Lisa’s Genealogy Online

Eleanor (Maria Elizabeth) Boehning

Female 1830 - 1905  (75 years)

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  • Name Eleanor (Maria Elizabeth) Boehning 
    Gender Female 
    Born 27 April 1830  Hannover, Niedersachsen, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Immigration 1843  Baltimore Co., Maryland, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    Death Notice Death notice, Dec. 28, 1905, Cleveland Plain Dealer
    TONSING, Mrs. F., died December 27. Funeral Friday, December 29, at 1:30 pm., sun time, from late residence on Dunham rd., stop 9, A.B.C. line. 
    Residence(s) 1843: Linne 41, Barkhausen, Hannover, Germany
    1900: Bedford Twp., Cuyahoga Co., Ohio  [2, 3
    Died 27 December 1905  [1
    Buried 29 December 1905  Garfield Heights, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, USA Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Headstones Submit Headstone Photo Submit Headstone Photo 
    Person ID I1689  Lisa's Genealogy
    Last Modified 12 December 2004 

    Father Herman Heinrich Boehning,   b. about 1798, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1873, Cleveland, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 75 years) 
    Mother Maria Eleanora Stoffer-Blase,   b. about 1799, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location,   bur. 1851, Cleveland, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 51 years) 
    Married 1821  [2
    Residence(s) 1850: Newburgh town, Cuyahogo Co., Ohio  [4
    Family ID F3431  Family Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family/Spouse Johann Frederich Tonsing,   b. 27 February 1825, Linnerheide, Wittlage, Hannover, Niedersachsen, Germany Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 13 November 1886, Bedford, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 61 years) 
    Married 5 November 1847  Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  [5, 6
    Residence(s) 16 Nov 1855: purchased 40 or 100 acres (Lot 1) in T6W R12, Independence twp.
    1860: Independence Twp., Cuyahoga Co., Ohio
    1875-1880: Bedford Twp., Cuyahoga Co., Ohio  [7, 8
     1. Heinrich F. Tonsing,   b. 21 July 1850, Ohio, USA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 4 May 1878, Bedford Twp., Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 27 years)
     2. John Frederick Tonsing,   b. 27 September 1852, Cleveland, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, USA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 9 August 1909, Bedford Twp., Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 56 years)
    +3. Johann Heinrick Tonsing,   b. 4 January 1855, Independence Twp., Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, USA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 27 December 1919, Bedford Twp., Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 64 years)
    +4. Anna M. E. Tonsing,   b. 4 April 1857, Ohio, USA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 30 April 1933  (Age 76 years)
     5. Clamer Frederick Louis Tonsing,   b. 7 July 1859, Bedford Twp., Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, USA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 29 June 1886, Bedford Twp., Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 26 years)
     6. Elinor M. Tonsing,   b. 1860,   d. June 1882  (Age 22 years)
    +7. Regina Marie Tonsing,   b. 7 September 1861, Ohio, USA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 28 October 1930  (Age 69 years)
     8. Henry Tonsing,   b. 1867,   d. 1894  (Age 27 years)
     9. Johann William Tonsing,   b. 2 March 1867, Bedford Twp., Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, USA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 14 June 1886, Bedford Twp., Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 19 years)
     10. Frederick Tonsing,   b. 31 December 1867, Bedford, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, USA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 16 May 1870, Bedford, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 2 years)
     11. Sophia Tonsing,   b. 22 July 1871, Bedford, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, USA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 4 May 1880, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, USA Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 8 years)
     12. Martin E. Tonsing,   b. December 1873, Ohio, USA Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. about June 1890  (Age ~ 16 years)
    Family ID F1050  Family Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Notes 
    • The Immigration Story of
      Ernst Bohning, 1843

      What was it like to be onboard the ship, Marianne, in the autumn of 1843? Until now, we have had to rely on stories of other German immigrants sailing on different ships during years other than 1843. Now, thanks to Jill Carter Knuth of Stanford, California, we have a first-hand account! This is truly a family treasure, and it is also an historical find of considerable importance to other Marianne families!


      By Ernst Bohning
      The Emigration Story of Hermann Heinrich Bohning & Maria Eleanora Stoffer-Blase And Their Children
      From Barkhausen, Kingdom of Hanover, Prussia To Cleveland, Ohio, 1842 and 1843 As Told By Their Third Son

      Thinking About America

      [1] By 1842, several people from our neighborhood had already gone to America, but we knew next to nothing about their reasons for emigrating. As far back as 1832 a tailor named Friedrich Borges had left. After several years, we heard he was living in Cleveland, Ohio, and doing well. He had become a master tailor and had his own shop. My mother's brother, August Blase, had gone with him. Borges wrote that Uncle Blase had joined the Shakers in Albany. We never heard directly from August himself. A couple of years before we left, two other people had gone. One of them was a musician. The other was a rich farmer who came back to Germany having lost everything.

      [2] In our village, that was all we knew about America. We thought we could trust what Borges had written. Everything had gone well for him. So very slowly and gradually, we began to think of emigrating ourselves. The knowledge that Borges had succeeded influenced us strongly. Whenever we asked what America looked like and what the living conditions were like, we got contrary comments. The usual replies were:

      So, you're thinking of going to America?

      I wouldn't have thought you'd consider that.

      My advice is stay in this country and earn your food honestly.

      You know what you have here.

      The main question is, are there enough boiled potatoes?

