This article appeared in the April 2011 Newsletter of the Texas Wendish Heritage Society of Serbin, Texas. (www.texaswendish.org)
On September 4, 1854, when the main body of Wendish migrants boarded the train at Bautzen, they did so without their pastor, Johann Kilian. Because someone lodged a charge against Kilian for inciting a person to emigrate, the Royal Prussian Circuit Court at Rothenburg prohibited him from leaving the country until the matter was settled. The Texas-bound Wends arrived at Hamburg on September 5 and remained there for five days as arrangements were made for the journey across the North Sea. Finally, on September 10,most of the group boarded the steamship Hamburg, that departed before dawn, and on September 13 the remaining five families boarded the Hammonia and departed. The Hamburg reached Grimsby, England, near Hull, at about 8:00 in the evening. The Hammonia arrived of course, three days later. They boarded trains, which took them across England to Liverpool. There they would wait until September 26 when the Ben Nevis sailed westward.
After the legal issue was resolved, Kilian, along with his wife, his sister-in-law, Hana Groeschel, and his two-year-old son Gerhard boarded the train for Hamburg. They boarded the train on September 13, and traveling day and night they arrived at Hamburg on September 14, about the same time the main group arrived at Liverpool. Instead of waiting for the next steamship, Kilian accepted some advice and decided that he could make up for lost time by immediately taking the train west to Belgium and to enter England at Dover. They boarded the train at Hamburg and made it to Cologne and then to Aachen with no difficulty. The problems began when he reached the little border town of Verviers where Belgium customs officials checked the passports and luggage. No sooner had the train resumed speed did Kilian realized that his passport had not been returned to him. They reached Mecheln late that afternoon and in the confusion at the station, Kilian boarded the train for Gent, but his family was on the train for Brussels. After a long night of worry at Gent (September 15) Kilian received help from a local person who found the family at Antwerp, where they had spent the night. They were all reunited in Gent on September 16. Obtaining the passport was not as easy and more days were lost waiting for the shipment of the passport from Verviers to Gent. They finally made it to the port of Ostende on September 18 and crossed the channel, reaching Dover at 2 o'clock in the morning of September 19. From Dover they traveled by train through London and arrived at Liverpool on September 20. Instead of gaining time, Kilian lost time and if cholera had not delayed the departure of the Ben Nevis, Kilian would not have crossed the Atlantic with the group.
The top line on the map shows the route of the Wends and the lower line shows the route of the Kilian family.