The following letter gives some details about the passage of the immigrant ship “Hope” in 1734.
David Seipt – An Immigrant’s Letter, 1734
Note: The original of the following letter, written by David Seipt, was in the possession of the late John F. Hartranft, by whose direction a translation was made for the late A. H. Seipt, of which this is a copy.
Germantown, Dec. 20, 1734.
THE grace of God be with you.
To my faithful brother David Seipt:
Most worthy and dearly loved brother and sister – I, my wife and my children and other good friends send you kindly and heartfelt greetings, wishing you the grace and peace of God Almighty in spiritual and temporal things.
Dearly loved brother, it is but reasonable that I should write you a detailed account of the long and distant journey which we have (Thank God) safely ended and tell you how uneasy I was that this was not done upon the first opportunity. It happened through the neglect of a certain person who had promised me to notify me (as I was not in Philadelphia) when the mail would be gathered. As an account of our journey from our company in general has been sent to our brethren remaining in Germany and our Fatherland Silesia (which if safely carried has no doubt reached you ere this) I will restrict myself to what concerns and befell me, my wife and children.
You are already acquainted with all that transpired between home and our arrival upon the banks of the river Mense in Holland. Upon leaving Helfort, the last city in Holland, we encountered considerable though not unusually high winds. Though no danger was apprehended, the ship was mightily rocked by the waves, which produced the usual unpleasant sensations of seasickness, to which nearly all the passengers succumbed. I was not much affected, but mother (Judith) suffered pretty severely. Our oldest son Christopher was likewise but slightly affected, but the most complete victim was Casper our youngest son ; for several days he was quite unable to sit up or to take any food. But he as well as the rest of us mended before reaching Plymouth, England, after a voyage of about six days. (Of the time, however. I am not quite sure, but the Account of Travel will show it.)
Here a heavy toll is exacted so we were detained twelve days while the captain’s cargo was inspected. Of our things nothing was examined but a chest. At 8 .A. M., July 29, we left Plymouth, but owing to very little and that contrary wind we were unable to proceed more than a quarter or at most half an English mile when we again cast anchor and waited for a more favorable wind which sprang up in the evening and launched us in the great sea or ocean also called the world sea for it encircles the whole earth and is so deep it cannot be sounded with lead and line.
Here we enjoyed five or six days of very fair wind, when again the wind rose and the passengers were prostrated, my wife and youngest son as usual being the severest sufferers. I and my oldest son Christopher were not sick in the least all of the ocean voyage, and the whole time enjoyed good appetites.
When perhaps half way over Judith was taken ill and for fourteen days suffered alternate chill and fever with violent headache and heaviness in the limbs but was better before we reached land on Sept. 22 (new method).
The first days after our arrival I enjoyed good health, but the next fourteen was confined to bed and suffered great heaviness in the limbs, but, thanks to God, am well again. The rest, however, have been very well since our arrival, except Judith, who was confined to bed for two days and suffered likewise with heaviness which with her, however, is a rather deep rooted complaint of old.
In the Fatherland we often heard and spoke of the ocean and its wild moods, in the Scriptures and other instructive books often read of it. until I imagined it very difficult if not impossible to cross it; no doubt if God chooses to punish, danger accompanies the attempt but far removed from its shores one is apt to exaggerate its terrors. If fair winds pre dominated, which they do not, navigation would be very pleasant ; yet for the most part it cannot be regarded agreeable, though its dangers be less than imagined, one unaccustomed to the water encounters many unpleasantnesses that make him long for the land. We encountered many contrary winds, but only eight hours of veritable storm ; the journal of the voyage will give the day. Though loss of life was not imminent, the necessity of tightly closing the ship caused great inconvenience to the many passengers and might have resulted in serious sickness if the good and merciful God had not stilled the wind and waves and brought us safely to our desired haven.
Now with reference to this country I must say that though much was said of its advantages in Germany and much written from here to there in praise of it, I find it to fall short of representation in many respects. It is true a good workman receives good wages, but on the other hand their number prevents their finding steady employment. Likewise the day laborer receives probably twice the wages received in Saxony or Silesia, but not the amount of work. Bread, it is true, is not much dearer than in Saxony (much wheat bread, mostly hearth-baked, is used here), but most other edible grains bring double their price in Germany. Meat is not dear, and much is used ; but all that serves for clothing is pretty high priced.
He who comes to this country with some money and devotes himself to amassing wealth may be successful. But to do so is contrary to the spirit of the Bible as well as our teachings which warn us against such things. We do not yet know if the spinning industry can be introduced and made self-supporting; the Scholtzes intended to make an effort to establish it. Spinning can be secured in the country, as the people here hire their flax spun as they do the tow in Germany. Farm land is not so easy to secure as one thought. There is plenty of it, to be sure, but money is needed for its purchase, as very little can be had cheap. Yet we will not suffer want, and with God’s help we will certainly be able to earn necessaries.
Nor is building so easy as imagined. In Philadelphia a thousand dollars will not build much, but in the country would be more efficient ; there they do not build large houses, but in Philadelphia everything is built a la mode and handsomely as also in Germantown, where I am living. In what pertains to the clergy and the advancement of Christianity, I cannot give much praise to this land, for the kingdom of this world has here, too, its adherents, and the Prince of this world has full swing; and though there is apparent peace and liberty, it is not so easy as one would think to provide for true peace ; so that a true Christian might be constrained to exclaim with our dear cousin Martin John, blessedly asleep in Jesus : O world of thine I’m weary, In thee no peace is found. For which my soul doth thirst; For it from thee I turn, My soul with love doth burn, For Christ the Prince of Peace. Verily Christ’s words will be fulfilled that in these last days not much good will be found upon the earth.
