It has been said that Hedwig had “fiery red hair.”1
However, by the time color photographs became mainstream, her hair was white.
And, in fact, no color photographs are known to exist of Hedwig at all.
Hedwig (Cichos) Lutz Rindfleisch was born in 1855 in what is now Nowa Wieś Książęca, Poland, but what at the time was the village of Neudorf in Silesia.2 She immigrated to the United States at the age of eighteen,3 settling in southern Minnesota, and at nineteen, she married fellow immigrant Joseph Lutz.4 They had five children together, although the eldest did not survive childhood.5 After Joseph’s death, Hedwig remarried to Albert Rindfleisch and gave birth to five more children.6 She raised her nine surviving children in Minnesota Lake, Faribault County, Minnesota, and spent many years as a single mother, supporting her children as a seamstress and tending her small farmstead where she processed and preserved much of their own food.7
There are no widely known family stories about Hedwig having a stereotypical temper to match her red hair, although she was said to have been stern. A tale that perhaps comes the closest suggests that when her first husband, a butcher, would give generous gifts of meat to new immigrants in their community, she would chide him and say that the newcomers would not even have a pot to cook with.8
Two of the three known photographs of Hedwig were taken on the same summer day at her daughter’s farm in Danville, Blue Earth County, Minnesota. The year is uncertain, but based on the presumed ages of the children in the photograph, was likely circa 1937-39. Although this gathering may not have included all of her surviving children and grandchildren, four of her children and three of her grandchildren are pictured.
Surrounded by family, Hedwig, who had celebrated her eightieth birthday in 1936, looks relaxed and content, with a wisp of hair blowing in the breeze and her mouth pressed into a smile. She wears a printed dress in a light color, suitable for a summer day, and squints in the sun.
The only other known photograph of Hedwig shows her seated at the kitchen table in the home she shared with her eldest son and his family during her later years. Wearing a loose patterned house dress, her hair pulled back, she clasps the fingers of one hand in the other as she appears to gaze peacefully towards a window.
It was at this table that she was said to have sat to churn butter and clean vegetables, an industrious soul still determined to contribute to the household as much as possible.9
Copyright © 2019 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.
1 Sandra Bivens Verdegem to Melanie Frick, Ancestry.com message, 26 April 2017, “Hattie Lutz Sonnek,” Cichos Family File; privately held by Melanie Frick. Sandra is a granddaughter of Georgiana (Sonnek) Brain, who was a granddaughter of Hedwig (Cichos) Lutz Rindfleisch.
2 “Katholische Kirche Trembatschau (Kr. Groß Wartenberg), Taufen 1849-1859” entry for Hedwig Cichos, born 08 October 1855, Neudorf; microfilm photocopy courtesy of Armond Sonnek, 2002.
3 “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 December 2013), manifest, S.S. Hansa, Bremen to New York, arriving 13 November 1873, Hedwig Cluchas [Cichos]; citing National Archives microfilm M237, roll 384.
4 “Minnesota, Marriages, 1849-1950,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 9 Dec 2013), Joseph Lutz and Hedwig Joice or Tchrichor [Cichos], 19 April 1875.
5 “Minnesota, Births and Christenings, 1840-1980,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 15 Nov 2013), Emily Lutz, 12 October 1875.
6 “Minnesota, County Marriages, 1860-1949,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 9 Dec 2013), Albert Rindfleisch and Hedwig Lutz, 29 December 1887.
7 1900 U.S. census, Faribault County, Minnesota, population schedule, Minnesota Lake, Enumeration District (ED) 92, sheet 10-B, p. 4834 (handwritten), dwelling 178, family 178, Hattie Rindfleisch; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 December 2013), citing National Archives microfilm T623, roll 763.
8William “Bill” Catlin, conversation with the author, September 2002; notes in author’s files. The late Mr. Catlin was the grandson of Hedwig (Cichos) Lutz Rindfleisch and was acquainted with her until her death, at which time he was thirty years old.
9 Mary Jo Yokiel to Melanie Frick, e-mail, 12 April 2017, “Genealogy,” Personal Correspondence, Cichos Family, Frick Research Files; privately held by Frick.
I think I see where you got your name. There are some, as I uncover my ancestry, that I would have included in my children. Now, just giving them a story, has to do.
Thanks for your comment! Yes – although I have to admit I’m glad I was named for her daughter and not after Hedwig herself. :)
I’ve found that when heard by the native tongue, many names not favored here, sound lovely or intriguing.
This is certainly true!
Wonderful pics. Thank you for sharing. JN
Absolutely! It’s always nice to hear from other descendants of Hedwig.
Thanks for sharing, I hadn’t seen the 1940 picture of Grandma Rindfleisch before. I was asking my Mother Jeanne (g.granddaughter) about the family gathering pictures with her mother and father (Helen and Vance) being in the picture but not her. My mother was born Dec. 1939 so this might have been prior to 1939 or the spring of 1939. My mom thinks this wasn’t her 80th birthday because she was born Oct 9, 1855, her 80th was 1935, she thinks it’s more likely a Mother’s Day gathering.
Hi Michelle, thanks for your thoughts and for sharing the photos with your mother! I agree with you about the probable dates, and I like the idea that perhaps this was a Mother’s Day gathering! Do you know of any other pictures of her?
Thanks, Melanie. I actually almost named one of my children Hedwig, but ended up naming her Marguerite. I always found it interesting that my great grandmother Sonnek had so many additional siblings after her mother remarried. We definitely come from a sturdy line of women.
Thanks for your comment, Maggie! I love that you used a family name. Yes – and to think Hedwig gave birth to ten children (nine surviving) within twenty years, no small feat!
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