      Get this stupid idea out of your head. That's my advice.

      [3] We knew very well what we had, namely eight Morgen of good land, located by the river, and good enough to get by on. Nevertheless my Father was not satisfied, for life went on in an endless cycle of manure wagon, spinning wheel, pumpernickel, sour milk and boiled potatoes. What's more, there were nine children in the family, five of them boys. If we stayed, they might be drafted in the next war, and be shot to death for the King and the Fatherland. Father had been a soldier himself, and he did not want that fate for his sons. So the thought of leaving remained in his head. He knew enough about America to know that no one would be forced to become a soldier. However, it was a long way from these thoughts to making a definite decision.

      An Advance Party

      [4] It so happened that Ernst Borges, the brother of the tailor Friedrich Borges in Cleveland, who was mentioned earlier, decided to emigrate with his young family. Father declared that his oldest son, Heinrich, who would soon be drafted, would join Borges. Friederich Tonsing, a schoolmate of my brother, also went along. All three of them traveled in the spring of 1842, with Cleveland as their destination. This was the advance scout of our family, in a way, a reconnaissance patrol. We could rely on what they would report, and that would determine what the whole family would do. Borges and my father were cousins; their mothers were sisters.

      [5] We anxiously waited for the first reports to arrive. In August they came, and were favorable. They convinced my father. My father had definitely decided to go in spite of much advice and many warnings against emigration, and the horror stories about America that were brought to our house every day. On top of this negative advice, my mother began to have strong doubts. Luckily for us, Father was stubborn. He stood firm.

      Preparing to Leave

      [6] At last, we kids shouted, "Hooray, we are going to America!" We had no idea what lay ahead of us on the long journey. In the spring of 1843, we found a buyer who paid us 1600 Thaller for our house and land in Barkhausen, but left us the crop. We began our trip to America in August 1843. The last things we sold were the family dog and cat. The kitty brought 24 Groschen, or 48 cents.

      [7] At that point we said, "I sadly cry, 'Old house, good-bye!' " In fact, tears flowed freely. The farewell from the church made the family especially heavy-hearted. By the way, we didn't go alone. Two other families from Barkhausen left with us, namely the Blases and the Langenkamps. So we were together with good friends.

      [8] Our [1843 traveling] family consisted of ten people; the head of the family, Herman Heinrich Bohning; our mother Maria Eleanora, born Blase; the oldest daughter, Elizabeth, who was older than the oldest son Heinrich who had already migrated. Then there was Friederich, almost 17 years old, followed by Elsabein and Eleanora. After these came me, Ernst, who is making these notes, and who was ten years old at the time. William was two years younger, then Johann, and finally the toddler, Maria.

      Starting off to Bremerhaven

      [9] We began the trip to Bremerhaven with our chests and boxes in a big hay wagon. We were joined by other farm families, including some young guys who were a lot of fun. However, the children had to spend some very uncomfortable days sitting on the chests and in among the baggage, and we wished we were in Bremen where the beautiful ship waited for us. At least that is what they told us kids.

      [10] I had to sit on the edge of a chest with one leg stretched out and the other bent under me. What's more, we suffered from terrible heat and burning thirst in the linen-covered wagon. The trip to America was already starting to look a little less bright to me. "Just be patient until we get to Bremen," they told us. "Then we'll get on the beautiful ship that will take us quickly over the ocean. That's where all of our troubles will come to an end."

      [11] On the evening of the third day, we were finally there. Hungry, tired, stiff and sore, we stood at the corner of the restaurant where our wagon was unhitched. Whimpering, we waited for dinner and bed.

      [12] Early the next morning after we had eaten a really good breakfast, our belongings were loaded on a barge which would go that afternoon to Bremerhaven. Meanwhile, we had time to see the town. We roamed around at random until we came to a beautiful, big church. Of all the sights we saw, we liked this best. We stayed there for a long time, for it was a Lutheran church, and we prayed hard for a good crossing. We also saw the giant, Roland. "Roland the Giant" is a statue, standing straight and stiff, by the town hall in Bremen. Somebody told us this phrase, and it stuck in our minds.

      [13] After we had lunch at our lodgings, we continued on the fourth day of our journey. We went on a barge that floated downstream on the Weser River. Oh, this was a lot better than being under the boxes and chests in the wagon. For a while we were happy-go-lucky, then suddenly we got stuck on a sand bar. It seemed like the river was draining away. This frightened us children very much. But the sailors calmed us down and said, "In two hours there will be enough water, then we can go on." We hadn't heard about high and low tides before. They were right; in two hours, more water came into the Weser from the ocean, and we sailed happily on. It seemed wonderful to me that water could flow uphill.

      Arrival at Bremerhaven

      [14] The next afternoon we reached Bremerhaven, and our barge was brought to the side of a large three-master. At last, this was the nice big ship that would bring us into the land of Canaan. We children were delighted and pleased with the big monster, where there was a lot going on. But for the time being, only our belongings were loaded. We had to go back temporarily into the town. We went to the Emigration House, where for some, the high life continued.

      [15] Those of us who preferred to see something roamed around the harbor and looked at the many ships that lay there. Most interesting to us, of course, was our own ship, and we happily watched the way the sailors were stowing our belongings. They were also friendly to us children and could even speak low German, which pleased me very much. One said, "You guys better step aside if you like your legs." I wouldn't have said anything even if he had spoken to me in a different way and said, "Rascal, why are you standing here staring?" -- or even if he had even given me a little kick in the backside.

