HISTORY OF THE MEGEL FAMILY
CARL J. MEGEL(1)
(1) Editor's Note: This story, interesting for the verbal picture of Nicholas Megel was written by Carl Megel from recollections of a story told him by his grandfather. Some of the details, such as the family's place of origin in France, should not be taken literally since they do not correspond with documented facts.
Contributed to Jennings County INGenWeb by Joe Ogle
This is the story told to me in December, 1922, by my grandfather Nick Megel when he was 89 years old, yet his mind was crystal clear. I will tell it as he told me that evening.
"We lived in a stone house in Metz, France. We lived in this small house, with a stable under the kitchen-where we kept a cow, a pig-and two to three sheep. From the wool our mother made all of our clothes. We had 2 1/2 acres of land, from which we raised all the food we ever had. So, you can see we were very poor.
One Sunday evening, there came a knock at the door. My Mother opened the door. A Jewish merchant stood there and spoke to my mother in this fashion:
'Are you Mrs. Megel?'
'Yes, she replied.
'Did you have a son who died in service?'
Yes, my son Bernard died in service.,
'Well, do you now have a son ready to go into service?'
'Yes, my son Peter must now go.'
'Well, that is why I am here.
'The law says that if one son dies in service, the next one does not need to go. Now I have a son ready to go but the law allows any boy to pay for some other boy to go in his place. So, I will pay 2000 francs ($500) if Peter will go for my son for the required two years. If you agree, meet me at the mayor's office in the morning.
Now, Carl, 2000 francs to us was a gold mine. So we all went down to see the mayor. But, the mayor had a son who was getting
ready to enter service. So he said, 'I have a son and I want Peter to go for my son. I can only pay 1200 francs, but I'll not sign any contract except
for my son, so take it or leave it.' Peter took the money, gave it to his mother, and told her to buy that 1 1/2 acres of land next to ours which was
Peter left for service and now the family with one less mouth to feed and with 4 acres of land instead of 2 1/2- acres, lived much
Two years later, Peter returned from service. With the money he had saved, he bought a ticket for America and located in a French
community named "Cheviot" just outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. Letters came now and then, until one day mother wrote Peter that Nick was now 16 and must go
to service. Soon a letter came from Peter telling mother to sell as much of the land, which she bought with his 1200 francs, to buy a ticket for Nick to
come to Cheviot where he had a job for him. This was a happy but also a sad time for the family. Happy that I was going to America instead of the service,
a duty hated by all, but sad since they knew and I knew I would never see any of them again. I never did.
And Carl, When I told one of my boyfriends that I was going to America, his folks thought it would be a good idea for him to go along
and also miss the service stint. In a big box, our folks packed food for us, as we had no money. We went by train from Metz to LaHavre, France, where we got
on a boat for New York.
After days and days on the ocean, sea sick many days, we arose this particular morning and when we opened our food box, we had only a
handful of raisins for our breakfast. Fortunately, one hour later we heard the welcome cry, 'Land ho!
As I got off the boat in the New York harbor, I had no food left and only one franc in my pocket. I then got on another boat and sailed
up the Hudson River, through the Erie Canal, down Lake Erie to Buffalo, from where I took a train to Cincinnati. Peter met me there and took me to Cheviot.
Here I worked for a family doing routine chores. My main problem was language. The family spoke only English and I spoke only French and
German. I was paid board, room, laundry and $9 per month. After two years, I got a raise of $2, so that now I was being paid $11 per month. At the end of five
years, I had $500 in the bank.
During those five years, I met many former Metz citizens. A family with whom I spent much time was the Oliger Family, who came to America
in 1834, thirty-five years before I came. I was especially interested in one of the three granddaughters. Then her father Wendel came to me and said a cousin of
his, Adam Oliger, had a farm 80 miles west in Indiana, which he could buy for $500. He asked me if I would lend him my $500. I did not think much of the idea,
but I could not say no. Finally, I gave him the money with sadness in my heart, since when they left, not only my money but my heart's desire drove so far away.
However, a year later they returned. Wendel came to me and said he could not make it on the farm. He said he could not pay me the $500, but
he would deed the farm to me if I wanted it.
I did not want to lose my money, and I had my doubts about the farm. But when I talked it over with "Mary," she said she knew it would be
hard but she said she was sure we could make it if we tried. So, on January 9, 1859, we got married. I was 26 and Mary was 16. You, Carl, attended our Golden
Wedding on January 9, 1909.
Well we drove to Indiana a few days after our wedding. It took us 8 days. When we got there, we found a one-room cabin and not much else.
We had it very hard, but we made it. After some two years, a farm one mile south was for sale. I wrote to my brother Peter, and he came down and bought it. He
lived there until he died.
My son Jake, your uncle Jake, bought that farm and lives there now. My son Pete, your father, bought the other part of the original Adam
Oliger farm where you live now."
But, he told me something I never forgot and which affected my life very much. He said, "Carl, your grandmother and I had it very hard in
our early days here on the farm. We had it very hard in Metz too. But, there was one big difference: in America you have an opportunity to get an education. And
if in America you have an education, there is no limit to far you can go." I always considered it a profound statement, coming from a man who had never gone to
school a single day in his life.
One more item about my grandfather. I said he spoke only French and German when he came to America. When his children started to school,
each evening--on the farm in those days the evenings were long and lonesome -- he sat with them each evening and learned to read and write English. He did so well,
that when I knew him, he received and read from cover-to-cover three daily newspapers: The Indianapolis News, The Cincinnati Enquirer the Louisville Courier Journal.
But, best of all, he had a marvelous memory, some of which I inherited; so he could retell what he read perfectly.
Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas Megel Celebrate Their Golden Wedding
North Vernon Sun, Friday, January 8, 1909
St. Joseph's church at Four COrners witnessed a rare scene on Tuesday last, January 5th. Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas Megel, well known and highly
respected in their congregation as wellas in their neighborhood of Hayden and North Vernon, celebrated their golden wedding jubilee, the 50th anniversary of their
marriage, amidst a host of friends and acquaintances and among the happy faces of their five children and twenty-one grandchildren.
The services in St. Jospeph's church began at 10 o'clock. A solemn high mass was celebrated at the occasion, Rev. J. Schueth the pastor, being
celebrant, assisted by the Rev. Fathers Widerin, of North Vernon, Loible, of Borden, and Zogleman of St. Ann. A large number of parishioners joined the jubilarians, who
renewed the marriage vows, in offering the holy sacrafice of mass in thanksgiving for the many blessings God had bestowed upon them during the fifty years of their
After the services the whole relationship accompanied the venerable couple to spend the day at their home, where a sumptuous dinner was served
to sixty-one persons.
The five living children are: J.N. Megel, Mrs. P. Speck, P. Megel, N.J. Megel and Mrs. J. Haley.
Invited for the occasion and present were, outside of the relatives and friends of home, Emma Scheid and Aurelia Huelsmann, Cincinnati, O., Mr.
and Mrs. Andrew Haley, North Vernon, Mr. and Mrs. Balser Kirsch, Seymour and John Gerth, Cabery, Ill.
The hours only sped too fast for the happy gathering of young and old and when at late hour the visitors said a last word of kind wishes, they
left convinced to have helped make the day a success, honoring a man and woman, who as father and mother in their family life and as citizens in public life are a credit
and an example in the church to which they belong and in the community in which they live.
May many years yet be theirs.
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