Off to New Shores: German Immigration to Cincinnati from the Osnabrücker Nordland in the Early 19th Century

By Hermann Welp and Monika Thölking
Translated by Don Heinrich Tolzmann


 “But the beginning lasted many years.
I wanted to put my feet under my own table.
I had come over for that reason.
I had the feet for this, but lacked the table.
Where it should stand was also missing.”

Johannes Gilhoff (1)



“The Germans wanted to make something of themselves.”

Helen Gripkey (2)


Note: Hermann Welp and Monika Thölking are two local historians and genealogists who have been researching the German immigration from the Osnabrück area of Germany, where they live, to Cincinnati, Ohio. In the following article they provide a preliminary survey of the results of their research.

1.     Introduction


The reasons of immigration in the early 19th century were neither grandiose in terms of motivation, nor merely based on the desire for adventure abroad. They stemmed from quite personal needs relating to social, economic, political or religious considerations, causing many to seek a better life in America. The German immigrants under consideration here did not come from the city of Osnabrück, but rather from the surrounding country known as the Osnabrücker Nordland, which is located in the southwestern part of what is today Lower Saxony, but was then part of the Kingdom of Hannover.

Between 1832 and 1866, a total of 60, 630 men, women, and children are recorded as having emigrated from this agricultural area.  Freedom to immigrate was granted by Hannover’s constitution, paragraph 41, which stipulated that inhabitants were entitled to immigrate in accordance with the military provisions of the time; an official permit was required for single men between the ages of 20 and 28.


An indication of the magnitude of the emigration is provided by the statistics for the parish of Ankum. Altogether, a total of 946 men, women and children were recorded as emigrants. This included, for example, the following towns and the number of immigrants from each of them: 
Loxten: 49 persons
Suttrup: 109 persons
Nortrup: 181 persons

Kettenkamp: 98 persons


Emigrants did not come empty-handed, but brought their savings with them. Altogether the immigrants from the parish of Ankum brought a total of 111,774 Thaler. The amount varied from family to family: the Korte family from Ankum Westerholte emigrated with 6,220 Thaler and the Meyerling family from Nortrup brought 5,500 Thaler.

From the parishes of Badenberg and Gehrde, from the region known as “das Artland,” the following towns also had a large number of immigrants:
Badbergen: 460 persons
Quakenbruck: 736 persons
Menslage: 178 persons
Gehrde: 147 persons



2.     Immigration


This article focuses on immigrants who attained success by coming to America. We would like to show how the sons and daughters of tenant farmers (Heuerleute) and their descendants became successful entrepreneurs and well educated citizens in a relatively short period of time after their arrival in the New World. In addition to their luggage they also brought their cultural heritage with them, including life experiences and the histories of their families. (3)

Immigrants held on to their culinary customs and traditions:  they and their American-born descendants prepared, for example, the ever-popular sausage known as goetta. Especially important were the many societies and institutions they formed.  The Sängerbund, the German federation of singing societies, was founded, as were Turner societies, beer gardens and churches with German-language services. They celebrated Schützenfest and established the Kolping Society. (4)

Couples got together, as people usually married within the group, just like in the old country, where marriages were arranged. Families remained close together. Even though their new homeland was larger than the old country, people kept contact with other German immigrants, especially those who spoke their language, which was Low German. Most of them settled together in the area of Cincinnati that became known as and retains the name “Over-the-Rhine.” Here conditions worked together for the preservation and creation of a new identity in a foreign environment. (5) This is where the first immigrants settled and where those that came later could find relatives, friends and neighbors. This became their first commonly shared home in the New World.

Immigrants preserved their customs and traditions, especially as they were not initially conversant in English, but also as this assuaged their feelings of homesickness. They maintained contacts with friends, relatives and former neighbors, but this alone could not replace the feeling of having left their homeland. The newly arrived immigrants were just like earlier ones: they were in search of a new identity as German immigrants.

We will try to make this clear with several examples showing how important it was for immigrants to keep together and provide mutual support. Although they did not bring much with them across the ocean, they did come together in large numbers, providing a good example of chain migration from one area to another. This contributed to their creation of a group identity in the New World. This group migration is illustrated, for example, by the passenger list of the ship Goethe, which arrived in New Orleans from Bremerhaven on 1 May 1849, and which we will discuss below.

