Letters from St. Louis to Europe - 1840s

David A. Lossos, updated September 27, 2007

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These letters were provided by Nancy J. (Smith) Hendricks in Vero Beach, Florida

She writes "The attached are five letters from Jacob/Jacques Frantz to his parents, Jacques Frantz Sr., Chevelier and his second wife, Maria Magdalena Pflugfelder. Jacques Sr., the Chevelier was awarded the Order of the Legion d'Honneur by Napoleon for his service in the Grenadiers a Cheval Nouvelle Garde in 1814. The Legion d'Honneur was Emperor Napoleon's first step to create a new imperial nobility. Jacques Sr. had four brothers who emigrated to America, Pierre/ Peter settled in Cincinnai, David went to Cincinnati and migrated to Louisville, Kentucky, Christian who returned to France and Henry of whom we know nothing. These men emigrated between 1827 and 1839.

Jacques/ Jacob, the first son of The Chevelier came over about 1839 and went first to Cincinnati and then came to St. Louis where he met his wife, Catherine Rittman/Bitman and settled. Jacques/Jacob Frantz was baptized in 1819 the son of Johann Jacob (Jacques) Frantz and Sr. and his first wife, Charlotte Wehrung b. 9/3/1795 d. 1829 in Sarrewerden,daughter of Theodore Wehrung and d'Odile Klein. The letters from George Frantz were from the second son of Jacques Sr and Charlotte Wehrung. He was. baptized. in 1821. He returned to Alsace but planned to return to the US. We don't know if George ever came back to America.

We often wish that we could know what our ancestors thought when they came to the New World. Thanks to Jacques and the person who was thoughtful enough to save these letters, we have a chance to know Jacob Frantz and a bit about what it was like to live from 1844 to 1852 in St. Louis, Missouri. Jacob died at age, thirty five in March of 1853. Catherine his wife, age 52 and Emelie, his daugher, at age 37. He's said to be buried in the Holy Ghost Cemetery. If anyone comes across his grave, stop and tell him "He's not forgotten".

I'd like to thank Pierre Balliet,a professor and genealogist from Nancy, France, who has helped me for years with the French research on the Frantz family. He found these letters in the Genealogical Society in Saar Union, Alsace. Their source there is unknown. He sent them to me and they were kindly translated by Agnus Miccolis of Hoboken, NJ. Agnus is a current day emigrant from France."

St. Louis, April 11, 1844

Monsieur Jacques Frantz

Chevalier de la L’Egion d Honneur et Maire de Saarverden

Op’du Bas Rhin Aent 2 de Suverne

par havre En France



  Dear Parents, brothers and sisters!


What a joy to see my brother arriving finally in my house after so many difficulties. Six weeks ago he arrived in Cincinnati where he stayed until March 20th, then he came to me in St. Louis where I live for two years. It’s around 1,000 miles from Cincinnati.


How could I have ever imagined my brother, Georges coming to the States to see me after such a long time away from each other in a place so far from our dear country.


Imagine how much pleasure I felt when one morning my brother, Georges came to my studio (atelier) to tell me words of encouragement from my loved ones. It would have been hard to recognize him because he looks older than I am. He gave me news about you. He told me life was hard, no employment and low salaries. He also told me how nicely you fixed up the Bertrang House and how you intend to live there and turn it into un auberge (small hotel and restaurant). He also gave me a letter from you to our uncles P&D (Peter and David) in which you complained about my long silence, how you felt about me, how you consider me, all of which stem from false observations. In order to prove to you that I am not who you think I am, I feel obliged to write to you what follows.


So ! Regarding my long silence, I thank God today because when Christian (uncle) left I hadn’t written.......I tried to write you a letter many times but it was impossible to finish them. It’s better this way because I would have caused you a lot of sorrow knowing that I had a hard time settling down and felt like a lost soul.


