Tag Archives: immigrants

One of Dakota’s Pioneer Mothers

There can be no question that Christina Marie (Schmidt) Nelson was a strong and capable woman.

Born in Skrydstrup, Gram, Haderslev, Denmark on 11 October 1868, to Jens Madsen Schmidt and Anne Bramsen, Christina immigrated to America with her parents and older sister when she was just twenty months of age. A dugout on a homestead in Dakota Territory was her first home in America; it was from this homestead in Bon Homme County that she spent long hours tending her family’s cattle, experienced devastating prairie fires and blizzards, witnessed interactions with displaced Native Americans, and even once encountered General George Armstrong Custer when he stopped for a drink of water. She was fortunate enough to attend a one-room log schoolhouse through eighth grade, and, in 1889, when she was twenty-one, she married her neighbor and fellow Danish immigrant Frederick Nelson.

Over the course of the next twenty years, Christina gave birth to nine healthy children: Anna Sophie (1891), Julia Marie (1892), Ole James (1894), Andrea Mathilda (1896), Louise Christine (1899), Helena Margaret (1900), Mary Magdalene (1904), Frederick Andrew (1908), and Myron Alvin (1910). Education was of apparent importance to Christina and Fred, as he was known; although their oldest son attended school only through eighth grade, destined to become a farmer like his parents before him, their younger sons and daughters all attended school at least until the age of sixteen. They even saw to it that their four youngest daughters had the opportunity to attend a “normal school” in nearby Springfield, South Dakota, where they received the necessary training to become schoolteachers.

The Fred and Christina Nelson Family, Yankton County, South Dakota, 1912; digital image 2011, privately held by Lori Dickman. Back row, from left: Julia, Anna, Ole, and Andrea Nelson. Front row, from left: Mary, Louise, Christina with Myron, Fred with Fred Jr., and Helena Nelson.

A formal portrait of the Nelson family was taken in July of 1912, likely in Yankton, which was not far from the family’s home in Lakeport; the girls sport bare forearms for the season, their fabric colors light and featuring gingham, stripes, and lace. Christina, while dressed in a dark gown, wears a white collar and whimsical crocheted flowers at her throat. As to the occasion for the photograph, it was not a milestone anniversary year—Christina and Fred would have celebrated their twentieth anniversary the previous spring. However, Christina perhaps realized that, at forty-three, her childbearing years were behind her and now was the time to have a portrait taken of the entire family all together. Furthermore, as her eldest daughter had married in March of 1912, having her first child leave the nest might also have sparked sentimentality and a wish to document the fact that, at least for a short while, all nine Nelson children had been under one roof.

Christina and Fred would go on to celebrate their twenty-fifth anniversary in 1916, but two years later, a matter of weeks after her fiftieth birthday, Christina would be dealt several harsh blows in short succession. First, Spanish Influenza hit the household, and then, in a turn of events that shocked both the family and their wider community, she lost Fred to suicide, and, one month later, daughter Andrea to undetermined medical circumstances.

Christina persevered. She faced another trial when her father died the following spring, but it was a blessing that her eldest son was home from his service in the Great War and able to help manage the family farm while she continued to raise her two youngest sons. She continued to live on the farm with support from her sons well into her old age; even in 1950, when she was eighty-two, the census reported that she was still “keeping house” for her three bachelor sons. It was at this farmhouse that her children and grandchildren frequently gathered to celebrate birthdays and holidays.

Christina died on 23 January 1961 at the age of ninety-two and is buried alongside her husband and three of their nine children at the Elm Grove Cemetery in Yankton County, South Dakota. A brief biography included in a local history book several years prior had noted, “Mrs. Nelson is well-known by her many friends and relatives as a person who always has a warm welcome hand extended to all those who call at her home. Even today, at the age of eighty-five, she is active with her household duties and retains an active interest in what is going on about her. She is cordial and sympathetic with the many young people who come her way. She is truly one of Dakota’s pioneer mothers who still looks ahead and enjoys her home and family.”

