Thursday, October 27, 2011

German Immigrant Gustav Klingelhöffer, Friedrich Gerstäcker's Friend in 19th Century Arkansas

Like hundreds of thousands of Germans, Gustav Klingelhöffer and his family immigrated to the United States during the first half of the 19th century. He was an educated man, a Lutheran pastor, who led the effort of a group of disaffected  Germans in the Rheinhessen region to form an emigration society that planned create a German colony in the Arkansas.

Pastor Klingelhöffer headed this group of 250 to 350 people, called the Mainzer Emigration Society, as they took a boat from Bremen, headed for Little Rock via New Orleans. Apparently, the group had disagreements even before they reached New Orleans, and only about 140, around 60 families, took the steamboat trip from there to Little Rock, arriving in May 1833. The others went in different directions.

Of the sixty families who came to Arkansas, many stayed in the Little Rock area, others moved to different counties in Arkansas, and some left for other states.  Klingelhöffer bought a farm on the Fourche le Fave in Perry County and lived the rest of his life there, dying in 1873.

Unlike most immigrants, who lived and died in obscurity, we know many things about Klingelhöffer because of a German traveler and writer by the name of Friedrich Gerstäcker, who spend many months in Arkansas between 1837 and  1843, staying several nights with Klingelhöffer and his family in Perry County.

At the time, Gerstäcker was a young man on his first trip to the United States, and he traveled extensively in Arkansas and other states, getting special pleasure in killing bears, deer, turkeys, buffalo, and whatever meandered into his path. He visited Little Rock several times, but did not like it. While there, he met several members of the 1833 group who had settled in or near the city.

After he returned to Germany in 1843, Gerstäcker wrote an account of his trip that was published in 1844 as Streif- und Jagdzüge durch die Vereinigten Staaten von Nordamerika (Rambling and Hunting in the United States of North America).  The book was successful, and it was translated and published in English in 1845 as Wild Sport in the Far West. In that book, Gerstäcker wrote this about Klingelhöffer:

He had been accustomed to a quiet comfortable life in his early days, having been a Clergyman in Germany, but he had shaken off the superintendent yoke of his native country, exchanging it for the independent life of a farmer in the American forests, and was happy and contented in his family circle. His young wife was quite an example of household virtue: they had four very fine children. He produced almost everything that he required, and though in his youth unaccustomed to hard work, he cultivated his land alone, and was not behind any American in the use of his axe; his cattle and pigs were among the best in the place. (J.B. Lippencott Company, 1859(?), pp. 228-229)

The rest of Gerstäcker's life was spent traveling in different parts of the world, and writing about his exploits. He returned to Arkansas after the Civil War, in 1867, and he visited his old friend Klingelhöffer, with whom he had remained in contact by mail. The following is an account of what he found:

      Klingelhöffer told him about the difficulties experienced in the backwoods area during the war at the hands of the Bushwhackers and Jayhawkers. Although many friends around him had been killed by the roving bands of outlaws, the losses within Klingelhöffer’s own family had been the most difficult. Gerstäcker wrote, “His only son had gone against the will of this strong Union man and had joined the Confederate army only to meet his death. That broke Klingelhöffer’s heart, and he has never completely recovered.” [This description is adapted from Schuette, Strangers to the Land: The German Presence in Nineteenth Century Arkansas (p. 73), who quotes Anita Bukey and Evan Burr Bukey. “Arkansas After the War: From the Journal of Frederick Gerstaecker.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly XXXIII, no. 3 (Autumn 1973): 255-273.]

