My sister Annie (1880) was the oldest of the family. She was
baptized at Seven Dolors, Millerville by Rev. James Hilbert and
she married John Schwartz in 1901. They had two daughters: Laura
and Louise. As a young girl, Annie was robust and energetic. She
loved to ride horseback and would challenge herself forth and
back to Millerville (about 3 miles each way) in less than 20 minutes.
She also rode the bicycle so vigorously that she turned red in
the face. She would harness up the four horses and spend the day
plowing. After finishing grade school, she stayed with Uncle Goehner
in Minneapolis for several years working for rich families.
Annie was an excellent cook and a hard worker when well. She
and John had a huge flower garden east of their house containing
many varieties of roses, peonies, irises, plus Sweet Williams,
Canterbury Bells, delphiniums, fox-glove etc. John was also raising
bees at the time and these bees loved the flowers too. One time
while I was visiting them, I went out to pick a bouquet and a
bee stung me between the eyes. The pain was unbearable for some
time. The bees were also the cause of John losing the barn. They
had nested in the hay loft and John wished to evict them by using
a torch and smoke. The flame got away from him and as a result
the barn burned to the ground.
John also had a prize herd of Jersey cattle which produced
very rich cream. Annie made good use of it: homemade ice cream,
cream on berries, cakes and hot cereal. Annie made the first angel
food cake and often canned 300 quarts of berries, plums, peaches,
pickled apples, plus jams and jellies. Most of this was home-grown
She also made the best candy: chocolate covered cherries, carmelized
Mexican fudge, divinity and the lightest crescent rolls one could
eat. John loved them too. One time I said when you come over I'll
make them for you. They came for church on a Sunday (-20 below)
and stayed for dinner. I had just baked a batch and John ate seven
of them. They all had huge appetites. John and Annie raised strawberries
to sell. The Juneberry variety, Senator Dunlap, was enormous (17
made a pound) and rightly so because John would spread a generous
amount of barn manure for the new patch and then if it didn't
rain enough, he placed a water tank on a wagon, filled it with
water and the horses pulled the wagon to the patch.
Willie was born in 1883 and married Hulda Scheidt. They had
three children: William, Rosemary and Cordelia. Willie (I'm told)
carried me around as a baby and always remained very close to
me throughout our adult lives. He had little love for farming
and began working in the Evansville bank. After this he went to
school to sharpen up on the banking business. He then became the
banker at KuIm, North Dakota where he met his future wife, Hulda,
a minister's daughter and a teacher. He worked for a mortgage
company during the early days of the depression, trying to collect
on past dues. This depressed him so, because most of the farm
families didn't have enough money to buy food and clothing, let
alone paying off their debts, so Willie left Kulm for the state
of Oregon (1936).
Willie would bring his family home for a visit unannounced
for several weeks when they lived at Kulm and I spent some time
there too. One day I baked an angel food cake and as you know
after the cake comes out of the oven, the pan is tipped upside
down unto a bottle to cool. Young Billy looked at the process
and said in German, which was the only language they used, "Venn
das falt runter und brecht, denn aber:" Which means if the
cake tips over, you'll be in trouble. A lot is lost when the German
is translated into English the humor of the idea dissipates.
The last time the family came to Minnesota was in 1941 after
Hulda had passed away. The three kids were so happy to see us
again. I remember we took them to a movie in Alexandria-"Caught
in the Draft"-starring Bob Hope in peak performance. Rosemary
and Cordy laughed so hard they almost fell out of their seats.
Young Bill helped Joe shock grain and we spent some time at family
gatherings and picnics. The two girls cried so when they left
for that long trip back to Oregon.
Johnny (1885) was baptized by Rev. Heider and he married Anna
Hopfner at Seven Dolors, Millerville by Rev. Wippich. Their children
are: Evangeline, Helen, Florian, Cresy and Claude and their home
was about 1-1/2 miles straight north of us.
When Johnny was dating Annie, it was the custom of the time
to offer your date a stick of gum. So after Johnny came home,
I would sneak into his room upstairs and steal a stick of gum
for myself. I didn't dare take more or he might have noticed something
was going on. He was always good-natured at home. I, at a very
young age, would drive the horses for the bundle team. He would
pitch several bundles at a time and kept talking to me all the
while. If I got off too far from the windrow, he never complained
which was not true of someone else.