Copyright © 2022 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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Michael and Magdalena

Little is known about Michael Noehl and Magdalena Hoffman, a couple who spent their married life in the village of Holsthum, Eifelkreis Bitburg-Prüm, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Holsthum was described by one of their sons as “situated in a lovely valley of rich agricultural land, crowned with fruit trees, and further off, with magnificent forests, between nurseries and rose plantations.” Even now it remains a quaint, pastoral village.

Michael Noehl, one of at least eight children of Johannes Noehl and Elisabeth Gierens, was born in Niederstedem, Eifelkreis Bitburg-Prüm, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany on 22 June 1828. Nothing is known of his childhood, but as a young man, he entered the military. According to the memoirs of his son, Michael served as a Prussian soldier in Koblenz between the years 1847-1851; during the Baden Revolution in 1848, he stood sentry at the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress.

After his service, Michael married Magdalena Hoffman, who was born on 21 Jul 1833 in Holsthum, one of at least four children of Mathias Hoffman and Magdalena Ehr. Michael and Magdalena were married on 12 February 1857; Michael was twenty-eight and Magdalena twenty-three at the time of their marriage, which was recorded at Schankweiler. The Schankweiler Klaus is an eighteenth-century chapel and hermitage tucked into the forest approximately two miles from the village of Holsthum, and still stands today.

Schankweiler, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany photograph, 2009; privately held by Melanie Frick, 2013.

Together, the couple had seven sons: Mathias (1858), Michael (1860), Nikolaus (1864), Nikolaus (1866), Mathias (1868), Johann (1870), and Jakob (1873). Notably, despite name repetition among their sons, it is believed that all survived to adulthood. (This is not the first case of name repetition among children of this region that I have observed.)

Mathias Noehl (1868-1950), second from right, with brothers, perhaps Nikolaus, Johan, and Jakob Noehl, Holsthum, Germany, 1938; digital image 2009, privately held by Roland Noehl, Holsthum, Germany, 2009.

A great-grandson of Michael and Magdalena remembered being told that Michael was a forester, and Magdalena certainly had her hands full raising seven sons, but few details are known of their adult lives. One of their sons recalled completing school at the age of fourteen and going to work herding sheep to help his parents pay off a debt on their property; later this same son was apprenticed to a rose grower, so it may be assumed that their other sons were similarly established with apprenticeships.

Michael saw several of his siblings immigrate to America in the nineteenth century; his sister Susanna and his brothers Matthias and Johann all settled in Minnesota. Likewise, Magdalena saw a paternal aunt and a paternal uncle immigrate to Minnesota and Iowa. Later, Michael and Magdalena bade farewell to two of their own children who left their homeland to try their luck on American soil: Michael in 1881 and Mathias (1868) in 1886. From these two sons then came fifteen American grandchildren whom Michael and Magdalena never had the opportunity to meet.

Michael and Magdalena lived out their lives in Holsthum, surviving at least to their sixties, as it is known that their son Mathias came from America to visit in 1894 and found them in good health at that time. To the best of my knowledge, however, their graves, according to German custom, have long since been recycled and are no longer marked.

Copyright © 2022 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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Two Brothers from Sondersdorf

When immigrant Joseph Lutz died in 1887 the age of forty-two, only one line in a Minnesota newspaper made note of his death. His brother Paul, however, survived him by more than fifty years, and when he died in 1939 he was ninety-three years old. A lengthy obituary in a Minnesota newspaper documented his death, but what is more, his birthday several years prior had warranted an informative and colorful tribute to his life both in his native Sondersdorf, a village in eastern France, and in southern Minnesota. As Joseph and Paul, only two years apart in age, both served in the Franco-Prussian War and then immigrated to America, many of Paul’s recollections relate what must have been shared experiences.

The brothers were born to François Joseph Lutz (1801-1881) and Marguerite Meister (1801-1876), Joseph on 31 May 1844 and Paul on 07 August 1846, both in what is now Sondersdorf, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France. Their father was a farmer, and this was his second marriage; their mother was a native of the nearby border village of Roggenburg, Switzerland. Joseph and Paul were raised to work hard, although they also had the opportunity to attend school, as related in the Blue Earth County Enterprise in 1935:

“Alsace Lorraine at that time belonged to France, as it does now, although for many years between it was Germany’s. And so young Paul was born a French citizen. His father was a farmer and when Paul was still very young he was put to work. How young? Well, he says, laughing, that he thinks he began to work before he was born. He worked in the field, in the town, anywhere where there was work to be had.

