Frank Kaiser and Ernest Bassett in WWI

Frank Kaiser
Frank Kaiser

Frank Nicholas Kaiser was born November 28, 1889 at his parent’s farm house located in Juniata Township, northwest of Assumption.  He was the sixth child and second surviving son of Nicholas and Susanna (Theisen) Kaiser.  The family was of northeastern France and Luxembourg descent and spoke German in their home.  On the 1940 census he listed his education as Elementary, seventh grade.  In 1917 Frank was almost 28 years-old and an unmarried, self employed farmer.

Bassett, Ernest Jule 001Ernest Jule Bassett, known as Ernie, was born February 17, 1895 at his parent’s farm house on what is now 12th Street east of Hastings.  He was the first and only surviving son of Jule S. and Josephine (Bergeron) Bassett.  His parents were of French and French Canadian descent and spoke French in their home.  On the 1940 census he listed his education as being high school, two years.  In 1917 Ernie was 22 years-old, single and employed on his father’s farm.   Ernie’s oldest sister, Mary Fischer, lived at Fairbury.  This photo must have been taken while he was on furlough visiting her.

The United States entered World War I on April 6th, and began the draft on June 5, 1917. Both Ernest Bassett and Frank Kaiser’s draft registration cards are dated June 5th. According to the Kenesaw Sunbeam of September 13th, Frank Kaiser had applied for a draft exemption based on his occupation as a farmer.  It was denied.   My father felt most exemption requests of German-Americans were denied because of extreme anti German sentiment of the WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) population which controlled the draft boards.

In a 1992 interview my father, Bert Trausch, who was 11 years-old in 1917, talked about his memories of WWI.  “Mom had a party for Uncle Frank before he left, he wasn’t married then yet. Al and Hank Theisen came. I remember we were setting out on the front porch drinking beer. About four of them got in the swing, there were screws up into the porch ceiling, and bingo, the swing came down.” While Uncle Frank was in Europe he wrote letters to his sister, Catherine Kaiser Trausch.  Bert remembered his mother reading them to the family.  Frank said “France was so dirty and the people didn’t give a damn whether they worked or not.” Unfortunately, those letters have not survived.

In another 1992 interview I asked my uncle Ed Trausch how his grandparents, being German speakers and identifying as German, felt about the war.  His reply: “They were for America. In fact Grandpa [Trausch] left Luxembourg to stay out of the German army. They never mentioned being concerned about fighting their relatives in Europe. My uncles on both sides went to World War I, both Trausch and Kaiser.”  [Uncle Joseph Trausch was drafted in 1917, went to Camp Funston, Kansas, may have been part of Company C, 314th Motor Supply Train, but did not go to France with them.]

The following information was taken from The Three Hundred and Fourteenth Motor Supply Train In The World War   by Milton E Bernet, 1919

The 314th Motor Supply Train was organized in October 1917 at Camp Funston, Kansas, when the first two hundred men of the new National Army were assigned to it.  It was a part of the 89th Division, the Middle West Division that came to be known as the “Fighting Farmers.”  Of the 551 men assigned to the 314th, 297 were Nebraskans. My two great uncles, Frank Kaiser and Ernest Bassett were both assigned to Company E.

During the first weeks at Camp Funston the men if the 314th were drilled as infantrymen.  In mid December instruction in mechanics, driving, running in convoy, and minor repairs was begun.  At this time the only motor vehicle in the company was the touring car assigned to the Lieutenant Colonel.  Soon trucks were obtained and classes of about 30 men each received two weeks instruction in more advanced mechanics.  Eventually each man was given instruction in the driving and mechanics of trucks, touring cars and motorcycles.  Yes, the men needed instruction in driving.  In 1917 automobiles were still a luxury which few families owned.

In addition to their motor training, the men hiked to the firing range to learn proficiency with a rifle, and took their turns as military guards.

The Army had not been prepared for the thousands of recruits and in midwinter the members of the 314th were still wearing the blue denim overalls they had been issued upon arrival.  During the severest winter weather, some men did not have overcoats and if men wore out their shoes there were no replacements.

On a bitter winter morning a portion of Company E was scheduled to go on trucks.  During the night the damp clothes and wet shoes of some drivers had frozen.  At 7:00 a.m. the First Sergeant asked the drivers if they wished to go on trucks that morning.  As they were given a choice, they answered “No.”  A report was sent to Headquarters that Company E had refused to go on trucks.  The entire company was placed under arrest in quarters and the First Sergeant was reduced.  After that incident, no man ever objected to any detail no matter how difficult.

Ernest Bassett was designated a “dispatcher” in Company E.  A dispatcher rode a motorcycle carrying messages from Headquarters to the front lines and back.  The Germans were “hot to kill” the dispachers as my mother said, to keep the orders from getting through.  Ernie was one of the lucky dispachers; he survived.  Frank Kaiser was a “chauffeur,” someone who drove a motor vehicle.

On February 1, 1918 the first practice drive in convoy was held.  May 15th a convoy of ten Liberty trucks rolled into Camp Funston, the first to arrive there.  The Liberty Truck was the US Army vehicle used in World War I.  It had a 52-hp engine and a four-speed transmission, with a top speed of about 15 miles per hour.

During early March Frank Kaiser came home on furlough.  The Hastings Daily Tribune of March 7, 1918 reported: “Frank Kaiser has returned to Camp Funston having been home on a few days furlough.  Frank says Funston is alright.  He is a truck driver at that place.”

The men of the 314th lined up in squads and marched to the Union Pacific Depot on the morning of June 4, 1918.  They were bound for Camp Mills, Long Island, New York and ultimately France.  The men spent 20 days in tents at Camp Mills, New York.  They were given occasional night time passes and for the vast majority it was their first chance to see a major city.

On June 27th the men went by train to Pier 65 and checked onto the Belgian passenger liner Lapland.  The ship was camouflaged because of the German submarine warfare which was attempting to halt the stream of American soldiers flowing to Europe.  The Lapland, with 2200 military forces, sailed in a convoy of fourteen passenger ships and their naval escort.  The second day out found many of the men ill with seasickness.  Nevertheless, they were expected at boat-drill twice a day.  As the ships approached England, the danger of attack increased, and the naval convoy was augmented by destroyers.   On July 9th the Lapland docked at Liverpool, England.  The Americans were greeted by a band playing The Star Spangled Banner and by cheering crowds.  The 314th Supply Train was now part of the American Expeditionary Forces.  They soon boarded a train which took them across England to Southampton where they boarded a ship for a night crossing of the channel to the French port of le Harve.

At le Harve the 314th was split with Companies A through D going by train to Bordeaux and Companies E and F by train to Marseilles.  The men traveled in box cars that would soon become known by the sign on their side “40 hommes – 8 Chevaux” 40 men or 8 horses.  About 32 men with their gear were loaded in each car, which was about half the size of American box cars.  Obtaining drinking water was a problem on the trip.  Occasionally at a train station a Red Cross canteen would be selling coffee and snacks.  Companies E and F had some excitement while passing around Paris when they saw a German air raid on the French capitol.

Soon Companies E and F were ordered to Rimaucourt, in north-east France; traveling there by passenger train, and arriving on August 2nd.  There the 314th was reunited and began serving the 89th Division.  The 314th Headquarters were established in an old chateau said to have been one of Napoleon’s summer palaces. Gas masks and helmets were soon issued to the men, and 150 trucks of various makes to the Supply Train, which was given the task of moving the 89th division to the front line trenches.  30,000 men and all their equipment had to be moved 50 miles using an assortment of trucks.  An immediate problem was the shortage of gasoline.  On August 3rd the first convoy of 100 trucks headed to the front, surrounded by machine-gun trucks and ambulances.  The following day the convoy returned carrying men of the 82nd American Division which the 89th was relieving.

314th Motor Train trucks under shell fire in France.
314th Motor Train trucks under shell fire in France.

For most of the men of the 314th it was their first time under shell fire, the first time they heard the rumbling of artillery a few miles away, the first time they saw observation balloons above, the first time they saw star-shells and flares at night, and heard the ominous purring of the bomb laden German planes as they circled above.  On August 7th the supply train established its headquarters at Menil-la-Tour, France.  It was the first sleep many of the drivers had had in four days.

Now the work of supplying the 89th Division began: ferrying barbed wire to the front, rock to the Engineers for repairing roads hit by shell-fire, rations to company kitchens and the hot food to the doughboys in the trenches, and ammunition up to the batteries.

314 Motor TrainOn the eve of September 11th the supply train carried troops to the front all night.  A steady downpour all afternoon and night made travel over the roads difficult, but also hid the troop movement from the Germans.  At 1:00 a.m. on September 12th the St. Mihiel Drive began with a barrage of artillery that lasted all night.  Many doughboys and Germans lost their lives that day, but the Americans successfully reached the Hindenbourg Line and dug in.

During the drive, Corporal Anton Pavelka of Bladen had an unusual experience.  He had been given an order to take a truck load of medical supplies into Xammes.  As he drove through Thiaucourt, he was warned not to go further.  But he had received an order and was determined to comply.  Continuing on, the machine-gun fire became heavy as he drove into Xammes.  When he got into town, he realized the line of doughboys he had seen at the edge of town was the front line and he was in German territory.  Possibly because they feared a rouse, the Germans did not fire on him.  He calmly turned the truck around and got the hell out of town.

