Category Archives: Genealogy

Nathaniel Davis Signature

Some time ago, I inherited some books from the personal library of my great-grandfather, Rev. C.J. Davis (1908 – 1995). Two volumes had belonged to my great-great-great grandfather, Rev. Andrew Nathaniel Jackson Davis (1844 – 1938). He went by his initials: N.J.

Most of his sons went by initials as well.

Robert Wallace – R.W.
Rufus Urial – R.U.
Benjamin Franklin – B.F.
Thomas Jefferson – T.J.
Charles Walter – C.W.

Below are a couple of photographs of an 1879 book entitled “The Church.” The title page contains the signature of both C.J. And N.J. Davis.



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Posted by on May 3, 2013 in Genealogy


Memoirs of Diedrich Swart (1862-1945).

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.

George G.

Infant died

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.


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.


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

1896-1899 Newton

1899-1900 Abilene

1900-1904 Jewell

1904-1908 Presiding Elder, Abilene District

1908-1912 Presiding Elder, Kansas City District

1912-1917 Holton

1917-1919 St. Joseph

1919-1926 Yates Center

1926-1928 Hutchinson

1928-1932 Hiawatha

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




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Posted by on December 1, 2010 in Genealogy


Lewis Swart Final Honors

My cousin, Marla Swart Ellis, took this video at the cemetery.

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Posted by on July 13, 2010 in Genealogy, USS Belknap


Eulogy for my Grandfather.

Given by me on May 24th, 2010 at my grandfather’s funeral in Fletcher, Oklahoma.

* * *

No person can sum up the life of another. Life is too precious to be described by mere words. Rather it must remain as it is remembered by those who loved and watched and shared. For such memories are alive, unbound by birth and death. I read this quote over a year ago, and I think of it often. “We are linked by blood. And blood is memory without language.”

Though my grandfather has left this earthly realm, the circle of his influence is ever-widening. With each passing day I realize how much of him lives within me.

My grandfather, Lewis Lester Swart, was born on November 2, 1921 on his parents’ farm two miles south and one mile east of Rocky, Oklahoma. His father and mother, Herman and Bessie Kleiner Swart, (and their families) had moved to Washita County in 1910 from Riley County, Kansas. He was named for his mother’s brother, Lewis Julius Kleiner.

Often called “Luke”, he was the fifth of eight children — two girls and six boys. It was always said that every girl in the county wanted a Swart boy. My grandmother would add, “And I got one!”

He was first taken to the cotton fields in what was known as a “cottonsack cradle.” His mother would lay him in the shade and pick cotton, tending to him when he cried out or the shade shifted away from where he was laying. As soon as he was old enough to drag one of the sacks himself, he was out with the rest of the family on those October days pulling cotton.

Grandpa’s twin brothers, Earl & Mearl were born in 1923. Their mother would sit in the rocking chair, with the twins in her arms, and would cross her ankles so that grandpa could sit as well. In this manner, she could rock all three little boys.

Grandpa graduated from Rocky High School with the Class of 1939. His senior shirt, a white oxford with the year and school embroidered on the back, was among his prized “relics” as he called them. I wore this shirt on my last day of school at Fletcher High. It was so small, that I couldn’t button it or raise my arms!

After high school, he worked for custom harvesting outfits that followed the wheat harvest up into the Dakotas. When the Kio-Wash Rural Electric Co-Op was established, he worked on a crew to dig holes for the new utility poles. I remember him telling a story about working on Thanksgiving Day, and his mother preparing a fine lunch of fried chicken for him. He happened to be the last man to pick up his lunch from the back of the truck, and when he looked in, one pail was left — but it wasn’t his. After thinking all morning of how great his lunch was going to be, he had to eat a cold bologna sandwich. He never did find out who had taken his lunch!

In December 1941, the United States entered World War Two. The head of the draft board for Washita County had been outspoken against Germans, and said that if any young man’s name came up for review that sounded “half-German,” that boy was going to war. Knowing that he would no doubt be drafted because of his German name, grandpa volunteered for the U.S. Navy, and entered service in September 1942. All six Swart boys would end up serving during the war, and amazingly, all six returned home.

He attended training in San Diego, California and St. Paul, Minnesota. He spent time in Boston, Massachusetts until he was assigned duty aboard the U.S.S. Belknap, a destroyer in the Atlantic. The Belknap was given the Presidential Citation Award for her success in bombing German U-Boats.

The Belknap did escort duty for cargo ships, and grandpa traveled to Newfoundland, Morocco, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. I remember him telling of a stop in the Hawai’ian Islands and seeing the damage of Pearl Harbor for himself.

In 1944, the Belknap was sent to Papua New Guinea and then to the Philippines as part of the liberation of those islands from the Japanese. The Belknap assisted in the invasion of Leyte, and also the invasion of Lingayen on January 9, 1945. The ship provided artillery backup from the Lingayen Gulf for forces on the ground. Japanese swimmers attempted on several occasions to take out ships in the fleet by strapping explosives to themselves and swimming below the ships. On January 11th, crewmen of the Belknap killed thirteen of these suicide swimmers – including one who had attempted to throw a grenade on the ship.

On the morning of January 12th, several kamikaze planes were spotted heading for the ships in the gulf. The most effective way to deal with this problem was a barrage of gunfire trained on the planes. Though efforts were made to take down these aircraft, a suicide plane crashed into the number two stack of the Belknap at 7:46 a.m. One of the plane’s two bombs fell into the sea before the crash, but the other exploded on the deck of the Belknap which sustained “extensive” damage according to reports.

Thirty-eight members of the crew were killed instantly or mortally wounded. Forty-nine were injured, included grandpa, who sustained shrapnel wounds in his legs. He told my father that the only reason he survived was that he was below deck. He also spoke about the horrible sights he witnessed after the explosion. Grandpa was awarded the Purple Heart in January 1946 for wounds sustained in the kamikaze attack.