(For more about Gerstäcker, see this entry in the Encyclopedia of Arkansas

Klingelhöffer and his second wife, Martha Louise, had brought two small children with them across the ocean and had nine more after they moved to Perry County. Three of those nine died within 24 months of their birth. Their oldest daughter died at the age of 28 in 1858; her husband was killed fighting for the confederacy, leaving two small children to live with their grandparents.
Only one of Klingelhöffer's sons survived infancy. Although, as Gerstäcker noted, Gustav was a strong supporter of the Union, his son, listed in  Civil War records as “Gus Klingelhoeffer,” joined the Confederate army. He enlisted as a private on July 29, 1861 at Pocahontas (see Gus was in Company D of the 3rd Arkansas Cavalry Regiment at the time of his death on October 4, 1862 at Corinth, Mississippi. See;read=8097

I have written a paper with more about Gustav Klingelhöffer; it is at this site:

Also, an article about another family among the 1833 German immigrants to Little Rock, published in the Pulaski County Historical Review, is available at this site:

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Thinking Cheap, Buying "Brown" in Austria, 1972

As a student in Vienna during the 1971-1972 academic year, I was always looking for ways to save money. Fortunately, Austrians made it possible for students to live cheaply with subsidized eateries (Mensa); cheap student lodging (Studentenheim); reduced prices for museums, plays, opera and concerts; and reduced fares on public transportation. For most of these discounts, all you needed was proof that you were a university student.

In addition, other bargains, available to everyone, were to be found, including the incredibly cheap "standing room" places for even the best music and dance events. With plenty of time to stand in line, I got excellent standing spots to hear the Wiener Philharmonic, observe Leonard Bernstein conduct Mahler symphonies, and watch Nureyev dance. 

Membership Card for the
Austrian Alpine Club  (front)
With an eye out for such bargains, I was pleased to hear that I could get discounts on train travel if I belonged to a organized travel group. So, one day I was walking near my apartment in the Eighth District  and noticed a sign for the Ősterreichischer Alpenverein (ŐAV), the Austrian Alpine Club. I decided to sign up, figuring the dues would quickly be exceeded by savings on travel using the Austrian national railways.

Later that day, when I mentioned that I had joined the Ősterreichischer Alpenverein to my friend Jörg Wollmann, a Viennese who was a few years older than me, he gave me a funny look, shook his head, and said something like, "Don't you know that is a brown group."

Well, I didn't know, and I was not sure what he meant. However, I was quite aware of the deep political divisions in Austrian society that had created, from the beginnings of the First Republic after WWI, what political scientists had called "Lager," roughly translated as "political camps," into which most people were born and stayed their whole lives.

The two main political camps were the socialists (or social democrats) and the Catholic-conservatives. Membership in the camps was, to a large extent, a matter of geography:  most members were grouped together based on where they lived. For example, a large majority of Viennese (excluding those living in a few districts) were solidly members of the socialist camp, while most rural and small city Austrians were members of the Catholic-conservative camp. In industrial cities, the socialists lived in worker's districts, and the Catholic-conservatives lived elsewhere.

Membership Card for the Austrian Alpine Club (inside)
Also, occupation played a large role in determining to which political camp you belonged. Most laborers ("workers") were in the socialist camp, and most shop owners, farmers, and managers were Catholic conservatives.

After WWII, the two camps were roughly equal in size, each about 45 percent of the population.  The people comprising the other ten percent of the population were independent or were members of smaller political camps, including a German nationalist group and a communist group. The first group was on the far right, and it attracted, some said, people with Nazi sympathies. It typically struggled to get the five percent of the vote needed to be represented in the national parliament. The communist group usually received less than two percent of the vote nationally. 

Being a part of a political camp meant much more than supporting a political party. It also meant that you associated mainly with others of your camp. You lived next to them, went to school with them, went (or didn't go) to church with them, read the same newspapers and magazines, were members of the same social clubs, and were members of the same unions or employer groups or industry associations. In short, you spent your time mostly with people in your political camp from cradle to grave. 

These lager were at odds over many basic issues, economic, social, and religious. The divisions and enmity were so great during the 1920s and 1930s that each created their own militias, and in 1934, the Catholic-conservative militia (Heimwehr) teamed with the Austrian army (commanded by Dollfuss, the Catholic-conservative Chancellor) to crush the social democrats in a brief and decisive civil war. 

