The Karl Friedrich Kirsch and Elisabetha Hennemann Kirsch story is based upon information derived from many sources, including official civil and church records obtained directly from archives in Germany, recollections provided by Louis Thiede, son of Elizabeth Kirsch Thiede and grandson of Karl and Elisabetha. In addition considerable detail was provided via an interview with Edward William Kirsch, son of Chris and grandson of Karl and Elisabetha, and from newspaper articles and obituaries which vary greatly in both detail and accuracy.
The compilations and story has been written by Robert Dean Mericle, son of Lulu Kirsch Mericle, grandson of Chris Kirsch and great grandson of Karl and Elisabetha; the first draft was completed in May of 1984
It is the author's intent and desire to continue with the story -- much information is currently available from the old country sources mentioned before--the difficult task will be to get the life history of the grandchildren and great grandchildren of Karl and Elisabetha.
Before launching into the subject involving the Kirsch family leaving its roots which for generations were deeply entrenched in the west central region of Germany, it is considered appropriate to establish a perspective for today's reader. Try for a moment to translate yourself into their place in the mid-1800's and think just how compelling conditions would have to be in order for you to pack up your worldly goods, including small children, leave your home and your country and depart for a place unknown--where the language and customs would be totally different from those to which you were accustomed. Think also of leaving family and friends with the likelihood that you would never see them again--this was the plight of thousands of German people who lived in the west central German State known today as Rheinland-Pfalz (also known as the Rhineland Palatinate).
The accompanying map shows the geographical location amid changing borders that occurred in the period leading up to the Kirsch departure. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries this part of Germany was the area from which mass emigration occurred; for a time it was so great it was thought the entire area might be depopulated.
War and religious persecution were the original causes of the emigration. The Thirty Years War which ended in 1648 had left the area in a devastated condition and then twenty-six years later in 1674-75 the French invaded the area! Peace lasted for thirteen short years, then from 1688 to 1697 the war of the Palatinate took place. During this war the French General Melac again devastated the area leaving it almost uninhabitable. In between wars, various German Princes ruled the land, levying excessive taxes on the people so they could build palaces (castles) and formal gardens--emulating the French court! As rulers changed, so did religion and the people were expected to adopt the religious beliefs of their leader! In the mid-1800's when the Kirsch's left Germany, people were leaving at a rate in excess of 40,000 each year.
Changes in the French-German border added to the uncertainties faced by the Kirsch family during the early to mid-1800's. In 1808 their village was part of France.
Both Karl Fredrich Kirsch and Elisabetha Hennemann were born and raised in farming villages located in Canton Kusel, District Kaiserlautern, State of Rheinland Pfalz in Germany. Karl's birthplace was Herschweiler. Early in their lives both were baptized into the Lutheran faith. In the spring of 1848 they were joined in marriage and went about setting up their home near Pettersheim (now Herschweiler-Pettersheim). Their village, and the nearby villages of Diedelkopf and Kusel, were where more than five generations of Karl's forebearers lived and raised their families during the tumultuous wars and religious persecution.
Establishing a new home and family at the time Karl and Elisabetha started was different in that farm land was precious--most of it owned and passed on from father to son (generally the first son to marry); in addition, to become a tradesman such as a carpenter, locksmith, etc. was also difficult in that powerful guilds (similar to today's trade unions) limited the number of tradesmen entering each field so as not to create an oversupply!
Karl had learned the locksmith trade--it is not known whether the guild allowed him to work at his trade--though the fact that he decided to leave the area suggests that he did not! As a point of interest Karl's father, Philipp Wilhelm, was a clothmaker (Tuchmacher), his grandfather, Johann Karl, and great-grandfather, Johann Nickel, were both bookbinders (Buch Binder). In addition to being tradesmen, most people living in small villages found it necessary to till the land in order to provide for their families; Karl and those before him probably served as tradesmen/farmers.
The continued political unrest of the time coupled with excessive taxation added to the burdens which caused this young married couple, in the year 1855 with Karl, 33, and Elisabetha, 31, to uproot themselves and leave their homeland. By this time their small family was comprised of a son Karl Jakob, 7, three daughters, Catharina, 5, Charlotte, nearly 3, and their newborn daughter, Caroline, who was reported to be just 3 weeks old when the long journey began.
Based on information provided by a grandson, Louis Thiede, the family traveled by train across France, losing most of their possessions--having many replaced by others in their party; sailed from Cherbourg, France, ultimately making their way to Lowell, Washington County, Ohio. Soon after arriving in Lowell, Karl went to work for a local blacksmith, establishing his first home in "the fabulous Amerika" as their newly adopted country was described.
During the next several years the family kept busy in establishing itself; in March 1857, the fifth child, a son Chris, was born. Little did this happy growing family realize but in just two years, in 1859 two of their three daughters, Catharina, 9, and Charlotte, 7, would die from a dread epidemic of diphtheria that struck this rural Ohio community.
The ensuing years found the family continuing to grow, still in the Lowell, Ohio area, with the birth of Elizabeth (Lizzie) in 1859, Jacob in March 1861, Catherine in August 1863 (named in memory of sister Catharina who died in 1859), and finally Louis in August of 1865. This completed the family of Karl and Elisabetha who by 1865 had nine children--four boys and five girls, of whom two of the girls were taken by death during childhood.
In the late 1800's, by an act of Congress, large areas of the West were made available "to encourage the Growth of Timber on the Western Prairies". The prospect of owning land by the mere act of "claiming" with an obligation to build a homestead and plant a portion of the land in trees was enough to cause a number of the settlers or their offspring to leave the safety and comfort of their Ohio farms and head west with the thought of becoming land owners.
Based on information provided by Edward William Kirsch, son of Chris and grandson of Karl and Elisabetha, the children of Karl and Elisabetha all left the Lowell area in the years starting in 1884.