“French was taught in the schools, but his family, like many others in Alsace, spoke German at home. So he grew up with a knowledge of both tongues. However, today and for many years since, it is German that he speaks fluently. There are, he says, no Frenchmen around to give him practice in that language.”

In 1866, Joseph and Paul, by then twenty-two and twenty years of age, appeared in a census in a household in Sondersdorf with their parents and younger sister, Philomene. Just a few years later, the brothers served in the Franco-Prussian War, which broke out in the summer of 1870:

“Like every other French citizen, [Paul] entered military training when old enough. His memories of that period are clear and vivid, for while he was still in the army, the Franco-Prussian war broke out. That was in 1870 and one of the causes of the bitter enmity between France and Prussia was that same Alsace Lorraine where he was born, a strip of territory at the eastern edge of France coveted by both nations and snatched first by one, then the other. When Prussia whipped France in that war of 1870, she took Alsace Lorraine as one of the indemnities and from then on France never rested until the World War brought it back again to the French.

“There wasn’t so much to the war so far as he was concerned, says Mr. Lutz, except horse meat to eat and being taken prisoner at the battle of Metz. Asked how that happened, he drolly repied [sic] that the Germans took the whole army prisoner so of course he went along. Speaking of horse meat, Mr. Lutz remarked that it wouldn’t have been so bad had they been given some beer, or at least enough water to wash it down with. But there was none of the first and little enough of the second. To make it worse he says it was tough meat with no pepper or salt. You stuck two sticks up on each side of a fire and hung the meat on a third stick laid across. After it had toasted a bit, you ate it – if possible.

“Because Germany considered Alsace her own, and to gain the good will of its people, she released the French prisoners from Alsace earlier than others. That was in 1871. Between horse meat, fighting and being a prisoner, Mr. Lutz says he’d had enough […] and straightaway came to America.”

Although comparatively little is known about Joseph Lutz’s experiences, his grandson once related that after serving in the Franco-Prussian War and coming out on the losing side, Joseph immigrated to America because he wouldn’t live under Prussian rule. It seems the brothers were allied in their feelings after having fought and been imprisoned by the Prussians—and having been forced to survive on horse meat during the Siege of Metz, which has been documented. A passenger list has been located that may indicate that the brothers immigrated together, arriving in New York aboard the Nevada in May 1871, mere months after the war’s end.

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Joseph Lutz (1844-1887), circa 1875-1885; digital image 2010, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2021.

Although the Blue Earth County Enterprise recorded in 1935 that Paul and his wife Josephine Lutz married in Sondersdorf and immigrated together, settling first near Burlington, Des Moines County, Iowa before making the move to Minnesota, records indicate that the couple actually married in Des Moines County, Iowa, in 1872. “Asked if they came by train to Burlington, Mr. Lutz chuckled and said, ‘Well, you needn’t think I walked.'” Perhaps the plan all along had been that Paul and Josephine would reunite and marry once in America and free of the strife of their homeland. Joseph, it seems, had not made any such promises to any young women from their home village; he instead married a Silesian immigrant, Hedwig Cichos, in Faribault County, Minnesota, in 1875. 

The brothers’ paths diverged to a degree in Minnesota; Paul farmed, as their father had before him, whereas Joseph lived in town, making a living first as a butcher and then as a saloon keeper. Of farm life, the Blue Earth County Enterprise shared that Paul owned one hundred and twenty acres “two miles west of Bass Lake,” and noted, “Memories of early days in southern Minnesota come to [Paul] as he talks. He tells of hauling grain to Delavan and Easton in the winter, using oxen-drawn sleds. Many a time, he says, blizzards would spring up and there was nothing for it but to give the oxen their heads and trust them to find the way home. They never failed.” Of Joseph, the newspaper shared, “Joe Lutz, early Mapleton butcher, was [Paul’s] brother. His shop was on Second Street just back of where the Wiedman drug store stands today. The frame building that housed it is the same one that stands there still, says Mr. Lutz.”

