The Forces that Pushed People to Emigrate
Wilhelm Niermann

Auf deutsch 

The present-day district of Stemwede is representative of the other areas as well. The information presented here comes from the old issues of "Heimat-Blaetter fuer die Grafschaft Diepholz",

( Regional Pages for the County Diepholz ).

The only reference from the 18th century cites a population of 4701 for Dielingen and Wehdem in 1785. By 1820 the population increased by about 100 individuals to 5801. Over the next 25 years, from 1820 to 1845, the population grew by 2406 individuals. With a population of 8826 the peak was reached in the villages that occupied our present-day area. The increase by 3525 people over 63 years, from 1785 to 1848, is a growth of 75 % .

This development was due to a better standard of living brought on by an increased demand for woven linen. About three-quarters of the population were involved in growing flax and in weaving of linen. For most people who farmed for a livelihood the weaving of linen became an additional income. The coming of the weaving machine spelled their doom. Used first in England and later in Bielefeld, Germany, the cottage industry with its hand-woven product no longer could compete with the machine-woven linen. Machine-made goods were produced faster, cheaper and their quality was consistent. 

The demand for hand-woven linen quickly declined. To make matters worse, about the same time cotton products entered the market at a cheaper price as well. The low price offered for hand-woven linen led to poverty and suffering among the people who had depended on this additional income. With the demand gone the "Legge" ( linen market ) closed in Dielingen in 1840. Its importance was gone. At markets such this the quality and size of the product was checked for certification by the state. Though the linen market continued in Wehdem a few more years, the statement appears in 1847 that the "Legge" there no longer attracted as many people as before. ( Source : Karl Hamer, "Evidence of population movement in the Districts of Dielingen and Wehdem", in Diepholzer Heimat-Blaetter ).The distressing conditions in the area are revealed in a few numbers for the year 1847: [In Wehdem 67 poor children and two old widows received free lunch for five month. Many children were boarded. To feed the needy in Westrup 7 Reichstaler, 17 Silbergroschen and 9 Pfennig were raised monthly for six month. In Oppendorf 25 children were fed for four month and in Oppenwehe 34 children for six month. The Prussian government contributed 580 Reichstaler toward the support. 1 T(h)aler = 30 Silbergroschen = 360 Pfennig. See: Fritz Verdenhalven : Alte Masse, Muenzen und Gewichte aus dem deutschen Sprachgebiet. Neustadt an der Aisch, Germany, Verlag Degener & Co. 1968 ].

An area with thriving cottage industry of flax cultivation, spinning and weaving had become a poorhouse! When crops also failed in these already hard times, it only added to the discontent of the people. Many began to leave the area and emigration to America increased in the 1850's.

The individual states of the US described their states in glowing terms in promotionial literature and promised land to those willing to immigrate. Emigration offices opened, offered help with the required paperwork and the purchase of tickets for the passage. They were not allowed to recruit but be could of assistance if asked !!!


A few examples of the emigration from the former district of Wehdem :

1841 : 23 individuals
1842 : 33 individuals
1847 : 3 families and 17 single individuals
1848 : 3 families and 45 single individuals
1856 : 44 individuals
1859 : 96 individuals
1860 : 6 families and 40 single individuals
1861 : 41 individuals
In the 1880's emigration picked up again !

In the 19th century the Stemwede area, governed by the Kingdom of Prussia, bordered the Kingdom of Hannover. This geographic proximity allowed many people to leave without official permission. A short walk took them to the Kingdom of Hannover where, without further difficulties, they continued to the emigration ports of Bremen and Bremerhaven. Since mandatory military service was lengthy in Prussia, men of military age had another reason to leave.

The number of emigrants who left without official permission was as high if not higher than the number of those who left with official sanction. Today the lists found in the archives give mostly names of those who emigrated with permission. The names of young men obligated to military service are found in the old military records with the names of those who left illegally and who were sentenced in absentia. The total population loss from 1845 to 1864 was about 500 individuals and from 1865 to 1885 about 1100.

Today it is difficult to compile a complete listing. For example, most of the young women are not listed. Had they, like the young men, been faced with a military obligation the situation would be different. And sometimes an entire family is identified only by the name of the "head-of-household"!

Of the villages in the old district of Dielingen-Wehdem by far the larger number of people emigrated from Wehdem.

This text is part of program created by Mr. Niermann that contains a database of about 5500 individuals that emigrated from Stemwede, mainly to America. The program was written by and is purchasable from:

Wilhelm F. Niermann
Stemwederberg Str. 84
32351 Stemwede-Wehdem