That afternoon, the bodies of the fallen comrades were buried at sea with full honors. The ship was damaged so badly it had to be towed to Manus Island of Papua New Guinea. Repairs were made until the 18th, and the ship was taken back to San Diego, and then through the Panama Canal to Philadelphia where it was decommissioned and scrapped. Grandpa was one of 23 crewmen that stayed aboard the Belknap on the voyage to Philadelphia.

After an honorable discharge from the Navy, he returned to Washita County. In May 1946, he began courting Miss LaWana Davis, daughter of the local Baptist preacher. That same year, he helped to construct a new wooden grain elevator in Rocky. He would soon leave for California to work for his Uncle T.A. & Aunt Emily Kleiner Cotton. He returned to Oklahoma in the Fall of 1947, and once again took up the trade of carpentry. He once told me that he helped to build half of the houses in the town of Burns Flat!

He married LaWana on August 23, 1957 in Clinton. They didn’t tell anyone about the nuptials until after the fact. That evening, they drove out to his parents’ farm to inform them that they had been married. The next morning, grandpa’s mother called around to all of his siblings looking for him. She had forgotten about the marriage announcement, and was worried because he hadn’t come home that night!

In October 1959, their first son, Philip Lee was born. Their second son, Joe Dale, would arrive in January 1963. In 1968, grandpa gained employment as a carpenter at Ft. Sill, and moved his young family to Comanche County. They rented a few houses in Fletcher, and finally decided to move their old house from Rocky to Fletcher in 1971.

Grandpa purchased lots in the 600 block of West Griffin and set to work putting in a foundation for the house. He said that other men in the community would come visit with him and watched him work. They teased him that the house wouldn’t fit onto the foundation correctly and he’d have to do it over once the house was brought it. And so the Swart home (and two-car garage) made it’s 100-mile journey to Fletcher. The house fit the foundation perfectly!

When I was a small boy in the 1980s, it wasn’t rare to hear grandma or grandpa refer to a window in the house by the wrong direction. They had lived on the north side of the street in Rocky, but the south side in Fletcher, so the house was turned 180° from what it had always been!

I was born in May of 1982 – the first grandchild. My birth marked the first time that three generations of Swart men had been alive in quite some time. My father had never known his grandpa Swart, and grandpa had never known his grandfather. My sister Hannah Reine’ was born in 1985 and Maura Reine’ was born in 1987. Phil’s daughters, Laura Elizabeth and Natalie Elise, were born in 1991 and 1993.

Grandpa retired from Ft. Sill in 1987, and took up the life of a retiree. In the years after his retirement, it took grandma a little while to get used to having grandpa around the house all day. She said that sometimes he would come into the kitchen, and stand at the stove with her to inspect what she was doing. Though I’m sure she was irritated by this, I never heard a harsh word spoken between them. His daily regimen consisted of reading the Lawton Constitution front-to-back several times each day along with plenty of naps in his recliner. He also worked the newspaper’s word scramble, which he simply referred to as his “puzzle.” After he was unable to read the newspaper any longer, grandma would transcribe the jumbled words onto another piece of paper with a black marker in large block letters so that he could still solve it each day.

After my parents divorced in 1988, we moved back to Fletcher from Duncan with my mother. This was a blessing in disguise. Growing up in Fletcher allowed me to spend many hours with my grandparents, and to receive the many pearls of wisdom they shared.

Grandpa spent many hours in his vegetable gardens, and grandma canned the yield of their labor. It was a joy to go to the garden with grandpa after school. I learned so much from him while planting seeds in rows (carefully measured 27” apart with his carpenter’s rule), or digging potatoes or pulling onions. I can remember the way he held his hoe — its wooden handle worn smooth by the many years of use. My sisters and I would spend summer evenings sitting outside with the grandparents snapping green beans, shelling peas, and shucking corn. I learned to identify species of flowers and trees and to recognize weather patterns. It was the type of education you don’t receive anywhere else.

Of course Grandpa taught me things that Grandma didn’t always approve of. I think that’s just part of the job description of a grandfather. He used to sing a World War Two-era song by the Andrews Sisters called “Strip Polka” about a burlesque dancer named Queenie. Grandma would say, “Don’t teach the kids that!” I still know the song by heart.

Grandpa sold off his garden plot in 2005. He’d been farming that same ground since 1969. Grandpa and Grandma continued to shell pecans from the three trees in their front yard, often freezing nearly a hundred pounds of nut meats throughout the winter.

It wasn’t uncommon to look out the window and see grandpa sitting in a chair in the yard listening to the birds and watching the clouds. He had mastered the art of awareness. Listening to the breeze blowing gently through the trees or watching tiny ants marching single-file, he took pleasure in the world around him and in the wonders of nature. The world is often fast-paced and stressful. Grandpa taught me that it is important to stop what I’m doing, and to look at my surroundings and simply be. To never close your eyes, to always look, and strive, and learn is to never grow old. I now find myself sitting in the yard listening to the birds and watching the clouds almost every day.

From the time I was a youngster, I sat with grandpa and listened to his stories about growing up during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl and about the voyages the Swart Family made to America from Germany in 1872 & 1895. These stories fascinated me as a child, and are now party of my history and define who I am. His remarkable memory was honed like the blade of the “old timer” pocketknife he always carried. On any given day, he could tell you where he had been on that day in 1938, and what the weather was like on that day. I hope to retain grandpa’s memories and stories to re-tell to my own children and grandchildren.

As a child growing up in the Depression, he understood what it was like to truly “do without.” Throughout his adult life, he retained the frugality which had been a necessity during those early years. Because of this, he never threw anything away that might have a future use. As a testament to this philosophy of “use it all, wear it out, make it do or do without” the walls of the garage were lined with old bicycle inner tubes, lengths of wire, various plumbing parts, and enamel dishpans full of screws, nails, and bolts. Any bit of baling twine found during his daily walk would be brought back home and wound around the massive ball he had been making for years. During the course of my grandparents’ marriage, they never bought anything on credit. They have shown me, by their example, the importance of saving money and living within one’s means.

