Tag Archives: 52 ancestors in 52 weeks

Treasure Chest Thursday

Rustic Vase from My Grandma Rose

Rustic crockery vase belonging to my Grandma Rose Uelmen Meyer

Treasure chest Thursday means it’s time to share a family gem.  Yes, the sunflowers are pretty but the crock is the focus of this piece. Mom gave this to me several years before she and my Dad moved out of their house.  She knew I’d appreciate it’s rustic charm.  It’s my favorite vase for country bouquets.

I find it kind of strange though, that my Mom  chose this as one of the few things she could take from the family farm. Living in WA state limited how much she could bring home and she didn’t really care for the rustic look.

Although you can’t see it in this photo the crock does have a chip along it’s rim. It was the sort of thing she’d say when shown, “Who’d want that old thing.”  This piece must have must have spoken something about her childhood home and mother though, I guess I should have questioned her more.

She did tell me that her Mother found this piece while poking around in a vacant lot across the road from the church they attended. (ST. Mathias Catholic Church, Auburn Township, Fond Du Lac county, Wi)  According to her a  German convent had once sat on the property.  She figured the crock was something they used.  She told me the convent had been long gone by the time she was born.

So my question to you is – what kind of family treasures do you keep? Feel free to share in the comment section.

School Days in New Prospect

This is another story written by my mother about the days in a one room school house in New Prospect, Wisconsin. She attended school there from about 1927 until about 1934. Later she became a teacher and taught school there.

SCHOOL DAYS
Jeannette Meyer

I received my early education in a one room school house in Wisconsin. One teacher taught all eight grades.

The school house was a big square room with an entry way and a cloak room on each side: one for the boys and one for the girls.

On top was a bell tower. In the early days the building had also served as a church on Sunday.2014-07-01 22.33.40-1 That accounted for the fact that a cemetery was next door to the school. This fascinated all of us children. I can remember watching funerals from the school house window while the teacher tried in vain to get us all back to our desks. She considered it undignified but we just thought it was interesting.

2014-07-01 17.23.26                                                         2014-07-01 17.18.50

All of the students from the surrounding farming community walked to and from school in good weather and in bad. I had to walk about a mile and half from my home. I walked with my older sister and sometimes our big brother.

Our school was heated by a big coal burning furnace that stood in one corner of the room. It was encircled by an picket of aluminum so no child would fall against the furnace and get hurt. The teacher was also the janitor but often the big boys would help with carrying the coal.

Water was gotten from a hand pump in the schoolyard. The water was carried from the pump in a bucket to the water cooler in the back of the classroom. Each child had its own collapsible tin cup.

I loved school. I was happy when I could read. I remember my first yellow reader. History was probably my favorite subject. We had to memorize a lot of verse. This was good training for the mind. I can recite part of Longfellow’s “Evangeline” to this day.

Our school operated on a very small budget, so there was very little money for library books or reference material. We did get books from the county traveling library. One of my favorites was “Ox Team Days On The Oregon Trail” I read it many times and thought the children in the story were so lucky to travel in a covered wagon. Little did I dream, that when I was all grown-up with a husband and little girl of my own, I would travel along many of those same areas in an automobile on super highways to settle near the end of the Oregon Trail.

One big advantage to a one room school was that one could always get a review of anything forgotten by listening to the class below our level. If you were bored with your own classwork you could learn a lot by listening to the upper classes. I also had a brother and a sister to defend me on the playground if need be.

The student body was really like one big family with the older children looking after the younger. It was sort of a buddy system.

Recess and noon hour were great times. In the spring and fall we played baseball or “Run Sheep Run.” In the winter we went sledding on a hill a short distance from the school. In march we would walk to a nearby forest of maple trees and watch the cooking of maple syrup. In early Ma we would go to the same woods to pick Mayflowers and violets. There was also a swing set on the playground and it was here I met with an accident.

