Fred and Tobitha Hess
It is hard to imagine a family being willing to send all of their sons off to a country thousands of miles away, knowing they would probably never return. That is what happened to Gottfried Christian Hess and his two brothers. They were born in Nagold, Württemberg, which is now a part of Germany, to Ludwig and Maria Hess. At that time, Württemberg was still a small country that was controlled by a number of estate owners who were the nobility and gave their allegiance to a king. The estate owners let people live on their land and farm it. To pay their rent, part of what was produced was given to the estate owner-what we call sharecropping. The workers could not own their own land. Additionally, the king could demand that the men serve in his army at any time he wanted to do battle with another country, or, if he wanted to supply an army for another country that would pay him for the use of his army. The men could be gone as much as nine months out of the year. This made life very difficult for the workers. The crops had to be cared for to produce the needed food for the family and the land rent to continue to have a place to live, but the king could demand their services whenever he wished. Gottfried’s father, Ludwig Hess, and mother, Maria, wanted something better for their sons.
The eldest Hess son, also named Ludwig, was born in 1825 and Johann was born in 1827. There were three daughters in the Hess family also: Liesle, Ernestine, and Maria. The youngest son, Gottfried Christian Hess, was born on April 29, 1838. When he was 15 years old, he left Nagold and his parents to go with his older brothers to the United States before he was old enough to be conscripted into the army. It was a heart-wrenching time in the family. His sister Maria recalled the time vividly 50 years later. She wrote her brother, remembering that “when You left how our dear Father put his Hands on Your head and prayed upon You ‘The Lord bless You and protect You’. How he cried so that he almost could not speak anymore.”
All the children except Maria emigrated to the United States eventually. None returned to Württemberg. Ludwig’s name became Louis in English, Johann became John, Liesle became Elizabeth or Lizzie, and Gottfried was called Frederick or Fred.
In January of 1854 the three brothers got the necessary documents to emigrate. Ludwig, 29, was accompanied by his wife and year-old daughter as well. They sailed on the ship JULIA from Antwerp, Belgium. After 49 days they arrived in New York City on April 17, 1854. Fred turned 16 twelve days later.
Arriving with no money and no knowledge of English, Fred was apprenticed to a shoemaker in upstate New York for six months. Then he went west to Carroll County, Illinois. John probably was living there. Some years later their sister Liesle, or Lizzie, settled there and remained for the rest of her life, never marrying. For about three years Fred worked at his new trade of shoemaking. Then he hired out to work for farmers. It seems he enjoyed farming which he had learned at home more than shoemaking.
In Mount Carroll he received his final naturalization papers on September 25, 1860 when he was 22 years old. The papers were issued under his Anglicized name FREDERICK CHRISIAN HESS.
While in Carroll County he also met the family of Tobitha Klein, his future bride. Her father, Jacob, had been a circuit riding minister establishing churches in northwestern Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Nancy, and four year old daughter, Tobitha, had moved by flatboat from Vennago County, PA, down the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers to Illinois. Their youngest daughter, May Hess Primrose, recalled reading books in the family library which were water stained from that move.
The Klein’s settled in Carroll County where Jacob again started churches, riding horseback between them. Tobitha’s mother, Nancy Ann Hammacher Klein, was from a Pennsylvania Dut