My grandparents’ marriage served as an example of the type of love and dedication that can exist between spouses. During his “down time” after breaking his leg, grandma took care of him – and wore herself out in doing so. While in the hospital for his back surgery and the ensuing pneumonia, it was rare that she did not spend the night at the hospital with him. As a young boy, I always wondered why he called grandma “mama.” Grandma explained to me that he had heard my father and uncle call her by this name for so long, that he started doing the same. Now that I have small children at home, I find myself calling my wife “mama” as well.

Grandpa and Grandma became great-grandparents in December 2006, and less than three years later, there were five little great-grandchildren in the family. These are Benjamin Graham, Lila Caroline, Braden Grant, Jackson Davis, and Isabella Reine’. Though grandpa didn’t have much to do with the little babies, things changed when he could get down on the floor to play with them. When grandpa came home from the hospital after breaking his leg, two year-old Graham didn’t quite know what to think about the leg cast. He found a cereal box and put his foot in it, and limping through the house proclaimed, “I broke my leg!” Grandma, “insisting” that he be taken to the hospital, quickly changed his tune, and admitted there was no injury.

In recent years grandpa’s hearing became increasingly worse. It was difficult for him to be engaged in conversations at family dinners and events. As everyone else shared stories and laughs, he would sit at his place at the head of the table unable to take part. To have a conversation, you would have to sit alone with him in a quiet room. And though he was sometimes a man of few words, those words were full of meaning and wisdom.

Over the last year, the man who had stood over six feet tall with broad, proud shoulders and his head held high became the shell of a man – lost in private memories. Though age claimed his body, it never claimed his mind. I see him as he is, but I remember him as he was.

I remember the strong back as he worked late into the evening weeding in the garden, repairing the lawnmower, or painting the house.

I remember his well-worn tools hanging in the garage, each with their own assigned space, and each labeled L.L.S.

I remember helping him turn an old, rickety chair into a new, solid stool that still rests beneath the kitchen table.

I remember him covered with splinters of wood, sitting in a chair, whittling a stick he had picked up from the yard.

I remember his silence. His curiosity. And showing me by ritual what he could not put into words.

I remember him teaching me to see the hidden beauty in everyday life.

My grandfather’s blood flows in my veins. Who he was still lives in me – and in my children – and one day, in my grandchildren. Though he is no longer with us, his life and teachings will continue to influence his descendants for generations.

Father of all, we pray to you for Lewis, and for all those whom we love but see no longer. Grant to them eternal rest. Let light perpetual shine upon them. May his soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.


Posted by on May 27, 2010 in Genealogy, USS Belknap


The Life and Times of Ruby Winton Vantine.

My Granny Vantine was a neat woman. She was sweet and gentle, and loved to play card games of any kind. Her eyes always had a twinkle in them. We used to play a dice game together called nikeo. She would sit at the table by herself and practice rolling the dice. She had practiced so much that she wore the ink off a magazine cover! After this, she could roll the dice and get whatever numbers she needed — until we made her start putting the dice in a cup. She wasn’t too happy about that.

Going to Granny & Papa’s house as a young boy was a real treat. Papa, clad in striped overalls, a blue oxford shirt, and black dress shoes (his daily attire) usually sat in his recliner and watched television. One framed photograph sat on the console T.V. It was a portrait of Papa’s daddy, John Quincy Vantine.

John Q. Vantine, 1880 - 1945.

Granny was always in the kitchen working on something or other. She would always find something to give us as a surprise whether it be a piece of candy or a few coins out of her purse. My face would light up, and of course, hers would too.

A large framed print hung above the kitchen table. It was a still life portrait of a cast iron pot full of beans and a basket of biscuits sitting on a hay bale. I now have this.

Granny was born 8 May 1921 to Robert Charley Winton and Myrtle Argen Hill near Springer, Carter County, Oklahoma. She gave birth to eight children in ten years, and had a very hard life.

She died in February 2002 in Lawton, Comanche County, Oklahoma. She is greatly missed. Granny and Papa had been married for 63 years.

Odis & Ruby Winton Vantine on their 60th Anniversary, 1998.

Before her death, Granny sat down with her daughter Mary and told the story of her life. Aunt Mary typed up the tales and named it “The Life and Times of Ruby Winton Vantine.” Here is an excerpt (my additions are in brackets):

The reason I want to tell my story is to put some of my memories to paper for my children and grandchildren. Some of the memories are sad, some are funny, and some are simply beautiful red apples from the barrel of life. They run the gamut from major events to insignificant moments. I hope these next pages will be informative and entertaining.

My grandmother Hempe Cook was married to J. T. Hill [James Tolbert]. They had six children: Etter, Myrtle (my mother), Lily, Perry, Minnie and Herbert. When mama was about eight her mother was heavy with child. She sat on a big rock out by the pond to watch her geese. After she died in childbirth, Mama would sit on the big rock so she could see her mother. [Hempe died in 1909 from complications with a breech birth. A doctor could not be found to come to her aid.]

My mother, Myrtle Argen Hill, was fourteen years old when she married Robert Charley Winton in 1914. He was 37 and brought to the marriage six children by his deceased first wife: Leona was 16; Alfred, 14; Loy, 11; Willie, 9; Ethel, 8; and Dustin, 5. Mama played “dolls” with her stepchildren. She went outside to play with them and often forgot to cook supper. Together they had six children: Irene, in 1916; Geneva, 1919; Ruby (myself), 1921; J. D., 1923; Emma Ruth, 1925; and Zol, 1927. Daddy was a well-digger. He owned two farms in Carter County, Oklahoma and had horses and cattle. We drove them under a big bridge from one pasture to another. I remember that one day Daddy came home with $1,000 cash. Geneva and I walked to the bank to make a deposit for him. Daddy went bankrupt twice. He paid lots of money trying to find a cure for Loy who had infantile paralysis. He finally bought a horse and buggy for Loy to get around in. We lived in one of Gene Autry’s old houses about three or four miles southwest of Milo, Oklahoma. Irene, Geneva, J. D., and I started first grade at the same time. This embarrassed Irene and she often played “hooky”. When she played “hooky” the rest of us would too. Usually we hid out at Grandpa Hill’s house where he was living with a woman who had two children, Theodora and Hayes. In March 1931, Daddy received internal injuries when a log fell on him when he was laying logs across a cellar. He developed pneumonia and died.

