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died for want of it.

One of the Thomas children, a little girl of eight years, whose father lay
burning with fever and moaning for water, found down in the dark at the
back of one of the water-casks a place where once in a long time a drop of
water fell from it. She placed there a small vial, and twice a day bore
it, filled with water-drops, to the sick man. It saved his life. Of the
three ship-loads only two families reached America whole, and one of these
was the Thomases. A younger sister told me in 1884 that though the child
lived to old age on the banks of the Mississippi River, she could never
see water wasted and hide her anger.

The vessels were not bound for Philadelphia, as the Russian ship had been.
Either from choice or of necessity the destination had been changed before
sailing, and they were on their way to New Orleans.

That city was just then - the war of 1812-15 being so lately over - coming
boldly into notice as commercially a strategic point of boundless
promise. Steam navigation had hardly two years before won its first
victory against the powerful current of the Mississippi, but it was
complete. The population was thirty-three thousand; exports, thirteen
million dollars. Capital and labor were crowding in, and legal, medical,
and commercial talent were hurrying to the new field.

Scarcely at any time since has the New Orleans bar, in proportion to its
numbers, had so many brilliant lights. Edward Livingston, of world-wide
fame, was there in his prime. John R. Grymes, who died a few years before
the opening of the late civil war, was the most successful man with juries
who ever plead in Louisiana courts. We must meet him in the court-room by
and by, and may as well make his acquaintance now. He was emphatically a
man of the world. Many anecdotes of him remain, illustrative rather of
intrepid shrewdness than of chivalry. He had been counsel for the pirate
brothers Lafitte in their entanglements with the custom-house and courts,
and was believed to have received a hundred thousand dollars from them as
fees. Only old men remember him now. They say he never lifted his voice,
but in tones that grew softer and lower the more the thought behind them
grew intense would hang a glamour of truth over the veriest sophistries
that intellectual ingenuity could frame. It is well to remember that this
is only tradition, which can sometimes be as unjust as daily gossip. It is
sure that he could entertain most showily. The young Duke of
Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, was once his guest. In his book of travels in
America (1825-26) he says:

My first excursion [in New Orleans] was to visit Mr. Grymes, who here
inhabits a large, massive, and splendidly furnished house.... In the
evening we paid our visit to the governor of the State.... After this we
went to several coffee-houses where the lower classes amuse themselves....
Mr. Grymes took me to the masked ball, which is held every evening during
the carnival at the French theater.... The dress of the ladies I observed
to be very elegant, but understood that most of those dancing did not
belong to the better class of society.... At a dinner, which Mr. Grymes
gave me with the greatest display of magnificence,... we withdrew from the
first table, and seated ourselves at the second, in the same order in
which we had partaken of the first. As the variety of wines began to set
the tongues of the guests at liberty, the ladies rose, retired to another
apartment, and resorted to music. Some of the gentlemen remained with the
bottle, while others, among whom I was one, followed the ladies.... We had
waltzing until 10 o'clock, when we went to the masquerade in the theater
in St. Philip street.... The female company at the theater consisted of
quadroons, who, however, were masked.

Such is one aspect given us by history of the New Orleans towards which
that company of emigrants, first of the three that had left the other
side, were toiling across the waters.



They were fever-struck and famine-wasted. But February was near its end,
and they were in the Gulf of Mexico. At that time of year its storms have
lulled and its airs are the perfection of spring; March is a kind of May.
And March came.

They saw other ships now every day; many of them going their way. The
sight cheered them; the passage had been lonely as well as stormy. Their
own vessels, of course, - the other two, - they had not expected to see, and
had not seen. They did not know whether they were on the sea or under it.

