Monday, April 23, 2012
The Perils of Marrying a German-speaking Immigrant
Francis A. Hoffmann (1822-1903), was born in Herford, Kreis Minden, Westphalia, and fled the Prussian draft in 1840. He settled in Illinois where he was a teacher and Lutheran minister. In 1851 he moved to Chicago and became an attorney and banker on behalf of German immigrants. A fervent opponent of slavery, he helped found the Illinois Republican Party in 1854, and was elected Lieutenant Governor of Illinois during the Civil War. He was also a consul to the Kingdom of Hanover and a land commissioner for a railroad company. But in 1875 he retired to a farm along the Rock River in Jefferson County, Wisconsin, and devoted his time to writing articles on farming and horticulture for the German language press under the pen name Hans Buschbauer. In an article* written by his granddaughter, Minna Frances Hoffman Nehrling (married to Werner F. Nehrling, son of Henry Nehrling, author of Nordamerikanische Vogelwelt), we are treated to this intriguing anecdote:
My grandfather, Francis A. Hoffmann, wooed my grandmother, Cynthia Gilbert, while he was a young Lutheran minister stationed in De Kalb County, Illinois. . . . As soon as they were married, grandfather spoke nothing but German to grandmother, who was of pure British antecedents. After about six weeks of this, she did what many young wives do, namely, went home to her mother. She, being a very sensible woman and the mother of fourteen children, made her go back to her Francis when she found that otherwise he was good to her. And she proved an apt pupil, for when they went to Europe fifteen years later, someone told her: "I can tell from what part of Germany your husband comes, but your German is so free from accent, that I can't determine what province you hail from." Needless to say, this pleased her greatly and was quite a feather in her cap."
*"Memoirs of 'Riverside Farm,'" Wisconsin Magazine of History, vol. 13, no. 4, June 1930, pp. 356-364.