In the days that followed, the men literally lived in their trucks, carrying their rations with them and sleeping in the bottom of the trucks when given the opportunity.  During heavy shelling they got out of the trucks and lay in ditches.  By mid October the Supply Train was in the Argonne forest, and at the month’s end Company E was sent to Eclisfontaine.

On October 31st the doughboys “went over the top” in the second phase of the Meuse-Argonne offensive and the supply train followed.  As they advanced the road sides were strewn with dead men and horses.  The 89th Division progressed rapidly against the exhausted and discouraged Germans.  Company E was sent on special duty with the Sanitary Train.  On November 8th the troops heard rumors that the Kaiser had advocated and fled to Holland.

About 11 o’clock on November 11th the guns fell silent.  Several hours later the men were informed an armistice had been signed putting an end to the fighting.  After the armistice, all companies of the Supply Train gathered at Remonville, and on November 22 they learned they were to be part of the Army of Occupation and would be moving into Germany.  The Supply Train moved to Montmedy, a French railway town near the Belgium border, and on the 26th they moved into Belgium.

When the Americans crossed into Belgium the population welcomed them as saviors of the country.  As the convoy of trucks rolled through towns, men, women and children waved, saluted, and threw flowers.  Thanksgiving Day was spent in Chatillon in southeast Belgium near the Luxembourg border.  On Nov 30 the convoy arrived in Arlon, Belgium and took over a barracks that had been recently evacuated by the Germans.  On December 5th the convoy moved into Luxembourg, and established temporary headquarters at Echternach on the Sauer River, which forms the border with Germany.   Late on December 7th the Supply Train of the Army of Occupation crossed into Germany.  They made their way to Bitburg where they were billeted with the inhabitants of the town.  Frank Kaiser, being fluent in German, would have been able to converse with the townspeople.  During this time convoys of trucks transported supplies from railheads to occupation troops.

During the months in Germany the soldiers were given leave to tour France, Luxembourg, Belgium and to Trier in Germany.  It is known that Frank Kaiser took the opportunity to visit the area in northeast France, very near the border of Luxembourg, where his Kaiser grandparents had lived prior to 1847.  Where Ernest Bassett, who was conversant in French, traveled on leave is unknown.

In February 1919 the announcement came that the 89th division would sail for home in June.  The first weeks of May the Supply Train was busy moving the battalion to their entraining points at the German towns of Prum, Erdorf, and Trier.  On May 13th supply train personnel boarded a troop train at Erdorf.  They arrived at Brest, a port city in northwest France, on the 18th and boarded the ship Rotterdam on the 19th.  They stopped at Plymouth, England where several hundred American civilians boarded the ship which sailed into New York Harbor on May 30th.  The mayor sent a special delegation, including a jazz band, on a launch to welcome the soldiers home.  The 314th went to Camp Upton, New York from which each detachment was sent to its home base for discharge.

An appendix to the history of the 314th lists the members who were killed and wounded.  Frank Kaiser is not listed.  However, his 1941 obituary stated he was “injured while in service in France and never fully recovered.”  I called Frank’s granddaughter, Mary Gerloff, and she told me that her understanding is that “a vehicle was backing up to hook onto a trailer.  Frank was in between, probably to guide the tongue onto the hitch.  He was pinned between the truck and trailer injuring his hip and leg.” When he returned from the war Frank went back to farming.  In 1923 he married Margaret Trausch in the Assumption church.  They farmed northwest of Roseland until Frank’s November 1941 death from colon cancer at age 51.  His pall bearers were all men with whom he had served in the 314th Motor Supply Train.

After the war Ernie Bassett never returned to farming.  His father had been forced to quit farming and move to Hastings after Ernie was drafted.  In 1920 Ernie was living with his parents on North Minnesota in Hastings and managing a grain elevator.  In 1930 he was part owner of the Standard Station at in Hastings.  In 1940 Ernie was back to managing a Hastings grain elevator.  His father, Jule Bassett, died in 1941, and in 1942 Ernie and wife Mary were living in Long Beach, California where he worked in the Douglas aircraft factory.  Ernie died at Long Beach in 1957.  He had no children, so any stories of his war experiences died with him.

Luckily for Ernie and Frank, while they were in Camp Funston the 314th Motor Supply Train was organized.  That saved them from the trenches of World War I.

Members of the 314th Motor Supply Train from the Adams County area of Nebraska.

Company A

Chauffeurs: Corporal William Graneman, Glenvil

Corporal James J Kluver, Glenvil

Corporal Walter C Nowka, Inland

Corporal Walter F Rhodes, Trumbull

Private   Anton Mohlman, Glenvil

Company B

Mechanics : Corporal Fred Flesner, Inland

Chauffeurs: Corporal John F Hinrichs, Glenvil

Pvt.  Frank Lolling, Glenvil

Company C

Company D

Chauffeurs: Corporal William E Brune, Blue Hill

Corporal Alfred O Buschow, Blue Hill

Corporal Alfred G Engelhardt, Blue Hill

Corporal Millard Marymee, Bladen

Corporal Anton Pavelka, Bladen

Asst. Chauffeur: Pvt. Peter Koch, Campbell

Pvt  Virgil I Walburn, Bladen

Company E

Dispachers: Corporal Ernest J. Bassett, 816 N. Minn., Hastings

Cook:        Fred Eckhardt, 302 S Bellevue, Hastings

Chauffeurs: Corporal Martin G. Goldenstein, R.F.D. Glenvil

Corporal John L Goldenstein, R.F.D. Hastings

Corporal Lester L Ground, 3428 East 6th Hastings

Corporal Frank N Kaiser, R.F.D. Juniata

Corporal Axel T. Peterson, Holstein

Corporal Onno Valentine, R.F.D. Pauline

Private James E Gallagher, R.F.D. Ayr

Private Elmer E Grothen, R.F.D. Juniata

Private Henry Kimminau, R.F.D. Lawrence

Company F

Chauffeurs:   Corporal Fred Eckardt, Campbell

Asst. Chauffeur: Pvt. George C Porterfield, Heartwell

Harriet Imler Clark

Harriet Imler was born June 1, 1843 at Deer Creek, Pickaway County, Ohio, the tenth of twelve children of her parents, George and Sarah Betz Imler.  Her parents, both born in Pennsylvania, were “Pennsylvania Dutch” and spoke the German language.  Exactly when the Imler family moved to Allen County is not known, but they were living in Shawnee township by the September 1850 agricultural census.

Wm & Harriet Imler Clark
William and Harriet (Imler) Clark date unknown

 

The Imler family was members of the Saint Matthews Evangelical Lutheran Church in Shawnee Township, Allen County.  The first church was a log structure, and the church services were conducted in the German language.  The earliest records of the church are lost, except for an 1844 list of founding members.  George Imler is not on this list, indicating the family was still in Pickaway County.  In 1851 a frame building was erected and George Imler appears on the donor list for that building.

Allen County was heavily wooded when the first settlers arrived and most families lived in log houses.  The following was taken from a history of German Township written by S.D. Crites in 1909 and printed in the Lima (Ohio) News on May 29, 1909.  The Crites and Imler families were neighbors.

“The typical cabin was built of round logs, chinked and daubed, enclosing one room fifteen by eighteen feet. There was but one door and opposite it a window.  The door was of split plank, hung on wooden hinges with a wooden latch which was fastened within to a string.  The string in day time protruded without through a small hole but at night was  withdrawn within.  Hence the old saying when inviting friends to call: ”You will find the latch string out.”  On the interior the floor was of puncheons, the hearth was of rock usually of nature’s own hewing.  The fireplace was wide, and deep enough to receive logs eight or even ten feet long.  There was an iron crane or wooden pole in the chimney to which was attached a chain which ended in a hook.  From the hook was suspended a pot which was used for various purposes.  The other cooking utensils were a skillet, iron teakettle, a dutch oven and a wooden tray.  A chest contained the linen and wearing apparel of the family.  Over the door rested the indispensable flint lock, on a rustle rack.  In the rear of the room stood a bed with a curtain around its legs to conceal the trundle bed used by the children.  The loft was reached by means of a rough ladder at the rear of the room.  The loft served the purpose of dormitory, larder and tool house.  It was a private bedroom.  It also contained the winter supplies: hominy, corn, pumpkins, seeds of all kinds, jerked venison, dried corn and fruits, hickory nuts and walnuts.  The tools were a maul and wedge, crosscut saw, drawing knife, an auger, a frow and a broad ax.  The roof of the cabin was covered with clap-boards held in place by ridge poles.”

On February 5, 1861 Harriet, aged 17 years and four months, and William Clark, aged 27 years and four months were married by the Justice of the Peace at Allen County, Ohio. Eight months earlier on the June 1860 federal census, widower, William Clark and his two small children were living with his former in-laws, the John Searfoss family.  William, who was illiterate, had no real nor personal property.  Why would a 17 year-old girl marry a penniless, illiterate, widower, ten years her senior and with two small children?  Was it love or a means to get out of her parent’s home?   I doubt we will ever know.  Whatever the reason, Harriet remained close to members of the extended Imler family throughout her lifetime.

