Part of knowing your family history is knowing a little about where they emigrated from and what reasons they might have had for seeking a new life in America when they did. The Rusler family emigrated from Baden in Germany. At the time, in the early 1850s, Germany was made up of a loose conglomeration of Duchys, so they were like little independent countries. Baden is located on the East side of the Rhine River, across from Alsace Lorraine. If any of you know your European history you have probably heard of this area. The Alsace was much coveted land. France and Germany fought over this area off and on for many years. (WWI saw much blood spilled on this little stretch of land.) It was beautiful, fertile land but there wasn’t enough of it and much of it was owned by the nobility. In the earlier years of the 1800s Baden was in the middle of the Napoleonic wars. Sometimes an ally of Napoleon, sometimes not and several times it was overrun by armies from both sides of the conflicts.
By 1847 Napoleon was long gone. Now Baden, and much of Europe , is in the midst of radical revolutions. It is the Industrial age and labor unions and radicals are fighting against the privileges of the nobility. One such uprising in Baden in 1847-48 was put down by the troops of Baden and Hesse. There was a second uprising in 1849 which the Prussian troops quashed and shot many of the rebels.
The Baden army was broke down and then rebuilt under Prussian control. Now, the army started drafting. Every boy had to file papers at the age of 16 and at the age of 21 they were required to show up for duty in the German/Prussian army. Failure to show up for duty meant severe fines and jail time.
Add to all of this unrest the general problems of lack of good farm land and overpopulation and it made it very hard for poorer families to survive. There was also religious tension between the Catholics and Protestants.
But on the other side of the globe, America was booming! Gold was discovered in California in 1849, there was a transcontinental railroad being built, and the Midwest was being opened to farmers. Settlers were needed! Many German newspapers carried advertisements by American companies encouraging immigration. Farmland in the Midwest was cheap and plentiful. Railroad workers were paid well! And there was always the possibility of striking it rich in the gold fields. No wonder that between 1850 and 1853 about 32,383 people emigrated from Baden alone.
I don’t know the exact reason that Joseph Rusler had for deciding to emigrate to America. He seemed to have a specific destination in mind, German Valley in Ogle County, Illinois but it took him a long time to get there once he got to America. He had no money and lost all he’d brought in a storm on the way over. From the time he got off the ship in America he worked his way to Ogle County. There he found a job working on somebody else’s farm. It took several years of hard work and saving before he could afford to bring his family over. He didn’t decide to go to the gold fields or work on the railroad but seemed intent on having land of his own. I think this was his dream all along.