Adventures of the first pioneers
In approximately 1835, a man named George White went west, and came to a small community on the east shore of Lake Winnebago named Calumetville. Here he established a hotel and bar where he furnished rooms and meals to the early settlers in the area. A short time later he acquired large tracts of land from the United States Government with a patent signed by President James K. Polk. He then became a government land agent with power of attorney. Calumetville was a growing community with two hotels, two stores, several taverns, two blacksmith shops, a doctor, a flour mill and a lumber yard.
Sometime around 1845, Ferdinand Ostenfeld came to what at the time was known as the Territory of Wisconsin, and stopped at White's Hotel. He know that a large number of his people living in the provinces of Schleswig-Holstein were very uneasy and anxious to leave Germany due to the impending war between Denmark and Germany.
Naturally, it was after these two men met, that Mr. Ostenfeld told Mr. White about his people and the predicament they were in. Mr. White and Mr. Ostenfeld then decided to go back to Germany and tell their friends and relatives about the conditions and opportunities they would find in America. It was a big step for them to leave their homeland, but a number of people finally decided to make the trip. Arrangements were then made for those interested to be at Hamburg, Germany, to board the sailing ship Barens, with Hans Nienberg, as skipper. After many good-bys, they set sail in April of 1848. They traveled down the Elbe River into the North Sea and then by way of Newfoundland to New York, arriving there on May, 12, 1848.
Those aboard the ship were George White, Ferdinand Ostenfeld, Charles Gruening, Ernst Veers, William B. Griem, J.C. M. Pfeiffer, Henry Volquarts, William Witt, Claus Oesau, Claus Tams (both Senior and Junior), and Dr. Charles Bock. Others that made the trip were Peter Etler, Detlaf Schnak, John Ibs, and Hannes Kroenke. Some brought their families, while others made arrangements to have them follow as soon as living quarters were ready. Most of them felt quite secure when they learned that there was a doctor in the group even if medicines in those early days consisted mostly of ingredients like whiskey and tar.
After sailing for about four weeks, they reached New York, and then proceeded up the Hudson River to Albany. Here all of the chests and boxes containing the goods from their homeland were unloaded. All of those who could afford it went by train to Buffalo, New York. The others went by slow, horse-drawn canal boats via the Erie Canal to Buffalo. There all of the passengers with their boxes and chests boarded a Great Lakes sailing vessel for Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Mr. Ostenfeld had sent word ahead to Mr. Kroeh and Mr. Gaertner, operators of a German Hotel in Sheboygan, for reservations for this group of immigrants. The immigrants arrived around the middle of May of the year (1848).
While the newcomers were taking a few days of rest in Sheboygan, Mr. Ostenfeld made arrangements for their inland trip by trams of oxen hitched to heavy wagons. The women and children and a few of the older men found seats on the baggage that was piled on the wagons, while the others walked. It took them one day to make the sixteen miles to Plymouth, another day to Greenbush, and on the third day they arrived at Fond du Lac. The route they traveled was through virgin forest with no roads, with only some occasional Indian trails. For a long distance they had to climb several steep hills, which took considerable time. At times they had to ford rivers, one of which today is known as the Sheboygan River. After a short rest at Fond du Lac, they traveled for fourteen miles along the east shore of Lake Winnebago to Calumetville where they were quartered at White's Hotel.
It was the morning of May 29, 1848, that White, Ostenfeld, Witt, Veers, Griem, and Claus Tams, Jr. started to walk east eleven miles through the woods over some of the best land in the state. While they were wading through one of the marshes that they passed through, Claus Tams lost one of his shoes. Since he only had one pair, with a little help and a long pole, he finally succeeded in locating the shoe. They continued on until they found land with a lot of stone on it. Their folks in Germany had told them to look for land with a lot of stone, since that is where there is always good soil. Mr. Witt was the first one to select an "eighty" for his future home. Mr. Veers picked the next "eighty." They continued on for another mile where Mr. Pfeiffer decided to live. Mr. Griem wanted to live near a stream, which they found after walking another mile. Mr. Ostenfeld selected a tract of land opposite Mr. Griem, while Claus Tams picked an "eighty" another half-mile east for which he paid one-hundred and twenty dollars.
After each one of the first settlers had made his selection, they returned to White's Hotel, which was their headquarters during that first summer. Here each one made arrangements to build a house out of logs or out of sawed lumber. As soon as any of them were ready, they would move in and prepare for the winter. The first years were the hardest because they had to walk through the woods to Calumetville for all of their food and supplies. Income in those days was very limited; a few earned a little helping others. Many a time came when they ran out of coffee and money, they would go out in the woods to look for acorns, which they would roast and use instead of coffee by adding a little coffee essence. Whenever they ran out of meat the men would try to shoot wild game, which was quite plentiful, especially the now extinct carrier pigeon.