"My grandparents, Karl and Elisabetha settled near Lowell, Ohio on a farm. Catherine married Henry Hopp, lived in Malta, Ohio and later moved to Bradford, PA; Caroline married Solomon Dresser and also lived in Bradford. My dad (Chris) homesteaded in Nebraska in 1884 in what was then known as Brown County; Keya Paha County, which was carved out of Brown County, was established in 1885. When he came from Ohio, he stopped in Hooper, NE, where he had a relative, Henneman.
"From there he, together with Chris Hoffman and John Kienke, took the train to Ainsworth, NE; the next day they walked from Ainsworth to Meadville, about 15-20 miles in ten hours; the following day they walked to the Burton Post Office, which is out where Lee Williams' place is now. A homesteader by the name of Bob Wooden showed them the land still available for homesteading; they looked the land over and decided Chris Hoffman would take the NW quarter, John Kienke the SW quarter, and Dad took the SE quarter. He debated about it because the NE quarter was sandy and not good land; the one to the SE was rolling, which he selected. Dad didn't feel he could get enough hay from the land to winter a cow and horse, but Bob Wooden told him if he didn't get enough he would give him enough to winter them. With that settled, the three of them went to Valentine and filed their claims. Subsequently, Dad's quarter proved to be the only one with good water near the buildings.
"Dad (Chris) then went back to Lowell, Ohio, and married Mother (Christina Baesel) in the spring of 1885; they returned to Nebraska where Mother stayed in Hooper while Dad came up to Keya Paha [County] and built the homestead shack. They moved up here in the summer of 1885--it didn't take long to put up the shack which was about 12 x 16 feet, made of lumber; later they hired Nate Jeffords, who added a second story addition on the north side; still later Long John Henneman came up from Hooper, NE and added another second story addition on the south side of the first addition. Dad eventually bought Nate Jeffords' land located SE of the homestead acreage."
Chris and Christina Kirsch raised their family of three daughters, Nora Elizabeth, Louisa Lilla (Lucy), Lulu Bernice and two sons, George John and Edward William, on the homestead place. Chris and Christina together with their family worked the homestead for thirty-eight years until 1923 when they retired to Burton where they lived out their lives. The homestead place was turned over to son Edward who continued the Kirsch tradition of tilling the land, raising livestock until Ed's older son, Richard, took command and continues to operate the farm today. [Ed. note: Richard's son, Jeff, and his family are now operating this place.]
About this time, and as previously mentioned, Keya Paha County was carved out of Brown County in 1885; later the township of Enterprise (now Burton) was established.
Soon after Chris and Christina Kirsch had set roots in this new territory, Elizabeth (Lizzie) now married to Fred L. Thiede, followed. An account from an unknown source described Elizabeth, as "a large woman standing six feet tall and big all over." Lizzie worked for a number of years at the Glass Factory (later the Imperial Glass Company) located in Martin's Ferry, OH; older brother, Karl Jakob, known as Charlie, had left the farm in Lowell and was working at an Iron Factory, making square nails!
Again based upon information provided by Louis Thiede:
"Charlie Kirsch, soon after leaving home, joined with one of the major circuses that traveled from city to city by horse-drawn wagons. After following them for several years, he worked for steel mills in Wheeling, WV, Martin's Ferry, OH, Pittsburgh, PA
In April of 1870, Charlie was forced to marry Ann Eliza Best of Lowell, OH; this union produced one son, Charles, who was born out of wedlock. This marriage provided a family name for Charles. Father Charlie and Mother Ann never lived together. In June of 1875 Charlie entered into a second marriage with Rose Kertz and a short time later, in December 1875, their first child, a son, Louis Charles, was born; while still residing in Martin's Ferry, OH, Charlie and Rose had six children which ultimately grew to ten; the six were Louis Charles, 1875, Fred John, 1877, William, ----, who died at the age of 1 1/2 years from measles and lung fever, Wilbert, ----, who also died at a very young age for reasons unknown, Herman, 1882, and Anna in 1884.
It was in the year 1884 that Charlie and Rose with their remaining four children made their way west, locating in Hooper, NE, where other relatives had settled. In Hooper, Charlie first worked in a brickyard and later became well-known as a saloon keeper, making many friends with the German settlers who made this small Nebraska town their home. While in Hooper, Charlie and Rose had three children, Elizabeth, 1886, Robert, 1888, and Delia, 1893.
By the age of 45 Charlie's health was failing and in the year 1895 he decided to pack up his wife and family and head west to the warm climate and opportunities in San Francisco, CA; Charlie had hopes the change would improve his health but the hope proved futile and for several years before he died, he was a near invalid. Karl Jakob (Charlie) Kirsch died on February 13, 1908 at the age of 59. While in San Francisco, their tenth and last child, Etta, was born and died in infancy. Rose Kertz Kirsch died in San Francisco in 1921; both were buried at the Mt. Olivet Cemetery there.
Louis Kirsch, the youngest son of Karl and Elisabeth, was born in August of 1865 on the family farm in Lowell, Ohio; he remained unmarried, helping on the family farm.
In 1889 at the age of 57, Karl packed up the household and headed west to Nebraska where he, wife Elisabeth, and son Louis established a new life. Karl filed and was granted a "Timber Culture" claim certificate on February 8, 1902, for 160 acres of land described as "Lots numbered one and two and the south half of the northeast quarter of section three in township thirty-four north of Range twenty." In the year 1893 at age 28, Louis Kirsch was involved in an accident which resulted in his death; this account was provided by his nephew, Edward William Kirsch:
"Louis Kirsch was plowing, they think he had walked ahead of his horses--for some reason something startled the horses and they ran over Louie, dragging the plow across the mid-section of his body. He lived for several days after the accident. The day before he died, he told Dad (older brother Chris) he wanted some of his britches because they were large and wouldn't hurt him, and he wanted them hung on the end of the bed because he was going to take a journey; the next morning, May 17, 1893, he passed away. There was no established cemetery in Keya Paha County when Louis died, so there was a meeting of the neighbors to establish a cemetery. They first considered a spot on top of a hill on the Adam Bammerlin place; but it was decided to locate the cemetery on the Chris Hoffman place, where it is today and is known as the Jordan Valley Cemetery. It is also referred to as the "Dutch Flats", "German Flats", or Jordan Flats Cemetery". The County surveyor came after Louie was buried to lay out the cemetery. He was asked to begin with Louie's grave in one corner, and lay out the plots four wide and two deep--but something happened, and Louie's grave is in the middle of the cemetery. The other lots in that plot are the final resting places of Karl and Elisabetha, Louie's parents."