Out of the ruins of the 1938 Anschluss and World War II, Austrians found ways to build bridges between the two camps so that future armed strife could be avoided. The mechanisms for managing conflict included a Grand Coalition of the two main political camps that governed the country for decades after the end of the war, plus other mechanisms to insure that the two camps shared power, influence, and positions. Essentially, each political camp had a veto power over government action to address major national issues. 

The grip of the political camps declined slowly as Austrian society became a bit more mobile and people moved to different locations where they regularly encountered people from other political camps. Also, as radio and television became more important sources of information, members of the camps heard differing points of views: the lager lost their near-monopoly on the flow of information to their members. (Radio and television were nationalized after WWII, and their operations were managed jointly by the representatives of the two camps.)

In 1971 and 1972, the political camps still dominated politics, but were weakening. In 1971, Bruno Kreisky's Socialist Party (SPŐ) received 50 percent of the vote in Parliamentary elections, winning a majority of the seats in Parliament. For the first time since WWII, one party governed Austria without a coalition. 

In that election, the German nationalist party, the Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (FPŐ) received 5.5 percent of the vote, winning 10 seats in the 183-seat Parliament. Its fortunes would improve in coming decades, but in 1971 it still was a fringe party with a suspicious membership, winning support mainly from rural parts of the country.

Book published by the Austrian Alpine Club, October 2011
It was within this 1971-72 political framework that I had meandered unknowingly into a tacit affiliation with the far right political camp by becoming a member of the Ősterreichischer Alpenverein. What I had not known is that ŐAV, the oldest  mountain climbing and hiking group in Austria, had an unsavory history. The club was created in 1862 as an organization for mountain climbers and hikers, and its first sixty years were benevolent: it helped develop trails and built mountain huts in the Alps. But soon after WWI, it entered politics when -- merged with the German Alpine Club (DAV) -- it became a promoter of the "German way of life" and developed anti-Semitic policies. In 1924, it allowed its different sections to prohibit Jews from being members, which most did. After the Anschluss, the ŐAV continued to function as a Nazi-sanctioned organization within the Austrian Gau. 

The ŐAV, now the largest travel group in Austria, acknowledges the unsavory elements of its history (see this web site: ). As part of the upcoming celebration of the 150th anniversary of its founding, it is publishing a book that critically examines its history from 1918 to 1945. The book is entitled Berg Heil! Alpenverein und Bergsteigen 1918-1945

Despite its present popularity, in 1972, at least some people, including Jörg, viewed the ŐAV, based on its history, as a "brown" (Nazi-associated) or "blue" (FPŐ-associated) club. People who were strongly anti-Nazi and/or were members of other political camps (the reds and blacks) were unlikely to join it.  People who had brown sympathies and/or were members of the German national political camp were more likely to be members of this travel and mountain climbing club than any other one. 

I discovered that other travel and mountain climbing clubs existed for members of the main political camps. If you were a member of the SPŐ ("red") camp, you would likely join Die Naturfreunde Ősterreichs (the Friends of Nature of Austria), created in 1895 to assist workers to enjoy travel and nature.  As a member of the Catholic conservative ("black") camp, with the Ősterreichische Volkspartei (ŐVP) at its center, you would likely join the Ősterreichische Touristenverein (ŐTV), the Austrian Tourist Club, founded in 1908 and affiliated then with the Christian Socialist Party. 

