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New World View

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


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 19th 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 19th 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 book is a bilingual and annotated edition of a collection of letters written by the German immigrant Christian Friedrich Bergmann and his family between 1854 and 1885, upon their arrival in Texas. The volume is intended as an insightful and thought-provoking contribution to the larger question of German immigration to Texas in the nineteenth century, and tries to promote a better understanding of today’s diverse American culture. At the same time, it is an attempt to show that, historically speaking, ‘Americanization’ has taken place on both the American and the European continents.

Gene Steele and Helga Mittrach, both descendants of the Christian Friedrich Bergmann family, played an important role in the compilation of this edition. Gene Steele is a great-grandson of Christian Friedrich Bergmann and a grandson of Bergmann’s youngest son, Christoph. Helga Mittrach is a great-granddaughter of Christian Friedrich Bergmann’s sister. Gene Steele met his cousin Helga Mittrach who resides in Mainz, Germany, for the first time in the fall of 1994 and has been in contact with her ever since. More than twenty years ago, Helga Mittrach, the owner of the original Bergmann letters, decided to transcribe the entire correspondence into modern German font. This endeavor was especially helpful, since fewer and fewer Germans are able to decipher the style of old German script in which the letters were originally written.

The history of these letters is not fully known. For some time, they were in the possession of an organ player in...

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