We do not become righteous by doing righteous deed but, having been made righteous, we do righteous deeds. Martin Luther
I am not a Lutheran. Although I appreciate much of their theology, I attended a Methodist Church growing up. A movement that grew out of the Anglican church and although much removed from its roots – the tree does flow back into the Roman Catholic faith. However, there is no disputing the effect the reformation had on both the faith of my childhood as well as the path my German ancestors took.
In the mid 1860’s my great great grandfather and his brother, left Germany for the United States. The conditions that created the need to leave home were a combination of religious and economic upheaval. This led to a major shift in the social structure of the time. There were some natural climatic cycles that also affected the food supply of the region. A long standing backdrop to all of this was the protestant reformation which began about 350 years prior. At the time my ancestors made their move, the effects of Martin Luther’s actions had all but crumbled the feudal system.
I have no doubt that once in the United States my ancestor clung closely to the German speaking community of immigrants as he made his way west to Kansas. Once settled in Kansas, he became a part of the Methodist church as Lutherans were not a major part of the landscape in northern Kansas. However, this could have been the influence of my great great grandmother as to what church they affiliated with. I get the sense that he was a man of faith, however tending to the land and ensuring his family was fed took priority over religious activities. Still if it had not been for the Reformation, I am not sure what the time line would have looked like for my family.
Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing – Wernher von Braun
In a post about a circa 1907 family reunion on the Rightmeier homestead in Jewell County, Kansas, I mentioned a great great uncle, August, we had lost track of. A friend who has a gift for finding lost family on the Internet decided to poke around for me. I was humbled that she took time to do this.
I had found an 1880 census record of an August G. Rehtmeyer on Ancestry that put him working as a “clerk in a store” in Pocahontas, Bond, Illinois. He was 19.
What We Found On August G Rehtmeier
He voted in 1890 while living at 819 W North Avenue, Chicago, IL
On November 24, 1887 he married Catharine Goldenbogen in Chicago, IL. Sir name spelled Rithmeyer on the marriage license.
1900 US Census shows him in Chicago at that same location with a wife, Kate and three children, Neta
(Nettie) (11), Walter (8) and Florence (5) Sir name spelled Rehtmeyr and occupation as a furniture dealer
He and Kate took a ship while cited as being a resident of Chicago and he went to Hamburg, on the Hamburg-Amerika line, a Dampfschiff (steam ship)
1908 He’s married and going from Hamburg through a French port to New York
September 12, 1912 He, Kate and the two girls takes the ship President Grant from Boulogne sur Mer France to New York
1920 Census he and Kate are living in Los Angeles on 3008 West 7th Street in a rental. He is listed as a furniture merchant and employer. The building there today looks about a 1920’s stor
efront. It is probable they lived above the store he ran. Name shown as AG Rehtmeyr
Then I see him going from Hawaii to LA on a ship 1923 and he’s living in LA on Olive St in 1926. He voted in CA as a Republican.
Two places have his death mentioned: Jan 6 1929, Los Angeles, CA at age 67. He’s buried at Forest Lawn Glendale. He was considered American on all the ships manifests.
The thing that interests me most about family history is the gap between the things we think we know about our families and the realities.
– Jeremy Hardy
In a recent post about a circa 1907 family reunion on the Rightmeier homestead in Jewell County, Kansas, I mentioned a great great uncle, August, we had lost track of. He was one of my great great grandfather’s older brothers with whom he stowed away on a ship in order to immigrate to America from northern Germany.
A friend and reader of this BLOG who has a gift for finding information on the Internet decided to poke around for me. I was humbled that she took time to do this. I found an 1880 census record of Uncle August on Ancestry that put him working as a “clerk in a store” in Pocahontas, Bond, Illinois. We currently subscribe to only the US portion of Ancestry, but my friend has the global version.
Avoiding Making Fake News
She found all kinds of neat stuff that opened up all manner of “filling in the blanks”. I wrote a great BLOG about it, even contacted a couple of family members about it. Using my version of Ancestry to find more details, I filled in a few more gaps. Once done, I decided to update my family tree maker in preparation to build a tree on ancestry with all this found information. And then I realized that the August Rehtmeyer that worked as a clerk in a store was not MY uncle August. Opps, that pesky reality, Truth, was about to mess up all my work.
