Sophia Fredericka Arnold was barely 6 months old when she arrived in New York on June 19, 1843 from Hamburg, Germany. She came to America with her parents, Leonard and Christine; two sisters Katharine and Barbara; and a brother, George. Sophia is my maternal 3rd great grandmother.
While the Arnold family is found on the Sir Isaac Newton passenger list, this contradicts local lore that the family arrived in New Orleans and traveled up the Mississippi River to Illinois.
Sophia was born in Ermershausen, Germany on December 22, 1842. Her father, Leonhardt (Leonard) was a farmer and devout Lutheran. While it’s difficult to determine the exact reason Leonard Arnold uprooted his entire family and came to America, I can safely speculate the decreed union of the Lutheran and Reformed churches had something to do with it. After the decree by King Friedrich Wilhelm III in 1817, entire congregations flocked to America to worship in peace. The Arnolds set out for St. Clair County, Illinois and ultimately became part of a large German Lutheran settlement.
I have found record of many Arnolds who made the trip to St. Clair County at the same time as Leonard’s family. While I assume they were related, I have yet to trace the families to make the connections.
To Hamburg, then on to America
The trip from Ermershausen to the port city of Hamburg would have taken the Arnold’s roughly a week on foot, pushing all of their belongings in a cart. With a newborn, and children ages 4, 6 and 9, the trek would have been cumbersome for Leonard and Christine. Many of the port cities provided ample opportunity for those seeking passage to be robbed, swindled, or worse. Hamburg was a bit different, however. In 1837, Hamburg passed laws requiring ships’ owners to keep 90 days of provisions for each passenger, keep passenger lists of everyone on board, and provide a minimum amount of space for each steerage passenger.
Even with these standards in place, the passage to America in steerage on the Sir Isaac Newton, a merchant sailing ship, wouldn’t have been an easy one. With the average trip lasting 43 days, and without adequate food storage, bread went moldy and butter went rancid … and the potential for disease to spread is unfathomable today.
I don’t know how much money the Arnold family had, nor do I know what kind of material possessions they carried. However, given Hamburg’s emigration regulation that prohibited large groups of people with little means to pursue passage, I can assume the Arnold’s were more fortunate than their counterparts leaving from other ports.
I’ll probably never know what happened to my ancestors immediately upon arrival to America. The Arnold’s likely had relatives or friends in Illinois because they set out from Germany with intentions on settling in St. Clair County. From New York City, they probably traveled by foot, maybe carriage, then along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers until they reached St. Louis, Missouri. Just across the Mississippi is where they were to make their new life.
On July 1, 1848, Leonard Arnold was issued 40 acres of land in Lenzburg, Illinois, where he continued to raise his family. Sophia was almost 6 years old by then. She never knew her homeland like her siblings and parents. She was raised in a German-speaking home while learning English from her peers. It wasn’t until my own grandma’s generation that English became the dominant (sometimes only) language at home.
Sophia married Phillip Schuster on November 8, 1858 in St. Louis.
Together, they had five children:
- Fritz (1859-1947, my line … then George Schuster, then Doris Raines, then Debbie Moore)
- Mary Ann (1861-1933)
- John (1864-1944)
- Anna (1866-1918)
- Phillip (1868-1944)
Raised by a farmer and married to a farmer, Sophia was very familiar with rural life. She, like most mothers of the time, kept house and raised her family. By all accounts, Sophia’s life was uneventful beyond the joys of raising children and seeing grandchildren come into the world. Any family lore died several generations ago; my grandma knew very little of Sophia and Phillip.
Sophia died on May 18, 1920 at the age of 77, eight years after Phillip. She and Phillip are both buried in Saint Peters Cemetery near Lenzburg. Leonard Arnold brought his family here in search of a better life. His risk, like that of so many others, netted him great reward … not monetarily … but in family and heritage.