William and Bertha's Family


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 produce.

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 home.

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.


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