      [16] Finally on the morning of the seventh day, with 182 [sic] passengers, we boarded the ship, and immediately afterward the sailors lifted anchor.

      Across the Atlantic on the Ship Marianne

      [17] The quarters we had were not very nice, and did not come up to our expectations. They were made of rough lumber, nailed together to make compartments, each one holding four people. They were located directly below the upper deck, one compartment on top of another like in a barracks. In the upper compartment it was hardly possible to sit upright, while the lower ones were six to seven feet high. Here we had to live and sleep. These bunks were at the sides of the hold. In the middle were our boxes and chests and other luggage. In this "home" there were no windows. A steep ladder at each end led to the upper deck. There was only a little light coming through the stair hatches, and in the middle of the hold it was dark. So this was the "beautiful" boat we had dreamed about.

      [18] For a while we did not go below, but stayed on deck and watched the coast and the Fatherland slowly disappear. That's when nearly everyone's eyes became moist, and the women dabbed at their eyes with the corners of their aprons. We children and the young men were excited and in good spirits. I hoped the journey would last a long time, and when I asked my father how long the trip would be, he answered, "That's up to God."

      [19] Soon it was night and we crept into our bunks. But we didn't go to sleep for a long time because the young folks played tricks and joked, and it was late before nature took over and everyone fell asleep.

      [20] However, before long that night, a storm came up. It made the joints of the ship creak, and tossed everything back and forth. It made a racket I shall never forget. Our cooking pots, kettles, cans, plates and cups (which were fortunately all made of tin) flew around in the room as if they were being thrown by someone. The trunks did not stay in one place, but slid back and forth. In addition, there was the noise of the sea, the whipping and howling of the wind, the running of sailors over our head, and the shouted commands of the captain. [See a similar description in the words of Charles Dickens.]

      [21] Below, it was really pitch-dark, and on top of everything else, we began to feel seasick. It was a miserable feeling that went into us and then poured out again through the heart and mouth. Every one of us thought his last hour had come. Everything the Old Adam had taken in before, he now had to give back again. We prayed to the living God that he would rescue us from this danger. He did; toward morning the weather turned pleasant and calm and we felt moved to thank God for saving us. We began singing a hymn, and somebody read aloud from the Bible how our Lord Jesus and his disciples sailed over Lake Gennesaret and he stilled the rage of the storm.

      [22] The sermon was preached by a man named Koring, a farmer coming from Prussia. He and his wife were both short and fat and so were both of their children , who also had very small slit-eyes. But they were good, pleasant people. Koring continued as our Pastor during the entire trip, and each Sunday we had a church service, with the captain and most of the sailors taking part as well.

      Captain Weiting

      [23] God had heard our petitions and had led us to a ship with an honest and decent crew. The captain was a splendid man who was especially devoted to us children. He probably had a family of his own at home, and that's why he was so good to us. When he patted us on the cheek, he did it with such tenderness, it touched our hearts. The trip on the "Marianna," as our three-master was called, was very good, as far as the handling of the passengers and the food was concerned, and considering the conditions of the times.

      [24] Wieting, as the captain was called, once laid his hand on my head and said to me, "Boy, you are quite smart and strong. If you eat well for a few years, I could then use you on my ship." He impressed me so much, I would have gone with him right there. In the meantime, my brothers and sisters and myself helped ourselves to the plentiful supply of salted and preserved meat. The other food was not so tasty, but it was very filling. Syrup and plums were considered a delicacy, but we didn't touch them. We couldn't think of anything more unappetizing. There were plenty of potatoes boiled in their skins, and ship's hardtack bread which we softened in coffee. We couldn't have bitten into it dry; but soaked, and with butter added, it tasted delicious.

      [25] The captain let the old folks and those who were sick have special meals from his kitchen. Naturally, they were better than ours were, and this action really showed his humanity and goodness. As the master is, so are the servants. With the exception of one sailor, all the seamen were good-hearted people who were helpful in every way, and made our lives easier. Others, specifically my older brother, who had made the journey before us, had not had such good going. My brother complained later that he had an underhanded captain and a rough crew on his ship, and the passengers had almost died of hunger.

      Friends and Happenings

      [26] The young fellows who were with us on the ship constantly played tricks and joked. There were two of them I still remember with pleasure. One by the name of W. Brinker actually came to Cleveland with us.

      [27] Even more fun was Faber, who was as good as a sailor when it came to climbing the mast. Once he climbed up the fore mast and from the very top, with arms crossed, delivered a speech to us. When somebody told him to be careful, because if he fell it would be certain death, Faber retorted, "If you are so worried, maybe I should jump down. It's always good to be careful. Gretken, hold your apron up so you can catch me." Of course, Gretken didn't catch him, and when he came down again, he boasted he had seen at least 52 ships, while those of us on deck couldn't see a single one. When we said he was known as a liar, he said we could see for ourselves by climbing the mast. But no one would, and we all laughed at the braggart.

      [28] One night there was a cyclone while we were asleep. The ship was literally whirled round and round, and the sailors wanted to fell the masts. Then suddenly, the danger was over. The sailors felt they had been rescued from great danger, and we celebrated their safety with a church service. That was at the end of our third week at sea.