At length pilot-boats began to appear. One came to them and put a pilot on
board. Then the blue water turned green, and by and by yellow. A fringe of
low land was almost right ahead. Other vessels were making for the same
lighthouse towards which they were headed, and so drew constantly nearer
to one another. The emigrants line the bulwarks, watching the nearest
sails. One ship is so close that some can see the play of waters about her
bows. And now it is plain that her bulwarks, too, are lined with emigrants
who gaze across at them. She glides nearer, and just as the cry of
recognition bursts from this whole company the other one yonder suddenly
waves caps and kerchiefs and sends up a cheer. Their ship is the

Do we dare draw upon fancy? We must not. The companies did meet on the
water, near the Mississippi's mouth, though whether first inside or
outside the stream I do not certainly gather. But they met; not the two
vessels only, but the three. They were towed up the river side by side,
the _Johanna_ here, the _Captain Grone_ there, and the other ship between
them. Wagner, who had sailed on the galiot, was still alive. Many years
afterwards he testified:

"We all arrived at the Balize [the river's mouth] the same day. The ships
were so close we could speak to each other from on board our respective
ships. We inquired of one another of those who had died and of those who
still remained."

Madame Fleikener said the same:

"We hailed each other from the ships and asked who lived and who had died.
The father and mother of Madame Schuber [Kropp and his wife] told me
Daniel Müller and family were on board."

But they had suffered loss. Of the _Johanna's_ 700 souls only 430 were
left alive. Henry Müller's wife was dead. Daniel Müller's wife, Dorothea,
had been sick almost from the start; she was gone, with the babe at her
bosom. Henry was left with his two boys, and Daniel with his one and his
little Dorothea and Salome. Grandsteiner, the supercargo, had lived; but
of 1800 homeless poor whom the Dutch king's gilders had paid him to bring
to America, foul ships and lack of food and water had buried 1200 in the

The vessels reached port and the passengers prepared to step ashore, when
to their amazement and dismay Grandsteiner laid the hand of the law upon
them and told them they were "redemptioners." A redemptioner was an
emigrant whose services for a certain period were liable to be sold to the
highest bidder for the payment of his passage to America. It seems that in
fact a large number of those on board the _Johanna_ had in some way really
become so liable; but it is equally certain that of others, the Kropps,
the Schultzheimers, the Koelhoffers, the Müllers, and so on, the
transportation had been paid for in advance, once by themselves and again
by the Government of Holland. Yet Daniel Müller and his children were
among those held for their passage money.

Some influential German residents heard of these troubles and came to the
rescue. Suits were brought against Grandsteiner, the emigrants remaining
meanwhile on the ships. Mr. Grymes was secured as counsel in their cause;
but on some account not now remembered by survivors scarce a week had
passed before they were being sold as redemptioners. At least many were,
including Daniel Müller and his children.

Then the dispersion began. The people were bound out before notaries and
justices of the peace, singly and in groups, some to one, some to two
years' service, according to age. "They were scattered," - so testified
Frank Schuber twenty-five years afterwards, - "scattered about like young
birds leaving a nest, without knowing anything of each other." They were
"taken from the ships," says, the jungfrau Hemin, "and went here and
there so that one scarcely knew where the other went."

Many went no farther than New Orleans or its suburbs, but settled, some in
and about the old rue Chartres - the Thomas family, for example; others in
the then new faubourg Marigny, where Eva Kropp's daughter, Salome's young
cousin Eva, for one, seems to have gone into domestic service. Others,
again, were taken out to plantations near the city; Madame Fleikener to
the well-known estate of Maunsell White, Madame Schultzheimer to the
locally famous Hopkins plantation, and so on.

But others were carried far away; some, it is said, even to Alabama.
Madame Hemin was taken a hundred miles up the river, to Baton Rouge, and
Henry Müller and his two little boys went on to Bayou Sara, and so up
beyond the State's border and a short way into Mississippi.

When all his relatives were gone Daniel Müller was still in the ship with
his little son and daughters. Certainly he was not a very salable
redemptioner with his three little motherless children about his knees.
But at length, some fifteen days after the arrival of the ships, Frank
Schuber met him on the old customhouse wharf with his little ones and was
told by him that he, Müller, was going to Attakapas. About the same time,
or a little later, Müller came to the house where young Eva Kropp,
afterwards Schuber's wife, dwelt, to tell her good-bye. She begged to be
allowed to keep Salome. During the sickness of the little one's mother
and after the mother's death she had taken constant maternal care of the
pretty, black-eyed, olive-skinned godchild. But Müller would not leave her