When I figured out that I had joined a group that some people considered "brown" or "blue," I was chagrined. I had simply wanted a discount on rail travel and had stopped by the office of the nearest travel organization that would get me that discount. By joining this Club, inadvertently aligning myself with  repugnant political views, I learned a lesson about how simple private acts in Austria could convey a regrettable political message. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bill's Trip to the Market: Pioneer Tales of Arkansas' German Immigrants

Arkansas Echo
January 19, 1894

As is well known, the immigrant upon his arrival in America was surprised more than anything else by the fact that here he had to pay 5¢ for a sip of beer or a cigar. That was usually above his means. He was used, over there, to getting his glass of beer (and, at that, twice as big) for a groschen and a cigar for 3 - 4 pfennigs.  But people get used to anything, especially Germans, and after he is in this land for awhile, he sees it all as entirely understandable.  Yea, yea, drinking and smoking cigars is a rather expensive thing here in America, and whoever wishes to do so must be well supplied with change.  Newcomers often are in the beginning, but they quickly halt such activities as beer and whiskey drink and cigar smoking.
Railroad Advertisement for Routes to 
Little Rock  and St. Joseph's Colony 
(a German settlement near Conway) 

Months are rare when a person does not think about these things, though they may permit themselves such luxuries only on special occasions. Then a person is not used to the stuff, and if he happens to accidently obtain some, he quickly feels the effects. Who really wants to throw a stone at such a poor Devil because of this? Not I, and not any reasonable person.

So one year, Bill with his wife skillfully managed their fruit and had dried a huge amount apples and peaches. One day, Bill loaded about 25 bushels of these on his wagon and traveled with them, and with his two boys, to the city in order to sell the fruit. The city was about 12 miles from his place. There, he soon had sold his wares, certainly at a better price than he had hoped. Then he bought all kinds of things: porcelain and earthen pots and bowls, coffee, beans, peas, and a hodge-podge of other things.

As he completed his business, Bill thought, it would not be a sin if he went to the inn and had a small one, which he then immediately did.  Here he met a few friends and acquaintances, and as it is the style here in America, they were treated several times to a drink, and so on.

Yes, that was a pleasurable time for Bill and because he, naturally, was not used to the stuff, he was soon tipsy.  But as soon as he sensed that, he stopped, harnessed up, climbed up with his boys and traveled away. Above all, it was time to go because he had a long journey and the sun was not still standing high in the sky.

As he came outside in the air, his head spun around like a wheel of a mill, but Bill pulled himself together, recovered his legs, and took off up the mountain. Outside of the town, there was a hill that was steep going up and coming down. Luckily he made it to the top, but on the way down, he forgot to apply the chain. He had, of course, an old fashioned wagon with a chain rather than brakes. Bill saw what he had done as the wagon was in full flight, and it naturally was too late to lock it.

Then the situation became critical, what everyone who has been in such a situation would understand.  At a racing speed, the wagon went down the mountain but everything would have been o.k. if down on the level ground, in the middle of the path, there had not stood a brazen tree stump that did not get out of the way. And the horses raced right at it despite the desperate effort by Bill to steer them away. All of a sudden, a crash; the box flew out with all of its contents, and the horses stood still, panting and trembling. And poor Bill with the small kids and all the stuff lay under the box. since it had immediately turned upside down.

In an instant, Bill is sober, as sober as a new born calf. With truly extraordinary strength, he raised up into the sky and threw the box down. And, Thank God, at least nothing had happened to his kids and himself. They were coming away with only a scare. And also the horses.

But it was all the worse that it appeared that nothing could be saved from the wagon and the beautiful things that Bill had bought. They all lay scattered about, and the dishes were in bits and pieces.

Bill had to scratch behind his ears; he did not know what he should do at that moment. Then he suddenly realizes that he would not be able to make it home with the busted wagon, at least not that day. As he now stands there and makes plans, he hears next to him a voice and sees a man who wants to take a look at the situation. "Bad thing," says he and offers to let him spend the night at his place. The man was a Frenchman and lived nearby on the path.

But Bill wanted nothing to do with it; he wanted only to get home, even if he had to ride. Luckily Bill knew a little broken French from school and the military, plus some English, and he made it understandable to the man that he wanted to ride on and return at dawn the next morning to fix his things.

All arguments from the man were of no use. Bill unhooked the horses. On one, he packed his kids and various other materials such as a pair of barrels and a few small packages; he sat on the other horse and went forth into the night.

