My Life Story by Charles J Trausch


My uncle, Charles John Trausch was born February 9, 1909, the third son and fourth child of Matt and Catherine (Kaiser) Trausch.

In March 1934, siblings Charles, Martha and my Dad, Bert, moved onto the old McCue farm where I now reside.  Charles farmed the McCue farm and Bert farmed the quarter section a half mile east of my southeast corner.  Charles lived with Bert and Martha, then Bert and Edna after their 1937 marriage,  until October 1942 when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps.

Charles wrote this story in 1978.  He died at Riverside, California in 2001 at the age of 92.

 I am the fourth child in the family, born February 9, 1909.  I had a good childhood.  We had a nice area to play in the grove to the north of the house.  We were not blessed with a lot of toys, so we made our own and used a lot of imagination; like an old bull wheel from a binder was a 40/80 Avery tractor.  I remember us making a bicycle with a couple steel wheels and a makeshift frame.  One would ride and the other would push.

 As we grew up we had our chores to do at a young age, such as gathering cobs in the hog feed lot for fuel in the cook stove.  In the fall of the year we would gather fresh corn husks for refilling the mattresses, every fall the old husks were dumped out and the ticks refilled with fresh husks.

Every week Mother had a big wash to do.  Those were the days when the clothes were put in a boiler and boiled before putting them in the washing machine.  The machine was turned by hand.  I remember one incident when Mother was encouraging me to turn the machine and she said “It is fun to turn it.”  I remember telling her “If it is so much fun why don’t you do it yourself?”  For some reason that stuck in my mind throughout the years.  As I remember, it is about the only time that I sassed my Mother.

When I reached school age–seven years–we walked to Assumption parochial school, two miles west of our home.  As our folks living in a German community always spoke German, consequently when we started school we had to learn the English language.  Most of the children were in the same boat, so it wasn’t too bad, only it made it doubly hard on the Sisters having to teach the language besides starting the kids off.  There was no kindergarten, we started off in the first grade.

All but two years of my eight grades of education I got in the Assumption school.  There were two years, I think, it was my third and fourth grades, that we didn’t get any Sisters, we attended District 28 east of our home.  Our teacher was Mae Larson, a very good teacher.  She taught there for many years.  In the later years of school about the time I was in the fifth grade we drove to school with a horse and buggy.  The horse’s name was Maude, a faithful old horse.

My chores in the morning were milk two cows, feed Maude, curry and harness her, and put hay and grain in the buggy to feed her at noon.  We had some very cold winters.  The Priest had a rule if it was below zero in the morning school was cancelled for the day.  So the first thing I did when mother got us up was check the thermometer hoping it was below zero.

After school in the evening my chores were to clean out the cow barn and put in fresh straw for bedding for that night, and feed the cows and milk two or three cows.  We always milked from six to ten cows.  Mother always helped milk, she would milk three or four while the boys milked the rest.  Mother was always the main spoke in the wheel.

I remember one winter, I think it was 1920, [it was 1919] we had a severe blizzard.  It came up so fast the cattle didn’t all get in out of the field.  It lasted three days.  The drifts were half as high as the barn.  After the storm Dad went out searching for the cattle that didn’t get in.  He found some that sheltered behind a haystack and were nearly frozen to death.  A few of them went south with the storm till they reached the fence corner.  They were frozen to death standing up leaning against the fence.  He brought a couple calves home that he found behind the haystack.  I remember rubbing them with snow in the barn to thaw them out.  They survived.

When I graduated from the eighth grade, in 1924, my parents gave me the choice of going to high school or stay home and work on the farm.  I chose to stay home and work on the farm, I would have had to ride a horse three miles to Roseland, and I hated to ride a horse.  That was not the main reason, the main reason being I didn’t like to go to school.

Dad had bought a threshing rig and he, Ed and Bert, were out with it from the middle of July into October.  First shock threshing and then stack threshing.  So it was my job to do the fall plowing, preparing the wheat ground and sowing the wheat around the 15th of September.  Also chopping off corn fodder every day for the cows and picking new corn for the pigs.  We always had around a hundred pigs.  I also did odd jobs for the neighbors when I could, saving my money so that some day I could buy a car with it.  Every time I earned a dollar or two I put it in the bank.  In those days wages were 75cents to a dollar a day.