The prospective journey was the same that we saw Suzanne and Françoise,
Joseph and Alix, take with toil and danger, yet with so much pleasure, in
1795. The early company went in a flatboat; these went in a round-bottom
boat. The journey of the latter was probably the shorter. Its adventures
have never been told, save one line. When several weeks afterwards the
boat returned, it brought word that Daniel Müller had one day dropped dead
on the deck and that his little son had fallen overboard and was drowned.
The little girls had presumably been taken on to their destination by
whoever had been showing the way; but that person's name and residence, if
any of those left in New Orleans had known them, were forgotten. Only the
wide and almost trackless region of Attakapas was remembered, and by
people to whom every day brought a struggle for their own existence.
Besides, the children's kindred were bound as redemptioners.

Those were days of rapid change in New Orleans. The redemptioners worked
their way out of bondage into liberty. At the end of a year or two those
who had been taken to plantations near by returned to the city. The town
was growing, but the upper part of the river front in faubourg Ste. Marie,
now in the heart of the city, was still lined with brick-yards, and
thitherward cheap houses and opportunities for market gardening drew the
emigrants. They did not colonize, however, but merged into the community
about them, and only now and then, casually, met one another. Young
Schuber was an exception; he throve as a butcher in the old French market,
and courted and married the young Eva Kropp. When the fellow-emigrants
occasionally met, their talk was often of poor shoemaker Müller and his
lost children.

No clear tidings of them came. Once the children of some Germans who had
driven cattle from Attakapas to sell them in the shambles at New Orleans
corroborated to Frank Schuber the death of the father; but where Salome
and Dorothea were they could not say, except that they were in Attakapas.

Frank and Eva were specially diligent inquirers after Eva's lost godchild;
as also was Henry Müller up in or near Woodville, Mississippi. He and his
boys were, in their small German way, prospering. He made such effort as
he could to find the lost children. One day in the winter of 1820-21 he
somehow heard that there were two orphan children named Miller - the
Müllers were commonly called Miller - in the town of Natchez, some
thirty-five miles away on the Mississippi. He bought a horse and wagon,
and, leaving his own children, set out to rescue those of his dead
brother. About midway on the road from Woodville to Natchez the
Homochitto Creek runs through a swamp which in winter overflows. In here
Müller lost his horse. But, nothing daunted, he pressed on, only to find
in Natchez the trail totally disappear.

Again, in the early spring of 1824, a man driving cattle from Attakapas to
Bayou Sara told him of two little girls named Müller living in Attakapas.
He was planning another and bolder journey in search of them, when he fell
ill; and at length, without telling his sons, if he knew, where to find
their lost cousins, he too died.

Years passed away. Once at least in nearly every year young Daniel
Miller - the "u" was dropped - of Woodville came down to New Orleans. At such
times he would seek out his relatives and his father's and uncle's old
friends and inquire for tidings of the lost children. But all in vain.
Frank and Eva Schuber too kept up the inquiry in his absence, but no
breath of tidings came. On the city's south side sprung up the new city of
Lafayette, now the Fourth District of New Orleans, and many of the
aforetime redemptioners moved thither. Its streets near the river became
almost a German quarter. Other German immigrants, hundreds and hundreds,
landed among them and in the earlier years many of these were
redemptioners. Among them one whose name will always be inseparable from
the history of New Orleans has a permanent place in this story.



One morning many years ago, when some business had brought me into a
corridor of one of the old court buildings facing the Place d'Armes, a
loud voice from within one of the court-rooms arrested my own and the
general ear. At once from all directions men came with decorous haste
towards the spot whence it proceeded. I pushed in through a green door
into a closely crowded room and found the Supreme Court of the State in
session. A short, broad, big-browed man of an iron sort, with silver hair
close shorn from a Roman head, had just begun his argument in the final
trial of a great case that had been before the court for many years, and
the privileged seats were filled with the highest legal talent, sitting to
hear him. It was a famous will case[26], and I remember that he was quoting
from "King Lear" as I entered.

"Who is that?" I asked of a man packed against me in the press.

