Few people living today remember Juniata’s iconic bandstand, windmill and hand pump which stood in the center of Juniata Avenue’s intersection with 10th Street.
The history of the public water supply in Juniata goes back to the town’s very beginning when in the spring of 1871 the B & M Railroad bored the first well. It was located east of Juniata Avenue on railroad property. The well was to provide water for the railroad’s steam engines but was also used by the settlers. Then in November 1874 a well 87 feet deep and six feet in diameter was dug for the use of the steam-powered flour mill. In September 1878 a public windmill was erected east of Juniata Avenue on 10th Street.
The 1884 Birds Eye View drawing of Juniata shows the large railroad windmill and large windmills at the Commercial House Hotel and the livery barn both just south of the tracks on Juniata Avenue. Twelve other windmills are shown, one by the livery stable at Juniata Avenue. and 8th Street, the remainder at private houses. Only two windmills are shown north of the tracks. The majority of houses did not have a water supply. They either hauled water from the town windmill located on the south side of 10th Street between Juniata and Adams Avenues or got their water from a neighbor’s well. Hauling water would have been a huge inconvenience. No wonder they only took a bath on Saturday nights and everyone in the household used the same water. During the winter months, they seldom if ever bathed.
The village bandstand was built in September 1904. It stood in the center of the intersection of Juniata Avenue and 10th Street and could be seen from four directions. In October 1905 the village put down a new well on the north side of the bandstand and moved the windmill there. A large cistern was constructed for the public water supply and for water in case of a fire.
About 1943 an electric pump was installed on the well which filled the cistern in the middle of the street and the landmark windmill was removed.
Juniata installed a water and sewer system in 1957, making the well and cistern obsolete. A 1960 tornado damaged several buildings in town, including the railroad depot, and it was at that time that the last portion of the bandstand was removed.
The gazebo in the downtown park is a replica of the lowered bandstand constructed in the 1970s by Wiseman Construction. It was placed in the center of the intersection where the original had stood until it was deemed a traffic hazard and removed.
Myrna Maxine Wymore was born at 10 p.m. on August 27, 1914, at Byron, Thayer County, Nebraska. She was the third child, second living, of Andrew Burr (called A.B. or Burr) and Ina Clara (Hayes) Wymore. Her father’s occupation was listed as farmer on her birth certificate. However, he soon quit farming to be a traveling salesman. I never met him as he died in 1950, but in talking with the family, he was called “Burr or A.B.” The signatures I have seen were always “A B Wymore.”
Maxine never used the name Myrna, but she sometimes listed it as her middle name. Her older sister, Irma, was born in 1912 at Byron and her younger brother, Arthur Clark Wymore (called Clark) was born at Hastings in 1918. The Wymore family moved often. In June 1917 when A. B. registered for the World War I draft they were living in McCook and he was selling Singer sewing machines in “western Nebraska.”
The Wymore family was living in a rented house at 315 Kerr Avenue, Hastings in January 1920 when the census was taken. A. B. was working as a traveling agent according to the city directory, and the census gave his occupation as “agent for a cream business. “
In September 1920, when Maxine was six-years-old, her father purchased the house at 310 East 10th Street in Juniata for $500. The Juniata column in the Adams County Democrat had this to say: “Mr. Wymore, traveling supt. for an Omaha creamery company, has purchased the Vreeland property on the east side and after sundry repairs will move in and become a fixture of the town it is hoped.”
The Adams CountyDemocrat reported in November 1921 “Mrs. Wymore, who has been ill for so long, was taken to the Nebraska Sanitarium last week for treatment.” The Nebraska Sanitarium, located on East Ninth Street in Hastings, was a homeopathic hospital run by the Seventh Day Adventists. I haven’t found any written diagnosis or description of Ina’s illness. However, many years ago when members of her generation were still living, they insinuated it was depression caused by A.B.’s continual absences from home.
However, poor Ina had another reason to be depressed. A. B. had moved his brazen girlfriend and her three girls into their home in Juniata on the pretext she was doing the housework. Aunt Mary Wymore Bates (who called her brother Burr) told me that Burr and family drove down to Jewell County, Kansas to visit his parents. When they went to leave Nellie took the front seat alongside Burr and Ina was in the back. Burr’s mother, Amanda (McNabb) Wymore told her son to get his wife in the front seat where she belonged. Burr was not happy with his mother.
This is the story I was told by a Hayes family member about the incident that led to A. B. committing Ina to Ingleside (Hastings State Hospital). Ina was gone from home and when she returned she found A. B. and Nellie in bed together. In a rage, she grabbed a kitchen knife and chased him around the table. After that he had her committed. Her parents tried to take her to their home, but couldn’t get her released.
How all this drama affected the Wymore children, I do not know. Maxine, who was old enough to remember, never spoke of it, and I, thinking it was too personal, never asked. She did mention her Grandmother Hayes taking her to visit her mother at Ingleside. She also mentioned that she and her siblings often spent summer months at her Grandparents Harmon and Ruth (Kimball) Hayes’ farm in Republic County, Kansas.
Exactly when or where A. B. met Nellie Morgan Conover I don’t know. Her husband, Ray A. Conover had died in January 1919 at Sutherland, Nebraska. However, it didn’t take her long to appear in Juniata where she had no relatives. In her March 1922 application for a Mother’s Pension, she stated she “came to the county March 22, 1920.” She also claimed that she owned a five-room house in Juniata with a $200 mortgage. She said she got $15 a week from A. B. Wymore for caring for his three children. The county granted her $25 per month welfare. In November 1924 Nellie Conover sold the house in Juniata for $575. The Democrat reported: “ A. B. Wymore has sold his home in Juniata to George Reynolds and will move his household goods to Nelson where he has rented a home. They expect to go Friday this week.”
On March 19, 1925, the Hastings Democrat reported: “Word has been received of the death of Mrs. A. B. Wymore at her home north of Edgar. Mrs. Wymore had been at the hospital at Ingleside for some time and when the doctor told them she could not last but a few days, she expressed her desire to be taken home and so her daughter Erma and Mrs. Conover accompanied her in the ambulance. She only lived two or three days after getting home.”
This is what the Hayes family told me about Ina’s death. Ina wanted to see her children, so she was taken to their home. Her family wasn’t told she was there or that her health was precarious. Three days later, on March 12, 1925, she died suddenly. Ina was buried in the Washington Cemetery in Republic County, Kansas. After the shock of Ina’s death and burial, some of the Hayes family were suspicious about her sudden death and approached the county attorney about having her disinterred and examined for poison. They were told it was too late. Fifty years later, some Hayes relatives were still convinced Nellie had poisoned Ina.
