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Letters to Germany

At the turn of the century, (yikes!) I spent a lot of time in the Kaukauna Public Library snooping on the lives of the Fassbenders living a century ago. As I moved through the years scanning the Kaukauna Times, a weekly newspaper, I not only followed the lives of my Hollandtown ancestors, but would often print items that were about Outagamie County that interested me. It’s always about the background information to flesh out the two dimensional look at the people I am researching.

Kaukauna Times, 20 Apr 1917

Kaukauna Times, 20 Apr 1917

This past weekend I spent some time filing. Paper filing, electronic filing, it all needs to be done. While going through a file of paper, I found this item. The paper was dated April 20, 1917. What caught my eye, then, and now, was the headline: “No More Mail to Germany. Letters From United States to Germany Have Been Stopped.” No letters would be received or delivered until this “unpleasantness is over.” I can only imagine the fear, sadness, even heartbreak over this news. Although my Germany ancestors had been in this country for many decades by this time, they still had family and friends back in their homeland. Letters brought news of births, deaths, moves, and even the occasional plea for financial help. The sense of loss, and being cut off had to be acute. There was no longer any way to learn how family was faring during this awful war. How long would it be before the “president and the kaiser are again in a mood to shake hands?”

Germany formally surrendered on November 11, 1918, and the Treaty of Versailles, which formally ended the war, was not signed until June 28, 1919. Over two years would go by with no news from home, or any way to get news to family. I wonder if the letters put into the “dead letter office” were ever delivered.

We live in such an age of instant news through 24 hour television, the internet, and telephones, both land line and cell, that allow us to keep in touch, with each other, and with what is going on in the world. Imagine waiting over two years for news from home.

Strength at Christmas

Tapper_Gretje_1890caMy great-great grandmother must have had to muster tremendous strength each year at Christmas time. Her name was Gretje Folkerts Mùller, and she was born October 15, 1835, in Bangstede, Hannover, Germany.1  She moved from this small community to the “big city” of Emden, Hannover, Germany in her early teens, to work for her eldest uncle as a maid.2 It was while living in the seaport of Emden, that she met and married, Albert Heinrich Klöfkorn, born June 4, 1833,3 a ships captain. Albert came from a long line of seagoing men, and he owned and captained a ship he had named Drei Schwestern, or Three Sisters. The couple married in Emden, on March 5, 1865, he was 31, Gretje was 29.4 Albert and Gretje would have four boys, all born in Emden. Johannes Warnerus, born May 18, 1865,5  Folkert, born July 22, 1866,6 Anton Herman, born February 14, 1868,7 and Heinrich Albertus, born March 11, 1870.8  I would like to think that they had a good marriage and a happy family life, although family legend, and some knowledge of the times, there was friction from the Klöfkorn family as this Lutheran woman married into their Catholic family.

December 1870, and Christmas was just around the corner. Albert was out at sea with load of grain. On December 20th, his ship went missing when it reached the point where the river Weser flows into the North Sea.9  Five days before Christmas, Gretje and her four boys, ages five to just six months old, were preparing their home for the birth of Christ, when word came that her husband’s ship was lost at sea. He was 37 years old. I can only imagine what that Christmas must have been like. The devastation. The despair.

I have no idea what Gretje did to survive the next years, how did she support her family? But I do know she was still in Emden in January 1872, when her eldest son Johannes tragically died a the age of six.10  She stayed in Emden for another year, before packing up her three sons and making the trip to the United States. Her younger brother, Johann (John) Folkert Müller was already residing in Lake County, Indiana, USA at this point in time, and letters had been going back and forth between them. It was on April 20, 1873 that she, along with her three sons boarded the S.S. America in Bremen, with a stop in Southhampton on May 3rd, before finally entering the New York harbor on May 16th. It was not an easy journey, as they had “experienced westerly winds with high seas the entire passage.” They traveled steerage, and numbered four of the 737 other passengers. It must have been a miserable trip.11  Reaching Castle Garden, they were noted on the manifest, dated May 16th, that entering the country were Aug H. Klöfkorn, age 38, Volkert Klöfkorn, age 7, Anton Klöfkorn, age 5, and Hinrich Klöfkorn, age 1.12 

There is not only the question as to why did she travel using her husband’s name, but she gave the ages for herself, and two of her children incorrectly. At the time that she sailed for America, Gretje was 37 years old, her son Folkert was 6, Anton 5, (correctly stated for the manifest), and Heinrich was 3. Family legend states that Heinrich died at sea. He is not noted on the manifest taken at Castle Garden as having died at sea, but if Gretje could pass him off as a one year old, he must have been a small, possibly sickly little boy. We lose all sight of him after his arrival in the United States.