As stated previously, Catherine married Henry Hopp, lived for a time in Malta, Ohio, and later moved to Bradford, PA. Caroline also left the Lowell, Ohio area, ultimately establishing her residence in Bradford, PA, where in 1885 she married Solomon R. Dresser. Prior to her marriage Caroline had for several years worked in the Dresser home as a domestic, taking care of Solomon's ill wife, Vesta Stimson Dresser, who died of tuberculosis in 1883. She left behind small children, two daughters, Nina and Ione, and three sons, Parker, Chaunsy, and Robert. Just two of these children, Ione and Robert, lived long enough to see their father marry Caroline.
To Solomon and Caroline were born three children, Carl in 1890, Solomon Richard in 1894, and a daughter Doris Lydia in 1896. The two boys survived childhood, but Doris Lydia died six months after her birth in a continuation of tragic early deaths suffered by Dresser's children. Information related to Carl and Richard is not available to this writer and needs to be researched and recorded.
Solomon Dresser was a successful inventor and business man building an entire industry on specialized couplings and fittings used in oil field piping. Today Dresser Industries is a publicly-owned multi-billion dollar international corporation with many diverse divisions whose products principally are directed towards the energy field. By the turn of the century Solomon's business was prospering as the coal mines and oil fields of Pennsylvania were being developed.
While their children were still teenagers living at home, Caroline and Solomon had designed and built for their family a somewhat palatial home which was completed in 1903 and served the growing family's needs in a somewhat elegant manner.
The home which contains more than 30 large rooms, sits on a hillside at 149 Jackson Avenue in Bradford, PA, and can best be described in the words contained in a formal pictorial publication prepared by Solomon and Caroline for their friends:
"There stands on a commanding elevation overlooking the broad Pennsylvania Valley, in which Bradford is located, a superb residence. It is graywhite and from afar, it seems like one of the magnificent palaces of ancient Spain. Beautiful green hills form its background. The view from its spacious portico is a panorama of vast valley and looming mountains.
"The favorite name of this famous home is Belleview Terrace -- a name in truth suggestive of its charm of location and beauty of surroundings.
"From inception to completion nothing was left undone to make this mansion one of th finest in the land. Its outline in general was suggested by the renowned Michigan Building at the Pan-American Exposition, a building which attracted thousands of admirers of its architecture. The designer of the one was the designer of the other, Mr. Louis Kamper of Detroit, MI. He furnished all detail plans and drawings. The builder was Mr. E.N. Unruh of Bradford. He had charge of the work during the entire construction from beginning to end.
"The exterior of the house is colonial and is built of graywhite brick with trimmings of graycanyon sandstone. The terraces and porches are of stone with floorings of terrazzo in marble.
"The entire interior woodwork of the house, together with the furnishings, decorations, draperies, tapestries, etc., have been executed and furnished by the Wm. Wright Company of Detroit, MI, and Paris, France.
"The woodwork of the main entrance is of San Domingo mahogany, hand carved, and the transom grill is of French bronze. On entering this house, which has been over two years in building, one readily appreciates how time and labor have been consumed in the perfection of detail in work. One notes also the fine quality of all material.
"Whether viewed from without or within, Belleview Terrace is a triumph of beauty and a splendid creation of rare charm and rich elegance
"It embodies all that is finest and best in a modern palatial residence. There is nothing palpably pretentious about it. On the contrary, its quiet taste and dignified magnificence impress every visitor to Bradford.
"Those acquainted with its interior and all the attractions of its commodious rooms are enthusiastic over its supreme excellence as an ideal abode and a perfect home.
"It is not like many American palaces, built to exist in loneliness. It is a scene of constant social enjoyment and is famed among its charming guests."
Solomon Dresser died in 1911, his second wife, Caroline Kirsch Dresser, died in November of 1916. Both are buried in the Willow Dale Cemetery in Bradford, PA. In an adjoining grave there is a marker identifying "Little Doris - 1896-1897.
After Solomon and Caroline's deaths, the home was used as a residence by their second son Solomon Richard and his family. In 1957, the home was donated to the Presbyterian Church by daughter-in-law, Mrs. S. Richard Dresser. Today, the residence houses 32 elderly citizens and is known as the Dresser Memorial Presbyterian Home. [Note: The home burned to the ground in 1986.]
Karl and Elisabetha lived and farmed the "Western prairie" land Karl had claimed. In addition, Karl purchased two additional quarter sections increasing his land holdings to 480 acres! In their later years, daughter Lizzie and her husband Fred Thiede moved into her parents' home and cared for them until their deaths.
Karl's will, written on January 8, 1896, recognized Lizzie and Fred's loving care--"in consideration of the good care and keeping that is to be provided for myself and my said wife during the remainder of our respective lives, by my beloved daughter Elizabeth Kirsch, that after the death of my said wife, all my estate herein bequested and forming the realty shall pass and go intact to my said daughter Elizabeth Kirsch, without reservation-".
Karl Fredrich Kirsch died on the 12th of February 1907 at the age of 84 years, 9 months and 12 days, and was laid to rest in the Jordan Valley Cemetery nearby the grave of his youngest son Louis who preceded him in death. A brief six years later on April 20, 1913, at the age of 89 years and 17 days, his beloved wife Elisabetha was laid to rest beside her husband's grave.
