HOMER D. BLANCHARD
It is not often that we find in America documentary source material relating to
events in the lives of German men of letters. In the case of the poet Nikolaus
Lenau, however, we do have such sources because he spent some time in the Uni-
ted States and purchased land in Crawford County, Ohio. This writer has discovered
new documentary evidence which dispels the old legends about Lenau's visit to
America and his speculation in Ohio land. The time relationships of his movements
in America now appear in more reasonable perspective, and we can get a more
accurate overview of events as the property passed through his hands.
Nikolaus Franz Niembsch Edler von Strehlenau (Nikolaus Lenau) was born of
German parents at Csatad, Hungary, in 1802. His father, a dissolute gambler, died
before the boy was five years old. The high-strung, passionate mother struggled
against poverty for the sake of her children, of whom her idol was Nikolaus. The
boy's first impressions of nature came from the vast and solitary Hungarian plains,
the loneliness of which doubtless nurtured in him an inherent tendency to melan-
choly. From 1821 to 1831 Lenau studied variously agriculture, law, medicine, and
philosophy, but found satisfaction in none of them. His mother's death in 1829
disturbed him greatly, while an unfortunate love affair left him with a haunting
feeling of guilt and lost innocence.
In 1831 the young man wandered to W??rttemberg, where his courtly bearing,
poetic temperament, and virtuosity on the violin won him a circle of friends. His
uneasy spirit, however, gave him no peace. He came to America in 1832, but the
supersensitive poet found only ruthless nature and a materialistic, unpoetic people.
He returned to Germany in 1833 where his poems had meanwhile won him fame.
There he became a restless wanderer, living now in Vienna, now in W??rttemberg.
By 1844 ever-increasing melancholy drove him insane, and he died in 1850 in an
asylum near Vienna.
Lenau has been called the classicist of Weltschmerz (literally, world-grief), that
conflict between temperament and environment in which no reconciliation seems
possible. His whole life was a desperate search for peace and idyllic happiness. He
sought comfort in music, in masterful violin playing, and in nature, which for him
became poetry. Preeminently a poet of pessimism, he set forth with impressive
seriousness the gloomy, morbid longings of his soul for solitude and death. His
lyrics speak in dark, autumnal tones, but subtly and often quite impressionistically.
Lenau's motives for a journey to America were mixed. He was weary of Austrian
political affairs, and at the same time felt the pull of the current of emigration
Mr. Blanchard is professor of German at Ohio Wesleyan University.
238 OHIO HISTORY
beginning to surge westward and the effects of the propaganda praising the limit-
less opportunity in America.1 The desire to escape Austrian restrictions was per-
haps least important, for Lenau seems to have seriously considered only a visit.
He hoped to school his imagination in the forest primeval and find a new world of
poetry in the New World--in his own words, "I need America for my cultural
development." There was also the profit motive. He hoped to buy land cheap and
lease or sell it dear.2
Lenau embarked for America from Amsterdam on July 27, 1832. The ocean
voyage, marred by storms and bad food, lasted nearly two and a half months. On
October 8, 1832, the ship anchored in Chesapeake Bay, and he and two other
passengers were rowed into shallow water and then carried ashore on the backs
On October 16, 1832, Lenau wrote his first letter from America to his brother-
in-law Anton Schurz. He reported the landing and complained about nearly every-
thing: "The American has no wine, no nightingale! Let him listen to his
mocking-bird while he drinks his glass of cider, with his dollars in his pocket. I'd
rather sit down with a German and listen--while he drinks his wine--to a beloved
nightingale, even if my pocket is poorer."4 Then, for over four months there was
silence. Finally, on February 28, 1833, Lenau wrote to Schurz from Economy,
Pennsylvania, complaining about rheumatism, apologizing for not writing sooner,
and promising to tell everything orally at some later date.5
On March 5, 1833, he sent letters to Emilie and Georg Reinbeck from New
Lisbon, Ohio (now Lisbon in Columbiana County), where he was confined to his
room with a head wound as a result of a sleigh accident the day before.6 He
wrote from there on March 6, 1833, to Joseph Klemm7 that he was recovering, but
he continued to complain about the land and the people. On March 8 he sent
another bitter letter to Schurz, also from Lisbon.8
In the meantime the poet had purchased land in America. On March 15, 1833,
he signed a lease at Economy, Pennsylvania, with Ludwig Haberle, a fellow immi-
grant. The agreement was that Haberle should clear and bring under cultivation
300 of 400 acres of land which Lenau had bought in Crawford County, Ohio.
Lenau then departed for Niagara Falls and New York City, and by late June 1833
was in Bremen.9
1. Eduard Castle, ed., Nikolaus Lenau, Samtliche Werke und Briefe (Leipzig, 1910), III, 146; here-
inafter cited as Castle, Lenau. Hermann Engelhard, ed., Nikolaus Lenau, Samtliche Werke, Briefe
(Stuttgart, 1959), gives a selection of only about 120 from the more than 900 letters published by Castle
and omits all but the first one from America.
2. Jozsef Turoczi-Trostler, Lenau (Berlin, 1961), 38-42; Castle, Lenau, III, 142, 145, 184.
3. Ibid., 184-186, 192.
4. Ibid., 193. "Der Amerikaner hat keinen Wein, keine Nachtigall! mag er bei einem Glase Cider
seine Spottdrossel behorchen, mit seinen Dollars in der Tasche, ich seize mich lieber zum Deutschen und
hore bei seinem Wein die liebe Nachtigall, wenn auch die Tasche armer ist."
5. Ibid., 195.
6. Ibid., 195-200.
7. Anton X. Schurz, Lenau's Leben (Stuttgart, 1855), I, 204, 206; hereinafter cited as Schurz, Leben.
8. Castle, Lenau, III, 200-204; VI, 6-8. Not in Schurz.
9. Castle, Lenau, III, 204-207; see also ibid., V, 349, for Lenau's sworn statement in a court hear-
ing that he remained in America until the middle of April 1833. When Lenau leased his 400 acres in
Crawford County to Ludwig Haberle in March 1833, he was careful to spell out just what Haberle had
to do to improve the property. See text of lease agreement at end of article.
