Letters written by Friedrich Adolph Meissner


Meissner Pedigree

Friedrich Adolf Meissner: Biographical Summary (below, on this page)

Immigration record (Castle Garden, Port of NY, 22 Oct 1845)

Friedrich Adolf Meissner was descended from MEISSNER (or Meichsner) and LÖBEL families who founded the town of Johanngeorgenstadt in the Erzgebirge (ore mountains) of Saxony (eastern Germany) in the 1650s. He was born 27 December 1804 in Schönbach (near Lobau), Saxony. His father Ernst Friedrich Meissner (b1764 - Schönbach, Saxony) was pastor of the Lutheran church, an office that he held from 1802 until his death in 1817. Friedrich's grandfather Christian Friedrich Meissner (born 16 Jun 1721 in Johanngeorgenstadt ) had been pastor in Schönbach from 1753 until 1802, and it was during his tenure as pastor that the present church building was erected.

Church at Schönbach, Saxony

Friedrich's father died when he was 12 years old, and he went to live with his uncle in Dresden who was a gardener for the Saxon court. Later he went to agricultural school and moved to Kummerfeld, near Hamburg. In 1845 he emigrated to America and lived in New York, Massachusetts, and Florida before settling on a farm (homestead papers filed 15 Sep 1873) in Wisconsin near the present town of Cashton. In 1858, he married Eva Dorathea Krauss (b 14 April 1837 - Suba, Saxon-Meiningen, Germany).

FAM and Eva had 4 sons and 1 daughter, but only 3 of these had further descendants: Ernest Frederick (b 1859), Adolph Frederick (b1861), and August Frederick (b 1866). Most of Ernest's descendants live in Oregon, Adolph's in California, and August's in Wisconsin. FAM left a daughter, Karoline Marie Eleanore (b1826) in Kummerfeld near Hamburg, Germany; she married Georg Gerstenberg. FAM also had a son or stepson named George Henry Sennewald Meissner (b1838) -  who lost a leg in the Civil War.

Beginning in 1867, FAM corresponded with the pastor Rudolf Jähring in Schönbach. In 1876 he received some information concerning his ancestors who "came from Bohemia from Lutheran descendants who had to leave their home for their faith's sake." In 1884 he wrote a letter to a man in the US describing the information he had obtained. The letter was written in German, and the original is now in the Wisconsin State Historical Society archives in Madison, Wisconsin. I have had the letter translated from German to English [see FAM Letters]. Here is a part of the translation:

Christian Friedrich Meissner (Meißner) was born 16 Jun 1721 in Johanngeorgenstadt in the Saxon ore fields of Erzgebirge. His parents were descendants of two old refugee families that had come from Bohemia. [But actually the Meissner family was already living in Saxony.] His father, Master Christian Meissner [or Meichsner; b 1687], citizen, blacksmith, died 1769, 83 years old. His mother, Johanne Christiane Löbel, died 1772, some 70 years old. [According to Johanngeorgenstadt church records, her name was Maria Catharina Löbel, b.1698.]

He attended.his hometown school and the Johannis school in Leipzig, 1740 the Bautzen school, 1744 Leipzig University, and then to Wittenberg. On 28 Jan 1753, he made his examination speech in Schönbach and on 11 Mar his first sermon. He had 16 children from 2 wives, and preached for the last time in 1800. He died Apr 1802 at 80 years of age. He was only 11 months short of his 50th anniversary in office

On Christmas 1790, Ernst Friedrich Meissner, a pastoral candidate, was appointed as assistant to his father. He held this office for 12 years. After his father's death, he worked 15 more years as pastor. He died early on 1 May 1817, 53 years and 10 months old. He left 3 children: Adolf [FAM], Ernst, and Carl.

Friedrich A. Meissner died 13 April 1899 (aged 94). His wife Eva died 5 March 1926. Their daughter, Dora (Dorathea Julia Anne, b1863 - Cashton, Portland Twp, Monroe, WI) lived alone on the homestead until she died 10 Oct 1946.

August and his wife Lena (Lena Maria Magdalena Heintz b1875 - Portland Twp, Monroe, WI) sold the homestead to Lawrence G Seitz on 20 Jun 1947, "Reserving unto the grantors the plot of ground dedicated as a private burial ground together with the right of access to and from said plot to the highway." Persons buried there are Friedrich (d 1899), his wife Eva (d 1926), his son Carl Frederick (b1864 - Cashton, Portland Twp, Monroe, WI; d 1933), and his daughter Dora (d 1946). In 1999, the Monroe County Historian states that the cemetery is being maintained by Dale Gehri of Cashton.