Myrtle and Robert Charley Winton on right.

[I had always heard that he burned to death. The story is that he had been working with machinery on that cold wintry day and had gasoline and oil on his clothing when he came home that evening. He stood close to the fire to warm up and he caught on fire. He ran outside to jump in the horse tank to put himself out and it was frozen solid.]

After daddy died the family was destitute. Going hungry was normal. Sometimes Mama did not eat but divided a biscuit among us kids — our only food for the day! A local farmer gave us skim milk from his separator. Geneva and I walked to Raleigh High’s farm every day to collect our skim milk in a syrup bucket. On our way home we became so hot and thirsty we had to stop and drink a few sips of the milk. There was a gate we had to crawl under. One day we found two dimes under the gate. As we walked into Milo to pick up our mail a bread truck threw out bread and rolls for us.

Soon after Daddy’s death, Irene married Pat Scott. Pat’s mother, Hattie, had a brother, James Edward Sims who lived in another state with his wife and four children:  Ira, Otis, Lois, and Audry. After his wife divorced him and moved to California with the children, Ed came to Milo to visit Hattie. There he met Mama. After corresponding for a while he returned to Milo and married Mama. He actually saved us from starving to death. He was a religious man and was stern, but treated us with respect. In the fall of 1932, we moved to Cotton County to pick cotton. We lived west of Walters and attended Pecan Grove and District 221 schools. Ed and Mama had four children: Elmer, Virginia, Ray, and Dewayne.

In 1936, we moved “down under the hill” southwest of Walters. We went to Pleasant Hill school. I often cut school. I was a nature girl and enjoyed being outside. I carried a 50-lb. flour sack, folded to fit in my pocket, a knife, twine, fish hook, etc. and headed for the creek or woods. I stayed all day, and hunted for berries, pecans, fruit, etc. Sometimes I cut a tree limb for a fishing pole, rigged it with line, hook, and cork; dug worms or caught grasshoppers for bait; and took a stringer of fish home for supper. When I returned home “after school” I was carrying a bag full of food for our family. One time I bet Geneva I could knock a bird off a limb with a rock. I hit it and the bird fell to the ground. Geneva ran over and picked it up, chastising me for killing the nice little bird. The “nice little bird” was only stunned and bit her hand, drawing blood!

We were neighbors of several large families — the Joe Copelands, the Charlie Langfords, and the Quincy Vantines who had three sons. Era Copeland was dating Boyd Vantine, Jessie Langford was dating Sam Vantine, and Lee Langford was dating Geneva Winton. Mrs. Vantine (Jocie) gave a New Year’s Eve party for the young people of the community. I had not met the Vantines and didn’t intend to go. About 8 o’clock that evening Era knocked on the door, and said, “Get ready! We’re going to a party.” After getting Ed’s okay we went out to the car with Era (assuming that Boyd had brought her) and were quite surprised to find Odis Vantine behind the wheel. Geneva and Era jumped into the back seat, leaving me to ride in front with Odis. I was embarrassed. At the party, everybody paired up. I suspected that Odis was interested in me. When he won a prize, he gave it to me. The prize was a big candy bar — a real treasure back then.

Sam, Boyd, and Odis Vantine

We usually “double-dated” with Geneva and Lee. Odis had the only car – a 1927 Chevrolet. One Saturday we went to the preview in Walters. It rained while we were there. The roads were flooded and we had to drive the car through water. The car got stuck a few miles from the house. We tried to push the car out but only managed to get terrible muddy. It was still raining and the lightning and thunder were so bad. We pulled off our shoes and sharing one blanket, the guys walked us home. We tried to be quiet so we wouldn’t wake Mama and Ed. But nobody was home. They had gone to the cellar at the schoolhouse. That night, Odis kissed me for the first time. The next morning, Geneva and I got up early to wash our dresses before Mama and Ed saw them. They had big muddy handprints on the backs of them.

Odis courted me for a year and a half. Our dates were often community activities. Someone was always giving a party. In April 1938 Odis’ car broke down. Carl Langford loaned his car (a 1928 Whippet) to Lee. The car only had a front seat, but there was room in the back for somebody to stand. We were returning from a party at Winnie and Oliver Copelands. Odis and I were standing in the back. While riding down the road out in the country, Odis proposed to me.

When I asked Ed if I could get married, he said, “You can wait until you’re 50 and still get married.” I retorted, “Did you?” Geneva and I had earned money by working in the fields shocking wheat. We walked into Walters to buy my wedding dress. I wanted pink but she recommended blue or white. My wedding dress was dark blue silk, midi-length, with short sleeves. On Saturday morning, June 11, 1938 we went to the studio in Temple and had our picture made. After lunch, we drove to Preacher Head’s house and said our vows. Geneva and Lee were our attendants.

Odis & Ruby Winton Vantine on their wedding day.

Since Odis helped his parents, I moved in with them. Sam and Boyd had teased me, and I was nervous about my wedding night in the household of in-laws. Shortly after arriving at my new home, Jocie took us upstairs. She had prepared a private room for us with a pretty quilt, candles, and everything. She had a friend for life! I loved her dearly. And she loved me. I was the daughter she never had. I was very small, weighing about ninety pounds, and she held me on her lap.

Emma Jociephine Vantine with two daughters-in-law, Era and Jessie.

Odis and I moved into our own home (the McCaig place) about six months after our marriage. When I became pregnant, Jocie was thrilled. She just knew the baby was a girl. However, she had uterine cancer and died only two months before March 18, 1939 when I delivered my first born, John Robert, named for his grandfathers. [My grandfather.]

