Travel Notes

27 July 1867

A trip on one of the wonderful steamboats that run on the Mississippi at this time of the year is always pleasant and even beneficial, providing high enjoyment for those who have the chance to see the picturesque scenery that meets the eye along this part of the trip, the high hills on both riverbanks, the wild islands that are constantly building up from the high water of the powerful river and the impelling towns and cities. The homebody's eye rests with a true great pleasure on, as the poets call it, nature's green carpet.

A special pleasure indeed if one can observe it, as we luckily were able to do on our last trip, alone on a cheerful and calm morning, after a splendid nighttime storm, surrounded by a fresh and spicy air on the upper deck of a steamboat that calmly plies the waves. It was one of these mornings, which are so well-described as "splendid spring mornings" in the writings of novelists, and in which our poetic description loving readers for want of their own poetry like to tarry, and yet it was no longer spring, for the sun stood already in the middle of the lion's constellation and during the day it spread a real July heat, incidentally pleasantly softened by a soft breeze out of the northwest.

We attribute the frequent spring rain showers to the fact that the emerald green tint of the leaves and grasses still held their youthful radiance at this time and we have never seen the hills on the Mississippi so completely covered in green as during this trip; the constant dampness had produced grass and flowers on the normally naked cliffs. The boat ride was much easier and pleasanter this summer than it was in other years at this time for the water level was unusually favorable and the steamboat didn't have to constantly search for a left or right passage at certain spots.

But there's not as much travel this year as in previous years, for one seldom meets a filled passenger ship, and therefore the Union Steamboat Company has only two regular daily ships, the one from Dubuque and the other from La Crosse, while last year it had two departing from each station. Clearly the drop in freight shipments affected the supply of available boats. Very little gets shipped from the upper Mississippi as the staple article, the supply of wheat from Minnesota, is mostly shipped to the East as flour via railroad. The import of retail goods from the East is likewise limited to the necessities for wild speculation even here in the West has come to disrepute; every cautious businessman waits out this year's harvest shortfall, which luckily is so auspicious that one can now with somewhat certainty count on a significant rise in business activity for next fall.

We left the steamboat "Key City" at Wabasha, a city that we hadn't visited for a number of years. The city's growth was earlier retarded by the unregulated claims on property ownership, from which the difficulties are now totally removed, according to what the city mayor told us. Better and expensive buildings are now being built and the city has won in more than one sense. Among the original citizens is General Sharp, who works with great energy on the railroad system that should closer link Wabasha with the east and west. The gentlemen no longer doubt the creation of the Green Bay and Wabasha Railroad, and they equally count on the Saint Paul - Chicago Railroad which Mr. Henry Rice from St. Paul has promised to build in the nearest time on the west side of the Mississippi. Wabasha liberally supplied $50,000 support for this railroad.

We were pleased during our stay there to assist a practice of the German Choral Society that has made great progress under the direction of Dr. Richter. It's especially enjoyable that everywhere, in all incorporated towns, where only passably better members and talented people are to be found, German Societies are established that try to raise the level of intellectual and social life. Such societies serve to support the German elements and are a core around which one can gather. Every German who wishes the naturalization of German customs and German endeavors in this country should make into a holy duty the founding, adherence and support of such societies. The Germans in Wabasha already achieved a significant influence over city affairs from which it can be inferred that this spring's mayor, Mr. Klinge, is a German and that a German school was obtained at city expense.

We only stayed a short time in neighboring Reeds Landing. The little town has gained a lot from the lively business on the Chippewa River. Every day many small steamboats travel from here to Durand and Eau Claire. The fast and beautiful steamer "Itaska," which is under the command of the jovial old fellow Webb, took us on board in the evening and while on it we had the chance to see a sunset on the gorgeous Lake Pepin. Lake Pepin's location and size reminds us of the lovely Lake Zurich, only the framing by the wonderful Reb area, the villages and the villas. The sunset by this body of water is beautiful during the calm clear weather while the shadows from the hills reflect deeper and longer in the blue waves and fiery glow of the sinking sun bounces on the water while the dark edges of the hills all around the lake become increasingly rougher and emerge as if they wanted to close in tighter and tighter to hold them in an eternal and infinite embrace!

On the boat we met an old acquaintance and previous fellow townsman, Pastor Fachtmann, who presently lives in St. Paul. Pastor Fachtmann is the regional synod inspector for the Lutheran community in the West. He is very busy and enthusiastic in his service and in addition a well-educated serious thinker and good partner and we chatted several hours in such a pleasant way on the foredeck with him that we incipiently overheard the musical and theatrical evening's entertainment that had begun in the cabin of the black stewards. The hearty Captain Webb chose his service personnel so well that he can recruit from them a well cast orchestra. Even funny singing recitals, theatrical and mime presentations are given by these black waiters every evening for the exhilaration and entertainment of the guests and indeed with great skill and talent.

