As it is our intention to provide instructions to the Saints about emigrating, as much as possible, we are publishing here some excerpts from a letter from Heinrich Hug, the leader of the Swiss emigration company in 1859. These excerpts may provide information and instructions in many points which may prove useful and profitable for the Saints. We will intentionally skip over those sections which are of no interest to our dear readers.
There were Irishmen on the ship, who were pleased to be able to travel with us. We had many opportunities to speak with them.
We were well pleased with our captain. Although he spoke but little, he showed us the most favor. We were permitted to go anywhere we wanted all over the ship without being sent away, whereas he ably chased away other passengers almost every day.
We were also well situated with respect to the kitchen. We had our own, enclosed kitchen, with a special chef, who was to take care of our needs. At first he felt he need not pay much attention to the Mormons, and that he could put us last a little bit from time to time. He even wanted to cook in our kitchen for other people who asked him to do so. At first I tried to reprimand him, but he did not believe he had to take this from me. I warned him that I would tell it to the captain, upon which he responded that I should just get out. I didn't have to be told this twice, so I left. And the conclusion of this scene ended thusly:
The good cook was put in his place but good by the captain and almost given a thrashing. The captain said to him: "You go as fast as possible and cook the Germans whatever they want. You will take care of and cook for no one else, and nobody has the right to come into their kitchen!" He said this to him in front of all the people, so that the cook was really ashamed. The first day after this, the cook was certainly angry with us; but from this time on we had a cook such that we could not have wished for a better one. We were free to cook whatever we wanted, and there was plenty of room [p.8] as well. And in the end we were so well satisfied with him that in conclusion we even gave him a tip.
The entire time during the sea voyage, we had a watchman every night, which the captain was very pleased with. The end result of this arrangement was that nothing whatsoever, neither large nor small, was taken from us, whereas otherwise a great deal was stolen.
On the whole, on the ship we behaved in a manner such that no one could rightfully reprimand us. We had great order in every regard. The captain and the doctor knew this very well. The latter made two examination visits every day with all the other emigrants, but he rarely stopped in to see us; on the contrary, he was very pleasurable with us.
The 29th of September 1859 was a day of good news for us. The pilot came early in the morning, and he had command of the ship from now on until we were in the harbor. This was an indication to us that we were close to land; therefore this man, who came accompanied by two others in a small rowboat, was received by the passengers on the deck with great rejoicing.
In the afternoon, there was much noise on the ship: "Land, land!" From now on there were more people on deck than usual, for everyone wanted to see the land which was coming closer and closer. Towards evening a steamship came into the estuary by Long Island in order to bring our ship to New York. But the captain found the steamer to be too small to be able to bring our ship to its port of destination. Therefore the anchor was dropped to keep us in this position until another larger steamer came to provide the same service for us. Early in the morning, at the break of day, such a steamer arrived, and while the sun reflected her friendly face, our ship traveled like a revived morning pilgrim between two dear shores into the bay. All of the people on the ship changed their clothes, as fine and elegant as if we were expecting a great celebration. After our ship had been pulled in this manner for about 45 miles, we finally had the anxiously awaited New York before our eyes. Soon after this, the steamer left our ship standing at the port, and after a few minutes the examining doctor and the customs agents came and immediately commenced with their work. As to our baggage, things went much better than we could have expected; i.e., [p.9] they weren't even inspected. The first customs agent simply asked me in the presence of the first mate, "What kind of goods do all of you have in your bags?" To this question I answered: As far as I know, there are items of clothing, hand tools and kitchen tools, also bedding and other unimportant items. Then he asked me: But is this really true? I responded to him: I can give you no different or more accurate information than I have already given you. He appeared to be sufficiently satisfied with this information, so that our trunks could be removed from the ship with an examination, and yet we had more and larger bags than the others, which, judging by appearances, would have been worth inspecting. But no, we were spared this. This great favor, which was granted to only a few others, I attribute to another situation, which I will tell you so that it might be of use to you. -- When the inspection and the exiting from the ship began, there was a lot of crowding on the ship, for each person wanted to leave the same as soon as possible. When we saw this, we said to one another: We will wait until the last, we will still get on land as soon as the others. They had to go to a steamer and wait there until everything and everybody was transported there, and only after this happened would it finally carry us to the land. So we waited patiently until last, when we had time to bring our goods all on deck, and we could watch as the other passengers, who had smaller and less significant trunks, had to open them. But as there were many passengers on board, this business took up a great deal of time, and so it was that towards the end, the trunks had to be opened less often and we as the last ones could enjoy the great fortune of not being inspected at all.
When we were all finally on the above-mentioned steamer, it traveled to the Castle Garden. This is a large building furnished for the emigrants, which is one of the best buildings equipped for the immigrants into the new world to provide them protection and benefits. I want to tell you about it in a few short words with the intention of providing you all as much knowledge about emigrating as possible.
