Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The wandering mariner

Ernest Paul Coburn (1895-1973)
 Myrtle Esther Rumph (1898-1971)
with my grandmother,
Flossie Coburn(1918-2002)
My great grandfather, Ernest Paul Coburn was a representative in the Alabama House for many years.  The Coburn (originally spelled Cockburn) family has maintained a tradition of military and public service for many generations, going back to Scottish settlers in the 1700's.  His wife's family are more recent arrivals from Germany and have an interesting and sometimes enigmatic history of their own.  (This is a very interesting family for me to research, since all my other immigrant ancestors that I have found so far arrived in the 1600's and 1700's, and almost all came from the British Isles.)

Fred and Ella Myhan Rumph
Paul Coburn's wife was Myrtle Esther Rumph, the son of Fred Rumph who arrived from Germany as a child.  Fred's parents were named August Christian Wilhelm Rump(h) and Sophie Hendrix.  August and Sophie are buried in Oakwood Cemetery in my hometown of Tuscumbia.  I did not know these people, but my grandmother and her siblings remembered Fred Rumph's generation, and had stories about August and Sophie.  However, these stories were not always consistent...
Fred Rumph 

August and Sophie Rump
in their later years
According to the story, August was a crewman or guard  on a ship.  Depending on who told the story, the captain was either stealing something, or testing the guards, and August shot and killed him, not knowing who it was.  Fearing for his life, he abandoned ship in America and wrote for his family to join him, which they did.


A younger August and Sophie Rump 
Now here is where family lore meets historical documentation.  In 1870 and 1880, the Rumps are found in Madison County, Alabama.  By 1900, they are living in Colbert County, where some of their descendants live to this day.  The 1900 census relates that August (A.C.W.) and Sophie (listed as Josie) arrived in this country separately in 1866 and 1867.  In 1870, August lists his profession as carpenter, which is certainly a useful job on a ship.  So these things are at least consistent with the story.  (Note for future research--their neighbors in 1870 come from a surprisingly diverse set of places, including New York, Germany, and Ireland.)

One final piece of the puzzle is found in the New York Passenger lists.  In 18 July, 1868, we find Sophie Rumpff, a 30 year-old from Oberhammelwarden, with her children John (8), Fred (5), and Auguste (2) arriving in New York on the ship America from Bremen and Southampton as second class passengers.   My Sophie's children at the time were Joanna (8), Fred (5), and August (10 months).  I believe this is the same family, but they erroneously recorded Johanna as John, perhaps due to difficulty understanding the accent, or transcribing a form improperly.  The ages match except August is off by a year, but that could be an error in his birthdate as later stated.


As an aside, they must have moved from the New York (in 1868) to Huntsville (in 1870) pretty quickly.  What would make an immigrant family, likely with language difficulties, move so far?  Did they have family or other connections in Alabama?  Was there a known German community in Huntsville?  Was more land available in the south?  This is soon after the Civil War--one would think that the Southern economy hadn't recovered much, but perhaps men (especially carpenters) were needed to help rebuild.  Or maybe land was cheaper here without a supply of free labor.  (One of my uncles thought that perhaps the whole immigrant story was made up to avoid being labeled a Yankee in Reconstruction-era Alabama.)


S.S. Weser
There are still further records to be found, however.  An August Rump, born 1831 in Leesum and living in Oberhammelwarden, is found on the Bremen sailor's registry on several occasions as a crewman on the Schwan and the Weser.  These ships traded with England, and at least once came to America.   Even better, he is listed as a ship's carpenter.  While the name August Rump is not that unusual, the birthplace being the small village listed in Sophie's arrival papers really cinches it and ties together the story.  One more detail of note, he was a sailor for the North German Lloyd company (still in business today as Hapag Lloyd AG), which owned the steamer America that Sophie arrived on.

This is not the end of the story, however.  In the next installment, I will tell even more of my discoveries about this immigrant family.
Rump Family. 

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