We disembarked late in the evening at Red Wing a city that we owed a fleeting visit. Red Wing has grown significantly in the last few years and several fine brick blocks were built and others were under construction. The city has considerable transportation that built up on the surrounding fertile area. Still we also heard complaints here on the current drop in transportation. We didn't find our old acquaintance John Friederich at his home; the Democratic State Convention from Minnesota confiscated him one day before and named him their candidate for Treasurer. Mr. Friedrich is a very capable young man and we'd like to wish him all possible success in his endeavors, but we fear that the political track will appear dangerous for him. Jordan is a hard road to travel, John!

Prescott was our next stopping point. We hadn't been to this spot for many years, but it hadn't nevertheless changed very much. The population had remained as stabile as the place. The German citizens whom we found there eight years ago are still there with the exception of a few who are no longer there and a few who took their places. The number has remained the same. Still we found some improvements, namely a good beer which earlier wasn't the case; it was called Garlic (Knoblauch), but was changed to Gambrinn Springs (Gambrinnusquelle). (The cause lay perhaps in the name!) Mr. Joseph Reichert maintains a good guesthouse, the St. Charles Hotel; one is well cared for at his place. Lute Taylor, the sapphire of the Wisconsin Press, still maintains court in his high perch, but one must be like a thief in the night to catch him there. Moreover he seems to want to see only people who don't get dizzy there for others wouldn't dare to climb his shaky entry!

The small steamer "Gray" brought us, after a three-hour trip, to the lovely "St. Croix Cafe" in Hudson. Last year this city had almost burned to the ground, but it has now risen from the ashes like the Phoenix. Solid brick and stone buildings are now being built in the business district and as the land behind the city is so fertile and there's no other market place for quite a distance, so the business in Hudson is compared to other places quite lively. St. Croix County still offers immigrants good opportunities to secure for themselves a homeland, for it still possesses large parcels of virgin land; the eagerly wish that more Germans would like to settle among them and they would lend a hand with advice and deeds. The citizens from Hudson would also like to see more German fellow citizens. The especially wish for a German host who could set up a good boarding house, for currently there's no German tavern of this type. We owe the German brewer, Mr. Montmann, thanks for the friendship he showed us.

We spent Sunday in Stillwater. This place is well-known during the summer as a good resting place for rafters, sailors and lumbermen who generally don't have any great demands for refined customs and we remember that on Sundays people went around very loud and noisily. This time it was quite peaceful even though the city was full of people. The reason was the Sunday Law which came into force a couple of weeks ago. Although we're in principle opposed to the Sunday Law or generally oppose laws that compel moral behavior, still we thought that the passing of this law must have been desirable for all citizens. That the native citizens could hold on to what they wanted we saw in the columns of the local English newspaper that supported temperance. We met this able knight on the street around 5 in the evening so filled with whiskey that he could hardly answer. Actually he was the only drunken person we saw!

We met quite a few old friends and acquaintances that we hadn't seen for five years in St. Paul and they all remembered us with pleasure. Naturally we stayed with our old Friend Gross in the "St. Paul House" whose name is truly quite apt for he has become powerful in both the waist and head areas. We will give our opinions on St. Paul and the neighboring cities in the next edition.

Further Travel Comments: St. Paul and the "Sister Cities"

When on Monday morning in Stillwater we got in the famous American mail coach of the American Prince of Turn und Taxis, which are called "Burbank & Co." here, that should take us to St. Paul, many old memories of earlier trips also entered with us. Memories of earlier trips in similarly interesting carriages up and down the countryside; for only ten years ago here in the northwest these crates were the chief means of transport.

Those were fine travel times, as the passengers half of the time had to trudge by foot behind and next to the antediluvian cart, each with a fence rail on the back so that the next time the carriage sunk they could lift it out of the muck or to be able to build a bridge over a swamp! A trip hardly occurred without having twisted some joint and unfortunately in those days "chance" insurance hadn't been invented, at least not so generally patented as nowadays whereby everyone who wants to go on a spree or visit a girl has to take out insurance against accidents. It was a "romantic" time, those mail coach days, for many novels were played out in these "torture boxes", as one should so aptly name these American stage coaches. The mail coaches are disappearing in front of the onward push of civilization, much as the Indians, and soon one will only be able to see them as curiosities presented by Barnum!

Our coach, in which we got into, was a heavy carriage and belonged therefore to the new school; the road was still the old one as of ten years ago, and it went over stump and stone, deep sand, puddles, etc.

Our traveling companions were quite uninteresting: a weakly American woman who was traveling to health baths to strengthen her limbs, which from appearances was quite necessary and a couple of blond kids from the lands of the princely Normans. Thus, we paid attention to the scenery and found that it had improved; a number of farms had grown up where earlier we saw nothing but a Gestrupp and beautiful fruit filled our views. God bless the farmer! Every city person should take his off before the man who brings forth bread from the earth!

