Monday, July 25, 2011

Marie Sommer

  • Name: Marie Sommer
  • Born: March 18, 1839 Heiligenstein, Germany
  • Died: June 25, 1918 Gridley, Kansas
  • Related through: Dan's grandmother Melva Castleton
 This article was written by Dan's grandmother Melva Castleton. Thanks Melva.

It was recorded in the old family German Bible that Marie Sommer Isch, known as Mary in America, was born March 18, 1839, in Heiligenstein, Germany. This Bible belonged to Mary Isch Shaffer, a granddaughter who lived in Gridley, Kansas. Later her birth record was found in Barr, Bas Rhine, France.

I corresponded with a genealogist, Madame Perez, She wrote the following." Her birth record reads as follows, birth record of Barr Civil state archive: 1839 the 18th of March was born Marie Sommer daughter of Michel Sommer, 36 years old, wine-grower in Barr and of Anna Erb aged 35 years, without profession. Witnesses: Jacques Gerber, 22 years old, shoemaker, Frederic Jost, 23 years old, weaver in Barr."

However, this doesn't mean they lived there. They were Anabaptists, a religious group thought to be radical and not tolerated by some. They may have found a tolerant vicar who would register their records in his parish.

The village of Heiligenstein is in Alsace close by the small city of Barr, 30 km (20 miles) southwest of Strassburg (today called Strasbourg), which is in France.

Her father was Michel Sommer, a farmer of Anabaptist faith, born Feb 3, 1803 in Mussig, Bas Rhine, France. Her mother was Anna Erb born in Lorquin, Meurth, France. She was the 6th of 7 children we have been able to find in that family."

As a child she probably played in the beautiful rolling hills of Heiligenstein with her brothers and sisters. Franz Rink, editor of a genealogical column in Strasbourg, wrote to me "The area from which your ancestors came is one the loveliest in Alsace, lying at the foot of the "Holy Hill" of the Odilienberg."

This little area in Alsace had long been a prize in wars between Germany and France. In the A.D. 300's and 400's Teutonic bands drove out the Celtic tribes then living in the region. Alsace-Lorraine became part of Charlemagne's empire in the late 700's but it fell to Germany when his grandsons divided his empire.

Alsace and Lorraine (Historic Provinces) remained under German rule until the 1500's, when France gained control of them in slow stages. The people fought all efforts to turn them into Frenchmen. But the French Revolution of 1789 brought a change of heart. The Alsatians became so French in spirit that more than 50,000 of them moved to France when Germany got the territory in 1871.

The Germans resented the loss of Alsace-Lorraine after World War I. They regained control of the area in World War II. The Germans moved thousands of the people out of the region, and replaced them with Germans, Poles, and Russians. The Allies drove the Germans out of Alsace-Lorraine in 1944-1945, and France again took control of the entire region.

When Mary was 14, a terrible epidemic of cholera came to their land. On October 1, 1854, her 21 year old brother, Jean passed away. Then Mary's mother became ill, not a soul would come to help her because it was such a dreaded disease. Whole families were dying. Five days later, October 6, 1854 her mother died also. She wept and kissed her dead mother, hoping she would contract the disease and be able to go with her. As she was dressing her dead mother she looked up, there was a lady standing in the doorway who kindly asked if her mother had gone too. Mary always remembered this kind stranger and told how she came in and helped her finish dressing her mother. A few weeks later on the same day, October 31, 1854 her 19 year old brother, Jacque and 10 year old little sister, Madeleine both died.

Mary was very lonely and went to live with her married sister in Frankfort, France (Not sure) who had a large family (12 children?) She was happy there and felt a part of the family, when her father came and said they were going to America. She didn't want to go, but her father being headstrong and authoritative insisted on her coming. At the age of 15, in 1857, she and her father immigrated to America." (Grandma told Melva much of this, dates came from research of Madam Perez.)

I was told by Grandma, Bertha Isch Getz that her father's brother in America had sent them the money, that his name was Jacob and they lived in Peoria, Illinois. (I have not been able to find them in cesus records.) Her father, Michel remarried, but again according to my Grandma, Bertha Isch Getz, knew nothing of his second wife or Mary's half brothers or sisters. Mary later heard that her father fell off a wagon and broke his neck but she was unable to attend his funeral in 1868, in East Peoria.

