Utica & Immigration

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The Imhoff’s arrived in Utica some time between 1840 and 1849. This date is approximate and is based on the fact that Caspar Imhoff, the first known Imhoff to arrive in the United States, signed naturalization documents in 1854. At the time the interval between arrival and naturalization eligibility was five years, so his arrival could not have been subsequent to 1849. The ships manifest of the New Republic lists a Caspar, who is 40 at the time of the ships arrival in New York on 3 June 1840. Although Caspar’s headstone lists his date of birth as 1792, it is not uncommon for there to be discrepancies. However, research on the records of Caspar’s immigration to the United States continues.

At the time of Caspar’s arrival in Utica, NY, the city’s population is approximately 20,000, larger than Detroit,Chicago or Cleveland at that time. Caspar married Walburga Langgartner (date unknown) and settled in Utica’s Westside. The 6th ward of Utica, NY largely comprises the Westside of Utica, New York. Historically, this ward was made up of German immigrants who came to the city in large numbers beginning in the 1840s, escaping the revolutions of Europe and often fleeing prosecution for their
participation in demonstrations conducted in their native lands. The early German immigrants are sometime referred to as ’48’ers’ as March of that year was the beginning of the German revolutions of 1848 and 1849. By the early 1900s, Germans comprised the largest minority group in Utica, making up approximately 17% of the city. This influx in German immigration gave rise to many prominent cultural institutions such as a German Catholic Church (St. Josephs – 1852), the Bavarian Aide Society and Maennerchor’s annual Bavarian Festival (1865).

Utica’s high water mark for population was 1930, when the city reported 100,740 residents. Utica maintained it’s population over the next three decades (40’s, 50’s and 60’s) before steadily declining between 1970 and 2010. By the end of the millennia, Utica’s population had fallen to 60,523 – an almost 40% reduction over a 70 year period.
The exodus from the city was spurred primarily due to the loss of jobs as, first, the textile industries moved to southern states and were soon followed by the defense and electronics industries – most notably, General Electric and Lockheed.

In recent years, Utica has begun to reverse the population trend and there has been a 3% increase in Utica’s population with the majority of the new arrivals being immigrants. It is interesting to note that, even today, Utica is largely comprised of recent immigrants. In fact, 17% of the city’s population arrived in Utica within the previous five years. Utica has the largest immigrant population of any other Upstate New York city. Today’s immigrant’s hail not from Germany, Italy or Ireland, but from Bosnia, Kenya and Tibet.

The neighborhoods of Utica that the first Imhoff’s called home have fallen into sharp decline in the decades since the 1960s. Some alarming statistics specific to the 6th ward in West Utica are as follows:

  • 64.9% of the children here below the federal poverty line, this neighborhood has a higher rate of childhood poverty than 96.8% of U.S. neighborhoods
  • The median real estate price is $51,265, which is less expensive than 97.8% of New York neighborhoods and 97.8% of all U.S. neighborhoods.

While Utica’s recovery has been slow, the City is being targeted by a NY state program called “Nano Utica” that will result in an investment of 1.5 billion into attracting employers to the greater Mohawk Valley region (for a 1.5 billion they might well have come up with a better name than ‘Nano Utica’). The program will be centered in Marcy, NY and its objective is to attract chip and semi-conductor manufacturers to the region

There are several agencies and institutions working with the city’s recent immigrants, such as the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees and Saint Joseph’s / Saint Patrick’s Church. One notable and exceptional agency is the Westside Kitchen. This church sponsored soup kitchen provides ~3,000 meals per month to the people of Utica. This immigrants are from a different geography and time, but there stories are very much similar to the German, Irish and Italian immigrants who called Utica their home before them.

I encourage anyone reading this to visit Westside Kitchen and, if you are so situated, please make a donation in the memory and spirit of our Italian, German and Irish ancestor immigrants.

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