Maxine was ten years old when her mother died. She never mentioned the death or funeral to me. When I tried to ask her about her early life, she said “I don’t remember, that was a long time ago.”
August 11, 1927, the Hastings Democrat mentioned the marriage of Burr and Nellie. “Mrs. Nellie Conover and Mr. Burr Wymore were married at Scottsville, August 1st and are taking a short trip but have not yet decided where they will make their home. Mr. and Mrs. Wymore lived here a few years ago.” At this time I do not know where they lived between Ina’s death in 1925 and 1928 when I found them in the Kansas City, Missouri city directory. They were living at 2028 Kansas Ave. and A. B. was listed as a salesman.
The Juniata correspondent to the Hastings Democrat reported on August 23, 1928 “A. B. Wymore and family of Kansas City are moving into the Ray Magner house.” That house is at 111 East 7th Street.
Andrew Burr Wymore Jr. called “Junior” was born September 13, 1929 in Juniata. Maxine was fifteen, and the youngest child in the family, Clark, was eleven. With five older sisters, Junior was fussed over and dressed like “Little Lord Fauntleroy.”
In July 1930 Andrew B. Wymore purchased the house at 609 Blue River Ave in Juniata for an undisclosed amount. Maxine always called it “the big house.” She lived there during her high school years. Her 16th birthday party was reported in the Kenesaw Progress. “Mrs. A. B. Wymore and daughters entertained 20 young folks in honor of Miss Maxine’s 16th birthday Wednesday evening. Decorations were in blue & white. A box was decorated with crepe paper and long streamers each one leading to some gift. After games, a delicious lunch was served.”
Throughout the ’30s and ’40’s the Juniata columns of both the Hastings Democrat and the KenesawProgress were full of the doings of the Wymore family of five girls and two boys. Maxine was fun-loving and popular. She played basketball and was in the glee club. She dated Gaylord Weseman seriously during ’31, ’32, and ’33; and the story is that his heart was broken when she married Bud Renschler. The gossip columns never mentioned Bud and Maxine dating. Maxine graduated from Juniata High School in May 1934.
Bud Renschler was working in Iowa for A. B. Wymore selling chicken remedies. In late July, A. B. and Nellie took Maxine to Harlan, Iowa where on July 28, 1934, she married Marion Eugene “Bud” Renschler in the Methodist parsonage. Maxine was 19 years and 11 months old and Bud was 19 years and 4 months old.
The Lux family arrived in New York harbor on November 16, 1853. They were in Iowa by December 14 when Henricus purchased 144 acres in the northwest quarter of section 7, Tete des Morts Township, Jackson County, Iowa for $1600. This land bordered that of the Saint Donatus Catholic Church.
Tete des Morts, township, which in French means head of the dead, was named for the creek of that name. According to legend the name derived from the numerous skulls of Indians killed in a battle along the creek.
Unfortunately, we do not know how the Lux family traveled from New York City to Tete des Morts. We know they did not travel by wagon because in less than a month they were in Iowa. The most likely route would have been by railroad to Chicago and then on to Rockford, Illinois, the end of the line in 1853. Perhaps they purchased a team and wagon in Rockford which is 82 miles, about a seven day trip, from Dubuque, Iowa. The population of Dubuque in 1853 was about 3,300. The only way to cross the Mississippi River at Dubuque was by ferry. Then it would have taken another day to travel the 13 miles to Tete des Morts.
I assume there was a house, either log or stone, already on the farm when Henricus purchased it. However, the price of the land seems high—about $11.10 and acre—when government land was selling for $1.25 an acre.
When the Lux family arrived at Tete des Morts , they found a log church that had been built in 1848 and dedicated to Saint Donatus of Muenstereifel, protector against lightning and storms. He was widely venerated in the Rhine Valley and in Luxembourg.
The Lux family had just arrival in Iowa when tragedy struck. Eleven year-old Jean Lux died January 26, 1854 and on March 3, fourteen year-old Henricus Junior died. They were the only sons of Henricus and Mary. It is not known what caused their deaths. On February 21, 1854 the oldest daughter, Theresa, married Johann Tritz. Theresa, died on January 30, 1857 aged only 24. Her grave in the Saint Donatus cemetery is unmarked.
In October 1855 daughter Mary Ann married Peter Theisen and in November daughter Susanna married Karl Hoffman, both in the little log church. Both couples lived to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversaries.
In the autumn of 1856 the church and parsonage with their contents burned. A new stone parsonage was soon built. The list of contributors includes H. Lux $4.90. The 42 acres belonging to the church were surveyed and it was noted that two of Lux’s fences stood on the church property.
The cornerstone of a new stone church and rectory was laid in April 1858. Donations for the new church included H. Lux $75.00, a substantial sum at that time. In 1859 a Catholic school, which met in the rectory, was organized.
The 1860 federal census’s agricultural schedule gives us a glimpse of the Lux family’s farming operation. The farm was valued at $4,000, of which ninety acres were improved–that is cultivated. The value of farming equipment was only $50. The livestock consisted of 5 horses, 3 milch cows, 2 oxen, 3 other cattle, 5 swine, all valued at $400. Produced the previous year was 120 bushels wheat, 50 bushels corn, 30 bushels oats, 15 tons hay, 100 bushels potatoes, $50 worth of fruit, 500 lbs. butter, value of animals slaughtered was $200. These numbers were about average for the community.
The first outdoor way of the Cross in America was built at Saint Donatus in 1861. Fourteen brick shrines line a winding path some 500 feet up the wooded hill behind the church. In 1866 a large four-story boarding school for girls, St. Mary’s Academy was built. The School Sisters of Notre Dame from Milwaukee supplied the school. H. Lux paid $30 to the church in 1869. This probably included money owed for previous years as he paid $5 pew rent in 1870.
Daughter Elisabeth married Peter Kummer in 1865 and daughter Mary Ann (yes, two daughters named Mary Ann) married Martin Mousel in 1869.
A continued drought killing trees was mentioned in the church chronicle in 1874, and a large cross was erected in the cemetery that year. Also in 1874, “Numerous deaths among the little children” but no cause was given.
A high school named Tete des Morts High School for young men was erected in 1875. Classes were held during the five winter months. A notation in 1875 reads “Towards the south and west boundary (of the church land) towards H. Lux, came a board fence on the one-half of the parish border line; the other half Lux must make and keep up. To make such fences is very expensive but exceedingly necessary.”