Elizabeth Henneman-Kirsch was born in Hirschwaller, near Kusel, in the providence Rheinpfalz, Germany, April 3, 1824, and departed this life April 20, 1913 at 8:30 a.m., being 89 years and 17 days old.
Deceased was united in marriage to Karl Kirsch in 1847, and emigrated to Lowell, Ohio, in 1855. From there they removed to Nebraska in 1889 and settled on the farm on which she died. To this union were born nine children of whom five survive: Mrs. S.R. Dresser of Bradford, PA, Mrs. M. Hopp of Malta, Ohio, J.D. Kirsch of Hooper, NE, Chris Kirsch and Mrs. F.L. Thiede of Burton, NE. Besides those of her immediate family, one brother, Chris Henneman of Hooper, NE is still living. Her husband died February 12, 1906. Some years prior and since that time, Mrs. F.L. Thiede has been looking after her welfare and has carefully and patiently administered to her every want. Although all that loving hands and hearts could do was done for her, the patient and loving spirit of one of God's best mothers passed to eternal rest.
The funeral services were conducted at the home by Rev. Shuppman, pastor of the Lutheran church, Tuesday afternoon, the 22nd at one o'clock and interment was made in the German Flat Cemetery. A large attendance of relatives and sympathizing friends and neighbors followed her to her final resting place. The deepest sympathy was expressed on every side for those who mourn her loss. -- Burton Independent
On a gentle slope three miles south of the spot where the Keya Paha River crosses 43º rests a small cemetery, originally called the German Flat Cemetery, named after a group of homesteaders who located in the surrounding valley. As you enter the north gate, to your right is a low marble stone, marked KIRSCH. The epitaph is in German, perhaps a quotation from the poet Schiller. On examination of the markers, it discloses the following "Father Karl, 1822 to 1906 and Elizabeth, 1824 to 1912.
From the meager information we have, we must pass the tales told by pioneers to their descendants and their families of a later era.
Our story begins about the year of 1850 on the banks of the Necker River or its tributaries, one of the small streams in the Rhine Valley. A young locksmith, his wife and four children, Karl, Elizabeth, Karl "Charlie", Charlotte "Lottie", Katarina, and Carolina "Lena", decided to try their fortune in the New Land that beckoned from across the ocean. --the Fabulous Amerika that had already called numerous friends and relatives from the over-crowded mountainous country then known as Rhine-Bavaria. [There had been] little change in the mode of living since the Roman armies had traveled up and down the Rhine Valley from the Eternal City to the mines of Cornwall.
The head of the family, if at all possible, learned a trade and joined a guild, thus adding to his prestige. The mother and children farmed their meager garden spots to eke a bare existence from the precious soil. After much preparation consisting of building chests made from the native pine lumber by Elizabeth's father, Christian Henneman, hinges and locks by Karl Kirsch, the locksmith, the two families accompanied by Kate, the unmarried sister of Elizabeth, loaded their belongings on a train which crossed France to Cherbourg.
Little Lena was three weeks old. Somewhere in France, a train wreck occurred and many of their belongings were destroyed. However, a group of Moravians in the same party shared some of their belongings with their "neighbors", a practice of appreciation. "Go though and do likewise."After the usual ordeal in crossing and acquiring steerage in a sailing vessel, and three or four weeks with four children from six years of age to three weeks, they arrived in Lowell, Ohio, on the banks of the Muskingum River near relatives where Karl soon went to work for a local blacksmith.
His skill as an ironworker was soon recognized. A farmer, cradling his wheat, broke the spring of his "trees". The local blacksmith did not feel equal to the task. He sent him out to Karl to have him come to his shop and do the work. Karl was busy doing his own harvest, but consented to do the work, which was a delicate repair.
The first wages he received were spent on a sack of wheat flour. This was saved for little Lena. The rest of the family was fed on cornmeal and potatoes, squash and turnips. Many a rabbit or squirrel helped to add to the frugal diet.
Before the rocky hillsides could be farmed, it was necessary to fell the native timber and grub out the stumps and scrub brush, most of which was piled and burned. Some of the choice logs were sold to the sawmill or to the local wagon maker, who buried the logs which were to be made into wagon hubs and axles in muddy bottoms of the canal to be left to season. The bark from the tanbark oak was sold to the tannery to be used in tanning leather.
Licorice and sassafras roots were to be found in the washouts along the creek and river banks. Most of the medicine used originated in the herbs and roots which nature provided and so bountifully supplied. In due time, more children were added to complete the family circle. Chris was born, and his marker stands in the cemetery south of the monument marked "KIRSCH". Meanwhile, the two little girls, Lottie and Katherina, died of an epidemic of typhoid fever.
After Chris came Jacob "Jake", who spent most of his life in Hooper, Nebraska, and then Katie, who married a neighbor, Henry Hopp, and lived in Malta, Ohio, where Henry was the manager of a local gas company. Then came Elizabeth who later married a neighbor, Fred Thiede, who lies buried in the next block to the west of the Kirsch monument beneath a dark granite stone marked "THIEDE".
Later came Louis, who lies beside his parents in the cemetery beneath a tall marble marker. His early death was caused by a stubborn colt hitched to a walking plow. The team became unmanageable, and when neighbors found Louis, he was horribly mangled by the plow and in a few days died. His cheerful disposition and good singing voice made friends of all who knew him.
Chris and Elizabeth, "Lizzie" as everyone called her, were close together in age and worked in the field and timber, side by side, felling the oak which grew on the hillsides, then peeling the bark, which was sold by the cord to the local tannery where its high content of tannic acid made it ideal for tanning leather, the equal of which could not be duplicated by modern methods.
