Men of fame and distinction have decorated with their name, a book popularly known as “Who’s Who.” I have neither fame nor distinction, so I must compel myself to write “Who Am I?” Well, that is a question; yes a question. Know myself? Let me see. What means are on hand by which I might know my physical self. That’s easy — the mirror! I look and exclaim: Humbug! I look at my supposed self: but see the reverse, contrary mirror man. When I lift my right hand, he lifts the left. All I can say, that’s my reverse reflection. I still ask, who am I?
A few times I talked into a phonograph, but the voice that came out was, so far as I was concerned, the voice of a stranger. I still ask, who am I? Well, if I could stand ten feet away from myself and look at myself and hear myself speak, what a different man from what I think I am, or might be. Other people know better who I am than I know myself.
However, I promised I would write about myself for my daughter Ester, who spoke for the rest of the wife and children, for their benefit and amusement. So you see, I am compelled by law of promise. Yes, her it is, compulsion to obedience. That is the force that has driven me all the days of my life. So then to get to myself, I am compelled to ask the question, Whence Came I? My ancestry.
Well, my father’s name was Martin H. Swart. I know nothing of his ancestry as he was 15 years older than my mother, who was the wife of his second marriage, his first wife having died leaving two daughters and two sons. I had by slight acquaintance with the two daughters, or my 1/2 sisters, as they were married and lived some distance from the village in which I was born and at 10 years of age I came to America and they remained in Germany. The two half brothers, William Swart lived many years in Manhattan, Kansas, Hendricus Swart lived a number of years at Rocky, Okl. I was proud of both of them but they have answered the call of death at a high old age. Honorable men.
My father and his ancestry we born in the northwestern part of Germany, Village — Mark — East Friesland, bordering Holland. This part of the country was formerly of the Kingdom of Hanover, became later a province of the Kingdom of Prussia. So near the border of Holland, did we live, that we had relatives on both sides of the lines. Our ancestors, I hear my father say, were really Hollanders and that the name of several generations before my father, spelled the name “Zwart” which they later Germanized and wrote it Swart.
My father was a tall man — 6 ft. tall bare footed. He possessed a brilliant mind, enjoyed for his time, a liberal education, was apt in mathematics, a great reader, and very well informed in current events nationally and internationally. He had served three years in the Hanoverian Army, was in no war, but considered his military training a great benefit in his education. He prepared himself for the trade of bakery, therefore, as a trader man, he journeyed, a foot of course, to Amsterdam, Holland, where he apprenticed for the bakery profession, and severed three years. He could read and write fluently in the Netherland language as in German and read papers, books, and magazines in both languages. He established his business early in life; supervised the construction of the building which had convenient living apartments, a front corner for his business, a combination of products of the bakery and groceries, usually kept about 4-6 cows for dairy products needed for home and bakery and sold surplus butter and cheese, some for shipment, some for the store. My Mother’s name was Addina Bronleeve [Bronlewe]. She was 5 ft. 3 inches. In my estimation she was fair and beautiful, of cheerful disposition, an ideal mother, understood childhood. It was always a pleasure to serve when she commanded, where praise for deeds was in place she knew how to give it. She became the mother of 13 children.
Martha — became Mrs. T. R. Nanninga
Johann, a twin died
Henriette — became Mrs. Carl Nanninga
John M. — Married Miss Louise Zeisset
Diedrich — Married Miss Emma Dreisbach
Margaret Doris — who married Claud Barnett
Addina K — became Mrs. Henry Debus
Martin — who died in landing in New York
Bina — who died on Atlantic Ocean
Thomas — who died on Atlantic Ocean
Minnie — who became Mrs. A. Bohnenblust
Mother’s Maiden name was Addina Bronleeve. Her father was a butter and cheese buyer. He had a certain territory in which he purchased butter in kegs holding approximately 10 gallons.
Living by the navigable river Ems, the people of whom he bought the produce, brought it to landing places at the river, at which places he loaded it on the boat and when he had accumulated enough for a boat load he would transport it foen the river to a city Leer from which place it was transported to foreign markets mostly to England.
At regular times Grandfather Bronleeve would make the rounds to pay his patrons off. This was done afoot. He carried the cash in a rather large red handkerchief, mostly in silver and gold. I made the trip with him once and at each place I would receive a slice of bread and butter plus cheese or cookies. Grandfather received a small glass of schnaps (whisky — just a stimulant) Grandfather Bronleeve was a man of kind dispositon highly respected. Grandmother I remember as cheery and kind — a lover of children. They were in comfortable circumstances.