Joseph was indeed known to have been a butcher in Mapleton in the early 1880s; in the 1870s, however, he had operated a one-story frame butcher shop in Minnesota Lake, behind which were rooms where his family lived. After his stint as a butcher in Mapleton, he returned to Minnesota Lake but this time kept a saloon. Family lore notes that Joseph was a generous-hearted man who was known to give away cuts of meat to new immigrants in his community—to the occasional dismay of his wife, who chided him that these newcomers would not even have a pot with which to cook the meat!

Joseph would succumb to tuberculosis not quite sixteen years after his arrival in America; it seems especially tragic that he was stricken with this disease as he might otherwise have enjoyed as many years as his brother. At the time of Paul’s eighty-ninth birthday, the Blue Earth County Enterprise wrote, “Paul Lutz feels much younger than his years. His mind is far keener toward what is going on in this world than that of many a younger man. Age has as yet brought little failing to his senses. His speech is filled with humor that indicates his cheery optimism and enjoyment of life. His hearing is good. He walks up town every day. He administrates for himself the affairs of the farm he owns near Bass Lake. Paul Lutz has enjoyed and is still enjoying a full life with a clear memory that is truly remarkable.”

Copyright © 2021 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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The Canada Experiment

Mathias Noehl attempted to settle in Canada on at least two occasions after emigrating from Germany to the Midwest as a young man in 1886. After a stint living among relatives in Minnesota, he married fellow immigrant Elisabeth Hoffmann in North Washington, Chickasaw County, Iowa, in 1896. The couple had a son in 1897 and a daughter in 1898, and in 1899, as Mathias later wrote in his memoir, “The desire for migratory life befell us again.” He continued:

“We loaded all that we possessed into a railway car, and traveled to the plains of Alberta, Canada, to meet another stroke of ill fortune, which we had not expected. The climate and the foodstuffs of that country did not agree with us, so we took sick and the doctor advised us to return to the U.S. We went back to the forests of Minnesota, where between 1886 and 1894 I had built my air castles, with which I comforted my wife. My wife felt disappointed when we arrived there, and all I possessed consisted in nothing else but air castles. Besides, we had the terrible cold weather in winter 1899. We stayed there until spring; when the birds flew northward, we remembered the fleshpots of Iowa, and this drove us back to where in 1896 I had found my Waterloo. There, the death of two old people had pity on us, which made a dwelling available for our children and us […]. In 1900 we returned in bitter disappointment to North Washington, with all our savings lost, and one more child. That child is all we gained with our adventures in Canada.”

It is unknown where exactly in “the plains of Alberta” the Noehl family lived in 1899, but it is possible that they were in Pincher Creek, a settlement that attracted German-American Catholics around this time.

Despite finding failure in Alberta, Mathias remained convinced that Canada was in his future. In the spring of 1903, now thirty-four years old and the father of four children, he applied for a homestead in Saskatchewan. The homestead was located eighty-five miles east of Saskatoon near the village of Muenster, in an area known as St. Peter’s Colony. This colony, founded in 1902, was the brainchild of the Benedictine order, the German American Land Company, and the Catholic Settlement Society of St. Paul, Minnesota; land was set aside specifically for German Catholics, who responded to advertisements for the colony and flocked north from the Midwestern states. Here there was to be ample farmland, a colony of like-minded people who shared their language and faith, and a new monastery at the helm, to boot.

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The Noehl family was the target audience for this venture, but ultimately did not remain long enough to prove the homestead. A grandson recalled being told that the family found the water in Saskatchewan to be too alkaline, and apparently many settlers were displeased with the brush-covered land. As the Noehl family’s fourth child was born in Iowa in the spring of 1904, it seems that their time spent in Saskatchewan amounted to less than one year.