Harriet’s first child, James William Clark, (grandfather of Bud Renschler) was born October 5, 1863 in Allen County.  He was followed by Genetta, born after the Civil War in 1867.

In September 1864 Harriet’s husband, William Clark, along with three of her brothers, Amos, James and William Imler enlisted in the 180th Ohio Infantry.

William Imler died on 28 Mar 1865 at New Bern, North Carolina. He left a widow and four small children.  He is buried at Amanda Baptist Cemetery in Allen County, Ohio.  Amos Imler died of disease on 12 June 1865 in McDougall General Hospital at New York Harbor, leaving a widow and one small son. He is buried in Cypress Hill National Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY.

Harriet’s husband William Clark, and her brother James Imler both survived to return home. However, William, who had contracted diphtheria and bronchitis while stationed at Camp Stoneman, Washington, D.C. and was treated at Douglas Hospital, later received an invalids pension for the damage to his health.

For many years I was unable to locate William and Harriet Clark on the 1870 federal census. It wasn’t until Familysearch.org indexed the 1870 census that I located them at Compton, Kane County, Illinois.  William Clark, age 37, owned no real estate and only $200 worth of personal property.  Mary age 18 and Abraham age 12 were listed as having attended school the previous year.  James was age 6 and Genetta age 2.  All were born in Ohio, so the family hadn’t been in Illinois long, and they didn’t remain there much longer.  Why they went there and why they left no one knows.  It is not on the route from Allen County, Ohio to southern Nebraska where the family moved next.

Clarice Clark Renschler Bugg told me stories about her grandparents which I wrote down. (She would not allow me to tape record her reminiscence.) This is her story.  “The Clarks homesteaded in Nemaha County, Nebraska.  They brought two covered wagons filled with possessions, William drove one and Harriet the other.  A cow was tied behind each wagon.  One of the wagons was lost along the way while fording a river.  It turned over and sank with all the goods and one horse.   This was a terrible loss to the family.”

William built a sod house on the Nebraska homestead.  “The roof was constructed from slabs—the first piece of wood cut from the side of a tree with the bark still attached.  A heavy screen was placed over the slabs to hold straw, and over the straw a layer of sod was placed.  The window frames were wood and the floor was packed clay.  One day William and Harriet were out milking and the two boys, Abe and James, were studying.  Nettie, a small pre-school child, about 3 years-old, had often observed her father light his pipe by sticking a piece of straw into the stove and using it to light his pipe.  She took a piece of straw, lit it in the stove, then touched the burning straw to a piece of straw hanging down from the low ceiling.  The entire ceiling was soon ablaze and the children barely escaped with their lives.  The house was completely gutted leaving the family with only the clothes on their backs.  Needing shelter, they immediately cleaned the interior, plastered the walls, replaced the windows and installed a wood floor to cover the clay one.”

The family lived in Nebraska about a year after the fire.  The land in Nebraska was hilly and the soil clay.  There was no source of water nearby.  Grandma Clark later said she would never again live on a farm without a creek running through it.

Dissatisfied with the Nebraska farm, the family moved to Jewell County, Kansas in October 1871, where William Clark filed for a 160 acre homestead in Section 2, Township 3 South, Range 6 West.  This land is located in Grant Township, Jewell County, 2 miles north and 1 ½ miles east of Formosa, Kansas.  There were few trees on the prairie, so they built another sod house.

On April 1, 1878 William filed his homestead proof at the Jewell County courthouse in Mankato.    In it he stated that he had a wife and four children; he had settled on the land on the 2nd day of October 1871 and built a house thereon 16 by 24 feet, with 2 doors and 3 windows, dirt roof, dirt floor and had lived in the said house since October 1871.  He had plowed and cultivated 40 acres of land and made the following improvements:  “built a stable, hog pens, granary of pine, broke hedge rows, peach orchard, and dug a water well.”  He received his patent one year later and filed it in Volume 15, page 28 of Jewell County deeds.   It is unknown when the Clark family built a frame house to replace the soddie.

Pioneering in Kansas was just as difficult as pioneering in Nebraska.  However, during the decade of the 1870s rainfall was sufficient to raise reasonable crops.  On the 1875 Jewell County agricultural census William, age 41, has 160 acres, 127 of it prairie.  In 1885 120 acres are still uncultivated indicating poor quality land.  The Clark family was barely making a living.  In 1881 William Clark applied for a pension because of disability suffered during the Civil War.

In 1885 both Harriet’s step daughter, Mary Elizabeth Clark, and her daughter, Genetta Viola “Nettie” Clark, married Harriet’s nephews who had followed the Clark family to Kansas.   Mary Elizabeth Clark married George Christian Imler, son of Harriet’s older brother William Imler, who had died during the Civil War.  George was 24 years old and Mary was 31 years-old when they married at Mankato in April 1885.

Nettie Clark married, on June 27, 1885 at Mankato, her first cousin, Elijah B. Imler, son of Harriet’s brother, Amos who had also died during the Civil War.  “Lij” as he was called, was a widower with a 4 year-old son.  And, he was ten years older than 17 year-old Nettie.  But she didn’t have many choices as she was four months pregnant.

The 1890s were hard years for farmers on the great plains, commodity prices were low, and railroad freight rates were unreasonable because farmers had no other way to get their grain to market. And, the country was in a depression.  Then a severe drought struck in 1894 and farmers raised nothing.  In the fall of 1895 William and Harriet, along with their son James and his family, Nettie and Elijah Imler, Mary and George Imler and an unrelated Roy Jones family formed a small wagon train and moved to Van Buren, Arkansas.  The story is that a nephew of Harriet’s living there wrote describing how good life was there.

On the way down to Arkansas they were floating across a river and one of the wagons floated so far down river the bank was too steep to get out, so they threw some things out and kept floating until they found a low bank.

On April 19, 1897 William Clark, aged 64 years and two months, died at his home on Crowell Mountain in Van Buren County, Arkansas.  He had gone out to the barn to lift up a colt that was down and he dropped dead from a heart attack.  He is buried in the Crowell Cemetery in an unmarked grave.  When Pat and I went there many years ago, the cemetery was in timber, hidden from the road which was merely a path up the mountain.  Most of the graves were marked with fieldstones. Clarice told me that the day of his funeral it was raining heavily, the grave filled with water, and the casket, which floated,  had to be weighted down with rocks.

Harriet Imler Clark after 1897.

 

On November 27, 1897 in Clinton, Arkansas, Harriet answered questions for a widow’s pension application.  She stated “There was no public record kept of my husband’s death.  He died very suddenly and I had no time to get a doctor to show the cause of his death.”  She received $12 a month pension until her death.

When the Clark family returned to Jewell County, Kansas in 1898 Harriet moved back to the Clark farm which had been rented out.  To settle William’s estate, his children, Abraham Clark and Mary Imler, by his first wife, and Harriet’s children James Clark (our ancestor) and Genetta Imler conveyed their interests in the farm to their mother for her lifetime.  Upon her death the four heirs were to divide the estate.  Nettie, a widow and her children lived with Harriet.  They are shown in her household on the 1900 federal census of Jewell County.  On March 13, 1901 Harriet’s granddaughter, Lulu Imler, aged 15, died at Harriet’s home and was buried in the Balch Cemetery between the Clark farm and Formosa, Kansas.  I do not know her cause of death and the brief item that appeared in the Formosa New Era newspaper did not give the cause of death.

Between 1909 and 1913 Harriet mortgaged her farm four times for a total of $4,540. What she did with the money I do not know, but suspect Nettie’s family got it.  On August 18, 1913 Harriet signed a Last Will and Testament willing to “Janetta” Viola Imler all her interest in the farm.  To Hugh Imler, “Janetta’s” son, she willed all her personal property.  She gave her son, James Clark, $1.  Harriet died five days later on August 23, 1913 and was buried in the Balch Cemetery.

But the story doesn’t end there. In November 1913 Genetta V. Imler petitioned for letters of administration for her mother’s estate.  The farm was valued at $7,000, the house at $300, and personal items, including three cows and two calves, at $182.

Well, Mary E Imler, and Abraham Lincoln Clark, children of William Clark by his first wife, and James Clark, son of William and Harriet Clark weren’t going to give up their share of their father’s estate. On December 2, 1914 they sued “Jenette” Imler in Jewell County District Court and won.  The farm was divided four ways.  But of course the mortgages had to be paid, the lawyers, and the court fees had to be paid.  Each of the four received about $500.  Grandson, Hugh Imler, received his grandmother’s personal property, including a new $98 top buggy that hadn’t been paid for and was part of the bills paid by the estate.

