The Wagner Family Immigration Experience

The following is an excerpt from materials compiled by Gordon Gilbert Wagner, my wife Ellen’s uncle, while he was researching the Wagner family history. Gordon’s genealogy research was conducted the 1970’s and early part of the 1980’s when records were collected using ‘snail’ mail or by travelling to various repositories to search, find, and photocopy.

One of the documents that Gordon acquired was a memoir of sorts written by Anna May Tusonelda Simpson (nee Nusbickel), one of his second cousins once removed. In the document, Tusonelda (as she preferred to be known) retells the story told to her by her paternal grandmother Elizabeth Nusbickel (nee Wagner) about the Wagner immigration to the United States.

“In 1836 (date fixed by my remembrance of Grandmother Nusbickel telling me that she was 14 years old the year they came) a group of families from Siefereheim and neighboring Wollstein – three miles away, and the town from which my Grandfather Nusbickel came in 1839, although my grandparents never met until they lived in Wayne County, decided to emigrate to America. After landing in New York, they came up the Hudson, and took a packet boat on the Erie Canal. Whether Lyons was their ultimate destination or whether they were influenced to disembark by one, Philip Dorscheimer I do not know. I think the latter theory may be the correct one.

This man Dorscheimer was quite a character – he was a native of Wollstein, had been a miller in Lyons and later an innkeeper, and met the packet boats as they arrived. He influenced many to settle in Wayne County. This group included the Conrad Youngs, the Klippels, the Rodenbachs and the Wagners.

They were attracted to the rolling hills of Wayne County, not unlike the country they had just left in Rhinehessen. So they bought land and settled – many of them on adjoining farms or near by, all near the small settlement of Wayne Center. They were all members of the Evangelical Church, and continued their allegiance to the Evangelical Church in this country. They never were members of the Lutheran Church, established after Luther’s death, but to the Church he founded, the Evangelical Church. Wayne Center is about eight miles from Lyons, and they drove this distance each Sunday for church services.

Ferguson’s Corners is a hamlet east and south of Wayne Center – about three miles from Lyons. There is a school-house there, no longer in use. Behind it is quite a large cemetery, where many of the surrounding area had lots. The Wagners [referring to Heinrich and Anna Maria Wagner (nee Eckhard)] had a lot there. Quite a number of years ago, when my brother, Fred, from California was in the east on a visit, he and I went out there to see our ancestor’s graves. We found the stone tilted, the markers not in good condition. So we had them repaired at our own expense – the least we could do in their memory. I went out later, and found the work had been well done. The cemetery, however is in a deplorable condition.”

“Cousin Henry [referring to Rev. Louis Henry Wagner, Ellen’s great grandfather] on his European tour with his Aunt visited Siefersheim but found no living relatives. He did visit cemeteries.

I remember that he came to Lyons after that trip and he brought my Father a cane from Ireland. It was of peat wood – black, with carvings of the snakes of Ireland, etc. up and down its length. A very handsome present. Other visits I remember was when he came with his second wife [Sarah Moyer], and Louis [referring to Louis Jacob Gordon Wagner, Ellen’s grandfather] accompanied them. Louis must have been about five or six. My brother Fred and I were very fond of this little cousin, a year or two younger than we were. But we felt very sorry for him because he had a ‘stepmother’ – something very strange to our young minds, which made us feel very close to him.”

Tusonelda was born in 1882 in Lyons, Wayne County, New York and lived her whole life there. She married Dr. Reuben Spencer Simpson around 1913 and passed away in 1971.

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