      [29] The trip lasted another three weeks, but we didn't have any more storms. Instead, the weather stayed nice most of the time, so that my mother and little one-year-old sister, who were constantly seasick, could spend a few hours on the deck every day. The captain had the ship disinfected three times a week to improve the sanitation. He often sent soup from his kitchen to Mother, who was weak, and he made sure everyone got enough fresh air on deck.

      [30] During the last few days of the trip we almost always had a good wind, and the sailors were working hard to set all the sails they could find on board. During this job my six-year-old brother, Johann, who was on the deck, got his leg caught in a loop of rope. At a command, the sailors pulled, and my brother dangled upside-down with one leg in the loop. On the second "Yuh" he was pulled up to the winch through which the rope ran, and by the third command, his leg undoubtedly would have been crushed. But God sent his messenger in the person of a sailor named Christopher, who saw the dangerous situation and cried, "Stop!" At that, Johann was set free. We then praised God and thanked him.

      [31] Almost every day we held a short worship service, and usually the captain and most of the sailors participated. After one of these services, when we had sung with extra vigor, Christopher the sailor said if the wind remained favorable, we would be in Baltimore, Maryland, in eight days.

      [32] That's why we wanted to send Faber up the mast again, since he could see one thousand miles away and tell us if Baltimore was really in sight. Then we could put on our clean underwear and clothing. But the pestered Faber was lucky. A thick fog appeared and he did not have to go up. The fog and calm lasted for several more days. Then the weather cleared up again, and Faber the Farseeing had to scale the mast to search for Baltimore. Soon he came back down and announced there was a whale. With his naked eyes he had seen as much as the captain could discern with his telescope.

      [33] It really was an eighty foot whale, snorting and bellowing as it glided toward our ship, spouting high jets of water. The captain said it would be close to our ship in about ten minutes. Many of us were worried and thought about Jonah in the belly of the whale. But the captain laughed at those who were scared. The monster swam right by the ship so we were all able to see it.

      Chesapeake Bay Pilots Arrive

      [34] At last, in the middle of the sixth week of our journey, the pilots arrived. At first we wondered if they might be roving pirates. My fear turned into great joy when Christopher told me these were the pilots who would now command the ship and, in a few days, bring her into Baltimore. He added I should not say anything to anyone. He just wanted to see how soon I would tell. In fact, in about two minutes it was all over the ship. Those who were sick quickly started feeling better. This news was the best medicine. Mother came out on deck, and it seemed to us that our little sister, who had become run down during the trip from a lack of good food, once again had a rosy glow on her face. Everyone began hoping for a speedy arrival. The news had such a powerful effect that we all went around with new energy.

      [35] Captain Wieting gave the command of the ship over to one of the pilots who had arrived. Then he delivered a short speech to us, saying he would go ahead to Baltimore on the two-master the pilots had brought, and would wait for us there, and give us the necessary instructions for further travel in America. We could have the same confidence in the new captain, who would take better care of us than he had been able to do. Then he swung on a rope down to the small rowboat lying below, and was brought on board the two-master. We wished him God's blessings as long as he could hear us.

      [36] The new captain -- I have forgotten his name -- then said to us, "I'm glad you have grown so fond of your Captain Wieting. You will always remember him. He is like gold, like love itself; if only God willed for all captains to be like him, a real father to his passengers. There are too many rough fellows out there."

      [37] A couple more days passed until Faber could climb up the mast again and announce land. The joy was universal. We were coming to the promised land. Our old captain received us, and helped us in word and deed until we were on our way to Ohio.

      Arrival in Baltimore, Maryland

      [38] All 186 [sic] of us immigrants -- men, women, and children -- marched together to the Baltimore train station with our packs and sacks. But not directly, for we lost our way, and marched around in vain for a full half hour in the heat.

      [39] We saw black people for the first time; they greeted us with loud hoots. Other inhabitants of Baltimore sat in their windows or stood in the doorways and yelled and screamed as if we were monsters or clowns. However, they meant well. When we were beginning to get tired out from walking, an old German man finally showed us the right way. We reached the station, and before we climbed on the train, we had time to have something to eat and drink; everyone was very hungry and thirsty.

      [40] I first looked at the railroad cars that would haul us. They were small, light, flat cars fitted with little wheels. We sat on rough-sawn benches, arranged crossways, half of the passengers riding forward, and the other half, backward. To protect us from the sun and rain, a board roof had been crudely knocked together.

      [41] I also wanted to see the little iron horse that was supposed to pull us. It was spare and small. The belly was like a sugar barrel; it stood on end rather than on all fours; the neck was like a stovepipe, standing straight up. There was no head, and I didn't notice any tail. This was how the little horse looked, and I was worried that it could not pull us with all our chests and trunks. Although it was small and slight, it had an unruly spirit for inside it rumbled and roared a lot. I became so worried and frightened, I ran away after seeing the driver who would drive the little iron horse. When I returned to my parents, Mother asked me, "Ernstling, where have you been?" "Oh, I had to unbutton my pants," I lied handily. "You ought to be beaten, you shameless liar, but now get up quick. When your father sees you around these no-goods, you'll get your hide tanned." I got into my place fast enough, and the trip soon began.

      Toward Pittsburg by Iron Horse

      [42] Oh man, oh man, what kind of shrieking and squealing was that up front? Somebody said, "Oh, up there by the steam engine there's a Negro who does the shrieking." It was the whistle of the locomotive that prompted this remark to us innocents.

