Friday, May 21, 2010

Steinbach Family

The Steinbach family from Germany to Iowa and my interview with John Steinbach.
by Darlene Steinbach Arnold

    Herman Hubert & Elizabeth (Heck) Steinbach were born, raised and married in the same parish  Prussia, Rhineland, Koenigswinter in Honnef, Germany.  They had twelve children, three of whom died in infancy and two daughters named Elizabeth (the first born & the last born) who died before reaching one year of age.  The rest of the children grew up in Honnef, Germany.  There they were apprenticed to be butchers, tailors, farmers, carpenters, wine makers, etc. The family was very well educated and hard workers.  When the older boys,  Bertram (my grandfather) & Herman reached the age of being taken into the Kaiser’s Army, the father and the two boys left in the middle of the night and headed for America in 1884.  They landed in New York and they got on a train heading west.  When they got into Chicago, they saw an ad for railroad workers needed at Melrose.  So they worked a very short time for the CB&Q and they soon decided that wasn’t for them so they returned to Chariton.  In Chariton they found people from Germany so they didn’t feel so lost in a new country.  And here they settled, working at different jobs till they had enough money to send for the rest of the family in 1885.  Those traveling in 1885 to America were the mother, Elizabeth, daughter Margaret and sons, Francis “Frank” (John’s dad), Jakob “Jake” and Wilheim “Bill”.  The oldest daughter, Gertrude was married to Mathias Ruth in 1883 and they stayed in Honnef, moving into the home vacated by the Steinbach family.  After Mathias Ruth passed away, Gertrude and family came to Chariton, Iowa and later settled in Riverside, Iowa. 
    In 1991 I asked John Steinbach if he would tell me his memories of what his father, Frank told him about coming to America and about his life here.  John is the son of Frank, who came to America in 1885. John also remembers his grandparents as John’s parents lived just down the hill from the old home place.  The grandfather knew some English but the grandmother preferred her German language.  It seemed as though Frank was the only one of his brothers to talk much about their trip and what life was like in the early days.

The following is the story John’s dad, Frank, told him:

