August Justus Stange was the first born child of Friedrich Stange and his wife Caroline born on June 21, 1826. His parents were married in October 1825 in the small church of Nebelin in the Prignitz in Brandenburg, which was where Friedrich was the Holländer. But the newly-weds left this area soon, in fact they even left Prussia when crossing the river Elbe and moved to the Kingdom of Hanover. In Wustrow, in the administral district of Lüneburg, Friedrich had signed a new contract with the estate owner Johann Justus Mylius. Business did not go to well and the Stanges left soon after Justus’s birth. But before leaving, Johann Justus Mylius became the godfather of August Justus on June 24, 1826 and the name Justus would be passed on for several generations until this very day.
As Justus grew older, he received an excellent education, first by his father, later he attended one at the best schools of that time – the Latin School of the Franckesche Stiftungen in Halle on the Saale. It had been highly recommend by Pastor Staemmler from Groß-Leppin, the parish the family had moved to around 1836. Some years later his brother Carl and the pastor’s son followed him.
In September 1845, he finished school and, according to the school records, was to become a forester, probably the plan was to receive his education from his Uncle, the forester Leiffheidt in Plattenburg. If he started working for him we do not know. Being 19 years old when leaving school, he probably needed to do his military service first. Did he ever return to his family in the Prignitz?
The next years brought many drastic changes to the family’s life. Father Friedrich would leave Plattenburg in 1850 to buy a mill in Dergenthin but had to file for bankruptcy in 1854. The same year his brother Albert left for America together with their cousin Gustav. Brother Carl had left to become a mechanic, and after finishing his education, moved around in Germany as a journeyman in order to get more experienced in his job. Their two brothers Otto and Friedrich had died and his beloved little sister Marie, 13 years his minor, had been confirmed and had left home in order to work as a maid. And finally, in 1855, his parents, Marie and his uncle Fritz Bochin decided to follow Albert to America, leaving the two grown up sons Justus and Carl behind.
But also Prussia was undergoing changes. Roads are constructed and paved, travel went much easier and quicker, especially for transporting goods. Suddenly the big towns became a market for sales. More and more small manufacturers set up shops, and little provincial towns flourished. There were many jobs in small industries and a bigger need for craftsmen. But also the industry in the large towns was increasing and in need of workers. While in 1830 four-fifth of the German population still lived on the country side, only 50 years later it only is one half. But also the number of people immigrating to overseas was growing, with many young men leaving to seek a better life in America.
In this situation, Justus, Carl and Albert chose to take different paths. Albert, wanting to make the best of his good education and skills, but without any funds or good connections to do so in Germany, chose to leave for America. Carl, as a mechanic being prepared to meet the needs of the new industrial Germany and knowing that his chances were best in Germany, remained and Justus, chose the traditional Prussian way to build a career – the military – and the Prussian Navy, formed in 1849, obviously was a great chance for those with good education and excellent administrative skills.
In letters his brother Albert and his parents exchanged in 1854, it is mentioned that Justus neither showed up or wrote to his parents or Albert. And this did not seem to change during the next years, in 1858 his sister Marie, residing close to Chicago, sent a letter to her brother Carl complaining that Justus didn’t stay in touch: “If you write to Justus, please say hello from me many thousand times and remind him to write to me what he up to, as it is very painful for us, to hear from him so rarely, I would have thought that our father’s death might have softened his mind and would have brought him to write, which would have been a great relief for us.” And in 1865 Albert told his brother Carl that the last letter he received from Justus was in 1855, ten years ago. “Even less I know from Justus, from whom I received a letter when I still was in New York shortly before our parent’s arrival to America“.
What happened to Justus? Why did he not write to his family? Was he such a bad son and brother? The answer is pretty easy – he was simply traveling the world as a soldier in the Prussian Navy. In 1850/1851 an expedition had led to Brazil, another trip in 1852/1853 led to West Africa (Liberia), Brazil, Uruguay, Venezuela, Columbia, Jamaica and Cuba to the USA (to Norfolk). In the 1850’s there were several more expeditions to places all over the world. In 1859, there was another expedition to Japan and China (but probably without Justus being a crew-member). When Justus retired from the Navy in 1872, after 24 years of service, he had spent 11 years at sea.
In 1859, he seemes to have started to settle down. At the garrison in Mainz in Palatine, he married the daughter of a late actor at the Royal Theater in Berlin, Franz Hoppe. Justus is then residing in Danzig, which is were the couple was to spend the next years. And soon, in 1860, their daughter Catharina Justine Auguste was born. In 1863, his first son, Franz Justus Theodor Edmund, was born and his baptism in the garrison church of Danzig, is the only time we have proof of Justus being in touch with one of his siblings – his brother Carl becomes the child’s godfather. The next son, Reinhold Albert Justus, was already born in Kiel, which is where the family had moved, and in 1872 the last son, Justus, was born.
But he wasn’t only successfully building up a family, he also worked his way up, building up a solid foundation to the newly founded Prussian Navy, which in 1867 would become the Navy of the North German Confederation (Norddeutscher Bund) and in 1871 the Imperial Navy of the German Reich.
In January 1864, with the German-Danish War ahead, he was ordered to Stralsund to work for the “Commando der Flotille” as an administrator. In 1867, he was promoted to be a Unter-Zahlmeister (Second-Purser) in the rank of a Second Lieutenant. The second promotion came in 1869, when he became a Zahlmeister (first-purser) in the rank of a Lieutenant. On July 20, 1870, he was the co-administrator of the ship Renown that had been bought from the Royal Navy the same year and was to be used as a training ship for the artillery.
He even received two medals, in 1862 he was awarded the Fürstlich Schwarzenburgischen Ehrenkreuzes 3. Klasse by the Fürst of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen and in 1867 the Königlicher Kronen Orden 4. Klasse.
The year 1872 brought enormous changes to the family. Justus was promoted to work as a secretary and accounting clerk at the Admiralty in Berlin and left the Navy.
He moved to Berlin in March, the family joining him later in September. The family first lived in Berlin-Kreuzberg, a very busy area, loud and dirty. But even if things seemed to be going good for the family they were in grief – their son Justus died shortly after their move to Berlin from scarlet fever, only 2 years and 6 months old.
Soon Justus bought a house in a quiet and nice neighborhood in Steglitz, south of Berlin. The rented out the souterrain of the house and the family lived on the ground and upper floor. As an accounted at the Royal Admiralty and the accountant of the parish of St. Matthäus in Steglitz, Justus was a well respected man.
Time went by. He and his brother Carl had lost touch with their siblings in America, his daughter Catharina married a German merchant in Manchester, UK, and moved there, Reinhold got married and owned a tabacco-shop in the center of Berlin and Franz had become a music teacher and composer, still living with his parents. In 1886, Justus retired, his brother Carl died in 1897. His only grandchild, Charlotte Gräffinghoff, lived far away in England. Did he, when looking back on a brilliant career, that brought him great prestige, a good income and pension, ever think of the family he had lost, his parents, brothers and sister and of the life he left behind? Did he, who grew up in large family, together with his many siblings and cousins, ever feel lonely?
In 1913 he died, 86 years old, his wife followed him in 1925. In the 1930’s their son Franz was visited by his cousin Friedrich, the son of Carl, who had named his son Justus after his uncle Justus. Although both of them lived in Berlin, it seems to have been the only time they met. In 1932, Reinhold died, Franz sold the house in 1935. He seemed to have left Berlin, it is not known where he moved and where and when he died.
Next: Cousins – Albert: “I would under no circumstances go back to Europe.“