Gretje and her sons headed across the country, most likely first stopping to rest at the home of her brother John in Indiana, before moving to Chicago, Cook Co., Illinois. It was here on January 4, 1875, that she married Edzard Heinrich Tapper.13  Edzard was also from Ostriesland, Germany. Born about 1841, his roots, and actual age are a bit of a mystery. Edzard had emigrated in 1869, and was a general merchant. The couple first resided in Lansing, Cook Co., Illinois, before moving the family to Hammond, Lake Co., Indiana in 1879, where they set up a general merchandise store on two acres of land, at the corner of Hohman and Sibley Street.14

Fast forward to Christmas 1881. On December 20th, 40 year old Edzard headed into Chicago to attend to some “law business.”15 While he was in the city, he decided to stop in to see a dentist, the Sovereign Brothers, who were located at 107 Clark Street, and have his teeth extracted. (??!!) It was noted by the dentist that he appeared to be “under the influence of liquor,” so he at first declined to administer chloroform. Edzard insisted, a doctor was called to administer the drug and to monitor the patient during the extractions.16  Soon after the dentist began extracting the teeth, Edzard did not look “right,” and so he stopped. But unfortunately, it was too late, Edzard passed away from the effects of the chloroform.17

Two Christmases, eleven years apart. December 2oth. Two husbands. Two tragic, unexplained deaths.

I cannot imagine what she must have been thinking, feeling, that December 20, 1881, when news came from Chicago that her husband was dead. She must have had vivid flashbacks of another December 20th, when news came that her husband was lost at sea.

But she carried on (well what else could she do?), creating a sort of empire with her son Anton (Tony), my great-grandfather, out of the business she had started with Edzard, and later through real estate dealings. She passed away February 24, 1900, at the age of 64, and we believe that she is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Hammond, at the Tapper monument.

SOURCES:

  1. Ludwig Janssen Hans-Rudolf Manger and Harm Harms, editors, Die Familien der Kirchengemeinde Bangstede (1724-1900) (Aurich, Germany: n.p., 1987, 2nd edition 1994),  number 1353. Cit. Date: 20 Jul 2001.
  2. Compiled by the Miller Family, The Miller Family (Canada: Self Published, ca. 1970s),  from  a “Copy of paper written by John F. Miller in German.” Cit. Date: 20 Jul 2001.
  3. Janssen and Harms, Bangstede Ortssippenbücher (OSB),  number 1353. Cit. Date: 20 Jul 2001.
  4. ibid.
  5. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Pedigree Resource File,” database, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 5 Apr 2009), entry for Johannes Warnerus Kloefkorn (PIN 3642478, Disk 126); submitted by Reiner Gerda Schuchardt, Emden, Germany. Cit. Date: 5 Apr 2009.
  6. Database and images (www.vorfahrensuche.de : accessed 24 Jul 2001); 5 Sep 2008: no longer online. Cit. Date: 5 Sep 2008.
  7. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Pedigree Resource File,” database, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 5 Apr 2009), entry for Antonius Hermannus Kloefkorn (PIN 444161, Disk 90); submitted by Reiner Gerda Schuchardt, Emden, Germany. Cit. Date: 5 Apr 2009.
  8. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Pedigree Resource File,” database, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 5 Apr 2009), entry for Hinrich Albertus Kloefkorn (PIN 3642585, Disk 126); submitted by Reiner Gerda Schuchardt, Emden, Germany.
  9. Karl-Heinz Wiechers, Und fuhren weit übers Meer. Volume 2: Die Häfen der Ems [And Drove Over the Sea. Vol. 2: Harbours of the river Ems] (ISBN: 3922365434), transcribed copy, received from  Gerriet Backer.  Cit. Date: 28 Feb 2000.
  10. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Pedigree Resource File,” database, FamilySearch, entry for Johannes Warnerus Kloefkorn (PIN 3642478, Disk 126). Cit. Date: 5 Apr 2009.
  11. “Marine Intelligence. New York…Friday, May 16. Arrived.,” The New York Times, 17 May 1873, p. 12, col. 5-6; digital images, ProQuest Historical Newspapers (www.proquest.com : accessed 17 Feb 2006).
  12. Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36; National Archives, Washington, D.C., “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” database, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 Oct 2004), Anton Klöfkorn; manifest for S.S. America, dated 16 May 1873.
  13. Illinois. Cook County, Vital Record: Illinois Certificate of Marriage, Volume 91, license number 19890.  Cit. Date: 11 Oct 1999.
  14. The Hammond Daily News, editor, Hammond Indiana, Industrial Edition of The Hammond Daily News (Hammond, Indiana: The Hammond Daily News, December 1904),  21. Cit. Date: 27 Feb 2002.
  15. “THE CITY ~ The Chloroform Victim,” (Chicago) The Chicago Tribune, 24 Dec 1881, Saturday, p. 8. Cit. Date: 30 Nov 2004.
  16. F. J. S. Gorgas M.D., D.D.S. and James B. Hodgkins D.D.S., editors, The American Journal of Dental Science (Baltimore, Maryland: Snowden & Cowman, 1882), Vol. 15, Third Series: 409-416. Cit. Date: 2 Sep 2009.
  17. ibid.