Lenau's Ohio Venture 239
Seventeen years after his return from America Lenau died without publishing
any direct report of his Ohio experience and apparently without confiding very
much to friends. Shortly after the poet's death, several biographies appeared: one
by Emma Niendorf in 1853, one by Ludwig August Frankl in 1854, one written in
1854 by his friend Anastasius Grun in the 1855 edition of Lenau's complete works,
and a two-volume biography by Anton Schurz in 1855. Schurz's work contains all
but the final letter from America.
From the last-named publication we learn that after writing to Schurz from
Baltimore on October 16, 1832, Lenau traveled under the familiar name of
Niembsch, bought a horse, and set out for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, accompanied
by a servant, Philipp Huber. As he neared Pittsburgh he passed through Bedford,
Pennsylvania, already famous for its springs and resort. Here a Judge Alexander
King entertained him, presenting him with a copy of Mitchell's Travellers Guide
Through the United States, on the flyleaf of which King had inscribed a dedication
to his friend Niembsch. Lenau did not trust himself to speak English, so he and
the jurist are said to have conversed in Latin.10
From Bedford, Lenau continued to Pittsburgh, where he had letters of introduc-
tion to C. L. Volz and other successful Germans. These men received him warmly
and, in response to his expressed wish to buy land in the United States, directed
him down the Ohio River to Economy, Pennsylvania, where George Rapp's com-
munistic colony was located. Here Lenau would find German-speaking people able
to advise him in the matter of buying land.11
Even before the appearance of the early biographies, the story had been circu-
lated that Lenau was in such a hurry to effect the land purchase that by October
26, 1832, he had already bought 400 acres in Crawford County. The 1852 little
Moderne Klassiker edition of Lenau contains a biographical sketch which states:
"On October 26, 1832, he bought a tract of virgin forest in Crawfort [sic] County
which he leased for eight years to a carpenter from Wurttemberg."12
Anastasius Grin repeats the assertion in 1854 when he writes: "At his own
expense and risk Niembsch bought 400 acres of government lands in Crawford
County on October 26, 1832," and points out that Lenau, in the company of C. L.
Volz and the writer W. R. Riedlen, visited Economy, Pennsylvania, on February 7,
1833. Riedlen's translation of J. P. Davis's Guter Rat an Einwanderer in die Verein-
igten Staaten is dedicated to Volz and Lenau in memory of the trip.13 Grun seems
to have been the first to mention the purchase of government lands (Staatslander-
eien). Interestingly, the Schurz biography of 1855 makes no mention of the land
purchase as such, except to include an abbreviated form of the lease contract with
Haberle, although Schurz should have known the details if anyone did.
In the same year, 1855, Ferdinand Kurnberger's controversial novel Der Amerika-
Mide appeared.14 Kurnberger's imaginary hero, Moorfeld, visited America much
10. Schurz, Leben, I, 196-211.
11. Karl J. Arndt, George Rapp's Harmony Society, 1785-1847 (Philadelphia, 1965), I, 196-211; Lenau
is mentioned only in the caption of an illustration.
12. Moderne Klassiker, Vol. I, Nicholaus Lenau (Cassell, 1852), 13. "Am 26. October 1832 kaufte er
eine Strecke Urwald in Crawfort County, welche er einem Zimmermeisler aus Wuremberg, auf 8 Jahre
13. Anastasius Grun, ed., Nicolaus Lenau, Samtliche Werke (Stuttgart, 1855), I, xl; Eduard Castle,
ed., Anastasius Grun, Werke, (Berlin, 1909), VI, 39. "Niembsch erkaufte auf eigene Rechnung am 26
Oktober 1832 in Crawford-County 400 Morgen Urwald an Staatslandereien."
14. Ferdinand Kurnberger, Der Amerika-Mude (Frankfurt, 1855).
240 OHIO HISTORY
in the Lenau manner, had a horrible experience, and so vividly suggested the real
Lenau that many at once assumed the fictional figure was Lenau himself. Moorfeld
also went to New Lisbon, Ohio, bought land there, spent time on that land, and
had a variety of disillusioning experiences that revealed the barbarism of the
American people. Although Kurnberger later denied to Schurz that he had written
about Lenau, the misapprehension was very slow to die out.15 Some twenty years
later there appeared in Der Deutsche Pioneer (The German Pioneer), a German
magazine published in Cincinnati, an article by Emil Klauprecht entitled "Nicolas
Lenau as an Ohio Pioneer." Klauprecht used Kurnberger's work freely and stated
as fact what was only the latter's fiction.16
An examination of the treatment subsequent Lenau scholars and biographers
have given to the matter of the land purchase reveals certain patterns. Some, like
C. von Wurzbach, Max Koch, and Paul Weber err in having Lenau buy his land
before he reached Ohio; that is, before leaving Europe, in Baltimore, or in Econ-
omy, Pennsylvania.17 Some, like Emma Poesche and J. Turoczi-Trostler, err in
reporting the amount of land purchased. Others are confused in the matter of
geography: T. S. Baker, Eduard Castle, and Paul Weber located Crawford County
in Pennsylvania, and Carl Schaeffer located Pittsburgh in Ohio. O. E. Deutsch
even put Lenau in Pittsburgh on October 18, 1832, although we know he was in
Baltimore just two days before. Most writers, however, cling to October 26, 1832,
and New Lisbon as the date and place of purchase. Among these are G. A. Mul-
finger, H. Bischoff, L. Roustan, Karl Arndt, H. Englehard, and Ruth Berges.18
One should note that it was not the early biographers but the novelist Kurn-
berger in 1855 who named New Lisbon as the place where the fictional Moorfeld
purchased American land. Kurnberger wrote to Anton Schurz in 1854, before the
Schurz biography appeared: "It now seems clear from the statement, with which
you have so kindly provided me, that the Lisbon ruin was caused by two things
.... "19 This would seem to indicate that Kurnberger had had access through
15. Otto Erich Deutsch, ed., Ferdinand Kurnberger, Gesammelte Werke (Munchen, 1910), IV, 538.
16. Emil Klauprecht, "Irrfahrten zweier deutscher Dichterfursten nach Amerika, I, Nicolaus Lenau
als Pionier Ohios," Der Deutsche Pionier, VII (November 1875-February 1876), 348-356, 414-418, 459-
17. Constant von Wurzbach, Biographisches Lexikon des Kaiserthums Oesterreich (Wien, 1869),
XI, 329, says Lenau bought land in Economy, Pa.; Max Koch, ed., Lenaus Werke, in Deutsche National-
Literatur (Berlin, ), CLIV, xxiv, says Lenau bought the land before he left Europe; Paul C. Weber,
America in Imaginative German Literature in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century (New York, 1926),
163, says Lenau set out from Baltimore for the farm he had already bought.
