Saturday, August 8, 2009

From Whence I Came...Ella Emma Louise Kolberg

My maternal grandmother, Ella Emma Louise Kolberg, was born August 8, 1895 in Stevensville, MI to August Kolberg and Bertha Kramp. I believe that she was probably named in part for her Aunt Ella Kramp and her Uncle Louis Kramp with her uncle being one of her godparents at the time of her baptism. Ella was the last of the children of August and Bertha Kramp and had 5 older siblings still living. There was such a disparity in age between herself and her eldest sister that in later years they were mistaken for mother and daughter rather than sisters which did not please her sister at all.

The August Kolberg family had a small farm in Stevensville during the early years of my grandmother's life. She was baptized at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Stevensville and attended school there as well. When she was confirmed, it was also at St. Paul's Lutheran Church.

Ella Kolberg-confirmation

Family life was not easy in my grandmother's household. The farming her parents did was not enough to produce income to live comfortably. As a child, my grandmother often accompanied her mother to the neighboring farms of other Kolberg family members, where they were allowed to pick berries which they then brought home to their farm to sell. In addition, her father, August Kolberg, had a propensity for drinking and life was not pleasant. I must say, though, that I never heard any of this from my grandmother but rather from elder cousins of hers when I began genealogy research in earnest and after my grandmother was already deceased.

Over the years, my grandmother had some interesting experiences. While I could write about the dates of importance to her life, her marriage, raising her own family, etc much has already been written in my post on my grandfather, Joseph Kijak, and my grandmother's mother, Bertha Kramp. Instead I am going to list some of the experiences that my grandmother had in her life.

1. As a 14 year old she was sent from the farm to the city of St. Joseph to live with a wealthy family where she worked as a maid and lived in their home. When I think of that - 14 years old - I am amazed. While today a trip from Stevensville to St. Joe might take 15 minutes tops, in those days it was necessary for my grandmother to "live in" at her employer's home. She told the story about how one time the home was robbed and when the police came out to investigate they had to go through everything in the home. In the closet of my grandmother's bedroom she had a cardboard box in which she stored those 'delicate' items that women of the day had to use during those once/month occurrences. These items had to be hand washed and dried to be used over and over and the police had quite an eye full when they dumped out my grandmother's stash of female products. She liked to laugh about that in later years but said she was mortified at the time.

2. As a 16 year old young lady she was dating a particular young man who she never identified to me but she did tell the story of going on his motorcycle for a ride through the countryside, something she said her father would have been livid about. On this ride, she recounted that she fell, down a long hill and never was inclined to get on a motorcycle again. Gosh, she was a daredevil.

3. She went to work at Cooper-Wells Hosiery Mill prior to her marriage in 1914. When she actually began that job, I don't know but it was at that job that she met my grandfather and their marriage took place on June 17, 1914 at the parsonage at Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Joseph.

4. On August 8, 1914, she received a poignant letter from her mother, Bertha Kramp Kolberg, written to Ella on "your first birthday as a married woman". I have this letter today and it is amazing to see how it has been preserved for 96 years. I can see my great-grandmother writing that letter to her youngest daughter.

5. On February 26, 1915, while pregnant with her first baby, Ella lost HER mother when Bertha Kolberg passed away in Kalamazoo, MI. This was probably a very hard time for her to lose her mother at the time she would have needed her the most.

6. In April, 1918, while pregnant with her second baby, Ella lost her mother-in-law when Mary Kijak passed away in Detroit, MI. I have often thought how both my grandmother's pregnancies must have been fraught with grief and loss.

7. Ella and Joseph moved many times from home to home before settling on a farm on Cleveland Avenue in St. Joseph where my mother was born in 1925 and my mother's brother in 1926. This was their first purchase of a home and my grandparents worked the farm together. However, the depression came and in 1929, they lost their home and their farm. They moved their family into the City of St. Joe proper and for years moved from rental home to rental home.

