Mary Demler and the Floating Hotel

My great-great grandmother, Mary (or Marie) Demler, was born in Baden, Germany, on 17 January 1855.  She was the daughter of Johan and Catherine Marie (Reser) Demler.  Johan and Catherine also had two sons, Wilhelm K. (b. 15 November 1847) and August Frederick (b. ca. 1849).

In 1864 the family moved from Germany to the U.S.  They appear on a New York passenger list dated 3 December 1864 and were processed through the Castle Garden Immigration Center (precursor to Ellis Island). The manifest records the Demler family as follows:  Johan, age 48; Maria, 40; Wilhelm, 18; August,  16; and Marie, 11 (though according to our records Marie was only nine years old). The ship that transported the family was the Jacob A. Stamler.

I was able to obtain a bit more information regarding this ship, which had a long and varied life.  The Gotham History Blotter tells its story.  It was originally launched 11 October 1856 so was a year and a half younger than Mary Demler.  The Stamler followed a fixed route and schedule, originally to Antwerp and later to Le Havre (which is where our Demlers embarked).  After years of transporting immigrants to America the Stamler was used for general shipping of merchandise until the turn of the 20th century. Then in 1899 a millionaire and philanthropist named John Arbuckle purchased the Stamler.  Originally the ship was used to ferry men and women around New York Harbor, then later it was anchored in place and used as a “floating hotel” for the young working classes. Eventually only girls making less than $7 a week were allowed. Mr. Arbuckle died in 1912, and the Stamler was shut down a few years later as a potential fire hazard, having served for nearly 60 years.

As for our Demlers, they moved first to Washington, Illinois, and then in 1868 to Fairbury.  On 24 November 1875 Mary married Samuel Slagel in Fairbury.  Samuel and Mary had four children: Samuel (who died at age 4), Daniel, Emma, and Joseph.  Mary died on 3 February 1928 at 107 East Walnut Street in Fairbury and was buried in Graceland Cemetery.

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