In fact what I should have written was that I had left Cincinnati, that I had been here and there, and that nowhere did I feel in good shape. You would have said that the grace of God had left me because I was not getting by.(later Jacques became a baker in the biggest hotel in St. Louis.)


My brother, George works for a German butcher. He has a small salary and he is learning his new language, English. We brothers are good friends.


Do not judge me please.


 Jacques Frantz


St, Louis, Missouri


St. Louis Aprill 11, 1844





Dear Parents,


I would like to reassure you, my brother, Jacques and myself are in good health and hope the same I true with you.


I must emphasize that we had a terrible ocean crossing, and during the three weeks a storm pushed us far North and we were at sea for fifty six days. We stayed three days on the “Jesel Couba”, where it was hot and we couldn’t stay on the deck.


Regards all,


Georges Frantz





Dec. 8, 1844



Dear Parents,


I’m in New Orleans, I spent the summer in St. Louis at a butcher’s place, we were sick a lot, very high fever! I was sick too on the steamboat to New Orleans. Thank God I’m feeling a lot better now but I’m still too weak to work. My brother, Jacques is fine and still working in St. Louis in a big hotel as a baker. He has a good salary. I told Jacques to send the Power of Attorney Document home, he said it wouldn’t be necessary because if the case is to be pursued something that we don’t anticipate happening, then either me or him would return home or else we’ll send it.


In America the times are tough. I send my regards to you and my brothers and Sisters and the family and to all who ask about us. I remain your most loyal son.


Georges Frantz



Sept. 1846


Dear Parents, 


I couldn’t let this good opportunity to send you news via M. Hauter pass by. We are all doing well, thank God, and so is our 4-month old boy. He is a gracious, alert, and strong as a 6 or 7 month-old. He already has two teeth.


I haven’t received any mail from you for 7 months and my wife is wondering why you don’t write to us, so please answer this letter. Since I’m married I have a nice and quiet life because my wife knows how to recognize the qualities of a man and I want to take care of her like she does for me.


Could you please send me some money before the winter or spring. I’ll be then able to fix our place better and finally be my own boss. My expenses are high lately and I’m making only $40/ a month. I can’t even save half of it in case I get sick or something. I am a happy man because I always had what I needed. I know others have had a much harder time than me. It’s been a while since I’ve received any news from Cincinnati. I guess that Perren Hauser passed away. Last summer was very hot and dry, and there was the US-Mexico War (1846 -48).


I will end this letter because it’s late at night and tomorrow morning M. Hauter is leaving. What I couldn’t write will be told by M. Hauter. My sister-in-law, Louise, is still living with us and Charles is still working at the bakery. We, and our boy, send you our best.


Always yours,


Jacques Frantz



My address: J. Frantz, St. Louis, Missouri, North America




Billingheim, Sept. 17, 1848


Dear Friend,


I’m sorry to read that you have been sick but I’m glad to know that you are now well. I understand now why you couldn’t write to us. Our friend, Pflugfelder doesn’t write much either, and if he’s around he doesn’t have much time to visit me because he’s too busy organizing his wedding. He better invite me to the party or he’s going to be in big trouble.


Madame Frantz was, from what I heard, happy with me, but I wasn’t happy with her attitude because as soon as she arrived at my house she wanted to leave (after a few hours).


So, from what I heard, your son is returning to America. I’m very surprised because he’s now in a new Republic and he already wants to abandon it to go to another. And this, the Republicans of France, will never forgive him. I don’t have much to send to America because I sent a letter that will arrive before him. I wish Georges a safe trip and to neber forget a son’s obligations towards his parents. Because like the wise saying, “honor your father and mother and everything will be good.”


I don’t have much to tell you about politics since you are well informed where you are, unless, if this concerns the new Reform of 1848 (Revolution) so anticipated, I’m going to discover the New World too. This will be a way to avoid the coming of the cruel world. We live in fear (1848 Revolution).