Grandma, Clarice Clark, Renschler, Bugg reminisced about her grandmother at various times and some of the stories she told me were: Grandma Clark had asthma and the doctor advised her to smoke a corn cob pipe twice a day, which she did. Harriet never returned to Ohio to visit her family, but several of them came out to Kansas to visit her.  Harriet could speak German but didn’t want anyone to know that.  One time a German immigrant was traveling through the country and stopped at the neighbors.  The neighbors didn’t understand German, so they brought the immigrant over to Grandma Clark and she translated.  Harriet was ill about two weeks before she died.  Her skin turned yellow.  The family thought her gall bladder ruptured a couple days before her death.  Clarice was unable to attend her Grandmother’s funeral because she had just born her first child, a still-born boy and she was in poor health.

And the last story. When I first visited Balch Cemetery in the 1970s I took Grandma Bugg along.  I was surprised to find that several family member’s graves had markers, but Grandma Harriet Clark’s grave was unmarked.   Clarice admitted nothing, but I was later told by other grandchildren, all now long dead, that Harriet’s grave had been marked by a stone ordered by Nettie.  When she lost the court case, Nettie refused to pay for her mother’s grave marker, the other children refused to pay because they hadn’t ordered the stone, and eventually the stone mason removed the marker from her grave.  In 2002 a great-granddaughter placed a stone on Harriet’s grave and although William is not buried there, his name is engraved on the stone as well.

Dräikinneksdag

On January 6th each year, Luxembourgers celebrate Dräikinneksdag, literally three kings day, or the Feast of the Epiphany also know in English tradition as Twelfth Night.

This Christian celebration dates back to the 14th century and commemorates the three kings, Kaspar, Melchior and Balthasar, who traveled from the Orient following the star that led them to the foretold Christ child in Bethlehem. Originally, the festival was a pagan celebration of Light; since about January 6th the lengthening of daylight begins to be noticeable.

Like most holidays the rituals vary from country to country.  At the start of Twelfth Night the Twelfth Night, or Epiphany, or Draikinneksdag cake was eaten. This was a rich cake made with eggs and butter, fruit, nuts and spices. A dried pea or bean was cooked in the cake. Whoever found it was the King of Misrule for the celebration that followed.

kingcakes

In modern Luxembourg Kings’ Cake (in French ~ la galette des rois) is eaten on Epiphany. It has a flaky top and a dense almond filling called frangipane on the bottom. In modern times a trinket, usually a baby or a king, replaces the bean baked inside the cake, and the cake is accompanied by a golden cardboard crown. Whoever finds the trinket in their slice of cake gets to wear the crown and is “king for a day.”

It seems likely that our Luxembourg ancestors of the immigrant generation,  the Theisen, Kaiser, Lux, and Even families, who lived at Saint Donatus, Iowa and near Galena, Illinois, celebrated Epiphany in the Luxembourg tradition. Unfortunately, I do not know if, beyond attending Mass, our Luxembourg ancestors, children of the immigrants, continued the draikinneksdag traditions after moving to Adams County.

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Once Upon A Mattress

 

Since the dawn of recorded history, those who had the means slept on raised beds to avoid drafts, dirt, and pests.  Only the wealthy had the luxury of a mattress made of a cloth bag filled with straw, reeds, wool, etc.  Our European ancestors, who were mostly of the peasant class, probably slept on piles of straw possibly covered with coarse cloth or animal skins.   Some may have had a low-sided, wooden box, similar to a manger, filled with straw. By the late 1800s when our ancestors were pioneering in Nebraska, the mattress was a cloth bag filled with hay, corn shucks, or feathers.

Two terms that need defining are ticking and tick.   Ticking was a tightly woven, heavy, cotton fabric, usually blue, grey or brown stripped.  A tick was the bag, made from the ticking, used as a mattress or pillow.  Often the ticking was waxed, or rubbed with soap, to help keep it impenetrable.  Feather ticks were often laid over a firmer, non-feather mattress.

Typical ticking yardage.
Typical ticking yardage.

The earliest account I have of our ancestors bedding is of the Peter Schifferns family when they arrived in Adams County in 1873.  It was written by Margaret Eltz Schifferns in 1963.  “So they went by train to Juniata.  At that time Hastings had only four houses; Juniata was the county seat.  From Juniata they had a drayman take them out in the country.  He drove west; as they got to a big draw they had him stop.  It was in April, nice weather; they walked around in the sunshine and filled their straw ticks with [prairie] hay.”  It would be several years until they raised enough corn to fill a tick with corn shucks which are fluffier than hay.

In a 1982 interview my great-aunt Lizzy Kaiser Pittz told about the Kaiser family’s mattress materials. “Corn shucks, that’s all we had [in the mattress].   Once a year when they shelled corn, we got new shucks.  Empty out the ticking, wash it and put in the clean shucks.  We put our shucks whole in the ticks.  We left a little opening where we could reach in and work them up when they got pressed down.” 

After the difficult pioneer years passed, my great-grandmothers raised flocks of geese and ducks for both domestic use and for sale.  Most people born before 1930 slept on feather beds, federbetten in German, and pillows in their childhood.  Great-aunt Lizzy had this to say:  “Mother made pillows and feather beds.  She had two feather beds, her and Dad used one and the girls used one.  I was the youngest, [born in 1900] things got better by my time.  I do remember the shuck beds.  They also covered up with feather comforters.  It would keep you warm.  It was almost like the mattress, made from ticking as big as the bed.   Fill it with feathers, put that on top of you, then the quilts, and that kept you warm.  Whenever she got enough she made one of those feather beds.  I don’t remember those days too well.  John [Kaiser] could tell you, he had to help pick the geese.  See, they could pick that down while the geese were alive and then they grew more.  They picked it a certain time of year, I don’t remember just when.  It took a long time to pick all the geese.  She had ducks too, but they didn’t have as much down.  The geese were those gray ones.  Those ganders get mean sometimes, you had to be careful.  We ate some geese, Mother sold most of them.”  She sold her poultry, eggs, and cream in Juniata, and in later years in Hastings.  The English wanted a fat goose for their Christmas dinner.

springs
In 1911, the year my Kline grandparents were married, Sears and Roebuck Catalog advertised bed springs. I remember old beds with these springs under the mattress. Below is a mattress ad from the same catalog.

mattress

 

Aunt Katie Pressler

Aunt Katie Horschler age about eighteen.
Aunt Katie Horschler age about eighteen.

My mother called her “Aunt Katie,” but she wasn’t Mom’s aunt, she was her great-aunt, sister to her Grandma Kline.   On the Kline side of the family there was Aunt Kate and Aunt Katie. Aunt Kate was my Grandpa Kline’s sister, and Aunt Katie was my great-Grandma Kline’s sister. Aunt Katie was Catherine C. Horschler, born December 29, 1854 in Mount Pulaski, Logan County, Illinois. (I do not know her middle name, but if I had to guess, I would say Cecilia.)  She was probably named for her mother’s sister, Catherine Jung Schick, who also lived at Mount Pulaski.   She grew up at Mount Pulaski where her father, Melchior Henry Horschler, was a shoemaker and farmer. In 1870, at the age of 16, Catherine was living in Mount Pulaski with a family from Kentucky and working as their maid.  She married Michael Pressler December 31, 1874 in Logan County, Illinois.  It was not a good marriage for Catherine.  Mike Pressler was not a Catholic and he was a member of the Masons, anathema to the Catholic Church at that time.  However, as evidenced by a photo taken in Hastings he was a handsome man.

Aunt Katie and Uncle mike Pressler
Aunt Katie and Uncle Mike Pressler.  The dress sleeves date it to the mid 1890s.

The Presslers moved to Hamilton County, Nebraska about 1881 and purchased 80 acres in Section 32, Scoville Township, just a half mile north of the Clay County line.  In 1882 John J. Kline, made a trip to Hamilton County to view the farm across the section from his brother-in-law, and he purchased the 160 acres.  The following spring the Kline family moved to Hamilton County from Illinois and settled across the section from Aunt Katie and Uncle Mike Pressler.  Their farms adjoined in the center of the section.

Aunt Katie bore four sons, only one of which, Bill, was kind to his mother.  The great tragedy of her life was the death of Bill in May 1900, caused by the kick of a horse.  He was only seventeen.

Hastings Tribune May 18, 1900
Hastings Tribune   May 18, 1900

These reminiscences by my Mother are from interviews conducted in the 1980s and 1990s.

“Grandma had a sister that lived across the section, Katie Pressler.  They took her along (to church) a lot.  Her husband wasn’t a Catholic; he was real obstinate.  She had a boy that took her, but he was killed, kicked by a horse. She was a little bit of a quiet woman.  She was very particular, everything was just so.  She wasn’t very healthy.  She had, she called it neuralgia, a pain in her face.  I think it was infected sinus.  Even in the hot summertime if she went out she put a handkerchief over the one side.

The Pressler house is no longer standing.
The Pressler house is no longer standing.

They had 10-foot ceilings in their house.  It looked like it was a long ways up there to a kid.  Her house was very clean; she had a white oak floor in the kitchen that was spotless.  She had lots of things around that were crocheted.  Her house was really Victorian.  She died in 1928 and after that it was kind of down hill.  The oldest son was always given everything he wanted and after he got married he was always home wanting more money.  Times got hard (1930s) and they lost the farm after she was gone.