An eighth grade boy was swinging with me and I was a first grader. I sat on the seat and he stood on the seat and pumped the swing higher and higher. We all did this all the time but one day I fell off and landed with a thud on my stomach. I was knocked out and vaguely remember someone picking me up and carrying me into the school. Some time later I came to and saw one of the upper grade girls fanning me. I tried to stand up but the room spun around and I felt sick to my stomach. I laid down until it was time to go home. My brother tried carrying me for awhile but gave it up when he was offered a ride on friend’s bicycle. My big sister stayed beside me as I staggered home. I’m sure I must have had a concussion, but not called a doctor. A doctor was for big things – like broken legs.

Can you imagine a child today being allowed to walk home after an accident like that!

 

 

 

 

Throw Back Thursday

This photo is in honor of my Dad and Father’s day this coming Sunday. I’m planning to spend the day with him so this is a little early.   Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

I actually have the sailor suit he is wearing. His mother made it.  I think he must have been 3-4 years old so the year must be  about 1925 or 26.   He’s holding a bunny so maybe it’s an Easter photo.

The photo was taken at his home in Puyallup, WA.  The stonework behind him was part of the porch his dad built.  The house and porch are still standing nearly 100 years later.  He carried the stones home from the Carbon River.

John Meyer Gets Married

John Meyer and others at is home in Cascade

John Meyer and others at is home in Cascade. PD_0050

 

When Johannes’ and Julia Meyer went back to New York state they  took their youngest son Charles back with them. Johannes’ daughter, Catherine (known as Kate) was still in New York.  The remaining 5 Meyer children remained in Wisconsin. Margaret married Phillip Welter and eventually ended up on a farm in Kaukauna, WI.  Anna had married Fredrick Seyforth ( Julia’s son) and moved to a farm in the area of Pepin, Wisconsin. Mary married Wilhelm Demand, a civil )war veteran.  They lived in Sheboygan, WI. The two boys John and George were still unmarried when their father left but also remained in Wisconsin.  George married Sophia Allman and eventually moved to Brown county, South Dakota.  And John, my great grandfather settled in Cascade, Wisconsin where he became a shoemaker.

The 1880 census shows him boarding with August Hafenmeister, also a shoemaker and his wife. In the same census a young woman  by the name of Maria (Mary) Thomsen is living and working as a servant in the town.  The following year these two would marry on July 10th, 1881.

Mary was quite a bit younger than John. She had been born in 1860 in Denmark.  Thus making her almost 16 years younger than he.

They settled into a house in Cascade and soon their first son was born.  They  named him William.  He died about a year later of summer complaint.  He was followed by three more sons, Frank born in in 1884, Geroge H. in 1888 and Arno A. in 1893.

In 1892 John and August Hafenmeister dissolved their partnership and John continued to run the shoe business until 1925 on his own.

The picture below is a photo taken of John Meyer in front of his shoe shop.PD_0067

I know very little about their life there in Cascade except through frequent mentions in the Sheboygan Press after 1914 until his death in 1926.  His shoe shops was reported as a popular meeting place for the villagers to congregate to share the happenings and news of the day so he must have been a friendly, outgoing kind of man.

In January 1915 the Shebogan Press reported that John Meyer had remodeled and repainted his store and added electric lighting an improvement the paper suggested others in the village should also do.

The frequent postings in the Sheboygan Press similar to the ones below tell us friends and family were an important part of their life.

Feb 19, 1915

“Mr. and Mrs. John Meyer are entertaining Arno Meyer of Madison and George Meyer of Ladysmith and Miss Rose Allman of Dundee.”  (This post is  tells us John and Mary had their sons over along with George’s fiancé Rose Uelmen.  It also tells us George must have moved to Ladysmith before his marriage and that perhaps Rose is teaching school in Dundee.)

March 11, 1915 reported that; “Mrs. Koch and daughter Marion left for their home in Sheboygan on Monday after spending several weeks with their rleatives Mr. and Mrs. John Meyer.”  (Mrs. Koch would have been John’s niece and daughter of his sister Mary Meyer Demand. Although it is only 11 miles between Cascade and Sheboygan the frequency of family members  remaining several days on visits suggest getting to and from the two places was time consuming in the late teens).

