The spring of 1854 must have seemed full of promise for the Johann Friedrich Krosch family. After 55 years growing up and raising a family in the Kingdom of Saxony, Frederick Krosch prepared to leave his home at Jessnitz and set out for America. Two of his sons, William, 29, and Karl, 30, came to Wisconsin in 1850, and now it was time to join them.
So in May 1854 the Krosch family left their hometown along the Mulde River and began the long journey to America. When the sailing ship Bertha left the Port of Bremen around June 12, there were six Kroschs among the 218 passengers onboard: Frederick, wife Christiana, 53, sons Augustus Frederick, 20; Reinhold, 16; and Gustav, 11; and daughter Henrietta, 16.
Officially known as the Barque Bertha, the ship was a multi-mast sailing vessel. It was very likely a rough journey, with the ship both dependent on, and at the mercy of, the North Atlantic winds. The Krosch family started the voyage in steerage, the least comfortable part of the ship.
During the journey passengers noticed a shark following the ship for days, according to family stories passed down through generations. This was most upsetting, since a shark following a vessel was believed to signal impending death on board. Old sailors’ lore held that sharks had the ability to sense if someone on board was near death.
The family sold everything to make the journey to America. The Krosch men kept their money in money belts worn under their clothing. Although the belts painfully chafed the skin, no one dared remove them for fear of being robbed.
Brisk trade winds pushed the ship backward, delaying arrival in New York by a week. About two-thirds of the way across, the Bertha encountered “large quantities” of ice, according to voyage record filed in New York by the ship’s master, named Klamp.
On Thursday, July 20, 1854, the Bertha arrived at the Port of New York after 40 days at sea. The Kroschs then traveled to Chicago, likely by steamboat and railroad. Hotel accommodations in Chicago were scarce, so the family took the only room they could find. But an infestation of bedbugs forced them to flee the hotel for a livery stable, where they spent the night.
From there they likely rode the train to Milwaukee, and then continued on until reaching East Troy in Walworth County, where Karl and William were living. Frederick purchased land in nearby Mukwonago and started a farm. His daughter, Henrietta, met and married a blacksmith named Philipp Treutel. They first established their home in Mukwonago and later moved to North Prairie.
William Krosch settled near the village of Eagle, and married Christiana Naumann in 1857. “My father’s farm was only 80 acres. It was mostly woodland, so he worked very hard to clear some for farming,” wrote Amelia Krosch Richardson in a 1940 memoir. “There was but my brother Will and myself at that time. We had a sister, Ida, who died when she was four years old of diphtheria and one baby sister that did not live. Both are buried near our home in Wisconsin.” The story of Ida Krosch was chronicled in an earlier article.
Eventually, William, Augustus and Gustave Krosch moved west and settled around Blue Earth, Minnesota. After Frederick Krosch died in 1877, his wife Christiana moved to Minnesota, where she died in 1881. Reinhold and Karl stayed on their farms near Lake Beulah in Walworth County, Wisconsin.
FAMILY LINE: John Frederick Krosch >> Henrietta (Krosch) Treutel >> Walter Treutel >> Ruby V. (Treutel) Hanneman >> Donn, David and Lavonne Hanneman.