The Voyage

The journey of Bernhard Zentmeyer (45 years old) and his wife Salome, (39) daughter Magdalena (3), and sons Bernhard (12), Christopher (6), and Jacob (6 months), from Bischwiller, Alsace to Pennsylvania is best described in the volume Pennsylvania German Pioneers, Vol. I, by Strassburger and Hinke, published in 1934. The book notes the arrival on 22 November 1752 of "Bernhard Zendmeyer . . . on the ship Phoenix, Captain Ruben Honor, from Rotterdam and last from Cowes . . ." This volume quotes extensively from Gottlieb Mittelberger's Journey to Pennsylvania in the year 1750, as follows: "This journey lasts from the beginning of May to the end of October, fully half a year, amid such hardships as no one is able to describe adequately with their misery. This journey fell naturally into three parts:"

“The first part, and by no means the easiest, was the journey down the Rhine to Rotterdam. This is because the Rhine boats from Heilbronn to Holland have to pass by 26 custom houses, at all of which the ships are examined, which is done when it suits the convenience of the custom house officials. In the meantime the ships with the people are detained long, so that the passengers have to spend much money. The trip down the Rhine lasts therefore four, five and even six weeks. When the ships come to Holland, they are detained there likewise five to six weeks. Because things are very dear there, the poor people have to spend nearly all they have during that time."

“The second stage of the journey was from Rotterdam to one of the English ports. Most of the ships called at Cowes, on the Isle of Wight.  This was the favorite stopping place, as 142 ships are recorded as having sailed from Rotterdam to Cowes. In England there was another delay of one to two weeks, when the ships were waiting either to be passed through the custom house or waiting for favorable winds. When the ships had for the last time weighed their anchors at Cowes or some other port in England, then,” writes Mittelberger, "The real misery begins with the long voyage, for from there the ships, unless they have good wind, must often sail eight, nine, ten to twelve weeks before they reach Philadelphia. But even with the best wind, the voyage lasts seven weeks.”

“The third stage of the journey, or the ocean voyage proper, was marked by much suffering and hardship. The passengers being packed densely, like herrings," as Mittelberger describes it, "without proper food and water, were soon subject to all sorts of diseases, such as dysentery, scurvy, typhoid and smallpox. Children were the first to be attacked, and died in large numbers." Mittelberger reported the deaths of thirty-two children on his ship. "The terrors of disease, brought about to a large extent by poor food and lack of good drinking water, were much aggravated by frequent storms through which ships and passengers had to pass.”

"The misery reaches the climax when a gale rages for two or three nights and days, so that every one believes that the ship will go to the bottom with all human beings on board. In such a visitation the people cry and pray most piteously. When in such a gale the sea rages and surges, so that the waves rise often like mountains one above the other, and often tumble over the ship, so that one fears to go down with the ship; when the ship is constantly tossed from side to side by the storm and waves, so that no one can either walk, or sit, or lie, and the closely packed people in the berths are thereby tumbled over each other, both the sick and the well--it will be readily understood that many of these people, none of whom had been prepared for hardships, suffer so terribly from them that they do not survive.''

“When at last the Delaware River was reached and the City of Brotherly Love came into sight, where all their miseries were to end, another delay occurred. A health officer visited the ship and, if any persons with infectious diseases were discovered, the ship was ordered to remove one mile from the city. On February 3, 1743, Governor Thomas approved a bill, passed in the assembly, for the purchase of Fisher Island, three hundred and forty-two acres, with the buildings on it, to be used for a hospital. The name of the island was changed to Province Island, and as such it appears on the map of Philadelphia, which we present. The erection of an adequate hospital was, however, delayed until the year I750.”

“After medical clearance, the new arrivals are led in procession to the City Hall, and there they must render the oath of allegiance to the King of Great Britain. After that they are brought back to the ship. Then announcements are printed in the newspapers, stating how many of the new arrivals are to be sold. Those who have money are released, passage being $63 to $77 per adult.” (Almost $1,000 in today’s dollars -Ed) “Whoever has well-to-do friends seeks a loan from them to pay the passage, but there are only a few who succeed. The ship becomes the market--place. The buyers make their choice among the arrivals and bargain with them for a certain number of years and days. They then take them to the captain, pay their passage and their other debts, and receive from the governmental authorities a written document, which makes the newcomers their property for a defined period.''

(Some sources estimate the number of emigrants who were sold into indenture as high as 80%. It is not known at this time whether or not Bernhard and Salome were so indentured, research is continuing -Ed.)