Henricus wrote his will in September 1875. He left his daughters, Susanna Hoffman, Marianne Theisen and Elisabeth Kummer each $800 to be paid after the death of his wife. To his daughter, Mary Mousel, he left the remainder of his estate both real (the farm) and personal. Henricus died May 8, 1876 at age 73 and was buried in the church cemetery where his grave marker still stands 144 years later.
Mary Lux was living on the farm in 1880 along with daughter Mary Mousel and her six children. Martin Mousel had died in 1877. Mary died January 2, 1894 at the age of 86 years.
Henricus and Mary are my great, great, grandparents, great grandparents of my grandmother, Catherine Kaiser Trausch. Many descendants of Henricus and Mary Lux live in Adams County, Nebraska, including families named Theisen, and Mousel.
Information about church was taken from the “Original Chronicle of the Parish of St. Donatus” translated from the original German by Arnold Toma in 1955.
My third great grandfather, Henricus Lux was born February 24, 1804 at Hagen, a very small village in the commune (equivalent to our county) of Steinfort, Luxembourg. His father, Frederich Lux was a day laborer and a cultivator. Because of the high infant mortality rate, infants were usually baptized the day they were born. Henricus grew up in Hagen and nothing is known about his childhood except that he was the fifth of six children.
Henricus (written Heinrich on his marriage document) of Hagen married Maria Boseler of Goetzingen on June 18, 1829 at Koerich, the seat of her commune. Saint Remigius church at Koerich dates back to the 1100s. The existing church was built in 1610. There were various additions and alterations over the centuries, the last being the onion-shaped spire which was built in 1791. Henricus and Maria were married in the building you see here.
At the time of the marriage Henricus’ father was deceased and his mother was living at Hagen. Maria’s parents, Michael Boseler and Theresa Biver were living at Goetzingen. The couple settled into married life at Goetzingen where nine children were born between 1831 and 1847. Three children died as infants.
Luxembourg took a census in 1843. At Goetzingen, Henry, as he is listed, was a cultivator as was his wife Marie and, surprisingly, her mother Theresa Biver, age 63, born in 1780. In all twelve persons, including his mother-in-law Theresa and her two youngest daughters, were living in what was probably a small stone house.
In late 1853 the Lux family sold their possessions and made the trip to Antwerp, Belgium where they boarded the American barque “Sea Duck.” A barque is a sailing vessel with three or more masts. The family traveled in steerage as did most immigrants. There were 193 persons on board the ship. The trip to New York would have taken a minimum of six weeks with good sailing weather. They arrived in New York harbor on November 16, 1853. At that time immigrant ships sailed into the docks on the east side of Manhattan. New York’s first immigration facility, Castle Gardens, did not open until 1855.
An 1854 Passage Contract, probably similar to the one Henricus signed, contained the following stipulations:
Passengers will not be able to board until it is found that they have enough food for the journey.
Passengers will be entitled to have onboard the said Ship:
1.) A place in steerage.
2.) Free carriage of 100 kilograms of luggage or 20 English cubic feet for each adult
3.) Empty cabin space and medications in case of emergency.
4.) Place for cooking.
5.) Fresh water, wood or coal and lighting.
Trunks, crates, bags and barrels must be clearly marked on the top with the number of the owner’s cabin space.
Passengers must bring their bedding and cooking utensils.
Passengers must load and unload their baggage and food, neither the Captain nor the Emigration Office being responsible for such tasks.
Weapons of all kinds must be surrendered to the Captain.
Large trunks and crates will be lowered in the hold, as well as the potatoes, biscuits and wine.
While the Ship is at dockside, it is not allowed to go down into the hold. At sea, the hold will be opened at necessary time for Passengers to access their food.
Before boarding the Ship, each Passenger over the age of ten, shall load the following food:
40 pounds of biscuits.
1 hectoliter (2 bushels or 140 lb.) of potatoes or 30 pounds of dry vegetables.
5 pounds of Rice.
5 pounds of Flour.
4 pounds of butter.
14 pounds of smoked ham.
2 pounds of salt.
2 liters of Vinegar
Any Passenger who does not have these quantities on board, twelve hours before departure, will not be able to travel with the departing Ship.
The Captain provides water, wood, kitchen, unfurnished cabin space and medicines in case of illness.
Fresh water is only for drinking and for preparing food; and should not be used for washing.
The utmost cleanliness should be observed in the steerage to prevent contagious diseases. Everyone must ensure that their space is kept clean as well as the area in the front every morning, otherwise he/she would not be allowed to cook.
It is strictly forbidden to smoke on the ship, to make fire, or to burn candles while the vessel is at dock. At sea, smoking is permitted, but only on the deck and with covered pipes.
Special captain’s permission is required to light a lantern in the steerage, and it is strictly forbidden to carry chemical matches on board.
Passengers must avoid any dispute or quarrel among themselves or with the Crew. Anyone who thinks he has cause to complain will address himself to the captain, to the provisions and orders of which every passenger owes absolute obedience.
The stern of the ship is reserved for the captain.
It is forbidden, under severe penalties, to give wine or spirits to drink to the crew; passenger who disregard this security, will have his/her drinks seized.
The same penalty shall be done to passenger with signs of drunkenness and cause disorder on the ship.
The amount of the passage is payable the day before the fixed departure; whoever neglects this payment or who misses the ship, will lose his account or his passage. All Passengers must be on board two hours before departure time, especially women and children. It is advisable to bring fresh bread for five or six days.
Passengers must have their passports stamped by the police.
When the Ship is out of the dock, all Passengers must get on deck and meet by family together with all members from the same receipt. Roll call will be made, and all will be dismissed to the steerage.
These Regulations are made solely for the benefit and well-being of the steerage passengers for their safety, convenience and health.
The Captain expects that he will not be put in a position of ire.
When the Lux family immigrated the United States had no immigration regulations. Throughout the 1700s and most of the 1800s the US encouraged free immigration, even advertising in Europe for homesteaders to fill the Great Plains and the West. On August 3, 1882, the United States Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1882. It is considered by many to be “first general immigration law” due to the fact that it created the guidelines of exclusion through the creation of “a new category of inadmissible aliens.”
The story of the Lux family’s life in Iowa will follow when I get it written.
It is with sadness that I chronicle the destruction of the Kleier farmstead which stood neighbor to my farm for well over a hundred years. Of the farmsteads that I remember in my immediate neighborhood, eight are gone, a testament to the loss of the family farm. As the value of grain failed to keep pace with inflation more and more land was required to support one farm family.
