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How emigrant Valentin Schütz from Harmerz experienced America

A rediscovered letter from the time Fulda, Ohio was founded


by Willi Schütz


          Around 1841-42 the author’s great-grand uncle left his native village Harmerz at the age of twenty, hoping to find happiness and a better future in the USA.  Valentin Schütz had grown up as the second youngest child of the Harmerz farmer Johannes Schütz and his wife Barbara, née Müller.  As he was one of 14 brothers and sisters, he knew he would never be able to start a family of his own on his parents’ farm, especially after his eldest brother had inherited it.  His father had made it possible for him to be trained in a skilled trade like his two brothers who established themselves as cartwright (or wheelwright?) and glazier respectively in Harmerz.  Consequently, the only capital that Valentin Schütz took with him to the New World was his craftsman competence as a carpenter. 


          Valentin Schütz eventually landed in an area where other immigrants from Germany had already settled some years before.  Most of those settlers had come from the area around Fulda, for example from Kalbach, Neuhof, Flieden, from the villages of Giesel, Istergiesel, villages ending in “...rod”, and some of them had come from the Vogelsberg area.  They founded and developed a cultural and economic center which they called Fulda, Ohio.  The idea behind this was to document their origin and to preserve memories of their former home country, Germany.   They were supported by Damian Josef Klüber, a Roman Catholic priest who had been born in Fulda, Germany, their former home town.  After the settlers had established a parish and built a provisional church, Damian Josef Klüber started looking after the settlers in 1860 under most difficult conditions.  Already eight years before him, his brother Eduard Klüber had come to Fulda, Ohio to work as a school teacher and instruct the children of the parishioners.  In 1861, a third member of the Klüber family arrived, Katharina Theresia, who, as presbytery housekeeper, kept her brother Josef’s house. Let’s listen to Valentin Schütz himself reporting about what he did and what he experienced.  His letter was addressed to his brother, Sebastian Schütz, master glazier in Harmerz, and was discovered in a filed away document in Fulda.


A noteworthy letter


Dokkrük (Duck Creek), September 8th, 1857


My much-loved brother,

I would be overjoyed if my letter found you  alive and in good health.  As far as I am concerned, I am much healthier than years ago, and I know I owe our good God a thousand thanks.  Dear brother, only a few days ago I learnt that you are worrying greatly and are incapable of finding an explanation for not having received any letters from me for quite a long time. A settler from Keelhauls arrived a few days ago and told an acquaintance of mine who, in turn, told me.  The most important reason why I have not written to you for a long time is laziness, I admit, and still, there are different reasons as well: I know people in Germany have only little money and, consequently, they complain about receiving too many letters from America.  [They had to pay a delivery charge!]  And that is why I decided not to write to you too often.  On the other hand, I am pretty sure that your brotherly love has not for a moment allowed you to settle down because I have not given you the desired information; you would certainly like to know where I am and how I am getting on in life.  Well, here is my report.  I am now living in a German community which is called Dokkrük.  Since August 18th, 1856, I have been married to a girl named Mathilde Gerst.  Her father’s name is Johannes Gerst from Mittelkalbach, and her mother’s maiden name was Katharina Heil, she was born in Hummelsmühle.  They have been in America for more than 22 years.  I am doing quite nicely, things could hardly be better, mainly because we have a happy marriage:  We understand each other and live a faithful and satisfied life.  I do not yet have a house and estate of my own but have already been able to earn and save some money, and I do earn good money every day, working as a carpenter, and sometimes there is more work than I can do.


Working as a joiner


My main job is to build and repair houses. Sometimes I make furniture, mainly in the winter.  In the country, a joiner can earn much more money than a cabinet-maker.  It is advantageous, however, to be good at both things.  When I arrived here coming from the South, I was rather in poor health because the climate there proved damaging to my health; you must know, it is very hot down there.  Then I found some work in a town called Wheeling, and in the spring of the following year, 1844, Johannes Bosold [born in Zirkenbach] left Wheeling to live in the country, and I decided to go with him.  The place he went to was 25 English miles from Wheeling, and you can cover three miles in an hour.  I lived there for two years.  Johannes had friends in the place where I am living now.  Once, while he was visiting his friends, he was told there was a lot of work to be done, and so I made up my mind to move to Dokkrük.  I arrived here in March 1846; there are more than 90 farmers of German origin living here.  It is a good place to live, there is a church and a school as well.  They built a new church only a short time ago; they hold parish service every second Sunday.  They have a German school teacher, born in Fulda.  I think all this is very important because in America you can easily be induced to break away from faith if you lack steadfastness.  There are lots of areas without a Roman Catholic church and there are lots of different religious beliefs.  That is why most people adopt the religious faith that can be followed most easily.  America is a free country, and everybody can do as he pleases.  Johannes Bosold and his family have moved here, too. Johannes has bought 100 acres of land.  He is doing very well, and Berta [née Helfenbein] married Valentin Vogel [born in Harmerz].  They are still living where we used to live.  They have taken a lease on a plot of land.  I am sure, however, they will soon move here.


