Thistles Cut, Ironing Done


Great Grandparents Schwandt
Frederick Schwandt     married     Louisa Birkholz
seven children:
Ferdinand 85 yrs. m.   Henrietta Kuehn 89 yrs.
Caroline 77 yrs. m. William Krueger
Minnie 95 yrs. m. Charles Roeske
Julius 86 yrs. m. Ida Byer
Mary 83 yrs. m. August Schultz
Herman 84 yrs. m. Ida Kuehn 68 yrs.
Matilda 94 yrs. m. Otto Berndt

An old snapshot from my mother's collection shows a child standing beside a mound of flowers on a grave. Behind the child is a tomb stone with the name Schwandt chiseled in large letters across it. Below that is the name "Frederick Carl," and farther down, "Louisa." They were my great-grandparents, who came from Germany to the United States in 1856. The new grave in the Phelps cemetery is that of their grandson, William Schultz.

My family lived on the Wallace Card Farm where our garden and orchards adjoined the Phelps Cemetery where Billy is buried. I recall my parent's sadness over the death of this twenty-four year old cousin of my father's. Even though "the Schultz boys" were younger than my father their visits with each other were happy laughing times.

Pictures taken in his late years show Great-grandpa Frederick as a portly man of medium height. Louisa was of medium height. A dress with plentiful folds and a big bow at the neck concealed the size of her figure. In retirement years they lived in a small house on a few acres of land across the road from their grand-daughter Emma, and her husband Will Sommers, on the Fred Card Farm. The house had two rooms downstairs, a kitchen/living room and a smaller room for their bedroom. On a rare day in fine weather they could hitch up their horse to the buggy to go to the store for supplies. They seldom needed to go to any store because their extensive garden produced potatoes and vegetables for their table. A few chickens added eggs and meat. A cow supplied milk. Their life was likely not too different from lives of older folks in their home country, Germany, where people were self-sufficient as long as they were able. When they came to this country, their son, Ferdinand was three and one-half years old. They farmed in the area of Green Lake County, Wisconsin. They had two other sons, Julius and Herman and four daughters, Caroline, Minnie, Mary and Matilda. Julius left Wisconsin with his wife and children to live on a farm in Oklahoma. Only rarely were visits exchanged at that great distance.

Herman married Ida Kuehn, a sister of Ferdinand's wife, Henrietta, my grandmother. Uncle Herman and Aunt Ida lived on a farm down the road from my family. Their three sons, Herbert, Edwin and Ellery and their daughter, Sadie, were friends with my parents too. My mother must have liked for people to eat at her table. Snapshots she took on Sunday afternoons show that Herb and his wife Edna, were there with some of Dad's brothers and sisters. These happy associations were a break from the continuous, strenuous farm work.

Although Uncle Herman was Grandpa's brother he was not much like Ferdinand in appearance or character. Grandpa worked diligently to keep his farm producing as well as possible. Livestock was carefully cared for. His children and every one else understood that working was essential and honorable. Herman's attitude about work or living was more casual. He was good company and had time to visit with anyone he happened to meet even if it was the busy season. All the years he was able, he made unexpected visits to our house. My mother and father would invite him to stay for a meal while they enjoyed his visit. Aunt Ida seldom accompanied him. It seemed she was often not very well. Even though he was frequently in financial straits he tried to be cheerful. He was a contrast to Grandpa in appearance too. Grandpa was always neatly groomed even in work clothes. Herman dressed haphazardly, as if he weren't aware of what he put on.

Herb and Edwin Schwandt, sons of Herman and Ida, married sisters, Edna and Gladys Marquardt. About the year 1924 Edwin rented a farm from the Richards family, on Mackford Prairie that overlooked Mackford Hill. In those days taking care of livestock in winter required that cattle be turned out into the barnyard in order to clean the barns. Horses were turned loose for a bit of exercise in the barnyard too. Snow and cold made the work more difficult. A farmer went out to the barn early in the morning to do the milking. After breakfast he returned to feed and care for the livestock. One winter day when Gladys was expecting Edwin in from the barns before the noon meal she was puzzled that he had not come in. Finally she went to see what he was doing. She found him lying in the barnyard dead. She telephoned neighbors for help. They and the doctor could only guess that he had been kicked in the head by a frisky horse. He was buried on a cold, snowy day in January. My father needed to be at home to do chores and take care of our livestock. Uncle Henry, my father's brother, was working for us. He drove a team on a sled and my mother went with him to the funeral. I can still picture him holding the reins as he stood waiting while my mother settled herself for the ten mile trip to Markesan that at that time of year would take all the daylight hours. The gray, windy weather seemed to emphasize the grief of the sorrowing family.

Great Grandfather and Great Grandmother eventually were unable to live by themselves. They left their little acreage to live with their daughter Matilda, and her husband, Otto Berndt. Grandpa and Grandma lived in one room at their daughter's house. Grandpa died there in 1915. Later Grandma lived with Aunt Mary Schultz. She occasionally visited in the homes of her grandchildren. Adelaide (Sommers) Jahnke remembers Grandma coming to visit them. She liked to sit on the front porch and sing German songs. I expect neither she nor Great Grandpa ever learned much English. Adelaide remembers her mother, Emma, brushing Grandma's white curly hair. It remained curly all her life. She protested that it hurt when it was brushed or combed. On her pictures it is covered with a neat little cap. Great Grandma Louisa died in 1922. The old snapshot my mother took helps hold the memories of her and those others who lie near her in the Phelps Cemetery: Mary and August Schultz, Ferdinand Schwandt and his wife Henrietta, and granddaughter Emma, and her husband William Sommers.

Great Grandma Louisa Birkholtz Schwandt visited her niece, my Grandma, Mrs. Albert Sommers.

Until I was seven years old my mother had a seamstress come to spend several days at a time making clothes for her and for us children. Louella Welk's family lived only a few miles away but in those years transportation wasn't quick and easy. Louella spent the nights with us as well as days. Sheldon and I liked her very much. She made the dark blue sailor style suits trimmed with red braid that Sheldon wore as a small boy. A few years after Edwin Schultz returned from the War he and Louella were married. Their daughter, Patricia was their first child. Two of their four sons, Willis and Donald were in the classes Howard taught in Marquette State Graded School in 1947 and 1948.

Daughter Mary and her husband August Schultz lived near Lake Maria. They had six sons and a daughter. In 1917 when the United States became involved in World War I their sons were subject to the draft. William, or Billy as his friends called him, was called up. His mother didn't want Willie, as she called him, to go. She persuaded her oldest son Edwin, to arrange to take Willie's place in the Army. Edwin went off to war. Meanwhile the influenza epidemic of 1918-1919 swept the country. For Billy Schultz the disease was fatal. The child is looking at the flowers on his grave. The name, "Willie," is spelled out with fern fronds spread on the snow.

Willie Schultz lies near his grandparents,
Fredrick and Louisa, in Phelps Cemetery.

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Copyright 1991, 2004 by Zona S. Justiss. All rights reserved. Unless otherwise noted, text and photos on this page are property of the author and may not be reproduced, posted, distributed, or used for any commercial purpose without prior permission.