Christian Urban--Immigration and Life




Historical context

Historiography: Migration and life of the text


My father, Christian Urban, eldest son of Michael and Catharine Urban, was born in Brumot county, France, near Strasburg, on May 10, 1837. The family came to this country in the year 1847, leaving Le Havre, France and crossing the Atlantic in a sail vessel. The voyage lasted 42 days and was long and tiresome.

My father told me many times of the funny experiences which occurred on the trip. He was a lad of ten years at the time.

The sailors were very fond of him and he was usually on deck when their meals were served. Thus, he seldom ate with his folks. The sailors' food was served in a large container like a tub, from which they filled their dishes, as they sat around it. They always scooted over and made room for him and motioned for him to come and eat with them. He never needed a second invitation. They couldn't talk to each other as he couldn't understand them and, of course, they couldn't understand him.

The captain paid so much attention to him, as he was the only youngster of that age on the boat. One time, five whales followed their boat for days, and the captain stood him upon the railing and let him watch them. Then finally they got out the cannon, and at the odor of the powder, the whales turned and went back the other way. He said the whales swam side by side, like your fingers.

Sharks often followed, but usually they threw out barrels with both ends closed and that entertained the sharks. They would flip them up and try to burst them.

My grandmother had always told my father that the devil was black. When they were three days out, he was wandering around on the boat and as he passed the kitchen he looked in and saw that the cook was a colored man. He could see that my father was scared and he made all kind of motions and jumped at him, and he was badly frightened, and away he ran as fast as his feet could carry him. When he got to his mother he told her he had seen the devil, and he didn't venture out of their room for a few days.

One remarkable thing, there were only three hours of storm in their entire voyage, but it was terrible while it lasted.

They landed at New Orleans and came up the Mississippi River, then into the Ohio River and landed at Madison, Indiana. The Mississippi was at flood stage and while coming up the river, a tree coming down stream struck their boat and knocked a big hold in the boat. They pulled over to the bank and the damage was repaired as soon as possible. They came from Madison by train on the first railroad running into Indianapolis. The train went so slowly, my father said, that he would get off and get some turnips and then run and catch the train.

When they arrived in Indianapolis, where the Claypool now stands was all woods. The land could have been bought for a very small amount. (Too bad Grandfather didn't buy it and settle there.) He settled one mile south of Cicero and built the house that still stands there. This is the house where I was born. The house was built of poplar and walnut timber, cut off of the farm.

My grandfather wove table linen and old-fashioned coverlets for bed spreads. Every two weeks he and my father or the older sister had to walk several miles to get supplies for the weaving. The children had to help carry the supplies and took turns in going. This particular time it was the sister's turn and she went with Grandfather. They would go one day and return the next. This particular time on returning, they were caught in a terrible snow storm and lost their way. Grandfather helped and carried her until he was exhausted, and had to put her down. She froze to death. She was 12 years old. He was finally rescued before he froze.

The children, who came across the ocean with the parents, were my father, Catharine, Michael, Phillip. Mary and George were born in this country. Catharine married Jacob Groble. Phillip married Dorcas Todd. Their children were Rose, Anna, and Vicie. George married Rhoda Winten. They had one adopted son, Jesse. Mary married John Pape. Their children were Mary Christena (Tena Bushong), Albert Ferdinand, and Walter. My father married Jane G. Mann, February 5, 1860. Their children were Laura, Willie (died in infancy), George, Mary, Jesse, and Charles.

Their mother died November 20, 1875. At that time my father was a blacksmith in Cicero. He, in a short time, moved on the farm one mile south of Cicero. He married Nancy Blessing, January 3, 1878. I was their child. Father finally sold the farm and moved to Cicero where he passed away October 9, 1911. My mother passed away in Indianapolis, November 8, 1937. Laura married Chris Wanaka. After his death she married James Lovett. She died in Speedway City, February 22, 1941. George married Etta Gibbs. Their children are Mildred, Paul, Raymond, Rilus, Mary, and Reva. George died March 17, 1925.