By examining the lives of several immigrants we can see that marriages took place mainly within the immigrant group. Relationships were not confined to one’s church community as in the old country, but now embraced a larger community. As a result, the circle of relationships increased, but language and religious faith remained the defining elements. (6)



3. The Hamberg Family


In 1924, 1926, and 1928, Henry John Hamberg, the son of an immigrant, visited the Krümberg family farm in Nortrup with his wife Louisa (nee Hudepohl) and their children Henry Joseph and Amelia. In 1913 he also had visited the farm as well. Heinrich Krümberg recalls hearing his father tell of these visits. According to Krümberg’s father, Hamberg was well dressed and his pockets were filled with U.S. dollars, proudly demonstrating that the son of an immigrant had attained success in America. Why did he visit the Krümberg farm? He did so because his mother, Maria Anna, was a member of the Krümberg family, while his father was from nearby Ankum Westerholte. Hamberg’s visit shows how contacts were maintained with the old country by those born in America.

Hamberg’s father, Johann Heinrich, came to Cincinnati with his parents Johan Heinrich Hamberg and Maria Adelheid Hülefeld Hamberg, and his brothers Diedrich and Hermann on board the ship Goethe that arrived in America in 1849.

Also on board were 152 men and women from the same region. From the parish of Ankum alone there were 25 men and women with their families. Additionally, there were 13 persons from Rieste Lage, 9 persons from Alfhausen, 32 persons from Vörden, 31 persons from the parish of Damme, 17 from Holdorf and from Neuenkirchen Oldenburg 25 men and women.

This group included Anna Marie Knierieme from Rieste, the daughter of Johann Schwiethard Knierieme and Anna Maria Judith Hüdepohl, who became the second wife of Johan Louis Hüdepohl. Additionally the Ratermann brothers, Johann Heinrich and Hermann Ferdinand, came with their mother from Alfhausen. Herman Ferdinand Ratermann married Catharine zum Dome from Kettenkamp. Other members of these families would also come to Cincinnati, contributing to the chain migration from the Osnabrücker Nordland.

Not only did immigration continue, but emigrants also came on the very same ships throughout the years. For example, on 11 August 1852, the ship Goethe brought the Schreiber brothers and sisters from Quakenbrück via Bremerhaven. They compiled a diary recording their experiences, which has recently been published and which helps us understand the emigration experience. (7)


4. The Hüdepohl Family


Among the many immigrants from Rieste there were several who came from the Hüdepohl families, which can still be found resident there. Johan Ludwig Hüdepohl (aka Louis Hudepohl I) is probably the best known of them. Information on his life can be found in the biographical entry on him in Armin Tenner’s Cincinnati Sonst und Jetzt. (8) His birth date is indicated there as 5 November 1813 and his place of birth as Amt Malgarten-Rieste Hannover. But we find the following information in the 1850 U.S. Census:

Louis Hudaboal 30 years Cincinnati Ward 9
Mary Hudaboal 25 years Cincinnati Ward 9
Joseph 3 years
Louis 8 years
Johnny 5 years

In the 1860 Census the following information is found:
Louis Hudepohl 40 years

Mary Hudepohl 36 years
Louis 18 years
Joseph 13 years

Note that the name is misspelled in the 1850 Census and his age is also mistaken for both 1850 and 1860. According to the Census, Louis Hudepohl I would have been born in 1818/19. At the time of his immigration on 4 June 1838 on the ship Elise, he is listed as a 26 year-old farmer, which validates the date listed in Tenner. He was born the son of a poor tenant farmer and craftsman in Rieste. After his emigration, Louis Hudepohl I was employed in various businesses until he was able to establish a profitable liquor store in Over-the-Rhine on Main Street. He partnered with his son Louis (aka Louis Hudepohl II) and Georg Heinrich Kotte who had immigrated from Malgarten in the Osnabrücker Nordland. In 1885, the latter two established a brewery that developed into a highly successful business.

In 1870, Louis Hudepohl I contributed to the founding of a church, the St. Louis Church, in Cincinnati. According to Cheryl Hudepohl Fehring, a descendant, he donated a piece of land at the corner of Eighth and Walnut streets on 5 January 1870 under the condition that a new church be built there dedicated to St. Ludwig. This was later demolished and a new church built in 1929.

The brewery remained a family enterprise long after the death of Louis Hudepohl II who was one of the best-known and most popular brewers in Cincinnati. Not surprisingly, he was inducted in 2012 into the Beer Barons Hall, which is located in the Moerlein Lager House in Cincinnati and a commemorative coin was issued in honor of the occasion.


5. The Pohl Family from Hollenstede


The Pohl family became an important one in the history of the Hudepohl Brewery.

