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.