The Kleiers were our closest neighbors. In those years without air conditioning, the doors and windows were open in good weather and we heard what was going on at the Kleiers. We heard them calling the cattle, yelling at the dog, or talking in their yard. We heard their car start up, and heard their machinery in the field. When the old lady, known to me only as “Mrs. Kleier,” was alive, we occasionally visited with her. I remember her well, she was a thin woman with a very large goiter. Her husband, Herman Kleier, died before I was born.
When I was a girl Mrs. Kleier lived there with her two bachelor sons, Al and Edwin. Al married when I was eight leaving just Mrs. Kleier and Edwin. Edwin was as overweight as his mother was thin. After his mother died he never bathed and had an unpleasant body odor. His overalls were so crusted with dirt they probably could stand up by themselves. My Dad loved to tell this story. One day while he was out in the yard Edwin stopped by to visit. As they stood there talking our dog walked around Edwin sniffing, then heisted his leg and peed on Edwin’s overalls. The pee just ran off, didn’t soak in. Edwin didn’t notice. My Dad said he could hardly keep a straight face.
As neighbors did in those days, Edwin and my Dad occasionally worked together in the fields, and Edwin stayed for supper. When Edwin ate meals with us Agnes and I argued over who had to sit next to Edwin at the table. The Kleiers believed in “signs,” a natural occurrence that indicates things to come. I remember one time Edwin said “I heard an owl hoot last night, it will frost in six weeks.” My Dad said joking “Someone should have shot that damned owl.”
My mother often reminisced about the Kleiers. “Mrs. Kleier was my neighbor for years. She was a little old wiry woman with a great big goiter hanging on her neck. In those first years when we lived here [1930s] neighbors were more neighborly. They did more work together and helped each other, because they needed each other. There was no entertainment those years, visiting the neighbors was entertainment. We went over there and they came over here. We sat and talked. If they ever played cards I never heard of it. One night we were going over there, you were small. I said to you “You mustn’t ask her for something to eat, because that isn’t the way to do.” So you looked at me and said “Mom, you better put an apple in your pocket.” I never forgot that. We didn’t have Agnes yet so you were about three years old.
In earlier years Mrs. Kleier helped all the neighbor women with their cooking. One time they had a threshing run and Kochs were in that threshing run and some other neighbors around and they were threshing on this place here when Koch’s dog and the man that lived here’s dog got into a fight. The men got mad at each other over the dog fight, so Koch stomped off home and didn’t help with the threshing the rest of that day. He even came to the house and made his daughter who was helping with the cooking go home too. So Mrs. Kleier was saying “What are we going to do now, we are short of help,” but the next morning Koch came back because he happened to think that he had to get his grain threshed yet. Old man Koch was a real hot tempered man. Mrs. Kleier often told that story.
Mrs. Kleier was a person who oversaw everything. She saw that everybody had a job for the day and was doing it too. The Kleiers were very mistrusting of people.
She often talked about the different families that lived here. She talked about Utecht’s kids getting on top of the barn and walking right to the edge on the east side and looking over. She said she couldn’t even stand to look this way and see those kids on top of that barn and they were small yet. She didn’t like Utecht. At first Mrs. Utecht went to Kleiers to visit while Bill went to town to drink. She was afraid to stay home alone. And he wouldn’t come home until way late and Mrs. Kleier wanted to go to bed because they were up early to do their work. So she told me, one night he came real late and there was another man with him and Mrs. Kleier could see they had been hitting the bottle pretty good. So she said “I met them at the door and I told him enough of this. I want to go to bed when it is bed time.” Well that ended him leaving her over there.
Before Utecht there was two bachelors named Peterson who lived here. They threw cobs in the wash room so they were on hand for the winter and they got rats and mice in the house and everything got chewed up. The corners on doors were chewed up. Kleiers had a dog and those Petersons had a bench in the kitchen and they had a ham on that bench and they were cutting meat off of it along. Kleiers dog got in and got the ham and carried it home. Mrs. Kleier saw the dog out there and she went out to see what he had and it was a ham. Petersons said someone stole their ham and Kleiers kept their mouths shut. They used to laugh about that.
There was another couple that lived here. They were young. Mrs. Kleier told me that she came over to help her cook for threshers. The gal that lived here told Mrs. Kleier “I can’t bake a cake because I have to put the bread in the oven.” So Mrs. Kleier said “I will make doughnuts.” But first Mrs. Kleier went out in the orchard and picked apples and made apple sauce for supper. Then she made doughnuts for supper. They had those summer cooking apples in the orchard. Mrs. Kleier had to go home to do the chores so when she had supper ready she left. At the supper table the woman’s husband said “Well who planned this meal?” and she said “Mrs. Kleier.” He said “Well that’s what I thought.” The wife wasn’t much to go ahead with anything. She had all those apples out there and didn’t cook them.
Mrs. Kleier told about the little boy that got shot in the kitchen. She just said that the hired man came in with a shot gun and said “This gun isn’t safe, sometimes it just goes off.” He had the gun laid over his arm and the kid was setting on the floor in front of the cook stove and the gun went off and shot him. They called Mrs. Kleier over and I don’t know if they had an inquest or not. Mrs. Kleier cleaned up the mess. She said the boy’s blood was splattered all over the walls and ceiling. Mrs. Kleier said she could hear the mother screaming over at her house.
Kleiers went to Evangelical Lutheran Church on Adams Central Ave. Mrs. Kleier played the organ at the little Lutheran church over East. She had an organ at home and she practiced.”
In a January 1990 interview my parents reminisced about the Kleiers.
Bert: “I remember the Kleiers well. She ruled the roost over there. One night we were over there and she chewed him out something terrible because he was supposed to walk through the field with a hoe and replant corn where the gophers took it out. She kept him going. He stacked wheat a few weeks before he died. He always said “I talked” instead of I thought. He said it all the time. He had heart trouble and dropsy. They came over sometimes in the evenings and his feet would be all swelled up. They would set and talk until about ten o’clock then go home. He died young, only in his sixties. Charles [Trausch] set up all night at Herman Kleier’s wake. He died in the winter, they laid him out in the northwest room and he froze solid.”
Edna: “When the Kleiers moved onto their place, the kitchen part of the house was the whole house. When they built the big two story part, they moved the old house up and fastened it on for the kitchen.
The old lady Kleier had an operation on the dining room table. It was appendix or something like that. The doctor came out and said if they didn’t have any wallpaper, just plaster, on the wall, then he could operate. She was real sick, but what she had I don’t remember. It was during the winter and they kept it real warm in the house for her.