Mathias, ever filled with wanderlust, attempted once more to relocate from the Midwest, although he no longer had his sights set on Canada. As the story goes, he visited Oregon several years later and, finding a welcoming German community (perhaps Mt. Angel) and stunning forests that reminded him of his homeland, began to make plans for his family to move once again. However, as his wife was at that point expecting their seventh or eighth child, she put her foot down—and in Iowa they remained for good.

Copyright © 2021 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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A Silesian Family in Minnesota

Johann and Maria (Kulot) Cichos and their children were not alone in leaving their home village of what is now Nowa Wieś Książęca, Poland, located in a region known as Lower Silesia, to settle in a small farming community in south-central Minnesota. Many of their neighbors had made and would make the same journey, all playing their parts in a story of chain-migration repeated across other Silesian communities and terminating in Minnesota’s Faribault and Blue Earth counties, where farmland was both more plentiful and more arable than in the old country.

Nowa Wieś Książęca (formerly Fürstlich Neudorf) is located approximately forty-five miles east of Wrocław (formerly Breslau), the historical capital of Silesia and Lower Silesia. The older population is said to speak a Lower Silesian dialect to this day, and the nineteenth-century Church of the Holy Trinity still stands near the center of the village. However, it was in the neighboring village of Trębaczów (formerly Trembatschau), at the eighteenth-century Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that Johann Cichos and Maria Kulot were married on 20 January 1852. They had five children in Nowa Wieś Książęca: Elizabeth, Hedwig, Johanna, Franz, and an unnamed son, their first child, who was stillborn. It seems that only Hedwig and Franz were living at the time that the Cichos family emigrated from Poland.

Johann and daughter Hedwig, who was then eighteen years old, left Poland first. In November 1873, they traveled together from Bremen to New York aboard the Hansa. Six months later, Maria and nine-year-old son Franz followed; they were in the company of numerous others from their home village who were also bound for Minnesota. They departed from Hamburg, rather than Bremen, and arrived in New York aboard the aptly-named Silesia in May 1874.

Little is known about the lives of Johann and Maria in America. No oral history nor photographs remain. They settled in Minnesota Lake, Faribault County, Minnesota in 1874, and census records indicate that they were farmers. Their daughter Hedwig married in Minnesota Lake in 1875; between her first and second marriages, she had ten children, nine surviving, all of whom would have had the opportunity to know their grandparents. Sadly, however, Johann and Maria’s son Franz died in 1881 at the age of eighteen after contracting spinal meningitis.

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Declaration of Intention of Johann Cichos, 19 May 1890. Faribault County, Minnesota, District Court, Naturalization Records, John Cichos, naturalized 13 July 1897; Iron Range Research Center, Chisholm, Minnesota.

At the time of the 1900 census, a teenage granddaughter resided with Johann and Maria; both were by then seventy years of age. It was noted in the census that Maria could not speak English, a fact that is not altogether unsurprising. Although she had at that point lived in America for more than twenty-five years, as Minnesota Lake had a strong Polish presence, there would not have been a shortage of opportunities to hear and speak her native language or languages, which very likely included German as well. Johann, however, did speak at least some English, and had in fact received American citizenship, renouncing the Emperor of Prussia, in 1897.

Maria died in 1902 and Johann in 1907, both in Minnesota Lake, the only home they had known in America. At the time of Johann’s death, he owned forty acres of farmland, valued at that time at about $2,000; his daughter Hedwig was his sole heir. Both Johann and Maria (Kulot) Cichos were buried at St. John the Baptist Catholic Cemetery in Minnesota Lake.

Copyright © 2021 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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The Olsens in the Old Country

Niels Olsen and Juliane Sophie Hennike spent the first twenty-two years of their married life in their native Denmark before venturing together to America.

They had married on 30 July 1852 in Haraldsted, Soro, Denmark. A nineteenth-century stereoscope image of what appears to be the church at Haraldsted was handed down through descendants of their second son, along with a stereoscope image that preserves the view of the village itself.

Haraldsted, Soro, Denmark, 1800s; digital image 2019, privately held by Stevan Worley.

The couple resided in Osted, ten miles or so northeast of Haraldsted, in the early years of their marriage; this is where their sons Ole and Johan Henrik were born and baptized in 1853 and 1855. Niels, Juliane, and Ole appeared in the 1855 census here with two servants in their household, prior to the birth of Johan Henrik. Niels was a farmer.

