-------------------------------------------------------------My next choice of ancestor story is John Leppert’s emigration from Bavaria to Indiana. John is my maternal third great grandfather, a farmer, and the father of Julianna Leppert Risch. Hopefully, more details of his life before 1836 will come into focus at some time. But right now I’m ready to look a little further into his journey across the Atlantic.
On approximately August 18, 1836, an American passenger shipped named Potomac departed the port at Le Havre, France, with 110 passengers. We can only imagine the feelings of excitement, yet fear; of hope, yet sorrow; of confidence, yet doubt that were prevalent among this group of emigrants. Regardless of their feelings, they all had to trust Captain John Baxter and his crew to deliver them safely to America. Their trip would take approximately eight weeks. The type of ship they traveled on was a bark (barque). Wikipedia’s definition is: A barque, barc, or bark is a type of sailing vessel with three or more masts having the foremasts rigged square and only the aftermast rigged fore-and-aft. (You can read more about the vessel at this link.)
John Leppert, his wife, Susanna, and six children from the ages of 2 to 18, boarded the Potomac in the port Le Havre in August 1836. John was 60 years old at the time he decided to uproot his family, to take a chance on this new place called America. These circumstances can surely bring up many questions. Of course, there’s no way to know for sure the motivations that brought the Lepperts to the decision, but gathering the facts that are available help us to speculate.
In the 1830s many Germans were feeling the pressures of a dense population. Farmers and small business people were seeing their living conditions deteriorate year by year. The poor economic and social conditions didn’t look promising for the children of peasants. Crop failures began to also take their toll on the farmers such as John Leppert. In my research at the Family Search wiki the following information might also illuminate some of what pushed John Leppert to leave Bavaria. “The reason for emigration was hunger. In Bavaria Anerbenrecht (inheritance law) was prevalent. This meant that farms were divided among heirs, leaving each with small parcels of land which could not support a family.” (3)
The stories of America as the land of opportunity abounded. Letters and books written by those already across the pond encouraged their family and friends to join them. Shipping companies were busy marketing the journey. Agents worked for shipping lines to fill steerage compartments so the trip was profitable for the company. A factor that no doubt played a part in John Leppert being able to afford passage for his family in 1836 is that the increase in shipping between Europe and America resulted in considerable decreases in the cost of transport for people. From 350-400 francs in 1818 to 120-150 francs in the early 1830s.
John’s family would have had accommodations in what was called steerage, below the ship’s waterline. These were not at all comfortable quarters. Some of the letters from immigrants informed those coming over about what foods they might want to bring for the trip. By the mid-nineteenth century, the U. S. government required minimum rations of food and water from the ships’ provisions; but earlier travelers risked disease, storm, and a high mortality rate. (1) The last page of the Potomac’s passenger manifest includes the regulations enacted in 1819, signed by James Monroe. (See document below.) "An Act to Regulate Passenger Ships and Vessels of 1819" was the first federal legislation to regulate how immigrants came into the United States. This act did not restrict anyone from coming in. Rather, it attempted to improve the conditions on board the ships on which incoming passengers came. By requiring the master of the ship to prepare a list of the incoming passengers, the government could get an idea of how much space existed on board for each passenger. The lists were to be prepared upon arrival in the United States and given to the customs official of that port. The lists came to be known as Customs Passenger Lists. (2)
In my search for more understanding of John Leppert’s move to America, I came across another researcher, Kathy Gosz, who has put together stories on her blog that do a fabulous job of providing background on immigration (plus lots of other interesting topics). Here’s a link to one of her articles about Le Havre. Kathy describes the circumstances that the Lepperts endured this way: “Immigrants were housed in steerage, just like the inanimate cargo they were replacing. It was usually miserable and overcrowded.“
After what may have been a treacherous trip across the Atlantic, John Leppert and his family disembarked on 18 October 1836 in Baltimore, Maryland. Having found the passenger list at ancestry.com (3), I can talk about those who were on the Potomac for that voyage:
First, I am including below a section of page 1 with:
-- Captain’s name, John Baxter, and carrying 222 tons, bound from Havre for Baltimore.
-- Categories of information: Name, Age, Sex, Occupation, Country, Country they intend to inhabit, Remarks.
-- Note that under Occupation is Farmer, under Country is Bavaria, under Country they will inhabit is United States.
