Thistles Cut, Ironing Done


Great Grandparents Kuehn

Daniel Kuehn married Caroline Gelhar
1830-1906 1838-1928
76 yrs. 90 yrs.

twelve children:

Henrietta 89 yrs. m.   Ferdinand Schwandt 85 yrs.
Augusta 76 yrs. m. Gustave Jahnke
Emma 76 yrs. m. John Radchweit
Mary 67 yrs. m. Charles Degener
August 84 yrs. m. Lily Wilsnack
Frederick 57 yrs. m. Emma Welk
Ida 68 yrs. m. Herman Schwandt 84 yrs.
Martha 78 yrs. m. Herman Welk
William infant
Minnie 58 yrs. m. Edward Sommers 84 yrs.
Ella 72 yrs. m. Edward Schraeder
Lydia 69 yrs. m. Edward Krause

Daniel and Caroline Kuehn and their little one-year old daughter, Henrietta, came from Germany to the United States in 1858. That blue-eyed child became my grandmother. To earn money to buy his own farm Grandpa Kuehn worked as a hired hand. One of his employers was a family named Miller whose farm was on Green Lake Prairie. In an effort to save enough money to start farming on his own Great Grandpa did not wear shoes even while doing the farm work. In later years Grandpa liked to turn his small flock of sheep out on the roadside to graze. He liked being out to watch that they didn't stray too far. In autumn of 1906 a sudden storm came up. He was wet and chilled before he could get the sheep into shelter. He contracted pneumonia and died. Whenever my father referred to his grand-father, Daniel Kuehn, a slight smile played over his face as if he recalled pleasant memories.

Aunt Lydia Krause, the youngest of the Kuehn daughters was a year younger than my father. Both were born on October 31st so they had added reason to keep up their contact into old age. They celebrated together many times. In 1949 Aunt Lydia could not come for the birthday dinner. From October third she had been too ill with cancer to leave her bed. The disease was discovered in 1948. It had spread to the liver and bones. Her daughter, Lila, took her mother into her own home to care for her. Lila described how they changed the sheets by pressing down on the mattress and sliding the sheets under her. Any movement of the left leg where the bone had crumbled caused terrible pain. Lila's careful care insured that her mother did not get bed sores although she was immobile for the last months until her death on February 20, 1950. On her last birthday, Aunt Lydia ate only a piece of her birthday cake. Any food caused great pain in her liver, so she took only water, warm or cold from October until her death.

She had been a widow since 1918 when her husband, Ed Krause died. He was sick with influenza when appendicitis struck. On a cold winter day he was taken on a sled to Princeton to catch a train go to the hospital in Fond du Lac. In those days a ruptured appendix was fatal. There were no antibiotics. I remember my parent's sadness at the death of this young man. Lydia was left with three little daughters, Belva, one year old; Lila, age three, and Inez seven. We wonder now how Lydia managed to support and bring up three children. Insurance and social security benefits were not even in anyone's imagination in those days.

Lila (Krause) Schumhl told how Aunt Lydia supported herself and her daughters. When Ed Krause died they were living on a farm near Princeton. They had a big garden and Aunt Lydia canned and dried foods. The next year they moved to Markesan where Aunt Lydia took in washings, worked as a seamstress, and worked in the River View Canning Factory at Mackford on the edge of Markesan. She was paid ten cents an hour. As they grew older, Inez, Lila and Belva all worked with their mother in the building next to the factory where the seasonal laborers were fed and housed. The girls helped with the cooking, waited on tables, and washed dishes. There were one hundred beds to be made, too. There were no moments of leisure. They rose at four o'clock in the morning and worked steadily until nine at night. But often after supper dishes were done they made tubs of sandwiches for the workers who worked past midnight. There were no convenience foods. Bread, pies, and cakes were baked every day.

(from left) Caroline Kuehn with daughters Ida, Henrietta, daughter-in-law, Emma; daughters, Martha and Lydia with her children, Belva, Lila and Inez Krause
(center) daughter Mary, Mary's daughter-in-law Edna; Martha's daughter, Marian, daughter Ella and her child Eleanor

In my early years another of the Kuehn "girls," Aunt Mary lived with her husband, Charles Degener and their two children, Art and May, on their farm next to ours, up the road. It was Aunt Mary who came to help the doctor when my mother had her first baby, Sheldon. Then the next year she came again when I was born. As she reported my size to my mother she said, "We will say she weighs four pounds with the blankets and clothes." My mother depended on Aunt Mary when she needed a sympathetic helper.