Aunt Katie died at home from cancer of the stomach.  She couldn’t eat for a long time, several weeks.  Nothing would go through her.  They gave her a teaspoon or two of water and tried to give her a little broth and it wouldn’t stay down.  She would say “pan, pan” when her stomach was upset.   She wasted away to nothing and before she died the cancer broke through to the outside.

I went to her funeral.  I was 14.  It was one of the first funerals that I attended, that really struck home to me. It was a cold winter day.  I remember going out in the Case cemetery and seeing her casket sitting out there.  The thing I couldn’t forget the most was the priest took a shovel of dirt and said “Dust thou art and to dust thou shall return”.  He took some of that dirt and put it on the casket and that really shook me up.

In a 1996 interview my Aunt Dorothy Kline Myhrberg said:  “Grandma Kline never liked Uncle Mike Pressler, he didn’t go to church.  I remember Grandma taking Aunt Katie to church.”

Edna (Mom):  “Yes, and he was mean and didn’t let her go.  He was a Mason.  He was a blow bag. He talked loud, in a big voice.  The Kline’s never liked him. He got stubborn and wouldn’t let her go to church for a few years and she lost her mind over it.  After that happened, he let Aunt Kate [Kline] take her to church.  He could see what he was doing to her. Aunt Katie had four boys, the one that was always good to Aunt Katie was kicked in the chest by a mule and died.  He was just a young man.  That hurt her so bad.  He was the one that took her to church.

Her son, Walt, lived in Trumbull.  They called his wife “the Foxy one”.  She was always dressed up.  Walt could never make enough money; he was always borrowing from Uncle Mike (his father).  Dad told me when they were young men, he and Walt would go somewhere and Walt would have $5. (A large amount for a young man to have at that time.)  His Dad always favored him and gave him money.  Walt and his wife finally moved to California and they got a divorce.  Walt had three girls, one wasn’t very bright.”

Aunt Katie died December 20, 1928 and was buried in the Case Cemetery which is located in Section 22, Scoville Township, three miles northeast of the Kline farm.  Uncle Mike Pressler died in 1943.

Aunt Katie's dresser set given to my mother in the 1930s by her Aunt Cecilia Kline.
Aunt Katie’s dresser set given to my mother in the 1930s by her Aunt Cecilia Kline.

katie-ps-dresser-set-interior

 

The Juniata Mill

The Juniata mill was an important fixture in the lives of our Assumption area ancestors, for it was here that they hauled their wheat and corn to be ground into flour and cornmeal.

The original mill, erected in 1875, was owned by D. H. Freeman and others.  It was a steam roller mill, which is a type of grinding mill using a stationary steam engine to power its mechanism.  The mill did not use the huge grinding stones associated with older mills, but rather cylindrical rollers, either in opposing pairs or against flat plates, to  grind grain.

A 1904 plat map of Juniata shows the location of the mill just south of the railroad tracks.
A 1904 plat map of Juniata shows the location of the mill just south of the elevator along South Depot Street.

 

Clipping from the Hastings Daily Tribune March 1, 1954.  I attempted to locate the original photo but was unsuccessful.
Clipping from the Hastings Daily Tribune March 1, 1954. I attempted to locate the original photo but was unsuccessful.

Farmers brought their grain to the mill and received back ground meal or flour, minus a percentage called the “miller’s toll.”  The mill also purchased wheat from local farmers which was ground into flour and sold in 100 pound cloth bags.

The Freeman enterprise went bankrupt and the property was sold by the sheriff in February 1878.  A sad story connected to this bankruptcy was that of Catherine Nerminger, who was born in Prussia about 1839.  Along with her husband, John and three small girls, she arrived in Adams County about 1874.  Like all new immigrants, the Nermingers were searching for a brighter future.  What Catherine found instead was poverty and an early death.  John Nerminger, unable to speak English, lost his money in a mill investment.  This was most likely the Juniata mill as it went bankrupt about this time.  His girls remembered in later years that the only English word they ever heard him speak was “swindler.”

Looking for better opportunities after the loss of his money, John abandoned his wife and daughters on their homestead.  When neighbors discovered Catherine and her girls were starving, they were taken to the County Poor Farm.  There Catherine became ill and eventually the little girls were placed in the homes of local families.

Years later the oldest daughter, Mary, recalled her mother’s death and burial.  Poormaster, Timothy May, realizing Catherine was dying, brought the girls to see their mother for the last time.  She admonished them to be good girls and told them good-bye.  The following day Catherine died and was buried in an unmarked grave in the County Farm cemetery where she remains today.  Her husband, John, was never located.

Nordyke, Marmon & Company of Indianapolis, Indiana, manufacturers of roller mills,  purchased the mill at the 1878 Sheriff’s sale.   Probably they had furnished the milling machinery and had a lean on the mill.  S. W. Clark operated the mill until 1888 when it was again sold by the Sheriff. Adams County purchased the mill for back taxes and sold it to O. R. Palmer in January 1890 for $2,100.

Juniata Mill as it appeared about 1891.  Photo by E.C. Sears of Juniata.
Juniata Mill as it appeared about 1891. Photo by E.C. Sears of Juniata.

 

Interior of the Juniata Mill about 1891.  Photo by E. C. Sears of Juniata.
Interior of the Juniata Mill about 1891. Photo by E. C. Sears of Juniata.

The Juniata Milling Company was organized in March 1890 and purchased the mill for $5,000.  O. R. Palmer continued to operate the mill until disaster struck September 30, 1892 when the mill and contents, as well as the Sewell Grain Elevator which stood north along the Burlington tracks, burned down.  The flames were seen over eight miles away.

mill-fire-1892

The mill was rebuilt and Edward G. Collins was proprietor in 1894.  In 1901 the mill was sold to W. H. DeSanno.  The building was struck by lightning in August 1907 and again burned to the ground.  The insurance was insufficient to rebuild, but the citizens of Juniata, realizing the importance of the mill in drawing farmers into the village, quickly subscribed stock to build a new mill.

mill-burns-1907
Juniata Herald

 

In July 1908 the village passed an ordinance authorizing H.C. DeSanno to construct and operate an electric light plant in Juniata.  DeSanno agreed to erect the transmission lines in the village.  The light plant was housed in a brick building attached to the mill and electricity was generated by the machinery which powered the mill.   Lights in Juniata were turned on for the first time in October.  The Juniata Herald newspaper observed “Juniata now has quite a cityfied air.”  However, modern residents of Juniata certainly would not be happy with that light plant.  The electricity came on at dusk and was turned off at 11 PM, excepting Saturday when it remained on until midnight.   The Juniata Light and Power Company operated for ten years until Hastings Utilities connected with Juniata in August 1918 and supplied 24-hour service.

The brick building attached to the left side of the mill was the light plant.  Notice the Farmers Co-op Elevator to the right.
The brick building attached to the left side of the mill was the light plant. Notice the Farmers Co-op Elevator to the right.
Item on the left is from the Hastings Daily tribune March 28, 1925.  The Juniata Herald had ceased publication in 1917.
Item on the left is from the Hastings Daily tribune March 28, 1925. The Juniata Herald had ceased publication in 1917.

In March 1925 an era came to an end when the Juniata mill burned down for the third time.  By this time many farmers had automobiles and housewives were buying name-brand flour at grocery stores.  The mill was not rebuilt.  In 1927 the lots were sold to Daniel Bittner and in 1951 the Juniata Farmers Co-op purchased the vacant lots.  The Co-op eventually built an office and storage building where the old mill had stood.

Memories of Grandma’s Kitchen

 

When memory takes me back to my childhood, one of the first places I visit is Grandma Trausch’s kitchen.  How well I remember the special smells in that kitchen; the sweet smells of apple pies and sugar cookies; the pungent smells of vinegar and sauerkraut; the mouth-watering smells of fresh ham roasting and of fresh baked bread.

It seemed to a child that Grandma was always in her kitchen busily preparing food for her large family.  She always wore a huge apron, one of those bib types that covered the entire front of her dress.  In the large pockets were items a child might need, handkerchiefs, pencils, safety pins and maybe even some hard candy.

Grandma’s kitchen was a large high-ceilinged room.  Along one wall was the big oak built-in cupboard Grandpa had made by hand when the house was built in 1913.  Tall wooden doors reached almost to the ceiling.  To a little girl they seemed to reach almost to the heavens.  Behind those doors were Grandma’s every day dishes and utensils used for cooking and baking.  What secret things were hidden on the top shelves I never knew as they were unreachable.  The countertop was of dark red linoleum with a metal edge.  Under the countertop were the big, deep drawers and doors.  Here was located the tip-out flour bin.  It held fifty pounds of flour.  Grandma needed that flour bin because she baked eight large loaves of bread every other day.  She used large, flat bread pans that each held four loaves.  Two pans went in the oven at once.  Fresh baked bread was the main ingredient of the simplest, and yet to me the best, treat Grandma made.  It was her “cream schmear”—a thick crust of fresh bread, spread with thick sweet cream, sprinkled generously with sugar and love.

On the east wall of the kitchen was located the big, heavy, yellow pine, swinging door that led into the dining room.  I was always in awe of that door.  I longed to shove it just to see it swing, but I knew I shouldn’t.  I was also a little afraid of that awesome door, afraid someone would come hurrying from the dining room and swing the door into me if I stood too close.