In February of 1916 the paper reported: “John Meyer has returned home after he spent several days with his son George in Jersey.” ( This would have been just after George took over the farm there.  His Dad was probably helping him get situated. Rose had given birth to their first son John on Dec. 13th while the couple were visiting George’s parents in Cascade. According to my mother, Jeanette Meyer Caple, he was premature and very small. His grandmother Mary Meyer,  put him in a shoebox and kept him warm by the stove. Mary’s good care during the first few weeks of his life was credited with keeping him alive.)

June 30, 1916 the paper reported: Mr. and Mrs. George Balhorn, Dr. and Mrs. A W. Kraelzoch, Mr. and Mrs. Selle and Mrs. Thomson of Milwaukee, Mrs. Koch and daughter Marion and Mr. and Mrs George Meyer were week-end guests of Mr. and Mrs. John Meyer. (Mrs. Koch was John’s niece and Mrs. Thomsen was probably the wife of Mary’s brother Tom.)

On October 20, 1916 the paper reported: “Mr and Mrs. John Meyer motored to Jersey and were guests of Mr. and Mr.s George Meyer. (This post also indicates they own a car.)

Still other posts tell of John and Mary going to spend time with the same people in their homes.

In 1925 their are several posts mentioning that their grandchildren: John, Gertrude, Margaret and Marilyn have spent time visting their grandparents over night indicating that the couple enjoyed having their grandchildren around.

On Dec 8th, 1926 the paper reported that Mr. and Mrs. George Meyer and children visited on Sunday at the John Meyer home. Also that Mr. Arno Meyer of Waldo spent Monday at the John Meyer home. These 2 visits were most likely precipitated by a stroke John had suffered at about that time. A week later on Dec 13th he died at the age of 81. His obituary reported he had been in the shoe business for more 60 years and had enjoyed good health up until the stroke that resulted in his death. His funeral was held at the Cascade Lutheran Church and he was buried in St. Paul’s Lutheran cemetery, in Cascade.

 

 

 

Life in New York

When we last left off, Johannes and his family were standing on the docks of New York City. Whether they had purchased the land for their new home while still in France or after their arrival in New York is unknown. However,we do know French land agents worked hard enticing Alsaceian families to settle in Lewis county, New York.

According to Johannes’ grandson Pierre, they had either settled first in Belford, which would have been in New Jersey or more likely Belfort, Lewis county, New York. Since it was already fall the family must have had enough additional money to buy most of the provisions they would need to survive until the next year.

They built a log home on the property which was what most families in the area had. In the spring of the following year Marguerite,Johannes’ wife, died.The cause of her death is unknown. She was buried in a clearing near the log home.

Did the lost of his wife make Johannes ponder the wisdom of moving his family? Did a hard winter and a lack of enough resources contribute to her death or had some epidemic rage through the community? We will never know but Johannes was now left with 6 mother-less children ranging in ages 2-12 and a farm with poor soil.

He moved his family to Naumburg, another small village in the area, in 1851 or 1852. There he married Julia Schlieder Seyfarth, the widow of Frederick Seyfarth. She owned the farm adjoining his new property.

In the fall of 1953 Johannes began building a very fine home. According to his grandson Pierre it was larger and bigger than most of the homes of the time. Travelers often mistook it for a tavern. Today a large farmhouse exists on this same property. Further research needs to be done to determine if this is the same house.

The new farm was in Croghan, Lewis County, NY and is described as being lot 5 of Mocombs Purchase. From a Croghan pamphlet dated 1858 we know there were 500 European families in this area most from E. France or adjacent Germany. In 1848 the population of 1,168 were broken down to 646 American and 522 as French.

In 1854 Johannes and Julia had a son they named Charles Julius. Later that same year Julia’s daughter Wilehmina married Ferdinand Sonatag.

In the 1855 census New York census Johannes is listed as John Mairars age 37. His framed house is marked with a value of 600$ considerably more than the log homes of the rest of the area. He has 40 improved acres and 110 unimproved acres. The total value of the farm is given as $2,200. He has another $190 in stock and $50 in tools.

