Letter from Jacob Freyhofer, 1871
On February 22, 1871, Jacob Freyhofer, age 64, widower, from Randolph, Kansas, wrote a long letter to his adult children, probably Susan Hanning, back in Santa Claus, Indiana. Jacob was one of the earliest settlers to Riley County, Kansas along with several of his sons. Read more about the Freyhofers and Hannings here.
Jacob is responding belatedly (for which he apologizes profusely) to their “happy and interesting letter” dated Jan. 16. He thanks them for some money they sent his son William. He says he is homesick for his old home in Zurich and Winterthur, Switzerland: “A homesickness for going there, which will probably follow me into the grave.” He later refers to a recent trip in 1869 he took back to Switzerland.
Jacob was an early Kansas pioneer along with several of his sons in 1863 and he reports “…now that the country is settled and there are now 20 inhabitants, when there were hardly five 6 years ago and instead of mostly only poor Cätscheler living here as it was then, there are now whole families and also older people.”
Jacob mentions a recent illness: “my strength is only increasing slowly and with every little exertion I have to catch my breath, my lungs are a bit affected, I have to be very careful of cold and have to cough more than ever.”
Jacob’s son William, wife Louise and their first two children born in Kansas are all well and “William was able to buy more cattle than I thought he would.”
Jacob’s daughter Emma (still single, 22 and living at home with him) is apparently away on some special trip she’s been wanting to take, “her long-cherished wish has been fulfilled.” He looks forward to her returning and hopes she will find a husband soon so he can finally retire from farming: “my silent prayer for her is that the Lord will give her a worthy, pious life companion [husband] and when this last worry of a father is eliminated, I would also like to give up my farming and call it a day.” He must have been thrilled when she finally married in 1874 to Rev. Henry Mattill, answering Jacob’s prayer for her to find a “pious life companion.”
Jacob mentions “an early peace in Europe” referring to the Franco-Prussian War that started July 19, 1870, when Napoleon III declared war on Prussia, a German state on the southeast coast of the Baltic Sea. Prussia led a coalition of German states and defeated France, ending French domination in Europe and resulting in the creation of a unified Germany. Paris surrendered on January 28, 1871, and an armistice was signed. Jacob was obviously closely watching and had strong anti-French sentiments: “Praise God the prospects for an early peace in Europe are promising. One has to acknowledge with astonishment and adoration: The Lord has never had a proud nation like this. Humbled to the dust in 6 months and 10 days [referring to France’s defeat] and the consequences of this may bless the whole world now.” The war ended May 10, 1871, and indeed had global consequences, but not exactly the blessing he hoped for. Both the German Empire and the French Third Republic were established and the Papal States were annexed by Italy (September 20, 1870). But the Germans’ crushing victory over France confirmed their faith in Prussian militarism, which would remain a dominant force in German society until 1945.