Monday, April 29, 2013

Mystery Monday -- Three Unusual Photos of Grandpa Peterson

These were in the photos that belonged to my grandmother, Edna Peterson Egli. Peter Peterson was my mother's maternal grandfather.

Peter is seen in the second column from the right  Mom did not know why these unusual photos were taken or who any of the other people are. She thought it might be related to his job - perhaps they were his coworkers. He worked at the local grocery store.

One great thing to note about these pictures is that while most of the photos are rather serious, in the very bottom photo of each person, they are (for the most part) smiling.

The following photo is another mystery to me. While this picture is labeled signifying that Peter is in the photo -- standing second from the left --  they give me no clue as to why he is in the photo or what is going on. Theses men appear to be policemen but as far as I know, Peter was never a policeman. 

And I feel certain someone will recognize what organization he belonged to in this third photo. Peter is in the middle row, far right. Peter was born in Denmark but he married a Swede and they attended a Swedish Lutheran church.

Anyone have any ideas about these photos? I'd love to learn more.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

BIRTHDAY BIO: Phyllis Egli Schmidt (1933-2010)

Today, April 17, would be my mother’s 80th birthday.

Phyllis Eileen Egli was born in Manson, Iowa in 1933 in the home of her grandparents, Peter and Annie Peterson. Her grandmother, Annie Peterson, was a midwife. 

 Phyllis was the second child and only girl born to Emery and Edna Egli. She had three brothers: Tom, who was a year older, and Harris and Kenneth who were younger. The Egli’s lived on various farms in the Manson area while Phyllis was growing up. Phyllis attended one room school houses in the county and the family was active in the Manson Mennonite Church. Both the Egli’s and the Peterson’s were large families and there was always plenty of family around. Phyllis grew up knowing many cousins.

Phyllis attended Hesston College in Hesston, Kansas, where she met her future husband, Kenneth Schmidt. But Phyllis had dreams of becoming a nurse. She had several aunts who were nurses and in fact one, Maude Egli Swartzendruber, taught at LaJunta Mennonite School of Nursing. So after Hesston, Phyllis moved to LaJunta, Colorado for nurses training. Ken, her husband-to-be, was working at hospitals in Pueblo, Colorado, to fulfill his service as a conscientious objector.
Phyllis and her brother, Tom

During that time Ken and Phyllis wrote letters. Nursing students were not allowed to be married so they knew they had a wait ahead of them. A wait they complained about in the hundreds of letters written during those years. They wrote to each other nearly every day and I still have those letters.

Finally in May of 1955 Phyllis graduated. And in August 1955 Ken and Phyllis were married in Manson, Iowa. They settled in Greensburg, Kansas, farming for Ken’s parents.  Phyllis also did some nursing but soon she had a family to care for: a son in 1956, a daughter in 1957, another daughter in 1959. And when Ken decided to return to school, the family moved to North Newton, Kansas, and Phyllis worked the night shift to help support the family.

After Ken graduated, the family moved with Ken’s job to Texas for a short while. They lived in Colorado for over ten years and they added a fourth child, another daughter in 1966. Then in 1978, they moved to Indiana. Phyllis continued to work as a nurse. Sometimes she did hospital nursing, but for many years she worked in doctors’ offices.
Ken Schmidt family

 Phyllis was a working mother, but she was always there for her kids, always involved in their lives and their activities. She was a very giving and loving person and gave her time to volunteer work and also to help her friends and neighbors and anyone she saw in need.
Denim comforter she made
for her grandson
 Phyllis loved to sew and spent much of her free time quilting and sewing for her children and later her grandchildren.  She was also very involved in her grandchildren’s lives, attending many activities and doing many things with and for them.

Phyllis with two of her granddaughters
Everywhere Phyllis went she made friends. And she continued to stay in touch with family far and near and with old friends scattered all around the country. Her nursing classmates are still in close contact, writing letters and spending time together. They share that Phyllis was often the life of the party.

