Henry Wenner wrote the letter below to his parents in 1866 after the voyage on the S.S. England with his sister Margaret (my great, great grandmother) from Luxembourg to America. Henry was 19 when he wrote the letter, Margaret was 24 at the time.
Henry Wenner 1847-1932
Left = Mary Margaret (Wenner) Kass 1850-1921
Right = Margaret "Greti" (Wenner) Pommes Schmit 1842-1917
May 7 1866
My dearly beloved parents,
It is with joy that I take my pen to write you these lines. I had feared I might never be able to do so. At six o'clock on the evening of the 24th of March, we arrived at Antwerp, where the agent took us to a hotel. There we partook of our evening meal and remained until two o'clock the next morning, when we went aboard ship. At, five o'clock we embarked. All was well until noon, when we fell victims to seasickness, which lasted until we reached Hartlepool, England. This lasted from the 25th to the 27th of March, and was so bad that we couldn't eat. My sister Margaret was much more sick than I was.
On the 27th of March we left the boat and went by rail to Liverpool. We took the train at nine o'clock in the morning, and arrived at Liverpool at four in the afternoon. There we were met by an agent who took us to a hotel where we spent the night. About noon of the 28th of March we boarded the large ocean going steamer. This vessel was 140 meters long and 50 feet wide, and we embarked at six o'clock in the evening. We sailed for two days, when quite a few emigrants from Ireland were taken aboard. In all there were 1300 persons on board.
Four days after we sailed, cholera broke out and many died of it. On Good Friday, Saturday and Easter Sunday we encountered a terrific storm. We sailed until the 8th of April, when we arrived at Halifax. Here the cholera raged fiercest. Then we sailed for fifteen minutes away, and remained on the ship two days. Then we landed on an island, and the sick were transferred to a hospital ship.
It was very cold on the journey to Halifax and many died. The cholera began with dysentery, cramps, sharp pains in the side, the eyes became large, and the feet icy cold. Some were sick four days, others were well in the evening and in the morning, a corpse. Our party of six also lost one of our members, Jacob Sontag, who was stricken the day before we were shipped to the island.
The food was very poor from Liverpool to Halifax. The meat was more than half raw most of the time, and the potatoes very often. Many believe the sickness was contracted on shipboard, for there had been a disease among the cattle a few years before in England. Others thought it was caused by the cold, again others thought it was carried by the Germans. There was much sorrow, weeping and wailing for, dear parents, 380 persons died during the voyage.
We were most fortunate to have a priest always with us, so that all could receive the sacrament of penance, and die fortified by the sacrament of Extreme Unction. The largest number were Irish and Hollanders; there were not so many Luxembourgers. The name of the priest is Karolus Baum, and he is a native of Luxembourg.
At Halifax the meat was thrown overboard and a fresh supply was obtained in the city. We were placed on the island on April 11. On the 18th after the ship had been cleaned we were again taken aboard and embarked for New York, where we arrived on April 21. We are still on the ship and ardently hope to leave it soon. The food is better and the sickness has abated, for from the 21st of April until the 8th of May we had only four deaths, three children and one woman.
During the month of May we have devotions on board in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and we also have common prayers morning and night.
My dearest parents, brothers and sisters, I hope you are all in good health. We on shipboard are still well. One thing I must tell you, those who entered into a contract with Straus in the city were placed on the same boat with us. They make contracts on shipboard and no one should make any contract at Antwerp, but at Le Havre, and no compliments for Chevalier.
I would not have written until we landed, but I thought you might fear we had died, as you perhaps have read in the papers that we are in quarantine here. As soon as we land and find a place to stay you will receive another letter. With this I shall conclude the account of our sorrowful journey.
Hearty greetings to you, dear parents, brothers and sisters and friends, and especially my old teacher, Nicholas Knepper, and all who are at home. My dear parents, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the good God will grant us the graces necessary for our eternal salvation. Praised be Jesus Christ.
Henry and Margaret Wenner
Footnote: Henry never saw his parents again, but visited his old home in 1914. He saw his brothers and sisters, but World War I broke out while he was there. He had to cut his visit short and took the only available passage home, traveling steerage. The ship was darkened for fear of submarines. What joy there was when he telephoned his anxious wife and children that he had landed safely in New York. Henry kept his deep and abiding faith and his devotion to our Blessed Lady until the day of his death.
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