All 110 passengers on this list are marked with ditto marks under “Farmer” except for one “Tailor” and two females at the end that appear to be “Spinsters.” Of course, we have to presume that there are children from maybe ages 1 to 12 who aren’t really farmers! But these similarities in occupation could be a hint in this overall story, eventually. Ditto marks also appear under Bavaria throughout the list, except for the two spinsters who are from Aschaffenburg. These 108 passengers from Bavaria may also be clues as I continue my research.
My second image is the excerpt from the page of passengers containing the Lepperts. The family name is spelled Lebert here: Johann Lebert, age 60, male, farmer, Bavaria, United States; Susanna Lebert, age 26, female; Catharina Lebert, age 18, female; Johann Lebert, age 16, male; Anna M. Lebert, age 12, female; Julianna Lebert (my great great grandmother), age 9, female; Franz Lebert, age 2, male; Marianna Lebert, age 18, female. A few of their fellow passengers on other pages are named: Clement, Lang, Klug, Rufford, Herman, Schmidt, Kuhn and the tailor who was Johann Weber.
And lastly, here’s the final page of the accounting for the Bark Potomac landing in Baltimore on 18th day of October 1836. Captain John Baxter swears that this report delivered to to the Collector of the District of Baltimore contains the names, age, sex, and occupation of all the passengers, together with the name of the country to which they severally belong, and that of which they intend to become inhabitants. Here we see there’s also two more passengers that seem to be added subsequent to the list from Bavaria. These two men are from Stuttgart and Aschaffenburg. Below that, the Health Officer also declares that there are 110 passengers, 17 of which are under the age of 5.
As a part of this final page there is the printed ‘Act regulating passenger ships and vessels’ that I referred to earlier. There are details in this small print pertaining to the number of passengers allowed per ton. It states that if a ship exceeds these regulations it shall be “deemed and forfeited to the United States.” Then, in Sec. 3 there are provisions for a payment of $3.00 for each day a passenger is shorted the allowances of provisions required. Some interesting regulations here. Makes you wonder whether anyone actually enforced them.
This journey with great grandfather John Leppert across the Atlantic ends when he establishes his family home in Dearborn County, Indiana. The 1840 Census for Jackson Township, Dearborn County, Indiana, (4) lists John Leppert with what we assume to be his wife, Susanna, four of his daughters and one son. (The only names listed are for head of household.) Although two children are missing from this family accounting, the family is confirmed to be our Lepperts. Thanks to Mary Cathryn Zimmer who wrote The Leppert Family, 1836-1899, Dearborn County, Indiana, (5) I have additional roads to follow for future Leppert stories. Her research helped me a great deal in understanding their Bavarian roots and the Indiana connections. In discussing their coming to America, Ms. Zimmer says: “How this Leppert family of eight managed to pay for passage to the U. S. is a matter of some wonderment. They appear to have been people of extremely modest means, since they bought no farm land on arrival in Indiana. The probability is that they lived on and farmed the land of someone else, someone with more land than he could farm himself.”
Where did John take his family between that day in Baltimore in 1836 and the 1840 census? How did they come to be in Indiana? Those questions may never be answered completely. But, surely, there are more places to look and more to know about John Leppert.
For seven generations of John Leppert's Descendants, Click Here
Research goals -- Where am I going from here in researching the Leppert family:
-- Study the list of passengers for people that may have settled in Dearborn County, Indiana, with John Leppert. Maybe there are leads to the town in Bavaria where the Lepperts originated.
-- Investigate the Leppert (Lebert) surname and Bavarian connections.
Thanks for visiting Indiana Ties.
1. Ancestry.com wiki: Immigration Research Approaches. This article originally appeared in "Immigration Records" by Loretto Dennis Szucs, FUGA, Kory L. Meyerink, MLS, AG. FUGA, and Marian L. Smith in The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy
2. Legal History of Immigration: http://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Legal_History_of_Immigration
3. Ancestry.com Source Information: Baltimore, Maryland. Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Baltimore, 1820-1891. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. Micropublication M255, rolls # 1
4. Ancestry.com, digital images: 1840 U. S. Census, Dearborn Co., Indiana, Jackson Township, p. 77, penned pg. 249, John Leopard.
5. The Leppert Family, 1836-1899, Dearborn County, Indiana, copyright 1995, Columbia, MD. This book is in my personal collection, purchased from Mary Cathryn Zimmer.
Copyright 2014 © Nancy Niehaus Hurley