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New World View

Letters from a German Immigrant Family in Texas (1854–1885)


Edited By Ruth Cape

New World View: Letters from a German Immigrant Family in Texas, 1854–1885 is a bilingual and annotated edition of a collection of letters written by a 19 th century German immigrant family in Texas. Christian Friedrich Bergmann and his family belonged to the large wave of German immigrants that came to Texas in the 1850s. Born in April of 1817 in Ebersbach, a small village then located in the Kingdom of Saxony, Bergmann – together with his wife Johanna Christiane Luise Bergmann and his three sons, Friedrich, Karl, and Christoph – embarked on an overseas journey to America in August of 1854; in November of 1854, they arrived in Texas. The family first resided in San Antonio before later settling on the Guadalupe River near Boerne, where Bergmann bought 320 acres of land and he and his family became farmers and ranchers, as well as active members of their community.
The Bergmann letter collection begins with a detailed description of the sea journey and the many exciting and disheartening moments experienced while at sea. Bergmann then gives deep insight into many facets of immigrant life on the Texas frontier while narrating how he and his family built a life for themselves in Texas.
This letter collection spans a period of three decades, presenting the reader with important insight into the process of German immigrant acculturation in Texas in the second half of the 19 th century. At the same time, it details the numerous challenges many immigrants faced in their attempts to adapt to American culture and succeed in the New World. The book, which includes a historical and biographical introduction, is a valuable source for scholars and students in various disciplines, but also addresses readers with a general interest in the social history of German immigration to the United States and, specifically, to Texas.
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This edition of correspondence would not have been possible without the dedicated support of Gene Steele and Helga Mittrach, both descendants of the Christian Friedrich Bergmann family. I am grateful to Gene Steele for bringing the Bergmann correspondence to my attention, for providing me with important documents that relate to the letters, and for generously funding the printing of this publication. Furthermore, I am indebted to Helga Mittrach, the owner of the letter collection, for giving me permission to publish the Bergmann letters in this bilingual and annotated edition and for patiently providing useful additional information during our many hours of conversations on the phone.

In the process leading up to publication, students studying German at Austin College in Sherman, Texas gained valuable insight into the letter collection by working on them in two different course projects as part of two advanced German courses. Many students contributed to this edition by diligently entering parts of the German transcription of the letters that were only available as a photocopy into a computer. Thanks go to the following current or former German students of Austin College: Madeline Akers, Christopher Burke, Michael Clark, Helen Hohnholt, Abderrazak Kerfai, Bradley West, Matthew Moore, Randall Ham, Spencer Nystrom, Rebekah Percival, Christopher Stein, Allison Lloveras, Brian Orr, Erika Valek, Sophie Higgs, and Madeline Faye; to Lauren Tepera for turning the floor plan of Bergmann’s house into an electronic version. I am also thankful to the German language house assistant for the academic year 2012/2013, Ateeb...

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