The earliest German-speaking farming community was founded in 1839 by Pomeranians who settled north of Milwaukee in what came to be known as Freistadt (“free town,” today part of Mequon in Ozaukee County). While most German-speaking immigrants to North America came in search of economic opportunities, some fled religious or political discrimination in Europe. The founders of Freistadt were Lutherans who had been persecuted for their faith in their Prussian homeland. The Wisconsin High German speaker in this interview is a descendant of one of the founding families of Freistadt.
Dialect: Wisconsin High German, Wisconsin German Dialects
Location: Ozaukee, Wisconsin
Tell us please what you know about your ancestors.
My ancestors came from Germany in 1839. They came for freedom of religion. The church and its pastors [in Germany] were paid by the government, and whoever did not agree with the government in religious matters could not be employed. This and much else motivated them to emigrate to America. Captain Heinrich von Rohr was their leader. Pastor Grabel was their pastor. They came on five ships and landed here in the summer of 1839. My great-grandfather’s name was Ernst August D. and my husband’s great-grandfather was Martin S. From New York they came to Milwaukee, approximately forty families. Now these three men that I mentioned were sent from Milwaukee in search of good farm land. They found it about 16 miles northeast of Milwaukee. Later, this was called Freistadt. Then they went back to Milwaukee and brought their families along.