1863 – left Germany as a stowaway with his brother, August. They were discovered en route and made to work for their passage. Arriving in New York with no papers, they were held to be returned to Germany, but instead jumped ship during the night and escaped.
1871 – Frederick became a naturalized citizen in Freeport, IL.
1874 – March, received a land grant in Buffalo Township, Jewell County, KS.
1874 – May, married Malinda Elizabeth Miller, the 17 year old daughter of His neighbors a mile or so north.
They lived the first five years of married life faming the homestead living in a dugout. Around 1880 they built their dream home on the homestead. By 1886 they had seven children, four boys and three girls. Another girl was born some years later, with two infant deaths in between. They also took in an young orphaned boy who died at the age of eight. With a farm to tend to and household of nine or more to feed, clothe and educate, it is not hard to fill in the story with daily life. There were no doubt community, some church and other social gatherings. Births, birthdays, holidays, romance and at some point weddings cam about to celebrate.
If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace. Gaston Bachelard
During one of my extended family’s visit to the Rightmeier homestead in Buffalo Township, Jewell County, KS, an aunt found a doorknob near the sight where the house had stood. We do not know if it is off of the homestead house or another structure from the farm. Since there has been no construction on the property since the house was demolished, there is little doubt it that it is from the homestead. The style is right for the era.
It was about five years after Frederick and Malinda Rightmeier had married in 1876, that it was decided they had “lived in a hole”, a dugout, long enough. It was time to build a house. Since Malinda had moved to the area with her parents three years before marrying Frederic, and had no doubt lived in a dugout with her parents for a time, I am sure she was more than ready for a proper house. By this time they had four children born about a year apart. Two adults and four little ones in a dugout would have been cramped no matter how comfy they may have managed to make it.
Dream-home Building Materials
Information on the acquisition of the materials for the house came from an oral history done from an interview of my grandfather, Lyman, Frederic’s grandson by my younger sister. He said that Fred made several wagon trips 50 east miles to Blue Rapids, KS on the Blue Ridge River to acquire the raw lumber as the quality was much better there. It may have been walnut he was after. Another account stated that the raw lumber was than milled in Randall just a few miles east and south. It was quite a process but was a nice house by the standards of the day.
“Prepare your outside work, Make it fit for yourself in the field; And afterward build your house.” Proverbs 24:27 NKJV
My mother’s paternal great grandfather, Frederick Konrad Regetmeyer, immigrated from northern Germany in the mid 1860’s. How that came about is told in a series on circles. After he was naturalized as a US Citizen, through the network of German immigrants, he became aware of land grant opportunities in Kansas. In the midst of dreams, he no doubt knew from others that living in a hole in the ground, a dugout, was part of the journey.
The German Immigrant Network
History tells us the German immigrants were anti-slavery and wanted Kansas established firmly as a free state. There was a period of time in my fair state, when this was quite unsettled. Rather than protest and fight wars, this community of folks quietly recruited their fellow immigrant countryman to come to Kansas and homestead. This would, in principle, bring like-minded voters to the state and therefore tip the scales toward the anti-slavery side.
I do not know how altruistic my great great grandfather was on the anti-slavery issue. However, I do know that from where he had come from in Northern Germany, the Hanover area, the possibility of owning a section of land just for the cost of making basic improvements was a dream come true. Bureau of Land Management records indicate that the southwest section, 160 acres, of Washington Township was deeded on March 10, 1874 to Frederick Rightmeyer. In May of that year he married Malinda Elizabeth Miller in Jewell County, KS. She was the daughter of the neighbor a mile north, who was born in Mercer County, IL but had come with her family in 1872 to the Kansas prairies.
Newlywed Life And A Dugout
How they went about setting up housekeeping is still being pieced together. By far the most valuable information we have is from an interview my sister did with my grandfather, Lyman Rightmeier the grandson of Frederick Konrad. She had done this as a term paper in 1977, for Mrs. Friends Senior Advanced Advanced Composition Class at Plainville High School. It has provided leads from which to research, not the least of which was my husband and I traveling to Varenholz Germany.