MY FIRST HOME
This is little Dick Swart. He is past 6 years old. It is Nov. 8, 1868. He is facing his first home. He is standing on the west in front of the door. There is a large, fancy brass bar that will open the front door. In the lobby of the store to the left is a convenient bench, the width of the hall is about eight foot and the length twenty feet. The store counters are to the right. Here are shelves containing groceries. In the east end of the store space was the bakery supplies. Father was the baker of the village and with it ran an accommodating grocery store. Sometimes the room was crowded with customers and at other times empty. If a village customer came in to buy something when the front door was opened, it automatically rang a bell. With quickness the smiling little lady, our mother, proceeded to wait on the customer. At times a bit of neighborhood gossip would be enjoyed (neighborhood gossip is wholesomely constructive and helpful).
Well, we have described the first corner of the house and will make further explorations. On the north side of the store hall is a door we open. We called the room “Krammer” or parlor. That room was to entertain visitors, always by prearrangement. That was always a proud occasion. Refreshments were served. Children, of course, not allowed but they too had lots of fun. Now, we will look to the east of this parlor and we find built-in beds; to the north our father and mother’s bed (where we children were born); and the south, the bed where my brother John and I slept. These beds were fronted with light folding doors. There were three other such beds, maybe more, I do not remember.
In the store hall was a stair fastened by strong hinges on the top. These stairs would be let down or lifted up and hooked fast. There was a large room for storage and sleeping emergency. Now we open the east end door of the store hall and we go into the kitchen. This is a large room. My guess is fifteen feet square. The floor was tiled with hard polished brick, ten inch square tiles, with a little vent hole on the south side of the wall. The large family table had its permanent place in the northeast corner of this large room, back of the table was a bench for the boys to sit on at meals, and chairs enough to surround the table. The kitchen was connected with an enormous chimney, there was a large fireplace, an iron cook stove without an oven as the baking was all done in the bakery. There was a large frame clothes cabinet in the southwest end of the kitchen containing the family Sunday clothes.
Now, I must say something about the ornamentation of the kitchen floor. First it was cleanly swept, then we had a receptacle of clean white sand and this was broadcast over the floor. Then, another receptacle of real fine white sand, shipped in from somewhere; this sand was taken in the hand and starting in one corner about 10 inches or a foot square, the fine sand was ornamentally criss-crossed, then continued in a straight line to the next corner, three or four straight lines with ornamental curleycues between them on all four sides. Mother was an expert in this art, my sister, Henrietta, (later Mrs. Carl Nanninga then 14 or 15 years old) was already skillful in this art. The sand was swept up daily and the floor was reornamented. Once or more in a week, the floor was thoroughly scrubbed with water and that is where the vent hole under the middle wall came into use, letting the scrub water out. This is about all I can say about the kitchen, the beehive of the German home.
I was born January 1, 18862 in Mark, Ostfriesland Province of Hanover, Germany. I came to America with my parents in 1872, a sister, Hembina and a brother Heit Thomas died enroute on the Atlantic Ocean and were buried at sea. A brother, Martin, died after we landed in New York. We arrived in Manhattan, Kansas in October 1872. On April 13, 1873, we settled on a homestead three miles northeast of Leonardville, Riley County, Kansas.
PLACES IN MY LIFE (D. SWART)
1862-1872 In the village Mark, East Friesland
1872-1873 In Manhattan, Kan. Oct. 1872 – April 13, 1873
1873-1884 On farm 3 miles north of Leonardville Kansas
1884-1885 Started Ministry Denver, Mo.
1885-1887 At college, Naperville, Ill.
1887-1891 Arrive June 28, 1887 at Bern, resume preaching
1891-1893 Coal Creek, Camp Creek, Leona
1893-1896 Alden, Ellinwood
1904-1908 Presiding Elder, Abilene District
1908-1912 Presiding Elder, Kansas City District
1917-1919 St. Joseph
1919-1926 Yates Center
1932-1935 In retirement from pastorate (serving 50 years as minister, 2 years Evangelist)
1934-1935 In retirement without appointment
1935- Serving Reformed Church on alternate Sunday preaching