Stralsund, December 31, 1896
This will be my last letter to you. And as the many letters I wrote to you before, I will not mail it because I don’t know where to find you. They say you have died in the Great Fire of Chicago and that is what my mind tells me as well. But my heart tells me you are still alive and that you’re doing well, you and our little sister Marie. You probably tried to get in touch with me as well and did not know where to write to. Probably your letters came back as did the letters I sent you through the years. There has been a lot of moving around on my side and of course I was very busy. But now you are missing in America…
I have missed you for all of my life. There hasn’t been a single day I haven’t thought about the two of you, and father and mother. And now, that I know that my life will soon come to an end, I miss you even more. I was already five years old when you were born. And I loved you from the first day I saw you. Do you remember when we used to play at the Plattenburg together with the children of the noble Family von Saldern? How often we played tricks on the dairy maids? Times were good then. We were living in a beautiful house next to the castle together with our grandparents Stange. Business was going well for our father. Besides that there always was enough food on the table, all of us received an excellent education. First, we were home-schooled by our father and then we left home to go to boarding schools.
I was thirteen when I left you and our siblings. I actually hated going to school, I hated sitting inside all day. But I loved to be educated to work with my hands. Father definitely had made the right choice to send me to the middle school of the Franckeschen Stiftungen that would give me a technical education, it was very old and traditional but at the same time so opne minded and modern that it prepared me for what was to come. And I became a mechanic! One of the first in Germany! It was men like me who built the new, industrial and Germany, that is what I always thought. I was a journeyman for a very long time, worked in many places, met a lot of people. I couldn’t really settle down. I had lost my home when you and our parents left for America. Only Justus lived here, but he lived so very far away and he was so busy with his career and such. And, after all, he and I were so very different and never as close as you and me had been. We kept in touch but that was kind of all.
I have always thought about following you to America, but with Germany booming and so many job opportunities, it would have been rather stupid to leave. So I just made a decision: If the girl I loved would finally agree marry me, I would stay, if she still refused, I would leave Europe for good and come to Chicago, to you, your family and my beloved little sister Marie. But as you know, I got my girl, married her right away and we have 5 beautiful children!
My oldest, Susanna Maria, named after her Swiss grandmother, had a horrible accident when she was a child, she fell down the stairs and hurt her spine! I was remembered how our little brother Otto had died (I am sure you remember that he fell from a wagon?). She is my tough little girl and she learned to walk again, but her spine was distorted and she never would marry and have someone who would take care of her. So we had her learn bookkeeping and that was what she does now. When I am gone, she will be able to take care of herself.
My second born was Friedrich, I named him after our father. He is very quiet and introverted, very intellectual. Wonder where he got that from. He will be a pastor and while he is waiting for a pastorate, he works as a house teacher and his wife to be as a governess. Her mother is a Baroness, can you imagine this? My son marrying into a noble family!
Number three is Otto, named after our late brother. He is so much like you, I tell you. Or maybe like me? Can’t sit still, an adventurer. He ran from home some years ago and signed up on a merchant ship, just lied about his age. But he returned safely and then we sent him to an engineer school. And now he is a ship engineer and sails the seven sees for the merchant navy.
Then Antonie, but we call her Toni. Our little silly girl. Always laughing, giggling, having fun – what a sunshine she is. But not really responsible, she would need a good husband to take care of her but it doesn’t seem as if she would find one. Loves her freedom!
And then there is Charlotte, my little darling. She has tuberculosis and is getting worse with every day. I pray to God every day that he will not take her before I go. Or maybe she will recover?
I have resigned from my work. Oh, I realize that you did not know what I did for a living in later years. After getting married, I worked in Cologne as a former and a mechanic. Remember, we are talking about the boom of industry! After some years, three of my children were born there, I decided to move to Silesia. Everyone said that that was the wrong move and we would not be happy there. But I earned good money as a master mechanic and was very well respected. But the pollution in the factories I had worked was so bad and very soon I developed problems with my lungs and found it hard to breath.
Then something strange happened – I read an ad in a newspaper from Stralsund where a shop-owner of a drapery store looked for a successor. Okay, a drapery store might not be the best of choices but my main thought was to have my wife, who was 16 years my minor, and my girls provided for, just in case I would not recover. And the fresh air from the Baltic Sea really did me good. But my lungs were already damaged. And now I know that I will not live for too long. I can look back on my life with great pleasure and I have so many loved ones around me. But I still have one wish: to see you and Marie for the very last time, only one more time. But maybe, if you really have died, we will soon meet again in heaven. Soon, very soon.
Your loving brother, Carl.