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Shakopee, Nov 30, 1855
Dear Brother and Sister-in Law,
I wrote to you on August 30, a letter but I never got an answer which surprised me very much.
In our family we have lots of news to report. Our sister Anna Maria got married on the 23rd of July with the blacksmith. He comes from Saxony. His name is Johann Heinz. He is a very ambitious and hard working man. And on the 20th of August, it pains me very much to write that our dear and only brother, Joseph, died. He was such a strong and young brother (just like Michel and Joseph were?) Our Joseph was about 10 days sick. He had something called the red Ruhr. He was very happy here in America because he didn't have to take care of anybody, only himself, and he remembered where his home was. He never had it so good in his whole life. He could eat and drink anything he wanted. It didn't cost him a penny. I never saw him so happy as in the time I saw him here.
Our sister Anna Marie was not too happy when our other sister, Magdalene left here because her new husband died on the 10th of September of the same sickness like Joseph. On the same day died also Simon Derbach. They all lived with me. You can't imagine the hardship. It was not only that all those people died, but everybody also sick in the house. I was very depressed and always was thinking that I was the next to go. I wanted to move from here and look for a different place.
So I did. I moved to Shakopee, Minnesota territory, and I live outside in the country. I bought a claim there. The land belonged to the government and was not yet sold. The law says whoever comes first and homesteads it has a claim to it, but you have to be over 21 years of age. I had to take 160 acres of land and you were supposed to build a house on this land, and supposed to take care of the land. And whoever is doing this first has the first right and claim. For this I paid $300.00 but if I ever wanted to sell it, then I would have to pay $1.25 per acre and I have to announce this 3 months in advance. If I don't pay it in time then I can sell it to someone else, but I must leave the homestead. This can take the time of 1 or 2 years. The house that exists is in very poor condition in the country and we are in the process of building a new one. Last Wednesday we started.
You are probably surprised to hear that people build houses here in the winter, but here in the country people take tree stems and they make very nice houses. (log houses) So if you plan to build a house you have to see that you get all the logs nearby, bring it to the place, and cut them into the measurements as big as the house is supposed to be. Then you go and call on 8 to 10 neighbors and then everything will be put together in one day but the roof. The rest a person has to do himself and that goes better than anybody can imagine. Once you are between 3 and 4 years in America, you become a pretty good builder, and you acquire all the tools that craftsmen need to make a building.
Our land is 1/2 mile long and 1/2 mile wide. That is called 160 ruten (rods?) and the house is as wide as 1 rod is. (ed. note: 5.5 yards) Now you can imagine how big the house is. I have approximately 40 acres of wood on my land, approximately 6 acres of meadow and the rest are hedges. But we don't do it here the same way we did it in (Lehnheck?) Here we take 2 or 3 young oxen and put them into a yoke, and then the land will be worked. One yoke of oxen I own and that cost me $150. Animals are very expensive here. I must say that animals are much more expensive now than when I came to America, because when I came to America, a yoke of oxen I could buy in those days for $60. Here the animals are not quite so expensive as in the old states like in Illinois where I came from.
I am now about 600 miles away N.W. from Arora and it is much colder than there. We had already for 14 days, snow, but this week is exceptionally nice weather and the snow was almost melting away. I hope there is not new snow coming, but we will take it. It would be alright if we got snow so tomorrow morning and Sunday we want to go hunting for deer, while we are waiting to finish the house, because when the house is ready, we won't have much time. That's why we want to go and hunt now. And when the Indians don't come back and take the animals away, there is plenty of deer over here.
What I'm talking about are the natives or the wild people and they don't do anything else but hunting, but they do not hurt the white people. If it would ever happen, they have to deliver the murderer, or they receive very harsh treatment, and get blamed for that by their own people. The wild man don't want to work at all. They think work takes something away from their honor. They do not do anything else but hunting and be a warrior, and that is the main reason that America is not so populated as Europe. These wild people have friction among themselves. There are lots of different tribes, and if anybody enters their territory, then they have a war.
We and our sister Magdalena live here on my land. She will get married. Her husband's name is Hilliarius Schumacher. He comes from a town called Metternich, near Cologne. She is married on the 23rd of October.
Our Margaret is a servant in Shakopee. She gets $2 a week. Our Marie is a servant still in Arora. She got the best conditions. She is in good health, and receives good money. Wherever she works, the people don't let her go. They like her. She's a very ambitious girl and she is the biggest and heaviest of us all. She could have got married many times before if she liked to. I think she wants to remain there until next spring, and then she will come here with our Anna Marie who still lives in the same house where I live. She would have been gone before but I was expecting some money, and I couldn't get the money until next spring.
This is the letter from Peter Geyermann to his brother Johann
translated from the typed page in January 1991 by Ernst Wirt, Mitchell, S.D.