With their earnings, the bought for their mother a cast iron kitchen stove to replace the open fireplace where the family meals had been prepared. The baking prior to this time had been done in an outdoor bake oven. The outdoor oven was a small structure which was built of stone and mortar with a large stone for a door. It was heated by building a fire of wood inside until the floor of flat stone was so hot that a flat trowel or flat paddle would char and throw sparks when the ashes were scraped out, to make ready for the bread when placed inside. It is easy to understand why the bakings were large and not very often. Most of the cooking was done in cast iron kettles in the fireplace. Corn bread was baked in covered pans placed in the hot ashes.
As the children grew up, more land was needed to farm. This caused them to go down in the valley to rent land from older, established farmers, who had migrated to this region shortly after the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. The history of the region was marred by massacres encouraged by the British in Canada, who tried to keep the settlers from moving westward which in turn disrupted the lucrative fur trade with the Indians in the West. Rumblings of a Civil War were increasing, but were not of local concern until Morgan, the Terrible Raider and his men were reported to be raiding in Central Ohio. The local citizens of the country began to react. They started to chop down trees and build barricades along and across the leading roads, in spite of the fact that the guerilla cavalry did not need good roads to travel on. They were finally stopped and captured about 75 miles north. As time went on and the country developed, the towns along the Ohio River became industrialized, and the population moved forward, some of the younger people went westward, some went to the growing cities to work in steel mills. Oil fields were becoming a leading industry. Others moved westward to take advantage of the new Homestead law which offered 160 acres for 5 years, also a Tree Claim law that required ten acres of forest trees to be planted and cultivated for 5 years. For this purpose, a quarter of every section was set aside first choice. Prior to this, 160 acres were available at $2.25 per acre and 18 months residence. This was known as the Preemption Act. The Preemption Act and the Tree Claim Act were repealed about 1885 or 1886.
Charley Kirsch, soon after he left home, traveled with one of the major circuses which traveled from city to city by horse-drawn wagons. After following the road for several years, he worked in the steel mills at Wheeling, WV, Martin's Ferry, Ohio, and in Pittsburgh. While still in his prime, he moved west and spent some years at Hooper, NE, working in a brick yard. Later removed to San Francisco where he lived through the earthquake and fire. He had six children: Louis, a wine taster for a wine importer, Fred, an avid hunter and fisherman who homesteaded near Gandy, NE about 1900 and was sheriff for some years, Anna went with Fred and also homesteaded near Fred. Later she married a neighbor, McCumber who managed a lumber yard and later, about 1930 moved to California. Carolina (called Lena by her parents and Carrie by her sisters and brothers), the little baby in arms when the story begins, worked as a housemaid until she saved enough money to attend Oberlin College, one of the first women students to enroll. For several years she taught school and eventually met and married a young oil field promoter and inventor, Solomon Dresser. He had patented a packer to hold out unwanted water from an oil well, also couplings which used rubber compression rings, metal sleeves and strainer bolts. The claim for these fittings was that they prevented electric currents generated in the vicinity from using the pipeline for a return to its source. This phenomenon causes electrolysis which is detrimental to the water mains and all other pipe lines. Out in my workshop are some of these fittings of modern type which bear the name of Dresser, a company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
Dresser had one daughter, Ione, whom Caroline cherished as her own, Ione's mother had passed away when Ione was a child. Carrie had a little girl, Doris, who contracted membranous croup and passed away at the age of two. Then Carrie had two boys, Carl and Richard. They both grew to manhood and attended Princeton University. Mr. Dresser wanted to do something for Bradford, the town in the center of his operations, and decided to build a modern "castle" of Italian marble. It was designed by Stanford White, the leading architect in the United States. White was later shot by Harry K. Shaw for familiarity with Shaw's showgirl wife, the former Evelyn Nesbit. Eventually, the mansion was finished, but Carrie told her sister Lizzie that it never seemed like a home in spite of a Cadillac limousine and a chauffeur.
Not long after the completion of the castle, Solomon was stricken with paralysis but lived for several years as an invalid. In 1916 we received a telegram that while on a shopping trip to New York, Carrie had passed away from a heart attack in the Waldorf Astoria. This ended the lifetime which would rival the imagination of many a story book author.
Christian, always known as Chris, worked on the home farm til young manhood, then went to work in a metal or nail factory at Wheeling, WV where square nails were made. But he was not content in the crowded city. The open fields were more to his liking, so he struck out for himself and joined some of his cousins and relatives at Hooper, NE After looking over the populated area in the fall of 1884, he joined two young married men whom he had known in Lowell, Ohio. They decided to follow the Elkhorn Valley to Ainsworth, the last town on the railroad line. There, they boarded the stage to Springview where they inquired about the location of the Dutch Flat, a German neighborhood whose settlers had been moved in from Dodge County, NE. They were told to go northeast until they crossed a ridge of magnesia hills which had no grass growing on the sides. In the valley they found Sam Rupert, Bill Pueppke, and wives. Chris Honebeck, his brother-in-law, Frank Gesler, and they advised them to contact Bob Wooden, a land locator who kept a plot of the quarters that was open to homesteaders. Chris took Section 1 corner, Section 2, Section 11, Section 12. Chris Hoffman said, "I'll take the SE quarter and NW quarter of two for a homestead and timber claim." John Kienke said, "I'll take the NE quarter and center 280 [acres] of Section 11 Homestead and Tree Claim." Many years afterward John said, "I was last to choose, but think I got the best of the three."
Those first years, there was an abundance of moisture, and as they drove from Bill Pueppke's north to Sam Rupert's, the luxuriant blue stem blossoms were as high as the box of a spring wagon in which they rode. In spite of this, Chris said, "I wonder if I can harvest enough feed for a team of horses and a cow or two?" Bob Wooden, who homesteaded northeast near the big spring said, "If you can't, come over and I will give you enough if you harvest it off the school section south of me."