Wilhelmi (Guillemette Frantz), 12 years old, the chevalier’s last daughter) is coming to visit us. She is supposed to be nice and kind.




(This letter was sent to Jacques Frantz ‘the Chevelier’ to be sent with his son, George, to Jacques Jr. in St. Louis). Rittman was the father of Catherine Rittman, wife of Jacques Jr. Rittman seems to be spelled ‘Bittman/ Bitman’ in some documents in St. Louis)





June 3, 1849 St. Louis


Dear Parents,


It has been a while without writing to you and my wife was here to remind me how nice you were and how nice it would be to write more often; so here we are. I heard that you went through a hard time with the change in Government, a slow business market, and on top of it the cholera. Nothing better here for us, business is slow, Cholera is around us , and on May 17, 1849, a huge fire in the middle of the night, from 10 PM until 6 AM destroyed most of the businesses plus 43 steamboats; a total loss of seven million dollars. Nobody has ever seen such a large fire. A steamboat caught on fire and burned the other boats next to it; and because of a strong wind the roofs of the shops, made out of thin wooden boards, also caught on fire. So three or four fires started in different places and nothing besides throwing gun powder on the houses would stop the fire.


Regarding my family, I can’t tell how happy I am with my wife. We are here for each other, we are encouraging and supporting each other in difficult times. She’s a real treasure. She’s now in Cincinnati with her family. She really deserves a break after all these tough times. My dear parents, 11 years already passed since I left home and found myself in this country. I went through a lot and I really thought the worst had passed. But no, because for a year and a half, I found myself in the deepest sorrow and pain of a father, a man that had all his hopes and wishes grounded when suddenly everything fell apart. The bakery burned down but I managed to open another one with Charles Rittman, my brother in law. We were doing well when the illness came.

We had two beautiful children, a boy names Charles and a little girl, Charlotte, both of them got very sick and Charlotte soon died. Charles improved, but not for long, in two weeks he also passed away. It was very hard on us but it was in God’s hands. We had just nothing left but to cry with those who cried and to console ourselves with those who console themselves, and to say “It is the will of God”. In the last letter from my wife there was good news from Uncle Pierre and his family; but Uncle David’s wife is very ill. Since my wife is away, I decided to sell my part of the business (the bakery) to Charles Rittmann, and get my money back from the loan I made, and this way buy a house here. When my wife returns we can settle down in the new house where I made her a nice bedroom. I got a job where I can leave around 2 or 3 PM, and this way I’ll enjoy the day and have a more relaxing life.


I hope you are all well. The little Theodore (last son of the chevalier, 16 years old) should be a man now! What about George? He never wrote to me. Leonard Weadmann is not doing well but I don’t want to start some gossip.


Best regards from me and my wife.


Jacques Frantz





St. Louis, May 8, 1850


Dear Parents, Brothers and Sisters,



Around ten days ago, I received your mail with the enclosed traite (money order). You actually sent us the money before the reading of the second letter, in which I was explaining how much suffering we had to go through, and that I wasn’t looking for money but for compassion. My friends told me to be brave because sometimes destiny is hard and the future will be better. But now everything has changed because since I’ve arrived in this country I’ve never been so well. I’m satisfied; I saved a lot of money last year and I now have a new baby girl (4 months old, and before I received your first letter I bought a house for $1,000. We live there happily and in peace, and we have more than enough for food. We are very sorry to hear about the death of a couple of members of our family. And tell everybody how much we feel because we went through the same sorrow and they need to understand that is the destiny of human beings. I haven’t received any news from cousins Richter and Gascho. I’m not even sure where they are, even uncle Pierre from Cincinnati told me that he doesn’t know where they are. I’m so glad that my father and my dear wife have such a good relationship as well as the one between my cousin from Cincinnati and the Rittman family, they all are good friends. Even my brother-in-law from Akron, Ohio came to visit. I just don’t understand why my father-in-law is always complaining about us. I wish he would come to visit and we could talk. This last couple of days we’ve heard about the return of Cholera. But so far there have been only a couple of deaths. I just hope it’s not going to be last summer, when the cholera killed 180-190 people per day. We had a terrible Spring, no rain, and very cold. Today, it’s May 9th and it’s very cold. No green seems to appear on the fields that should have flowers all over. Probably a very bad year lies ahead, so thousands of people are leaving to California (Gold Rush). My brother-in Law, Charles ((Rittman) left already. The two French Comte Montesquin who were living here finally got out of prison by a $16,000 bond because the jury couldn’t tell which brother was innocent.