Crops were listed as wheat, oats, potatoes and hay. He owned one head of cattle, 2 butter cows, 2 sheep, 2 swine and one working ox.

In 1856 another son Augustus Lewis was born. At the age of 6 months Johannes and Julia allowed Augustus to be adopted by Julia’s daughter Theresa. The family story was that she and her husband Fredrick Hoffman were unable to have children.

In Feb. 0f 1862 Julia’s son Fredrick married Johann’s daughter Anna.

In May of 1863 Johannes and Julia sold their land in New York and moved with their unmarried children to Wisconsin where they settled near Lima township, Sheboygan county. Their now married children – Anna Meyer and Fredrick Seyforth – either went with them or came the same year.

Their new property was near what is now Kohler state park. It would need to be researched more but it is possible part of his land is now within the park boundaries.

In 1865 Johannes’ daughter Margaret married Phillip Welter in Sheboygan Falls, later the same year his daughter Catherine, married Fredrick Sauer in Lewis County, New York. In 1866 his daughter Maria Meyer married Wilhelm Demand in Sheboygan, Wi.

It is not known why but sometime before 1870 Johannes and Julia decided to move back to New York. This time to a small farm in Wayne county.

In 1870 the couple decided to separate and split their assets with Johann moving back to Alsace to live with a brother while Julia took their son Charles to Watertown, NY to live.

When Johannes got back to Alsace, he only stayed 2 days before war broke out. He returned to the U. S. living for times with each of his married children until 1872 when the war ended. Johannes then returned to Alsace to live the rest of his years with his brother.

He died around 1906. A document found in Sheboygan shows that one of his daughters was appointed to see to the dispersal of his small estate. The lawyer handling his affairs in Alsace was from Neiderhausbergen (a small town near Strassburg) indicating that was where he was living at his death.

We have now documented 8 children and 35 grandchildren for Johannes Meyer.

The Meyer family arrival in New York

What a day it must have been when the Meyer family finally saw land. Weeks of living in the cramped dark steerage quarters of a ship with only the endless ocean for scenery were at an end.Soon they would set foot on land for the first time in over a month.

Nearing the New York bay where their ship would drop anchor they must have stood on the crowded deck, along with the other passengers and sailors,to get a glimpse of their new home. As they sailed into the harbor they would have seen the multitudes of church steeples, public liveries, factories, store and other structures that lined the bay.

Those who arrived before 1855 were hardly noticed in any official way. Once the ship was declared disease frèe the passengers were taken ashore.The Meyer family may have simply walked down a gangplank and right onto the boards of the pier. But not all ships could find a free dock. Many anchored out in the harbor. Passengers were loaded onto barges pulled by steamers.Their baggage and trunks would follow later.

Did our Meyer family have some friends or relatives there to meet them? If they did they are unknown. Had they been given specific directions on where to go now that they were ashore and how to get to their final destination?

The piers were often haunted by con men who spoke their languages. They would attempt to allure bewildered immigrants into boarding house or offer to help them procure tickets to their destinations often charging two or three times the fair price. Still others just took the money and left.

Perhaps Johann bought some coffee and flour rolls for the family and then went to procure what was needed for the next leg of the journey.

I can picture the children growing accustomed to their surroundings, listening to the foreign words and splashing each other with water they found at a fountain while sour faced women tried to soothe crying babies and wait for their husbands to return.

Did our Meyer family spend their first night in America somewhere in New York city or did they head directly North for Lewis county? Had Johann already purchased the land he was going to or did he do that after he landed? Remember his grandson Pierre felt he had purchased the property sight unseen. We may never know. But we do know it was fall. Lewis County is not a very populated area, even today. It was certainly a rural area when they arrived. Johann still had to build or procure a home for his family and find a way for them to survived their first winter in a new home. He must have had enough money still left to provide for much of what they would need in the coming months ahead.

