Coming to Nebraska

March 2003 Feature Story
“Coming to Nebraska”

(from a diary kept by Rosina Heim)

This Storie can be found in the book
“Folklore of a Pennsylvania Colony in Nebraska”
True stories and experiences of the group of Pennsylvanians’ who settled near Dawson, Nebraska in the 1870’s & 1880’s. Complied and edited by Elma Heim Larimore 1956
This popular book is in it’s second printing. (144 pages)
Preface: The following is a translation of a diary written in a graceful hand of German. It was in a small composition book found among the possessions of Mrs. Sam F. Heim (Elizabeth) after her death. It had come to her from her mother, Mrs. John J. Heim (Rosina).

It has been quite certainly established that the Rosina Heim who wrote it was the eldest daughter of John (Johnnie) and Margaret Heim whom we later knew as Rosa Heim (Mrs. Joseph G. Heim), Dawson, Nebraska. When asked she did not remember writing the diary but said she used to German and that her name originally was Rosina. It is thought that her aunt, Mrs. John J. Heim, asked her to write the diary of their emigration to Nebraska in 1881 and send it back to her in Pennsylvania, so they would know more nearly what to expect when they came out, which they planned to do the following spring of 1882.

Blooming Grove, Pa., May 24, 1881.
Today we are leaving for the West, namely Dawson’s Mill, Richardson County, Nebraska. So it is my heartfelt wish that God’s grave and peace may accompany us in our going out and our coming in. We left our home on May 24th at 9 o’clock in the morning and came to Williamsport by 11 a.m. and here we had several things to take care of. Also to buy our tickets, which cost $24.25 as far as Atchison, Kansas. We left Williamsport at 3:30 p.m. and our next stop was Elmira. The landscape on the way to Elmira is very hilly and there is not much of interest to see. But after a pleasant trip we arrived in Elmira at 6 o’clock. Here we had to exchange cars and also change the checks on our trunks. In twenty minutes we were on our way to the main station at Buffalo and it was night in a short time. Since all was darkness we could not see the landscape.
We got to Buffalo by midnight and the city was lighted as bright as day. We had to walk quite a distance to another depot. We found the way easily and found a very nice railway car which we quickly entered. We had to wait about half an hour until the train started. We are going forward very fast and the next station is Dunkirk. We arrived there at 3 o’clock and had to wait 5 minutes. The next station is Erie, where we arrived at 4 a.m., well and happy. The train stopped here 10 minutes. The morning was breaking beautifully as we were leaving Erie. The next station is Ashtabula. We arrived at 20 minutes till five. Had a 3-minute stop. We left Ashtabula and came to Cleveland at 7:10 a.m., where stopped 20 minutes and had breakfast. After these 20 minutes we traveled fast and came to Toledo by 11:30. Here we had to wait sex hours, until evening at 5:30. We walked through the town. Toledo is a large city of 60,000 inhabitants. At last, after a long wait, we saw our car and quickly entered, looking for a place where we could all sit together. It was a very nice car. It was now 6 p.m. and we were still waiting for the train to start. How happy we ere when it began to move! But wait! “All Aboard!”

And now we go forward fast. It is terribly hot. We left Toledo at 6:10 and when our conductor came to look at our tickets he said, “Second Class – Next car ahead.” For good or bad we had to leave our beautiful and comfortable car and go up in the smoking car. Soon it was night and the landscape vanished.

We traveled the whole night with almost no stops till we finally reached Springfield, Ill. At 7 a.m. May 26. It was a beautiful morning. Springfield is the capital of Illinois, but we did not see much of the town, but as much as we could see, it is a lovely city. The country here is beautiful. The next station is Jacksonville, where we arrived at 8 o’clock. It is a very small village but here we had 30 minutes for breakfast.

After a time we flew like an arrow over the flat, level land of Illinois. The weather is very nice. The corn is as high as your hand and the people are very busy working in it. Large herds of cattle are in the pastures and I thought how poor our cattle were besides these fat ones!

At a quarter of seven we are traveling over the Illinois River. It is about tow miles wide and is bordered by a large area of swampland. The swampland is poor and not nice to look at. At 9 o’clock we arrived in Mt. Sterling, a small station. Here the land is nice again. Here we saw the first wheat headed out but the wheat is very short. It seems to be rather dry all along and the wheat we have seen is not very good.

We arrived at Quincy May 26 at 10:45 o’clock. It is on the banks of the Mississippi River and is a city of 60,000 people. After a ten-minute stop and a change of cars we crossed the river. It is about two miles wide. An iron bridge crosses the river. Now we go over a long stretch of swampland again. It is worthless land. At 2:30 p.m. we arrived in Macon, a small town where we stopped for dinner. It was very late for dinner, we thought. From there to Brookfield was 24 miles and the country was very brushy. Lochleade to Meadville is seven miles, and beautiful. There were 60 miles of lovely land all the way to Cameron. We came to Cameron about 7:50 and had 20 minutes for supper.

When that time had passed we headed once more for Atchison. John had to pay $1.15 more because we had a half ticket, not enough. We complained, but had to pay it.

The night came and we couldn’t see the countryside. We flew like an arrow toward Atchison and arrived there at 10 p.m. We had to wait there till 6 the next morning. The station was well lighted so after we bought our tickets to Dawson’s Mills for $2.70, we went to bed. We slept in the station.

Atchison, May 27, 1881. This town has about 15,000 inhabitants and lies next to the Missouri River. We left Atchison at 6:30 a.m. in good spirits and health. Then at last to Dawson’s Mill, our last and main station.
The land as we go along is very broken, rocky and hilly as far as Troy Junction. But crops are much better here than in Missouri. White Cloud is a small station where the land is very rough and we do not like it as all. Margaret says, “Oh, if I could only be home again!” Here at Falls City things begin to look much better. It is lovely land clear to Dawson’s Mill. Now at last we are going toward the last station. We arrived at Dawson’s Mill on May 27, 1881, at 10 o’clock in the forenoon, very happy. O how great is the goodness of God.
She closes the account with a German hymn. A free translation goes as follows:

“How great is the goodness of God. Is there a man who cannot understand the greatness of God? Who from the hardness of his heart will throttle his thanks to the Father? To comprehend His love will always be my highest duty. God has never forgotten me so my heart will never forget Him.”