John Robert Vantine

After Jocie died, Mr. Vantine (Quince) moved in with us. In 1928, Quince had had pneumonia. He never recovered. He was weakened with asthma and emphysema and easily developed pneumonia. He “rolled his own” and smoked Bull Durham cigarettes.

Irene and Pat Scott had a baby boy, Levi. He did in infancy. In 1938 they divorced.  Irene went home to Mama and Ed who lived in Marlow at that time. In Marlow she met Edgar Cochran. I begged her not to remarry because she couldn’t have babies and she was shortening her life. They married in 1940. After she learned she was pregnant, they lived with Odis and me until the baby was born. The baby girl, Mary Sue, was delivered in our home by Dr. Jones. She was sickly and wouldn’t nurse. I worked with the baby for three days, feeding her with a dropper, but she just couldn’t swallow. I think she probably had a cleft palate. I dressed her after she died. She is buried in Randlett cemetery. Later Edgar went to work in San Diego, California. Irene followed him. In September 1943 she gave birth to Steven Robert. When Steve was three months old, Irene became ill. In the hospital, they withheld water from her. She drank from the flower vases. She was on bedrest; a nurse surprised her in the bathroom; Irene fell and died later that night on December 27, 1943. Edgar brought her body back to Oklahoma by train. She is buried in Walters cemetery.

Emma Ruth had gone to work in California after the war started. She tended Steve during this time. When Steve was four months old Emma Ruth came by train to deliver the baby to Mama in Walters, Oklahoma. However, in route, he contracted chicken pox, and she left him in Marlow with Edgar’s parents. One week later, she returned for him but they wouldn’t let her have him. Later she returned to California, and has not returned to Oklahoma. We tried to see Steve at different times through the years but were denied. When Steve was 18 he came to us. He learned of us through mutual friends. I told him about his mother. I also mentioned Emma Ruth’s kindness to him. He joined the Navy and while stationed in San Diego, found Emma Ruth.

In 1944, Ed went to Tulare County, California and started a job with the government. He later “sent for” his family. There were seven who rode the train: Mama, Emma Ruth, Zol, Elmer, Virginia, Ray and Dewayne. Geneva, J. D., and I were married and remained in Oklahoma.

Ed & Myrtle Sims

The year after Jocie’s death, we had moved from the old McCaig place to the Gower place in the West Cache Creek bottom. Boyd, Sam and Odis farmed on halves with Houston Gower. They farmed with four mules, a turning plow, lister, go-devil, cultivator, harrow and two wagons. Sam and Boyd were both married. When the war started, Boyd went over to fight. We continued to farm the land for several years, even though we had to move out of the bottom because of Mr. Vantine’s asthma. These were good years! We milked two cows – a Jersey named Bell and a Brown Swiss called Brownie. Brownie gave eight to ten gallons of milk a day. Of course we fed them well — ground corn, cottonseed meal, cake and hay. Every year we bought three or four hogs to feed out for butchering. We bought fifty to a hundred baby chicks each spring. We killed the young roosters to eat but kept the pullets for layers. We had a vegetable garden, but I didn’t “can” back then because I was usually pregnant and had the small children to care for. We picked up pecans, hunted squirrels and fished on the creek. The creek overflowed often. We were between two branches of the creek. When it flooded we had to leave in a high wagon with the kids and clothing. Sometimes we had to stand up in the wagon and hold the kids out of the water. We turned the mules loose, and they always went back to Houston Gower’s. While we were there we never lost our cotton crop due to flooding.

Odis worked at the refinery at Duncan. After helping me milk the cows, separate the milk, and “slop” the hogs, Odis walked into Temple every morning to catch a ride to the refinery. One day fog was so bad he carried a lantern across a plowed field with watered terraces. He got lost. He blew out the lantern, and finally found the railroad tracks. Though he didn’t know which direction to take, he realized he had chosen correctly when he walked into Temple. He was in time to catch the big truck that hauled the men to Duncan every day.

It was late fall when we butchered hogs. The night was getting late and we were exhausted. We decided to put the hams on top of the house to keep the animals from them. I handed one of them up to Odis. Something started slapping me in the face. It was dark and it took me a while to figure it out. It was a tail left on the ham! We got so tickled we could barely lift the rest of the hams.

We were milking. Every time Odis put out feed, the dame ornery old cow stuck her head into the trough. Odis picked up a two-by-four. The next time the old cow put her head in, he was ready for her. However, the cow moved and a chicken flew in. Odis’ reflex was so good, he splat the chicken!

While on the Gower place Myrtle Jociephine (named for her grandmothers) and Cora Lee (Mr. Vantine named her for an old girlfriend) were born at home, June 23, 1940 and August 27, 1941, respectively. I didn’t even have a doctor present with Cora’s birth.

Myrtle Jociephine Vantine

One day I was doing the wash. While hanging out the clothes, I overheard a very pleased John say, “Dinah, you look just like a little nigger.” They had crawled through the trap door of the chicken house, and John had dipped Myrtle in a five-gallon bucket of a creosote mixture we had used to doctor the chicken roosts. I ran to the house with her and quickly bathed her in one of my wash tubs. She never did blister!

Odis Eugene (Emma Ruth named him for Odis) was born February 26, 1943. My babies were usually big, but he was my biggest! He weighed over thirteen pounds. Gene was born at home and the doctor wouldn’t put his true weight on the birth certificate.

When I was pregnant with Jim, I lad down with Gene who was a baby to take a nap. Later I went to check on the older kids. I was quite startled to see our placid old cow coming from the barn. She was harnessed with three small “cowboys” on her back — John, 5; Myrtle, 4; and Cora, 3. The cow was headed for the stock pond. If she went into the water, the would drown. I was a “sight for sore eyes” running with my big belly. But I caught the cow. The kids were just thrilled!

