Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Coming to America

Back in the 1800s, August Meissner fought in the Franco-Prussian war (on the German side).  After he was injured, and seeing the direction his beloved homeland was headed, he struck out for America, leaving behind his wife and four young children.  That was 1895.  Later the same year, his wife, Ida gathered up the kids - Olga (4), Wilhelm (3), Emil (2), and Frieda (6 mos) - and loaded them onto a Norddeutscher Lloyd steamship (whose name on the manifest is illegible) headed for Baltimore.  It took them 12 days to arrive.

I can't imagine what poor Ida went through - the only adult traveling across the ocean with four small children.  It lends a whole new wrinkle to the phrase 'are we there yet?'  (Of course, 70 years later my own mother would travel from Idaho to Michigan with four small children - ages 5,4,2 and less than 1 - but that coincidence is a whole other story.)

Thanks to my great-grandfather's sound thinking and Great-Grandma Ida's fortitude, the Meissners made it to America - land of the free, home of the brave, a place where he could raise his family without fear of the war that ravaged his own homeland.  August and Ida had a dream of freedom, and despite the trials they had to go through to get here, they made a good life for a little family that would swell over the years as they added 5 more children.

I'm sure they missed Germany.  But they loved their new home.  They had to - after all, they instilled that love in Wilhelm, who passed his own love of the U.S.A. to his youngest child, Charles.  And Chuck?  Well, he passed it along to me.

Back L to R: August, Wilhelm, my Uncle Ken.
Front: my dad, Charles

This may not be the best place every single instant of every single day, but there's still no place I'd rather live.  And if, all those years ago, August had been a weaker man and thought 'well, Germany sucks, but moving halfway around the world is scary, so I'll stay'?  Well, I'm guessing Wilhelm would've been goose-stepping with the rest of the Nazis.  Or imprisoned for not wanting to fight.  Or dead. 

So, on this day, I'd like to say thank you to August and Ida Meissner.  You gave independence to a long line of little Meissners after you, and I am eternally grateful.

And thank you to our Founding Fathers for creating a country where a man could come to be free.

Happy Independence Day, Everyone!  I hope your day is filled with the joy and fun that only freedom can bring.  =o)


  1. What a great story and beautifully told!
    My history is similar - replace Russia for Germany and replace Canada for U.S. :D

  2. Great story and picture, B.E. Like Wendy, I am a Canuck ("Our home and native land", I thought while we're singing national anthems and all). I, too, am from immigrants - recent ones as I am first generation Canadian - and I often thank my parents for taking the risk to come to Canada instead of staying in Scotland. I know my life is vastly different than my cousins still in the homeland.

    Happy Independence Day, B.E.!!

  3. Thanks, Wendy. I think all us North Americans have similar stories somewhere in our ancestry. How neat is that?

    Thanks, Janet. You're so lucky. Not only that your family came over the big pond, but that they speak English. You have no idea how hard it is trying to find out stuff when you don't read the language. German's a bear - what with it's weird stylized letters and junk. And thanks for the Independence Day wishes. =o)

  4. Hello BE Sanderson. I was searching for information about my ancestors and came across your blog post. I think we’re related! :-). My name is Jim Meissner, I live in Troy and my Dad (Cliff Meissner) is/was a 1st cousin to your father. My Dad’s father was Emil. Take care and thanks for posting your blog. Incidentally, I believe Frieda died on the way over from Europe. The children that I am aware of who survived and thrived in the U.S. include: Bill (your Grandfather), Emil (my Grandfather), John, Edward (Eddie), Olga, Helen, Lydia, Anna and Bertha.

  5. B.E. Sanderson. I thoroughly enjoyed your Coming To America blog entry, which I found as a result of some family related internet searching I was recently attempted. Yes, we appear to be related! :-). My dad and your dad are/were 1st cousins, as my dad’s father (and my grandfather) was Emil Meissner. A couple of interesting facts that I’m aware of. The sibling named Frieda actually died before the family immigrated (don’t know the circumstances, but have a paper copy of the baptismal ledger from the church which marks her as deceased). This would make sense as the nine siblings who survived and either immigrated or were born here include: Your grandfather Bill, my grandfather Emil, John, Edward (Eddie), Olga, Helen, Lydia, Anna and Bertha. Thanks again for your post!