Still we already wanted to be in St. Paul. We were quite excited to see all the changes from the past five years: the large houses that were built, the trains, the new "Grossmacht" the "Volksblatt", the old "Staatszeitung" and its poetic editor, etc.; but what we especially wanted to see on this evening was Black Crook, for we had planned not to miss the St. Paul premier of this play. And now, if one or another of our friendly readers would ask, "Who and what is Black Crook?" then we would like to explain to him in a few words. Black Crook is a German -- actually it seems to be an opera that an American put together or stole from the operas "Fairy Lake" or "Udine"-- the action is nevertheless truly German and takes place in the Harz Mountains.

The main character is one of those mythical personalities that live in German oral folk traditions, an old disfigured, horrible person, named "crooked black," and therefore the name Black Crook, who lives as a recluse in a wild region, pursues alchemy, searches for gold and to this end has made a deal with the devil in which he formally concludes a pact by which he must assign a soul any treasures the devil delivers. To this black foundation there needs to be a little light, therefore the author includes some fairies and little angels together with a half regiment of young girls who appear as dancers, amazons, etc. and, since it's hard to imagine the children of light in heavy earthly clothes, the author of the piece thus took care that these earthly and heavenly angels appear only in a light coverings, a colorful little dress that comes to the upper calf, together with cobweb-like undergarments.

It's thanks to these particulars, which led to protests from some of the morally weak Gemuthe, and the exceptionally splendid painted scenery that this play has achieved such fame; for over a year it's played in New York every night and has already made hundreds of thousands for the owners. Our excitement as art patrons to see Black Crook is therefore quite understandable. Still we were disappointed, even taking into account the distance between New York and St. Paul. The two main attractions of the play, the rich scenery and the pretty ballerinas, were missing in St. Paul. The former were nothing extraordinary and the latter, imitations. St. Paul girls, who had taken a few weeks of dance lessons, represented the dancers - their performance was therefore very unassuming and the display of calves not especially attractive! No wonder that Black Crook has already closed in St.Paul.

St. Paul has become a big city. Splendid and magnificent buildings have arisen and the wonderful, solid blue building stone, which dominates the ground on which the buildings stand, gives the buildings a fine and substantial appearance. It's a shame that the opera house is not build from it; that building is a very attractive and elegant and does credit to a city of 15,000. Clearly the owners and investors will not become rich from it. St. Paul is still the retail capital of Minnesota although the young Minneapolis, which is like an abundant cornfield that shot up overnight, strives in this area to overtake the position of the capital. There are already significant wholesale establishments there that dominate a large field and people have access, which is for younger places a principal concern, to Eastern capital.

Germany is well represented in St. Paul (Ireland is clearly better represented) and a strange unity reigns among the sons of Hermann in one issue at least, the beer question and of social freedom. Woe to the people of party that don't leave this question alone! The there will be: "Selbst ein 'Plevel' zur ?äne Und treibt mit dem Entsetzen Spott" still ‚one should tell me'.

Moreover the German community in St. Paul can point to a large number of educated and right capable men and to pleasant firms that can do business just like it should be done no less than anywhere else. We must admit that St. Paul is for us always a nice place to visit and we can count a couple dozen bright fellows there that carry great weight as does your father's Eich und Groß when it comes to a conversation. Our colleagues from the "Staatszeitung" and the "Volksblatt" concern themselves for the intellectual conversation of the people auf 's Beste and are always at one's post when it's about the German influence in city affairs; they understand the need to keep an interest in public affairs alive and earn thereby the liberal support which is due to them.

Minneapolis, the youthful, famous city, is only a cat's jump from St. Paul since the trains were built. Of course, we went there. We expected to be amazed and were so, not from the mile long expansion and the many houses and shanties all around the prairie, but because of the big stone blocks? that were built in the business district and the big retail establishments that were built. The big water power station of St. Anthony Falls seems really to give Minneapolis an advantage; the station itself seems to be in good hands that will make use of it.

It seems to be certain that Minneapolis and St. Anthony together will become the most significant factory site in the West. Presently one hears more complaints than praise; Minneapolis made too big of a jump last year and must rest a bit from its overexertion. A large number of outsiders stay there continuously during the summer, mostly people who are missing something and want to make a fresh air rest there. Minneapolis also has an opera house and presently also a theatrical company that makes a presentation every evening. Germans aren't very greatly represented, although they number among some of the important people, such as Dr. Blecken and General-Agent Leu. There's also a Turner organization with its own hall and a choral society that has a hall and a fancy theater.

Now we're back home and happy about that for after all, taking everything into consideration, La Crosse with its solid German population is still the place we like the best.

In conclusion we wanted give our dear readers the memorial, not in its entirety, that the poetic Spitzer of the Volksblatt gave us:

Long Live Ulrich! He's back in his home country.