Anna Marie (1860) was my mother's oldest sister. We called
her Aunt Emma to distinguish her and Anna Renner, a younger sister.
Others may have called her "Ahmee" which is a derivative
of Anna Maria. Anyhow she was married to Matt Kotschevar and at
the time of their marriage they lived in Evansville where Matt
was in the mercantile business. He died in 1886, 50 Aunt Emma
came, with her two daughters, Ann Lorsung) and baby Barbara (Pischke)
to stay with my parents until she could again be on her own. She
then moved into Millerville with her family, occupying a small
house just as you enter town. She remained here through my early
childhood and later lived with Barbara and Frank Pischke.
My Grandpa, Nickolas Hockert, stayed with Aunt Emma and Barbara
in Millerville too. He was a portly man and not at all active.
It was the custom of some European's to drink wine instead of
water. Evidently, Grandpa had to much of the former and one night
he fell out of bed. Poor Aunt Emma and Barbara were unable to
hoist him back into bed, and I suppose he wouldn't exert himself
either, so they called my dad to assist them. He had to harness
up a team and drive into town to get Grandpa back into bed. What
Aunt Emma also cared for Uncle John Hockert who lived in a
small house just north of Stariha's Hall. They would take food
over every day as he was a bachelor and a war veteran. When I
would visit with Aunt Emma and Barbara, they would ask me if I
would be so kind as to take a plate of food to Uncle John. He
was huge in stature and wore red underwear, and besides this,
he was gruff in his mannerisms. I was so scared of him, I would
set the plate down and beat it as fast as I could back to Aunt
They had a large garden east of the house and also a barn for
the cow. Barbara would milk the cow, saving some for their use
and selling the rest. One of their favorite vegetables, and ours
too, was sour green beans made with grape vines. The beans were
first cooked, then cooled. Next they were put into 1/2 gallon
jars and the grape vines or leaves were stuck on top of the jar.
The process would ferment much like cabbage for sauerkraut, and
then we would cook this by pork. Food was simple and every garden
item had to be preserved to add variety to the meals.
Barbara made a living as a seams tress to support herself and
her mother. She made the wedding dresses for Johnny's Annie and
also for my sister, Carrie. The bodice was a series of small rows
of tucks followed by rows of lace. Aunt Emma would do the basting
by hand and Barbara did the intricate sewing on the machine. The
types of cloth available in those days were: cotton, taffeta,
wool and satin.
When Aunt Emma's daughter, Ann Lorsung (Mrs. Tony) died, Aunt
Emma and Barbara went over to Tony's to help raise the family
of youngsters; Msgr. Lorsung, Matt (Fats), the twins Marcella
and Hildegard, Jerry and Adelbert. Later, they moved in with Barbara
and Frank Pischke in their house. Jerry and Hildegard's husband,
Bill Gappa, later worked for Barbara as her husband had too passed
One interesting story to relate here. My Joe had a new car,
a Maxwell I think, and we picked up Barbara and Millie Hopfner
to see "Ben Hur. " It had rained and the roads were
mostly trails anyway. The mud and ruts were so deep that Joe burned
out the car snaking through the mud. Millie and Barbara cried
so at the movie that both of them had several handkerchiefs soaked.
After we got home, Millie and I talked till morning. No matter
how hard and difficult Barbara's life was, she always found "the
silver living" with a good hearty laugh.
Nickolas Hockert (1862) was my mother's only surviving brother.
He married Caroline Dobmeyer and they farmed the original home
place. Diptheria hit the family early on and my dad went many
times there to help them. Only Nicky and Barbara survived the
disease. Later Annie, Ferd, Math, Tillie and George were born.
They were very frugal. One time Uncle Nick's came to our house
and it was the custom to look at people's gardens for pastime
and perhaps to grab a ripe tomato or pull a carrot to eat on the
spot. He looked over the garden and saw bushels of ripe tomatoes
lying on the ground. He said, "Shunt das Laura kanned keine
tomatoes, alles lagt full. " I had already canned 70 quarts.
In later years, they moved into a new home just west of Millerville,
on property they owned and remained there until they died. He
and his wife were my only Uncle or Aunts who continued to speak
the German language.
Anna Renner (1864)was Ma's second oldest sister. She married
"Uncle Joe" Renner as we called him. He was a plumber
and they lived in Alexandria. They had four children: Joe, William,
who became a priest and later a Msgr. and first rector of the
St. John's Seminary, Collegeville, Minnesota, Clara (Flanigan)
and Michael who died in his teens from TB.
Before he died, Mike was bed ridden for several years. Aunt
Anna took care of him. She carried food up the stairs three times
a day, bathed him and the bedding was always fresh and wrinkle
free. He prayed the rosary all day long. He, too, had wished to
become a priest.
