On the wide and rough sea to a new land and a new life
THE WAY OF MEMORY: The immigrant ship swayed and rolled in the dark as it passed through violent waves.
Clara, 15, tried to sleep – in the bunk designed to hold four people – next to her 11-year-old sister Auguste Maria and her aunt Paulina Weiss, but it was hopeless.
It hadn’t been a bed of roses in Poland, but her parents, asleep in the next bunk, were sure that they would leave West Prussia, their German-occupied part of Poland, for that foreign place called the New Zealand was worth any effort.
The Gutenberg had left from the port of Bremerhaven – the other emigration port was in Hamburg – a week before Christmas. The journey would still take almost three months to reach its destination at a place called Wellington.
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Some passengers, she had heard in snatches of conversation, had been too poor to take the train to the port of Hamburg. They had simply walked and covered the miles necessary to get there. In all the hubbub of the signing and all the confusing languages that surrounded them, several people had thought they were heading for America. It was only when Gutenberg left that they discovered their mistake. Well, at least in New Zealand, they were told, they would all be free from oppression and able to make a decent living.
Captain Bockwoldt, sometimes printed as “Rockwoldt”, ran a clean and watertight ship. There would be no abusive fraternization between sailors and Gutenberg’s young female passengers if he could help her.
Much to her dismay, on her arrival, the immigration commissioners reportedly reported that: “Several people who were moored among married immigrants are not married, they lived together before asking the officer for free passage.
On board was a huge motley collection of people and nationalities – 164 men, women and children from Poland, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany, each chatting in their own language and learning a little that of others.
There was only one privileged passenger with a cabin all to himself, a wealthy farmer named Heinrich Briesman.
Among the passengers, to the sisters’ surprise, were five other Augustes: one in her forties, one in her thirties, two in her twenties and one in her twenties. Most of the female passengers declared their profession of “towel”. They were looking for work in private homes, hotels, as nannies or serving in a store somewhere. Most of the men, including Clara and Augustus’ father, Johan, were listed as farmers or farm laborers.
The largest group on board were the Italian family Turchi – Carlo and his wife Zantina, and their seven living children, aged 6 months to 17 years.
The ship’s surgeon general, Dr Evers, wrote that a Danish passenger, Hans Madsen, acted as a schoolteacher for the children throughout the long voyage, and that the ship’s matron was’ Mrs Christensen, a nice old lady, scrupulously clean, and with a cap that seemed to come from the days of our grandmothers ”.
However, he also noted: “Single women were locked up every night from sunset to sunrise … Most Italian immigrants are very strange comrades … They started to quarrel with their fellow travelers as well as ‘with the officers. and the crew … They refused to follow the rules.
Dr Evers also presided over the birth of the only ship: a baby boy for Carlo and Bertha Feinius.
In the evening there was a lot of chanting in different languages and story exchange, but there were also frightening nights of thunder and lightning, and strong swells when the ship felt small in the face of the power of the sea. nature.
Finally, on March 23, 1876, the voyage was completed, the Gutenberg entering Wellington harbor.
After landing, he received a visit from a journalist from the hurry, who was impressed with the cleanliness of the ship and the “fat, healthy and happy children”. However, he noticed that in the single men’s compartment, “the bunks were built to hold four people, and one thing that surprised us was a series of loopholes that they could see through into the married compartment, a German style that struck us reprehensible “.
What about Clara Malgraff and her family?
They traveled to Foxton and stayed there for a while. There Clara met Jan, 24, another Polish immigrant who arrived on the Terpsichore ship.
He planned to join other immigrants who worked cutting bushes and hauling logs to a nearby town called Palmerston North.
Despite Clara’s youth, the lover Jan insisted that they get married as soon as possible. Clara was overwhelmed by his ardor and, rather than having a church wedding with Clara’s parents, the couple fled to a justice of the peace and legally married.
Clara, 15, wrote her age on the marriage certificate as 17. Her parents and Augustus soon left to forge a new life in a place called Wanganui.
Meanwhile, the young wife found that her husband, although a handsome storyteller and adventurer, was also not quite rooted in family life.
Their marriage lasted more than 30 years and eight children. But, in 1910, Clara divorced Jan.
She supported herself by teaching, working as a language interpreter in immigrant courts and as a “woman finder” for the Palmerston North Police, patting suspicious women in the days when there was no policewomen.
His death came in the 1930s, after his retirement in Auckland. She was a woman of courage and spirit: Clara Malgraff Iskierka – my grandmother.