My best to you

Your son, Jacques Frantz




My very dear Parents-in Law,


I really would like to thank you for writing such a nice letter and for sending us money. My dad is not happy with me and never wrote to us. Could you please try to make peace between us? Thank you so much.


Your loving daughter-in-law,

                     K. Frantz





  St. Louis, May 8, 1850


Dear beloved Parents,


It is with my own hands that I write to you and that I’m doing well, as is our daughter, Emilie. Last Fall after our return she was very sick, so much so that we thought we’d lose her. She’s now in good health and knows how to speak well. I’m very happy to be able to see once again my dad and my sisters next spring, as you’ve indicated in your letter. It will also be a pleasure to meet you , my dear parents. So many times we’ve expressed our wish that you could come here during these troubled times everywhere in Europe. You can’t live there in peace and serenity. In the hope that our wishes may come true in the future, I give you my regards fro the bottom of my heart.


Your Loyal daughter,

Katel Frantz

St. Louis, Feb. 18, 1852


Dear Parents,


We’ve been in St. Louis for six years already. I was wishing for a letter from you, but nothing came. I just received a letter from my father-in -law and one from my brother-in -law Bewier, in which he writes about his future departure for America. I really hope you could give him a letter for me. We were away in the country, it felt very good. This trip was like a vacation. I met a German doctor who gave me some medicine for this cough I’ve had for two years. I already feel better. I hope to get better every day, and soon will be able to work again. When we left, our first stop was Louisville at Uncle David’s. We found everybody happy and in good health. My uncle David manages an important tannery with Taylor and Company and does very good business. Then we went to Cincinnati, where we have lots of friends and relatives. We stayed with Uncle Pierre. It was very sad to see the old cousin Richter in such a bad situation. He is so thin and weak that he can barely walk. From early morning to early evening he stands in the yard cutting pieces of beef. He’s happy to have found this job after having been rejected by his own son. I feel ashamed to see him obligated to work at his old age. I honor the elderly and wish he could get help instead of working so hard. Instead of enjoying in peace his old age he needs to work hard with his own hands. Charlotte unfortunately is too sick to help him.


I just heard that Gascho was in New York and was drinking a lot of whiskey. I sent him a letter asking him to answer as fast as he could.


Besides all this, I don’t have much news to tell except that we’ve had an unusually cold winter. The Ohio and Mississippi Rivers froze, which is very rare. We had the visit of Lajos Dossuth to the United States which created a sensation and was received with great esteem. (1802-1894, an important Hungarian political figure, main character in the 1848 Revolution in Hungary.) Next week we’ll have the pleasure of seeing him here. His visit is meant to rally America to support his project for Hungary. He has the support of the people but Congress has not rallied behind him but he has received lots of money and Congress has promised him a large piece of land if he wants to settle here with his supporters that came with him or those who could come in the future.


My brother-in-law is still in California. He has made a fortune in gold and has already sent me $1,000 to keep until he comes here, which he’ll undoubtedly do next spring. I’d also like to go there especially because of my health, for the weather there must be one of the best climates that one can imagine. However, I shall wait for the return of my brother-in-law to see what he’ll say because here I’ve created my life and we have been living for a long time so well and peacefully that I can’t ask for a better life with regards to comfort; and yet one earns money over there. Please accept my cordial Salutations.


Your dear son,


Jacques Frantz