They filed on their claims and returned to their homes to spend the winter and make preparation to return in the spring, when Chris married a neighbor girl, Christina Baesel, whose parents had come from Bavaria. She had one sister and four brothers, all of whom came in later years to visit but never located.
I have a tintype picture of Chris' two sisters Lizzie and Katie, a brother Jake, Katie's fiance Henry Hopp, and neighbor Adam Bammerlin, who had homesteaded and lived a quarter mile over the hill from the home place. His parents had come to America from the same village as they Kirsch's and Henneman's. The picture was taken on the old canal bank where they often gathered for a picnic, and it was taken in the afternoon of Chris and Christina's wedding. They left immediately for their new home in Nebraska.
This time they came to Bassett and traveled by way of Carns, a small town where the West Point and Gordon trail crossed the Niobrara. John Harms, who later moved to Bonesteel, SD, a relative of Fenkens and Dr. Zimmerman of western Boyd County, ran a good store. Mrs. Stack kept a hotel, and while waiting on the table, she said a man, Ralph Lewis, from one of the Pennsylvania settlements said, "There is a settlement of Germans from near Fremont, located on the flat south of us. Those flats are nothing but frog ponds." Chris said he looked at his wife, but said he did not know who he was talking about. Then an old man with a long beard spoke up saying, "Don't you worry about them, Mr. Stack. I've seen them make a good living where another man would starve."
Today, almost 85 years later, these places are owned and operated by the descendants of the original homesteaders. Among the first purchases were the bare necessities, a team of horses, a milk cow, and a plow. Chris found a young horse and borrowed $80 at a local money lender whose name was Harris. The interest 5% per month or 60% per year found the lenders going broke because the collections were so poor. Chris had written home, remembering the Money Panic after the Civil War and not long before the Debtors Prison Laws were enacted. His folks scraped together all their available cash and sold a cow, so they got him off the hook.
He loved to tell interesting stories of pioneering, covering a period of about 60 years. He was always generous in contributing to any worthy cause. He participated in the building of the dipping vat, the Burton town site, the Burton State Bank, which failed in the early 30's due to the mismanagement of officials who wiped out the state banking system, but he lived to see better days, and won the respect of all who knew him. His oldest daughter, Nora, married Frank Schoettger and during the Kincaid years, homesteaded on the southwest rim of the valley. They added to this until they had a good place located on Holt Creek to the west.
George [Kirsch], the next child, was always a student and continued his education at Ainsworth and then at Peru University. He taught school and was elected Keya Paha County Superintendent and then became the cashier in the Burton Bank. Afterwards, he held a civil service job in the lower Mississippi Valley. He returned to Keya Paha County and while cutting and moving cedar poles along the canyons of the Niobrara River, his tractor overturned in a washout, crushing him. He left his wife, Gladys Hudson Kirsch, whose father, W.N. Hudson, was one of the earliest ranchers in the Brocksburg vicinity.
Edward [Kirsch] became of age and was drafted into the Army in the First World War and was soon promoted to Sergeant in France. On his return home he assumed management of the home place and married Caroline Horton of Burton.
Lulu [Kirsch], the youngest, finished the home school and continued high school in Springview and then in Lincoln. She came home to teach school two miles north of home, and the next year married Dean Mericle, a young fireman on the Burlington Line. He left the railroad to try farming and the implement and garage business. Although the drought and depression of the late 20's caused much discouragement, his cheerfulness won him the admiration of friends and neighbors. In 1944, he followed his eldest daughter, Betty, to Los Angeles in the beginning of the California movement, settling in a subdivision of the city where 20 years later, he and Lulu were the oldest residents to answer the roll call in that district (City of Commerce), where they now live.
Elizabeth [Kirsch], usually known as Lizzie, was the next to leave her home surroundings and went to Martin's Ferry, OH, where Charley was working in the iron factory or foundry. She went to work in a glass factory. After three weeks she earned a raise, about the basic pay of $3.60 per week. For 13 years she worked in the one factory; before she left, she was boss over 14 in the finishing room. She left many friends with whom she kept a regular correspondence. Among her friends were members of the Lewis and Clark families who had produced so many of the leading pioneers west of the Alleghenies 50 to 80 years before. Many a time she would tell of torchlight turtle stew banquets and fights by both sexes in the turbulent river factory town and floods where the inhabitants were evacuated by boats from upstairs windows. When vacation time came in the summer, she loved to return home by excursion steamer, enjoying the superb food and entertainment on the unhurried trip of about 100 miles.
Her younger brother, Jake [Kirsch], had felt the lure of the west and decided to try homesteading. On arriving he found two 80's located as the south quarter of Section 4, two miles west of Chris' homestead. Just across the line south was the homestead and tree claim of Carnahan, who ran the Adrian post office.
This left the old folks with only the youngest son, Louis, to carry on with the home folks and place. Meanwhile, the timber claim grant was becoming more burdensome than many had expected and was often not carried out, even though there were numerous contests. Chris and Jake found one quarter vacant, so they had Louis file on it. It was directly south of Sam Rupert's homestead, the SE half and tree claim, the NE quarter of Section 3. Rupert was dissatisfied and offered for sale his relinquishment. The parents decided to follow their boys, so they sold their Ohio farm, disposing of their personal belongings by auction. They stopped long enough in Lowell, Ohio to have their pictures taken by a local photographer. They were a determined looking couple. Mrs. George Wagner, an old friend, said, "How you must regret leaving your girls and grandma!" Elizabeth replied that if they wanted to be near them they must follow. It was decided there was a vacant timber claim joining the north end of the Rupert timber claim, the SE quarter of Section 34. The tree claim law had been repealed, and it was open for homesteading. It was decided to have Lizzie come out and homestead the quarter and look after the old folks.
