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A Curious Letter, Part One


The Port of Philadelphia, circa 1750

In the mid-1750's a Frederick Schoener wrote to his brother-in-law, George Hartman of Reutlingen, Germany:


"Dear brother-in-law. This is to inform you that we are all well and well pleased with America. We live in a good land, where everything is plenty and we have schools and churches. The land is good and very cheap. You can get as much as you want by clearing it. Oh! I have often wished you were here with your family; you could do well and live just like a Lord. Sell your little piece of land and if you only get enough to bring you to Philadelphia, I will bring you from there up to our place which is about eighty miles. Here you can raise wheat, rye, barley and potatoes. We have apples, peaches, plums and other fruit. We raise hogs, cattle, sheep and chickens and have plenty of meat the year round. We live under the King of England but we are not burdened with taxes as you are. Our land is very fertile and easily cultivated.


I hope you will come to this promised land. Philadelphia is the principle town in the Province of Pennsylvania and Reading is the principle town in our Berks County. We live about four German miles from Reading. If you write, direct your letter to me at Heidelberg Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania, North America.


Yours in brotherly love, Frederick Schoener"


I came across this letter in multiple locations. It was copied from an undated newspaper clipping in the files of the Lebanon County Historical Society. The clipping went on to say that George Hartman heeded the advice and came to Pennsylvania, where he was killed by Indians. The original letter at the time of its publication was in the possession of a descendant of George Hartman.


It has been re-published many times and has appeared in the 1 November 1951 edition of "The Pennsylvania Dutchman" and the "Historical and Biographical Annals of Berks County, Pennsylvania, Vol. II, Biographical."


As for who Frederick Schoener was, I have not yet been able to identify where he fits in my tree. The first was Hans Daniel Schoener who arrived in 1717 to establish the family. He was followed by other family members in 1742. My family immigrated from Baden-Württemberg, the same area as Reutlingen, where George Hartman lived.


But this is not the end of the story for there is more about George and his family who were enticed by the letter and the promise of a better life in America. I shall share that in the next post.

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