18. Emma Poesche, "Nicolaus Lenau," The Open Court, VI (June 23, 1893), 3292 says he bought
1400 acres; Turoczi-Trostler, Lenau, 56, says he bought 1920 acres, the same as Kurnberger's hero;
Thomas Stockham Baker, Lenau and Young Germany in America (Philadelphia, 1897), 19; Eduard
Castle, "Amerikamude. Lenau und Kurnberger," in Karl Glossy, ed., Jahrbuch der Grillparzer-Gesellschaft
(Wien, 1902), 20; Weber, American German Literature, 163 (There is, however, a Crawford County in
western Pennsylvania. The same error persists in Gero Von Wilpert, Lexikon der Wellliteratur (Stutt-
gart, 1963), 794); Carl Schaeffer, ed., Lenaus Werke (Leipzig, 1910), I, 37; Deutsch, Ferdinand Kurn-
berger, IV, 580; George A. Mulfinger, "Lenau in Amerika," Americana Germanica, I (1897), No. 2,
p. 7-61, No. 3, p. 1-16; Ferdinand Kurnberger, "Der Amerikamude, dessen Quellen und Verhaltnis zu
Lenaus Amerikareise," German American Annals, I (June, July 1903), 385; Heinrich Bischoff, Nikolaus
Lenaus Lyrik, ihre Geschichte, Chronologie und Textkritik (Berlin, 1920), 284; L[udovic] Roustan, "Le
Sejour de Lenau en Amerique," Revue de Litterature Comparee, VIII (1928), 68; Karl J. Arndt, "Niko-
laus Lenau's American Experience, 1832/33," Monatshefte, XXIV (1932), 241-244; "The Effect of
America on Lenau's Life and Work," Germanic Review, XXXIII (April 1958), 130; Engelhard, Lenau,
973; Ruth Berges, "Lenau's Quest in America," American-German Review, XXVII (April-May 1962),
Lenau's Ohio Venture 241
Schurz to one or more of Lenau's letters from Lisbon, hence knew the name of
the place. Yet Kurnberger's hero bought land at a sheriffs sale held in the city
hall there, and no mention of government lands was made at all. The "ruin"
referred to the entire land-purchase fiasco.20
Although Anastasius Grun in 1854 mentioned government lands, the more spe-
cific idea of a United States land office being at Lisbon did not appear until intro-
duced by G. A. Mulfinger in 1897.21 Mulfinger corresponded and conferred with a
number of persons supposed to have known Lenau in America. His principal in-
formant, however, seems to have been H. A. Rattermann of Cincinnati, editor of
Der Deutsche Pionier at the time Klauprecht's rehash of the Kurnberger novel
appeared in 1875. Mulfinger said that after stops in Pittsburgh and Economy,
Pennsylvania, Lenau hurried to Lisbon, "where the land office was located,"22 and
by October 26, 1832, eighteen days after his arrival in the United States, had
bought 400 acres of government land in Crawford County, Ohio, about 200 miles
from Pittsburgh and not far from present Bucyrus.
Mulfinger then developed the idea that since the purchaser could not claim full
possession of his land until a deed bearing the signature and seal of the President
of the United States was in hand, Lenau probably took up residence somewhere
in the neighborhood of the land office. The author claimed that no place was more
ideally suited for this purpose than Economy, Pennsylvania, situated as it was on
a good road between Lisbon and Pittsburgh.23
Mulfinger, furthermore, was the first to give us the colorful tale of a mid-winter
visit by Lenau to his new purchase in the Ohio wilderness. Late in 1894 Ratterman
informed Mulfinger that in April 1874, twenty years earlier and more than forty
years after Lenau's sojourn in America, he had visited the land formerly owned by
Lenau in the company of an eighty-year-old resident named Brunnert, who had
bought the farm next to Lenau's in 1831 and who could still remember the poet.24
According to the Brunnert-Rattermann-Mulfinger version, at about Christmas
of the "extraordinarily cold" winter of 1832-33 Lenau went by sleigh to view his
land in the Ohio wilderness. He is supposed to have spent several weeks on or
near his property, on the edge of what is now New Washington, Ohio. He is
described as a fine gentleman who in no way fitted into the backwoods. He wore
elegant clothes: a fur coat, dancing shoes, and white gloves. Wearing kid gloves,
he seized an axe in order to cut down some trees, but laid it down after a few
strokes. He stayed with an English neighbor, whom Brunnert recalled as being
named Boyle. Lenau had difficulty communicating with Boyle and had very little
to do with the German settlers in the area. He is said to have stayed in the house,
writing all the time and having little to say. People called him the "crazy German."
Suddenly, in February 1833, he disappeared, having gone by sleigh back through
Lisbon to Pittsburgh.25
19. Deutsch, Ferdinand Kurnberger, IV, 578. "Nun erhellt aber aus dem Expose, das durch Ihre
Gute mir vorliegt, dasz der Ruin von Lisbon durch zwei Unstande hedingt ward...."
20. Ibid., 346-355; Castle, Lenau, III, 197; see also Schurz, Leben, I, 213, II, 41.
21. Mulfinger, "Lenau in Amerika," No. 2, p. 37, fn. 2.
22. This information came from Rattermann.
23. Mulfinger, "Lenau in Amerika," No. 2, p. 39.
24. Ibid., 51.
25. Ibid., 48-51.
242 OHIO HISTORY
In 1927 John Blankenagel visited the Crawford County courthouse in Bucyrus,
Ohio, and there found in the old records the entries of the "three Patent Deeds,
two Quit-Claim Deeds, one statement of procuracy by Lenau, one statement in
which his guardian, Dr. Alexander Bach, confers power of attorney, and finally, a
deed of sale."26 The courthouse records show that the patents for which Lenau
supposedly waited so long in and around Lisbon were not in fact issued until
August 6, 1834, or more than a year after he had returned to Europe and were
not recorded in the courthouse books until December 2, 1845, thirteen years after
the land was bought.