After bidding good-bye to her many friends and acquaintances, she left her position and came west to join the pioneers, little realizing that for the next 25 years the smoke and whistle of a train would be only a memory. After a fall and winter spent in building a meager sod shanty on her homestead, spring came and with it the untimely death of her brother, Louis. So with the aid of neighbors and Chris, she decided to carry on, keeping up her residence on the homestead. She bought an Indian pony named Pick who was lazy and stubborn according to his kind. She finally bought a spur. In keeping to the mid-Victorian tradition, it was decreed that a lady must be seen only riding a side saddle. But Pick responded better to the spur than to a quirt. So many a day was spent herding cattle on the open prairie.
In the summer time was spent gardening, farming and haying with the newly developed machinery of the time. An example being the old Buckeye mower. The seats on implements were a late development and not designed for comfort. They Buckeye mower was manufactured in Massillon, Ohio. It was a bar of iron that stood almost straight up and transmitted the vibration which was magnified to the unlucky operator. An 8-foot hand dump rake with a wooden axle, together with a pitch fork and a hand scythe completed the haying equipment.
In taking stock of their income after the first year, Grandpa said, "We have enough to buy some machinery." Lizzie said, "I want a sewing machine, but we need a mower worse." So they bought a 6-foot Deering which was used for almost 20 years. At the end of five years of homesteading, she proved up on her homestead. Meanwhile, Grandpa and Grandma received the deed for their half section and also for the quarter acre belonging to Louis' estate, making a total of two miles north and south and east and west at the head of the Jordan Creek, a well-belonged and balanced place with crop land and meadow, pasture and running water.
After several years of this rugged existence, she met and married Frederick L. Thiede, a middle-aged man who had emigrated from Germany-Brandonberg Province in 1883, and in the spring of 1884 had taken a preemption at the head of Lost Creek about 20 miles west. They pooled their belongings and as an owner was permitted to buy adjoining land from homesteaders who had proved up and were leaving due to the drought and depression of the early 1890's when the water in shallow wells dried, springs disappeared, and the farmland by now depleted of its meager supply of humus turned to blowouts. It is easy for armchair critics to detract, but the powers that set up the pattern little realized the problems that face a young farmer in beginning a herd of cattle or hogs and horses, drawing water from an open well with a bucket and rope over the squealing iron pulley to fill a leaky wooden trough. Pumps were expensive and all but unknown, and the first windmills bore the patent date of 1890, and they were expensive and crude. The blizzards swept the country. Cased wells and sand points were scarce and not suited to many localities, and did not make their appearance until after the west was settled more.
There is a framed picture of Jake and his soddy on the south side of a hill or butte that rose to the north just outside of his homestead. Near the house stood a hay and sod barn. Jake is holding a pony which was his only livestock. Chris was ordered off the picture, but did not go far enough as he is seen holding a fox hound which they had brought from Ohio. The leading sport there had been fox hunting and the rivalry between the dog owners was keen. But foxes were unknown here, and coyotes and jack rabbits made a poor substitute. The ground was dry and the scent did not last. The grass was high and coarse and caused the trail hound much suffering. Besides, it was a long way to the river bottoms.
Jake spent most of his time working for Sam Rupert and Hohlbeck and the Majors. The Majors' ranch was one mile west of the present site of Burton. The Majors family belonged to the same family which was one of the founders of the Pony Express. Russel, Majors, Waddel and Otto Mutz were among the founders of Burton.
Mutz married a Russel girl who was from the same locality, Nebraska City. He was a hard worker and the visionary one of the main promoters of the Burton Townsite Company. Most of his time, he lived one-half mile south of Burton. Among his experiments was a water-powered feed grinder and irrigation project, but there was not water enough available. He lacked the perseverance required by those who lived to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Jake worked for Majors, and he had to walk over four miles night and morning across the valley and hills, so on proving up, he returned to Hooper and worked in the brickyard. He then married his cousin, Mary Henneman, who father, Nick, had settled in Washington County near Fontanelle before the Civil War. During the war he was a member of the local militia and was with a detachment sent up the Elkhorn Valley after a Sioux war party. The local Omaha's, Pawnees, and small tribes were friendly with the whites but feared the Sioux.
Nick Henneman had four sons: William, Jake, Charley, and John, and four daughters: Lucy, Mary, Ella and Betty. His son, William, lived on the home place.
Jake Kirsch tried farming for a time on the Alec Findberg place owned by a prosperous Swede, but he liked to work with a crew, so he worked at brick laying and in the brickyard and the elevator. He also was janitor of a school and, for a time, managed a small elevator. He had three daughters: Alta, Laura and Alfreda. They all taught school for many years. Laura married a railroad engineer, and Alfreda married a professor in Berkeley, CA.
John Kienke, a young native of Oldenberg, Germany, came to the US and for a time worked in the vicinity of Lowell, Ohio, along the Muskingum river, and then followed the western movement. He married Hannah Hoffman, Chris Hoffman's sister. They farmed for several years in Washington County. They had three children: Chris "Jake" Kienke who homesteaded on the south rim of the valley. He married Anna Josiassen, the oldest daughter of Chris Josiassen, whose homestead was one half mile northwest of the center of Burton. Jake's sister, Lillie, later became Mrs. Adam Bammerlin. William was about three years old when his folks settled here. Hannah was a devout Christian and when her godchild, Minnie Kurzenberger, lost her parents at an early age, took the child and raised her to young womanhood as her own.
John Kienke passed away in middle age. Chris Kirsch used to say that John complained of defective eyesight, saying that his vision was blurred, and John wished there was a doctor in the country who used leeches. Chris said that a modern doctor would diagnose it as high blood pressure. This was one of the problems of the pioneers.
William [Kienke] and his mother each took a homestead under the Kincaid Homestead Act. William married Emma Schoettger, sister of Frank Schoettger, and lived on the home place until he retired to Springview. His son, Louis, and his two sons assumed the management of the home place.