Things went along smoothly.  I had a hundred dollars in the bank and was getting ready to shop for a car.  That was 1929.  The great depression hit, the banks went broke and my hundred dollars went down the drain.  I kept plugging away.  My parents helped me get started farming in 1931.

It wasn’t until 1932 that I had enough money saved to buy a car, a 1928 Chevy coup for $90.  It was a good little car.  Alfred, Vern and I drove it to California in 1939.  We loafed around Los Angeles, did a lot of sight seeing and visited Joe and Martha Preissler, my sister and brother in law.  They were living in Puente at the time.  After a month I decided to head for Nebraska.  Alfred and Vern decided to stay and go to an aircraft school hoping to get a job in an aircraft factory.  I had to go back to Nebraska as I was farming at the time.  I was living with Bert and Edna on the hill.

Farming didn’t turn out too good for me.  We didn’t raise much of a crop due to lack of rainfall.  Some years we no more than got our seed back.   When we did raise a decent crop the grain prices were way down, 35 to 40 cents for corn and 50 to 60 cents a bushel for wheat.  I went to Iowa several falls to shuck corn to get enough money to keep going.  I was single and had only myself to look after.  It was still hard to keep going.

When Pearl Harbor was attacked and war was declared on December 7, 1941 I was still farming.  I didn’t think it was possible for me to stay out much longer, so on October 12, 1942, I enlisted into the Army Air Corps.  I always wanted a military career.  I was inducted at Fort Crook, [now Offutt Air Base at Omaha]  sworn in at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and got my basic training at Big Springs, Texas.

The Matt Trausch family during World War II.  Back left to right: Vern, Elmer, Charles, Bud, Alfred, Bert.   Front: Laurine, Martha, Grsndma, Grandpa, Susan and Jeanette.
The Matt Trausch family during World War II.   Ed is not in the photo.                                                 Back left to right: Vern, Elmer, Charles, Bud, Alfred, Bert.
Front: Laurine, Martha, Grandma, Grandpa, Susan and Jeanette.

That is when the excitement in my life began.  I had my first train ride, first airplane ride and my first ship ride in less than a year.  After basic training I was sent to an aircraft school in Glendale, California for 15 weeks, then to March Field near Riverside for six weeks, then to San Bernardino Air base for one month where we were outfitted for overseas.  From there we went to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.  After a week or ten days we boarded ship for North Africa.

We were on the high seas for ten days in a very large convoy.  There were ships on all sides of us as far as the eye could see.  Our ship was a converted luxury liner, there were 12,000 men on board.  The voyage was not an uneventful one.  There was a submarine attack on the convoy the first night after we entered the Mediterranean Sea in the Straights of Gibralter.  The second night about sundown we had an air attack.  As far as I know there were no ships sunk.

Our ship left the convoy the next day and we landed in Bizerte, Tunisia, North Africa.  We got our first glimpse of the ravages of war.  The town was completely destroyed.  It was a town of 25 or 30,000.  Some walls of the buildings were still standing, but the roofs were blown off.  There wasn’t a living thing around.  Our ship was the first to enter the harbor after the enemy was driven out.  The harbor was filled with sunken ships.  I remember seeing two halves of a liberty ship floating around.  A bomb split it in two.  They were invading Sicily when we landed.  There were six rows of landing craft following each other as far as you could see over the horizon.

The original plans were for our organization, the 309th Depot Repair Squadron, consisting of 390 men, to follow the invasion into Sicily and up through Italy.  But for some unknown reason, they said our orders got lost, the plans didn’t materialize.

We were bivouacked in the woods at Bizerte in our pup tents for a couple weeks.  In the mean time we had several air attacks.  We thought we were the only living souls around there till we had our first air attack.  The place was ringed by English anti aircraft guns.  They all opened fire at the same time.  It was quite a sight as every fifth shell was a tracer, like a Fourth of July celebration, but they were playing for keeps.  They had a German aircraft in the searchlight beam.  It was up so high it looked like a small plane, but it was a JU 88 bomber.  After a few minutes of firing it was hit and came spiraling down.  Upon crashing it started a fire in the countryside.  It burned itself out, but the next couple days and nights some of our crew went out with shovels.  When we saw any live embers we shoveled dirt on them to keep the fire from starting up again.