William Anthony Pohl married Caroline M. Hudepohl, a granddaughter of Louis Hudepohl I, and became one of the leading officers in the company after the death of Louis Hudepohl II. All of the sons-in-law of Louis Hudepohl II were German, three of them actually from the Osnabrücker Nordland: Pohl’s family, for example, was from Schwagstorf/Hollenstede

6. The Kotte Family

 Louis Hudepohl II’s partner was Georg Heinrich Kotte, the son of the carpenter Johan Heinrich Kotte and Catharina Maria Batke Kotte. He was born on 28 December 1837 and immigrated in 1863.

His brother and the youngest son in the family, Johann Bernhard Kotte, also came to Cincinnati, but several years later. He was denied permission to emigrate (14 February 1863), while his brother obtained it. This was probably because the younger brother was still of military age. He then married Antonia Sophia Neve of Althausen and after the birth of their three children the family immigrated to Cincinnati, most likely after he had passed the age requiring military service.

His eldest son, Stefan Friedrich Kotte, was born in 1869 in Wallenhorst, studied pharmacy, living to the age of 97 and was known as “Doc” Kotte. After coming to Cincinnati, a fourth child was born, Kathryn Kotte.  A son, John Francis Henry Kotte, was also born in Cincinnati; he married Adele Greve, a granddaughter of Adam H. Greve and Anna Maria Elisabeth Lietemeyer Greve who immigrated from Belm Haltern. Their sons immigrated with them and in Cincinnati established a thriving business as interior designers.

Other descendants of the Kotte and Neve families studied law, medicine and art. John Raimund Harald Kotte (1912-2011) was a great-grandson of the family who graduated from St. Xavier High School. After medical studies, he became a well-known cardiologist and heart specialist at the Good Samaritan Hospital. There he initiated the first open heart operations. He was president of the Cincinnati Society of Internal Medicine and a professor at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Medicine. His ancestors included not only the Kotte family, but also the Greve family of Belm Haltern and Hermann Ferdinand Ratermann of Alfhausen and Catharine zum Dome from Kettenkamp.

The immigration of the Kotte family and relatives further illuminates the group migration from the Osnabrücker Nordland.


7. The Krümberg Family from Suttrup

Johan Dirk Theodor Krümberg, the son of Heinrich Idel Pülsing and Maria Elisabeth Krümberg, arrived in New Orleans on 13 September 1837 via Bremerhaven and got to Cincinnati by April 1838. He worked as a day laborer and peddler and by saving his earnings acquired a small hardware store on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine. In the following years, he became one of the most influential businessmen in the area. Krümberg’s daughter married Henry Greve who also came from the Kingdom of Hannover.

He also employed several of his countrymen. The 1850 U.S. Census indicates that Heinrich Vogt was employed in his office; Hermann Timmermann was a gardener; and Bernhard Diersing is listed as another employee. Krümberg’s building at the corner of 12th and Main streets, which served as his business headquarters and was also an apartment building, is now on the National Register of Historic Places. (9)

Maria Anna Krümberg, a sister of Johann Dirk Theodor Krümberg and a daughter of Heinrich Idel Pülsing and Maria Elisabeth Krümberg was born on 2 May 1820 and immigrated to Cincinnati in 1848. She married Johan Heinrich “Henry” Hamberg. Henry Joseph Hamberg, the son of this marriage, married Louisa Hudepohl on 5 October 1898. She was the granddaughter of Louis Hudepohl I.

The Krümberg family history shows immigrants working together and intermarrying as well. Here we see the Krümberg, Hamberg and Hudepohl families all interrelated by marriage.



10. Conclusion

What would have become of the immigrants described here had they remained in their homeland? It is unlikely that they would have attained such success in the Osnabrücker Nordland. In addition to getting established in their new homeland, they formed churches, societies and institutions that helped them maintain their heritage and contacts with the old country.

In 1868, the German Pioneer Society of Cincinnati was founded to document and record the history of German immigration, settlement, and influences.  Of its 522 members, 37 were from the Oldenburger Münsterland and 108 from the Kingdom of Hannover. The editor of its journal, Der Deutsche Pionier, was Heinrich A. Rattermann (1832-1923) who was from Ankum in the Osnabrücker Nordland. He founded the German Mutual Insurance Co., which was housed in the Germania Building on Walnut St. in Over-the-Rhine, and became a well-known historian. (10)

In 1895, Rattermann organized the first German Day celebration in Cincinnati, which led to the formation of the German Day Society, now the German-American Citizens League of Greater Cincinnati. To celebrate its centennial in 1995, it decided to establish the German Heritage Museum, which opened in September 2000.