After they retired, Ken and Phyllis moved back to Greensburg, Kansas and lived on a farm southwest of town. The devastating tornado of 5 May 2007 came less than three miles east of them before destroying the town of Greensburg.

Phyllis suffered from rheumatoid arthritis. Over the years she chose aggressive treatments and met the crippling effects of the disease head on.  In 2008 Ken and Phyllis moved into a retirement community in Hutchinson, Kansas, where they reconnected with old friends and made new.

In December 2009 Mom was having trouble keeping her balance. On January 4, 2010, she fell and was injured. She was taken to the ICU in Wichita and on January 13, 2010, Mom passed away. We all miss her everyday.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Wedding Wednesday -- Fred B. Schmidt and Matilda Wedel

Fred B. Schmidt and Matilda Wedel are my great grandparents. Obituaries and other family records list their marriage as 1895 but, according to the Barton County, Kansas, courthouse records, they were married 30 December 1896 by the Justice of the Peace in Great Bend, Kansas. 
This picture is their wedding portrait.

Both Fred and Matilda's families were of Russian Mennonite background. Their families left the Ukraine area of Russia during the great Mennonite migration of the late 1870's. Fred was born in 1874 in Karlswalde, Russia to Benjamin Schmidt and Catharina Siebert. His family immigrated to North America in 1875. Matilda was born in Kansas in 1878 to David Wedel and Justina Decker who immigrated in 1874. They both grew up in the Pawnee Rock area of Barton County.

Fred and Matilda lived and farmed in Barton County for the first years of their marriage and then in the spring of 1910, they moved to Kiowa County. They moved their family of seven children in a lumber wagon to their new home. The moved could not be made in a day so they stopped for the night in Lewis, Kansas and stayed in a hotel. This was a new experience for them all  --  to sleep in a hotel and eat in a restaurant.

The cattle and furniture were moved by rail to Greensburg. They all lived in the granary while a house was being built and moved into the new house just before harvest. After they moved to Kiowa County, they had two more daughters.

They were a typical farm family for the era. They raised wheat, corn, barley, oats, potatoes, hogs, chickens, ducks, geese and cattle. They planted big gardens and had their own milk, cream, butter and eggs. They also butchered their own hogs. Butchering days were always exciting. Neighbors would help each other butcher and it was a big day for everyone.

The Fred B. Schmidt Farm in Kiowa County.

Fred and Matilda lived the remainder of their lives in the Greensburg, Kiowa County area of Kansas. In the 1930's, Fred encouraged his family to start a Benjamin and Catharina Schmidt reunion. It is still an annual event in Greensburg.

Matilda died in 1944 and Fred in 1955. They are both buried in Dundee Valley Cemetery, Dundee, Kansas.


SOURCES: Philadelphia Passenger Lists, 1800-1945 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA:, Inc., 2006. Original data: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1800-1882. Micropublication M425. RG036. Rolls # 1-108. National Archives, Washington, D.C. 

Dundee Valley Cemetery (Barton County, Kansas; section 16, township 20S, range 14W). Grave markers.

Hiebert, Clarence, compiler. Brothers in Deed to Brothers in Need. Newton, Kansas: Faith and Life Press, 1974.

Kansas. Barton County. "Marriage Records." Records Dept., Barton County Courthouse, Great Bend, Kansas.

Schmidt, Pearl and Grace Unruh. "Family of Fred B. Schmidt." Personal memories. Copy in possession of author.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

BIRTHDAY BIO - Emma Grimm Egli - Emma's Life

Emma and CB Egli
Yesterday’s "Matrilineal Monday" tells you about my research into Emma Grimm and in the process, some of Emma’s life. But there is more to her story and since today would be her birthday, what better day to tell it. Her daughter, Maude, wrote more about her:

[Emma] was born on April 2, 1877. . . . near Tremont, Illinois, in a small cabin surrounded by dense timber or woods.  She was born prematurely. I recall her describing herself, as told by her relatives. Her head was small enough to fit inside a teacup and her hand was small enough to fit through her mother’s wedding ring. Her little body was wrapped with cotton and placed inside a shoe box. Her incubator was the kitchen range oven. . . . .

