How Abraham Wilhelm Ecker Got to America

I have been looking for some time for additional confirmation of Abraham William’s immigration to America and his early history here. We know that he was still in Germany in the spring of 1854 because we have his church confirmation certificate. We had evidence of his immigration in 1854 because of information in the Württenmberg Immigration index. He was 14 years old that year. Left unanswered are questions of when and how he came over, where he lived in America, who he came over with, etc. We know that he did not come with his father, who had died in 1845, nor his mother who remained in Germany and remarried 7 Feb 1858. We know that he had brothers who were already in Newark, and that he was almost certainly a resident of Newark in the early 1860s when he joined the 2d NJ Infantry for Civil War service. (There was always the question of whether he had family near Albany NY and went there first.)

I had no evidence relating to William from the time of his confirmation to his military service in 1863, a 9 year period. (Similarly, I have very little information between the date of his marriage and 1880 census: only a single birth record of son Frederick Christian in Albany.) Now we have something more.

Today I got lucky. I visited the Historical Federal Archives Building in Washington, to re-photographed all the documents in William’s pension files. I had an opportunity to review several early state census indexes for New Jersey and New York for the years 1830 to 1870.  More about those later.   The new wonderful finding came, as these things often do, by accident. In the library I reviewed the four volumes of “Germans In America” in which immigrants are listed for parts of 1854.

I went through all four looking for Eckers or Eckerts. I was disappointed to find no potential hits. I went through the index one last time when my eye caught “Eker, Abraham!” I turned to the designated page and was thrilled to find exactly what I had been looking for. Not only was there a 14 year old boy named Abraham Eker, but I was told that he was a farmer from Würtemberg. He traveled with another 14 year old, Margaretha Eker, and a 21 year old woman named Elizabeth Bohenberger. There were many other individuals from Würtemberg on that boat, the Union, which sailed from Havre and landed in New York on 3 July 1854. I am hopeful that I will be able to identify some of the other passengers on the ship and gain insights into early Ecker family events in Newark. It is likely that Margaretha was a cousin. Recall too that William’s brother Frederick married Barbara Bohenberger in Newark on Jluy 13, 1864. (The ages do not add up for Elizabeth to be the same person as Barbara, but I will not be surprised to find that the two women were sisters.) Some additional time in the church records is highly likely to identify some of the fellow travelers. (A 'WM' starting the last column indicated that the person came from Würtemberg.)


Given his military service, it is ironic that William came over on a boat named the Union. Given that one of the major reasons Germans immigrated from Württemberg was to avoid compulsory military service, it is also ironic that two of the Eckers fought in the American Civil War. One ultimately died of his wounds. My current working hypothesis is that William came to join one of his brothers in Newark (probably the oldest, Frederick), and that he lived with his brother(s) for the first few years.

Here is the first page of the passenger list from the ship 'Union."