I remember she told me that when they were still building the house her mother came to visit and she told her mother they had a mouse in the house. All at once the old lady said, “I’ve got your mouse.” She reached down and pinched real hard and down fell a dead mouse. He had run up her skirts.”
The Kleier Place was originally homesteaded by Levi Chambers who is buried in the Juniata Cemetery. In September 1893, the 80 acres where the farmstead was located, the E ½ , SW ¼ Section 6, Ayr Township, was sold to Friedericke Kleier who died in 1898 and is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery. In 1899 her son Herman Kleier acquired his sister, Ernestine Gardiner’s half of their mother’s farm. In January 1936 Herman and Elizabeth Kleier purchased at a sheriff’s auction the Burton place, which was the 80 acres west of their house.
Elizabeth Kleier died in 1966 and Edwin continued to live on the farm. After Edwin Kleier’s 1979 death the farm was sold to the present owner, Melvin Buss.
Seventy five years ago today, Saturday, January 29, 1944, a baby boy was born at 4:14 a.m. in the Mary Lanning Memorial Hospital at Hastings, Nebraska. He was named Howard Lee Renschler in honor of Howard McGavick, his parents’ friend who was a prisoner of war in Germany. Howard was a gunner on a bomber that had been shot down. The baby was called “Pat” from his birth. He weighed seven pounds, seven ounces and was nineteen inches long.
Pat’s parents were Marion Eugene “Bud” Renschler and his wife Maxine Wymore Renschler. They were 28 and 29 years old respectively. Bud’s occupation at the time was fireman at the U.S. Naval Ammunition Depot. Bud had tried to enlist in the Navy but was rejected because he was color blind.
Pat was the fifth child and first son born to Bud and Maxine. Maxine told me she was so happy to have a son that she held him before the nurse had him “cleaned up.” He was delivered by Dr. Nowers, a popular Kenesaw doctor. When Pat came home after the standard ten days in the hospital, he was greeted by three sisters, Bobbie, almost 6, Alberta, almost 5, and Penny, 14 months. His oldest sister, Shirley had died at birth in 1935.
When Pat was born the family lived in a rented house in Juniata. I am not sure which house it was. I know the family had lived in two rented Juniata houses; one just north of the tennis court on 9th Street. The other house was at 911 Blue River Avenue, on the corner of 10th Street. Both houses still stand. In March 1944 when Pat was less than two months old, Bud and Maxine purchased from Hattie Parmenter the house at 210 West 10th St. where Pat grew up. We also lived there the first three years we were married and it was the first house Christina lived in. Bud and Maxine sold the house in October 1976.
The country was in the midst of World War II in 1944. One of the most important events of the year was D-Day, June 6, 1944, the day the Allies landed on the beaches at Normandy, France to begin the drive to defeat the Germans. Franklin D. Roosevelt was President.
Most women did not work outside the home, however, many women were working in defense plants, like the Navy Depot at Hastings where Pat’s Grandmother, Clarice Bugg, was working making ammunition. The average family income was $2,400 a year. What would $200 a month buy then? An average new house cost $3,500. However, because of the war few materials were available to build a house. A new car, if one had been available cost about $950. No cars, commercial trucks, or auto parts were made from February 1942 to October 1945 because automotive factories were making military vehicles. A gallon of gas, if you had the necessary ration stamp, was 15 cents. A loaf of bread was ten cents and a gallon of milk 60 cents. In January 1944 the following items were rationed: gasoline, bicycles, footwear, silk, nylon, fuel oil, tires, stoves, sugar, meat, lard, shortening and oils, cheese, butter, margarine, canned, bottled, and frozen foods, dried fruits, firewood and coal, jams, jellies and fruit butter. Even items that weren’t rationed were often not available.
It’s time for a story from the Wymore side of the family. The people in this story are not in our direct line, but they are related.
William Jackson Marion, sometimes called Jackson, was born May 13, 1849 in Mahaska County, Iowa where many members of the Wymore and McMains families lived, and some still do. His parents were Tipton Marion and Margaret McMains Marion. Several members of the Wymore and McMains extended families, including Maxine Wymore Renschler’s great-grandparents, Eliot and Lavina McMains Wymore, moved to Gage and Pawnee Counties, Nebraska, in the 1860s.
William’s mother, Margaret McMains Marion died in Gage County in 1868. Her grave is unmarked. She left a family of ten children ranging in age from 20 down to 2 years. Along with six other area men, William joined Company A, First Regiment Nebraska Cavalry on June 22, 1869. All of the company was discharged on November 1, 1869. On the 1870 census William is living with his father and siblings at Liberty in Gage County.
William Jackson Marion and John Cameron, who boarded together in Clay County, Kansas, journeyed in May 1872 to Wild Cat Creek in Gage County, Nebraska to visit John and Rachel Warren, Marion’s in-laws. The day before they left Kansas, Marion purportedly signed a contract to purchase a team of horses from Cameron for $315, paying $30 down. It was agreed that Cameron would keep the horses until Marion paid the balance. Marion and Cameron left the Warren place in mid-May, saying they were heading west to work on the railroad. A few days later, Marion returned alone to Gage County with Cameron’s belongings. His wife, Lydia, quizzed him about Cameron’s whereabouts. He said he had bought out his friend who had left in a hurry.
The Otoe Indian Reservation was located in southern Gage County and extended into northern Kansas. In 1873 a decomposing body half-buried in the bank of a creek was found there. The skull had three bullet holes. A coroner’s inquest was called. William’s wife Lydia and her father testified that the clothing matched what Cameron was last seen wearing. The inquest issued the following statement: “The said John Cameron came to his death on or about the 4th of May 1872 by means of a bullet or bullets shot from a revolver in the hands of Jackson Marion.” The Beatrice newspaper, calling Marion as “a hardened and remorseless wretch thus to murder a friend for the paltry value of a team and an old wagon,” described a made-up murder scene. In 1880 Nathaniel Herron was elected sheriff of Gage County. He decided he would bring Marion to justice. In December 1882 Marion was in jail in Sedan, Kansas for stealing a wagon. Herron headed down to Kansas and brought Marion back to the Gage County jail at Beatrice where he would remain for the next four years.
A trial was held in May 1883 at which Rachel Warren, Marion’s mother-in-law, testified that she thought her son-in-law had killed Cameron. The jury was shown the ragged clothes and the remains of the body. Marion, when put on the stand, professed his innocence. But the defense, which had been hired by Marion’s uncle, William Wymore, was inept. The jury deliberated just a few minutes and returned a verdict of guilty of first-degree murder. Without any evidence but the testimony of a jilted wife and her parents, William Jackson Marion was sentenced to hang.
