Christian Nisley

In a previous post I spoke about the pioneer Abraham C. Nisly, who moved to Kansas in 1883. But his story starts long before Kansas with his father, Christian Nisley. He is represented in Abraham’s name by the middle initial, C.

Christian’s story is briefly told in the Family Record of Abraham C. Nisly and his Descendants and Supplement which was compiled in 1971 by a Clara Nisly.I don’t know where Clara got her information, but it says that Christian Nisley came to America from Germany in 1804. The genealogy book of Abraham’s brother, Peter C. Nisley also has a history of Christian Nisley. It is interesting to compare the two.

In the Abraham book it says,

Christian Nisley, came to America from Germany, where the middle class and poor people did not own any land but all worked for the rich. Always when meeting or passing their master or mistress, they had to stop, bow, and salute them. He left his brother May 7, 1804, went abroad ship June 6, started the voyage July 2, reached open sea July 17, and reached his destination October 12, 1804.

His age is thought to be seventeen at this time and as he did not have enough money to pay for his fare, he stayed at Philadelphia until a farmer, Christel Zug, came along who needed help. (To clarify: wanted to hire someone to help him.) Mr. Zug paid Christian’s fare and took him along home to have him work out the debt. Mrs. Zug was displeased with her husband’s choice of bringing home a “Deutsch lump” (German bum), making Christian feel ill at ease in the Zug home. After being in the home for four days, Christian did such a perfect job of churning the butter for Mrs. Zug, that she changed her attitude toward him. Later Christian told the Zugs that he had not dared to eat to satisfy his hunger at first.

Christian kept a diary during this time which is in the possession of one of Christian’s descendants. It is written in German and being old, it is not easily read. I will quote most of the information I received about the contents of the diary. They had difficulties at sea, seems like a war ship gave them trouble but released them again, this was early in the voyage. Later a storm did some damage to the ship. It records his marriage and births of their children.

A few inheritance items to his children as follows.

Bible $6.00          2 pails $ 1.12 1/2          Chair .87 1/2           Tablecloth .37 1/2           Chest $3.33 1/2          Straw tick $2.33

Clock $5.00          Cooking pot $ .48       Towel $.15               Knives and forks $.87 1/2       Bed $2.50         Feather tick $1.87

Teapot $.25.          2 Sheep with lamb $4.50             2 Cows $22.00

Christian attended the Amish church in Somerset County, Pa. Here he met a girl by the name of Sarah Miller who he married on June 19, 1807. He was ordained to the ministry and later moved to Holmes County, Ohio. From this Union were born 14 children: Magdalena, Frany, Daniel, Christian, Katerine, Susan, Elizabeth, Anna, Peter, Sarah, Abraham, Christina, Mary, John.

The history from the Peter C. Nisley Book is more detailed.

Our immigrant ancestor, Christian Nisley, left home in Germany on May 2, 1804 at the age of  sixteen. He must have traveled over land some distance, accompanied by his brother, according to his day book, (the diary mentioned in the Abraham book.) which he kept of his travels. He boarded the ship on June 6th but didn’t reach open sea until July 14, 1804, due to the direction of the wind.

As soon as they reached the high sea, they encountered an English warship who took part of their crew but later released them.

They also endured quite a storm in August which lasted from the 17th to the 19th. On August 24th a storm started at 4 o’clock in the morning and lasted until dark. It was so strong that at the highest point it broke the two high masts of  the ship.

They finally reached America on September 29,1804, landing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Now young Christian Nisley was in the New World, as America was called at that time.

Why did he come? A letter subscribed to the Budget in 1962 by the late Bishop Leander Keim of Haven, Kansas, who was married to a third generation descendant of  Christian, tells us there was military training in Germany at that time. Young Christian’s parents, though it isn’t believed by some that they were Amish, must have been strongly opposed to military training. Therefore, they sent their son to the United States by himself and surely didn’t expect to see him again. Another reason he came was because the poor and middle class all worked for the rich people in Germany and didn’t own land of their own. So whenever they passed their rich master or mistress, they had to stop and salute.

The young immigrant was believed by some to have been the only  Nisley to come to this country, but according to Dr. Philip Swarr, there were Nissleys in America in the early 1700’s.

Christian’s parents didn’t have money to pay for his ship fare, but the ship companies brought many young people over at that time and held them in Philadelphia until someone came in and paid their fare. Two weeks after landing, an Amishman, Christian Zug, paid young Christian’s fare and took him along home.

Now we’ll take a look at the history of the United States at the time when Christian arrived. Thomas Jefferson was President. He made the Louisiana Purchase from France, doubling the size of what the United States had been.  The census in 1800 was five million. Ohio was admitted as a state in 1803.

The above post is a draft I’ve had sitting in my blog since October.

My interest in historical research has not subsided, but this school year has been very busy for me and I simply haven’t taken the time to sit down and write more about the things I am digging up. I hope to make more of an effort to add bits and pieces in the coming months!

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