When mom was 12 or 13 years old the stepmother sent her out to the woods to see why her father was not coming home. As mom told the story, she remembers her father had come into the house that day and ate a bowl of bread and milk before going out to the timber to chop down some trees to supply the cows with leaves to eat. It was getting dark so she was too frightened to go to the woods alone. She was fearful of what she might find. So she ran to the neighbor and asked him to go along. He lit the lantern and together they walked to the timber where he was working. They found her father lying under a large branch of the tree. They figured he had already been dead several hours.

After her father’s funeral, mother’s stepmother told her she would have to make her own way now as she could not afford to keep her, plus her four little children." 

From what her children recall her telling them, she lived with various families in the community, helping them as a domestic servant.  She may also have lived with her half-sister, Anna and Anna’s husband, John Egli. It was through that family that she met Christian (CB) Egli. She married CB on the 19th of December, 1895, although she told her daughters that if she’d had a place to call home, she would not have gotten married so young. She was 18.

CB and Emma settled in Tazewell County, Illinois and started a family.  Their first four children were boys: Amon, Joe, Lou and Emery (my grandfather). Then they had a daughter, Maude, followed by three more boys: John, Sam, and Lawrence (known as Ted). Then they decided to move to Iowa. Emma was very pregnant when they moved to Iowa by train, the first of March. Her second daughter, Elsie, was born on the 30th of March.

The family settled in a place called Blanden. It was near Manson, Calhoun County, Iowa. There, CB and Emma had five more children – the above mentioned Elsie, then Jesse, Ida, Rosetta, and Stan. Thirteen children in all.
CB Egli Family
They lived on a 640 acre farm in Iowa. The life of CB and Emma is detailed in a book entitled, “Family Memoirs” written by Maude with input from her siblings. The book gives wonderful descriptions of the places they lived, the chores they did, the animals they owned  --  all the day to day details of family life for a large family living on large farm in the early 1900s.

Emma, I’m sure, felt blessed to have such a large and loving family after her difficult years as a young child. But her adult life was not without sorrow. She saw two of her children die. Young Rosetta died at only a few months from pneumonia and her son, John, died at 15 of a ruptured appendix.
CB, Emma and their grandchildren
Then a few years later, she too suffered a ruptured appendix, and, although they did surgery, she had a blood clot and died. She was 57.

Swartzendruber, Maude Egli.  Family Memoirs of Christian Benjamin and Emma Grimm Egli June 1983. Hesston, Kansas; privately printed, 1983.

Monday, April 1, 2013

MATRILINEAL MONDAY -- EMMA GRIMM EGLI -- researching an orphan

Emma Grimm was a mystery to me for some time and it seems, even to her own family when they stopped to think about it. Her daughter, Maude, wrote in the family memoirs written many years after Emma’s death:

“It seems impossible that we never questioned mom about such things. But it seems there was no reason for questioning. Perhaps it was because there were always a lot of people around and my mother certainly had her hands full taking care of her large family – so when was there time for reminiscing?”

What Maude wrote about her mother and what Maude shared with me in conversation was all I had to go on in learning more about Emma. Maude shared what she thought was correct from memories of her mother telling about her young life.

“Emma Grimm Egli was born on April 2, 1877, to Samuel and Katie BĂ«rger Grimm near Tremont, Illinois, in a small cabin surrounded by dense timber or woods. . . . .She was about three months old when her mother died. . . .

We know nothing of who cared for the baby after the mother’s death. Later her father married again and had four more children; two boys and two girls.

When mom was 12 or 13 years old the stepmother sent her out to the woods to see why her father was not coming home. . . . They found her father lying under a large branch of the tree. They figured he had already been dead several hours. . . .