Contributions to Monroe County History Room Museum and Library can be sent to PO Box 419, Sparta WI 5466.

Friedrich A Meissner Collected Papers
at La Crosse Area Research Center

After Dora died in 1946, August's wife Lena found a box of papers at the farm, mostly written by FAM and his wife Eva. Lena kept the box for some time and then discarded it. A neighbor, Mrs. Constance Stephen of Viroqua WI, salvaged the box. I obtained it from her in Jun 1958.

Some of the material was in diary form, but the most valuable by far consisted of several books which apparently contain a copy of every letter written by FAM from about 1847 until his death in 1899. [Letters written by Friedrich Adolph Meissner] Much of the material is in German, in an old style of script handwriting. I was fortunate to obtain the services of a well-qualified translator, Mrs. Martina Camphäusen of Riverside. Mrs. Camphäusen was born in Germany and had experience in archival work before she married an American soldier stationed there. In 1958, Mr. Camphäusen was a student at the University of California, Riverside.

In Mar 1961, at the suggestion of Mrs. Stephen, I donated the box of papers to the Wisconsin State Historical Society. I also loaned the translations to the Society for microfilming. The material is now located at La Crosse, and has been augmented with related public records.

Friedrich A Meissner Collected Papers at La Crosse Area Research Center

The following reference was copied Sep 2002 from the Wisconsin Historical Society web site. The 1.04 megabytes of electronic data mentioned below are presumably the Letters transcribed by Loren Meissner.

Author/Creator:Meissner, Friedrich A., 1804-1899.
Title:Papers, 1845-1899.
Quantity:1.6 c.f. (4 archives boxes) and
1.04 megabytes of data.
Summary:Papers of Meissner, a Cashton, Wisconsin, postmaster, Town of Portland justice of the peace, farmer, and seed specialist, including fragmentary correspondence, letter books, diaries, account books, seed record books, and justice dockets. Entries in the justice dockets are in English, but many entries in the other volumes are in German. Included are translations of the German language correspondence, written mostly by Meissner to family, friends, and business acquaintances in Germany.
Notes:Portions of this collection are also available in electronic form.
Finding aid:Register.
Subjects:Wisconsin. Justice of the Peace (Town of Portland, Monroe County)
Farmers--Wisconsin--Monroe County.
German Americans--Wisconsin.
Justices of the peace--Wisconsin--Monroe County.
Seed industry and trade--Wisconsin.
Form/Genre:Manuscript collection.
Financial records.
Machine-readable records.
RLIN Number:WIHV95-A135

Location:Archives Main Stacks
Call Number:La Crosse Mss G
Shelf Location:Electronic data (Madison copy) MAD L:\ARCHIVES\SHARED\COLLECT\lacmssG.doc

Location:La Crosse Area Research Center
Call Number:La Crosse Mss G

Letters written by Friedrich Adolph Meissner

Adolph Frederick Meissner (1804–1899)

(from FAM Letters, Page 1f)

From: F.A.M.; To: Sallie Stafford.

Sallie Stafford, Wallingford, Vermont. [Not sent? (see last paragraph)].

Aug 16, 1857 .

My dear friend: Only a few days ago I wrote to you and again I have the pen in my hand for the same purpose — don’t you think I am foolish. I have a great mind to burn your first two letters but I shall have to preserve them to cool me off when I am getting too warm.

As it is the only way I know of to make you acquainted with myself, I will write my own biography for you, if you will have patience enough to read a very long letter.

I was born on the 27th day of December 1804, in the village of Schönbach (Handsome Brook) in the Kingdom of Saxony. Saxony is called the garden of Germany and celebrated not only for the beauty and scenery of the country but for works of art and science, and handsome women.

The young mechanic when he starts on his first journey sings: [German words, followed by English translation: ] "I will travel to Saxony where pretty girls grow like apples on the tree." One of our most popular writers (Burges) sang the praise of the Saxon girls. The answer to his poem by a Sweden girl is a much frequented country air. It runs thus: [German words, followed by English translation: ] "I am a Sweden girl and not so well educated as the Saxon girls who read the parts [drama?] and play the piano and whose manners are said to be as sweet as honey.."

Now I must tell you before I resume my narrative: In Europe there are three distinct classes of society, the Lower, the Middle, and the Higher. The first mentioned comprises Workmen, Peasants, and Mechanics. In my native state this class can all read and write. The second class is composed of Lawyers, Preachers, Doctors, Merchants, and of the farmers and all learned and well educated men. The higher class is formed of the Nobility up to the King. Money gives little or no rank but distinguished men of the second class are freely admitted in the circles of the upper class.