I Never Would Have Looked There

Last week while doing some research on an old home, I turned to the 1884-5 Appleton city directory, which is online at Ancestry.com. As I was formatting the source for the entry that I had found, I turned to the title page and introductory pages. I expected to learn a little about the city in these early years, I did not expect to find that this city directory for Appleton, also included a city directory for Neenah! “We have pleasure in presenting to the citizens of Appleton our initial Directory of their City, including a City Directory of Neenah, which will be found in the rear portion of the work.”1 Writes the publisher, Wright & Hogg of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I would love to understand the reason they included Neenah in the Appleton directory. They are in two different counties, Appleton in Outagamie, and Neenah in Winnebago, although (according to Google Maps) they are only about 6 1/2 miles

Photograph courtesy of the Neenah Public Library

Photograph courtesy of the Neenah Public Library

apart, Neenah is usually associated with Oshkosh, which is the county seat.

Knowing that S. A. Cook was living in Neenah in 1884, I quickly looked in the back of the book. And added to my research to-do list. According to other sources that I have come across over the years, S. A. had moved to Neenah in 1881, and at that time purchased home on Commercial Street. But the directory lists him residing on the “n. e. cor. 1st and Forest av.” which is a block away from Commercial. Guess it is time to add a trip to the courthouse land records to my list.

One other mystery resides between the covers of this directory. Listed as living with the Cook’s is “Cook, Christie Miss.” My best guess at this moment is that this entry is for Margaret Christie, the sister-in-law of S. A. Margaret (Maggie) was living with S. A. and his family when the 1880 census was enumerated,2  and her obituary states that she “came to Neenah with Mr. and Mrs. Cook and lived with them for many years.”3  I am wondering if it was stated, when asked if there were other adults living in the home, “Yes, Miss Christie.” And so it was written down as Miss Christie Cook.

S. A. has popped into my research a lot lately, it is almost as if he is prodding me – Hey! Pay attention! The time has come to finish your dad’s project!

SOURCES:

  1. Wright & Hogg, Appleton City Directory 1884-5, preface; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 11 Dec 2015).
  2. 1880 U.S. census, Marathon County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Town of Brighton, JH Cook Enumerator, enumeration district (ED) 83, p. 6 (penned), 302 (stamped), dwelling 15, family 16-17, Samuel A. Cook household; digital images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 6 Sep 2001); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm T9, roll 1433.
  3. “Resident of Neenah for Many Years Dies at Hotel in Florida,” (Oshkosh) Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, 28 Feb 1938, p. 9. Cit. Date: 12 Aug 2004.

 

All in the Family

August 1906, Neenah, Wisconsin

Samuel A. Cook                               August 1906, Neenah, Wisconsin

As I continue to document my ancestors lives, I am amazed at how many were ready and willing to get involved in politics, and how many were appointed Postmasters.

