And now a letter of the 18,-year-old Lena Von Rosenberg-Nassau to her friend and cousin, Charlotte Froelich-Collaten follows.
Rosenberg-Nassau, April 2, 1850
My dear Charlotte,
Oh, how long I have wanted to write to you but, for lack of time, have always put it off until the holidays. Now they have passed, and I still haven’t written, but today I’ll catch up.. Yes, we are now in Texas, I still often ask myself if I am not dreaming. How much, in such a short time, everything has changed! I can scarcely say whether I am happy or unhappy with the change. For a young girl, I would almost say, there are none of the amusements of Germany in Texas. Horseback riding is the most enjoyable. I am passionately fond of riding. Soon after our arrival at Nassau father bought a lady’s saddle (sidesaddle), and Axel (now an expert rider) is, as father says, my equerry and cavalier because he accompanies me on my rides. Most often we ride to sister Hannchen’s place, which is two miles from here. Wilhelm lives a quarter mile away, a stone’s throw.
All were here at noon on the first holiday. Hannchen had to stay till the second day, and Hellmuth had to return home without his wife. I said, it was quite right. The men can see for once how it is when there is no wife at home.
Women don’t have it too hard here with cooking and roasting, especially in summer. The corn or Turkish wheat, when it is ground, is so grainy, about like our barley-meal. For baking, it does not hold together well, takes a lot of eggs, and is baked with a dish full of coals placed below and above it. The dishes, naturally, are specially made for this. The Americans have hot bread for every meal, but we only bake once a day. Today I tried it in our cookstove. If it turns out well, I’ll have it a lot easier.
What I miss here so much is a young girl for a companion. Oh, how much I miss you! Of course, some young girls have called on me, and I have been there, but I don’t find them exactly, congenial. There are almost no girls here; they are a rarity. There are, however, very many young wives. I recently visited a very charming lady. Let me describe how she lives. A giant tree with spreading branches is fenced about where its shadow falls, and here she lives. A small, white tent sheltered the bed, and around it one saw all that belonged to the household. In one corner the fire was burning, on which the cooking was do e. It was in the middle of the forest and looked idyllic. The lady had come here four years ago as a girl. She now has the dearest two-year-old child. Her husband has been in Europe and only recently returned with a young man, a Hungarian officer, Mr. Von Meerscheid (who later was to become Lina’s husband). They are now building a house; they have the land from Mr. Von Roeder. Is that not wonderful to live in the open in March (even in February), but that is only possible in Texas. And then the happy courage of Mrs. Jenski; that day she rode to the mill to get a bushel of flour. But only in Texas can one do that; no one pays it any attention.
I like the Texas winter real well except for the “northers,” as the Americans say. The norther is a frightful, very strong north wind. It arrives so suddenly that one scarcely has time to get inside the house. It is often accompanied by a violent rain storm. A genuine norther lasts five days. We had one a few days ago. It was so cold that I should have preferred to have stayed in bed. The Americans do, for they can not stand the cold; and yet the temperature was +7° (48°F)! You may laugh, but in Europe I have not been as cold at -24° (-5 F) as here at +7°! The wind is so strong that, if a chair is standing in the middle passage, it is blown away like a straw. There is no land that is as remarkable as Texas. The south wind blows throughout’ the entire summer, and that is fortunate for Texas; otherwise, one could not stand the heat. Our house is one of the coolest spots in Texas. We are often envied because of this, and I am very happy with this place. We have a magnificent view, broader, more splendid than from the Schlossberg, but Eckitten itself is more beautiful than Nassau. During our whole journey we have not seen many places as beautiful as Eckitten. How often the name is spoken here! Yet, I could hardly make the trade, when I consider all the experiences and all that I have seen here. I would now find Eckitten too confining, too small.
And how much work I have accomplished here! No work has been too hard for me. I am ashamed, how little I did there (at Eckitten) and how unhappy I was if I had to do something. There I was the “mamsell” here I must myself do what I ordered done there. Milking was rather hard for me, and I don’t do it now. The Negress must do it, but she milks worse than I. She is very lazy.
I haven’t told you anything about Galveston. I liked it very much there. The people were very friendly; an elderly lady, right away, wanted to keep me there. I shouldn’t like it at all down in the country, etc. Captain Hagedorn gave a ball for us in Galveston, at which I greatly enjoyed myself. It happened to be on Hannchen’s (Johanna Von Rosenberg) wedding day. I did a lot of dancing and shall long remember the ball with pleasure.
Our trip on the steamboat was very amusing. The Americans are unusually polite and accommodating toward ladies. On the steamboat an old gentleman insisted on teaching me English. Many took a lot of pains about this and took pleasure in my aptitude. If they were to pronounce a German word, though, they brought it out in such a funny manner that I always had a hearty laugh.
The captain, a stately old gentlemen (an Englishman), liked to exchange a few words with me; although, otherwise he almost never spoke. I believe that, if the trip had lasted longer, I could have mastered English completely, but now I only butcher the language. The people on the steamboat-insisted that we should go to the town of Washington. The captain had his home and wife there and he praised the region enthusiastically, but it was to no avail.
American women are not praised here. They are, as a rule, slovenly and lazy. Even the American men don’t like them; they always prefer German women. But they don’t like German men. An engineer on the steamboat said that he would give $500 if he could get a German wife.
He even wanted to go to Germany to get one and wanted to learn good German.
It is remarkable that the Americans always express their admiration with poems. We had a funny thing happen to us in San Felipe. I received a very ornate letter. Wondering whom it could be from, I opened it and saw that it had been signed with a name completely unknown to me, and the whole letter was in English. I was quite angry, for I believed the letter was surely from Koenigs in Bremen and was so disappointed. Imagine, Johannes had found it stuffed in our suitcase. It was from the steamboat, but from whom and what it said, I still don’t know to this day. Isn’t that really stupid? The others all laughed. Johannes brought me an English book to help unscramble the riddle. Everyone wanted to know what it contained, and no one could say.
That someone from our region will come here, I can’t say. Each must make up his own mind, but I can not give up the hope that I’ll yet see you. It is not possible to believe otherwise. Please write me about all, all whom I know and love. Give them all my friendliest greetings. I can not name them all, as the space is too short, and I might forget one.
Now, farewell, and think of
your Lina Von Rosenberg.