Dear brother, you might have written several letters and sent them to my address, and I have not received any of them.  I will therefore have my exact address written down for you, for I am now living 62 miles form Wheeling.  The school teacher in Büchenberg [brother-in-law by the name of Helfenbein] will soon receive a letter from me.  Let me conclude my letter now.  I and my wife send our warmest greetings to you, dear brother, and your wife and father-in-law and all your children. Give our greetings to all my brothers and sisters without any exception.  I am particularly interested in learning how Peter Joseph [deaf and dumb] is doing, I often think of him. If only he could be here, he could live a much better life. I am eager to learn how all my brothers and sisters and their families are doing.  Elisabeth [née Helfenbein] and her husband have asked me to give you their warmest greetings.


I have forgotten to inform you about the money I earn a day.  Working as a joiner, I earn one Taler [$1] and free board; working at home, I earn more than that.  1 Taler is equivalent to 2 Gulden and 40 Kreutzer in German currency.


I remain your most faithful brother Valentin Schütz.


If you write to me, you should address the letter to Valentin Schütz, Berne R. D. Noble Co. Ohio, North America.


You had better have the address written by a man who understands the address.



Friends from home


          In the new and unknown country, Valentin Schütz managed to keep in touch with acquaintances from home.  The first thing he did, together with his friend Johannes Bosold, was to find a sound basis for life and make a decent living.  Johannes Bosold originated from the neighboring village of Zirkenbach, and the two friends Johannes and Valentin had attended Johannesberg elementary school together.  Their way led them to the first settlers from the Fulda area.  There, Valentin Schütz met Valentin Vogel, another acquaintance from Harmerz, his native village.  As his sister was married to Helfenbein, the school teacher, Valentin Schütz established a family relationship with Johannes Bosold and Valentin Vogel, who married two Helfenbein girls who emigrated some years later and chose Fulda, Ohio as their place of residence.  This close relationship between the three friends doubtlessly gave them the necessary strength and determination in their struggle for existence in their new home country.  It is obvious that, resulting from his job, Valentin Schütz changed his place of residence several times during his first years in America, until, after getting married and having a family, he set­tled down in Fulda, Ohio.


          The ground plan of the district of Fulda, Ohio shows that already in 1858 he owned two plots of land of altogether 150 acres along Duck Creek, the creek that has been mentioned above.  In 1875, the list of donators to the erection of St Mary’s church mentions Valentin Schütz as having generously given $205.  The parish book lists some more of Valentin’s donations, e.g. $25 for the presbytery and further $50 for the bell.  He was laid to rest in the parish cemetery of Fulda, Ohio in 1888 where his grave can still be seen.  The tombstone itself and the inscription are surprisingly well preserved.  Wilhelm (William), his second eldest son from his marriage with Mathilde Ottilia Gerst, is the only one to be listed in the parish register, together with his big family.  In all probability, William bad established himself in the same job as his father, especially as he spent all his life in the same place.  His wife Barbara, née Nau, came from another family of emigrants had also settled in Fulda, Ohio.  William and Barbara had 13 children, four of whom died at an early age within only 2 years.  The parish register mentions that after that — around 1910— William moved away, and we do not know where he went to. With William leaving, his family name died out in Fulda, Ohio.


          Like most other German-Americans, William bad adapted his family name to English pronunciation:  Schütz was changed into Schetz or Sheets, exactly as it used to be pronounced in his local dialect.  It can be assumed that descendants of Valentin Schütz can still be found in the area of Fulda, Ohio or other towns in the surrounding countryside, probably under different surnames.




          Mrs. Dolores Snider (Schneider) from the district town of Caldwell greatly helped with our enquiries into the biography of Valentin Schütz and his family; Mrs. Snider’s forefathers bad also emigrated from the Fulda area.  On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the parish of Fulda, Ohio (1847-1997) she took the trouble to compile a comprehensive register of parishioners from the very beginning with all available personal data and to write down the history of the parish of St Mary (Church of Immaculate Conception) in Fulda, Ohio.  She was substantially supported by Mrs. Elizabeth Ginsberg, née Heil, who originally came from Flieden, is married to an American in Columbia, succeeded in tracking down the ways of German emigrants from the Fulda area and published her findings.


          I would also like to mention Mr. Elmar Ebert and his brother, both from Petersberg, who visited Fulda, Ohio in the summer of 2000 in order to study the branched genealogical tree of their family.  The documents and photos Elmar Ebert received there made it possible for me to gain further interesting insight into Valentin Schütz’ life and fate.




The above article appeared in the 5 Sep 2001 edition of Buchenblatter: Beilage der Fuldaer  Zeitung fur Heimatfreunde  ("Buchenblatter: Supplement of the Fulda Newspaper for Friends of the Homeland"). 


[...] brackets indicate additional information and annotations provided by the editor.

Italics indicate translator’s comments



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This page was last updated on 07/13/08.