"Roselius," he whispered; and the name confirmed my conjecture: the
speaker looked like all I had once heard about him. Christian Roselius
came from Brunswick, Germany, a youth of seventeen, something more than
two years later than Salome Müller and her friends. Like them he came an
emigrant under the Dutch flag, and like them his passage was paid in New
Orleans by his sale as a redemptioner. A printer bought his services for
two years and a half. His story is the good old one of courage,
self-imposed privations, and rapid development of talents. From printing
he rose to journalism, and from journalism passed to the bar. By 1836, at
thirty-three years of age, he stood in the front rank of that brilliant
group where Grymes was still at his best. Before he was forty he had been
made attorney-general of the State. Punctuality, application, energy,
temperance, probity, bounty, were the strong features of his character. It
was a common thing for him to give his best services free in the cause of
the weak against the strong. As an adversary he was decorous and amiable,
but thunderous, heavy-handed, derisive if need be, and inexorable. A time
came for these weapons to be drawn in defense of Salome Müller.

[26] The will of R.D. Shepherd.



In 1843 Frank and Eva Schuber had moved to a house on the corner of
Jackson and Annunciation streets.[27] They had brought up sons, two at
least, who were now old enough to be their father's mainstay in his
enlarged business of "farming" (leasing and subletting) the Poydras
market. The father and mother and their kindred and companions in long
past misfortunes and sorrows had grown to wealth and standing among the
German-Americans of New Orleans and Lafayette. The little girl cousin of
Salome Müller, who as a child of the same age had been her playmate on
shipboard at the Helder and in crossing the Atlantic, and who looked so
much like Salome, was a woman of thirty, the wife of Karl Rouff.

One summer day she was on some account down near the lower limits of New
Orleans on or near the river front, where the population was almost wholly
a lower class of Spanish people. Passing an open door her eye was suddenly
arrested by a woman of about her own age engaged in some humble service
within with her face towards the door.

Madame Karl paused in astonishment. The place was a small drinking-house,
a mere _cabaret_; but the woman! It was as if her aunt Dorothea, who had
died on the ship twenty-five years before, stood face to face with her
alive and well. There were her black hair and eyes, her olive skin, and
the old, familiar expression of countenance that belonged so distinctly to
all the Hillsler family. Madame Karl went in.

"My name," the woman replied to her question, "is Mary." And to another
question, "No; I am a yellow girl. I belong to Mr. Louis Belmonti, who
keeps this 'coffee-house.' He has owned me for four or five years. Before
that? Before that, I belonged to Mr. John Fitz Müller, who has the
saw-mill down here by the convent. I always belonged to him." Her accent
was the one common to English-speaking slaves.

But Madame Karl was not satisfied. "You are not rightly a slave. Your name
is Müller. You are of pure German blood. I knew your mother. I know you.
We came to this country together on the same ship, twenty-five years ago."

"No," said the other; "you must be mistaking me for some one else that I
look like."

But Madame Karl: "Come with me. Come up into Lafayette and see if I do not
show you to others who will know you the moment they look at you."

The woman enjoyed much liberty in her place and was able to accept this
invitation. Madame Karl took her to the home of Frank and Eva Schuber.

Their front door steps were on the street. As Madame Karl came up to them
Eva stood in the open door much occupied with her approach, for she had
not seen her for two years. Another woman, a stranger, was with Madame
Karl. As they reached the threshold and the two old-time friends exchanged
greetings, Eva said:

"Why, it is two years since last I saw you. Is that a German woman? - I
know her!"

"Well," said Madame Karl, "if you know her, who is she?"

"My God!" cried Eva, - "the long-lost Salome Müller!"

"I needed nothing more to convince me," she afterwards testified in court.
"I could recognize her among a hundred thousand persons."

Frank Schuber came in, having heard nothing. He glanced at the stranger,
and turning to his wife asked:

"Is not that one of the girls who was lost?"

"It is," replied Eva; "it is. It is Salome Müller!"