Some of us had the opportunity one day to go to Tunis on one of our trucks that was going in for supplies.  There we came in contact with the first natives, mostly women and children and a few old men.  The children were begging for chocolate and chewing gum.  They were singing the song “You are my Sunshine” in English.  The GIs that went through there taught them English.  They were smart kids, dressed in rags.  They picked up English real fast.

A Forty and Eight boxcar like the one Charles was transported in.
A Forty and Eight boxcar like the one Charles was transported in.

After two weeks we got orders to go to Algiers.  We went to Tunis and got on a freight train.  “Forty and Eight” they called it.  (Forty men or eight horses).  We were packed in pretty tight.  It was a three day journey—it wasn’t very far but a slow moving train.  The whole group got dysentery, so it wasn’t a very pleasant journey.  When we got to Algiers we set up tents, eight men to a tent; also a shower room and a mess hall.  That was living in luxury after the pup tent ordeal.

Our assignment was to do aircraft engine overhaul, which we did for a year.  The climate was good, almost like California.  It rained quite a bit in the winter months.  They raised a lot of tangerines in that area.  After one year we were ordered to go to Casablanca, Morocco where we did major aircraft overhaul.  Also they shipped the fighter planes P-38, P-51, and P-47 over on fuel tankers.  Each ship had aircraft tied down on top–30 to 40 planes partially disassembled.  We would tow them from the port to the hangar, assemble them and send them on to the front. We stayed in Casablanca till the war ended.

Our organization was assigned to maintain the planes that flew the Fifth Army personnel back to the States.  They flew them in from Italy on bombers; then flew out on C-54 planes.  We were the last to leave Casablanca.  After flying the infantry boys home, we went back on a ship.

The third day out we encountered a North Atlantic storm.  It lasted three days; the waves were 40 to 50 feet high.  We bounced around like a cork as the ship was a small one.  It was used by the Frederick Lykes Line to haul bananas overseas.  Needless to say I and many others got seasick.  We made very little headway those three days; they headed the ship into the wind and turned on just enough power to control the ship.

Ten days after we left Casablanca we landed in Hampton Roads, Virginia.  Everyone was glad to see land again.  We were assigned to barracks, the first time we were in buildings since we left the States almost three years back.  After getting settled and cleaned up, we had a delicious steak dinner in the mess hall.  All the workers were German prisoners of war.

After a few days they started shipping us out to the various discharge centers.  It was kind of a sad feeling to be separated from buddies you had spent almost three years with.  I had my Thanksgiving dinner 1945 on a troop train on the way to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  After discharge I boarded the train for Hastings.  It was after midnight when we got into Hastings so I slept in the depot.  The next day was Sunday so I went to church.  I spotted Edna and Bert there so I rode home with them.  Needless to say everyone was glad to see me, especially Mother.  They didn’t know I was coming home.

After loafing around for a week or ten days I got tired of it and went to Hastings Naval Ammunition Depot and applied for a job as an auto mechanic.  I was hired and went to work the next day.  I stayed on that job until May 1947 when I decided to go to California.  I headed for Riverside where my Uncle Vet Trausch was in the refrigeration business.  It looked like it would be a good trade to learn, so my brother Al, Vet and I decided to go into business.  We purchased a lot, built a building on it and opened a refrigeration sales and service store in West Riverside.

I took a 15 week course. Adult Education, on refrigeration in the evenings twice a week at the Valley College in San Bernardino, and with what I learned from Vet, I picked up the trade.  I stayed with it for 30 years until I retired.

In 1948 I met and married a lovely lady, Edna Taylor from San Bernardino.  She had two girls, Sheryl age 7 and Sharon age 5.  We lived in San Bernardino in her folk’s apartment for a year, then we bought a house in Riverside.

In 1952 Vet, Al and I decided to dissolve our business partnership.  Discount houses were coming in which made it hard for the small dealer to make any profit on sales.  We could do servicing out of our homes.