      [43] Then the journey got started, at first slowly, then faster and even faster. The little iron horse pulled well, and we were pleased, for the gentle rolling along on tracks really seemed like Paradise after the hardships of the ocean journey. Today, since we are used to Pullmans, we would complain and fuss about the hardships, but to us it seemed wonderful, and we only hoped it would go on this way for a long time. "It is so nice to be sitting here, driving so quietly; now we can get some rest."

      [44] The region through which we were driving was sparsely populated. Here and there in the woods, or in a clearing, there was a log cabin. A woman came out of one poor little house and we were surprised to see she was cleanly and nicely dressed with neatly combed hair.

      [45] We had been well provided with food, but had no beverages with us, and since the crew of the train was not concerned about that, we didn't stop 'till night. When we did stop, we were in a clearing in the woods on a wonderful, moonlit summer night. There was no station in sight, but the train stopped and the iron horse drove on, leaving the train with us emigrants there in the woods. We didn't know what to make of this, but it didn't bother us much, and we all climbed out to stretch our stiff legs and move around.

      [46] Then we discovered that the standing timber at the edge of the clearing had been cut down, and the brush was piled up in heaps. It was good and dry, and we lit a heap that soon blazed brightly. At the fire, we prepared a decent dinner and fixed German pancakes. Those who had pans were in good shape, and the others who had no pans, borrowed pans later, and by midnight, everybody had eaten.

      [47] We also had something to drink. We found water nearby, so we could make coffee and satisfy our thirst. Some of us, especially mothers with children in their laps, slept, leaning against tree trunks. However, the young people joked and played around until the dawn, when all the heaps of brush had been burned. Someone had bought a bottle of brandy in Baltimore, and the bottle was passed around among the men. The liquor burned their stomachs. "That stuff has a warm name, 'burn wine,' and it feels like fire. Twenty drops apiece is enough," said jovial Brinker. But I noticed he took rather big drops for himself.

      [48] That was the first day, and it was followed by twenty-five more days of travel in America. Luckily we didn't know the trip would last so long, or we wouldn't have been so happy. Every evening we passed the time with fun and jokes and looked for the return of the engine somewhat regretfully. The first morning it came snorting back between eight and nine o'clock. The journey continued at about the speed of a good trotting horse. In the following days, we saw neither a town nor a village nor a factory; only single log cabins.

      [49] On the evening of another day, the train stopped again, this time at a river with a very big tunnel bridge. To get to the other side, we had to march for three quarters of an hour in the dark of night. It was difficult to keep the children together. We almost panicked when someone shouted that the train was coming from behind us, and it was so pitch-black, we didn't know which way to step aside to avoid falling off the bridge. When we got to the other side of the bridge, we found a bright and spacious inn. It was managed by an honest and hospitable Pennsylvanian, who provided us with bread and sausage and coffee, and directed at least the women and children to some rooms to sleep.

      Moving West by Canal Boats

      [50] The next morning we continued in a canal boat pulled by two miserable horses that I will not bother to describe to the reader. You can imagine how we were squeezed together, and how we had to travel in a terribly narrow space. By day it was all right; the men walked on the shore beside the boat and hunted for food when they had the chance. We young folk also went on foot and looked for birds' nests or something to eat. But at night! The boat was much too narrow to give us even a minimum of space to lie down on the deck. If we could have arranged three rows, then everyone would have been accommodated.

      [51] My father finally made a suggestion. He positioned the biggest and tallest men along one side, next to each other, then followed them with those who were smaller, and we boys filled in the gaps. The arrangement placed the men on one side of the boat and the women on the other. Even so we lay squeezed like herring in a barrel. We wondered what would happen when bad weather came. There was no roof for shelter; we lay in the open on the deck. There was much bickering until my father devised this arrangement. Finally he simply commanded, military style, "So it is, and so it will stay. Whoever doesn't find it convenient, can go on foot." That helped. The forcible expression of a strong will always carries weight. That night, Father watched over us and tied the four little children together with a rope so they would not fall into the water, or be crushed when we passed through the locks.

      [52] After a canal journey of three days, we came once more to the railroad, which took us through and over the Pennsylvania mountains. There was a cable apparatus that pulled the wagons, one after the other, up the mountains, then let them down again. That seemed marvelous to us children. We had a lot to see, to study and to question. Sometimes a wagon rolling downhill seemed to pull another wagon up at the same time. This happened on both sides of the mountain when the height was about the same. At times like this, we were almost speechless with amazement.

      [53] In one of the big machine houses we found the name of Ernst Borges among countless others on the wall. My mother spotted it and showed it to my father. That made him very happy and indicated that, at last, the end of the journey was in sight.

      [54] Then we went into a tunnel through a big mountain. We were afraid. But luckily we survived this adventure, and everyone was happy when we were in the sunshine once again.

      [55] The next morning we had to go on a canal boat again, which took us to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Our foraging expeditions for bread and apples were successful most of the time, partly because of the kindness of the inhabitants but sometimes not; I won't go that into any further! We lived mostly on bread and apples, which we sometimes got free, sometimes paid for, and sometimes just took because no one was there to ask.