8. During the years from 1929-1940, Ella ran her home, raised her 4 children, added to the family with the addition of her father-in-law and uncle-in-law who lived with them as well. In addition, my grandparents took in boarders and my grandmother fed and did all the laundry for this large group of people. In addition to her work at home, she also took employment at the Manley Resort on Langley Avenue in St. Joe as kitchen help, washing dishes. While this resort is now gone, there is a Manley Street at this location. She later worked during these years as a maid at the Whitcomb Hotel in St. Joseph. She certainly knew the meaning of hard work but did so at all times with a sunny disposition. While working at the Whitcomb she cut her finger on something she was cleaning and developed a deep infection which would not heal. She later visited the house doctor at the Whitcomb for an exam. He asked her if "she played the piano" and she replied "no" and his response was "then you won't care if I cut the finger off at the first joint". Needless to say, she didn't let him near her and went to another physician in town who was able to save her finger.

Ella with Eloris & Leslie Kijak
USS Theodore Roosevelt
on a voyage from St. Joe to Chicago, IL
ca 1934

Joseph & Ella Kijak family
ca 1943
St. Joseph, MI

9. Ella was also very active in her church during these years and made sure that her children and husband attended as well. All 4 of her children were confirmed in the Lutheran faith, her husband converted from his Catholic faith at the beginning of their marriage and her two youngest children attended the Lutheran grade school as well. Ella took part in many activities at the church including Ladies Aid, where she held offices, Lutheran Women's Missionary League, sewing projects and the making of cancer dressings. She also sewed at home and began a sideline of making craft items and doll clothes some of which I have to this day. I can remember one room in her home filled with supplies for her craft projects and she always had a project or ten going on at one time.

10. During WWII, all three of Ella's sons served in the Armed Forces and she proudly displayed their photos in uniform on her living room wall along with a photo of my mother. Her six grandchildren's photos were displayed in another area of the living room as well.

11. One story she told about her years renting rooms in her home involved the time one of her renters was found to be involved in counterfeiting. After the man vacated the room, my grandmother found supplies left behind that indicated the counterfeiting of coin. The man was later apprehended and my grandmother had to go to federal court in Kalamazoo to testify against him.

12. After the death of her husband in 1960, Ella continued her activities. She continued, as well, to have renters in her home; fortunately the entrance to the second floor was separate from the entrance to her home itself so there was safety but there were several renters that she had to evict and she did so with gumption.

My grandmother stayed in her own home, alone, for over 10 years after my grandfather died and then was able to secure an apartment in a newly built senior citizens complex. She moved into her little "doll house" as she called her 14th floor apartment and lived there for the rest of her life until she passed away on May 29, 1973.

Ella & Joseph Kijak

My memories of my grandmother are many. She was the sweetest and kindest person ever and I was extremely close to her. While she had very little finances, she was happy and positive her entire life. I am pleased, even at this time, when I see people here in St. Joseph who tell me they remember my grandmother and recount wonderful stories about her. She was truly the best grandmother that any person could ask for.

Above photos-personal collection of Cheryl Schulte

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

From Whence I Came...Elmer Meyer Schulte

My paternal grandfather, Elmer Meyer Schulte, was born August 4, 1894 in Detroit, Michigan to Rudolph Meyer Schulte and Juliane Feucht. He was their only child, though they had lost an infant daughter two years earlier.

While I don't have many details of his early childhood, many photos exist of those years. I do know that he and his parents lived in Detroit, that his father went off to the Spanish American War in 1898 when Elmer was just 4 and that his mother and he were extremely close.

The 1900 Detroit census shows this family below.

In 1906, this family photo of the Rudolph & Julie Schulte family was taken and it is my most prized genealogical photo...

...because in January, 1907, following the taking of the above photo, Elmer's mother, Juliane, passed away of cancer, leaving a 12 year old boy without a mother. My grandfather told me many times when I was growing up how much he had loved his mother and how he had missed her terribly after her death.