Lately we inquired of a man who was visiting us if the aurora was seen here. He answered no and wished me to describe it ; upon our doing so, he assumed it a sign of the last days, and expressed the opinion that the end of the world was not far off, quoting as a convincing proof the fulfillment of Christ’s words,”Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo here is Christ, believe it not.” He seemed to be a quite logical and observant man, and went on to say that here in Philadelphia there are so many and various religions each claiming Here is Christ, here is Christ, and that apparently all nations are inflamed with pride and godlessness and claiming all these things as indications of the end.
Here in the city of Philadelphia, where I have been eight weeks, very luxurious living is indulged in, and the extravagance is not less than in Germany. In the country you may find some very clever people, particularly among the Mennonites and Anabaptists, nevertheless much heed is paid to style and many, especially the young people, are very light-minded. Liberty of conscience is certainly allowed here, each may do or leave undone as he pleases. It is the chief virtue of this land, and on this score I do not repent my immigration (particularly as it was necessary), and hope and pray God to make it serve to the praise of his name and the eternal welfare of me and mine.
But for this freedom, I think this country would not improve so rapidly, though it is greatly to be deplored that many misuse it by leading bad and unthankful lives. It is a great boon to those who employ it to the praise and in the love of God. And dear brother, if indeed I cannot in temporal and spiritual things give this land the unqualified praise some have done, and though here, too, is found the corruption consequent upon the wretched fall of our first parent Adam, yet there are many who, realizing their own sinful nature, are not prepared to follow their own devices, but through the help and grace of God endeavor to resist the evil and avail themselves of Christ’s mercy for their own shortcomings.
So if trouble or war should befall you, it would give me and mine much pleasure to have you come here. I trust the dear and faithful God will care for us in body and soul. I would also like to have our sister Susan with us, if it should be her will to come. Reports have been circulated of great distress in Germany on account of the war, and I would like to have reliable news concerning the state of affairs.
My dear mother-in-law did not complete the journey undertaken with us, but after an illness of five weeks, and having lost all consciousness for the last ten days, she breathed her last upon the banks of the Delaware. My heart, loved brother, how it pains me that we are so widely separated, your own heart will tell you, for I am persuaded that you feel as I do. Though thousands of miles lie between us, my spirit often lingers with you; indeed, I may say not a day passes without thoughts of you. I beg you will always keep in remembrance me and mine, nor forget us in your prayers, and I will do the same for you, God strengthening me in my weakness with His help and grace.
Dear brother, it would give me much pleasure if the dear Lord were to allow us to meet again upon earth, but I would like to spare you the long and toilsome journey; still if you were to incur any opposition in religious or secular strife, I would much rather that you would come here, the dear Lord would lighten and make bearable all hardships, as He did for us.
Dear brother, we cannot know that we will see each other again, even should you conclude at once to come, for life is uncertain and you have often thought you would not live long ; as for myself, most of my years have passed, though I can and must add that I am now hearty and well (Thanks to God for his mercy), yet I perceive many symptoms which indicate that my life will not be long, therefore nothing is more necessary than to be daily prepared for death (for we have here no abiding city) and to pray that the Lord will transplant us into the land of the living where will be no alternation.
Now, dear brother, if you conclude to come you might buy some seeded bread ; if you come down the Elbe, buy it at Magdeburg, where the best is to be had ; that is likewise the best way to take, and then at Altoona you can have the bread sliced and baked the second time to take with you on shipboard. We cannot complain that the fare on board was short; on the contrary, those who had not great appetites had bread left, but it was unseeded, and would not suit every one, though not unpalatable. But it is well to be prepared with some seeded bread (Zwie-back) out of which if needed you could make soup. Dried fruit, apples, plums or pears, are likewise useful. You should provide yourself with some wine and brandy. We got some in Holland, and found it very useful. You might buy it in Rotterdam; wine and brandy are cheaper there than in Haarlem.
If you should come, bring with you an iron stove, too. They are dear here, are better than earthen ones that do not last so long, and are very high priced. I do not know where to tell you to buy it, but you can find out by inquiry; the people of the Palatinate generally bring them with them, and I think they buy them in Rotterdam or they bring them with them out of their own country I cannot tell certainly. A whole stove (or oven) consists of five plates, which can be divided into two, if desired, and the cost lessened. You might also bring a kettle, copper is very dear here; if you buy it in Holland, you can care for it well enough on shipboard. On those large vessels much or little to load is of no consequence; a grubbing hoe, a rasp, one or two engraving tools and an auger like a ladder or scale auger, if they are not too cumbersome for you.
My dear brother, I hope you will get some idea from this letter what things are like here. I have inquired well into all I have written about, and hope nothing I have said is untrue. I commend you and Susanna to the protection and fatherly care of the Triune God, and with many heartfelt good wishes for you both, hope this may find you in life and well. Please greet our cousin George and give them our good wishes ; the same to all our good friends, particularly to Abraham Wagner. If you should have money you must bring no silver with you, for gold, copper and paper are used here. I should like to have our; bees are not dear here. The ship passengers were very friendly toward us, and had great patience with us. The most of the time it was a little warm, so that many of us were out on deck. The sailors have no leisure ; they are always at work.