The descendants of Christian Friedrich "August" Schwettmann

Born 22 Feb 1845 in Rahden, Germany to parents Johann Christoph Schwettmann and Anna Marie (Kroeger).
Married on 27 Nov 1868 to Dorothee Louise Behring, parents Christian Friedrich Behring and Catharina Dorothee (Bante)

Known Children of first marriage:

Marie Dorothee Schwettmann
Born 26 May 1869.

Heinrich Wilhelm (William) Schwettmann
Birth record indicates born 17 Dec 1870, but used the birthdate of 16 July 1868 throughout his life in America.

Christian Heinrich Schwettmann
Born 28 November 1872

Karoline Sophie Schwettmann
Born 7 Oct 1874.

Remarried 8 June 1877 to Wilhelmine Dorothea Bommelmann.

History:
Heinrich "Wilhelm" was born on December 17th, 1870 to parents August and Dorothee Schwettmann in the town of Rahden, in what was then known as Prussia. He was the first known son of the family, but had an older sister. Within a year of his birth, the German Empire was organized and Rahden was considered a part of Germany from that time forward.

Wilhelm's brother Christian Heinrich was born on November 28th, 1872. They also had a younger sister born in 1874. Unfortunately, sometime after her birth, their mother was no longer in the picture. We can probably assume she died, although the region has no surviving death records that we know of at this time. August remarried to Wilhelmine Dorothea Bommelmann on June 8, 1877, and in the following years they had several children together.


About Northwest Germany:
Rahden is a town in the northwestern part of Germany, about 50 miles inland. The closest port is the city of Bremen, on the Weser River. This part of Germany, formerly Prussia, had seen many wars and conquerors throughout it's history. In the late 1800's, northwestern Germany was still living in a time of tremendous social and class injustice. Strict class boundaries meant that peasants had very little opportunity to improve their lives. Increasing trade with America and the British meant that cottage industries such as weaving were no longer profitable, and grain farmers couldn't compete with cheap grain from the U.S. Farmers in northwest Germany suffered many crop failures in the mid 1800's. Overpopulation meant that all available land had already been taken, and peasant lands were frequently too small to support their family. 

 

From the city of Rahden walking tour guide:
Barren sandy soils, peat bogs, and heather brought the peasants in the idyllic small town and country only sparse income. In addition to agriculture, therefore, the processing of flax and linen manufacturing played an important role. Through the decline of linen manufacturing and as a result of crop failure in the middle of the 1800's, many townspeople emigrated from Rahden to the United States. It was only with the onset of industrialization and improved economic conditions that the agriculture industry flourished, encouraging trade and commerce, and the population began to rise again.

From "German Immigration to the U.S. in the 1800's":
The third tide of German emigrants began in 1880, coinciding with the beginning of the great influx of southern and eastern Europeans. Of the 1,849,056 persons involved in this migration, which lasted until 1893, the vast majority came from northeastern Germany, an area dominated by Prussia but including the states of Pornerania, Upper Silesia, and Mecklenburg. This was the domain of the Prussian aristocracy or Junker class which had led the progressive unification and industrialization of the region while swallowing up 21,000 peasant holdings between 1816 add 1859, thus, in the name of "consolidation," creating a land-less agricultural proletariat whose only recourse lay in departure. 

Fortunately for those leaving Europe in the middle of the nineteenth century, many of the vicissitudes that had plagued earlier emigrants had been eased . Steam and sailboat service to major ports had been regularized, and the terrors of confronting an unknown land had been reduced by floods of information about America in newspapers, travel books, immigration guides, and promotional tracts. More importantly, improved postal services brought the reassurance of glowing letters from friends and relatives already established in the New World. 

But even so, the human costs involved in the decision to emigrate remained high and departure scenes were usually heart-rending, as many German immigrants to Wisconsin were to testify. A member of the Schuette family, who departed Germany for Manitowoc County in 1848, wrote: "The neighbors and fiends were on hand to say a last farewell and tears flowed in profusion (since) anyone leaving for America was considered about to pass into eternity." Sometimes bitterness towards those "deserting" the homeland split families apart, and on occasion the separation proved too much for those left behind. Jacob Eifler of Sheboygan recalled that his grandfather "passed away from grief and heartache" two years after members of his family set sail for the United States. 