In later years he served as County Commissioner, chairman of
the Millerville town board, the Millerville school board, the
first president of the creamery and the Runestone Electric Association
in Alexandria. It is interesting to note here that three consecutive
generations served on the Millerville town board - my dad, his
son Johnny and my son James.
As youngsters, Vange, Helen and Florian would walk up to Grandma's
house. On this particular occasion it was the day before Easter.
I had set out three Easter Egg nests and I was in the process
of dying the eggs when they arrived and had only put eggs into
two nests. This really bothered the kids that only two nests were
filled, so when they left for home, Florian took one last sad
look toward these missing eggs and said, "Armselig Grossmum,
sie hat keine eier!!" Claude had a very deep voice as a youngster.
At about age 4, he was sitting near the kitchen range with his
feet up on the handle of the oven warming himself. Ma always made
homemade wine and evidently he must have had some in the past,
because he said in that deep voice, "Grandma, do you have
any of that stuff in those blittzery glasses." My dad got
a chuckle out of Cresy too. We were there for dinner and she had
baked a sour cream peach pie for us and she warned us that it
didn't turn out as she would have liked. To which my dad replied,
"I'll eat it if it kills me."
Carrie was born in 1888 and baptized by Rev. Thomas Borderding.
She and John Hopfner were married in 1908 by Father Brender. To
this union were born: Blanche, Rueben (Bill), Mildred and Philip.
The family lived about 5 miles southeast of our farm, near "Big
Chip" lake. Carrie was perhaps, the happiest of my sisters.
She would and joke and, like my mother, was a fast worker. She
also taught me to play the piano before I took lessons from Anna
Dahl in Evansville. The family lived in Brandon from 1921-27,
while her husband was county maintenance superintendent, at which
time he resumed farming. John had two recreational loves-fishing
and playing cards. Albert Ketter would call up, "I'm coming
over to go fishing, can you make it?" John would always manage!
As for the second love one time my dad was there and they played
until 8 o'clock in the morning. Dad would say, "Gosh it's
getting late, I'd better get home." And John would kid him
into another game and keep on laughing.
I remember having to cook dinner for the Hopfner men who were
stacking grain. 1 was but 12 years old at the time. Carrie had
Blanche, 15 months old and a new-born baby, Bill. I didn't know
much about cooking by myself. I had a kettle of cut corn on the
stove and had poured too much milk in, so it didn't want to boil.
The men were soon coming in for dinner, so Grandpa Hopfner came
to the rescue by splitting me some smaller pieces of wood to induce
the fire to burn better. The corn finally cooked and I passed
it around saying, "Would you like some corn?" It was
closer to soup than a vegetable. But the men didn't complain.
People weren't very fussy in those days. I also managed to bake
8 loaves of bread that day, and the wood chunks were too large
so the oven wouldn't get hot enough for the bread to brown.
Carrie would bake eight loaves at a time and would call me
several times during the week. I always treasured hearing her
voice. Carrie and her two boys came over, while they were in that
10-12 age bracket, and they wished to help Grandpa. He left them
cultivate corn with a horse and one row cultivator. As kids would
be, they were out more for fun than work, so they tore through
the corn rows as fast as the horse would travel; tearing out some
of the corn in the process, which didn't sit very well with my
dad. "Get out of there you rebels." When Carrie heard
her boys were rebels, she went home with them immediately.
Millie often stayed by us for a week or so at a time. She loved
to eat Grandma's apple dumplings and pancakes. She still remembers
the taste and how it looked coming out of the steamer-and oh the
aroma of the apples and cinnamon and raisins-we made one for her
this fall (1993).
Carrie had a difficult experience as a young girl. She was
riding the horse and buggy and the horse went crazy and Carrie
was tossed out of the overturned buggy and broke her leg. People
weren't very thoughtful in those days, and my folks got an inexperienced
quack doctor to set her leg. He used a board with paint chips
on it and the paint caused infection in the leg. Finally the folks
got Dr. Mathieson from Evansville to save her life. He discarded
the board, cleaned out the large open wound and dressed it properly.
He drilled a hole in the foot of the bed, placed a cast on the
leg and then hung a pail of sand out the end of the cast to keep
this leg the same length as her other one. She came through this
ordeal okay, but it kept her in bed for several weeks.
Joe, Jimmie and I were in bed this summer evening. Around 11
p. m. a car drives into the yard and someone blows the car horn;
then someone gets out of the car and comes to the house and knocks.
