It Pays to Advertise – and to Read Ads

by Dr. George Nielsen, Special Features Editor

Robert Wuchatsch, a researcher and writer of Australian Wends, found about a dozen notices placed in the classified section of the 1854 Budissiner Nachrichten several months prior to the departure of the Ben Nevis migrants. These little advertisements show once again that every bit of evidence, no matter how arcane, can provide details for family histories and also for the story of the Texas Wends.

Extracting the information from these sources 8 is complicated by the use of measurements that are not the equivalent to ours, as well as to terms referring to practices of an agricultural society more than 150 years ago. Fortunately I received valuable assistance from Christian Symmank who lives in Braunschweig/ Brunswick, Germany, and is employed as a software test engineer. While most contemporary societies have adopted the metric system, efforts to implement it in the U.S. have been largely unsuccessful. Someone has theorized that the metric initiative failed in the U.S. (other than the two liter bottle) because the football field is measured in yards. Assuming that the football field was that influential, maybe we can use it to help visualize the size of land held by Wendish emigrants. A football field covers about 1.3 acres, or a bit more than 5,351 square meters. Even so, the problem is complicated further because measures of land were not identical among all the German provinces. Therefore the numbers given in American acres are approximations.

The smallest measure used in these notices was the square Ruthe that in Saxony measured about 18 square meters. A Morgen was about 2,550 square meters. And the Saxon Acker is approximately 5,500 square meters while the American acre is 4,047 square meters.

The dates of these first advertisements placing property up for sale are significant because they illustrate the planning required for the journey. The ads began appearing on March 4, 1854, more than six months prior to the migration. The description of the property also provides a general idea of the possessions and equipment owned by some of the migrants.

Two Moerbe brothers, Ernst Adolph and Jacob, placed the first advertisements. Ernst was one of the leaders of the migration and was identified as a gardener. He owned about 18 U.S. acres of tillable land and about four U.S. acres of pasture.

A garden property in good condition, with 13 Acker of farmland, 2 Acker 285 square Ruthen of pasture and an excellent wooded pasture and bedding [for animals] in the pond, isfor sale by private contract
Mörbe in Klix.

Ferdinand Jacob Morbe, whose occupation on the Ben Nevis list is given as a tailor and gardener, owned about 21 U.S. acres of tillable land and four U.S. acres of pasture and orchard.

A garden property in good condition with 15 Acker of farmland, 3 Acker of pasture and an orchard, all properties quite nearby, is for sale by private contract. Morbe in Neudorfel near Guttau.

The ad placed by Carl Lehmann is in the March 11, 1854, issue. Lehmann, whom I call the Godfather, because he was frequently asked to be the baptismal sponsor at Serbin baptisms, was also one of the congregational leaders. In addition to the mill, he owned about 6 U.S. acres of field and pasture, a millpond the size of an acre and a half, and half an acre of forest.

Mill for Sale
A water mill property in good condition in Royal Prussian Upper Lusatia, 5 hours from Lobau and 4 hours from Bautzen with a milling gear for grinding, a milling gear for pearling, 5 millet and pearl barley stampers; as part of the purchase are 9 Magdeburg Morgen 171 square Ruthen of field and pasture, one 2½ Morgen size mill pond with all rights of use, and approximately 1 Morgen of forest land, although compensation is required for the right to produce wood, bedding material, and pine sap, as well as any other living or dead products on some other forest land. All details can be obtained from the owner of the aforementioned mill property, the master miller Lehmann in Dauban near Nisky.

The Ben Nevis list identifies Benjamin Herbrig as a saw smith.

For Sale.
In the Benjamin Herbrig’s blacksmith shop in Weissenberg a complete set of smith’s tools, a small fire extinguisher pump, a lathe, a loom and various other objects are immediately to be sold cheap because of change of ownership. Also the saws and drills that over the years have been brought to the shop must be picked up by July 1, 1854; otherwise they would have to be sold. Weissenberg, June 7, 1854.
Benjamin Herbrig, master smith.

The final advertisement placed by a Ben Nevis emigrant was that of Pastor Kilian. His departure had been delayed because someone had lodged a legal complaint charging him with inciting someone to emigrate.

Following a hearing, the Royal District Court in Rothenburg found the complaint lodged against me to be without merit, so my family and I depart today on a journey to the new home in Texas. I herewith take leave and extend best wishes to all my friends who remain behind.
Weigersdorf, September 13, 1854
Johann Kilian, Pastor.

George Nielsen

George Nielsen is a professor emeritus at Concordia University, River Forest, Illinois; noted Wendish historian; author of In Search of a Home, Nineteenth-Century Wendish Immigration; special features editor of the Texas Wendish Heritage Society Newsletter; and author of a biography of Jan Kilian.