Chris Hoffman was born and grew up not far from Lowell, Ohio. He had one sister, Mrs. Spies. One of her sons, Alva, came west to Burton in 1916, worked and lived in this vicinity for about twenty years. He married Constance, oldest daughter of Carl Thiede. They had a girl and a boy. After Constance's death, the children were raised by their grandfather and William and Emma Kienke. William was Alva's cousin. Alva was killed when his car missed a bridge one and a half miles west of Dallas, SD.
Chris Hoffman joined the tide of the western movement. He farmed for a while in Washington County, NE, and while there he farmed and broke prairie with an ox team. The old ox yoke hanging in the garage would be a good exhibit in any museum. While there, he married the youngest of the five Strelow sisters, Bertha. Their parents had died in Pommern, Germany near the small city of Stolp, near the mouth of the Stolp River, east of Danzig, now in Poland. Her twin sister died while 12 or 13 years old. Their son, William was two years old when they came to Keya Paha County. Chris died at an early age from exhaustion trying to subdue a stubborn colt, resulting in pneumonia and hemorrhaging. He left his wife, Bertha, and two children: William, 14, and Elizabeth, 7. His son William continued with his mother to carry on with the work on their homestead. Elizabeth married a farmer, John Vakiner, of Gregory, SD. To this union two children, Graydon and Roma were born.
William [Hoffman] married the second daughter of Chris Josiassen. Minnie, as she was called, helped operate the old Hoffman place or his home place. They raised three girls: Frieda, Luella, and Thelma. William's wife passed away in October 1934. He left the place and retired with his mother to Burton. During World War II he married Rose Alexander, a widow of Norwegian descent, and they worked for a while in a defense plant in Hastings, NE. In 1945 Grandma Hoffman passed away in Long Pine where they had moved from Burton. Rose passed away in 1966, and William now lived alone in Ainsworth where he passed away in 1972 at 88 years of age.
Chris Josiassen of whom we have written was born on the Cylt Island in the North Sea. Although the name is Scandinavian, he always said he came from Germany. He was raised near the Danish border. At an early age he became a sailor and sailed around the world seven times and mastered eight languages. He moved to Chicago, met and married a girl from Oslo, Norway. They learned each other's languages and moved to Chippewa County, MN. From there, they moved to Keya Paha County by oxen team with a family of four children in a covered wagon. His early training and rigors of pioneering caused him to be a man of determination and firm convictions. Two daughters, Minnie and Sarah, died in Chicago of epidemic diphtheria, which was common those days. A son, Sievert, named after his mother's family Sievertson, clerked as a boy in the D.A. Davis or "Dad" Davis store in Springview. He married Effie Hartman of Meadville. Later he became a carpenter and moved to Norfolk, NE and worked at his trade for many years.
Joseph [Josiassen] became a blacksmith and had a shop in Springview for several years, then moved to Baggs, WY, 90 miles southwest of Rawlins. He married a local woman but after a few years she died and he married her niece. Each wife bore him one son. He moved to Oakland, CA.
John [Josiassen] became a school teacher and taught school in Benson, AZ where he went because of his wife's health. She contracted tuberculosis while her missionary parents were working on the Santee Indian Reservation near Niobrara, NE. They later moved to Oakland, CA where he established a plant to refine precious metals from old jewelry and other materials. He said his greatest source of income was from refining the silver coating on old hospital x-ray plates. While in Oakland, his wife, Marjorie, regained her health. They had three children. Lois died while a small child, Horace worked with his father and later ran a rice ranch close to Chico, CA. He was a cook in the Army during World War II, a job that he liked. After the war, he married a girl from the Feather River region north of Sacramento, where he helps and operates a 1200 acre rice ranch with his father-in-law. Marian and her husband continued operation of the refinery after John retired. He passed away around 1960 in Oakland.
Sarah [Josiassen] taught school and was County Superintendent at Mullen, NE. She married Del Mercure, an auto salesman, who lost his life in an auto accident. Several years later, she married Del's brother, also in the same business. She had one son by each marriage. She lived with her youngest son Clarence, and there she passed away in Oshkosh, NE. Clarence, the youngest, has a job with the Extension Service. Her oldest son, Red, is now living a retired life at Valentine, NE. He had married a Hanna girl and was engaged in ranching south of Valentine.
Minnie Josiassen came to Nebraska from Chippewa County, MN with her parents and brothers and sisters and settled at Burton, NE on a homestead north and west of the town on the edge of Burton. They left Minnesota May 25, 1884, with a yoke of oxen and a covered wagon. They drove ten head of cattle. At night the children slept under the wagon. They picked up wood and cooked and baked on a stove in the wagon. It took six weeks to get to Nebraska, and they arrived in July. Harry Leavens' father located them one-half mile north and west of Burton on land on a small creek called Burton Creek. Later, their father went to Valentine and got their homestead papers for 160 acres. They lived on cornmeal and whole wheat bread and had milk from their cows. Their mother churned butter and made cottage cheese. They bought a few sheep, and the mother spun the wool on her spinning wheel which she had bought in Minnesota. She knitted woolen stockings and other clothes.
After three years, school districts were formed and school houses were built of sod. There were seven children in the school. In the spring they would drink from the creek and contracted typhoid fever. All of the children took sick with the fever, but their mother broke the fever. Charlotte was the only one to die when she was 14 years old. Minnie and Sarah had died in Chicago, and when they later had two more girls who were also named Minnie and Sarah. When they had come from Norway, they had landed in Chicago, but were there for a short time when they moved to Chippewa County, in Minnesota. Two uncles went back to Norway. Their parents, Sievertson's came some time before, but I do not have the dates. They passed away at Wahl, MN. Minnie later married William Hoffman whose parents had homesteaded in 1884. Their daughter, Frieda, married Louis Thiede, Luella married Gus Schultz, and Thelma was married to Norman Jung.