My grandfather [Christian Friedrich Meissner, 1721 – 1802] was Pastor on the Church (Lutheran) of the village. My father [Ernest Friedrich Meissner, 1764 – 1817] followed his father in office in the same Parish but died when I was about 10 years old [actually 12 y 5 m — LPM]; two years later my mother [Juliane Eleanore Seidel, abt. 1768 – abt 1820; see  <T206>] died also. I was placed in the care of an uncle who was Gardener to the King of Saxony. Dresden is the capital of the state and the residence of the King. We lived in a beautiful garden in the suburbs of this city. Large glass houses was filled with rare exotic plants. [Pilnitz? — LPM] From here I went to school and have seen and tasted many of the luxuries of higher life. I had the privilege of visiting the opera, the theater, and masked balls. I remember well that I often forgot the play on stage resting my eyes on one of the Princesses whose beauty fascinated me.

After I had got through with my schooling another uncle of mine who had made his fortune as a Merchant wanted me to follow his vocation, but after two years trial I could not stand it longer — his office was like a prison for me. I urged so long on my Guardian till he placed me in an Institution where farming was taught as a science. When I was about 19 years old [1823?] I went to America but finding in the Western wilds that knowledge availed nothing, and having before my departure from Hamburg fallen in love, I got homesick and went back. I stopped in Hamburg and after waiting a while till I was of age, I married [on 2 Feb 1827 to Elise Henriette Sophie Fredericke VON MITHOFEN, b 12 Mar 1806 — see  <T206>  — actually F.A.M. was 22 years old. Karoline was already born Nov 1826 — LPM].

My means was only small — I went to gardening and soon attracted the attention of Mr. Booth & Co., seed growers and merchants (see supplement no. 1). I was placed as head gardener in their large establishment. After a few years I established myself (see supplement no. 2). [These were apparently attachments to the letter — LPM] I bought a small farm, planted a nursery, and raised garden seeds. I toiled hard and succeeded well. I planted a large orchard, I built a new house 72 feet long and 52 feet wide (80,000 bricks was used so) [This is the house in Kummerfeld that is probably still standing — LPM] and may have now reaped the fruit of my labors and dwelled in comfort, but owing to some dissatisfaction, the idea took hold of me to start for America again. My first born daughter Karoline married a young man [m. Georg Gerstenberg 1 Aug 1847] who was gardener with me. I put her in possession of my property.

I left with my wife [some mystery here — LPM] and four children William, Wilhelmina, Leonore, and Henry, and arrived the second time at New York (Oct 20 1845). In New York I got acquainted with a gentleman who owned a large farm and tracts of land in Essex County N.Y. There I went with my family but finding after 1-1/2 years experience that the soil was too poor and the winter too long I resolved to leave again. But many a pleasant evening I recollect at Woodwardsville. Mr. Radcliff, a gentleman from New York, and his sister, who owned a saw mill and large tracts of land here, was our neighbor; a Vermont family (Mr. Este, his wife, three full-grown daughters and some sons) kept house for him; this with my own family made a pretty nice company — either we spent the evenings there or all came to my house and you may believe it was sometimes very lively.

Trying to please my wife, who didn’t like the wilderness, and finding an opportunity I went to Cape Cod Massachusetts; for a year and a half I worked a farm on shares then I accepted the offer of a wealthy man to buy me a farm. The farm consisted of only 25 acres of land with a new dwelling house and cost me, when I had built a new barn, 2000 dollars. I raised vegetables for market and made out pretty well but finding that I was toiling only for the rich man who took my earnings as interest for his money I wanted to go where land was cheap although rich. I wanted to find that America where I had dreamed of. My wife was opposed to a new country but at last I prevailed. The question presented itself now where to go to. I would have chosen the West, but I had read so much about the unhealthy climate and the prevalent fevers that I didn’t like to risk the lives of myself and family for all the wonders and risks of that far famed country.

I had heard and read several times of the mild and healthy climate of Florida, and reasoning that in a country where a farmer has to provide for no winter his business must be an easy one I resolved to go there.

Cape Cod is all together peopled by seafaring men — in summer all the boys go on a fishing voyage and in winter they stay home and attend school. (My children went also to school — they all speak plain English — no one suspects them to be Germans.) No wonder that my oldest son William, frequenting such company, wanted to go to sea also. The gentleman who bought the farm for me, an old sea captain who had risen in the times of war from a poor boy to a rich man, favored his intention and promised to help him in a few years to the place of a captain, so I was forced to give my consent and he went, before we left, on a voyage around Cape Horn; he follows the sea still but has since regretted very deeply and written many a letter to keep his younger brother back.