We thought, who could it be? Must be someone who knows us and
is in some kind of trouble. Joe was the first down the stairs;
Jimmie and I following. It was our pastor, Father Wilkes and my
brother Johnny. They came into the kitchen area with somber faces
and a troubled look in their eyes. Father Wilkes first walked
to the wood stove and struck a match to light his famous pipe.
He then said, "We have some sad news to report. John Hopfner
and Carrie have been in an accident. John was killed instantly
and Carrie is in the Alexandria hospital in very serious condition
from severe head injuries." What devastating news! My sister
Carrie in the hospital and John dead? When one is hit so suddenly
with something so tragic, the mind refuses to accept it. I had
just talked with her on the phone this afternoon. "What happened?"
Well, John and Carrie were taking some furniture to Alexandria
for their son Philip and a big transport truck hit their pick-up
head-on. We didn't sleep anymore that night. Carrie recovered
slowly after a long struggle and before she could completely regain
her strength, Bill was drafted into the service.
Della (1891) was the last of our family to marry. She began
her teaching career at the "ripe old age" of 17 in a
country school east of Urbank. She boarded at the John Thoennes
family (father of John, Nick etc. ). When the weather was cold,
she would go early to build fire. In the evening, Papa Thoennes
would gather his family together and they would sing German "Lieder"
for several hours and the children developed beautiful singing
voices and a love for music. From here she next taught near Miltona
where she had 52 pupils, grades 1-8. Ma and I would take her there
Sunday afternoon and pick her up again Friday afternoon. The distance
must have been about 20 miles one way.
Next she taught in Millerville for 4 years in what was later
called "The Legion Hall." The school had a reputation
of harboring troublemakers. Two of the rowdies were Elmer Stariha
and Mark Buscher; they would hop from one desk to the next and
disrupt class. Mr. Buscher was on the School Board and he told
Della to crack down hard on them and she did. The very first minute
she took over they were told to behave "or else." She
always had a powerful voice and military posture which aided in
getting the message across.
After leaving Millerville, Della taught in my home district
#72. This school was located about 2-1/2 miles northwest of our
farm, in a woods now owned by Harvey Jante. Some of the children
attending school at the time were: Mike and Frank Korkowski's,
Renkes', Carlson's, and Wagner's.
Della would teach during the school term, but during the summer
months she attended Moorhead Normal School to obtain a full teaching
certificate so she could teach in town. Upon receiving this certificate
she now taught in Waubun, Erie, Sentinel Butte (way off in western
North Dakota). When Della taught in Waubun, she just had an operation
before school started. The people where she was to board, met
her at the train with a lumber wagon and proceeded home over rough
fields. Two of her students were boys who ate fresh garlic every
morning for breakfast. They smelled so strongly that she had to
put their desks in the farthest comer of the room.
The desolate environment of Sentinel Butte and the continued
hardships of small town schools convinced Della that there must
be more to life than this. She headed West in the early 1930's
to teach in Oregon, but before they would accept her she needed
to attended one of their colleges for six months. This she did
at Bellingham, Washington. Then it was off to Forest Grove, Oregon
to teach and this is where she met James B. Benoit, an electrical
engineer with the Bonneville Electric Power Company. Della continued
teaching full time and in later years, substituting.
In the earlier years we would take and get Della from her country
schools, and later to catch the train. She spent the summer vacation
time with us on the farm, continuing to do so even after marriage.
Jimmie and Della would motor by car each summer, taking in new
sights as they traveled different routes. They would describe
how beautiful the mountains were and the prairies with waving
ripe grain. How I wished to experience this Myself!
In later years, I appreciated her summer visits even more so
because it removed a burden from my shoulders. Ma was getting
up in years and she needed special attention which I couldn't
always provide when there was other responsibilities. Della was
most thoughtful of her Minnesota relatives at Christmas time.
She would send us a huge box of neatly wrapped gifts for my folks,
for us, Carries' and the Schwartz's. These gifts were a blessing
and greatly appreciated because of the depression and drought
years that plagued us at the time. One of the educational gifts
she gave to my son Jimmie at age six, was a globe of the world
In a matter of a few weeks, he knew where each country was located
and no one could stump him.
Carl is my youngest brother (1893) and he married Anna Pfieffer
at Seven Dolors, Millerville by the Rev. Wippich. They had eight
children; Elmyra, Adeline, Florence, leona, Charles, Margaret,
Beatrice and Donald. Their farm was to the south and adjacent
to our farm place. In fact, it was a piece of the original purchase
of my dad and his brother John.