For many, the passage across the Atlantic was the longest voyage of their lives. Some had never been out of their native districts. Almost always they viewed the harbor scene with wonderment and awe. One Schuette family member described Bremen, one of the principal ports of departure: "On arrival at this seaport we saw for the first time what we had longed to see, ships of all nations, in all colors, with symbolic figureheads and majestic spars - oh how different from our inland town! What a grand and enchanting picture!" 

Emigration from Rahden to the U.S.:

By 1883, August had a new family and his first two sons from his previous marriage had their sights set on America. Why? It's difficult to know exactly why, but maybe August wanted a better life for his sons.

In any case, on approximately March 7th, 1883, at age 13, Wilhelm found himself in the port city of Breman, Germany, about 15-20 miles from his hometown of Rahden. 

And he was not alone... His 11 year old brother Christian was also with him. Together they boarded the sailing steamship S.S. Herman bound for America. Try to imagine being a 13 year old boy, leaving your home and family forever, caring for your 11 year old brother on a 20 day ship journey to a new land.


About the S.S. Herman:


There are many stories about the horrific conditions immigrants encountered on the ships of the early to mid 1800's. Steerage decks full of poor immigrants huddled together, enduring the conditions as best they could among cold, sickness, and lack of food. The S.S. Herman was NOT like this. By all accounts, this was an excellent ship with first rate accomodations for the time, even for the poorer classes. The cost for a trip on this ship must have been extravagant for most.

Nevertheless, here we have a 13 year old and 11 year old, leaving together for the 20 day voyage across the Atlantic. The Herman did not sail to Ellis Island like so many other immigrant ships. Instead, it docked in Baltimore, Maryland. On March 29th, both Wilhelm and Christian filled out their arrival paperwork for the United States. Wilhelm assumed the name William Schwettmann, and Christian assumed the name Christian Schwettman (dropping the last n). On their paperwork, Christian used his correct birthdate, but William did not. He listed his birthdate as July 16th, 1868, making him appear older than he really was. It's possible he had to be a certain age to make the voyage, or to chaperone his brother. In any case, he used that birthdate throughout the rest of his life.

There was already a Schwettmann family living in Cincinnati. Henry and Dora Schwettmann migrated from Rahden to Cincinnati three years earlier. We can probably assume Henry met them in Baltimore and took them in. Henry was a carpenter, and his family lived at 54 Tafel Street in Cincinnati.

William started a farm on Este Avenue in the town of Millcreek, a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio, which later changed names to Winton Place. Christian eventually moved to Beekman St. in Cincinnati, but it is unknown what his occupation was. William's farm would grow and prosper through the 1960's, with many Schwettmann households located along Este Avenue, many working the fields with their family. There were laborers renting rooms in the many houses, and greenhouses heated by a huge boiler system for winter farming.

The farm prospered even as many small farms were failing. But as farming operations consolidated from smaller farms to huge operations in rural areas, eventually the Schwettman farm began to decline. There was a lack of interest in keeping the farm operational as younger Schwettmann generations moved away and pursued other careers. To make matters worse, the farm was nearly wiped out by a tornado on April 3rd, 1974. The greenhouses were levelled, but summer farming continued to a small degree until the late 1970's when the last sections of Schwettman farmland became part of the BESL trucking corporation. The last Schwettmans left the farm in August of 1981, myself among them.

Meaning of name (possibly):

The Rahden area would have spoken Low German until the late 1800's. In that language "Schwett" refers to a plum, therefore our name might be translated as Plum Farmer.

 

-- Steven Ray Schwettman
I will be adding more information over time.

1910 Census
Household Role Gender Age Birthplace
William Schwettman Head M 43 Germany
Mary Schwettman Wife F 41 Germany

William H Schwettman Son M 18 Ohio
Henry F Schwettman Son M 16 Ohio
Edward H Schwettman Son M 15 Ohio
Carrie W L Schwettman Daughter F 13 Ohio
Louisa W Schwettman Daughter F 11 Ohio
Edna W Schwettman Daughter F 9 Ohio
Albert C Schwettman Son M 7 Ohio
Walter W Schwettman Son M 2 Ohio

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