The family relocated to the Orslevvester district five miles southwest of Haraldsted, near the village of Gyrstinge, within a year or two. Here their children Karen Sophia Dorthea, Karen Kirstine, Sesilie Johanne, Frederik, Anders Christian, Jens Christian, and Anders Julius were born and baptized between the years 1857 and 1871.

Haraldsted, Soro, Denmark, 1800s; digital image 2019, privately held by Stevan Worley.

The 1860 and 1870 Danish census records raise questions about the family’s living situation. In 1860, Niels and Juliane, by then the parents of three children, lived only with their youngest child at the time, daughter Karen Sophie Dorthea, age three. Where were their sons Ole and Johan Henrik? Ole, age seven, lived in Osted with his maternal grandmother. Johan Henrik’s location is less clear, but a census index indicates that a “Jens” Nielsen, age four, born in Osted, was a “foster child” in Jyrstup, located roughly between Osted and Orslevvester.

Although it seems odd that the Ole and Johan would not have lived in their parents’ household, it should be noted that Juliane was in the late stages of pregnancy in early 1860. One could speculate that she might have been unwell and therefore her older children were placed with relatives or friends for a temporary period.

There was no census in 1865 to give an idea of the family’s household structure, but in 1870, Niels and Juliane continued to reside in Orslevvester with five of their seven surviving children: Johan Henrik, Karen Kristine, Sesilie Johanne, Frederick, and Jens Christian.

Olsen Family Home, Soro, Denmark, 1800s; digital image 2019, privately held by Stevan Worley.

Their oldest son Ole, sixteen, and oldest daughter Karen Sophie Dorthea, twelve, resided in a household in Haraldsted where they were recorded as foster children. Three servants, ages sixteen, eighteen, and twenty also resided in the household, so it is notable that their statuses differed from those of Ole and Dorthea; however, the sixteen-year-old servant was female, and one possible theory is that males might not have been considered to be grown men and therefore actual servants until an older age. It seems plausible that the brother and sister may have worked in exchange for room and board, if not yet for a wage; whether they had left their family home for work experience or due to space constraints or poverty is unknown.

In any case, a nineteenth-century stereoscope image of what is believed to have been the family home, presumably in Orslevvester, has also been preserved by descendants. It appears to be an example of a u-shaped housebarn, a practical structure that connects the barn and the house and allows for protection from the elements in a cold climate.

In 1873, sons Ole and Johan Henrik immigrated to America, and in 1874, Niels, Juliane, and their six younger children, namely Karen Sophie Dorthea, Karen Kristine, Sesilie Johanne, Frederick, Jens Christian, and Anders Julius, followed. Their youngest child, Helena, would be born in Dakota Territory in 1875.

Family lore indicates that Niels purchased his farm near present-day Yankton, South Dakota for five hundred dollars; perhaps the sale of the family home in Denmark allowed him to make this cash purchase of good farmland at a time when many other immigrants opted to homestead for a nominal filing fee.

Niels and Juliane made a comfortable life for themselves and their children in America—and it can easily be imagined that they may have gathered around a stereoscope from time to time to view these very images and reminisce about their old home in Denmark.

Copyright © 2020 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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A German American Family in Chicago

Several years after German immigrants Fred and Emma (Stube) Wiese of Chicago, Cook County, Illinois posed for a photograph together in their garden, they were photographed outdoors once again, this time with their children.

Fred and Emma (Stube) Wiese with children, from left, Leonard, Rose, George, and Oliver, circa 1904, Chicago, Illinois; digital image circa 2000, provenance of the original unknown.

Their youngest son, Leonard, seated at left, provides the biggest clue in dating this photograph, as his age is the easiest to pinpoint: assuming that he was, perhaps, three years old here, it can be dated circa 1904.1 George, standing between his parents, would have turned seventeen that year, Rose would have turned twelve, and Oliver, seated at right, would have turned eight.2 Sadly, Fred and Emma’s oldest daughter, Lillie, had died of meningitis as an eight year old in 1897.3

The Wiese family is pictured outside what may have been their own Victorian-style home at 2502 North Neva Avenue in Chicago’s Montcalm neighborhood.4 Only one of the six looks directly at the camera. Perhaps a second photographer was off to the side, where the other five members of the family directed their attention. This image is a scan of an original of an undetermined medium; it is rather heavily damaged with wrinkles, scuffs, and blotches.