James Louis (named for Ed Sims) was born in Walters Hospital on February 8, 1945. He was a colicky baby. At three months of age, Jim developed pneumonia. We finally put him on cows milk. Throughout his childhood, he went to sleep anywhere – usually after crawling under something. Many times we had to search for him. We would find him asleep under a tree in the yard, or wrapped in a quilt under the porch. One time he pulled a blanket off the clothesline, crawled under it and went to sleep.

We took care of Mr. Vantine (Quince) for six years. He was a man of small stature and few words. Myrtle loved to help wait on him. She became the “apple of his eye”. I nursed him to the end. He told me, “Ruby, I will probably die when we are alone but don’t be afraid of me.” He died before dawn one morning in May 1945. When the funeral home employees were carrying him out, Mr. Vantine’s arm fell off his chest. When I reached over to put it back under the cover, the funeral director said, “Oh, Honey. You don’t have to do that.” I responded, “It doesn’t bother me at all. I’ve touched him and bathed him for years.” Boyd was on a ship returning home from the war and couldn’t be reached.

John Quincy Vantine in his casket.

On Saturday, March 9, 1946 I knew the time was near for me to deliver my sixth child. Odis did the laundry and I helped him hang it out. My back hurt all day. We got supper “out of the way” and Odis went to get Dr. Hostage. The doctor immediately turned the baby and Mary Ellen (Odis named her for school teacher’s young daughter) was born. Two hours later, our weekend guests arrived – Uncle Joe [Vantine], Elsie, Bill and Allene.

In October 1947, I was in Walters Hospital with complications of pregnancy. We were living across the road from Elmer and Mildred Caulkins. When Odis visited me I noticed that his hair and eyebrows had been singed. He explained to me that our home had burned. Though we lost everything, the children were okay. He had gone back into the burning house to find Jim who had a very strange sleeping habits. A healthy baby girl, Ruby Ann (Mildred named her for me), arrive three weeks later on October 22. [It has been said that many old family photographs were lost in this fire.]

On Jim’s fourth birthday, I made him a cake. He wanted to lick the frosting bowl. I pulled him to me and whispered, “If you’ll be good, I’ll get you a baby brother or sister tonight. It’s our secret so don’t tell anybody”. The next morning while feeding the children their breakfast, Odis announced the arrival of the new baby brother, Ronnie. Jim said, “Me know it! That was me Mommy’s secret!” My last child, Ronald Leon (nurse name him; the kids wanted to name him Homer Lee but I nixed that!) was born at Walters Hospital on February 9, 1949.

As in most large households, we had our share of childhood diseases… the worst being whooping cough… all at the same time. Another bad time was when living at Beaver Creek Station everybody caught the flu and Odis developed pneumonia.

There were also accidents… three-year-old John’s broken leg, six-year-old Ruby Ann’s lost finger, seven-year-old Mary’s broken arm and severed foot.

Throughout these early years of our marriage we worked very hard. During the winter Odis got out of bed every morning and built the wood fire. While I cooked breakfast, he put the kids’ shoes on them and kept them entertained. We shared the chores. After he went to work, I bathed the children, starting with the baby first, and then worked my way up to the oldest child.

The best Christmas I remember was in 1949. We had recently moved to the Ernest Hoodenpyle place. Ern had asked us to move there to help keep the small rural school which his wife Ruth taught. Odis worked for Ern, farmed the Edgar Davis place, and also did construction work in Lawton. We had planned to drive to Randlett to have Christmas dinner with our lifetime friends, Sam and Ida Spinks. However, right outside of Walters, we met them. They had come to have dinner with us. Ida brought homemade pies in a large suitcase! Their teenage children, James, Don and Bernice were with them. We played basketball all afternoon. We agreed that it was a great Christmas.

In January 1951 we moved from Cotton County to the Leticia community in Comanche County. Our children attended Fairview, a small rural school. Later they attended Central High School. We lived there for eight years. In August 1958 we moved to Sterling where our six younger children graduated from high school.

Another highlight in my life was when I became a grandmother for the first time at the age of thirty-eight. I now have twenty-four grandchildren and sixteen great-grandchildren.

My mother had black curly hair. She liked to look nice and always wore hosiery and pumps. She had diabetes in her later years. She died on November 14, 1962 in Lindsay, Tulare County, California. Geneva and I took our first airplane trip to her funeral. I was claustrophobic and wanted the stewardess to open the window so I could get some more air. Needless to say, she wouldn’t. I passed out and they couldn’t bring me to. The pilot called ahead for emergency medical personnel to be on standby. Dock and Clara were waiting to pick us up at Bakersfield. There was an ambulance backed up to the plane. When it was announced that there would be a short delay for an emergency, Dock said, “It’s Ruby!” Geneva brought me back on the bus.

Geneva died following surgery in May 1980.

[Her story ends here. It is possible there is more to this story that my Aunt Mary has.]

Granny passed away in Lawton, Oklahoma on February 26, 2002. That day she told her doctor, “I’m so tired. I’m just so tired.”

I love you, Granny.

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Posted by on February 8, 2010 in Genealogy


The Search For Barbra Schueler

In December, in preparation for my wife’s grandmother’s funeral, my father-in-law found a small envelope in a file cabinet that contained many tintype and cabinet card photographs from the 1860s and 1870s. This envelope contained photographs for ancestors that I had never found in my research, but I’ve been able to connect most of them to my exisiting trees. One woman that has eluded me is Barbra Schueler.

Ashley’s great-great-great grandmother was Alice Rebecca Burris. She was born in 25 September 1860 in Ohio. She married John Reuben Beachler, and later in life John Z. Sample.

Alice Rebecca Burris

Alice’s parents were John Burris (b. 1836) and Mary Ann Hoffman (b. 1831).

Family of John & Mary Anna Burris

Alice is  pictured here with her brothers Charles (left) and William David (right).

The parents of Mary Anna Hoffman Burris were David Hoffman (1804 – 1890) and Catherine Shuler (1801 – 1870).

