual houses, also small windmills, beautiful green fields and blossoming fruit trees. Towards evening we saw the city of Baltimore in the distance. During the night we had to be put on anchor.

29: Early in the morning at 4 o'clock, everybody had to be washed and dressed. Afterwards we floated for a small distance in front of the city of Baltimore. There we had to be in quarantine. At quarter past 9 the ship's officers and a doctor came who looked us over so nobody would be sick. Then since they had nothing to object to, the anchor was raised, the sails were put up, and we approached the city of Baltimore. When we landed a new official came and checked all of the things we had brought along, to see whether there was anything that was taxable. Afterwards we went to the Darmstaetter Gasthoff [that is, the Darmstaet Inn] in the Peint, where we stayed until the first of May.

1st [of May, 1848]: To my horror and astonishment I learned in Baltimore from the newspaper, that all over Germany a revolution had broken out. In Berlin such terrible things happened on the 18th and 19th of March, 1848, that many thousands of people lost their lives. I said, God be thanked that I'm not there.

2nd: Early in the morning, I and several people from Baltimore [this group apparently included the whole Radke family] went by train to Columbi [Columbia, Pennsylvania], then we went into a big canal boat which was pulled by horses. During this trip from Baltimore to Columbi, we saw many settlements, high rocky mountains with marble chalk and rocks, and different kinds of woods. All the trees and bushes were in most beautiful blossom.

3rd: Our trip continued on the canal boat. On both sides of the canal we saw rocky mountains which thrust up to the skies. They were all overgrown with trees and bushes, and we passed through several settlements.

7th: We arrived in Harrisburg.

8th: At Harrisburg our boat was taken on a train. We had to travel over 5 high mountain ranges, sometimes also underneath them, through them. It was very hot during this time of day, then at night it was cold and rainy. We usually had thunderstorms each day. When we went through the rocky mountains we passed through tunnels approximately 5 to 6 thousand feet in length and we didn't see any daylight.

10: We came to Schanston, and again into a canal. During the night we didn't move.

11: From Schanston we continued on the canal. On both sides are high rocky mountains, all kinds of squirrels and different pretty birds. Rainy weather.

12: Our canal again leads through a high mountain, approximately 5 to 6 thousand feet of tunnel, and again we saw no daylight. After that a stream went under our canal, approximately 50 to 60 feet lower than we, and the water of this river was navigable for steamships. It is rainy weather.

13: In the morning there was a strong frost. During the day the sky was clear. One both sides we had rocky mountains, salt factories, and several settlements far distant from each other. Towards noon we came to Friburg. During the night the canal bridge had burned down, and we had to wait there until the 17th of May. It was very hot during the day, while during the night it was cold and frosty.

17: We left our canal boat and went into a steamship which was also called Stimmboth [steamboat], and on the same afternoon we arrived in Pittsburgh.

I immediately rented an apartment and bought the necessary furniture, but I didn't have any work until the 3rd of July. Then I got work at the Schoeneberg Steelmill where I earned $4.50 per week. But it was heavy hard work, work such as I had never done before. Every month I had to pay $4.50 rent. I worked in the Schoeneberg Steelmill until the 15th of November, 1849 [more than one year], but with my daily work and earnings I was unable to save anything because both rent and food cost too much.

On the 8th of May, 1849, to our joy, a son was born to us, who in holy baptism received the names August Ludwig Franz.

And since I couldn't make any progress in Pittsburgh, I decided to choose something else, and that is farming. So on the 15th of November, 1849, I traveled from Pittsburgh to the state of Indiana, near Jasper, Dubois County, a distance of 930 miles. There I rented land, and there I lived after all better and made better progress.

Here in the state of Indiana a daughter was born to us on the 13th of January, 1851, who in holy baptism received the names Maria Elizabeth. After a short time my dear wife and children became ill, that is, they suffered from red dysentery. I thought they would all depart from me, but with God's help they became healthy again, except for our youngest son, August, born in Pittsburgh. Him our dear Lord took back to Him into His eternal realm of joy on June 10, 1851. His lifetime was 2 years, 1 month and 2 days.

This for us has left behind a great sorrow and pain, but let us all sing the song:

That which God has done is done well.
His will be done as He does His things--I will hold my peace.
He is my God, and with all my needs, He knows how to keep me.
Therefore, I let His will be done.


Friedrich W. Radke: I was born July 17, 1839.
My dear wife, Ana Radke, was born the 27th of May, 1842.
We married on the 5th of October, 1862.
My dear wife died in the Lord on the 12th of January, 1873.
May she rest in peace.
She was a dear wife to me, and to the children a good Mother.
Honor be to her memory.

Catharina Radke was born, 3rd August 1863.
Wilhelm Phillip Radke was born the 9th of November, 1864.
George August Radke was born the 24th of October, 1866.
August Friedrich Radke was born the 22nd of September, 1868,
and died the 22nd of August, 1869.
Jacob Radke was born the 4th of October, 1870.

Ana Margretha Radke was born 6 September, 1874,
died the 31st of October, 1875.
Rest in peace, my dear child,
sleep well my dear child in your cool grave
until the Lord will get us together again up above
where nothing is but eternal joy and blessedness.
[Ana Margretha Radke was a daughter of Friedrich Radke
and his second wife, Kate (Meyer) Radke,
whom he married on July 21, 1873.]

Friedrich W. Radke, born the 17th of July, 1839,
died the 22nd of March, 1878.

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