Friday, October 1, 2010

An Early History Lesson

Below is a copy of a letter that was written to me in 1987 by my great uncle Martin Blum in reply to questions I had on the family.  It gives a little insight to the life and times.  Hope you find it interesting.

March 8 1987

Dear Susan,

It is good to hear from you.  For you I will accept the challenge of giving excerpts from the family history.  This has to be from memory as I have none of the past records with me.

We begin in Germany.  West Germany as it is now is bigger than Nebraska and not as large as Colorado.  Even as the USA is made of states, so too West Germany is made of provinces.  One of those provinces is Baden now combined with Wurttemberg (Baden Wurttemberg).

This background is necessary.  The Blum family history begins with the Baden Rebellion of 1848. Baden was ruled autocratically by an individual.  Wurttemberg was ruled by a king.  People had nothing to say about political appointees.  Taxes were levied partially. There was unrest all over central Europe and real hardship in Baden.  Organizers thinking in terms of revolution and government reforms gained many followers.  One of those rebel leaders escaped to the USA and became very active in American politics.  He supported Lincoln in his campaign for the presidency.  He was a general in the Civil War for the North.  He became a US Senator and member of the cabinet for Hayes.  His name was Carl Schurz.

Mother was not as enslaved with farm and family work when I came along.  I was born when she was 45.  She knew my interest in history. She told me of the Baden Rebellion.  She and her mother followed closely any and all news about Carl Schurz.  He died the year I was born.

Mother told me that her father escaped to America maybe South America. All of the succeeding years, I researched for more information about my grandfather.  I scanned Schurz's autobiography--three volumes of it for a trace of my grandfather.  I almost hoped that I could learn of grandpa serving in the Civil War here.  After all he was a lieutenant in the Prussian Army.

In 1983, I visited Germany resolved to continue my research.  I visited kin of my mother.  They too told me grandpa escaped to America.  I asked a first cousin on my father's side.  He could fill me in with much family history.  About my grandfather, he knew nothing. My grandfather had escaped the battle ground and returned to the native village of Kondringen.  Mum was the word in the village.  He could carry on the business of inn keeper. His father was innkeeper before him and stayed on as butcher.  They were relatively well to do and prosperous.  That inn still stands.  It was buildt in 1550--Rebstock was its name.  Within a stone's throw was the Blum home.  It was buildt in 1814 by Andrew Blum who was born before 1800. A.B-1814 is carved above the door.  His grave stone is in the wall around the cemetery.  We could not deciper the year of his death.  The house is occupied by my first cousin Fritz Blum, his son Alfred and Alfred's wife Emmi.

The Blum Family history in America begins in Council Bluffs, Iowa.  We learn that in 1881 my mother came to join her sister Caroline (Aunt Carrie) and brother-in-law William Blum.  They had four children.  Living with them was my father Andrew Blum.  Coincidentally foreigners coming to America needed sponsors.  Andrew was here first working as a maltster in a brewery.  He purchased the home to help provide for them and William gained work in the brewery as a laborer.

Successively following was Uncle Martin Blum who became a successful brew master for Storz. Later Martin had his own brewery. In close succession, Aunt Minnie my mother's sister and my grandmother came over and my father's brother Gustav also came.  In the meantime, my parents homesteaded in South Dakota in 1882. Among records we have is a baptismal certificate of my sister Eliza who died at the age of four.  William Blum and Minnie Huber were sponsors at the baptism.  William had a most artistically penned signature.  My father spent many winters in Omaha usually as a maltster to come up with hard money to provide some of the necessities.  Those were rugged pioneer days in South Dakota.  Two children, Ida and Ernest, had a milk route to pick up cans of milk.  They couldn't lift the cans, hence provision was made at their stops to provide standards above the ground wagon height so they could tilt the cans enough to rock them back and forth to the wagon.

