|Covered wagon similar to those used to travel from Moselle to Le Havre|
(Roscheiderhof Open Air Museum)
My sister, to help me with research for my novel, compiled and translated some other information on Le Havre-related subjects. These articles are in my files but also translated in full on her own blog, "Californie en français." Since you may not have found them there, let me give you a summary of one of them. I think that after I whet your appetite for further details, you will want to read the full article (right column, bottom of column) written by two descendants of an emigrant family from the French Department of Moselle in the Lorraine (Lothringen) region of France. It is called "Leaving for America" by Philippe and Giles Houdry.
Thanks to Europedia, I learned that the Moselle is a department of the Lorraine region, and owes its name to the river of the same name. Moselle has a population of 1,024,000 inhabitants, and is divided into nine administrative districts (Arrondissements in French) for a total of 51 Cantons and 730 municipalities. It borders (clockwise from the North) the Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg, the German states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland, as well as the French departments of the Bas-Rhin, and Meurthe-et-Moselle. This area, with its combination of residents with French or German ancestry - sometimes both - still today speak a language that is a close cousin of Luxembourgish, especially in the northern part of the Moselle.
The Houdrys write that Pierre BREM and his family emigrated to New York, in the United States of America. These were ancestors of the Houdrys. Pierre and his wife Elisabeth (Boutter) Brem and their children, came from their village of Hargarten-aux-Mines. This zone in the north of Lorraine was German-speaking. The notaries of the region would record their documents in French which was the official language, and they were also required to indicate that said documents had been read in German by both the participants and witnesses.
The Houdry article goes on to spell out the many reasons why so many people, including those from the Moselle, emigrated to America. It is an excellent list. What the Germans called America letters; that is, the letters from friends and relatives already in America, exerted influence in the Moselle as well. America was considered as a country of liberty and of democracy, where the recognition of the individual was based on his competence and not his birth, things which many in the Moselle felt was not true of their homeland.
Pierre BREM left in 1844 to scout the United States, leaving his family in safety at Hargarten-aux-Mines. In 1846, Elisabeth and her two children, Anne Marie and Michel, left from Le Havre to join him. On that occasion that Elisabeth received power of attorney from her husband, sent from New York, to sell their possessions and thereby pay the voyage for the three of them. The sale occurred in Hargarten-aux-Mines, in the family house itself, the 13 March 1846. Piere Brem must have had great confidence in his wife who had a difficult road ahead of her, both in their selling the possessions which were still in the village of Hargarten-aux-Mines and in making the trip to Le Havre with two young children. Not only did she have to sell all of their land and personal property, converting everything into the money to take with her; she also had to obtain two passports; one for permission to leave France for America and another to allow her to move freely from her own Canton to any others she might cross in and out of on her trip to Le Havre. Making arrangements for the trip with some kind of travel company or service also was required.
The majority of immigrants made the voyage in wagons up to the port of embarkation at Le Havre. The Houdry's conjecture is that Pierre in 1844 and Elisabeth and the two children in 1846, would certainly have traveled to the coast by wagon so as not to waste the precious savings scraped together in Lorraine. It is also likely, as is often the case, that they would have joined a convoy of other Lorraine emigrants, which made the trip much safer, especially for a woman with two children and no husband. In addition to the safety factor, it also maintained a familiar environment in foreign surroundings. On bad roads, the convoys moved slowly. For a trip of approximately three weeks, most travelers would have placed canvas or sail-cloth over the arches of the wagons to protect the passengers from bad weather and to more comfortably spend the night. What did the wagon look like? The wagon picture above, taken at the German open-air museum in Roscheid, would be very similar. With more than one such wagon, the travelers would have resembled Hollywood movies about wagon trains headed west.
The wagon trip from Moselle to Le Havre took about 3 weeks. The railroad line Metz-Nancy did not open until 1850, that of Nancy-Paris not until 1852. The line Paris-Le Havre itself was only slightly older; it opened in 1847.
Many of the emigrants, when they reached the port, especially before 1850, were not able to embark right away. In bad weather, the ships were clustered close alongside and prevented from departing because of the direction of the winds. Sometimes it was necessary to wait for the arrival of the ship. The travelers often had to stay one or more weeks in one of the auberges of the city. The money that Elizabeth carried with her could have easily been depleted by the need to eat, to buy provisions for the long ocean voyage, and to pay for shelter in an auberge/Gasthaus until the day of departure.
The auberges, especially those which were cheapest, gave a foretaste of the steerage section where the emigrants were going to huddle during the roughly one-and-a-half-month length of the crossing.