Martin Stephan and New Orleans

January 1839. Many Saxons suffered from the oppressive heat of the Caribbean–their dark coats and attire much more appropriate to a walk in freezing cold Germany. Relief! We’re finally on land.
That soon changed. The brief layover in New Orleans was an eye opener. Any English speaking person who has travelled abroad knows the shock of hearing–and having to use–unfamiliar languages. Imagine then that shock in the 19th century. No one spoke English or French/Creole. There were no translators, guides, or dictionaries, even for a short period of time.
The Saxon immigrant’s mighty fortress of Lutheranism, hermetically sealed from the outside world, was now exposed to a Southern, Catholic and Creole culture. Exotic foods, sights, tastes and smells abounded with outdoor vendors hawking pineapples and papaya. Potatoes and pfannkuchen ceded to chicken broth and dark bread to chicken gumbo and beignets. Names like Prejean, Brussard, Thibodeaux, replaced Fürbringer, Walther or Marbach.
Blacks were bought and sold openly in public. Indians walked about wrapped in blankets with rifles slung over their shoulders. The chaos of a melting pot town disturbed the German sense of order. New Orleans was “demoralized,” wrote one Saxon in a letter back home. The need to get to a safe environment of St. Louis, their fellow colonists, and return to their German womb became a pressing emotional concern.
Then there was the urgent need financially to spend as little time in N.O. as possible. A few days were needed, as baggage had to be transferred, and the community was exhausted after sailing 8 - 9 weeks. The Saxon layover took a prescribed number of days according to when their ship arrived. Everything was well planned or so it seemed.
After the colony leaders debarked, a shift in the hierarchy was on the way. Once on shore, the ship’s rules were no longer valid–excepting for that of the Bishop and his election. As in most strife over money, the money itself is rarely the issue, but becomes instead the whipping boy. Who would oversee the expenditures, make allocations and keep decent records? There was a credit fund, from which poorer passengers could borrow money at 8%, and more wealthy member contribute money in return for interest. at 10%. In addition, there was a common treasury, which paid colony expenses. Both sources risked depletion by greedy, dishonest men with wanting to grab power.
Fears mounted, too, that the Amalia would never arrive, and the Saxons would have to leave for St. Louis without their friends and fellow Lutherans–devastating to morale. Even as late as Jan 30, at Stephan’s behest, Vehse instructed that money was to bet left behind with a ministerial candidate should the Amalia arrive.
Well intended, but foolhardy perhaps, was to choose of the smallest ship to carry items precious to the community: a pipe organ, musical instruments, Stephan’s grand piano, part of a library, and hymnals for the entire colony. (The hymns sung on the Olbers were written specifically for the voyage.)
This calamity added further anguish to the fear about the Amalia. How to replace the lost hymnals? Martin Luther had introduced congregational singing and hymnals for use in worship and home, containing his own and those of other Saxon contemporaries. Later, hymns by JS Bach and others were added. If these hymnals were gone it would be a devastating loss both emotionally and financially.
And the Organ? German Pipe Organs played an important role in church, both for their wonderful sound, and to accompany the congregation. Singing together with the organ gave comfort, inspiration and healing. Church services would lack all these treasures, further contributing to the Saxon’s sadness and eventual rebellion.
Doubts arose about the emigration grew daily: several demanded their money back, doctors wanted to be paid for their work–even the one whose son had stolen watches. Later, he callously demanded money for his services as doctor and compensation for the voyage. Constant worry and anger sapped everyone’s energy. Infighting, sniping and finger pointing arose, particularly towards those in charge. Who was responsible for this mess? Would we ever make it to our promised destination? The Saxons were not happy campers.

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