Fred, who was a cigar maker by trade, sports a full mustache and wears a dark suit and tie.5 He is in his late thirties here.6 Emma, also in her late thirties, wears a white collared shirtwaist with a brooch at her throat, paired with a walking skirt in a darker color.7 A belt with a decorative clasp can be seen at her waist. A skilled seamstress, Emma was especially known for crocheting elegant garters, a talent she used to help support her family in her later years.8 It can well be imagined that she had a hand in making sure that she, her husband, and their children were well-dressed.

George wears a suit and tie much like his father’s; his fair-haired younger brothers sport rather voluminous white shirts and dark pants. Rose’s hair is pulled back into a braid and set off with a large bow; her simple shirtwaist and skirt, which falls mid-calf, are accessorized with a belt tied at her waist, a corsage, and a string of beads at her neck. These beads resemble pearls, although her mother was also known to make fragrant, darker-colored beads out of crushed rose petals which she would then alternate with pearl beads to create a necklace.9

This is the only known photograph of Fred and Emma (Stube) Wiese with their children. Despite the beating that the original print appears to have taken, it remains a special memento of a day in the life of this German American family in Chicago.

Copyright © 2019 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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A Mother and Her Sons

Kathrine (Christensen) Walsted had lived in America for nearly thirteen years when she was photographed with her two young sons in 1919.1 She had immigrated from Denmark at the age of twenty; now in her early thirties, she resided with her husband and children in a small rental house in Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa.2

Kathrine (Christensen) Walsted with sons Roy Louis Walsted and James Herman Walsted, circa 1919, Sioux City, Iowa; digital image 2010, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2019.

It is a bit puzzling why her husband of nine years, Jens Jacob Walsted, known as James, was not photographed with her. Although James registered for the draft in September of 1918, it is not believed that he ever served in World War I.3 However, as he was a bricklayer by trade, it is possible that he traveled at times to work on building projects. Perhaps his wife wanted to surprise him with a portrait to keep with him when away. This may also be why Kathrine alone was photographed with her eldest son when he was an infant, several years prior.

Of course, James may simply not have enjoyed having his photograph taken! Although he lived to the age of seventy-five, only three informal photographs of him have been uncovered.4 One gives a glimpse of him as a young man, while the other snapshots were taken in his later years.

In any case, in this photograph, Kathrine appears elegant yet warm, with a faint smile at her lips and a hint of a dimple at her cheek. Her thick hair is pinned up in a bun, the trend of the bob having not yet swept America, and soft curls escape at her temples. She wears what might have been a white cotton voile waist.5

Her eldest son, Roy, seven or eight years old here, wears a dark suit and tie.6 His hair is neatly trimmed and combed to the side, and his expression is wide-eyed and solemn. Young James, named for his father, looks to be about a year and a half old, his fair hair in a bowl cut.7 His loose-fitting garment appears to feature some embroidery; as Kathrine was known to have been a member of a local needlecraft club, perhaps this was her own handiwork.8

Notably, Roy had barely recovered from a life-threatening brush with polio when his brother was born in November 1917. In September of that year, the Sioux City Journal had reported, “Roy Walstead [sic], 6-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. James Walstead [sic], 406 South Helen avenue, Morningside, is expected to recover completely from an attack of infantile paralysis, according to the attending physician. The boy is able to walk alone now and in six months he is expected to have recovered entirely. If recovery is complete it will constitute one of the few cases on record, according to the physician.”9

Roy did indeed recover, although he always walked with a limp, and it has been said that his younger brother was his staunch defender against bullies. However, Kathrine was surely grateful to have both of her sons by her side and in good health when, one hundred years ago, she dressed them in their finest clothes and ventured with them to the portrait studio.