The Big Move

Imagine, you’re waiting on the crowded dock, pictured above. It’s a day in late Aug or early Sept in the year 1849, the year the Meyer family emigrated to the United States. Now imagine, in addition to yourself,you must also keep track of your spouse, 6 children (ages 1-10) and all your worldly possessions. A mix of exhaustion, excitement and fear run through your mind. Have you made the right decision? Is this move really going to be better for you and your family?  Will you and the family even survive trip? Never mind, it’s too late now to turn back.

Perhaps Margaret, the eldest child, is holding her, year old brother, George, while her mother tries to keep track of the four others and her father their possessions. They don’t dare lose sight of them now, for any moment they will hear the announcement they can finally go abroad.

Are John, Catherine and Anna, the three middle children, getting antsy. They’ve been waiting for days to board the ship and are tired of having to stay so close to their parents. Maybe little Maria, age 3 is crying, in need of a nap and frightened of the throngs of people around them.

For the past few years the family watched as others left their beloved Alsace. They’d read the letters of those who’d gone ahead and listened to the various agents who came to their village touting of the riches to be found in America. But it wasn’t until this year, when agents from  Lewis County, New York came talking up the county where the farmland was fertile and plenty, they paid much attention. To Johann and Marguerite a place with plenty of land for their own and eventually their children sounded to good to pass up.

Life in Alsace has been getting harder and harder with each passing year. Years of frequent wars, harsh winters and epidemics make leaving look better and better. Jobs are scarce and prices keep getting higher and higher, as a growing population struggles to survive. And the prior year brought both war and famine to their area. What will the future bring if they stay? Will their children have any hope for a good future? And so after much discussion and debate Johann and Marguerite made the difficult decision to emigrate.

First they had to pay off any debts and taxes they owed and obtain passports confirming their identity. Plus they had to have enough cash to buy their passage, sustain their journey and allow them enough to start over in the U.S. In the last year Johann has set about taking care of his obligations and selling off all of his holdings to enable him to sail for America. Now everything is done, it is time to leave.

Because of the cotton trade, departing cotton ships leaving the port of Le Harve, France are always looking for paying passengers. It is their best choice. Plus the route is shorter taking only 20-30 days.

The best crossing times are between April to September. But this last spring Le Harve had a cholera epidemic. Mayors of the village were asked to stop issuing them, making it harder to leave. Now in August, they have obtained the necessary documents. If they wait any longer they will have to risk a harder crossing or wait until next spring.They sell off the last of their possessions deemed unnecessary for their voyage.

To get to Le Harve they first have to cross France. Like most emigrants from Alsace they probably used empty cotton carts leaving Strasbourg. I can imagine Johann loading the cart with their trunks and boxes while Marguerite added their linens and bedding. In addition to the clothing, tools and utensils they will need once they reach America they are expected to provide their own bedding and provisions on the ship.

The time for final good-byes has come. The family stands outside their home and takes one last look. When the wheels of the wagon begin to rock they turn their heads and with heavy hearts they begin the first leg of their journey, the trek across France. Quite likely, when they reach Paris they stop for a day or two to take advantage of what the capital has to offer and perhaps replenish their provisions.

Finally they reach the port of Le Harve to wait with thousands of others. Johann still needs to book their passage. A colony of innkeepers and shopkeepers lined the port. Was the family well enough off to stay in an inn or did they make do camping on the dock in a shack or make shift tent? Sometimes it was necessary to wait weeks before as ship was ready to set sail.

Once on board they would have to camp out in a crowded steerage area. There was no lighting and it also was not dry. Water seeped in through the ventilation holes. Like most passengers they were probably seasick the first few days. If it was stormy it wasn’t possible to go up on deck for fresh air. There was only one toilet per 100 people. Diseases spread easily. They had to cook their own meals in crowded conditions.

What an exciting day it must have been, after weeks in the cramped dark steerage quarters of the ship with only endless ocean for scenery, when someone announced they could finally see land on the horizon. What was to come was still unknown for now they were thankful they’d survived the crossing.