As the debate over immigrants and immigration rages today, we reflect on the life of a Prussian woman, an early settler in America’s west, and her relationship with true Americans—the Sioux and Sitting Bull.
By Sharon Hudgins
Photographs courtesy Elizabeth Dell Family
In 1867, when four-year-old Elizabeth Hahlweg left her Prussian homeland with her family on a boat bound for America, no one could have predicted that only a few years later she would be a pioneer on America’s last frontier—and a friend of the famous Sioux Indian chief and medicine man, Sitting Bull.
Elizabeth was the younger daughter of Mathilda Hahlweg and her husband Wilhelm, a master baker in the Prussian town of Flatow, located in a predominately German-speaking part of northern Europe where generations of Hahlwegs had lived for centuries. During much of its history, the town belonged to Poland and was known as Złotów (as it is again today). But in the late 18th century, the partitioning of Poland among Prussia, Russia and Austria had put Złotów/Flatow in Prussian territory. No one knows for certain, but political unrest in that part of Europe might have prompted Wilhelm and Mathilda Hahlweg to leave for America in search of a better life for them and their children.
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