Sunday, July 26, 2009

From Whence I Came...Bertha Kramp

Bertha Kramp was my mother's maternal grandmother though she had died long before my mother was born. When my mother was growing up, nothing was ever discussed about her grandmother and she has no memories of her. I have always wondered why my grandmother never mentioned her own mother to me either as I am sure there would have been many stories that I could have heard.

Bertha Kramp was born July 26, 1860 and was the second of ten children of Albert Kramp and Emilie Rutt. At the time of her birth, the family lived in Borntuchen, Kreis Bütow, Pommern where the first three children of this couple were born. Between 1862 and 1866, Albert and Emilie Kramp moved their family to the nearby village of Klein Tuchen, Kreis Bütow, Pommern where their remaining seven children were born. I visited these areas in 1993 though my photography skills were not the best.

Nothing is known of Bertha's early years but on October 4, 1878 in Groß Tuchen, Bütow, Pommern, she married August Kolberg. Interestingly, Bertha's sister, Pauline Kramp, married on the same date in the same church to Heinrich Gersonde.

At least three children were born to August and Bertha Kolberg while still living in Klein Tuchen. These were (1) Paul Lui Robert, born June 8, 1879 and who died on October 20, 1879, (2) Hedwig Johanne Auguste, born June 2, 1880 and (3) Bertha Hermine Franziska, born January 14, 1883 and who also died as an infant though the date of death has never been discovered.

In the spring of 1883, the little family of August, Bertha and young Hedwig (age 3) began their long journey to America. August's brother, Heinrich, had already made the journey and had settled in Lincoln Township, Berrien County, Michigan.

Passenger list information from the port of Castle Garden in New York state the following: August, Bertha and Hedwig COLBERG arrived in New York, on the ship, Lessing, on November 28, 1883. They traveled from the port of Hamburg in Germany, on to the port of Havre in France and then on to the US. Their name was spelled Colberg on the ship passenger list. Bertha's sister, Emilie Kramp, and Emilie's future husband, Friedrich Skibbe, also traveled with them on the same ship. Arriving in New York, they took the train to Michigan and were met in St. Joseph by brother Heinrich.

Bertha brought with her to the US her German hymnal which I am fortunate to have received from my grandmother and which I still have and treasure.

Once in the US, another six children were born to August and Bertha. These were (1) Frederick Gustav Emil, born November 6, 1886 and who died July 13, 1887, (2) Amelia Alvina Henreitta, born December 6, 1887, (3) Kurt Paul Hugo, born July 23, 1890, (4) Robert Ernest Paul, born September 19, 1892, (5) Hugo Otto Heinrich, born May 29, 1894 and (6) Ella Emma Louise, born August 8, 1895. According to the US census records, Bertha had given birth to 11 children and it is believed the remaining two unknown children were perhaps born in Pommern as well given the three year gap between daughter Hedwig's birth in 1880 and daughter, Bertha's birth in 1883. No additional birth or death records for children of this couple were ever located in Berrien County, Michigan.

When I began my genealogical research, my grandmother was already deceased and I had to rely on the memories of many of her cousins for information (and one lowly photo) of my great-grandmother, Bertha, which based on the ages of the two daughters in the photo, must have been taken around 1889.

When I interviewed several of my grandmother's cousins I was told that August and Bertha Kolberg did not have much prosperity in their lives. Times were very hard and August had a desire for excessive drinking. I was informed that Bertha and daughter, Ella (my grandmother), would come to the farm of another Kolberg relative to pick berries which they would then sell on a stand in front of their own property for a little money to keep the family going. I was also told that on many a morning August would ride his horse through the countryside in Lincoln Township on his way to town to drink. At night, he would ride back with the horse knowing the way without guidance. A very religious woman, this must have been a trying lifestyle for Bertha.

When talking to these cousins of my grandmother, on separate occasions, it was interesting that each one of the four cousins I spoke to all remembered these same incidences.

I was told, also, that Bertha was especially closest to her youngest, my grandmother Ella, and missed her deeply when Ella married in June, 1914. On August 8, 1914, which was Ella's first birthday as a married woman, her mother, Bertha, wrote her a poignant birthday poem and finished with a short letter imploring daughter Ella not to forget her. This poem, written in the old German script, together with an English translation follows and, again, I am blessed to have been given this letter by my grandmother many years ago.

It was right after writing this poem and letter that Bertha became ill and six months later, on February 26, 1915, Bertha passed away in the Kalamazoo State Hospital, Kalamazoo, MI. According to her death certificate, at the time of her death, Bertha had been suffering from mental depression and exhaustion which had lasted for approximately 6 months. It was approximately February 19, 1915 when Bertha became too ill to remain at home and son, Kurt Kolberg, took her to Kalamazoo to the State Hospital, where she died one week later of nephritis (inflammation of the kidney) aggravated by the mental depression and exhaustion. Perhaps the hard life that she was forced into in this country and the loss of five children, along with having to work extremely hard to raise her family, became too much for her. It obviously made an impression on my grandmother, Ella, as after she was a married woman and raising her own family, my grandmother never touched alcohol and would not allow it in her own home.

August and Bertha Kolberg are buried in City Cemetery, St. Joseph, Michigan very close to my home.

I often wonder of just how difficult her life was in this country and the fact that she died so young with her own mother outliving her by a good 10 years. It is a sad commentary on the life of my great-grandmother but I like to think that somewhere during her 54 years of life that she had some happy times - perhaps with her children and the few grandchildren that she was able to know.

I think she would be pleased to see how large her family had grown to by the year 2000:

Above photos - personal collection of Cheryl Schulte


Apple said...

The stories your cousins shared really help to flesh out her life. It's sad that it sounds like it was hard. The letter and poem are wonderful.

Al Wierzba said...

Excellent article about your family. I am so sorry that your great-grandma lived such a hard life...


Cheryl said...

Thanks, Apple and Al for your comments. It is amazing what we can gather on little known ancestors by networking with others.

Anonymous said...

my name is Shari and i am 17 years old and i come from germany, so i am sorry for my english ;-)
this article is amazing! a few weeks ago i started to find out something about my familiy, about my grand-grandma and so on. well, her name was Bertha Kramp, too. Her husband named August and they lived in the todays poland, so pommern. when i read this article i thought: oh my gosh, this cannot be true, could it? are YOU part of my family?
i am a litte bit shocked right now ;-) but something doesnt fit in this wohle thing: the daughter of my grand-grandma Bertha Kramp, named Waltraud Kramp... do you might forgot a child? i dont know.. but if you leave this thing out, everything fits! its unbelivable.

maybe you could sent me a mail with your answer? i would be very very pleased!