On that same day, as it seems, for the news had not reached them, Madame
Fleikener and her daughter - they had all become madams in Creole
America - had occasion to go to see her kinswoman, Eva Schuber. She saw the
stranger and instantly recognized her, "because of her resemblance to her

They were all overjoyed. For twenty-five years dragged in the mire of
African slavery, the mother of quadroon children and ignorant of her own
identity, they nevertheless welcomed her back to their embrace, not
fearing, but hoping, she was their long-lost Salome.

But another confirmation was possible, far more conclusive than mere
recognition of the countenance. Eva knew this. For weeks together she had
bathed and dressed the little Salome every day. She and her mother and all
Henry Müller's family had known, and had made it their common saying, that
it might be difficult to identify the lost Dorothea were she found; but if
ever Salome were found they could prove she was Salome beyond the shadow
of a doubt. It was the remembrance of this that moved Eva Schuber to say
to the woman:

"Come with me into this other room." They went, leaving Madame Karl,
Madame Fleikener, her daughter, and Frank Schuber behind. And when they
returned the slave was convinced, with them all, that she was the younger
daughter of Daniel and Dorothea Müller. We shall presently see what fixed
this conviction.

The next step was to claim her freedom. She appears to have gone back to
Belmonti, but within a very few days, if not immediately, Madame Schuber
and a certain Mrs. White - who does not become prominent - followed down
to the cabaret. Mrs. White went out somewhere on the premises, found
Salome at work, and remained with her, while Madame Schuber confronted
Belmonti, and, revealing Salome's identity and its proofs, demanded her
instant release.

Belmonti refused to let her go. But while doing so he admitted his belief
that she might be of pure white blood and of right entitled to freedom. He
confessed having gone back to John F. Müller[28] soon after buying her and
proposing to set her free; but Müller, he said, had replied that in such a
case the law required her to leave the country. Thereupon Belmonti had
demanded that the sale be rescinded, saying: "I have paid you my money for

"But," said Müller, "I did not sell her to you as a slave. She is as white
as you or I, and neither of us can hold her if she chooses to go away."

Such at least was Belmonti's confession, yet he was as far from consenting
to let his captive go after this confession was made as he had been
before. He seems actually to have kept her for a while; but at length she
went boldly to Schuber's house, became one of his household, and with his
advice and aid asserted her intention to establish her freedom by an
appeal to law. Belmonti replied with threats of public imprisonment, the
chain-gang, and the auctioneer's block.

Salome, or Sally, for that seems to be the nickname by which her kindred
remembered her, was never to be sold again; but not many months were to
pass before she was to find herself, on her own petition and bond of
$500, a prisoner, by the only choice the laws allowed her, in the famous
calaboose, not as a criminal, but as sequestered goods in a sort of
sheriff's warehouse. Says her petition: "Your petitioner has good reason
to believe that the said Belmonti intends to remove her out of the
jurisdiction of the court during the pendency of the suit"; wherefore not
_he_ but _she_ went to jail. Here she remained for six days and was then
allowed to go at large, but only upon _giving still another bond and
security_, and in a much larger sum than she had ever been sold for.

The original writ of sequestration lies before me as I write, indorsed as

No. 23,041.

Sally Miller ) Sequestration.
vs. ) Sigur, Caperton
Louis Belmonti. ) and Bonford.

Received 24th January, 1844, and on the 26th of the same
month sequestered the body of the plaintiff and committed her
to prison for safe keeping; but on the 1st February, 1844, she
was released from custody, having entered bond in the sum of
one thousand dollars with Francis Schuber as the security conditioned
according to law, and which bond is herewith returned
this 3d February, 1844.

B.F. LEWIS, d'y sh'ff.

Inside is the bond with the signatures, Frantz Schuber in German script,
and above in English,

[Illustration: THE COURT PAPERS.]

[Illustration: handwritten text]

Also the writ, ending in words of strange and solemn irony: "In the year
of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty-four and in the
sixty-eighth year of the Independence of the United States."

We need not follow the history at the slow gait of court proceedings. At
Belmonti's petition John F. Miller was called in warranty; that is, made
the responsible party in Belmonti's stead. There were "prayers" and rules,
writs and answers, as the cause slowly gathered shape for final contest.

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Online LibraryGeorge Washington CableStrange True Stories of Louisiana → online text (page 10 of 21)