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A Charming Letter from cousin Joseph

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 6 Jan 1884 [unknown]
Location: Münchrath, Grevenbroich, Neuss, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germanymap
Surname/tag: Mattheisen
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(This letter was written by Winand Hubert Joseph Mattheisen (1851-) of Munchrath to his cousin, Reinhart Mattheisen (1854-1918), in Minnesota. The original is in “old German” language and handwriting, and is provided by the Mattheisens of Montana. It was translated by Donald Mattheisen of Arlington, Massachusetts.)

Munchrath, 06 January 1884.

Esteemed Cousin and Mrs. Niece Reinhardt:

First I and my wife, Katherine (born…) from Helpenstein wish you a happy new year. I further thank you for your Christmas greetings from America, the land which according to your description, dear cousin, flows like Canaan with milk and honey. I am uncommonly pleased that you still remember your cousin and I am also pleased that you have chosen a life partner, for as the Creator of the world said it is not good for man to be alone. But dear cousin I cannot understand the name of my esteemed niece in a foreign language, what is her name in Munchrath German?[1] I hope that you have chosen your heart’s desire and that you live together like doves, for love and harmony in marriage is…of the raising of children and the basis of a…life. Now we shall stop with the dear wives and pass over to another theme. I read with joy and astonishment of your horses, cows, pigs and many hens, but I must sympathize with the poor cock if in the course of his profession he is supposed to remain good friends with each hen. Further I am happy that you invite me to an (egg-hunt?), however, dear cousin, you will certainly not take it amiss if you…bring the eggs as far as the back bridge in Dickenbroich, that is not such a long way, and I will gratefully accept them. But dear cousin you must write me whether your hens are like those here, or whether they are of another race, also whether there are sparrows,…titmice(?)…wrens and squirrels there.

Neither father nor mother are capable of work any more, yet they work as much as they can; father is badly troubled with coughing, mother with head (aches?) and other pains. Now I must speak again of America. What does a pound of meat, I mean pork, cost? Ours here costs 8 Groschen per pound at the butcher. Are there also a church and a school in your vicinity? Where do you sell your surplus crops, meat, butter, eggs, etc.? You are certainly not able to consume everything. Where was your esteemed wife born in America, or is she also an immigrant? I would like to see her, is she beautiful? You can present her to me when you bring the eggs. But I will also present you with mine, for we will want to see who has the most beautiful one, mine pleased my eye the first time I saw her and I promised not to rest until our hands lay entwined at the altar. I have…found as I hoped she is according to my heart’s desire the most beautiful I have ever seen, a mouth like roses, teeth like ivory and eyes sparkling like diamonds and pearls, and a little nose on her face like…I manage everything with her, but when I speak of going to America she shivers like a…and is frightened of the powerful elements (?) which…will bring the world into fear and dread. My wife knows your father and mother but nobody else, but she would very much like to see everyone, but since that can’t happen she ask you for your father’s portrait. How do your mother and father look? Is father still in good spirits? I would like once more to hear his jokes. Is your mother’s leg still not good?…to silently be sorry for her.

Now I must leave off with the stupid thing for your wife certainly things [something here in dialect][2] for my wife says also [more in dialect]. Now about the past, Aunt Maria S.…of Neukirchen[3] died in March ’83, uncle Peter (?)[4] eight months later, Uncle Winand from Schleicherum (?) was buried on Christmas after the high mass[5].…Schaefisch (?) P. Wilhelm…My sister, Anna Maria,[6] died six years ago. Further died (names of friends, etc.).

Now we will stop with the dead, for perhaps I can’t mention all of them. May God grant them eternal rest. I almost forgot that Captain von Groeschow died the spring before last, the Pastor of Neukirchen died three weeks ago. I have now already been married for 4 years, have 2 children, a daughter of 19 months and a son of 4 weeks old, the first child died when it was 9 months old. I live in the B… Hansgitter his house, I bought it for 360 Thaler with L…garden, and 1/2 and 1 Morgan land, altogether 1 Morgan. My supply of livestock is not as great as yours; it is limited to one pig and one…(goose?). I have leased 7 Morgen of land for altogether 20 Thaler a year. Next spring I will procure a cow. I have been weaving velvet for 7 years, one must take the trouble to do that otherwise one cannot survive. My sisters, Katherina and Christine, are married in Kapellen, brother Philip in Lang…Heinrich and Elisabeth are with father and mother.

L…Pitter is still at home; he sends you many greeting. N. W.…lives at Lueberath he greets you as well and also wants to write. Further greets you N…Heinrich with his Helene Gronen who are my neighbors. Greet for me all my relatives in America but especially your brother, Joseph, and tell him I could not get the (white horse?) Heinrich Jordan born in Munchrath had got it Sch…Maria married Wilhelm St…of Munchrath. V…Simons a girl from Schleh…I had also expected a letter from Joseph whether the black…(?)[7]

One thing to me is incomprehensible, an ox (?) are too few for your farm what do you have for crops? Do beets, carrots, turnips, broad beans, peas, apples, cherries, plums, etc. also grow there? Is it warmer or colder there than it is in Muenchrath? Are also hops (?) longer on the F…there? I am a lover of flowers. What kinds of flowers are there in your gardens, are there other kinds than ours? If there are types there that can take our climate here then send me a few seeds in a letter, but they may not be so thick that one can feel them through the paper or else the letter would be opened in the post (office). I don’t need to write you news from Germany since it is in your newspaper better than I can write it. Greet for me again all the relatives but especially your esteemed father and mother, tell them that my wife and I would feel happy if we had Uncle Michael Joseph and Aunt Margerethe to display in a picture in our parlor. My wife listens so gladly when I tell about uncle how he could make such funny jokes and had a voice which [could stop an entire army corps if necessary (?)].

Here I end my writing. Greetings to you and your esteemed wife from my wife, Katherine St…Wife M. Your cousin, Joseph Mattheisen.

Please reply. Many greetings from my parents and sisters.

End notes

  1. Reinhart Hubert Mattheisen was married to Lydia Weber, who was born in Minnesota to German parents.
  2. The two phrases in dialect probably mean something like he writes too much or talks too much.
  3. Maria Sophia Mattheisen Hahn, daughter of Joseph Donatus Mattheisen (1778-1846), wife of Peter Hahn; she died March 1883 per this letter
  4. Peter Hahn, husband of Maria Sophia Mattheisen, who died in November 1883
  5. This is most likely Winand Joseph Mattheisen (1805-abt.1883)
  6. Anna Maria Huberta Mattheisen, 1845-1875
  7. “ob die Schwarze Mahte bei ihm so floeten wie im Vogelbusch” is some obscure private reference: my German sister-in-law thinks it might be something like black (Indian?) girls whistling at him with seductive interest, but that’s admittedly just a wild guess, partly based on the fact that the girl he married ca. 1881, Marie Reinhardt, was thought by some to have been an Indian.

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