The kitchen range that I remember was an extra wide gas stove with double ovens.  She  needed the extra space. It was not unusual for her to prepare fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, green beans, cabbage slaw and cake or pie for a dozen or more people.  On top of the range on either side of a clock sat a pair of large white and black salt and pepper shakers in a special frame.

Grandma’s large gas stove had two ovens. Under the top, which raised up and back, were four burners and a center space for a griddle or a grill.  The stove was moved to the basement of the Assumption house which is where this photo was taken.

Just west of the range, between it and the refrigerator, was the large, white enameled, cast-iron wall-hung sink. It had two faucets, hot and cold, on the high back-splash.

The only refrigerator Grandma had on the farm was natural gas powered.  She had gotten both it and the gas range when the Kansas-Nebraska Natural Gas pipeline cut across the farm in the late 1940s.

Grandma's natural gas powered refrigerator.
Grandma’s natural gas powered refrigerator.

 

Interior of Grandma’s refrigerator. The refrigerator, nearly 60 years-old, was still running in 2004 when this photo was taken in the basement of the Assumption house. They don’t make appliances to last like that anymore.

Just off the kitchen, under the stairs was the pantry.  It was small and dark.  In there Grandma kept a jar filled with her special frosted sugar cookies.  They were plump, soft cookies with a hard white frosting.  How good those cookies tasted to perpetually hungry children.  The pantry shelves were filled with huge kettles and roasters, baking pans and small crocks filled with special treats.  How long the minutes were while I waited for Grandma to emerge from the pantry goodies in hand.

When I grew older, Grandma would occasionally send me down the long flight of steps into the dark, scary basement to bring up a jar of canned goods.  Each summer Grandma canned hundreds of jars of fruits and vegetables, which were stored in the basement.  My most vivid memory of the basement is of the doorway which led even further down into the room where the pressure tank for the water supply was located.  In my childish imagination all sorts of creatures lurked in the dark depths of that room.  I hurried to grab the jar I was sent for, and then ran fast as my child’s legs would carry me back up the stairs to the safety of the kitchen.

If I listen carefully I can still hear Grandma’s kitchen clock chime the hours.  The clock stood above the sink, high on the wall, on its fancy oak shelf with a drawer underneath.  It had been a wedding present from Grandpa’s Schifferns grandparents and was treasured by Grandma.  It was a typical clock of its vintage, decorative pressed design in the wood around the front, full length glass door that opened to allow the clock to be wound with the key.  Why the clock was so high on the wall I never knew.  Grandma was only five feet, two inches tall.  Perhaps Grandpa had nailed the shelf on the wall.  He stood six feet six inches, very tall for a man of his time.  Perhaps it was because Grandma wanted the clock out of the reach of the scores of children who passed through her kitchen over the years.     Whatever the reason I remember being impressed by that fancy clock so high on the wall.

Buster was also a part of Grandma’s kitchen.  As a pup he had appeared at the back door one day, long before I can remember, looking tired and hungry.  Kind-hearted Grandma took him in.  By the time I was about twelve he was a grizzled, scared, arthritic old dog who spent most of the day sleeping on a rug by the back kitchen door.  He had earned every one of those scars protecting the barn and chicken house from marauding possums, raccoons and coyotes. I remember how careful I was not to step on Buster and awaken him from his dreams of rabbit chasing.  If accidentally bumped, he yelped and struggled to his feet, tail wagging in forgiveness.  It was a sad day when Buster joined the many other pets in Grandma’s private pet cemetery, her flower bed.

Grandma Trausch and Charles’s wife, Edna.   Charles took the photo in the late 1950s. The lower portion of the plaster wall was scored in a tile pattern.  Notice the pattern painted on the chair back rail and also the linoleum pattern.  This is the only photo taken in Grandma’s kitchen that I have been able to locate. Grandma is about 75 years old in this photo.

 

The kitchen table I remember was a large wooden one, painted white and decorated with red, stylized flowers that Grandma had painted in the corners.  The wood chairs were painted white with red seats.  Red was Grandma’s favorite color.  Tons of food must have been set upon that table, yet it outlived Grandma.  It was still straight and sturdy when it was sold at her estate auction.

The auction was a sad affair for me, watching the items accumulated during Grandma’s long lifetime being sold to strangers who neither knew her nor shared the happy memories connected with each one.   Perhaps Grandma’s belongings will serve their new owners well, becoming part of the memories of a new generation.

I wrote the above story in 2004.    Bert’s memories were taken from reminiscences taped over several years. 

Bert’s Memories of His Mother’s Kitchen

    For many years the kitchen floor was plain oak.  In the 1940s a linoleum was glued onto the oak floor.  This was considered a great improvement at the time as the linoleum was much easier to clean.

The first kitchen table my father remembered was a huge rectangular oak table.  It had three leaves which were permanently in the table because the top was covered with a geometric patterned linoleum, which was glued on. This table was large enough to seat thirteen family members plus an occasional hired hand, friend, neighbor or relative.

The first cook stove Grandma had in the brick farmhouse was a huge cast iron affair called a “water front stove.”   Water circulated in pipes around the firebox, then into a hot water storage tank in the pantry.  This was the only source of hot water in the house.

Water front stoves can be very dangerous.  Since the fuel used in cook stoves was corncobs and wood, the fire went out quickly.  During severe Nebraska winters, it was not uncommon for the water in the pipes at the front of the stove to freeze during the night.  When the fire was lit in the morning, steam built up in the pipes at the back, but was blocked by ice in the front pipes.   Steam can build up a great pressure.  If this happened the front of the stove could blow up.

My father always delighted in telling of a man who arose after a long winter night, lit a fire in the cook stove, and was sitting on a chair with his feet in the oven warming up.  He had just gotten up and gone into the next room when the stove blew up.  The chair he had been sitting on was blown to smithereens.

Next to the fire box end of the stove stood a wooden fuel box.  This box was usually filled with cobs and wood.  Coal was not used in cook stoves because it burned too hot.  Cobs made the best cooking fire as they burned quickly and the fire was easily regulated.  However, they also took more time as someone had to keep hauling cobs in and putting them on the fire.  After corn shelling Grandpa and the boys scooped a wagon load of cobs into the basement through a window.

In the old frame house the basement had a dirt shelf all around the outside.  We set fruit and beer there to keep it cool. In the new brick house we stored potatoes in the southwest basement room. We put them down through the window on the west side, usually about 70 bushels.   In the fall everyone who could walk helped dig potatoes.

Repairing shoes was one of the chores Grandma performed in the kitchen.  Shoes were handed down from older to younger children and when the soles wore through the shoes were half soled again.  The metal shoe last had three sizes of feet.  The shoe was placed onto the shoe last and the new sole nailed on.  When the tacks hit the iron last they clenched over, fastening the sole to the sides of the shoe.  During the depression Grandma used old leather belts from farm machinery to make new soles for the kids shoes.

About thirty steps south west of the kitchen door stood the windmill and next to it was a brick building which was a combination smoke house and wash house.  In this building was a large cement cooling tank.  Water from the windmill ran into this tank and then flowed out from it through a pipe into the horse tank.  Well water is about 55 degrees, and in this tank were kept perishable food items in cream cans or crocks.  Grandma never had an icebox.

The cream separator stood beside the cooling tank.  Grandma, Martha, Elmer and Charles milked eight to twelve head of cows twice every day.  The cream was separated from the milk, put in cream cans and lowered into the cooling tank.

Twice a week Grandma churned butter in a barrel churn that stood on a stand.  A handle turned the barrel over and over.  The five gallons of cream inside made about one gallon of butter.  When her children got old enough, turning the handle was their job.  The butter was packed into a crock and put into the cooling tank.  For special occasions butter was pressed into a one pound mold with a design on the top.

Cooking for her large family was a tremendous chore for Grandma.  When Martha grew old enough much of the kitchen work fell to her.  Three large meals were cooked every day, plus in summer a lunch was served about four or five in the afternoon.  This was often taken out to the fields where the men were working. Lunch was necessary because in the summer supper was eaten about nine o’clock in the evening, after the days work was done.  Lunch was usually sandwiches made of cured ham or scrambled or fried eggs and something to drink.  During threshing in July and corn shelling in October or November there were always extra hands to feed.

Bert reminisced “In the winter we spent the evenings in the kitchen.  I played checkers at the kitchen table with my brothers.   If the checker game got too violent, Dad put the board away until things cooled off, clear up on top of the kitchen cupboard. He always kept the rifle up there, so the kids wouldn’t get it. He had a 22 short rifle; never had a shot gun.  Winter evenings we listened to the radio. It was in the kitchen for a while then they moved it into the dining room.  In the winter bed time was nine o’clock.  We got up early, did chores first thing in the morning, and we walked to school, two miles to Assumption.  We had to be at school at 8 o’clock.

These pages don’t give you even a glimpse at the amount of labor Grandma performed.  Besides cooking she raised a large garden, canned food, fried down meats and packed them into crocks, salted and smoked meats, raised hundreds of chickens, ducks and geese, milked cows, butchered cows twice a year, butchered hogs in winter, made homemade sausage, head cheese, and blood wurst, kept the fires burning in winter, sewed clothes in winter, and mended clothes during the evening.