   There is one story I want to relate to you.  Dad never talked about Germany.  After they left that country, they left it.  Even if someone, even the Ruth’s when they came to this country and they would come to visit and they would talk to them in German and he wouldn’t talk back to them in German.  He said when I left that country, I left it.  He didn’t want any part of that country again.  Anyone who talked to him in German he never answered in German, he always answered in English.  If they couldn’t understand him, that was their problem.  He never made any effort what so ever to teach us any German and this I think was a bad mistake, if he had talked to us in German when we were little, we would have picked it right up and learned a foreign language.  The only time he would ever say anything in German was if you did something stupid he would call you some name in German and you didn’t know what it was but you could about guess.  This was his method.  Even to Uncle Herman and Uncle Bill, they never conversed in German.
    The reason that they came to this country the old man said, “No son of mine will ever serve in the Kaiser’s Army”.  My dad told of two brothers that were in the army, they were not allowed to marry and they were in the Kaiser’s army and they had come home to visit and my dad said these two brothers were big tall men, 6 ft something and they were the private body guards of the Kaiser.   I don’t know how long they had to stay in the service.  That is the reason the old man said that no son of mine will ever serve in the army.  When Uncle Bert and Uncle Herman got close to the age and where they were to go into the service they left at night and bought their way out.  The officials would come to the house and ask the old woman where they were at and she would tell them they went to visit to America and they would be back but they never had any intentions to come back.  They slipped out at night.
    He never talked about Germany.  The story that impressed me most was – picture this.  Uncle Bert, Uncle Herman and granddad came over in 1884 and the rest of the tribe came in 1885.  They came into the Burlington Depot on the train out of New York.  They were herded just like cattle.  They had a tag on them saying where they were coming to, just like a box of rock you were going to ship.  They were pushed and shoved and that was the way they came, they had a name tag that said Chariton and that was where they were going.  The railroad people seen to it they got there.
    They arrived in Chariton about noon and Grandpa, Uncle Herman and Uncle Bert was there to meet them at the train.  They had a one horse buggy or wagon or kind of a carriage.  It just had a seat for two people to sit on and the back had a box like a pick up, there was room for their belongings.  They had sacks of stuff, suitcases, trunks and stuff like that.  They had it loaded and then there was not enough room except for the Grandpa and Grandma to sit on the seats after they got the stuff in this carriage.  They started out of town for home on a rented 40 acres.  This house was about a mile off what is now the Newbern road and about 6 miles off Highway 14 in English Township.  From the train station they got in the carriage and started East down to 7th street and then north out of town on what is now Highway 14.  The Grandma and Grandpa was talking and they got out to the edge of town where the dentist office is now and Grandma asked Grandpa, “Are we about there?” and he said, “No, we are just getting started”.  Then you can picture these two old people, six kids walking, a one horse carriage loaded with their only possessions and so they got about two miles out and she questioned him again and he told her they had quite a ways yet.  They went a little further and she kept asking him how much farther.  You can imagine after they got out of the three mile lane and onto what is now the Newbern road which was just a brushy path and just a trail.  It was 4 o’clock in the afternoon when they got to where the road was just a path and it was still a ways from their house.  There were no bridges or anything.  Dad said it was about 5 o’clock by the time they got there and grandma was in tears.  The grandpa was trying to consol her.
    You can picture this in your mind.  These people lived in Germany in town with people all around, and family and friends there and the streets were brick and to come to a strange land and the house was way out in the brush.   The change that was taking place there, Grandma was crying and Grandpa was trying to consol her.  She kept saying that she was so far, far away.  He said you are so far, far away from what and that she had her family with her and she had plenty to eat and a place to stay and what more could she want.  She was thinking that she was missing all the neighbor ladies and friends. The story about the grandmother crying, the time they went through and to leave everything and come to a strange land had to have been traumatic.  It took them 6 weeks from the time they left Germany to the time they arrived in Chariton.  I’ve often heard them say at that time foreigners were kind of frowned on. 
    They came in August and the first person they got acquainted with was John White, due to the fact he was thrashing right across from where they lived.  He had a threshing machine that was pulled with horses.  Of course the three young fellows were curious, dad was eighteen, and they went right over there looking to see what was going on and this old John White was a very well respected fellow in the community and treated them kindly.  I heard Kenneth White, John’s grandson, say that after the Ruth’s came, the son, Hubert, worked for old John White.
    The first winter they lived on this farm the three younger boys didn’t have a job.  The older boys, Uncle Bert and Uncle Herman had jobs.  So that winter the three got acquainted with Gus and Robert Haag who had been here a couple of years and were mining coal back to the South of where they lived.  This coal was in a hole they had dug out of a hill which they had to crawl back into it.  They made a deal with them and it was the first work that Uncle Jake, Uncle Bill and my dad had.  They had this one horse and Gus and Robert Haag had a team, so they made a deal that they would put the three horses together so they could pull a bigger load of coal and Gus showed them how to mine coal.  So the five of them mined coal together, the three Germans and the two Swedes who didn’t  even talk the same language.  But they got their messages across that this was what they wanted to do and that was alright.  So my Dad, Uncle Jake and Gus Haag did the mining and Uncle Bill was about 12 years old, a little fellow, and he pushed the coal out and the three fellows did the mining.  Robert was the merchandiser, he took a load of coal to town every day.  The three of them and Uncle Bill could mine a load of coal every day and Robert Haag knew quite a lot of Swede’s in Chariton and he had connections with the Swede’s and the Johnson’s that ran the lumber yard.  He took orders for coal and everyone had a coal shed out back so he would go and haul a load of coal to town everyday and unload it and sell it by the bushel.  He would unload five bushels of coal in someone’s coal shed and go to the next and fill the orders.  I heard my Dad say that many a time he would go when it was below zero with these three horses and the wagon load of coal to town.  He would walk all the way to town so the horses didn’t have the extra weight of himself and then he would unload the coal and get his money and at the end of the week he would bring back the groceries, anything they needed like coffee, sugar and flour, anything that was necessary Robert would get that and bring it back.  On Saturday they would empty the money out and divide it.  That was the first business they had.  My dad was always good friends with the Haag's whom Dad had a lot of respect for.