In 1900, dad saw an 80 acre farm near South Bend Nebraska. The plentiful water, the fruit trees, the grape vineyard, even the hills were too much for him.  Nostalgia and sentiment carried him back to his native Baden home.  He had always claimed South Dakota was too like a soap bubble.  You could have a bumper crop in the fields to be "burst' by hail, drought and grasshopper.  He parted with his sheep, two 160 acre tracts in South Dakota, and brought his family to Nebraska.

I've mention earlier my visit to Germany in 1983. While there, I visited the parsonage next to the Rebstock.  There all records were complete.  The parson had adequate forewarning. I had made clear I wanted to know what happened to my grandfather, having met the preacher early in my visit there.  He was fully prepared.  My grandfather was buried July 8, 1866!!
"Impossible", I exploded.
Many thoughts raced through my mind as the preacher reread from the church records.  "Carl Mossinger--Rebstock innkeeper was buried July 8, 1866."

Between 1866 and 1881 were very trying years for the Mossinger (pronounced MAYSINGER) family.  That included my grandmother, great grand father, perhaps my uncle Adolf who was 18 years of age in 1866 and successively younger children, Aunt Minnie, Aunt Caroline, Uncle Gustav, Uncle Emil and my mother who was six years old.  The family was literally hostage.  The Rebstock was commandeered for the purpose of spreading the net for the capture of Grandfather Carl.  At Carl's disappearance, my grandmother most fervently hoped and prayed for his successful escape.  It would have been simple to escape into Switzerland as many other had escaped before, including Carl Schurz of whom I have written earlier.  It was even possible to escape into France which required crossing the Rhine River.  In 1866, Prussia was at war with Austria.  Carl, my grandfather, could have reached Austria through Wurttemberg whose provincial king sided with Austria.

The family hated and mistrusted the military people who occupied the whole second floor.  They made the second larger room upstairs a court room.  It is reasonable to expect that the family may not have believed reports that Carl was slain. Profits fell from the first floor of the inn and also from the slaughter house and meat market.  This property was adjacent to the inn and operated by my great grandfather.  Taxes were immediately raised.  The grad duke was out to confiscate the property obviously.  In 1867, foreclosure was begun. Naturally, a court house records make the foreclosure appear like an ordinary foreclosure.  Those records unmistakably reveal the occupation of the inn entrance and second floor by the military.

In 1870, Prussia was at war with France.  The proximity of the Rhine, the border between the two countries, caused all people on both sides constant fear and concern.

In 1881, a buyer was found for all the property including that of our great grandfather.  Mother at age 21 emigrated from Germany.

The first chapter in our family history may be concluded at this point.  One thing is missing.  How did dad, my father get to America?  He never dwelt on the past.  His was a three word slogan, "Always straight ahead."  Hence, he never dwelt on the past.  I've looked at records kept by the Mormon Church for clues here.  They have many genealogy records here in Omaha, but the big church in Salt lake in Utah is famed for it's records.  I can offer only a guess that Dad boarded a steamer in Europe and stoked coal in those fires that generated the steam for motors to propel the ship.  We must recall that dad had a strong well-muscled back.  Polk's city directories list him as a maltster for breweries in Council Bluffs and Omaha.  His only explanation for the term maltster was explained by him as one who observed one of the brewing processes.  It meant even at 2 or 3 in the morning on occasion to move, by scoop, brew to prevent it from getting too hot.  I have visualized mounds of barley mixed with hops and moisture to start the fermentation process.

He had worked in Cincinnati breweries and New York as he migrated westward.  That he was physically able to fire steamer engines, I am certain.  In the summer of 1935, at the age of 84, he still hoed his vineyard.  He used a nigger hoe which was heavier and larger than our common hoe.  That hoe derived its name because purportedly slaves were forced to use them in cotton and tobacco fields.

The day William, my brother, and I were in the parsonage, I mentioned that according to legend Carl Schurz had frequently visited the Rebstock.  The Pastor instantly recognized that he had a newsworthy story.  Carl Schurz is now propagandized as an heroic "freedom fighter."  I was told military establishments are now named after him. As a result, William and I were photographed on steps to the parsonage. A newspaper article was written in the Freiburg newspaper with our pictures.

With love,
Your great Uncle Martin

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