I went to work at Rohr Aircraft in Riverside and also did refrigeration service on the side.  I stayed at Rohr three years.  I didn’t see any future in that job, so I quit and started my own one man business, Domestic Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service.  On June 6, 1963 my dear wife succumbed to cancer.  She had been battling it for eight and one half years.  The girls were both married so I was left alone.  It was a lonely life after being happily married for fifteen years.

After three years I married the sweetest most loving and thoughtful girl “this side of heaven,” Mary Nichols.  We had known each other through square dancing.  We belonged to the same square dance club several years before we lost our mates; her husband died in January 1964.

We were married May 1, 1966 and had a one month honeymoon in Hawaii.  She has three children, Bill and Penny living away from home and Greg, a little boy they adopted, was six years old.  We sold my house and moved into Mary’s which was a better house.

I now keep myself occupied with the maintaining of five rental houses, besides our home.  I must say God has been good to me.  I have had a full and exciting life.  I have no children of my own, but I have eight grandchildren and two great grandchildren.  By not having any children of my own I have one consolation, I did not contribute to an overpopulated world.  So now I am nearing the ripe old age of Seventy, and after a few more trips I will just set back and wait for the Reaper.


Mahala Sharp McNabb

This copy of the original photograph was given to me by Bill Sorenson of Filley, Nebraska.  His mother was a granddaughter of Mahala.  He noted that the original photo had turned a yellow brown.  Many people have remarked that the woman looks too old to be 36 or fewer years old.  Perhaps, however, Mahala had a hard life.
This copy of the original photograph was given to me by Bill Sorenson of Filley, Nebraska. His mother was a granddaughter of Mahala’s. He noted that the original photo had turned a yellow brown color. Many people have remarked that the woman looks too old to be 36 or fewer years old.  However, Mahala had a hard life.


Mahala Sharp’s birth has been accepted as June 25, 1830 in Claiborne County, Tennessee.  This date was obtained from her grave marker as she was born and died before vital records were kept in Tennessee and Kansas.  Mahala’s parents, Anthony and Elizabeth Robinson Sharp, were married in Claiborne County on August 25, 1830, two months after her accepted birth date.  The 1840 census gives her age as between 5 and 9 years.  On the 1850 Census her age is listed as 19, and on the 1860 as 30.  On the 1865 Kansas State census her age is given as 34.   So when was Mahala born?  The census date in each of these years is June 1st, meaning ages as of that date were to be reported. Three of the four agree with the age on her gravestone.  In 1860 the census taker arrived at Mahala’s home in Missouri on July 7th.  Perhaps she gave her current age, not the June 1st age.    After analyzing the information available, it would appear Mahala was born two months before her parent’s marriage.

Claiborne County, formed in 1801, lies in the northern portion of East Tennessee, and borders both the States of Kentucky and Virginia.  Life in the hills of Tennessee was very primitive during Mahala’s years there.  The labors of hardscrabble farmers served mainly to feed their families.  Cotton and tobacco were the main cash crops.  However, on the 1850 agricultural census Anthony Sharp farmed only 35 acres and raised only 350 bushels of corn, 75 bushels of oats, and 15 bushels of potatoes.  He owned 2 horses, 3 milk cows, 14 swine and 6 sheep.  The sheep provided 10 pounds of wool which the women folk would have cleaned, carded and spun into cloth.  The corn and oats would have fed the livestock.  Corn was made into meal for the family and also into whiskey.  The pork was cured and some may have been sold.   The Anthony Sharp family, which in 1850 included 8 children, would have lived in a log cabin.

Mahala Sharp probably had no schooling.  It was not until 1854 that Tennessee passed legislation requiring taxation for public schools.  On the 1860 census both Mahala and her husband, John McNabb, are listed as illiterate.

In 1854 the Sharp family moved from Tennessee to northeastern Kansas.  What prompted this move is unknown; however, it was probably the desire for more and better land.  Family tradition was that the family traveled part way by flatboat.  They probably traveled overland to the Cumberland River and then built or bought a flatboat.  The distance to Saint Joseph, Missouri is over 900 miles by river—the Cumberland, Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri Rivers.  They probably floated to Saint Louis where they sold the flatboat and perhaps took a paddlewheeler up the Missouri River to Saint Joseph, Missouri. (It is almost impossible to push a flatboat upriver against the current.)  From Saint Joseph, they traveled overland by wagon to Marshall County, Kansas.