In the early years she hitched up the horse and buggy and went to Juniata to sell butter, cream, live and butchered chickens, ducks and geese.  The weekly trip took two and a half hours each way.  Laundry and ironing were big chores in the days before electricity.  Besides all this she had time for a flower garden and took in stray dogs and cats.

My Dad often said “Women now days don’t know what work is.  Two days of Grandma’s routine and they would raise the white flag.”

Patriot Ebenezer Cole

In honor of Independence Day I will tell you about one of our Revolutionary War patriot ancestors.  Ebenezer Cole is recognized by the Daughters of the Revolution as a “patriot” meaning he provided patriotic service to support the revolution.

Ebenezer Cole Junior was born October 27, 1715 at Swansea, Bristol County, Massachusetts.  Swansea, located about 40 miles south of Boston, was founded in 1662.  Ebenezer’s grandfather, Hugh Cole, was among the town founders and also involved in King Philipps War with the local Indians.  The entire village was burned during that war.

Ebenezer married Prudence Millard in 1737 and they had twelve known children.   Their son Edward born in 1751 is an ancestor of Grandma Clarice Clark Renschler Bugg.

The town of Warren, Rhode Island is in red at the top.  In New England a "town" is the equivalent of our township.
The town of Warren, Rhode Island is in red at the top. In New England a “town” is the equivalent of our township.

In May 1758 Ebenezer was appointed to the office of Justice of the Peace in the town of Warren, Bristol County, Rhode Island.  Warren was part of Bristol County, Massachusetts until 1747.

The Warren Rhode Island Preservation  Society states this house was built by Ebenezer Cole in the 1740s.
The Warren (Rhode Island) Preservation Society states this house was built by Ebenezer Cole in the 1740s.

The following was taken from the book “The Descendants of James Cole of Plymouth 1633″  “In 1762 Ebenezer Cole purchased a tract of land in the heart of the town of Warren and built a house for hotel purposes.  This house afterwards became one of the famous hotels of New England.  It was kept by the Cole family, Ebenezer, Benjamin, and George Cole, for over one hundred and twenty-five years.  In 1778 General Lafayette assumed command of the ports about the island of Rhode Island, and for a time was encamped in Warren.  He was a frequent guest at Cole’s Hotel.  Ebenezer Cole died in 1799,[sic] and was succeeded in business by his son Benjamin, or as he was commonly known, Colonel Cole.  There were two large brick ovens.  The size of them may be judged when it is stated that at a large dinner twenty pigs were roasted in the ovens.”

From “The History of Warren Rhode Island” the following was taken:  “The gallant French officer Lafayette was very popular with the townspeople.  Tradition states that he was extremely partial to the old-fashioned Rhode Island johnny-cakes baked on a board at the hostelry of Ebenezer Cole, famous throughout the colonies for its good cheer.”  Johnny-cake is a flat cornbread baked in a cast iron skillet.

Ebenezer was one of the founders of the First Baptist Church of Warren. In 1763 he began framing the building.    It was about 44 feet square with a four-sided hip roof surmounted with a small belfry, in which was placed a ship bell, with the rope hanging directly down in the center of the middle aisle.  On top of the belfry was a weather vane.  There was no porch.  The building was never painted.  The communion table, used bimonthly, was brought to the church from Cole’s Hotel.   Ebenezer and was elected one of the first deacons of the church in 1764 and served as deacon until his death.

On May 25, 1778 the church, along with its parsonage and college building were burned by the British.  After the fire Deacon Cole found the weather vane in the ashes and took it to the attic of his hotel where it remained for many years.

By the time of the Revolution Warren Rhode Island was a prosperous maritime community.  There was a shipyard and Warren sailors were engaged in coastal transport, the West Indies trade, the slave trade, and some whaling.  The revolution nearly ruined the town; there was chaos and near starvation.  Business was destroyed, twenty-three vessels were lost, shipyards were empty, farms neglected, and the population destitute.  In May 1778 the British and Hessians raided the town, burned buildings, destroyed ships, looted and vandalized homes and businesses.  They took about 60 persons captive.  The young men were sent aboard the notorious prison ship Jersey where some died.  Of course these tactics only inflamed the populace and furthered revolutionary zeal.

Ebenezer, too old to serve in the army, was a member of the local militia company which served when called upon, similar to the National Guard.  He enlisted August 3, 1780 in a company of militia which answered an alarm to defend Trenton and other Massachusetts towns.  He served only a few days until the alarm was over.  He was 65 years old at the time.   He probably served at other times when called but many records of the local militias are lost.  Two of his sons, Ebenezer and Benjamin, served in the military during the Revolution.

He also served as a deputy from Warren, Rhode Island to the General assembly of Rhode Island during the Revolution.  This service is considered “patriotic service” by the DAR.

It is known that Ebenezer owned slaves which was common in the town of Warren.  The 1774 census of Rhode Island lists Ebenezer owning one slave. Shamefully, he also owned a slaver (a ship used in the slave trade).   Interesting how persons who were willing to fight for their own freedom denied it to others.

Ebenezer Cole's tombstone in the North Burial Grounds Warren, RI.
Ebenezer Cole’s tombstone in the North Burial Grounds Warren, RI.

Ebenezer died July 9, 1798 at the age of 83 years.  He was survived by ten children, 53 grandchildren, 36 great-grandchildren, and one great, great-grandchild.  He was buried in the North Burial Ground at Warren, Rhode Island.

The Birth of Catherine Ann Trausch

In honor of my 70th birthday, June 30, 2016, I will tell you what I know about my birth. My parents were Engelbert Thomas Trausch and Edna Marie Kline Trausch. Bert, as he was known all his life, was 40 and Edna was 31 years old when I was born. They had been married nearly nine years but I was their first child. My mother had been unable to conceive and had consulted Hastings doctors, but at that time they knew little about infertility. Mom never told me about their feelings when she learned she was finally pregnant, nor did she discuss the pregnancy. Things like emotions and anything involving sex or pregnancy were not discussed.

Catherine Trausch age about three months.
Catherine Trausch age about three months.
Mom made this baby quilt from chicken feed sacks.  In 1946 fabric was still difficult to obtain.  flour, chicken feed and other commodities came in printed cotton sacks.
Mom made this baby quilt from chicken feed sacks. In 1946 fabric was still difficult to obtain. flour, chicken feed and other commodities came in printed cotton sacks.

On my mother’s 89th birthday, November 13, 2003, she reminisced about my birth. These are her memories.

“Rita [my mother’s younger sister] was here, she came over to help Bert while I was gone to the hospital. You were born on Sunday; she came over a few days before that. She was living at home yet. Bert was harvesting wheat. The weather was partly cloudy and the temperature was in the high 80s.

About 12:00 at night I told Bert “We’re going to have to go to the hospital.” So he got up to go over to the south place [one mile south and a quarter mile east] to milk the cow. All our cows were in that pasture over there. I wonder what the cow thought about that—1:00 in the morning. He didn’t know what time he would get back because we already knew that I might have a caesarian. Doctor DeBacker had taken some X-rays a week or so before that and you were in a breach position and probably would stay that way. He took X-rays to see how big my pelvis was, and he said it looked like I would have to have a caesarian. “But we will give you a chance to see if you can have it”.

Rita stayed here. I told her to go back to sleep and she was prepared for the long haul. So we went into the hospital, it must have been about three o’clock when we got there; and you were born at five o’clock. So Bert came home and Rita was surprised. She was up tending to the chickens.

I was in the hospital eleven days. Rita was here and cooked for the harvesters– Bert’s Dad, Bert, and Bud. She took care of the chickens and raced up to the hospital to see me every day. She drove Bert’s car; he came up to see me sometimes in the evening, not every day. If a little shower of rain came up and they couldn’t get the combine in the field, he came up.

That combine they had was the first combine I ever saw work. It had belonged to a man by Trumbull; he got a new one and traded that back in to Samuelson; and they bought it from Samuelson for $400.”

What bedroom were you using when I came home?

“The downstairs bedroom. Bert and I used the south bedroom upstairs, but I went in that bedroom with you. It was so hot in the upstairs in the summertime.

Rita stayed a couple weeks. After I had laid in bed for eleven days I was weak as heck. I don’t know why DeBacker kept me so long. The other women from around here that had kids the same time were all gone home—Mrs. Joe Zubrod had Danny the day after you were born; Mrs. Harry Brooks had Darlene that same Sunday evening; Marie, Mrs. Art Hoffman had a boy. I was in a five bed ward—I didn’t know any of the women in my ward.”

Blue baby dress made by Edna Trausch for Catherine.  When I asked my mother why so many of my baby clothes were blue she replied that at that time blue was the color for girls.
Blue baby dress made by Edna Trausch for Catherine. When I asked my mother why so many of my baby clothes were blue she replied that at that time blue was the color for girls.
Two bibs Mom made for my layette.
Two bibs Mom made for my layette. None of my baby clothes have any stains as my Mom was very fastidious. She made her own lye soap and soaked and scrubbed by hand any soiled items.
This white baby dress Mom made as part of my layette.
This white baby dress Mom made as part of my layette.  Both boy and girl infants wore dresses when I was born.