    The Steinbach’s acquired quite a lot of land.    The Ruth’s came here after the old folks were settled on their own farm and the old folks took them under their wings and looked after them. In Germany they had some small patches of ground or vineyard ground on a hill side or a mountain side and they had some land where they grew sugar beets and potatoes.  They lived next to the Rhine River and it was probably bottom land or level land where they grew some crops.  The old grandpa was a winemaker, and so on this new farm he made a vineyard on a hill north of the house.  He always called that the vineyard hill and he was happy working at that.  As far as Grandfather doing any farm work, my dad never said if he ever helped or not.  I do know he had a vineyard on that hill and made a lot of wine.
    Dad made the remark that in their business deals they did a lot of business as the Steinbach brother, there was Uncle Bill, Dad and Uncle Bert and Uncle Herman and they ran the meat markets and the farms together and my dad did most of the buying of the cattle and the livestock.  They went over the county back in those days on horseback or team and buggy.  They were very good at mathematics and their education was a lot better than most of the people in the county they did business with.  I’ve heard my dad say he would buy cattle or hogs or something and the man never had any idea of the value of them.  I remember him telling that when they first started out the people didn’t trust them but when they bought the livestock they paid in silver & gold.  They always carried money with them and if they bought a cow and it cost $10 or $5 or what ever the sellers were paid immediately.  Then check writing came and there were lots of people that didn’t even know what a check was and how it worked.  They didn’t know what was going on and they wanted cash money.  I remember my dad relating that he bought some livestock from some guy and he told the guy to take this check to the bank and they would give him the money.  He had a hard time convincing the fellow this was right and the fellow took the check and took it to the bank and the bank doled him out the money and the fellow said, "Where did you get that book?".  He didn’t understand that you had to have money in the bank to get money from the bank.  He thought you could just get a book and have all the money to spend he wanted. 
    They were very well respected in the business community.  I can remember when I was a little fellow and after dad left the meat market in Knoxville and we would go back over there and he knew every business man on the square.  The bank respected him also.  When he went over to Knoxville and went to buy a meat market that had failed, he went to the bank to do some business and the bank told him that was no place for him and he couldn’t make it go and Dad laughed at him and said you don’t know me and you don’t know the meat business and there is no doubt in my mind that I will be a success here.  He said that the competitors there were nothing and when he left there 9 or 10 years later he was the only meat market left.  He had crowded all of his competitors out.
    My dad married Anna Loretta Farrell on November 4, 1911.  My sister, Margaret was born in 1912 and I was born in 1914.  My mother died when I was 14.  When dad left Knoxville and sold the meat market, they came out here to our farm and we lived here one summer or one year but my mother wasn’t a farm women. We moved out here for part of a year and she didn’t like it out here at all.  She had always lived in town.  She liked nice clothes, nice furniture and a nice house.
    During this time when we lived on the farm,  I was young  and I can remember going up the hill to the grandparent’s place and the old grandma was bedfast and I can still see her lying in the bed. One time the old grandma saw me get into some stuff and she was trying to tell mom something.  This is what my mother told me anyway.  It seems I had gotten into some of the stuff and I had their writing pen.  She told my mother I had the “feder” and of course mom couldn’t talk German at all.  Mom finally figured out that I was into something and she took it away from me.  The “feder” she referred to was what she called her writing pen.  I was 5 when grandma died and 6 when grandpa died.
    The only other thing I can remember about the grandparents is the old grandfather would get mad at Uncle Bill and he would run off to Chariton.  I remember one time in the summer time Uncle Bill came down to dad to tell him that Grandpa ran off and he was barefooted because Bill had taken his shoes away from him to keep him home.  We got in the old Model T Ford and went off South and found him.  He had gone down to the creek bottom and up the road.  We then took him into Chariton and he would stay at Uncle Herman’s for a few days till he would get over being mad and then someone would bring him back out to the farm.
    The old grandfather  I remember better than the grandmother.  He had a long beard.  Dad grew some soup beans one year and when he pulled the vines up, he put them on the hayrack and unloaded them in our yard and threw them into a pile.  This old grandfather came down here to hull these soup beans and I & Margaret was running and jumping on his pile of beans and it made the old grandpa mad.  He came in and got a hold of mom and got her to understand that us kids were running and jumping on this pile of beans and she got after us and made us stay in the house while he was there hulling the beans.  I can still see the old man out sitting on a chair hulling those beans.
    When the partnership split up, the deal was that Bill got the home place and he was to take care of the old folks.  Part of this land here and 80 acres and the land up there belonged to the Steinbach Brothers and my dad took this 160 acres and he lived here and built the square part of this house. He lived here by himself and farmed for a couple of years but he wanted to be in the meat business.  He worked with Uncle Herman, Dad did the livestock buying and a lot of the slaughterhouse work.  He used his farm as kind of a cattle feed yard and they fed cattle.  He would come out here in the evening after they worked in the meat market and he would butcher a cow or pig or something and haul it back to town the next morning.  Then he eventually went to Knoxville and bought a meat market.

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