Despite the claims of scholars and biographers for more than a century, we can
now say the facts relating to Lenau's Ohio story are these: Lenau did not buy
government land in Lisbon; he bought it at the land office in Wooster, Ohio. Lenau
did not buy land on October 26, 1832; he bought it on November 26, 1832.
John Kilbourn in The Ohio Gazetteer of 1831 speaks of the:
Congress Lands ... so called because they are sold to purchasers, by the immediate officers
of the general government ....
For the purpose of selling out these lands; they are divided into eight several land dis-
tricts, called after the name of the town in which the land offices are kept; namely, Wooster,
Steubenville, Zanesville, Marietta, Chillicothe, Cincinnati, Piqua, and Tiffin ....
Wooster district includes the whole of Richland and Wayne, and parts of Stark, Holmes,
and Knox counties; and a strip of three miles wide off from the east end of Crawford and
Marion Counties.... the land office is kept at Wooster....
Kilbourn speaks of Wooster as "a post town, and seat of justice for Wayne
county .... Here also is kept the land office for the sale of lands, in the Wooster
land district." He mentions no land office in his description of Lisbon.27 Moreover,
the Senate Documents for the Twenty-first United States Congress report on the
sale of public lands from the various land offices, including Wooster, up to 1830,
but nowhere mention a land office in Lisbon.28 Wooster is named as the site of the
land office in the courthouse records located by John Blankenagel at Bucyrus, Ohio,
where the recorded patent deeds state that the "Publick Lands" were "Subject
to sale at Wooster, Ohio," a clue which scholars have overlooked for over forty
Acting on the hope that record of Lenau's transactions might be found in the
National Archives and Records, Washington, D. C., the author contacted the Ser-
vice and received the following answer:
The records of the former General Land Office in the National Archives show that the
following cash certificates were issued at the United States Land Office in Wooster, Ohio,
to "Nicholas Niembsch of Crawford County, Ohio," for land in Crawford County, near
the present city of New Washington, Ohio:
1. Cash Certificate Number 2594, issued November 26, 1832, for the SE 1/4 of Section
1, Township 18 North, Range 21 West, containing 160 acres of land at $1.25 an acre,
amounting to $200.00.
26. J. C. Blankenagel, "Deeds to Lenau's Property in Ohio," Germanic Review, II (July 1927), 203.
27. John Kilbourn, The Ohio Gazetteer, 10th ed. (Columbus, 1831), 51-55, 303-304, 225.
28. U. S. Congress, Senate, Documents, 21st cong., 2d sess., I, No. 1, p. 72.
29. Blankenagel, "Deeds to Lenau's Property in Ohio," 204.
Lenau's Ohio Venture 243
2. Cash Certificate Number 2595, issued November 26, 1832, for the NW 1/4 of Sec-
tion 12, Township 18 North, Range 21 West, at $1.25 an acre, amounting to $200.00.
3. Cash Certificate Number 2596, issued November 26, 1832, for the S 1/2 of the NW
1/4 of Section 12, Township 18 North, Range 21 West, containing 80 acres, at $1.25
an acre, amounting to $100.00.
The patents were issued for the above certificates on August 6, 1834. The certificate
files do not include any personal information about Nicholas Niembsch [Nikolaus Lenau]
nor do they contain his signature. It is probable that the land was sold at the Land Office
in Wooster because that was the nearest Land Office open at the time of the sale. A Land
Office usually sold land within a one hundred mile radius and people often had to travel
even farther to reach an open Land Office. It was not unusual for the land entryman to
state that he was a resident of the County where the land was situated, or the County
where the Land Office was located for there were no formal legal requirements as to
residence when land was sold for cash. The documents in these files are the only instru-
ments created at the time of land sale: one item is a Register's Receipt used to document
the entry on the records and the other is a Receiver's Receipt issued to record the payment
of the money. No application was required for a cash sale of the land.... The fact that
the patents were not issued until two years after the sale is not significant for the General
Land Office was many years behind in the issuance of land patents. In some instances the
patents were not issued until five and six years after the sale....30
It is interesting that the parcels of land specified by Castle and Schurz in the
lease contract with Haberle, the first lessee of the Lenau land, are described by
the cash certificate numbers, which agree with those in the National Archives
records.31 At the time this contract was drawn up Lenau had no documents prov-
ing ownership other than these cash certificates. Schurz, however, and later Castle
must have had access to the original lease contract, and Schurz may possibly have
seen the cash certificates if Lenau took them back to Europe with him. The patents,
however, remained in this country.
As for the ease of travel, Kilbourn's Ohio Gazetteer describes the principal roads
across the state in 1831. The road from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Tiffin, Ohio,
is the only main east-west road mentioned. It was eighteen miles from Pittsburgh
to Economy, Pennsylvania, and forty miles from Economy to Lisbon; it was sixty-
four miles from Lisbon to Wooster, the seat of the land office; from Wooster to
Caroline, Ohio, was another fifty-eight miles.32 Where this state road passed through
Caroline was probably less than eight miles from Lenau's land. The road from
Wooster to Bucyrus, on the other hand, would have passed twelve or thirteen miles
from Lenau's land.