Marshall County borders Nebraska.  It’s county seat, Marysville, is located 35 miles south of Beatrice, Nebraska.  Marysville was a well known stop on the Oregon-California trail and also had a pony express home station.  The Sharp’s farm was located four miles south of the Nebraska state line in what was then Guittard Township.  Guittard Station was a stage station on the Ben Holladay Overland stage line between the Missouri river and Denver, Colorado.  In 1861 a post office was established there.  During the 1850s and 1860s, the Sharp family would have seen the wagon trains of adventurers just starting their westward journeys to Oregon and California.

It seems unlikely that Mahala accompanied her family on their arduous journey from Tennessee.  The following year, on November 20, 1855, in Campbell County, Tennessee she married John McNabb.  They were married by a Justice of the Peace.  It was a disastrous marriage for Mahala.

Volume 1, page 149 of Campbell County, Tennessee marriages.   John McNabb's last name is badly misspelled.  Probably caused by a combination of his illiteracy and the clerk's inability to read the Justice of the Peace's handwriting.
Volume 1, page 149 of Campbell County, Tennessee marriages.
John McNabb’s last name is badly misspelled. Probably caused by a combination of his illiteracy and the clerk’s inability to read the Justice of the Peace’s handwriting.


Mahala’s first child, Sarah Elizabeth McNabb, was born about 1856 in Tennessee.  By 1858, when son William McNabb was born, the family was living in Andrew County, Missouri.  Andrew County is located in northwestern Missouri, 110 miles east of Marshall County, Kansas.  On the 1860 Census John McNabb’s occupation is farmer. He owned no real estate and the personal estate value is blank, indicating they were very poor.   Amanda Jane McNabb, Mahala’s fourth child, was born June 9, 1861, probably in Andrew County.   She would marry Robert Columbus Wymore and become the grandmother of Maxine Wymore Renschler.

By 1865 when the Kansas State Census was taken, the John McNabb family was living in Guittard Township, Marshall County, Kansas next door to the Anthony Sharp family.  McNabb was a tenant farmer. The value of everything he owned was $200.  In September 1866 Mahala bore her seventh and final child.

Mahala died on May 5, 1867 at the age of 36 years, 10 months and 10 days.  The story I was told many years ago was that John McNabb was an abusive husband.  In the process of beating Mahala he kicked her against a cast iron stove.  Mahala was pregnant; she suffered a miscarriage and died.  She was buried in a hollowed-out walnut log; and was the first person buried in the Shockley Cemetery which is located across the road south from her parent’s farmstead.  Mahala’s parents and brothers were later buried there.

After Mahala’s death John McNabb left Kansas abandoning his children who were raised by their Sharp relatives.

Mahala's stone as I first saw it in 1973.  It was standing upright at that time.
Mahala’s stone as I first saw it in 1973. It was standing upright at that time.
Mahala's grave marker as it looked about 2000, broken and laying on the ground.
Mahala’s grave marker as it looked about 1995, broken and lying on the ground.
The cemetery is well kept.  Mahala and Anthony's stones are the two cemented down flat on the ground.
The cemetery was well kept when I was there in 2013.   Mahala and her father’s  grave markers are the two cemented down flat on the ground.
This is the family grave marker of Mahala's brother, Harvey K. Sharp.
This is the family grave marker of Mahala’s brother, Harvey K. Sharp.  His inscription is on the back side.
Looking north from the cemetery entrance.  Cemetery is to the right.  Sharp farm is in the distance to the right.
Looking north from the cemetery entrance. The cemetery is to the right.    Anthony Sharp’s farm is to the right in the distance.   This area is poor quality farm land.  It is hilly, the soil is rocky, and there isn’t enough underground water for irrigation.
Looking north from the cemetery.  The Anthony Sharp farm begins at the tree line.
Looking north from the cemetery. The Anthony Sharp farm begins at the tree line.