Aunt Anna was a rather stout woman, but this never interfered with her work habits. I had never seen a house so clean! Each morning she would take a fresh white rag to wash up the floor. After it dried, she took a fresh white dust mop, put oil on it and then would polish the floor vigorously. It just shone! When her son became a priest, beggars would come to the rectory door for handouts, so she canned around 300 pints of a mixture consisting of potatoes, carrots, onions and meat to he heated quickly so they would have a hot meal. This was the forerunner of "Meals on Wheels," ha!
A few words are necessary here about Father Renner. Father
Renner's first parish assignment following his ordination on December
17th, 1917 was the parish at Brandon. Brandon had previously been
served once a month by priests from Alexandria and Osakis. Father
Renner came to Brandon in 1919. At the time of his appointment,
the parish did not own a rectory. Shortly after his arrival, he
purchased the Theo. Olson home for $4,500. In 1922 he became pastor
of St. Mary's, Alexandria and his Bishop allowed him to remain
there for many years to help care for his mother who had a broken
hip as the result of a car accident. She never had the hip "set"
and as a consequence never walked again.
During Father Renner's early pastorate the following was added
to the church: new marble alters and wrought iron ornamentation,
a new pipe organ (donated by Mrs. F. R. Noonan) was installed.
She also donated a lot adjoining the church grounds giving the
property a very attractive setting. Under Father's able administration,
the parish had seen its full development in the diocese.
It was during Father's pastorate in Brandon that he visited
us on the farm many times on a Sunday afternoon. He also knew
his folks would be there too. So about 2:00 p. m. there would
be knock at the door, and he'd be standing there with a big smile
and a happy "Hi, I'm here again. " He would also compliment
my mother's cooking, "Aunt Bertha, your dinner was most delicious.
" One of the many characteristics Ma's mother passed on to
her children in the few years she lived was to always be polite
and courteous. This trait was now being passed on to the second
One time Father came to the farm unannounced. We were doing
the evening milking at the time. Here comes four priests into
our barn. I had on an old dress and these priests were all dressed
in new black suits and stiffly starched white collars. Well, we
finished milking, I washed and changed and then played the piano.
Three of them joined in singing, but one that they jokingly called
"Caruso" couldn't sing and so remained the audience.
After Aunt Anna's hip accident, they still came to the farm
and Father Renner and my Joe would carry her into the house on
a chair. This was quite a load and Father's back finally gave
out. I loved to visit her too and she would always make me feel
so welcome. One time it was the Lenten Season when we were to
refrain from lunches in the afternoon, but she had just baked
fresh bread and so she cooked coffee for the bread and homemade
jam. Her eyes just twinkled while she ate. I came to visit her
shortly before she died. She was suffering from Dropsy (a condition
where water is retained in the body) and when I came into the
room, she wanted to say "Laura" but could only get the
"La" before she choked. The fluid had gotten into her
lungs and she could no longer take even a half-breath. She passed
away shortly. I missed her so. When I would be in Alexandria,
I would say to myself, "there is no one to see here anymore
that Aunt Anna is gone. "
Barbara (Sister Jerome, O. S. B. from St. Benedict's, St. Joseph,
Minnesota) was the youngest in the family. She was the only one
born in America Jefferson County, Missouri). Her mother died shortly
after giving birth and this is perhaps the reason she became a
nun. She lead a most austere life teaching regular classes and
music in the following parishes: Pien, Luxemborg, Eau Claire,
Wisconsin, Lake Henry, Perham, New Munich, Dumont and Browerville.
The life of a nun in those days was one of extreme self denial.
I'm now recalling her days while at Browerville because this is
when I became old enough to appreciate a difference in how people
lived. Her room was worse than a prison cell. It contained a simple
cot, no mattress, a bare unpainted floor, a wash stand but no
mirror and no closet to hang her clothes. The "habit"
she wore consisted of layers of woolen garments, long underwear,
a heavy slip, undershirt, robe, and a stiffly starched whimple.
In the heat of the summer while visiting her sister, Emma and
Barbara, her clothing would become soaked with sweat, She was
allowed to come home for a visit once every ten years, but wasn't
allowed to sleep at her own father's house.
The food at the Browerville Convent was of a poor quality as
most of the Sisters lived on what food the parish people brought
them. We were there one time and for dessert they had Huckleberry
pie; Sr. Jerome shook no to me as not to take any because it tasted
so awful. She wrote one time that I should write her saying that
my mother was ill so she could have an excuse to come home, she
was so homesick for her earthly family. I was too young to understand
the circumstances of her desire and never wrote back to her. This
bothers me to this day, "how I could be so stupid. "
When my father died, she came for the funeral and after the
Mass and lunch at our home, it was time to leave. She cried so
hard that it was almost a scream.