The Ohio Repository, a Canton, Ohio, weekly newspaper, carried this advertise-
ment in the October 26, 1832, issue: "Daily Line of Stages, From Beavertown to
Wooster. The subscriber is now running a Daily Line of Stages from Beavertown,
Pa. to Wooster, Ohio.... At Beavertown it connects a Daily Line from Pittsburgh,
and departs Westward at 3 o'clock P.M. and arrive at New Lisbon at 10 o'clock
same evening; leave next morning at 2, arrive at Canton at 10 o'clock A.M.: leave
Canton at 11 o'clock A.M. and arrive at Wooster at 8 P.M. Departs Eastward next
morning at 2 o'clock, arrive at Massillon at 8--Canton at 10--New Lisbon at 8 P.M.,
and Beavertown next morning at 9 o'clock...."33
30. National Archives and Records Service to author, June 21, 1965.
31. Castle, Lenau, III, 204-207; see also Schurz, Leben, I, 210-211, who condenses the contract.
32. Kilbourn, Ohio Gazetteer, "Appendix," 112.
33. The Ohio Repository, October 26, 1832.
244 OHIO HISTORY
According to Kilbourn it was ten miles from Economy, Pennsylvania, to Beaver-
town.34 To go by stagecoach from Beavertown to Wooster, or return, could involve
at least a twenty-nine hour journey with an overnight stop in Lisbon. Seven hours
were scheduled for the thirty mile trip from Beavertown to Lisbon, which surely
gives evidence of the primitive roads and harsh travel conditions of those days.
We might conjecture that Lenau went by stage or on horseback to the land
office at Wooster and there bought his land on November 26, 1832, which was a
Monday. If he decided that, since he was so near, he ought to push on the remain-
ing sixty or so miles and view his purchase, he would likely have gone on horse-
back, since the commercial stage did not go beyond Wooster.
If Lenau were going to wait near the land office in the hope of receiving his
land patents, he might have waited in Wooster, or in Canton, which had a large
enough German community to support a German newspaper in 1832.35 There is
no longer any reason for assigning special importance to Lisbon apart from the
fact that Lenau wrote four letters from there during one stay in early March while
he recovered from a "hole in the head."36
Lenau's Ohio land consisted of three parcels, forming a reversed letter L. To
the north lay the SE 1/4 of Section 1, Township 18 North, Range 21 West, 160
acres.37 Adjoining that to the south, lay the NE 1/4 of Section 12, Township 18
North, Range 21 West, 160 acres. Adjoining the lower half and to the west, lay
the S 1/2 of the NW 1/4 of Section 12, Township 18 North, Range 21 West, 80
Lenau signed the lease of this land to Ludwig Haberle on March 15, 1833, iden-
tifying the parcels only by their cash certificate numbers. This lease is the first
mention we find that he had made any such purchase, and from his correspon-
dence we can see what happened to it.38
As early as January 1, 1835, and again on February 12, 1836, Lenau's former
servant Philipp Huber wrote Lenau from America about his land. Receiving no
34. Kilbourn, Ohio Gazetteer, 112.
35. Karl Arndt and May Olson, Deutsch-Amerikanische Zeitungen und Zeitschriften, 1732-1955
(Heidelberg, 1961) names Der Vaterlandfreund and Geist der Zeit (1829-33), 432.
36. Castle, Lenau, III, 196. "Loch im Kopf."
37. Abbreviations such as SE 1/4 and S 1/2 are in regular use in legal documents.
38. Schurz, Leben, I, 340-343.
Lenau's Ohio Venture 245
reply, Huber wrote again at length on April 16, 1837, from Wheeling, (West Vir-
ginia). This letter reported that Haberle had made a complete failure of everything
and had used up the capital Lenau had advanced him. Even though the land,
fences, and skeleton buildings looked as if they had no owner, Huber said he
would be willing to mend the fences and go on clearing the land as planned. He
noted that taxes would fall due in 1838, that the property might be forfeited if the
taxes went unpaid, that many would like to buy this land for the unpaid taxes
(it would be worth about ten to fifteen dollars an acre now), and he even offered
to settle on the land or to pay the taxes in Lenau's name.
The poet mentioned this letter from Huber and the land's increased value in a
letter to his friend, New York businessman Ludwig von Post.39 Lenau requested
Post to look into the land matter, to inform him of the possibility of making a
sale, and to furnish him with information about how a power of attorney should
be made out so that Post could dispose of the land in Lenau's name.
In a letter to Emilie von Reinbeck on January 16, 1838, Lenau said he had
received a letter from Post offering to do everything necessary for "safeguarding"
his little American property. Lenau was probably replying to this letter when he
wrote to Post, as mentioned above. On December 28, 1839, Lenau, writing again
to Emilie von Reinbeck, for the first time mentioned that a squatter had settled
on his land.40
Another letter from Huber, written January 24, 1840, from Wheeling, indicated
that Lenau had written to him in the spring of 1839 and that he had replied at
once but had received no answer. This 1839 letter from Huber is probably the one
referred to by Lenau when he wrote to Emilie von Reinbeck on December 28.
Huber reported that he had paid the taxes for 1838 and 1839, $6.72 and $12.80
respectively, and was holding the receipts. He said the land looked terrible and
that a squatter who had settled on it refused to move until shown a proper power
of attorney bearing the legal seal of the court. He requested such a power of attorney
from Lenau and also asked permission to settle on the land himself with his bride.
Lenau mentioned the arrival of two letters from America when he wrote to
Emilie von Reinbeck on March 31, 1840. He cited Huber's letter of January 24 on
the condition of the land and its increase in value, as well as the fact that Huber
wanted to lease it, promising to pay annual rent. The other letter was from a New
Yorker named Hermann Oelrichs who said Post had died and that all the certifi-
cates pertaining to the land were then in his hands.41 These certificates must surely
have been the three patent deeds which had been issued in 1834, had probably
been sent to Wooster, and had somehow found their way into Oelrich's safekeeping.
On August 2, 1840, Jakob Huber, a brother of Philipp, writing to Lenau from
Wheeling, reported the death of Philipp in a mine accident on June 3, 1840, just
before the arrival of a letter written by Lenau on March 26, 1840, containing a
power of attorney authorizing Philipp to evict the squatter and settle on the land.
