Merck Family - Random Notes

Joseph John Merck, with his wife, Katherine Cecilia Eberle, brought his family from the Ukraine to the United States in 1912. This site will contain some random notes and comments about the family background, their experiences, the places they lived, and other subjects related to that topic. No particular organization of comments or articles should be expected.

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Location: Jacksonville, Arkansas, United States

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Cousins Meet at the Cracker Barrel

The final day of the 2010 Germans From Russia Heritage Society convention in Bismarck ND, July 25th, was an ideal occasion for a brunch meeting of Merck cousins at the Cracker Barrel restaurant. Pictured above are Marilyn Bruya, Missoula MT, Bill Merck, Minot ND and Ed Merck, Jacksonville AR in the back row. Seated in the Cracker Barrel's famous rocking chairs are Alex Merck, Minot ND, Mary Jo Merck (wife of Bill), and Jo Merck (wife of Ed). This photo was taken by a friendly passerby with Marilyn's camera.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

1909 Emigration to Brazil

Much history is contained in letters written by the Germans from Russia to der Staats Anzeiger, a German language newspaper published in North Dakota in the early 1900s. This newspaper, distributed in South Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and the United States, was useful for communicating between family and friends who had emigrated and those who remained behind. That has been mentioned in earlier items published here.

Several writers commented on the emigration from the Kutschurgan Valley to Brazil in 1909. Ludwig Stroh wrote from Russia on 2 Jan 1909 that many wanted to emigrate to Brazil because the fare was very much cheaper than to America. Editor Brandt added comments to caution readers about the unscrupulous land speculators in Brazil who offered travel assistance because they wanted the land settled and about the undesirable conditions there (1). In another letter he wrote that the Brazilian government announced they no longer had funds to provide assistance for those moving (2). Martin Stroh wrote a 27 Jan 1909 letter in which he stated it was deplorable that emigrants make the move without educating themselves about what they will find (3). On 24 Apr 1909 he wrote that he had heard from two who had emigrated and had been swindled, so they spent their last funds to move to Argentina hoping for something better. They urged that no one should be convinced to make that move (4).

It was apparently known in the Kutschurgan Valley that emigrating to Brazil was not a wise thing to do. So I wondered why my grandfather and others later left their homes in South Russia to make that move. The Merck family left Russia 13 December 1909 and arrived in Brazil 45 days later. Their trip was several months after those letters were written. They moved on to Argentina before April 1910 (9).

Reading other letters written to der Staats Anzeiger at that time revealed they had reasons to hope for something better. They had endured two floods, drought, and crop-destroying 'bugs' (5, 6). This all happened after two straight years of crop failures (7). They may have had other options, but their lack of wealth restricted their choices. I'm not happy they suffered these difficult circumstances, but I am thankful they had the strength and perseverance to survive them and eventually bring their families to this land of opportunity in 1912 (9).

(1) Ludwig Stroh ltr, 2 Jan 1909
(2) Ludwig Stroh ltr, 8 Mar 1909
(3) Martin Stroh ltr, 27 Jan 1909
(4) Martin Stroh ltr, 24 Apr 1909
(5) Martin Stroh ltr, 8 Mar 1909
(6) Ludwig Stroh ltr, 12 May 1909
(7) Georg Usselmann ltr, Jul 1909
(8) Joseph Merk ltr, 30 Mar 1911
(9) Joseph Merk ltr, 15 Jun 1912