This short post is about the Cooks, as they are the most recent discovery. Samuel Andrew Cook, or S. A. as he was known, was the first of the Cook family to move to Unity, Wisconsin, choosing to live in Brighton Township, Marathon County. From all accounts, it appears as though he moved some time in 1873. Settled in Unity, he set up shop as a Merchant of general goods and merchandise. A newspaper description of Unity published in June 1874 states: “Mr. S. A. Cook, formerly of Fond du Lac, has a large Grocery & Dry Good Store, and gets a good trade from settlers who are flocking here very fast…” ((“‘Up the Line:’ A Few Brief Sketches from Our Reporter’s Note Book,” The Stevens Point Journal, 27 Jun 1874, col. 3; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 30 Jul 2006).))

Jacob H. Cook August 1906, Neenah, Wisconsin

Jacob H. Cook August 1906, Neenah, Wisconsin

At the time that S. A. moved to Unity, the post office was located on the Clark County side of the village of Unity. Amazingly this small village of 633 acres, is located in both Clark County and Marathon County. The decision to move the office to the Marathon County side (where it remains to this day) was made sometime in 1874, and the move coincided with twenty-five-year-old S. A. being appointed Postmaster, on April 20, 1874. S. A. was Postmaster until September 27, 1881, when his brother Jacob took over the position, and S. A. moved with his family to Neenah, Winnebago Co., Wisconsin. Jacob was forty-years-old when he was appointed postmaster, and he remained in the position until May 21, 1883, when he moved his family to Appleton, Outagamie Co., Wisconsin. Jacob was not the last Cook to be Postmaster for this small community, as his younger brother, Alfred, who was then thirty-eight, was appointed April 22, 1889, and held the post until September 12, 1892. ((“U.S., Appointments of U.S. Postmasters, 1832-1971,” database and images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 3 Dec 2015); Marathon County, Wis., Unity, vol 57, p. 778-779; NARA microfilm publication, M841, Records of the Post Office Department Record Group Number 28. Washington, D.C.: National Archives.))

Alfred Cook, August 1906, Neenah, Wisconsin

Alfred Cook, August 1906, Neenah, Wisconsin

My great-grandfather, Lewis Herman/Louis Herman Cook, the son of Alfred, was very involved in village politics, serving as County Supervisor. and he was editor and publisher of the village newspaper the Marathon County Register, but he was never appointed Postmaster for Unity. In 1910, Lewis moved his family to Wausau, Marathon County, Wisconsin, where he was the Supervisor of Assessments, Marathon County Clerk, a real estate agent, and finally appointed as Postmaster of Wausau. He served Wausau as postmaster from June 30, 1923, until his death on September 4, 1934.

Four men of the Cook family were appointed by presidents, approved by the senate, and served their communities as postmaster. Pretty incredible.

SOURCES:

Feeling Thankful

This weekend, Thanksgiving weekend, we find ourselves giving thanks for family and friends. Thinking of being thankful brought this story to mind.

In the spring of 1906, Samuel Andrew Cook starting planning a reunion. A reunion to bring his brothers and sisters together for the first time in 50 years. There had been trips made by many members up to Canada over the years, but they had not all been together in one place, and especially not at the old homestead in Stockbridge. This excerpt is taken from A Snapshot: Jacob Harrison Cook: ((Susan C. Fassbender, A Snapshot: Jacob Harrison Cook, (Appleton: Self Published, 2006): 14-15.))

“He [S.A. Cook] set the weekend of August 2-4th as the date weekend for the festivities. Coming from all over the North American continent, the whole family gathered at his home in Neenah.

Present in birth order were: Kate Healy, and her husband, Conner Healy, Unity, Wisconsin; Watson H. Cook, Washington, DC; Loretta Elliott, Toronto, Canada; Jacob H. Cook, and his wife, Anna Cook, Appleton, Wisconsin; Sarah Drake and her husband, Isaac P. Drake, Stanley, Barron County, Wisconsin; James M. Cook and his wife, Helen Cook, Baker City, Baker County, Oregon; S. A. Cook, Host, Neenah, Wisconsin; Alfred Cook and his wife, Amanda Cook, Unity Wisconsin; and Albert Cook, Lewiston, Nez Perce County, Idaho.

This was the first time that they would all be together since the early years when the family first settled in Stockbridge, and the last time. Loretta had not been back to Wisconsin for over fifty years, and as Louis Cook, son of Alfred, remarks in his paper the Marathon County Register, the Calumet County of 1906, ‘will present a striking contrast to the wilderness to which they removed from Canada over fifty years ago.’ ((‘Family Reunion,’ Marathon County Register, (Unity, WI), August 3, 1906, front page.))