However, the Nebraska Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for a new trial because Marion had been sentenced by a judge rather than a jury. At the time of the crime, the law required jury sentencing, although by the time of the trial the law had been changed to allow sentencing by a judge. Marion v. Nebraska, 16 Neb. 349 (1884). In March 1885 Marion, after a week long second trial was convicted, and sentenced to death, this time by a jury — a result that the state high court affirmed. Marion v. Nebraska, 20 Neb. 233 (1886). Meanwhile, public sentiment was changing and more than 1,000 persons signed a petition requesting Marion’s sentence be amended to life in prison. The Nebraska governor reviewed the case but ordered the sentence carried out. Marion, age 38, went to the gallows in Beatrice on March 25, 1887, proclaiming, as he had from the beginning, that he was innocent. The only member of his family present was his uncle, William Wymore, who shook Marion’s hand as he walked to the gallows.
Marion’s body was buried in an unmarked grave in potter’s field at the Beatrice cemetery. However, William Wymore was convinced his nephew was innocent. Four years later, Wymore heard that Cameron was alive. He traveled to LaCrosse, Kansas, where Cameron had been seen, and found him. Cameron explained that he had absconded to Mexico in 1872 to avoid a shotgun wedding in Kansas. Then he had traveled to Alaska. He had heard nothing of Marion’s trial and execution. When Wymore obtained a statement from Cameron, the Beatrice newspaper headline proclaimed “The Dead is Alive!” It was never determined whose body had been found in the creek.
William Jackson Marion was the seventh person to be executed in Nebraska. In December 1986, Marion’s great-grandson petitioned Governor Bob Kerry, who on March 25, 1987, the centennial of the execution, granted William Jackson Marion, posthumously, a full pardon based on innocence. A grave marker, containing a copy of the pardon, was erected on Marion’s grave by his grandson.
In honor of Memorial Day I am telling the story of another one of our ancestors’ military service. In May 1868, General John A. Logan, the commander-in-chief of the Union veterans’ organization, the Grand Army of the Republic, issued a declaration that May 30 should become a day of commemoration for the soldiers killed in the recently ended Civil War. The occasion was called “Decoration Day.” Americans should decorate the graves of the fallen “whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.” Supposedly May 30 was chosen because it was a day that didn’t fall on the anniversary of a Civil War battle, and the date ensured that flowers across the country would be in full bloom.
Hiram Harvey Kimball is Maxine Wymore Renschler’s great grandfather, making him my children’s, 3rd great grandfather. Hiram was born April 3, 1843 at Indian Ford, Rock County, Wisconsin. In 1860, according to the Federal census, the Kimball family was living in the Rock County village of Fulton. Hiram’s father, Abraham Kimball, worked as a carpenter and Hiram, age 17, had attended school within the year. A description of Hiram was found on his military Certificate of Disability for Discharge. He was five feet ten inches tall, fair complexion, hazel eyes, light brown hair, and by occupation a carpenter.
On April 12, 1861 Confederates attacked Fort Sumpter at Charleston, South Carolina, and on April 15 President Lincoln issued a call for 75,000 militiamen. The Civil War had begun. On April 20 Hiram, who had just turned 18 years old, enlisted in Company D, 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry at Janesville, the county seat of Rock County.
Hiram was mustered into three years Federal service on June 11. The regiment was transported by railroad to Washington, DC, arriving there on June 25. They were assigned to the Third Brigade, 1st Division, Department of Northeast Virginia, commanded by General William Tecumseh Sherman. From July 16 to 20, the 2nd Wisconsin marched in sweltering heat from Fort Corcoran, Virginia to Manassas, Virginia. The 2ndWisconsin saw its first combat at the First Battle of Bull Run, which was the first major battle of the Civil War.
The First Battle of Bull Run, known as the First Battle of Manassas by the Confederates, was fought on July 21, 1861 just north of Manassas, Virginia, about 25 miles south-west of Washington, DC. The union troops were poorly trained and poorly led in the battle. After marching in sweltering heat, the Union Army was allowed to rest. While Union General McDowell hesitated, Confederate reinforcements under General “Stonewall” Jackson arrived at Manassas. During the battle Union troops under William Tecumseh Sherman, which should have included Hiram H. Kimball, managed to send the Confederate line into a retreat. However, Union General McDowell failed to press the advantage. The eventual Union defeat was followed by a disorganized retreat with panicked Union troops running in the direction of Washington, DC. Union casualties were 460 killed, over 1,300 missing or captured, and over 1,100 wounded.
Following the Union defeat at Bull Run, panicked efforts were made to strengthen the forts defending Washington, DC from Confederate attack. Many makeshift trenches and blockhouses were built. After Bull Run the 2nd Wisconsin was assigned to guard the National Capital from Fort Corcoran, a wood and earthwork fortification in Arlington County, Virginia overlooking the Potomac River. Hiram would have been among those digging trenches, throwing up breastworks, building blockhouses and palisades, and standing guard.
Fort Corcoran was one of 33 forts on the Virginia side of the Potomac River that made up an outer defense line for Washington DC known as the Arlington Line. On July 23, President Abraham Lincoln visited Fort Corcoran in an effort to revive morale after the defeat at Bull Run. Whether Hiram was present and saw President Lincoln is unknown. Apparently Hiram spent the following year manning the fortifications along the Potomac River.
From information contained in Hiram’s pension file, it appears he was in the Regimental Hospital at Belle Plains, Virginia from July 1862 until his disability discharge in February 1863. Belle Plains was a landing and unincorporated settlement on the south bank of Potomac Creek, off the Potomac River in Stafford County, Virginia. I haven’t found any description of the hospital; it may have been a field hospital composed of tents. Another pension file document states: “During the last two months the soldier has been unfit for service 50 days. Private Hiram H Kimball has been subject to fits during the last year and has been in Regimental Hospital for the last eight months. The officer commanding does not know whether the disease has been contracted in the service.” On the same document was the “Attending Surgeon’s Statement: I find him incapable of performing the duties of a soldier because of epilipsia [sic]. He has been afflicted with epilipsia ever since he came into the service, and had two attacks in one week. Said disease was not contracted while in the service of the U.S.”