      [56] This boat was bigger than the first, and at night we had more room to stretch out. So this journey passed uneventfully, and we were happy when we finally came to the smoky city, Pittsburgh, which was so hazy we couldn't see the sun. Before that, we had seen lots of smokestacks and blast furnaces. But to us Pittsburgh looked like one huge, fuming hole.

      [57] During the trip we had begun our first English lessons. We knew what "yes" and "no" meant. Then, through our transactions with bread, we learned to understand "two" and "three"; then followed "more bread," and the grownups began to be afraid they would never learn English. On the other hand, we children began to hope that we could soon make ourselves understood.

      Parting Ways at Pittsburg

      [58] Then came the trip on the third and last canal boat, to Cleveland. The beginning of this trip was not very promising, and it seemed that even though we were so close to the end of our journey, we might be miserably drowned. The boat was very heavily loaded with iron ore. From the original 180 [sic] emigrants, only those who were destined for Cleveland were on board; the other passengers headed in other directions from Pittsburgh. The boat lay very deep, and was pulled by a tug boat. As the tug went faster, our boat began to take in a lot of water. To keep out the onrushing water, a shield of sailcloth had been rigged up at the front. But this was torn down by the torrent, and water began to fill the bottom part of the boat. The crew took care of it only after my father pointed out the danger. Then the men were taken off the canal boat to the tug, in spite of the protests of the women. Thus the boat was lightened and the water pumped out. Finally the women grew calm again.

      [59] Otherwise we were in good spirits. Ernst Steckmeyer came out to us in Pittsburgh to meet his wife. Now we could actually count on our fingers the number of days until we would reach Cleveland, the much-longed-for end of our journey.

      First Death Among Marianne Passengers

      [60] However, with deep sorrow, we had to record one death on the journey. Hagemeyer's daughter fell ill with dysentery on the trip, and died when we were near Akron, Ohio. It was most distressing that we couldn't give any relief to the poor child who lay there in spasms. We had absolutely no medication on hand. We could only give her comforting words. When the child had died, she was dressed by my oldest sister in fine German linen, and with a Christian funeral laid to rest in Akron.

      [61] Many boats lay in Akron because of the many canal locks we had to pass through. The canal led along and then right through the town on a mountain, and on both sides stood the houses of the city. Down at the bottom, however, everything was wild; we didn't see anything but meadows, weeds and sycamores. It was such a rough place at that time, and there were such wild hills around it, it seemed scary.

      [62] We had to pass through about 20 locks in two days, and on the evening of the second day, Ernst Steckmeyer told us we would be in Cleveland on the following day. How lighthearted we were. What did it matter to us that the sky was now getting cloudy and, for the first time on this journey, it threatened to rain and soak us completely?

      [63] We had no covering on this boat to protect us from a downpour. We gathered up anything that might shelter us from the rain during the night. But the storm passed by. A few single drops, then the thunder clouds passed over, and everything turned out to everyone's satisfaction.

      [64] The last morning of the trip was beautiful and bright and clear. We couldn't thank God enough, that he had guided us so well and protected us. Soon we were at the landing place in old Cleveland, and the men went off immediately to search for Friedrich Borges, the tailor, Friedrich Tonsing, and our brother, Heinrich Bohning.

      Bohning Family Reunited At Last

      [65] The first two came soon because they lived nearby. But it wasn't until the next morning that we could greet our brother and Ernst Borges, who lived six miles out from the town. Our dear Heinrich was on the spot early because Tonsing, after having greeted us, had immediately taken to his heels to bring him the good news of our fortunate arrival. I don't need to describe how happy we were to be all together again, safe and sound. Now we forgot all the troubles and suffering we had endured on the long journey. That lay behind us and we looked cheerfully and with renewed energy to the future.

      [66] "Son," said my mother to her Hinnerk, taking him in her arms, "how you have grown and how healthy and hearty you look. Thank God you have not suffered from hunger in America. So I hope you like America very much." Hinnerk told how good he felt in the new land.

      [67] We all felt very fortunate and thanked God for his goodness.

      Notes: Hooray, We're Going to America!

      Introduction by Henry H. Bohning

      [68] I'd like to pass on a brief extract from the written legacy of Ernst Bohning. He emigrated to Cleveland in 1843 as a nine-year-old boy, and he is an offspring of the founder of the American branch of the family -- today an imposing tree with many branches.

      The good uncle was not a scholar but a simple farmer with a rather scanty school education. Though plow and harrow fitted better into his hand than a pen, nevertheless he sat down fifty years later and wrote his story. He related how the family came to the decision to emigrate. He described the voyage itself, and he recorded the vivid impressions that had been stamped into his mind as a child. Much is included that does not have any interest today, and he discusses in a rather long-winded manner, unimportant aspects of daily life. But through the whole account wafts the spirit of a keen observer, and he is neither lacking in a sense of humor nor in a genuine trust in God. For these reasons, a brief extract from the scribblings of the old man might not be unwelcome to you today.

      Henry H. Bohning


      Note by Jill Carter Knuth

      This account is taken from a typescript prepared by Henry H. Bohning for the Bohning Reunion, August 4, 1918, in South Newburgh, Ohio (now called Garfield Heights). Henry H. Bohning had organized a Bohning Family Reunion in 1916, and it was held annually thereafter on the first Sunday in August until 1948, the year after Henry H. Bohning's death. As the secretary of the reunion and the self-appointed historian of the family, Bohning gathered the records of the reunions and various kinds of information about members of the Bohning family into nine loose-leaf binders. This account is found in the first binder.