What baby clothes had you made?

“I had several dresses made. At that time all babies wore dresses when they were little. I hadn’t made any boys clothes. I had made some baby quilts from chicken feed sacks. It was right after World War II and fabric was hard to get.”

These felt baby shoes are the only baby clothes that were purchased.  Both Agnes and I wore them.
These felt baby shoes are the only baby clothes that were purchased. Both Agnes and I wore them.

Did anyone come to the hospital to see me?

“Ya, my folks did and I think Bert’s folks did. If Grandpa got the idea they came; he did things in his own way and time.”

Tell me about my Baptism.

“Edward and Grace [mom’s twin brother and his wife] stood up for you. It was on a Sunday after Mass. Father Lisko was such a guy for every little detail, and Grace thought he was never going to get done with all the commotion he was having. Take another step forward and say some more prayer and they were to come another step forward. Grandpa and Grandma Trausch were there.”

            Catherine Trausch age six months.
Catherine Trausch age six months.  The crocheted cap and sweater are blue and were made for me by my great-aunt Cecilia Kline.

You mentioned that you had pasture on the south quarter that belonged to Grandpa Matt.

“There was a good sized native pasture there. Bud [my father’s brother] broke it up. See, when Charles lived here Bert didn’t farm where we lived; he farmed that quarter down south. Then when Charles left Bert farmed all of it. There wasn’t any native pasture on this farm. Bert planted that brome grass pasture about the time he started farming this farm.” [My father’s brother Charles lived with my parents until he was left for World War II.]

I was born breech (feet first) and on a Sunday. Breech deliveries often cause long difficult labors and often, before modern medicine, the death of the baby and sometimes the mother. Consequently, there are many superstitions, most of them bad, concerning breech births. Perhaps my Sunday birth, considered a good omen, offset the bad ones.

I live in the house I was brought home to after my birth. I am proud that the original 1893 structure is unaltered except for the 2008 sunroom addition. However, in many ways the house and farmstead are very different. In 1946 the house had no electricity, no running water, and there was no telephone. There was no furnace and no air conditioning, no insulation and no storm windows. The only rooms heated in winter were the kitchen and to some extent the bedroom above.

My Dad had a tractor, but he also had work horses. He milked the cow and took care of the livestock. He was farming 400 acres using out-of-date equipment. I came home from the hospital in my Dad’s 1936 Chevy. My mother didn’t drive then.

My mother raised several hundred chickens a year and she also grew a large garden, canned fruit, vegetables, and beef. Mom supported the household with her egg and chicken money, purchasing what she did not raise, salt, sugar, flour, coffee, spices, etc. Her egg money also purchased any household items she needed and the fabric she used to make our clothing. The work was unending, but life was good.

A baby stroller like the one my Mom had.  Ours was stolen when thieves broke into the farm house  This photo was taken from the internet.
A baby stroller like the one my Mom had. Ours was stolen when thieves broke into the farm house. This photo was taken from the internet.

What Were the Events of 1946?

There were several important political and scientific events in 1946. The Japanese had formally surrendered in September 1945 ending World War II. In 1946 President Harry S. Truman ordered desegregation of the US armed forces and established the Atomic Energy Commission. The first meeting of the UN was held in January. On July 1st nuclear testing began at Bikini Atoll and in a few days the bikini swim suit went on sale in Paris. Winston Churchill delivered his Iron Curtain speech in Missouri, and Nazi leaders found guilty of war crimes at Nuremberg were executed.

World War II wage and price controls ended in 1946, however there were shortages of most consumer goods. The average cost of a new house was $5,600 while the average existing house sold for $1,450. Average wages per year were $2,500. The cost of a gallon of gas was 15 cents; the average new car cost $1,120. Following the war there was a great demand for consumer goods. The first Tupperware was sold and Tide detergent was introduced in 1946.

In Adams County life was returning to normal after the war. Veterans were returning home, as well as the bodies of those who had not survived. Agriculturally it was a good year, and large wheat yields help ease the flour shortage. Wheat sold for $1.75 a bushel and eggs for 25 cents a dozen. In July the Soil Conservation office opened in Hastings. The dread disease polio killed at least six in Adams County. There was a great demand for new housing and, despite shortages of almost everything, 416 new structures were built in Hastings.

1946 was the first year of the Baby Boom Generation, and the average life expectancy was 66.7 years. The Dow-Jones high in 1946 was 212. The cost of a first class stamp was three cents. The Franklin Roosevelt dime was issued. Christian Dior founded his Paris fashion house. The film It’s a Wonderful life made its debut. Popular singers were Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, and Ella Fitzgerald.

Moving the Stove

MOVING THE STOVE

By Agnes Trausch Wiltrout

 

The continuity in my mother’s kitchen was wonderfully soothing for me as a child. Just as sure as the trees budded in the spring and put forth leaves, and just as surely as the leaves turned golden and fell in the fall, another rite of passage was taking place inside my home.

Each spring the heating stove that had dominated the kitchen for five months or so was relegated to an ignoble spot on the back porch. The large, round black stove had been the center of our existence all winter. We simmered food on it and popped our popping corn in a long-handled wire basket, a forerunner of modern air-popped corn. It dried my wet mittens and warmed my cold fingers and toes after an afternoon of playing outside.

My parents faithfully fed it cobs and coal through the hinged lid on the front top and just as faithfully opened the small bottom door to remove ashes and clinkers. It warmed the kitchen and our lives revolved around it all winter.

I was never part of the decision making process about when the move should take place. I imagine it was a combination of the weather and the time available. I’d wake up one day and it would be stove moving time, or come home from school to find the place in turmoil with the job half done and stove pipe scattered on the front porch.

Moving that black behemoth was a ritual that meant a certain collision course for my parents. Mom was fussy about things. She wanted it done her way, and that meant done right. Daddy was in a hurry. Maybe he had plans to move the stove quickly and then attend to farming duties. They were married at least 20 years before I could have a memory of stove moving so that meant many previous bouts of moving the stove, and they still didn’t seem to agree on anything to do with the whole ordeal.

First the black chimney pipe was removed. It led from the top back of the stove to a hole in the chimney about two feet from the top of the nine-foot ceiling. If you’ve never experienced chimney soot then you wouldn’t understand why this maneuver had to be done very carefully. Soot is a dark “poof” of material that can quickly make a mess of a room. One false move with a dirty stove pipe means a fine layer of grimy soot everywhere. Perhaps that was part of the problem because mom didn’t want the extra work of cleaning up soot and daddy just wanted to finish the job quickly. She didn’t want him to do anything when she wasn’t looking and he tried to do everything quickly while her back was turned. “What do you have to do that for, you’re just making a lot of work!” my father would shout as mom scurried around being particular about the stove, the pipe and the linoleum just to mention a few. As a child, the worst position to be in during stove moving was the middle. Even though we were all in the same room, both sides voiced their frustrations with the other to me. It was the old “daddy is going to scratch the linoleum” and “mom has to make all this work” routine. A blank stare and innocent shrug was usually enough response to keep me out of the direct line of fire. Stove moving was an opportune time to practice the childhood art of laying low.

 

Stove pipe attached to chimney.
Stove pipe attached to the kitchen chimney.

Stove pipes came apart in two to three foot sections that were cleaned outdoors, then rolled in newspapers and stored in the storage part of the upstairs. The chimney hole left open after the removal of the pipe had to be cleaned out very carefully to prevent soot from flying all over the room. Then the hole was closed off with a round tin “plate” with spring-loaded clips on the side that slid into the opening. The plates were made especially for this purpose and had colorful painted scenes or designs on the front. They could no doubt be found in antique shops now and most people would have no idea what they were used for.

 

One of my Mother's flue covers on a chimney in the upstairs.
One of my Mother’s decorative flue covers over a chimney hole in the upstairs.

The stove was tugged, shoved, and wrestled across two rooms and through two doorways, being careful not to chip the woodwork paint, and onto the back porch where it was wrapped in oilcloth to spend the summer. How soon its presence was forgotten after it was moved out of the kitchen. The electric range moved to take its spot and the kitchen seemed so much roomier and brighter after that.

The whole process was reversed the next fall. My parents were always careful to check the chimney for bird nests that may have been built over the summer. A nest of dried grass and sticks could mean a dangerous chimney fire. I remember such a fire caused much alarm once. Flames shot from the top of the chimney and the walls became very hot from the inferno inside the brick chimney. The roar of the fire was easily heard inside the house. While it was a novel and somewhat frightening experience for me, I can now imagine how concerned my parents were at the prospect of a serious house fire.

While visiting the farm where I grew up, I happened to run across that black heating stove wrapped in oilcloth and stored away, never to be used again. It was much smaller and less imposing than I remembered from my childhood. It was just metal and iron now, not the center of my universe, and that had made it shrink considerably. It’s been 23 years since I moved away to my own life and family, but the stove still fills my mind with wonderful memories just as it filled the kitchen of my childhood.

Written in 1991