The first major wave of Germans came to Louisiana as a result of a contract with John Law in the early 1700s, about 30 years prior to the arrival of the “Cajuns” from Canada.
In Europe, John Law was a shady but powerful political and business figure. One of his dealings was setting up a company, Companie d’Indies, to attract immigrants to the gulf coast area of North America. His promises attracted immigrants from Germany who were skilled in carpentry, farming, engineering and other occupations needed for developing a new town called New Orleans.
The trip to Louisiana was filled with hardships. The ships on which they came were called “pest” ships for the pestilence which took a heavy toll on the passengers. About 200 persons survived the long journey on four pest ships that sailed from L’Orient France on Jan. 24, 1721.
The pioneer Germans settled north of New Orleans in St. Charles, St. John and St. James parishes, in the cities of Hahnville and Destrehan, along the Mississippi River.
Law’s company went out of business in 1731. Some immigrants returned to Europe, but other resourceful Germans became independent land owners and raised families in what is known as the German Coast.
The areas they settled along the Mississippi River were prone to flooding, but these farmers provided enough food for themselves and also for residents of New Orleans and nearby towns.
In 1768, the Germans joined the Acadians to help overthrow the Spanish Colonial governor, Ulloa. They again joined forces to fight the British during the American Revolution. The bitterness between the Germans and local rulers escalated and many families decided to leave the German Coast and relocate in the northern part of St. Martin Parish and southern part of St. Landry Parish, an area that has more families with German surnames than French ones.
From the time of their arrival, the German immigrants began to intermarry with the French-speaking settlers. They married other Germans, as well. Together they helped create the Cajun culture.
Some of the pest ship German immigrants or their families who eventually left the German Coast and resettled in Acadiana were: Hans Rein Scheckschneider (his wife, one son, Jacob, who died young, and his son, Albert); Jean Georg Huber (Oubre); Mathias Friedrich; Johann Weber; Michael Zehringer, from Franconia, Bavaria; Johann Ludwig Wiltz; Christian Vicner; Micholas Meyer; Paul Anton Mueller of Halle, Germany; Jacob Folse; Jacob and Joseph Ritter; Andre Meisch and Jean George Stahlin (Stelly).
The second annual Oktoberfest day in Arnaudville is rapidly approaching. There will be a forum on the immigration and genealogy of these and other German families at the VFW Ladies Auxiliary building in Arnaudville during the second annual Oktoberfest to be held on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010.
The family fun day festival will begin at 11 a.m. and will end at 8 p.m.
There will be local bands, including the worldwide band Les Freres Michot, to entertain visitors.
The genealogy session will begin at 2 p.m.
Please bring family pictures, books and stories about German ancestors.
(Comments and suggestions about Les Vieux Temps articles are always appreciated. Please call 337-754-9980 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.)