Hiram, a private, served 22 months of his three-year enlistment, then was discharged due to disability. Union privates were paid $13 a month during his service. Hiram’s address after discharge was Edgerton, Rock County, Wisconsin. Five weeks after his discharge Hiram married Maria M. Phillips in Jefferson County, Wisconsin. In February 1874 Hiram applied for a pension stating his epilepsy was caused by his military service. He received a pension probably about $8 a month. By 1880 the Kimball family along with some of Maria’s siblings had moved to Kearney, Nebraska where Hiram was working as a blacksmith. By June 1885 they were living at Sweetwater in Buffalo County and Hiram was working in the mill there. The family moved to Harbine, Republic County, Kansas in 1886 where Hiram worked as a mechanic and blacksmith. He was also a member of the Harbine Grand Army of the Republic, the organization of Union veterans of the civil War.
Hiram died at Hardy, Thayer County, Nebraska on April 28, 1903 at age 60 years and 3 weeks. He and his wife Maria are buried in the Hardy Cemetery.
My parents, especially my Mother, were devoutly observant Catholics. Lent, the 40 day period of fasting and abstinence before Easter Sunday, was strictly observed in our house. Lent began on Ash Wednesday when we attended Mass and received ashes in the form of a cross on our foreheads. The ashes came from burning the previous year’s Palm Sunday fronds. During Lent we had only one large meal a day and two small ones with no snacks in between. We ate meat only once a day, except Ash Wednesday and Fridays when we ate no meat. Of course, during my childhood we abstained from meat on all Fridays as penance because that was the day Jesus was crucified. On days without meat we ate eggs, fish and cheese. Agnes and I were also required to give up something for Lent, usually candy and sweets. We lived a simple life, so there wasn’t much else to give up.
We strictly observed Holy Week, the days from Palm Sunday through Holy Saturday. Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper and Jesus washing his disciples feet and commanding them to “love one another.” Church bells were silenced and the organ not used from Thursday through Saturday. Also, all the statues were covered, the altar was stripped and the tabernacle stood open and empty. Good Friday, the day of the crucifixion, was observed with the Stations of the Cross. The 14 stations are images or sculptures usually on church walls depicting Jesus’ passion and death. Prayers are said at each station. I remember as a small girl kneeling and thinking the prayers would never end.
Many of the early settlers of Assumption, including my relatives, the Kaiser, Theisen, Hoffman, and Mousel families were from Saint Donatus, Iowa. The first outdoor Way (or Stations) of the Cross in the United States was erected at Saint Donatus in 1862, winding up a steep hill behind the church cemetery. Every Good Friday the congregation still climbs that steep hill stopping to pray at each station.
To a small child the six weeks of Lent were a long time. My Mother did not allow us to break our abstinence on Sundays. Her reasoning was “If you fill up on sweets on Sunday it isn’t a sacrifice to do without it during the week.” I always looked forward to Easter Sunday because that day we got to wear our spring clothing for the first time. Agnes and I usually got something new for spring–white patent leather shoes, or a new hat or purse or gloves. Mom made all our dresses so we usually had a new spring dress for Easter. Dotted Swiss, a sheer fabric with small fuzzy dots, was popular when I was a girl. I remember one year we both got new light weight spring coats. Whether they were purchased or Mom made them I don’t recall.
We set out our Easter baskets on Saturday evening and the next morning they contained colored hard boiled eggs and some candy. Of course we couldn’t eat any until we got home after Easter Mass because we had to fast for twelve hours before taking communion. The tradition of the Easter bunny and the Easter basket dates back thousands of years. In European folklore the hare and eggs are symbols of fertility and the rebirth of spring. These ancient spring equinox traditions eventually combined with the Christian celebration of the resurrection and were brought to the United States by early German settlers.
Ham is the traditional Easter meat because cured pork was about all that was left to eat by the end of winter. In a 1979 interview my great aunt Lizzy Pittz recalled “Easter was a special time for baking pies and cakes. For Easter Mother always took a big ham and boiled it. And we ate it cold [after Mass] with chicken noodle soup. We always had a big Easter. And we fixed colored eggs. Kate and Matt [Trausch] came over if they could.”
Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures taken on Easter during my childhood. I did find a picture of Penny and Pat Renschler with an Easter basket. Pat appears to be about three years old.
When my children were young, we observed Easter the same way I had as a child. We attended Mass in Assumption and then usually ate Easter dinner with my parents.
The Christmas celebrations that my parents and grandparents knew were nothing like the commercialized spree of shopping and gift giving we know today. The holiday was centered around the celebration of the birth of Christ. Christmas was (and still is) a holy day of obligation—a day when attending Mass was required. Families bundled into their carriages or wagons with bricks that had been heated in the oven to keep their feet warm during the trip to church. Some families with only a wagon filled it with straw for warmth if the weather was bitterly cold. Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve was a special celebration that was looked forward to eagerly. The church was lighted with candles and decorated with greenery or evergreen trees. The crèche used at Assumption prior to the 1945 fire was a large impressive set, the tallest figurines about two feet tall. When it was purchased I do not know; possibly when the 1922 church was built. It was tradition that the crèche was set up before Christmas, but without the Christ child in the manger. At midnight Mass on Christmas Eve a child or children carried the Baby Jesus up to the crèche and placed him in the manger.
Grandma Trausch never had a crèche at home and as far as I know neither did Grandma Kline when my mother was young.
When my parents were children they received few Christmas gifts, and often not individual gifts but toys to be shared. In 1992 my Uncle Ed Trausch reminisced about his childhood Christmas gifts: “We got mostly clothes. We got tinker toys once, that was real enjoyable. We got a sand mill once. You filled the hopper with sand and it ran down a slant and then ran back and dumped it. We enjoyed that. We played checkers a lot. The first years I remember Santa Claus brought the tree and the toys. Dad went out and cut it. We went to midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, then Christmas dinner someone always came over.”
In 1979 Great Aunt Lizzie Kaiser Pittz reminisced “I remember one Christmas Dad [Nicholas Kaiser] got each one of the boys [grandsons] a pocket knife, Oh, your Dad [Bert Trausch] thought that was great. Grandma and Grandpa always got all the grandkids Christmas presents. Kate always had a Christmas tree in the dining room in the corner and it reached almost to the ceiling. They had candles on it. Kate would go to 5 o’clock Mass and Matt would put the tree up. The next morning toys was under it.”
The Trausch grandparents (Thomas and Anna) did not give Christmas gifts to their grandchildren, probably because they had a lot of them.
In 1984 my Mother and I talked about her childhood Christmases. “The folks used to buy a wooden bucket of mixed Christmas candy, about ten pounds. Too bad we don’t have a few of those wooden buckets now. We used them to gather eggs in and things like that. My folks were always big on candy and nuts. We always got a lot of them. Mom made divinity. That was a treat. Sometimes we made taffy, but that wasn’t at Christmas. That was generally after Christmas.