David & Catherine Hoffman

David was born on 14 January 1804 in Pennsylvania, and died on 20 November 1890 in Montgomery County, Ohio. They are both buried in the Verona Cemetery in Montgomery County.

I did find a mention of David in “The History of Preble, Ohio” which was published in 1881.

Page 28: “David Hoffman came to Preble from Montgomery County and settled on the farm he now owns, which is located in the northern part of the township. He was born in 1804, and in 1828 married Catharine Shuler, born in the year 1800. She died in 1870, leaving a family of three children. Mr. Hoffman married in 1877, Sarah D. Hubley, born in the year 1813. He was at one time the owner of one hundred and sixty acres of land, all of which he divided among his children. His son, Ephraim, served during the war of the Rebellion, during the hundred days’ service.”

David & Catherine had three children: Rebecca, Mary Anna, and Ephraim (b. 18 July 1840). Ephraim died on 12 March 1923 in Montgomery Co., Ohio. Ephraim married Rebbecca Burris (I think she was a brother to John Burris). I’ve been unable to find out more about him.

David’s parents were Philip (15 June 1766 – 6 December 1835) and Eva Maria Kuntz Hoffman (12 November 1774 – 3 January 1859). They lived in Perry and Cumberland Counties in Pennsylvania. Philip is buried in the Pfoutz Valley Methodist Church Cemetery in Perry County. From what I can tell, Eva is buried in the Concord Cemetery in Montgomery County, Ohio.

The children of Philip & Eva Maria were:

Peter (1802 – 1867) died in Little York, Montgomery County, Oh.

George (1803 – ?) died in Little York, Montgomery Co., Oh.

David (1804 – 1890) Ashley’s grandfather.

Philip (1806 – 1891) died in Little York.

Enoch (1809 – ?)

Abraham (1810 – ?) died in Allen County, Indiana.

Eva (1811 – ?)

Thomas (23 December 1816 – 28 July 1893) d. Des Moines, Iowa. He married Mariah Strong Ensley (1818 – 1903).

Jonathan (1817 – 1930) d. Wabash County, Iowa

Samuel (1817 – ?) died in Huron County, Ohio. He married Nancy Eliza Ensley.

You can see that I’ve been able to find a little bit of information on the Hoffman side of this family. I’ve been unable to learn much about David Hoffman’s wife, Catherine Shuler. Which brings me to the title of this post.

Also in the envelope of tintypes was a small photograph labeled as “Barbra Schueler.”

Barbra Schueler

I’m thinking this might have been Catherine’s mother. Of course Schueler/Shuler would have been her married name. It is likely that Catherine was born in Pennsylvania, so this is where I will focus my search.

It has been most difficult to find the Hoffmans and the Shulers in the U.S. Census. Usually this is where I have the most luck in finding information to help me in my quest.

If Barbra is the mother of Catherine, this would mean that I now have 10 generations of photographs (from my children to Barbra). I have 8 generations of photos for several lines of the family, but not ten!

Seeing these family photographs has been most exciting. Ashley’s granddad said, “You’d have thought he’d [referring to me] been handed a wad of hundred dollar bills.” Thank goodness someone years ago thought to label these photographs. Many times tintypes have no names attached to them. I have a feeling that it was either Alice Rebecca or her daughter Mary Hannah Beachler Morton. I’m grateful that they took the time to identify the ancestors in these treasured photos.

So who is Barbra Schueler?

I’m still searching for the answers.

Edit: A few hours later.

I found a few more clues in the census for Montgomery County, Ohio.

1840 – Randolph Township, Mont. Co., Oh.

David Hoffman –

1 Male aged 10 to 15.

1 Male aged 30 – 40. (David)

2 Females aged 5 to 10. (Mary & Rebecca)

2 Females aged 20 to 30

1 Female aged 30 to 40 (Catherine)

1850 Census – Randolph, Montgomery County, Ohio

David Hoofman – 45  born in Penn.

Catharine             – 50 born in Penn

Mary                     –  18  born in Penn

Rebecca                – 17 born in Penn.

Ephriem              – 10   born in Ohio.

Barbary Shaver – 54 born in Penn.

So there’s a Barbary living with the Hoffmans in 1850! Could this be the Barbra Schueler? The last names  are similar. She would have been born in 1796, so she couldn’t have been old enough to have been Catherine’s mother. But she could have been a sister?

1860 Census – Randolph, Montgomery Co., Ohio

David Huffman – 56

Cath           – 59

Rebecca      – 26

Ephraim       – 20

So now I know that they were living in Montgomery County from 1840 through 1860. Living next door to the Hoffmans were:

John Burrows (Burris)  – 24

and his wife, Mary         – 28.

Still trying to find Barbra.

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Posted by on January 30, 2010 in Genealogy


Voyage to the New World.

Two of my great-great grandfather’s (Hinderikus Martens Swart) sisters married into the Nanninga Family of Manslagt, Ostfriesland, Germany. These two sisters were Hinriette van der Horst Swart who married Garrelt Reinders Nanninga in 1876 and Martha Annette Swart who married Tjaart Reinders Nanninga in 1873.

G.R. and Hinriette Swart Nanninga

G.R. and Hinriette Swart Nanninga

Tjaart and Martha Swart Nanninga

Tjaart and Martha Swart Nanninga

I believe both of these men were sons of Reinders Tjaart Nanninga, pictured below.

Reinders Tjaart Nanninga and his second wife Geelke Garrelts.

Reinders Tjaart Nanninga and his second wife Geelke Garrelts.

Reinders Tjaart and Geelke Nanninga sailed for America from Germany in 1871. Just as my Swart family came to America in 1872, they wound up living at Leonardville, Riley County, Kansas. Though the Swarts went to Castle Garden in New York City and the Nanningas went to Baltimore, I think the experiences on the ship were probably similar.

I found an excerpt from a diary kept by Teetje Nanninga, eldest daughter of Reinders. She was born in 1854 and died not long after the family homesteaded in Kansas. The family said she died of homesickness for her native land. She would not eat or sleep, and soon lost all interest in life.

