I first heard about you from Albert’s letter that he wrote to his parents back in October 1854, shortly after you both had come to America. At first, it seemed to me as if you were Albert’s brother. You two seemed to be so close. This is what Albert wrote about you: “He [Gustav] could not find a job in New York. So one day he went to the “Deutsche Gesellschaft”, where there was a farmer in order to get a farm-worker, which he will have written about more detailed in his letter. But how could you have thought that we had a quarrel; both of us are happy that we are together again, and we hope it will stay this way throughout the winter.”
You had come to America on the ship Donau, leaving from Hamburg on April 1, 1854, arriving in Castle Garden in New York on May 17, 1854. Then, obviously, you wanted to stay in New York and Albert left for Connecticut. But you seemed to stay in touch, exchanging letters on your whereabouts. And then, after three months, Albert decided to follow your path and come to New Paltz. I love the story of how you found each other there…. “I did not think about it for too long; the next morning I took the train to go back to New York and on to New Palz, where Gustav worked for a farmer and from whom I had received a letter. I arrived there on Sunday August 27, just on Marie’s and Ernestine’s birthday. But now I didn’t know where his Baass lived, as he had not told me his name; therefore I went to an inn first to have some breakfast because I was hungry, because on the steam boats that travel the rivers it is very expensive and it takes one night to get from New York to New Palz. As I sat there in the hotel, I thought about how I could find him. As I sit there, thinking and looking out of the window he happens to walk by. The first question I asked him was after a place to work and I was happy to hear that there were plenty of places; I found a place that same day, a good place where I will stay all winter. Gustav was just on his way to another farmer where he wanted to hire out, as his time with his master was running out in 8 days. Currently he works 12 English miles from where I am and has a better place than before. He came for a visit on Sunday, September 24, we had lunch together at my Baass, I will go to him in 14 days and take a look at his farm.”.
I searched for you and Albert in the passenger lists from Hamburg and there it said that both of you were 19 years old. So, were you twins? Or might you have been cousins? I then checked the church records for Albert and found him, but not you. So, the twin theory went up in smoke. If you were that close, might you have grown up together? Who were your parents? I figured that if Albert and you had grown up together, I only needed to find out more about Albert’s family to be able to find the information I needed. I would then find your birth record and everything would be clear. But that was easier said than done….
Through the years I found out more and more about Albert’s family and his uncle Carl, whom I supposed to be your father. They lived close by, and could have had a son of your age. It was just that I did not find a trace of YOU. If it hadn’t been for the passenger lists and Albert’s letter, I would have assumed that you were some kind of hoax. By the way, did you know that Albert’s uncle Carl died of pneumonia only three weeks after Albert’s family left for America in 1855? I wonder if you ever got to know about that. When Carl died, the church records stated that he left behind one adult child, meaning older than 21, and two minor children. The older one was Ernestine, one of the minor children was Minna. And the other one just had to be you, I was sure of that! But I simply couldn’t prove it. Then one day, I checked the confirmation records of Perleberg. Albert went to school there and I figured that you could have done the same. And there you were, Gustav August Stange, confirmed on April 1, 1849, 14 years and 11 months old. And your father was the holländer in Kuhwinkel, Carl Stange. I had found you, at last! Still, my search goes on, I want to find your place of birth. And I bet that you were not born in the Prignitz district, I have searched every parish there for you…..I know your father was born in the Altmark district, just across the river Elbe, and he also had lived in the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg when he was young. Your cousin Justus was even born in the Kingdom of Hanover. So there is a lot of work to be done…
Also, I do not have the slightest clue what happened to you in America. You were a farm worker in New Paltz, that is all I know. I do not have a single trace of you. Did you move to New York City as you first intended to? Did you go west like Albert did? Or did you stay put in Ulster County? Or went to Canada? Or even back home to Germany? Or did you simply change your name so that I will be unable to find you?
Dear Gustav, I am determined to find out more. Couldn’t you just give me a sign, even a tiny little one would do…..