His father didn't waste too much time, though, in marrying again - just a few short weeks - which just amazes me when I think of it. By February, 1907, following the January 14th death of his beloved wife, Rudolph Schulte had married Juliane's sister, Elizabeth, who had been widowed twice. Elizabeth came into the family with 4 children from her first marriage and a son from her second marriage giving my grandfather many cousins (or step siblings) to share a home with.

The 1910 Detroit census shows this combined family living on Concord Avenue in Detroit.

During the start of WWI, my grandfather enlisted in the Army and was stationed in San Antonio, TX. Prior to shipping off to Europe, his fiance (my future grandmother), Ella Wellhausen, made a secret journey to Texas and returned to Michigan a married woman. How my grandparents had met is a mystery but it is thought that they met through Ella's aunt who lived in Detroit and whose sons were good friends of Elmer. In any event, Ella, snuck off to Texas, with the above mentioned aunt, in order to wish her beloved Elmer farewell prior to leaving for France and when she returned, a married woman, her parents were none too happy and her mother was not that happy with her own sister - the above named aunt. Ahh, rebellious children in the early 1900's!!

Their marriage, though, which took place on Christmas Eve, 1917, did last just a month over 50 years and was a happy one.

My grandmother was a no-nonsense, tough, outspoken person in my memory so I have no doubt that she eagerly took this trip to Texas with the intent of becoming married. In any event, Elmer shipped off to Europe, was injured, was awarded the Purple Heart and they did not see each other for over 2 years.

Upon his return from the War, Elmer and Ella set up a home on Hendricks Avenue in Detroit as evidenced in the 1920 Detroit census.

In 1920, son Melbourne Meyer was born, followed in 1923 by my father, Mylen, and in 1928 by daughter, Marilyn. In 1930, the family lived on Strasburg in Detroit and Elmer was a driver for Bond Bread. As a child in the 1950's I can still remember him bringing us little loaves of bread from his Bond Bread company.

Through the years, my grandparents had a good life, they both inherited some money at the deaths of their respective parents and their life was more affluent than my maternal grandparents. Through it all, they had a strong faith and were active in their church and in the community. Though they only had 4 grandchildren, I was the only granddaughter and while my grandfather was loving and kind to all 4 of us, I like to think he had a special place in his heart for me. I can remember him driving me to and from school as my parents worked, he would bring me home to his house until my parents could pick me up from school, he spent time with me asking me about my day and having a genuine interest in what I was doing and thinking.

In December, 1967, my grandparents celebrated their 50th anniversary with a renewal of their wedding vows and a large party.

A little over one month later, on January 21, 1968, my grandfather passed away after a sudden and unexpected heart attack.

He and my grandmother are buried in Gethsemane Cemetery in Detroit, Michigan on a family plot.

I was extremely close to my grandfather; he was very special to me and when he died, I remember my grandmother telling me at the funeral home "your special buddy is gone". He was a sweet, kind, gentle grandfather who never raised his voice and always showed his love to me. I spent much time during my youth in my grandparent's home and the memories of my grandfather remain with me to this day. I have many keepsakes of his, his metals and honors from his service in WWI, numerous photos but the most important thing I still carry with me is my memory of my grandfather.

Above photos & documents - personal collection of Cheryl Schulte

Monday, August 3, 2009

From Whence I Came...Joseph Kijak

To continue my series of posts on my grandparents and great-grandparents, this is a week in which three of my four grandparents had birthdays. As a child, I can remember the pure joy of having three birthday celebrations in a week for three of my special grandparents.

Joseph Kijak was born August 3, 1892 in Bay City, Michigan to John Kijak and Mary Anna Rubisz. He was their first child and only son and his birth was followed by the births of three sisters, Anna, Martha and Rose. Joseph Kijak would be my maternal grandfather and was a very special grandparent though I was only 12 when he passed away.