In January 1852, we left for Jacksonville, Florida and arrived there. We went 250 miles up the St. Johns River to a settlement called Enterprise, and arrived all in good health and spirits. This place, consisting of a hotel beautifully located on Lake Monroe and about 20 settlers scattered in the woods, is very much frequented in the winter time by invalids from the northern states — a steamboat runs every week between there and Jacksonville. We took possession of an empty log house not far from the hotel, and as my wife and daughters were the only white women in the neighborhood (only one other settler had a wife and she died while we stayed there) our cabin was at all times visited by the hotel people. I remember very well a fleshy gentleman and his lady from Vermont, but I don’t recollect his name, who had a great fancy for our company.

As the summer approached the guests from the hotel left, the landlord shut up the house and left also. People told us we would soon get the fever and cautioned us to move off from the lake to the pine woods, but our residence with the view over the clear water of the lake was so pleasant, our health so good, that we did not heed their good advice. I had planted several acres of land with corn and vegetables. In the evenings a great fire of pine knots was lit; the neighbors assembled, stories were told, the girls would sing, till after midnight when the air got cooler we all went to seek rest.

This happy time lasted till about the first of June [1852] when my misfortune commenced. One by one was taken down with the fever. In a while we got so far reduced that we could not get our self a drink of water. (One farmer who lived alone in the woods had got down by the fever, seeing in four weeks not a living soul, and had to crawl all the time on his hands and legs to a spring to get a drink of water.) We ate quinine by the pound; moved to another location but there was no help — sometimes we would get clear of the fever for eight or 14 days but it always returned. After living about a year in this way I went down to Jacksonville and bought a farm four miles below the town on the St Johns River; the tide water and the fresh sea breeze made it a healthy location. I moved my family there and soon all got better except myself who was troubled by the fever a half year longer.

I planted my farm with vegetables for the Jacksonville market and we were getting something underway again when about midsummer 1853, my wife was taken down with dysentery and died after a short sickness. I have lost father and mother but never has anything affected me so much as the loss of my dearest friend my wife. My grief, perhaps owing to the weak state of my health, was most uncontrollable. Standing with my children around the death bed of their mother I told them, "Pretty soon I shall be all alone — Henry will go to sea and you (my daughters) will get married and follow your husbands." Then Wilhelmine, who I had always loved best, flung to my neck bursted in tears, hugging and kissing me, exclaiming, "Father if they all leave you I shall never leave you — I will stay with you." — and she was the first to leave me. I buried the body in the midst of my flower garden before my window — I could not make up my mind to have her carried to a distant graveyard. Evergreen shrubs and never ceasing flowers mark the sacred spot.

In a few days after, Myself, Wilhelmine and Henry were taken down by the same complaint, which in the Southern climate is contagious and generally fatal. My place was four miles from the city and as there was a great deal of sickness prevailing the doctor could not well attend to us so four or so of my friends hired a house in town and moved us there. We were very sick; the doctor visited us twice every day, young ladies watched the nights and gave us medicine and cooling syringes — in my fever dreams they seemed to me like angels. Leonore kept well all the time and stayed with us. In about four weeks Henry got enough better to go to the farm but Wilhelmine was not strong enough and stayed with Leonore in town.

In the next house to us in town lived a Mrs. Ryan, with family. Her oldest daughter was married to a printer who edited a paper but had left and gone as a volunteer against the Indians. Not finding his death by the enemy he took his life himself, owing to jealousy. There was another married daughter in the house who had left her husband, three or four younger children, and a boy of about 19 years. Mr. Ryan was in California. After we had left town this family got intimate with my daughter and induced Wilhelmine to come and live with them. Leonore disliking the people went to live with Mrs. Swart, a very honorable lady, Mr. Swart being important [?] of the town.

Wilhelmine [b July 1834] fell in love with young Ryan and as I was opposed to their union because he was a mean boy and of very unsteady habits she left with the Ryan family for California [1854]. From there she urged Leonore to join her and prevailed at last. Leonore left with a Mrs. Trace who went to join her husband in California and wanted a traveling companion and who paid her expenses. I had no objection for Leonore to go because we never could agree. Wilhelmine was a very handsome girl, well educated and of pleasant manners but of a very sensitive mind. In her fever sickness she often spoke whole hours in a trance, her eyes shut — she would recite a poem from our great poets or sing a hymn with the greatest correctness, feeling, and expression. She would not speak but seemed to understand when we spoke to her: when mother asked her, shall I wash you? she would shake her head, shall Father wash you? she would make a consenting sing. Then I took a bowl with cold water and bathed her commencing on the top of the head; when I came as far as to her breast she would open her eyes and wake from her dream. Now blame me if you can that I didn’t keep her back; reasoning was of no use and force would perhaps have killed her or destroyed her reason. She was 18 [20?] years old and has chosen her lot.