Jakob requested a new power of attorney, since the old one was no longer valid,
so that he and another married brother, Friedrich, could settle on the land and
care for it.42 In another letter to Emilie von Reinbeck on October 20, 1840, Lenau
39. Castle, Lenau, IV, 268. Letter dated January 1838.
40. Ibid., 271, 268, 350; Schurz, Leben, II, 21-22; "Zur Sicherstellung."
41. Castle, Lenau, IV, 367.
42. Schurz, Leben, II, 40-41.
246 OHIO HISTORY
told of the receipt of this letter from Jakob and lamented Philipp's death.43 Anton
Schurz said at this point his brother-in-law was so distressed by the apparent fail-
ure of the entire American venture that he refused to keep up the taxes.44
A search in 1967 of the old Crawford County records at Bucyrus, Ohio, revealed
a number of hitherto unknown entries and copies of documents having to do with
Lenau's property. In the archives of the County Auditor were found the Cran-
berry Township Duplicate of Taxes Charged for 1837 and 1838. Lenau's name does
not appear on the 1837 tax duplicate, but two of three parcels are listed for 1838,
which fact verifies Huber's statement that taxes were first levied on the property
in that year. For some reason the northernmost parcel is not mentioned. The
tax duplicate for 1839 could not be found nor could copies of possible receipts for
taxes paid be located. There was found for Cranberry Township A List of Lands
& Town Lots in Crawford County, Ohio, made by the County Appraisor in 1840.
All three of Lenau's parcels are listed here.
Much more interesting, however, is a Cranberry Township Delinquent Land List
for 1841. Here the three parcels are listed under the name of Nicholas Nimbsch.
Lenau's name is variously spelled in all of the old records as Niembsch, Neimbsch,
or Nimbsch, as here. The striking thing in this delinquent land entry is that the
name Nimbsch has been crossed out and the name Ninbaugh written in. No delin-
quent land list for 1840 could be located.
Still more significant is the discovery in the County Recorder's archives of
copies of four deeds issued by the County Auditor on January 11, 1844, conveying
Lenau's land to Lewis Young and Peter Gartner. These deeds, moreover, reveal
that the land was first sold for taxes by the County treasurer on December 27, 1841,
not to Young and Gartner, as has long been claimed, but to one Samuel Myers.45
All of the deeds refer to the sale of the land for taxes by the County Treasurer
on December 27, 1841. In each the land is shown as having been first sold to
Samuel Myers who then assigned the certificate of sale to Rudolph Harley who
assigned it to Peter Gartner. The first of the County Auditor deeds shows that
Gartner assigned the W 1/2 of the S 1/2 of the NW 1/4 of Section 12, 40 acres, to
Lewis Young, to whom the deed was then issued. The second deed shows that again
Myers assigned the certificate of sale for the SE 1/4 of Section 1, 160 acres, to Harley
who assigned it to Gartner who assigned it to Young. With this deed Young now
had a total of 200 acres in two non-adjacent parcels.
The third deed goes through the same steps for the NE 1/4 of Section 12, 160
acres, which is then deeded to Gartner; similarly with the fourth deed for the
S 1/2 of the NW 1/4 of Section 12, 80 acres, 40 of which had already been assigned
to Lewis Young in the first deed mentioned above. Gartner now possessed County
Auditor's deeds to 200 acres in two adjacent parcels, while Young's parcels were
separated. The total back taxes, interest, and penalty on the 400 acres amounted
to $23.18 and 4 mills.46
Thus Young and Gartner, or Gardner, sought in January 1844 to legitimize
43. Castle, Lenau, V, 6.
44. Schurz, Leben, II, 41.
45. Mulfinger, Lenau, 60. In some of the old records Gartner is also spelled Gardner. See also
Castle, Lenau, V, 425; all four Auditor's deeds are recorded in Vol. 9, p. 480-483 of the Register of
Deeds, Crawford County, Ohio.
46. According to Blankenagel, "Deeds to Lenau's Property in Ohio," 206-207, the taxes came to
$28.46 and 2 mills; see also Schurz, Leben, II, 278, who says the total taxes amounted to only $23.68.
Lenau's Ohio Venture 247
their possession of the 400 acres by obtaining auditor's deeds and by having them
recorded, although they were not the ones who had actually bought the land at the
tax sale. It is interesting that everything was deeded to Gartner first, not to Young,
as maintained by Mulfinger.47
Possibly of greater importance, however, are four entries having to do with
these parcels discovered in a volume entitled Auditor's Deeds for Forfeited Lands.
We cite the first of the four:
The South East quarter of Section one, township eighteen South of Range twenty-one,
charged in the name of Nicholas Ninbaugh--and the whole tract sold to Samuel Myers for
the taxes of the years 1840 & 1841 on the last Monday of December 1841 for the sum of
nine dollars forty five cents three mills--Deed made to Lewis Young 11th Jan 1844 Owen
Williams Aud C. C. O.
These are apparently the auditor's memoranda to himself, since he was respon-
sible for the issuance of this particular kind of deed. Each of the four entries says
"Charged in the name of Nicholas Ninbaugh" and reports the sale to Myers and
the issuance of a deed to Young or Gartner, as described above.
Soon after Lenau became mentally ill in 1845, those who knew him best became
concerned about his American property. Schurz said his friend Max von Lowenthal
wrote the New York businessman Hermann Oelrichs requesting information about
the land. Word came back that the property had been sold for taxes but that pos-
sibly the sale had been irregular, in which event there would be grounds for action
against the current owners. For a hundred dollars the matter could be pursued to a
finish, but Lenau's power of attorney would be required.48 On July 22, 1845, Lenau
was persuaded, in a lucid moment, to sign a power of attorney to Louis Stanislaus
of Norwalk, Ohio, authorizing him to recover the land if possible, pay the taxes
for 1840 and 1841, and then re-sell it. The details may be found in the power of
attorney bearing this date which is recorded in Bucyrus. Schurz received the power
of attorney, with all of the official signatures, from the Wurttemberg embassy in
Vienna on August 11, 1845, and sent it at once to New York.
Stanislaus seems to have been engaged by the New York firm of Oelrichs, later
Oelrichs and Kruger, to handle Lenau's affairs in Ohio. Schurz, in an expense account
rendered to the court in 1847, again reported the offer from Oelrichs in New York
to make an effort for $100 to recover the Ohio land that had been sold for taxes.