While I do remember my grandfather, I have very little information regarding his childhood. I don't have any photos of him from childhood but I know that he was baptized in the Catholic faith as an infant and that he lived in Bay City with his parents and sisters as evidenced by the 1900 Bay City Census.

From what I have learned over the years, and most recently confirmed after finding a relative in the family of Mary Rubisz Kijak, the marriage of my grandfather, Joseph's parents, was not a pleasant one. His mother had been only 14 when she was married to his father, who himself was 30. This no doubt was an arranged marriage after both families had arrived in the US from Poland and how this marriage was allowed is evidently laws of the time in the 1890's.

Somewhere during the period from 1900 (when the Bay City census shows the family still together) to 1903, when Joseph Kijak's step sister, Emma, was born in South Bend, IN, mother, Mary Kijak left Bay City with her 4 children Joseph, Anna, Martha and Rose and settled in South Bend, IN with a gentleman named Frank Banner. Father, John Kijak, remained in Bay City.

My grandfather, Joseph, spent his youth living in South Bend with his mother, sisters, step sister and step brothers and his mother's companion, Frank Banner, and this is the only photo I have of him during his youth.

The 1910 South Bend, IN census shows this family though the 4 Kijak children are listed with the surname "Banner" which was incorrect. It is amazing the steps a genealogist has to go through to find hidden data. For years I could not put my finger on a 1910 census for my grandfather and never thought to look under the surname Banner. We must always be alert to all the possibilities.

While living in South Bend, my grandfather found a job in St. Joseph, MI working for Cooper Wells, a hosiery manufacturing company. This was only a 30 mile drive from South Bend and it was here, at work, that he met my grandmother, Ella Kolberg. How long they dated, I don't know, but on June 17, 1914 they were married.

They began their married life in St. Joe where Joseph continued to work at Cooper Wells. In 1915, son Harris was born and in 1918, son Elden was born. The 1920 census shows this family then living on Court Street in St. Joe.

In 1925, their daughter (my mother) Eloris, was born, followed in 1926 by their 3rd son, Leslie. With these 4 children, their family was complete. At this time, Joseph and Ella had a fruit farm on Cleveland Avenue in St. Joseph and the work and toil was their income.

In addition, at this time, my grandfather had a unique experience with a member of the Al Capone gang which led to his discontinuation of driving.

The Depression came in 1929 and with it the loss of their home and farm though the 1930 census does still show them living on Cleveland Avenue.

The family lived in a variety of rental homes over the next 10+ years until Joseph & Ella were able to purchase a home at 818 Pleasant Street in St. Joseph in approximately 1940. During these years, Joseph worked as a painter and decorator and in later years for the S&H Green Stamp store.

In 1945, my grandparents had a professional photo taken of themselves on the occasion of my grandmother's 50th birthday. This is a favorite photo of mine.

Though photos with my grandfather in them are few and far between, this one of myself and my brother with my grandmother as well is one that I remember.

My memories of my grandfather are many - his coming to Detroit to help my parents with construction work when my parents bought their first home, building shelves in the basement to hold all of our toys, planting a maple tree in the back yard and planning the placement of the tree so as not to obstruct a future garage, getting paint poisoning and having to bandage his fingers for the rest of his life, living in extreme pain. He was a gentle man, never raised his voice and was a loving husband to my grandmother and a good father to his four children.

My grandfather became ill in October, 1960 and was diagnosed with a cerebral aneurysm. The hospital in St. Joseph could not treat this condition at that time and he was transported to a hospital in South Bend where he passed away on October 23, 1960. I was only 12 at the time but have vivid memories of our drive from Detroit to South Bend, having an accident on the way, getting lost trying to find the hospital in South Bend and my mother arriving to see her father just before he passed away.

He was a wonderful grandfather and I have always remembered him. He and my grandmother are buried in Stevensville Cemetery in Stevensville, MI and his memory lives forever in my heart.

Above photos & documents - personal collection of Cheryl Schulte