My sister Annie and John had left baby Laura with Carl and
I while they and our parents went to Alexandria shopping. We both
were still quite young-I about 10 and Carl 15 or so, anyway we
got bored sitting in the house watching the baby. It had recently
stormed and a huge snow bank had formed just west of the house,
maybe 8 or 10 feet high. We grabbed a scoop shovel as a sled and
took turns sliding down this bank. When we returned to the house,
we discovered, to our dismay, that baby Laura had fallen off the
bed and lay on the floor. We never told anyone what had happened
because Ma would have given us a sharp scolding.
Just as Carrie helped me learn to play the piano, I wanted
to help Carl play the violin. He had ordered one from Montgomery
Ward. I told him the various notes from a whole note down to a
sixteenth note. He said, "If there is that much to it, I'm
quitting right now. " And he did. John Hopfner taught me
the notes and I tried to continue, but the piano was my first
and only love.
Carl enjoyed hunting, fishing and playing cards (Skat). On
one occasion, he must have been spearing or netting fish illegally
in the spring. He had several of his young kids along in the Model
T truck. Carl must have spotted the Game Warden in the area. He
tucked the fish under the seat, ordered the kids to jump in and
away they flew from Lake Moses south toward their home. The road
was only a trail, full of holes and bumps. Carl drove like crazy
and the kids were flying up more than down. Luckily all arrived
home safely and the Warden didn't find Carl.
At another time, Carl and Joe had left about 6 a. m. to go
duck hunting. They stood in their blind for some time and one
or the other said, "The ducks aren't flying, maybe we didn't
come early enough. " In the distance they heard a reply,
"I was here at four o'clock and they didn't flew then either.
" It was John Pischke, a neighbor and avid hunter too.
Carl and Annie would leave the older four girls with us while
they went shopping in Alexandria. I was peeling potatoes for supper
and the girls were eating the raw potatoes as fast as I could
peel. They enjoyed coming to Grandma's and Taunt Laura's. Elmyra
came one day alone with the understanding that she would remain
over night. But when night came she wanted, very badly, to go
home. So she said in German (which was the language spoken by
all my first nieces and nephews). "Du kanst mich schon heim
hollen mit Flory. " (You can nicely take me home with Flory)
the horse. I said, "First, we'll lay down a bit and then
we'll go home. " She fell asleep and was okay till morning.
Annie was a very devoted mother and loved each child intensely.
She was a wonderful housekeeper and a joyful person too. She would
sew each girl a new dress every spring and they were always neatly
dressed and spotlessly clean. Annie loved Lemon Pie and made it
many times during the year, even though Carl didn't care for it,
especially the "white stuff on top. " She became ill
from a ruptured appendix and after a long and painful period passed
away leaving a huge void, especially for Beatrice and young Donnie
who was 2.
I was born on January 3, 1899. My life's experience will be
explained in greater detail at a later time in this book. However,
for now please be content with a brief introductory. I married
Joseph A. Roers on December 29th, 1925.
His father, John Hubert, had given Joe 100 acres about six
miles east of us on the shore of Big Chip, a neighbor to his older
brother Hubert. The farm had only an old barn and granary; no
house. He had planted a grove of evergreens m anticipation of
building a house and settling there. However, my mother was ill,
and dad was getting up in years too and unable to do the necessary
farm field work. So we decided to stay and make my parents' farm
Our farm had been rundown and was full of quack grass and wild
oats. My dad was very perturbed with Northrop-King seed company.
He had ordered Brome grass seed from them and both Brome and quack
seed look very much alike. So dad got a "free" bumper
crop of quack which was most difficult to eradicate with primitive
machinery. To restrict its spread throughout the farm, he elected
to work around the spots, but this proved futile as the quack
continued to gain the upper hand. So when Joe arrived on the scene,
he spent many days digging the quack with a horse drawn harrow
which he had to lift up by hand every few feet because the roots
would plug the teeth. The east field had piles of roots resembling
hay cocks. After the piles dried out, Joe would burn them and
they disappeared completely because the roots contained a type
of oil. He also planted checkered corn to cultivate out any remaining
quack or wild oats. It took several years to bring the land back
to full production again. It was only through the back breaking
effort of my husband that my parents were able to remain on the
land for which they in turn had sacrificed so much.