Mary met and married Nicholas Isch on January 18, 1862 in Metamora, Woodford, Illinois. They were members of the Apostolic Christian Church, and made their home on a farm in Metamora. Nicholas was a hard working farmer, he had very strict principles, they spoke German in their home.

Mary was very busy keeping a nice home, and raising a large family. She was a good cook, made a lot of cheese and butter, and made beautiful quilts. While in Metamora, she gave birth to Anna, Dena, Emma, Bertha, Leah, Joe, Samuel and Mary (twins) and Ida. In 1879, they moved to another farm in Gridley, Coffey County, Kansas. Here John and Ann were born. Their first girl Anna died in 1881 at the age of 18, just a month before the last little girl was born so they named her Anna also. In later years Mary suffered terribly with arthritis and became very crippled, but kept busy with hand work and quilting. She was in a wheelchair.

Mary was remembered as a kind woman who loved the Lord and served others. On a visit to Utah as they passed a buggy with some Japanese people in it she exclaimed, "Eh Bertha, I tell you the Mormons do look different."

Nicholas passed away at the age of 72 on May 6, 1915. On June 25, 1918 at the age of 79, Mary joined him in death. Their graves are in the Apostolic Christian cemetery in Gridley, Kansas.

Much of the above information was told to me (Melva Castleton Crookston), as we lived with Grandpa and Grandma, Philip and Bertha Isch Getz, in Tremonton, Utah. Some of the history and information was from the World Book Encyclopedia, published by Field Enterprises, 1963, and correspondence with several genealogists in France who did some of the research.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mary Melissa Griffeth

  • Name: Mary Melissa Griffeth
  • Born: July 17, 1862 Hyde Park, Cache, Utah
  • Died: November 28, 1944 Rupert, Idaho
  • Related through: Dan's grandmother Elivra Wilde

Mary Melissa Griffeth was born July 17, 1862 in Hyde Park, Cache County, Utah to Patison Delos Griffeth and Elizabeth Carson. She was born a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She was baptized June 11, 1871. She received a meager pioneer education and spent her girlhood days in Hyde Park. She met Austin Cowles Hyde and was married at the age of eighteen on February 12, 1880 in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City. Shortly after their marriage they established their home in Fairview, Idaho. She lived there until 1890, then moved to Grover, Wyoming. Two years later they moved to Auburn, Wyoming on a ranch her husband had purchased from Mary Melissa’s father.

Mary and Austin
While there, she endured the hardships of the pioneer wives and mothers. They lived in a one-room log house with a dirt roof. The family soon outgrew the one room house and another room was added on. Their united effort soon brought results. They moved from the dirt roof house into a new commodious frame home.

While in Auburn, Mother was very active in the Church organizations. She was Primary President, and served as Relief Society President for a number of years.

In 1919 they decided to move to southern Idaho, thinking it would be a warmer climate and would be more desirable for their remaining years. They bought a farm near Rupert, Idaho which proved to be a little more than they could take care of in their advanced years. In 1921 they bought a home and moved into the town of Rupert, where Mother resided until her death November 28, 1944.

She was the mother of eleven children, eight of whom survived her. She lived a useful life and was a very good mother. Her husband Austin Cowles Hyde died March 18, 1941 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

This sketch was written by her son Rosel.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Philip Getz

  • Name: Philip Getz
  • Born: May 19, 1868 Tremont, Illinois
  • Died: February 23, 1950 Tremonton, Utah
  • Related through: Dan's grandmother Melva Castleton

Philip Getz was born May 19, 1868 to Henry and Hannah Wenger Getz, in Tremont, Illinois. There were four daughters and seven sons, Louis, Peter, Sophie, George, Philip, Henry, Elizabeth, Daniel, Katherine, William and Emma.

His father, Henry Getz was born to Georg Peter Getz and Eva Katharina Kress in Bonfeld, Necker, Wurtemburg, Germany where his occupation was dying materials. Many problems arose with the government as their family tried to pull away from the state church and follow a religious group known as the "Baptizing Congregation," later known as the Apostolic Christian Church. He came to America at age 19 in 1894 with the George Wenger family.