I asked if Grandma Leona Kline ever cooked anything French for Christmas? “Not that I can remember. The one thing I remember was we always went to my Grandma Kline’s for Christmas and they had celery. That was about the only time of year we saw it. Aunt Kate thought celery was a big treat. Grandma generally had two or three roast chickens and bread dressing. Once I remember they had a turkey that Aunt Sill raised. They made good dressing. They made it in a pan separate from the meat. They took the juice from the birds and dipped it over the dressing while it was baking. Boy it was good, real flavorful. The chickens they roasted were hens and they are always more flavorful. They usually had pie.”
Grandma Kline [Bertha] actually didn’t do the cooking when I can remember, it was Aunt Kate and Aunt Sill. [Aunt Kate and Aunt Cecilia were old maids who lived on the farm with their widowed mother.] Grandma would help get the ingredients ready; if they had apple pie, she would peel the apples. Aunt Sill always made the pies and Aunt Kate always made cake. When Aunt Kate made cake, she always took Grandma the shortening and sugar and she whipped that up real good, then she put the eggs in and she whipped that up good. Grandma peeled the vegetables. She did that in her big rocking chair.
Did you ever spend Christmas with your Grandpa Bassett? “No. Well, it was too far to go into Hastings when the folks were first married, and then they just got the tradition started of going to Grandma Kline’s. Mom always had her family out for New Years if the weather was good. The folks generally took Mom’s folks some meat and eggs, something like that. They used to laugh. Grandma [Maud] Bassett always gave them a bath towel set. Grandma Kline gave them different things. One year Grandma Kline got them an ice cream freezer, a big kettle, something like that. I still have the sheet and pillow from the little doll bed I got when I was little one year from Grandma Kline. I still have those little sauce dishes that you got the big dish for. My big dish broke when hot pudding got poured in it. And I still have a little silver button hook, finger nail file and finger nail cleaner that Grandma Kline gave me for Christmas one time.
Grandma and Grandpa Bassett didn’t give us kids each one anything. They just gave the folks generally a bath towel set.”
Were the presents wrapped? “Yes. Years ago the stores wrapped everything with tan paper and string. At Christmas time they got big rolls of Christmas paper. The folks saved that. And Mom used brown sacks to wrap presents with. Everything was wrapped in the stores until probably in the ‘40s. Then they started using sacks for wrapping.
In the grocery store most things came in crates or boxes. I know when we were first married I would go to town and buy a 25 pound box of prunes. They cost about $2. I canned some and the rest we just ate. Flour came in 50 pound sacks.”
Did you have a Christmas tree when you were little? “We always had a Christmas tree. It was always a branch off an evergreen, ever a tree. Mom went to Grandma Kline’s and asked them if she could have a branch for a Christmas tree. We didn’t put it up very early. Our house was small. Mom generally put the tree in the churn and set it beside the cupboard in the kitchen and we strung up some popcorn and cranberries and paper stuff and put that on. We didn’t have any bought decorations.”
Did your Grandma Kline have a Christmas Tree? “They never had a big tree. She had a little tree, I think it was paper, that she put on the table. It was about two feet tall. A little artificial tree, the branches folded straight up. On the end of each branch she put a little candle holder and a little candle. She lay some cotton along the top of each branch, and they put some tinsel icicles on. Then Christmas night at supper she lit the candles on the tree. They always hung a red paper bell on their shades, and in the door between the kitchen and living room they hung some red paper roping and some tinsel, and a red paper bell. They never had a Nativity set.”
Did your Grandma and Grandpa Bassett have a Christmas tree? “Yes. They also had one of those little artificial trees that the branches folded up. It was about three feet tall. And she had it on a little stand in her front window. They lived in Hastings and had electricity. They had lights on the tree. They didn’t have a Nativity set either.
At Giltner church we had a crib set. They took one tree branch and hung it over the top of the set and put a little cotton and tinsel on that. That was a big deal for us kids.”
Did you have midnight Mass on Christmas Eve? “Not for a good many years. They started having midnight Mass when I was a teenager. We went in the morning on Christmas day. Giltner was a mission of Harvard and until the Priest got a car we didn’t have midnight Mass.”
In 1982 I asked my Grandmother, Leona Bassett Kline, about her childhood Christmas presents. Did you have toys when you were a girl? “No. I got an orange one Christmas; that’s all I got.” Was that because your Dad [Jule Bassett] didn’t have any money? “Ya. My mother died [Leona was only four years old when her mother died in October 1897] and he had to hire ladies to keep the house and to keep us kids. It just broke him. He only had a quarter [160 acres of land] and farmed all by hand. He just couldn’t make enough money. But we had a better living than I had in the thirties by far. I don’t remember how old I was when I got my first doll, pretty old. We’d take pie plant [rhubarb] leaves and pin ‘em on our heads [for a bonnet]. Kids them days never had toys. We didn’t know what they were.”
Unfortunately, I didn’t ask my Grandmother Trausch about her childhood Christmas traditions. Grandma Trausch was born in 1883, so she was growing up during the hard years of the 1890s depression. All farmers were very poor at that time. Mary Pigeon, Grandma Kline’s cousin, also told me that one Christmas all she got in her stocking was an orange. She sucked on it and made it last all day.
My French ancestors did not celebrated Christmas like the Germans did. For the French, Christmas was a religious holiday. They celebrated New Years Day with a special meal and exchanged gifts then. The families often got together on New Years and there was music and dancing, as well as French food and drinks.
Great Aunt Lizzie Kaiser Pittz reminisced about the Luxembourg custom of Saint Nicholas Day which is December 6th. “We had a special good meal and then in the evening Saint Nicholas would come to the door and roll in walnuts and candy. He never brought toys. We never got to see him, it was dark. He would knock on the door, then the folks went to the door and stood aside and he rolled in the candy and nuts. We kids would run and pick them up. I don’t know who played Saint Nick, probably Uncle Charley Theisen or some neighbor. All the Luxembourgers celebrated Saint Nicholas Day: Nick Konen’s and Nick Mousel’s had big parties. We never had a party, just the family. We had Christmas too.
During my parents and grandparents childhoods children’s wants were simpler. Communications were limited to the mail, seeing friends and relatives at church, and the neighborhood school. The weekly newspaper did contain advertisements from local merchants, and most families received the “Monkey Wards,” Sears or National Belles Hess catalogues. However, the first Sears “Wish Book” Christmas Catalog didn’t make its debut until 1933 when my parents were young adults.