In her last years Great Grandma Kuehn lived with Mary after she and Charles retired from the farm and lived in Markesan. Great Grandma died of pneumonia in 1928 when she was ninety years old. Her daughter, Lydia had a lovely piece of material of a grayed color between pink and lavender of which she made a burial dress for her mother. Great Grandma and her husband Daniel are buried in the Weiser Cemetery near Princeton. Her daughters Lydia and her husband Ed Krause and Ella Schraeder and her husband, Ed are also buried there. Granddaughters also have their grave stones already set in the cemetery that lay next to the church building where Great Grandma attended services many years ago. The Kuehn farm house was only three-fourths mile away - a convenient walking distance for the family. Grandma had been of the Lutheran religion when she came from Germany but since this Evangelical church was nearby it is likely the reason she was of that group the rest of her life.

Augusta Kuehn was the second daughter of Daniel and Caroline. I didn't know Aunt Gustie very well. My memory is that she was taller and sturdier appearing than some of her sisters. I saw her once or twice when she visited Wisconsin from her home in Minnesota. Having visitors from Minnesota was a big event. My father's brothers and sisters were eager to have Gustie or any of her family stay in their homes. I remember Gustie's son Jim and his wife Myrtle, staying at our house. When Gustie was a young woman, Gustave Jahnke came from Minnesota for a visit in Wisconsin. Perhaps he had heard that the Kuehns had nine daughters and were hospitable folks. He was a widower. He courted Gustie and persuaded her to marry him and go to Minnesota to live on his farm. When they arrived at his home, Gustie found that Gustave had neglected to tell her that he had a ten-year old son, Albert. Gustie had difficulty accepting Albert and Albert wasn't pleased with a step-mother either. After some months they decided he should go to Wisconsin to live with Gustie's parents. He gave Grandma Kuehn troubles too. Her youngest daughter, Lydia, was almost his age and the children vied with each other. Lydia felt that Albert should share the work just as another member of the family. He may have been testing to see if they would keep him even if he didn't please them. Great Grandma sometimes farmed him out in the homes of her daughters. For a time he was with Mary and her husband, Charles Degener. While there, Albert was sent out to cut corn with a corn knife. When Mary checked on his progress she found him sleeping. She asked, "And who helped you cut all this corn?" In later years Albert described Aunt Mary's kind brown eyes and soft voice when she questioned him. He said, "It made me really ashamed!" He also admitted to Lydia that as a boy he had resented her secure place in the family and precipitated some of their quarrels. Lydia then, could tell him that she had felt he ought to do his share of the work if he lived with them.

Herman and Martha Welk

Beginning in 1920 Sheldon and I went to a one-room school in Green Lake County. Occasionally my parents were away from home for the day. After school on those days Sheldon and I walked up the hill to Great Aunt Martha's house to stay until my folks picked us up in late afternoon. Martha was another of the Kuehn's daughters. She was of medium build and her brown eyes sparkled with warmth as she greeted us. Her kindly personality made me forget that her eyes were different. Perhaps there had been an injury or a disease that caused one eye to protrude more than normal. She was only six years older than my father. She and her husband, Herman Welk, were great friends with my family. I remember dinners with them and their grown children, Florence, Ben, John, Marian and Dan.

The Welk Family: John, Florence, Dan, Marian, Ben.

The relationship continued into the later years after Uncle Herman's death and Aunt Martha's moving to Markesan. In 1947 after Sheldon died in a car crash Aunt Martha lost a grandson, Darwin Welk, in a drowning accident. Aunt Martha came to spend a day with my father and mother. They wept together. As she wiped tears she said, "Oh, that I could have died instead of those boys!" When I married in 1942, she remembered me with a gift of two large bath towels. I treasured them as long as possible - using them sparingly so I would not forget her. We still have a blue ceramic cup which she gave to our first child, Joel.

In my early childhood these great aunts and their families were a part of my life. They lived in the same neighborhood and their children worked together with my parents at threshing, haying, silo filling, quilting bees and other jobs requiring extra hands. Those associations lent a holiday air to what was otherwise plain hard work. One year when the threshing machine was at our house, Art Degener and my father challenged each other to a wrestling match. They were of similar size and build and sturdy from the steady work they had done since childhood. Evidently my father lost the match because he came out of it with a sprained ankle. My mother never tired of telling of her annoyance that Dad would be so reckless as to engage in sport and be needlessly injured in one of the busiest seasons.

Dad's cousins, Kuehns and Schwandts continued their relationships with him into the years of his illness. Many Sunday evenings in the 1940's, a group of them were in our living room. Although my father could barely speak he could smile as the others exchanged their memories of their days together in the years gone by. Even though Uncle August Kuehn liked to introduce the subject of his religious beliefs he could do it in a way acceptable to the others. All of them were church-going people but when August became a follower of the Russelite religion he was eager to tell them about it. The long years of family association made tolerance on both sides possible. My mother looked forward to these evenings. These dear ones were a real comfort. They still cared. The disappointments of life; Ed's long illness and the grief over Sheldon's tragic death could be pushed to the back of her mind for a few hours.

Thistles Cut, Ironing Done          HOME     PREVIOUS   NEXT  

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.