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

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Christian's Journey

Christian S. Merk was about six years older than my Dad, his second cousin. They both came from the same village, Elsass. At age 18 he left with a couple of friends to come to America. He tells about his journey in a letter written shortly after he arrived in North Dakota:

"I started my trip with Dominik Job and Nikolai Rodinow from our home village. We drove for two days and two nights by train and then for two more days and nights of driving and walking, we finally were only ten verst (about 6.62 miles) from the Russian boarder. Why did we travel this way? Well, we did not have passports. As we approached the boarder, we were soon surrounded by Russian soldiers who looked at us as though we were murderers. With the help of copious amounts of schnapps, we were able to finally able to get away from the soldiers. At the boarder we had to cross a river which had a torrential current. I thought that would be the end for me but we did arrive at the opposite bank. Once there, we faced rocky hills with peaks so high we could barely see them. We also saw a forest which seemed to extend for miles. We did not know whether to go right or left. However, we had to push forward into the dark forest. It took until morning that we came to a field with nice grain growing on it. I really wanted to rest but my buddies were afraid of the Russian soldiers so we pushed on. We continued to march on at random, putting our trust into God’s hands. Finally we reached a road which we followed. After a long march, we bumped into the Austrian Military. We had reached the Austrian boarder! The soldiers examined us but we were not taken into custody and we were later allowed to continue on foot. We later hired a driver and after twelve hours, we finally reached a train station. Now the hardship was behind us. The train took us to the harbor where we boarded a ship bound for America. It was an arduous, perilous trip until we reached the harbor."

He also talks about his arrival in North Dakota: "I have been visiting many relatives but I was most overjoyed by visiting my Uncle Christian. When he heard that I was coming, he drove to Berwick to pick me up. However, by the time he got there, I was on my way to Blumenfeld with Johannes Volk. My uncle later found me there. It has been eleven long years since we last saw one another. The readers can imagine the joy of the reunion. From Blumenfeld he drove me to his home in Karlsruhe. It was already night when we arrived there. Throughout the night, we discussed and simply could not finish talking."

What makes his story more interesting is that fact that after his arrival in 1910 he again returned to South Russia. I don't know when he left on that trip, so I don't know just how long he was there. But he was married there in early 1913 and returned with his wife to Saskatchewan in October 1913. Their first daughter was born at sea on that voyage. Unless he went specifically to obtain a wife, I can't image what would motivate him to go back after having such difficulty leaving in the first place.