The Diary

Translated from German by my cousin Myrtle Picking Nanninga Myers in 1961.

April 14, 1871 – It is certainly in God’s divine plan and will that one must part from the dearest that one has. How well I know, there is still nothing in the Walk of Life that is so painful to the heart, as to part, yes, to part! Now you must understand me right if people part they say “Good-Bye” or Aufwiedersehen. I shall leave my homeland and go to the foreign country. Leave my Fatherland and emigrate to America. My parents and brothers and sisters will go also but my grandfather, aunts, uncles, a loving sister, cousins, friends and acquaintances remain here.

April 15, 1871 – At 9:00 o’clock this morning we went to Emden, and changed to the train. The train stopped in the villages of Odersum, Meermor, in the city of Leer, again in the villages of Wustling, Stickhausen, Wight, Delmonhorst, then in the city of Oldenburg, where the houses were painted white and had red roofs, then through more villages to Bremen. Along the way were shrubs and pasture land. The Colsul Jehon waited for us in Bremen, and with his help, our luggage was placed on a wagon. We went to the Inn, our host knew of our arrival and put us in a room that was not very clean. The same evening Father went with the Consul Jehon and secured us passage on the Sail Ship “Iris”. The Captain’s name was Schuette. We were to have two cabins.

April 17, 1871 – At eleven o’clock, we went to the Station in Bremen and went to Bremerhaven; it rained so hard that we had trouble finding the ship, “Iris.” Several other ships were also leaving the Port.

Wednesday, April 19, 1871 – At 11:00 o’clock we left Bremerhaven with especially good wind. In the evening, there was a storm and we were very scared. On the next day we were all sea sick, and stayed in bed two days.

April 22, 1871 – Saturday we were much better. In the afternoon, it was very foggy. The ship did not toss much.

April 23, 1871 – Sunday. This was a long day. There was no work to be done. The ship moved forward only a short distance.

April 25, 26, 1871 – We passed England.

April 27, 1871 – We were sea sick again as the ship tossed violently. I stayed in bed on Friday.

April 30, 1871, Sunday – This was a long tiresome day. The was was so strong that the water splashed over the deck so no one could go there. In the evening it was much nicer while the ship was still, we danced with our young friends. We did not move forward, the ship stood still.

May 1, 1871 – We came out of the English Channel. We were on the way twelve days but if the wind had been favorable then we could have travelled that far in three days.

May 2, 1871 – This was a nice day, the wind was favorable. It was so warm that we could scarcely be on the deck. In the evening, Father and I enjoyed the fine view.

May 3, 4, 1871 – The wind was not good.

May 6, 1871 – Today is my birthday. I received congratulations and good wishes. The wind was very favorable.

May 8, 1871 – The wind was favorable. In the evening, we saw different kinds of fish.

May 9 to 12, 1871 – The wind was not favorable. On Saturday, the ship tossed so much that I stayed in bed all day with a bad headache, so did many others.

May 13, 1871 – This was a nice day with good weather.

May 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 1871 – The weather was nice, real hot but so calm we did not move forward.

May 27, 1871 – The ship tossed violently but we were not sea sick. We had a bad Pentecost as we were in the Gulf Stream of the Gulf of Mexico. It was better than we thought it would be as we could go on deck. The next day in the evening, there was much playing and dancing. However, I kept away as during this Pentecostal time we were not allowed to dance.

May 31, 1871 – Again it is real warm. The wind is unfavorable, this lasted until June 6th. We made no progress on our journey.

June 7, 1871 – Again the was was favorable. The day was warm, we went without stockings and underjackets. In the evening there was a violent storm. The rain fell in streams, the winds were violent. The ship crew understood this storm for they had lived through such storms in the Gulf Stream.

June 8, 1871 – It was so still that the ship did not move, Friday.

June 9, 1871 – The wind was favorable and by evening we were so near land that the Captain could see a light house. However, no, we must turn back again while yet no Pilot had come on board and the Captain could not see the place by night.

Sunday, June 10, 1871 – On this day we were together on the deck almost all of the time, we wanted to see the Land. At noon, a Pilot came on board, he was a negro. In the afternoon, a heavy storm and rain came, the sailors were soaked as they drew in the sails.

June 11, 1871 – This morning we thought that we would leave the ship quickly and we thought that we would be in Baltimore by evening, however, it was otherwise. Because of wind, at 9:00 o’clock, they had to cast anchor. At noon a Pilot came and took us into Port of Baltimore. We remained here until the next morning. Then after the Doctor had seen the sick on Board, we were taken by steamship into the harbor of Baltimore.

June 13, 1871 – As soon as we were in Baltimore, and we had our luggage, several men came to inspect our luggage; everything must be open; some they only saw what was on top, others they looked through, finally they put a stamp on the luggage and made a record of it. At noon, we left the ship with the other passengers. Everything was very difficult as the people and the language were strange. First, we must take leave from our friends then we must go to the train.

June 14, 1871 – The coach was different than those in Germany. There were seats or benches on both sides of a middle aisle. The seats were upholstered. In ever coach there was a can of fresh water, also a water closet. One could go from one coach to another, at the end was a glass door and a small hallway, where three or four men could stand. We were in the first coach with Mr. Groenhagen and his wife. Various friends were in the third coach. We went through mountains, the valleys and forests. We had never seen anything like this before. We saw beautiful waterfalls. When the train stopped we got out quickly and picked the lovely flowers and branches of shrubs that grew along the way. Soon all the windows in the coach were filled with flowers. All these weeks, we had missed the flowers very much.

* * *

The family then went on to Kansas City, then to Manhattan, Kansas, where they were met by Jacob and John Benninga who had come to America several years before. The second Nanninga son, Tjaart Reinders Nanninga has come to America in 1869, and was living with the Benningas who had homesteaded northwest of Riley, Kansas.


Posted by on September 18, 2009 in Genealogy