Schurz arranged funds for this purpose as early as August 1845, completing the
financing on December 2, 1845.49 Stanislaus, however, must first have had to estab-
lish Lenau as the original owner of the Ohio land and probably did this by filing
the original patent deeds on December 2, 1845, in Bucyrus.50
A May 2, 1849 report of Oelrichs and Kruger is of interest here. It says that in
early 1846 Stanislaus discovered the land had been publicly sold in 1841 for taxes
that had not been paid since 1840, although this fact was apparently well known in
mid-1845 and was surely known to him before he filed the patent deeds in Decem-
ber.51 Oelrichs and Kruger then say that Stanislaus fortunately discovered that
47. Mulfinger, Lenau, 60.
48. Schurz, Leben, II, 278-279.
49. Castle, Lenau, V, 395; see also Blankenagel, "Deeds to Lenau's Property," 207-208; Schurz,
Leben, II, 279; Castle, Lenau, V, 414-415.
50. Blankenagel, "Deeds to Lenau's Property," 203-205.
51. Castle, Lenau, V, 425-426.
248 OHIO HISTORY
the sale had not been concluded in the proper form.
While we do not know exactly what this meant, and while nothing has been
found in the contemporary court records at Bucyrus indicating any sort of lawsuit,
Stanislaus must have been operating from a position of strength. On March 27,
1846, he succeeded in obtaining quitclaim deeds from Young and Gartner to Lenau
for the entire 400 acres.52
If we recall that the name Nimbsch had been crossed out of the Delinquent
Land List for 1841 and replaced by Ninbaugh and that the County Auditor's
memoranda of Deeds for Forfeited Lands show the sale of the land for taxes
charged to Nicholas Ninbaugh, not Niembsch, we may well have hit upon the
"irregularity" mentioned. Any tax sale in a wrong name would have provided a
lawyer with ample grounds to contend.
The name Nimbsch, or its variants, appears clearly in the 1838 Tax Duplicate,
in the 1840 List of Lands and Lots, and in the Delinquent Land List for 1841,
only to be altered in the latter to something quite different. The County Treasurer
who made the sale in 1841 would have had no legal right to sell Niembsch's land
in the name of Ninbaugh, nor would the County Auditor in 1844 have had any
legal right to deed the land in the name of Ninbaugh, which he clearly did accord-
ing to his own record. The quitclaim deeds are ample evidence that Young and
Gartner recognized their position to be untenable.
Incidentally, the quitclaim deeds that are recorded in Bucyrus are those filed by
Peter Gardner and wife Sarah, not Georg Gartner, as claimed by Mulfinger, and
by Lewis Young and wife Mary Ann, not Joseph Jung, as claimed by Mulfinger,
returning the land to Lenau.53
The May 2, 1849 report from Oelrichs and Kruger said that Stanislaus persuaded
the current owner, whom Castle named P. Gardner, to relinquish his claim on the
400 acres to Lenau in exchange for 40 acres in early 1846. In April 1846, accord-
ing to Oelrichs and Kruger, Stanislaus sold 360 acres to Lewis Young for three
dollars per acre, payable in five yearly payments beginning August 1, 1846. The
purchaser was to pay interest at six percent per annum and had to pay the back
taxes after April 1, 1845. Since Lewis Young was, in Stanislaus' judgment, a pros-
perous man, there was no doubt that he would complete the payments by the
date due, if not earlier. The whole arrangement seemed adequately assured since
the buyer would not receive the deed to the property until payment was completed,
holding it meanwhile only under land contract.54 Lenau's power of attorney to
Stanislaus, dated July 22, 1845, was filed by Stanislaus on June 2, 1846, after the
conclusion of this sale to Young, if Oelrich's report of the sale is correct.
On August 22, 1846, Dr. Alexander Bach was appointed guardian of the poet.
On the same date he prepared a power of attorney made out to Stanislaus and
on August 28, 1846, asked the court for permission to send this new power of
attorney to him, since the one obtained in 1845 by Schurz could no longer be
regarded as valid after Bach's appointment as guardian. Bach urged that it be
sent through official channels to the Austrian Consulate in New York for transmis-
sion to the business firm of Hermann Oelrichs, which had handled all correspond-
ence thus far, for forwarding to Louis Stanislaus in Ohio.55
52. Blankenagel, "Deeds to Lenau's Property," 205-207.
53. Mulfinger, Lenau, 60.
54. Castle, Lenau, V, 425-426.
Lenau's Ohio Venture 249
It is interesting that the deed records show the entire 400 acres as having been
transferred from Dr. Alexander Bach to Louis Stanislaus through the instrumentality
of this power of attorney. Stanislaus must have made some sort of arrangement
with Gartner, however, having to do with the 40 acres represented by one of the
halves of the S 1/2 of the NW 1/4 of Section 12. The County Auditor's deed gave
Gartner title to the E 1/2 of this section. Gartner's quitclaim deed turned this back
to Niembsch. But on August 27, 1846, after Stanislaus had arranged the sale of the
entire property to Young, and actually long before Bach's power of attorney gave
Stanislaus authority to do anything, we find Gartner selling the west half of this
half section to a William Jewell, although that half was quitclaimed back to Lenau
by Young, and not by Gartner.56 We have no idea how Gartner acquired this land
for there is no record of any deed to him by either Stanislaus or Young of this west
half and his deed to Jewell makes no mention of how he obtained it.
On July 29, 1847, Lewis Young sold the other, that is the E 1/2 of this half sec-
tion, to a John Burger. One wonders how Young could sell any of the land since he
had not finished paying for it and did not as yet have the deed. Upon completion
of payment in 1850 Stanislaus gave Young on May 29 a deed to 360 acres, spe-
cifically including this E 1/2 of the S 1/2 of Section 12, which Young had sold in
1847, but not mentioning the W 1/2 which Gartner had long since disposed of.
Gartner's sale of this 40 acres to Jewell was not recorded until 1848.57
Young's first payment on the property of $200.00 was reported by Oelrichs to
Schurz on February 27, 1847.58 On September 23, 1847, Oelrichs and Kruger
forwarded another payment of $272.00 and a third payment of $207.85 on July 5,
1848. On May 2, 1849 Young still owed $424.00 plus interest. Two more payments
show up in a report of November 18, 1850, one of $197.50 and the final payment
of $220.00. The final deed transfers the land to Young for payment of $1181.00,
but the total of the payments noted above is only $1097.35.59 How Oelrichs and
Kruger were paid is not clear, but they did not collect anywhere near the prevail-
ing price per acre of 10, 15, or 18 dollars.