After her father’s funeral, mother’s stepmother told her she would have to make her own way now as she could not afford to keep her, plus her four little children.

So at the young age of 12 or 13 years mom had to assume the responsibility of looking after herself. From our second cousin, we learned that our mother spent considerable time in her mother’s home, since Aunt Annie was a sister to mom’s mother. This would have been the home of her grandparents. But we never knew if her grandparents were still living or what their full names were. Mom and Aunt Annie were near the same age.”

This isn't much to go on especially considering that the Aunt Annie referred to here was not a Berger; her maiden name was Riggenbach.

I started this research before the days of online records, so I began by writing to Tazewell County. They do not have birth records from 1877.  There was no record for a Samuel Grimm and Katie Berger in Tazewell County. Maude had an old marriage certificate for Emma and Christian so I knew the date of their marriage and requested their marriage record from the county. I was shocked to find that Emma had listed her parents as Chris Grimm and Barbara Berger!  How did Maude get them so wrong? And by now Maude was gone and I couldn't even share this information with her, but I recalled Maude telling me that her middle names were after her grandmothers. Her name was Maude Barbara Katie. And her paternal grandmother had been a Barbara. And according to this, her maternal grandmother was as well. So who was Katie? And who was Sam?

I searched further and found Chris and Barbara’s marriage record but I didn’t find anything with names Samuel and Katie.  I was searching census microfilm at the library by this time and began to search Tazewell County, Illinois. But I knew the chance of finding the right Grimm’s would be difficult. If Emma was a first child and was born in 1877, they would not appear in 1870. And in 1880 I didn’t know who I was looking for. I didn't know who his second wife was. I found a few Chris Grimm’s but they had all been married to their current wife in 1877.

I decided to look into the Anna Riggenbach story. Anna Riggenbach had married another of the Egli boys – John Egli, who was Christian’s uncle.  I looked up their marriage record and found her parents listed as Jacob Riggenbach and Catherine Bier. I went to the 1880 census and found a Katherine Riggenbach as head of household. In her household were a large number of Berger children (listed as her children) and three Riggenbach children (also her children) as well as one 3 year old granddaughter – “Ami Grimmer.”  If this was Emma, then Katherine Riggenbach could well be my "Katie."

I moved on back to the 1870 census and once again found a Catherine Riggenbach, head of household and the first child listed is Barbara Berger.

I then went back to the 1880 census and looked for Chris Grimm – I found him listed as Chris Grimmer with a new wife, Mary. Now it was back to the marriage records. There they were – Chris Grimm and Mary Flickinger – his second marriage her first.

I also posted a query on the Rootsweb surname site for Grimm. I relayed the story of Chris Grimm’s death hoping someone from the family of the second wife would recognize it. And eureka! They did.  One of Mary Flickinger’s grandchildren responded. She knew the story of her grandfather's death [dying when a tree fell on him] and they had heard rumors of his previous marriage and another child but had no definitive information about Emma. At any rate, they were able to confirm his second wife, their four children, his death and their location in Illinois. And one of the other four children had been named “Sam.”

So, in spite of totally incorrect information in the family record, I had found Emma’s family. 

Emma's connection to me:


Swartzendruber, Maude Egli, author and compiler. Family Memoirs of Christian Benjamin and Emma Grimm Egli: during the first 35 years 1895-1930. Hesston, Kansas: n.p., 1983.

Egli - Grimm Certificate of Marriage. Hopedale, Illinois. Issued by Omish Church (sic),  Copy held in 2006 by Ida Egli, Kalona, Iowa.

USA. Illinois. Tazewell County. 1870 US Federal Census. Population Schedule. Digital images: NARA microfilm. Heritage Quest.

USA. Illinois. Tazewell County. 1880 US Federal Census. Population Schedule. Digital images: NARA microfilm. Heritage Quest.