An Immigrant Story: Bavaria to Hamilton County

The official Bicentennial photographic history book includes personal stories that illustrate how Hamilton County came to be what it is today. In this submission by Stanton Renner, we hear how his family in Bavaria made their way by sea and land to settle in White River Township in 1835. We don't often think of Hamilton County as a landing pad for immigrants, but during our early years, people traveled far distances to pursue better lives in our community just as they do today.


Adam and Susanna Moppis (Mappes) Gardner were my third great-grandparents. They, along with Susanna’s parents, Michael and Susanna Mappes, and other family members including Adam and Susanna’s two young sons, immigrated from Bavaria to the United States in the summer and fall of 1834.


They were at sea for over 30 days, arriving at New York City on the 29th of December, 1834. From there, they traveled to Philadelphia, arriving in Wayne County, Indiana, by spring. The last stage of their journey was by oxen. The men went ahead with axes to clear a path, and they made it to White River Township in Hamilton County during the fall of 1835.


An 1825 map shows some of the early roads the Gardner family might have used during their journey from Pennsylvania to unsettled land west of Strawtown. It also illustrates the lack of infrastructure during that time and the endurance of early settlers like Adam and Susanna. (See credit below)

They settled west of Strawtown, clearing a small area and erecting a small, crude log cabin at that location. Their possessions consisted of six pewter plates, six knives and forks, three cups and saucers, and a few cooking utensils. They kept all these in a large cherry chest Adam had made, which is still in the family.


Due to the swampy nature of the area, the family suffered with ague, or flu, for most of the winter. They ate potatoes and made simple bread, but meat was obtained by hunting when Adam was well enough. In 1836, they crossed to the west side of White River beyond Strawtown and built a better cabin, cleared land, and raised corn and a large garden. Adam killed game to make coats for himself and his two small boys.


By 1838, Adam had purchased a team of horses and a few sheep. They also built a larger two-room cabin. Susanna had a spinning wheel and spun yarn. Also in 1838, Adam went by way of the Lafayette Trace to Lafayette to purchase a few crude farm tools so they could clear additional acreage. He also would take corn to Cincinnati, the closest market, to trade for salt, leather, and other items. Eventually, 12 children were born to Adam and Susanna. Four sons would reach adulthood, of which three would serve in the Union Army during the Civil War. Two would die during the war, and the third was wounded.

In this map from 1839, you can see how Strawtown and the surrounding area developed over the course of 14 years. (See credit below.)

Susanna’s three sisters also settled in Hamilton County. Catharina married Jacob Mosbaugh, Elizabeth married Alpheus Roberts, and Anna Maria married Augustinus Buscher. Descendants of these four sisters began an annual gathering, the MGRB reunion, in 1901, and this tradition lasted until 2001. Today, there are hundreds of descendants of this family in Hamilton County and throughout the nation.


Adam and Susanna eventually owned 140 acres of high-quality farmland, and each lived well into their eighth decade of life. Of their 12 children, eight lived into adulthood.


What makes this family so unique is that they are not unique. Hundreds of other early settlers to this area would have a similar experience. This history of the Mappes/Gardner family, my family, helps deepen my respect for all those brave folks who helped give us our way of life here today. I wish I could have known my great-great-great grandparents.


Experience Hamilton County’s history inside the glossy pages of Celebrating Hamilton County, Indiana: 200 Years of Change. Revisit events and figures you know and love, and find new stories and historical photos from across the county.


The Hamilton County Bicentennial is proudly supported by Duke Energy, Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, Hamilton County Tourism Inc., and Hamilton County Historical Society.


CREDITS: 1. Bradley, Abraham, Cartographer. Map of the United States: intended chiefly to exhibit the post roads & distances. [Washington, D.C.: Abraham Bradley, 1825] Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/98685522/> 2. Burr, David H, and John Arrowsmith. The American atlas, exhibiting the post offices, post roads, rail roads, canals, and the physical & political divisions of the United States of North America. [London?: John Arrowsmith, 1839] Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/2009582191/>.