Copyright © 2019 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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Hedwig

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

Back: Anna (Lutz) Catlin, Melanie (Lutz) Adam, Elsie (Rindfleisch) Beyer, Edward Rindfleisch, and Front: Keith Beyer, Hedwig (Cichos) Lutz Rindfleisch, and Albert Rindfleisch, Danville, Blue Earth County, Minnesota, circa 1937-39; digital image 2010, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2019.

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.

Back: Anna (Lutz) Catlin, Permelia Adam, Melanie (Lutz) Adam, Adelheid (Brandt) Rindfleisch, Elsie (Rindfleisch) Beyer, Mary (Grover) Rindfleisch, Alfred Beyer, Helen (?) Catlin, Vance Catlin, Edward Rindfleisch, Henry Adam, and Front: Keith Beyer, Hedwig (Cichos) Lutz Rindfleisch, and Albert Rindfleisch, Danville, Blue Earth County, Minnesota, circa 1937-39; digital image 2010, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2019.

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.

Hedwig (Cichos) Lutz Rindfleisch, Minnesota, circa 1940; digital image 2019, from a photocopy courtesy of Armond Sonnek, 2002. Provenance of the original unknown.

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.

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Pomeranian Roots

For decades, the precise origins of German-speaking immigrants Joachim and Sophia (Cammin) Wiese of Chicago, Cook County, Illinois were forgotten.1

There were clues: a scrawled place name on the Hamburg Passagierlisten, an intriguing DNA connection.2

Finally, a dedicated on-site researcher uncovered several records that definitively placed Joachim and Sophia within the arms of their families in the neighboring villages of Wendisch Baggendorf and Barkow, located in present-day Vorpommern-Rügen, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany.3

Joachim, christened Joachim Christian Friedrich Wiese, was born on 20 October 1840 in Wendisch Baggendorf, the son of laborer Johann Adam Wiese and Beate Elisabeth Hanna Schult.4

Sophia, christened Catharina Sophia Joachime Cammin, was born on 07 November 1842 in Barkow, the daughter of laborer Johann Christian Cammin and Christina Dorothea Ahrends.5

Joachim and Sophia married on 03 April 1864 in Grimmen, a village of perhaps a couple thousand inhabitants located a short distance from the state-owned estate at Barkow where Joachim was employed as a laborer.6 They were married by Carl Bindemann at St-Marien-Kirche, an early Gothic construction that dates to the thirteenth century.7

“St.-Marien-Kirche in Grimmen,” 2007, Grimmen, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany; Wikimedia Commons, copyright Erell.

The couple’s first child, christened Carl Christian Friedrich Wiese, was born later that year on 17 September 1864.8 He did not survive childhood.9 Their second child, christened Friedrich Carl Christian Wiese, was born on 22 August 1866.10

When they prepared to board the Electric at Hamburg in November of 1868, however, Joachim and Sophia stated that their two-year-old son, nicknamed Fritz, was only nine months of age.11 It seems plausible that a free or reduced rate of passage might have been granted infants under one, and if the Wiese family did not happen to encounter a sympathetic ticketing agent, it can easily be imagined that Sophia might have bundled Fritz in a shawl close to her chest to conceal his true age until the family was safely aboard the ship.

Joachim and Sophia (Cammin) Wiese, ca. 1889, Chicago, Cook, Illinois; digital image ca. 2000.

Whatever the case, the Wiese family arrived in New York the day after Christmas 1868, after enduring a nearly eight week crossing during which time Sophia marked her twenty-sixth birthday.12 Among their fellow steerage passengers were several relatives, including Sophia’s widowed mother; Joachim’s widowed father came aboard a different ship.13 They soon made their way to Chicago, where they joined a wave of immigrants like themselves who contributed to the city’s unprecedented expansion.

It was there, during the years of regrowth that followed the Chicago Fire of 1871, that Joachim would work his way up to become a tailor, while Sophia would raise six children.14 And it was in Chicago that the Wiese family would face new struggles and new opportunities as they adapted to an urban environment vastly different from their rural homeland near the Baltic Sea.

Copyright © 2019 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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