Mary married M. H. Williams. Bert was their only child. At his mother's death, January 9, 1891, Laura adopted Bert. Jesse married Minne Esheman (now living in California). Jesse died February 24, 1915.

Charles married Alma Bennett. Their children are: William, died at the age of 4. Russel, died at 18 years of age. Bernice, Gladys, Glenn, Helen, and Charles. Charles Sr. died August 12, 1934.

Anna married Willis R. Shewalter. Their children were: Clifton and Myrl. Willis died September 24, 1924. I married Samuel W. Hartsock, June 24, 1943.


Nancy Blessing

Etta Gibbs, wife of George Urban, mother of Mildred, Paul, Raymond, Rilus, Mary, and Reva.

Anna R. Hartsock [explain]

Cameron Laird, first-born of Jessie Urban Laird

Jessie Urban Laird, daughter of Raymond Urban

Jane G. Mann, wife of Christian Urban, and mother of Laura, Willie, George, Mary, Jesse, and Charles.

Brian Threlkeld, oldest son of Carolyn Threlkeld, and editor of Christian's story

Carolyn Threlkeld, daughter of Raymond Urban, mother of Brian, Craig, and Todd.

Todd Threlkeld, son of Carolyn Threlkeld.

Catharine Urban

Catharine Urban

Christian Urban, son of Michael and Catharine Urban, husband of Jane Mann and later Nancy Blessing, father of Laura, Willie, George, Mary, Jesse, and Charles.

George Urban, son of Michael Urban

George Urban, husband of Etta, father of Mildred, Paul, Raymond, Rilus, Mary, and Reva, and son of Christian Urban and Jane G. Mann

Michael Urban, husband of Catharine, father of Catharine, Michael, Christian, Phillip, Mary, and George (and another daughter?). Jessie says Nellie thinks that the family was German and spoke German.

Nellie Edrington Urban, wife of Raymond, mother of Eunice, Jessie, Carolyn, and Doris

Raymond Frederick Urban, son of George Urban, husband of Nellie Edrington, father of Eunice, Jessie, Carolyn, and Doris. He worked at a number of jobs, both in his own employ, and that of others; among the former, he was until his death in 1973 a blacksmith, like Christian Urban. En forgeant on se fait forgeron.

Historical context

While CL doesn't know what Christian Urban thought of it, many other travelers of his time found the Mississippi River more memorable than crossing the Atlantic or the Rockies. Even when not flooding, it was beyond the scale of any other river they knew, and terrifying when full.

Why New Orleans? BT reasonably speculates that cotton carriers to Europe filled their holds on the return passages with inexpensive passenger fares. He points to this transcription as an interesting perspective on the Le Havre-New Orleans voyage. Perhaps some day Christian will turn up in material published at the ISTG site. If I understand correctly, the latter works mostly from US National Archives microfilms. Yet another possibility for investigation is that Todd Threlkeld or another "allemanophone" research the records of Brumot.

Christian's "Brumot" we presume to be the modern French village of Brumath. Despite its modest size, it appears to support an active genealogic society, the Section de Brumath de CGA.

One complication in tracking down this family is the variability in spelling its surname. According to e-mail from Brent Urbin, who maintains The Urbin Family Tree Branch, relatives used "Urbin", "Urben", "Urban", and even "Urbian". He traces individuals to German-speaking Germany and Switzerland.

John Lienhard's great-grandfather made the same crossing four years earlier.

[lots more stuff] [Alsatian vs. German vs. ...]

Historiography: How the text has traveled

Anna Hartsock recited the original of the text about Christian Urban around 1943-1945. Jessie Laird typed a copy in 1963. Brian Threlkeld edited that copy on 21 December 1990, and Cameron Laird rendered Brian's edition in HTML during October and November 1995.
The Story of Christian Urban/published on the WWW by Cameron Laird