      The typescript of 1918 is in German. It is apparently a heavily edited version of the original hand-written document which has, unfortunately, been lost. In 1987, my husband, Don Knuth, and I published "Hooray, We're Going to America" in a bilingual edition. In 1993, the English translation was included in The Bohning Blue Book, an outline of the descendants of the migrant family, published to mark the 150th anniversary of their arrival in America.

      Jill Carter Knuth, Stanford, California, January 1999

      Additional Notes by Jill Carter Knuth



      [See Paragraph 6] In the autumn of 1843, the Bohning family arrived in Cleveland, Ohio. They had come from the parish of Barkhausen, an area about 20 miles due east of the city of Osnabrück in northwestern Germany. The village of Barkhausen had been for many centuries the seat of the parish of Barkhausen. Several generations of the Bohning family were baptized, married, and buried in the church there, and today it still serves members of the community and distant branches of the Bohning family that remained in Germany.



      [See Paragraph 5] The last German street address for the Hermann Heinrich Bohning family was Linne, the name given to a small cluster of houses a 20-minute walk from the Barkhausen church.



      [See Paragraph 8] The name, Bohning, can be found in the church books as far back as the early 1600s. However, it is not certain that the name was carried down in unbroken succession to the mid-1700s when the grandfather of Hermann Heinrich Bohning first appears in the records. Other names associated with the Bohning family include Blase or Stoffer-Blase, Borges, Klosterman, Scherler, Johann-Niemann, and others. One ancestor, M. Bernhard Pötker, was the pastor in the parish of Barkhausen at the end of the Thirty Years War in 1648.



      [Go to top of page] "Hooray, We're Going to America" is an account of the family's journey to Cleveland. This story was written by Ernst Bohning, the sixth child in the Bohning family, who was almost ten-years-old at the time of the journey. Many years later, probably in the 1890s, he sat down and recorded his memories of the trip. It began by wagon from Barkhausen to Bremen, and then by barge to Bremerhaven, where the family boarded the sailing ship "Marianne." After six weeks on the open sea, the Bohnings arrived in Baltimore. From there they traveled by train to Pennsylvania where they boarded a canal boat, which took them across the Allegheny Mountains to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and then Akron, Ohio, and finally north to Cleveland.



      [See Paragraph 1] The parents of Ernst Bohning were Hermann Heinrich Bohning and Maria Eleanora Stoffer-Blase, who were married in 1821.



      [See Paragraph 2] The quotations in the original are written in Plattdeutsch, a dialect spoken in northern Germany. "Pelltüften" and "Pelkartoffel" are both words for potatoes cooked in their skins. The last sentences in this paragraph are written in rhyme.



      [See Paragraph 3] A "Morgen" of land is approximately three-quarters of an acre. The Bohning land was probably located on the Hunte River a mile or so north of Barkhausen. The Hunte, now only a small stream, may have been a larger river before the marshy area downstream was drained and the Mittelland Canal constructed in the late 19th century.



      [See Paragraph 6] The baptismal records for the Bohning children (found in the Barkhausen Parish Books) give their father's occupation and address. From this information it seems the family had acquired their land about 1834. The address of the house is Linne 41 and some of the old farm buildings were still standing in 1974. The house was probably not located adjacent to the farm fields.



      [See Paragraph 6] One "Thaller" was equal in value to 17.5 grams of silver. By comparison, a U.S. silver dollar at that time was equal to 24.06 grams of silver. So a "Thaller" was worth about 75 cents. If Ernst Bohning was talking about U.S. cents when he mentioned the selling price of their cat, then a "Thaller" may have been worth only about 50 cents. The English word "dollar" comes from "Thaller". One "Groschen" was one-thirtieth of a Thaller.



      [See Paragraph 7] The Bohning family were members of the Barkhausen parish. Parts of the church building, which is still in use, date from the 12th century. The year 1783 is worked in iron on the tower of the church, one of the "newer" parts of the building.



      [See Paragraph 8] The nine Bohning children were: Elizabeth, born 1822, Heinrich, born 1824, Friedrich, born 1826, Elsabein, born 1828, Eleanora, born 1830, Ernst, born 1833, Wilhelm, born 1835, Jobst or Johann, born 1838, and Dorothea, born 1842.



      [See Paragraph 20] In 1842, the year prior to the emigration of the Bohning family, Charles Dickens traveled to America. Some of his experiences and some of the places he visited were very similar to those described by Ernst Bohning. Dickens' account of his trip was published as "American Notes."

      "Imagine the wind howling, the sea roaring, the rain beating: all in furious array against [the ship]. Picture the sky both dark and wild, and the clouds, in fearful sympathy with the waves, making another ocean in the air. Add to all this, the clattering on deck and down below; the tread of hurried feet; the loud, hoarse shouts of seamen; the gurgling in and out of water through the scuppers; with, every now and then, the striking of a heavy sea upon the planks above, with the deep, dead, heavy sound of thunder heard within a vault; -- and there is the head-wind of that January morning.

      "I say nothing of what may be called the domestic noises of the ship: such as the breaking of glass and crockery, the tumbling down of stewards, the gambols, overhead, of loose casks and truant dozens of bottled porter, and the very remarkable and far from exhilarating sounds raised in their various state-rooms by the seventy passengers who were too ill to get up for breakfast. I say nothing of them: for although I lay listening to this concert for three or four days, I don't think I heard it for more than a quarter of a minute, at the expiration of which term, I lay down again, excessively sea-sick."