Stockbridge_1908_Postcard

Stockbridge, Wisconsin, 1908

Saturday, August 4th, ‘S. A. Cook with his touring car and three other like machines that he had chartered left Neenah with the party for a trip around Lake Winnebago, arriving at their old home in the town of Stockbridge during the afternoon where they received warm welcome from many old neighbors and friends. Dinner was served at the Stockbridge Hotel, and the party was regaled [sic]  with good things furnished by Mr. and Mrs. P. F. Gillespie. The trip was enjoyed by all and they were greatly impressed with the wonderful transformation in the old home they loved so well during their younger days. — Chilton Times.’ ((‘From the Chilton Times,’ Marathon County Register, (Unity, WI), August 17, 1906.)) It must have been quite a sight to see these three cars, each carrying five people, heading around Lake Winnebago and into Stockbridge.

Such a large group could not all stay with S. A. at his home on Commercial Street, although some of them may have stayed with him.

Alfred and Amanda stayed at the Kasson Hotel in Downtown Neenah, and a letter written to Louis Cook by his father, gives a wonderful first-hand view of the boisterous time that they were having.

Neenah_Kasson-Hotel_1906_Postcard

The Kasson Hotel, Neenah, Wis, 1906

Alfred writes from the Kasson Hotel:

Neenah, Wis. Aug 6th, 1906                                                                                                                                     Louis Cook  Unity Wis

My Dear Son will Drop you a few lines this is Monday morning and we are all a live and that is saying a good Deal after them acting as they have. We have all had a good time

We will Be home to morrow noon, the most of them will not go to Unity for a nother week. Tell Mabel and the Rest of them that their Mother has acted offel and if she Continues to Eat as much after getting home it is going to cost us a good dealt to keep her and they must be shure to have some Potatoes Corn-Meal and sawdust on the table when we get home. Your Father A. Cook. ((Alfred Cook to Louis Cook, August 6, 1906, Neenah, Wisconsin. Original letter, transcribed as written. Robert D. Sternitzky Family Archives.))

From other newspaper accounts, we know that the family extended their time together beyond this fun weekend in Neenah and Stockbridge. They traveled first to visit the Drakes’s in Stanley, and then back to Unity to visit with the rest of the family before returning to their homes. A good time was had by all!

Cook-Family_1906-08

On the steps of the S. A. Cook home, Commercial Street, Neenah, WI ((Sharon Cook Family Archives))

SOURCES:

A Story Too Late

As a genealogist you get used to discovering stories about family long after they are gone. Most of the time it is enough to just know the story, to fill in voids in the family history. But every once in a while, you discover a story that you wish, oh you wish, that you had known before it was too late. This is one such story.

The St. Francis Schut is a Hollandtown tradition that dates back to 1849. It was originally held on the “Schut Grounds” near St. Francis on the second Sunday in August. As the Schut grounds are located so close to the road that leads into Hollandtown, the event has been moved to a clay shooting range, and the original grounds left as a historic spot. The Schut in a nutshell is you have the “bird” that has been placed on a high pole, and the participants/shooters take turns shooting directly at the bird till the last piece is shot down, and the King is crowned. Then everyone heads to Van Abels for dinner. Don’t yell, I said it was a nutshell version.

Fassbender_Bernard_1920-06-17_Kaukauna-Times

The Kaukauna Times, dated 17 Jun 1920

In 1920 the Schut was held June, and as happened every year, it was a popular event, cars and other “machines” lined the road. My father-in-law, Butch, was seven years old that summer and was playing with friends alongside the road. We know from newspaper articles that Henry was a frequent participant in the Schut, so it is likely that the whole family was at the Schut grounds enjoying a Sunday with friends and neighbors. According to this newspaper report, Albert Haas came down the road at a “high rate of speed” and as he moved through the pathway left by the parked cars “swerv[ed] sharply narrowly missing three youngsters and in the consequence struck Bernard.” The article states that no bones were broken, and no internal injuries, but he was badly bruised.

Oh how I wish that I had found this in time to ask him about it. So many questions unanswered. Did the family know Albert Haas? Did he take responsibility for his actions? Granted Butch and his friends probably should not have been playing near the road, but Albert should have known to slow down when passing the Schut, and I find it hard to believe that other people were not standing in or near the road. But mostly I wonder how he felt, how long did it take for him to recover, were there any lasting effects from the accident.