I sold my farm for a mere trifle, and went for a time with Henry to a plantation [Sammis?] making gardens. (Some time when I have nothing else to write I will give you a description of a Southern plantation, if you have not got tired of reading my scribbling.) In June last year [1856] we left for the West. From Massachusetts I took two tons of furniture and household goods besides all kinds of farming utensils to Florida. When we left for here I sold nearly all but not enough — our package proved still too cumbersome.

We went by steamboat over Charleston to New York, thence by railroad over Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Chicago to Prairie du Chien [WI]. Here I left Henry for a while and took a scramble through the country to look for land. I fixed on the spot where I am now, preempted [chose for Homestead] 160 acres, and went for Henry and my package. We arrived here July 19, 1856, unhitched our wagon below the shade of a big oak tree near the first spring of the little La Crosse river, made a fire, and cooked our first meal in our new chosen home.

Next we built a shanty, made some hay for winter use, and commenced building a house. After this, with the aid of some neighbors, was finished, purchased a stove for 30 dollars and some household goods and stores. My means was nearly exhausted. My journey from Florida to Wisconsin cost me alone 200 dollars. The winter set in, and the snow being so deep preventing all farming work, Henry resolved to hire out. He is a steady, likely [likable] boy 19 years old. Everybody liked him, the girls not excepted. In Florida he would never join a dancing party but here he got very lively. There was not a week that the young folks did not have a dance. He got a good situation in a village on the railroad 60 miles from here. He left me about the first of January [1857] and I went to board in Mr. Russell’s family. Partly I stayed with Mr. Hazen our postmaster, whose office I take over in his absence.

As spring came on I wrote Henry to come home but he wished to stay, without giving any reason. (The neighbors think he has got a sweetheart there.) I may [might] have written again or I may [might] have compelled him to come home but I felt too proud for the one and I would not do the other.

Now if you know how I have loved this boy your heart would tell you how his desertion has grieved me, but love asks no pay. I loved him — my love paid of itself.

I don’t wish to be dependent on my children. Since I came here I have gained health and strength. I feel at least 10 years younger. I have not been so well before since I came to America. Next December I shall be 53 years old; some people think me 40. I live in pleasant relation to my neighbors. Sometimes I feel quite happy and think it is better not to have the cares of a family. Sometimes I wish for a friend, a heart that could understand me, that I might call my own — .

I have hired land of my neighbors; my crops are very promising. I shall raise more than Mr. Russell, who has a large family to support. I have built me a new home, I may raise me a new family — .

Dear Sallie, these lines were written for you and not for the eye of a stranger. I have told you what I think to be the truth. It has given me pleasure to let all the past travel once more through my memory. Judge mild [do not judge harshly], I know very little about you. You have not given me an explanation of your first letter; I shall not ask one. It is my one aim always to believe the best of everyone till I am forced to the contrary. Why should I not believe the best of you, whose friendship I am seeking. I believe you are good; all I ask is don’t convince me otherwise.

After reading this long letter I feel rather reluctant to send the same off. I shall wait for another letter from you; I think you have hardly given me a right to believe that you take enough interest in your new found friend to justify my confidence.

Yours truly,.


Ancestors of Friedrich Adolph Meissner (b 1804) and their history: Johanngeorgenstadt

List of early mining claims from Johanngeorgenstadt with name Meissner and variants

Wisconsin record data for Friedrich Adolph Meissner's HOMESTEAD 1873

George Henry ( Heinrich ) Meissner - - was he really a son of FAM?
And, a visit to Schönbach

Early documented Meissner and Löbel ancestors are:

Christoff Meichsner (1625? - 1644; son of Georg Meichsner (d 1644)

Johann Löbel (1592-1666), first mayor of Johanngeorgenstadt and gg-grandson of Fritz Löbel (b.1421?, Wunsiedel)

Letters written by Friedrich Adolph Meissner

Ancestors of Adolph Frederick Meissner


Compiled 1999 by Loren P. Meissner. [This email address is NOT a hyperlink - you have to type it in!]

This page was last  updated 19 February 2012