Soon it grew dark. Fortunately, he could trust the horses. They would soon find their way home. He then had the time and leisure to think over his troubles in order to come up with a believable story that he would be able to present to his wife. He was, of course, entirely innocent in the story. The dumb, small Spitz (Pomeranian dog?) was  entirely to blame.

The horses trotted briskly onward and soon it was so dark that one could not see his hand in front of his face. The horses had to find their way about. After riding about 6 miles, there was a side path going left that he had to take.  And it seemed to Bill an eternity before this path would appear.

Then suddenly the horses make a turn, but not onto a path, but into the woods through a thick thicket.  Oho, says Bill, this isn't right, and his hat falls off. He jumps down and looks for it, but to no avail. He cannot find it. He climbs back on the horse, turns the horse around in order to get it back on the open path. But what is that?  He is sitting in the middle of shrubs and doesn't know right from left anymore.  After a long search, he locates the path again.

The horses don't want to go any further. But they must, and now Bill thinks to himself, I will be home in an hour.  An hour passes! Two pass, but still his fence doesn't come. Bill finally concludes that he is on the wrong track, and that it was no longer reasonable to think that he will make it home that night.

Now, Bill thinks, at the first opportunity I'll knock at the next house and stay there for the night. To the devil with this situation! (Der Kukuk soll die Wirthschaft holen).  And, at last, he sees in front of him in an opening what appeared to be a light. This is the place to stop, says Bill, and rides toward it. At the fence, he calls "halloh," at which a man comes out and asks him what he wants.

Remarkably, he recognizes the voice! And as he is able to see the man, Bill doesn't want to believe his eyes. It truly is the Frenchman by whose house the accident occurred.

"Sacre di blue," shouts Bill. I will not repeat what else he said. The Frenchman laughs and immediately recognizes him. How did his all happen? Bill doesn't know himself. The main thing is that he has to have a roof tonight for his poor small kids. More troubles: His hat is gone; he has lost a couple barrels and other packages, probably in the thicket.

It doesn't make any difference, Bill thinks. Tomorrow I have to look for all the stuff. He puts the horses in the stall, and in the meanwhile the wife has made a fire and put together a good supper. Afterwards, before anything else, the kids are put to bed. Then the well-living host gets a bottle of wine, and Bill soon feels alright again and thinks, tomorrow everything will be fine.

But Bill couldn't sleep much that night. He could not get out of his thoughts the expected punishing sermon that awaited him at home, even if he had to agree that he richly deserved it.

The next morning as soon as he could see, he was outside by his wagon. Oh misery! The shaft was broken as were several spokes and other small things. And his wares? None were still whole. Coffee, sugar, beans, peas mixed together in a heap. 

First Bill repaired the wagon with the help of the Frenchman. It went so well that he even hoped to get home with it. He borrowed a sack and put the whole mess in it. Then, after he ate breakfast, he harnessed up and traveled homeward with a heavy heart. On the way, he looked for his hat and the other things. Where are they? He couldn't find them.

So at last he made it home. How he was welcomed there, he has not told me. Things were so bad that it took him 14 days to sort the stuff in his sack. And later if Bill again went to sell apples or peaches, he was not alone. His wife accompanied him. 


Introduction to the Pioneer Tales

This pioneer tale is one in a series published in 1893 and 1894 by the Arkansas Echo, a German-language newspaper in Little Rock. The stories are intended to show the challenges and adventures facing German immigrants when they came to settle in Arkansas. So far, the following posts have introduced the Pioneer Tales and provided translations of several of them:

Pioneer Tales of Arkansas' German Immigrants (background of the newspaper series)

Arkansas Echo, November 3, 1893

Arkansas Echo, November 10, 1893

Arkansas EchoNovember 17, 1893

Arkansas Echo, December 1, 1893

Arkansas EchoDecember 8, 1893

Arkansas Echo, December 22, 1893

Arkansas EchoDecember 29, 1893

Arkansas EchoJanuary 5, 1894

Arkansas Echo, January 14, 1894