This Castle Garden is a large, round and free-standing building, lying close to the sea shore. To its left is a [p.10] beautiful garden area with many shade trees in which many wonderful walking paths crossed. On the right is the North River, a bay reaching into the land, where many steamers and sailboats rest.
This house which was built by the government for the purpose of immigration would have enough room to hold many ships filled with immigrants, even if they all disembarked on the same day and were brought to the building. This includes the trunks, which also are given their place. If you wish, you can leave them here for fourteen days without having to pay anything. Even the immigrant can stay here for eight days without paying, and eat and drink, much or little, expensive or economical, as he wishes; he is completely free (to do so). No riffraff can come into this building (but you can find it often enough outside of the building), who scheme to swindle the good emigrants in every manner and who know and use every dodge.
I must mention something about the baggage and the trunks. -- While still on the emigration ship we received a tag made of brass from an official from the Castle Garden, the tag having a number on it, and another tag with the same number is affixed to those trunks which one claims to be his property. One must take good care of the first tag, for only by means of the same can one obtain his trunk again. At the same time, this tag serves as an identification card which allows you to enter and exit the Castle Garden. Once one picks up one's baggage, one must surrender this token, and one no longer has a right to go into the Castle Garden.
When we walked into the Castle Garden and came into the inner hall, we had another stopping point where we had to wait until we could pass through the Registration Office. One must go different paths there, and only after one has completed these prescribed ceremonies is one finally free, and one can leave immediately or remain there longer.
After we had passed this Registration Office, B. Lark, secretary to President Cannon and Branch President of New York, was waiting for us. Brother Cannon was in Philadelphia at the time, otherwise he would have picked us up. -- After we consulted back and forth at length about what would be the best for us to do, we went to an English inn, where many of our Saints [p.11] had taken lodging and which is only about five minutes away from the Castle Garden. For the money, one can have what one wants here, and we took our fill as the first time in a long time on solid ground. We were all quite happy, so that we sang a song among other things. Among them: "Ye Chosen Ones Rejoice". To the amazement of all we received the report here that we should stay here in New York this winter, because that was felt to be the most expedient for us.
In the morning (Saturday) it was hard to leave the good beds and the beautiful rooms. We stayed in the same place until the afternoon, in that we were well treated and comfortably lodged for this city. In the morning we retrieved our trunks, such that they were loaded on four large carts from the Castle Garden and were brought to Williamsburg (a large suburb of New York) to Brother Stone.
Towards evening Brother Lark marched at the head of our company through the busy streets of the city to the place to which we had sent the trunks. Along the way, we had to travel on a steamer across an inlet of the sea, which only cost one cent, or 5 Rappen in Swiss money, per person. When we arrived at Brother Stone's (president of a district), we were very well received. A good coffee plus all the accessories offered to us for evening meal. After dinner, Brother Lark, Stone and some other brethren came with me and Brother Stucki to look for apartments for us, during which is rained hard and night had already fallen. We came back after approximately one hour, during which we had rented enough apartments for the time being, but only one for one month and we paid the rent in advance.
Sunday, the 2nd of October, we attended meetings twice, which were held not far from us, and where the Saints in all of New York meet every Sunday. The number of the New York branch members amounts to almost 300, which are in turn divided into districts, of which there are ten. Each week, each has its own meetings, and priesthood meeting every 14 days, but on Sundays all of them meet here at this location. The presidents of the districts, with the president of the branch, take the seats in front, from where they preach, indeed they sit in a semi-circle which is raised a few [p.12] steps. To the side, below, is the vocal and musical choir, which is well-practiced. -- The following musical instruments are played: two violins, a bass fiddle, and a flute, which harmonize together very well.
On the 3rd, we set up our apartments, and then from this time on we looked as quickly as possible to obtain work and an income; for living here without an income would rapidly deplete our purses. The women and men who know a craft soon have positions and a good income here if they want to work. Especially those who understand English can select their own position. A maid usually earns 3 to 7 dollars per month plus good meals. Most of our people who wanted to work were able to start in service positions in the course of this week, and they received varying, larger and smaller wages. The brethren who knew a handicraft were also soon provided for, as quickly as the sisters; but to find places for those who have no profession was somewhat difficult, especially if they don't understand anything about the English language. However, even this can be done. We have come here happily, so that we can recognize the goodness and care of our Heavenly Father in all things and thank Him for this.
As to the fashions and customs here, I can only tell you that the German will put away many of his things and adopt many things from the Americans. Doing so puts one in a better position, and one avoids the finger-pointing. Naturally, the Americans don't conform to the immigrants, the latter must conform themselves to the former. [p.13]
BIB: Hug, Heinrich. "Excerpts From a Letter". Der Darsteller der Heiligen der Letzten Tage, (Dec. 1859), vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 8-13. Translated by Brooks Haderlie.