Fritz Goes to America

By LeRoy Behling

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    (A story from the 1880s when emigrant Saints were needed in the United States to build up the Church.)

    Fritz lived with his parents, four younger brothers, and one sister on a small farm in Cammin, Germany. One spring he was more excited than he had ever been; he was going to America!

    Some LDS missionaries who had just been released from their missions were staying at Fritz’s home before leaving Germany for America. They had kindly offered to take one of the children with them, promising to see that the child arrived safely in America and was sent on the train to Rockland, Idaho, the home of the missionary who had baptized the family.

    A year earlier a missionary from Rockland and his companion had taught Fritz’s family the gospel, and after careful study and prayer they accepted it and were baptized.

    When they became members of the Church, their friends and relatives shunned them. Life in Germany was not as happy or easy without their friendships, so the family decided to go to America. However, there was only enough money now to buy passage for one person. The family prayed and discussed the missionaries’ offer.

    It was a difficult decision. Whoever went with the missionaries would be alone in America until Fritz’s father could save enough for the rest of the family to go to the new country. Finally, it was decided that Fritz would go first.

    Early in April Fritz and the missionaries left Cammin and traveled by train to Hamburg. There they joined other missionaries and a group of emigrants who were going to America.

    On the 16th of April they sailed from Hamburg on the S.S. City of Rome. The water was rough in the North Sea and English Channel, and for three days Fritz was terribly seasick. There were times when he doubted whether he should be making the trip. But he finally developed his sea legs and his doubts vanished.

    Later, as the group was traveling westward from New York City by train, the immigrants and missionaries left the train as they reached their various destinations. The last missionary said good-bye to Fritz when they arrived at Cheyenne, Wyoming, leaving Fritz to make the rest of the trip without his friends.

    Before the last missionary left, however, he gave Fritz a ticket to Idaho and wrote a note with the young boy’s name and destination on it. Pinning the note to Fritz’s jacket, the missionary put him on the train and bade him good-bye.

    Although the missionary had been very helpful, he forgot one important thing; he forgot to tell Fritz that his last train stop would be in American Falls, Idaho, sixteen miles from Rockland.

    As the train pulled out of Cheyenne, Fritz examined his ticket anxiously, looking for the only English word he knew—Rockland, but it wasn’t there.

    Fritz tried asking his fellow passengers for help, but no one could understand him. After a while he decided that he would stay on the train, although he wasn’t sure where it was going. Maybe it will go to Rockland even if I can’t see that word on my ticket, he reasoned.

    Early one morning a few days later, the train came to a stop. Fritz was asleep on a side seat in the railroad coach when the conductor came in and shook him roughly. “Come on! Come on!” he said. Startled, Fritz grabbed his suitcase and paper bag containing half a loaf of bread and a small piece of bologna. Quickly he followed the conductor off the train.

    They had no sooner alighted when the conductor stepped quickly aboard and the train chuffed on its way again. Fritz stood silently on the station platform.

    Across the tracks in the soft light of dawn, he could see some saloons and grocery stores. And from somewhere close by he could hear the steady roar of a river.

    Fritz felt extremely alone. He knew there was only one way he could get help. Walking into the tall sagebrush behind the station, he knelt down and earnestly prayed to his Heavenly Father for guidance.

    Upon returning to the station, a man approached Fritz and asked him a question. Fritz answered in German that he could not speak English. And then in fluent German the stranger spoke to the boy and a calm, comforting feeling came over Fritz. Together, he and the man sat down on a bench and talked until the sun rose and people began to fill the streets.

    Then the man took Fritz across the tracks and bought him some breakfast. It seemed like a feast after so many meals of bread and bologna. While Fritz ate, the man inquired around for someone who might know the family in Rockland who Fritz was to stay with. Eventually he learned of a Swedish couple who lived near Rockland; they agreed to take Fritz to the home of his friends.

    Fritz gladly helped the couple load their supplies into their wagon. When they were about ready to start homeward, Fritz looked around for the stranger who had befriended him so he could express thanks for his help. But the man was gone and no one there knew where he had come from nor which way he had gone.

    Reaching Rockland, Fritz surprised his friends who had not expected him that day. Nevertheless, it was an especially happy reunion.

    Before climbing into bed that night, Fritz knelt to thank his Heavenly Father for His help. The boy knew that although he was far from his family, Heavenly Father had been very close.

    Illustrated by Paul Mann