It sponsors a variety of events, such as Maifest and lecture series throughout the year. The museum’s library contains the biography and works of Heinrich A. Rattermann, as well as materials relating to the Osnabrücker Nordland. (11)

In 2013, Hermann Welp spoke on Louis Hudepohl at the German Heritage Museum and donated a history of the Hudepohl family to its library. (12) The interest is certainly not one way. A good example of this comes from the descendants of Franciscus Henricus Batsche from Rieste. He was the son of Col. Batsche and Catharina Maria Hüdepohl and came to Cincinnati in 1855, where he married Lisette Holstein also from the Osnabrücker Nordland. Their descendants preserve a number of items brought to America, including the collected works of Schiller. Such mementos remind us of the many family connections between Cincinnati and the Osnabrücker Nordland, which we have tried to highlight in this article and which we hope to further explore in the future. 


 1.     Johannes Gilhoff, Jürnjakob Swehn, der Amerikafahrer. (Berlin: Verlag der Täglichen Rundschau, 1917), p. 71. Also, see the translation of this work: Johannes Gilhoff, Letters of a German American Farmer: Jürnjakob Swehn Travels to America. Translated by Richard Lorenz August Trost. (Iowa City, Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 2000).

2.     Interview with Helen Gripkey in: Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung. (5 January 1991).
3.    For a discussion of tenant farmers, see: Udo Thörner, Venne in America: The 19th Century Mass Emigration to America of Tenants and Small Cottage Farmers from a Rural Village in the Region of Osnabrück. (Osnabrück: Arbeitskreis Familienforschung Osnabrück e.V., 2008), pp. 20-44. Also, see: Anne Aengenvoort,  Migration-Siedlungsbildung-Akkulturation: Die Auswanderung Nordwestdeutscher nach Ohio, 1830-1914. (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1999); Antonius Holtmann, “Ferner thue ich euch zu wissen…” Briefe des Johann Heinrich zur Oeveste aus Amerika (1834-1876). (Bremen: Edition Temmen, 1995); Walter D. Kamphoefner, Peter Marschalck, and Birgit Nolter-Schuster,  Von Heuerleuten und Farmern: Die Auswanderung aus dem Osnabrücker Land nach Nordamerika im 19. Jahrhundert.  Kulturregion Osnabrück Bd. 12. (Bramsche: Landschaftsverband Osnabrück e.V., 199)); and, Jürgen Vortmann, Auswanderer aus dem Kirchspiel Bramsche 1730 bis 1930. (Bramsche: Rasch Verlag, 2012).
4.     For a guide to the area, see: Don Heinrich Tolzmann, German Heritage Guide to the Greater Cincinnati Area. 2nd Edition. (Milford, Ohio: Little Miami Publishing Co., 2007).
5.     Regarding Over-the-Rhine, see: Don Heinrich Tolzmann, Over-the-Rhine Tour Guide: Cincinnati’s Historic German District and Environs. (Milford, Ohio: Little Miami Publishing Co., 2011).
6.     For information on Low German, see: Stuart Gorman and Joachim Reppmann,  Low German: Platt in America.  (Wyk auf Föhr: Verlag für Amerikanistik, 2004).
7.     See: Ursula Feldkamp, Von “Deutschen Indianern, hässlichen Negerschnuten und einem fixen aeskulap.” Das Tagebuch der Geschwister Schreiben aus Quakenbrück an Bord des Auswandererseglers Goethe 1852. (Hamburg: Kabel, 1991).
8.     See: Armin Tenner, Cincinnati Sonst und Jetzt. (Cincinnati: Druck von Mecklenborg & Rosenthal, 1878), pp. 69-70.
9.     For Krümberg’s obituary, see: Der Deutsche Pionier. 15 (1884): 505.
10. For a biography of Rattermann, see: Mary Edmund Spanheimer, The German Pioneer Legacy: The Life and Work of Heinrich A. Rattermann. Edited by Don Heinrich Tolzmann. 2nd Edition. (Oxford: Peter Lang Publishing Co., 2004).
11. For further information, see: Don Heinrich Tolzmann, “The German Heritage Museum,” in his: German-Americana: Selected Essays. (Milford, Ohio: Little Miami Pub. Co., 2009), pp. 193-97.
12. See: Hermann Welp and Monika Thölking, Johan Ludwig Hüdepohl, vom mittelosen Kötters Sohn zum erfolgreichen Unternehmer. (Nortrup: Privately Printed, 2013).

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