      From "American Notes" by Charles Dickens; Chapter 2.


      FABER = WEBER?

      [See Paragraph 27], "Faber" was probably Henry Weber, No. 35 on the ship's passenger list.



      [See Paragraph 40] The Bohning family may have traveled on the Baltimore and Susquehanna Railroad. It left from Calvert Street in Baltimore and headed north through Maryland, then into Pennsylvania to the town of York. From there it continued in a northeasterly course to Wrightsville on the Susquehanna River, a total distance of 68 miles.



      [See Paragraph 49] The tunnel-bridge may have crossed the Susquehanna River between Wrightsville and Columbia. The railroad terminated on the west side of the river and the Central Division of the Pennsylvania Canal started on the east side of the river.

      Another possibility for the location of the terrible tunnel-bridge is the one that crossed the Susquehanna River at Harrisburg. Charles Dickens described this bridge in terms similar to Ernst Bohning, even to the detail of the hospitable inn-keeper. Dickens crossed the bridge in a stage coach.

      "We crossed this river by a wooden bridge, roofed and covered on all sides, and nearly a mile in length. It was profoundly dark; perplexed, with great beams, crossing and recrossing at every possible angle; and through the broad chinks and crevices in the floor, the rapid river gleamed, far down below, like a legion of eyes. We had no lamps; and as the horses stumbled and floundered through this place, towards the distant speck of dying light, it seemed interminable. I really could not at first persuade myself as we rumbled heavily on, but that I was in a painful dream; for I had often dreamed of toiling through such places, and as often argued, even at the time, 'this cannot be reality.' "

      "At length, however, we emerged upon the streets of Harrisburg, whose feeble lights, reflected dismally from the wet ground, did not shine out upon a very cheerful city. We were soon established in a snug hotel, which though smaller and far less splendid than many we had put up at, is raised above them all in my remembrance, by having for its landlord the most obliging, considerate and gentlemanly person I ever had to deal with."

      From "American Notes" by Charles Dickens, Chapter 9, Beautiful Scenery.



      [See Paragraph 50] Charles Dickens' celebrity status probably ensured that he traveled the canals on the faster, more luxurious "packet" boats. The Bohning family no doubt went by "line boat" that cost 1 1/2 cents per mile as compared to 3 or 4 cents per mile, and was pulled by two horses rather than three or four. The passengers on the line boats had to provide their own food.



      [See Paragraph 52] The Central Division of the Pennsylvania Canal started at Columbia, Pennsylvania, following in part the Susquehanna and Juniata Rivers, and ended at Holidaysburg, 172 miles later. Travelers passed though 33 aqueducts (water-filled wooden troughs that crossed other rivers) and 108 locks. Some of the locks were as narrow as 15 feet, so the canal boats were a bit narrower than that.



      [See Paragraph 52] The canal boats were loaded onto railroad flat cars and pulled up one side of the Allegheny Mountains and down the other side on a series of paired inclined plane rails. One train of cars was pulled up a rail at the same time another train of cars descended on the adjacent track. Both trains were attached to the same cable and acted as counterweights to each other. A stationary engine at the top of the rails provided the power.



      [See Paragraph 52] At about the same time the Bohning family was crossing the Allegheny Mountains, a Mormon elder named Wilford Woodruff, who later became the fourth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, wrote this account of the Portage Railroad:

      "The whole passage across the mountains was a constant scene of danger, and I called upon God in my heart to preserve our lives. Even while on the level, we were running on the edge of a precipice a hundred feet above the bottom of a chasm. In conversation with a mate in the evening upon the subject of our passage across the mountains, he said that we were not aware of one-half the dangers we had encountered." (October 19, 1843.)

      From "Wilford Woodruff; History of His Life as Recorded in His Daily Journals," edited by Matthias F. Cowley, 1909; p.104.



      [See Paragraph 52] While Elder Woodruff found the trip terrifying, Harriet Beecher Stowe, traveling with three of her children in 1850, had a more pleasant experience: "The boat got into Pittsburgh between four and five on Wednesday. The agent for the Pennsylvania Canal came on board and soon filled out our tickets, calling my three chicks one and a half [half-fare for three children.] We had a quiet and agreeable passage, and crossed the slides [inclined planes] at five o'clock in the morning, amid exclamation of unbounded delight from the children, to whom the mountain scenery was a new and amazing thing ... I am glad we came that way, for the children have seen some of the finest scenery in our country."

      From "Life of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Compiled from Her Letters and Journals," by her son, Charles Edward Stowe, 1891; p.130.


      Michael Friedrich Radke and his family made a similar trip five years later, and it is fascinating to compare the details of the various stages of this journey. [See his day-by-day diary.]



      [See Paragraph 60] The "fine German linen" in which the dead child was wrapped was probably a product of the cottage industry of hand-spun and hand-woven linen that flourished in the Barkhausen area.



      [See Paragraph 62] Akron was the high point of the Ohio-Erie Canal, and from there, going north toward Cleveland, the canal dropped steeply though 23 "cascade" or "stair-step" locks.

  • Sources 
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    6. [S487] Marriage Index Ohio 1789-1850, (Family Tree Maker, Broderbund), 3 Nov 1847.

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