11 October 2005

Survival of the Fittest

We often give little thought to our past. Our lives are filled with many day-to-day tasks and challenges that routinely occupy our lives with little consequence to our well being or survival. All that is known about Urban's origin begins with his arrival. Little else is known about his life before coming to America. This part of his story leaves out, possibly, the greatest adventure of his life and one that we can only speculate upon. It is believed that many early German immigrants came from parts of south-western Germany, known today as the Rhineland Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfaltz) and Baden-Wuerttemberg. His journey may have begun here. While traveling down the Rhine River Urban may have encountered thirty to forty custom houses along the way taking some five to six weeks to travel through. This delay was often because not all of these houses were open along the way to Rotterdam, Holland. Upon arriving, he would have needed a place to stay while he waited for a ship to be ready to sail. This would have taken at least another five to six weeks. Securing his passage aboard the ship "Samuel", he may have had a short voyage of eight to fourteen days, depending on the weather, to Deal, England. The ship docked at port for up to ten days while supplies were loaded aboard and more passengers added beyond the ship's capacity. Now packed with 175 men, women, and children his ship was ready for the great Atlantic crossing. The voyage took some two to three months before arriving at Philadelphia. Some never made it; most vulnerable were children under the age of seven and the elderly. Passengers were often subject to choking stench, swarms of lice, chilling cold and dampness, hunger and thirst, and deadly diseases such as dysentery and scurvy. Of course, it is not known how long it took Urban ASCHENBRENNER to make his journey to America, nor where he actually came from.

Some ships carried up to 200-300 passengers. In Urban’s case there were 175 passengers aboard the ship “Samuel”. There were between 47 to 67 listed passengers on the ship’s lists. All of those listed were males of 16 years and older. These individuals were all required to take an “Oath of Allegiance”. When this ship docked at Philadelphia at least 11 listed men were sick, 15 more didn’t sign their own names (reasons unknown), and 1 listed death. No mention was made about the other passengers aboard. What can be understood from this is that there must have been extreme hardships endured by these passengers. The passenger lists noted illness for at least 6% of the working providers, often the strongest and healthiest members of these families, by the end of the voyage. How many more were women and children?

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