Thus Austria's foremost lyric poet, the restless, melancholy wanderer Lenau,
tried his fortune in the rough forests of central Ohio. He failed to see the colorful
beauties and natural wonders of America, but rather was repulsed, depressed,
and wounded by its primitive ruggedness.
AGREEMENT60 15 March 1833 between Nicolaus Niembsch of Csatad in Hun-
gary and Ludwig Haberle of Lauffen in Wurttemberg.
Nicolaus Niembsch leases to Ludwig Haberle the following lands: the two Quar-
ter Sections Nr. 2594 and Nr. 2595, situated in Crawford County, and the similarly
55. Blankenagel, "Deeds to Lenau's Property," 208-210; Castle, Lenau, V, 393, 395-396. This power
of attorney from Bach to Stanislaus is recorded in both German and English at Bucyrus; the German
on page 210 and the English on page 329 of Vol. 13 of the Register of Deeds.
56. Blankenagel, "Deeds to Lenau's Property," 205-207.
57. Ibid., 210-212.
58. Castle, Lenau, V, 419. See also Schurz, Leben, II, 291, who says he received the first payment
through Oelrichs shortly before April 20, 1847.
59. Castle, Lenau, V, 423, 426, 433; Blankenagel, "Deeds to Lenau's Property," 211.
60. Lenau's advisers in the Rapp colony at Economy, Pennsylvania, drew on their experience in
frontier dealings in helping him formulate the terms of this lease. They knew the land would have to be
cleared, fenced, and have suitable buildings on it before it could be sold for real profit. Lenau paid
$600 for his 400 acres late in 1832. In March of 1833 he was already anticipating that within eight
years the property would increase to ten times its original value.
250 OHIO HISTORY
situated Eighth Section Nr. 2596, under the following conditions.
1. Ludwig Haberle assumes the lease of this land for the period of eight years,
reckoned from 1 January 1833 on.
2. The same binds himself to clear 37 1/2 acres in each year of the lease, so that
in the entire lease period 300 acres will have been cleared and placed in cultivation,
as well as fenced in.
3. In addition to the cash advance already received, Ludwig Haberle has
received this date six hundred dollars, partly in cash and partly in its equivalent as
operating capital in farming the above-mentioned lands.
4. Ludwig Haberle binds himself at his own cost and expense to erect the fol-
lowing buildings during the period of the lease:
1. A 44 foot long, 36 foot wide blocked dwelling [blockhouse], of two storeys,
with shingle roof.
2. A barn
3. Necessary stables
5. Ludwig Haberle promises to turn over to the owner of the land, Nicolaus
Niembsch, at the end of the lease period the following cattle:
5 cows, 3-8 years old, and a bull; in addition, 18 other head of beef cattle
from sucking calves up to 3 year olds.
2 pairs of oxen, 3-8 years old.
36 head of hogs from suckling pigs up to 150 lbs.; but no more than 6 suck-
ling pigs among them.
If Nicolaus Niembsch should sell the property within 5 years, Ludwig Haberle
only has to turn over half of the cattle designated above; however, in case the
land is sold during the last three years of the lease period, Haberle has to deliver
two thirds of the cattle so stipulated.
6. Ludwig Haberle assumes the responsibility of cultivating this land entirely
at his own expense and of paying Nicolaus Niembsch in the year 1836 one hun-
dred dollars rent; in the year 1837 another hundred dollars; in the last three years
[of the lease] two hundred dollars each year.
Ludwig Haberle binds himself to transmit these rent monies to Nicolaus
Niembsch each year aforementioned at the place of his residence, wherever this
may be, and in such a way that Nicolaus Niembsch can receive the money each
time in the month of December.
7. If Ludwig Haberle properly and accurately fulfills these promises made by
him, he shall have the right to demand the following benefits from Nicolaus
Niembsch or his eventual heirs:
If Nicolaus Niembsch sells his property during the eight years of the lease,
which he is at liberty to do, then Ludwig Haberle has the right to demand one
fifth of the purchase price and besides this some indemnity for the premature ter-
mination of the lease agreement. If the property is sold within the first five years
of the lease this indemnity shall amount to six hundred dollars; if, however, it is
sold during the last three years of the lease period it shall amount to eight hundred
dollars. If, however, the full eight years have passed without the land being sold,
then Nicolaus Niembsch has the right to pay off said Ludwig Haberle in full with
the sum of twelve hundred dollars, so that, apart from this sum, Haberle has no
further claim on him. This sum must then be paid within three years after the
expiration of the lease. Niembsch must pay Haberle interest at five percent on this
Lenau's Ohio Venture 251
money until the 1200 dollars is paid in full. This 1200 dollars is to be considered
as the equivalent of the agreed upon fifth of the sale price that Haberle would
have received if the land had been sold during the eight year lease period. If
Nicolaus Niembsch should elect to turn over to Ludwig Haberle one fifth of his
land in natura [in the raw] instead of the 1200 dollars, he is free to do so, and he
may himself select the fifth of the land and turn it over to Haberle as his property.
In this case, however, the fifth of the property must be turned over to Ludwig
Haberle immediately after the end of the eight year period.
8. Ludwig Haberle has already been compensated for the trips he has made on
business for Nicolaus Niembsch and for any other trouble that he has taken, and
will, moreover, regard the operating capital of six hundred dollars already received
as entirely sufficient compensation for all expenses incurred or to be incurred and
will never make further demands of Nicolaus Niembsch except those to which the
foregoing 7 points of this agreement and the following 9th point entitle him.
9. If Nicolaus Niembsch sells the land after expiration of the lease period, he
shall be obliged to pay to Ludwig Haberle one fifth of the purchase price received
as his property. Ludwig Haberle, on the other hand, immediately has no further
claim on Nicolaus Niembsch, all of his claims having been completely satisfied with
this fifth portion.
10. If, after eight years have passed, Ludwig Haberle should have cleared only
266 acres, including the proper fencing of same, then Nicolaus Niembsch will be
satisfied if 34 more acres remain as forest than Item 2 above stipulates.
John Schreiber Nicolaus Niembsch
Joseph Gotz Ludwig Haberle