His mother, Hannah Wenger was born September 21, 1840 in Helmhoff, Hesson, Germany to George Wenger and Eva Katherine Hagner. She also came to America with her family in 1854. They married in 1858.

Philip was reared and schooled in Tremont, Illinois until he was nine years old when the family moved to Greenwood County, Kansas, where they lived for five years. They returned to Tremont and lived on the farm later owned by J. C. Schweigert.

As a boy, Philip worked hard on his father's farm. Each Sunday they traveled by horse and buggy to the little wood frame Apostolic Christian church house. In this church he was baptized by immersion and truly dedicated his life to Christ.

A young girl, Bertha Isch came to work in the Getz home. She was a good hard worker, had a happy disposition and loved the Lord. They became acquainted and as was their custom Philip talked to his minister who spoke with Bertha and her parents. Arrangements were made and they were married January 1, 1893 in Tremont, Illinois, in the Apostolic Church.

They made their first home on a farm in Tremont, Illinois, where three sons were born, Samuel Gottlieb, Fredrick William and Elmer Nicholas (Ike). In 1901 they bought land in Utah. With a few families from their church they ventured west. They arrived in Deweyville in a boxcar. It was cold and raining, mud came to the hobs of the wagon that came to pick them up at the train. They had many hard times ahead, but were welcomed in the Gene Brenkman home until they had their own home built.

They built their home in Utah on 40 acres four miles west and one mile south of what is now Tremonton, on what is now called Rocket Road. They built a nice two story, six-room frame house. In 1902 soon after they moved into this home Ruth was born. Henry, Mary and Ervin were also born here.

The land where Tremonton now exists was covered with sagebrush and called Sagebrush Flats. About 100 German families came from Tremont, Illinois and wanted it named for their home, our family included. In 1803, Jacob Hoerr (Hare) met with the settlers and our town was named Tremont after Tremont, Illinois. For four years there was confusion with the mail being sent to Fremont in Wayne County Utah, so the name was changed to Tremonton.

Until that time their mailing address was Point Lookout. The post office was located two miles north of their home where Bothwell is now. After 1903, their mail was delivered on rural route out of Tremonton by a cart and team of horses.

The land they lived on was alkali and very poor for farming. This same land is very good farm land now that they have modern equipment and have drained it. In 1910 they moved to the Matthew Baer Place which they rented for 10 years. It was two miles west of Tremonton and was called Sommer Sommer Place, because it had been built by Grandpa Sommer and Uncle P. J. Sommer.

Here they went through the hardship of having two baby boys that died: Rueben and a stillborn boy who wasn't named. Grandma always remembered those little babies and talked of them often. They were buried at Salt Creek Cemetery just east of their first home. The land for this cemetery was donated by Grandpa Sommer, it's known as the German Cemetery and is still owned by the Apostolic Christian Church. In later years it wasn't well cared for so each spring we would weed and clean off their graves for Decoration Day. There is now a sign naming it the Apostolic Christian Cemetery.

In 1919 Phlip moved his family to a farm called the Reese Place in Elwood. They lived there one year. When I (Melva) was growing up the McMurdy family lived there.

In 1920 they moved into town. They lived in a little house in the back of the lot while their home was being built on the south-east corner on 4th north Tremont St. They had four lots so they had a barn and corral, chicken coops, pig pen and a big garden.

Grandpa was very proud of his fine team and wagon. He built up a good business as a drayer. Soon he was outdated by a younger man with a truck. They had a couple of cows to milk, pigs to butcher, and a lot of chickens which provided eggs to the poultry plant and lots of fried chicken and chicken noodle soup.

The great depression hit hard but they stuck together as a family and were able to make house payments and pay their bills. Grandma cooked for men working out on farms and construction and took in boarders and roomers. Many lost their homes at this time.

Grandpa was a soft spoken, kind, white-haired old gentleman. My sister and I followed him around, watching him feed the animals, work in his yard and garden and he let us help him gather and clean eggs. We played in the wheat bin, on the hay rack, in the barn, climbed trees and each spring we helped plant their huge garden from which many flowers and vegetables were shared with friends and neighbors.

Each spring I remember looking forward to Uncle Ike getting baby chicks. We would go to the train station and pick them up in cardboard boxes, I believe like a 1,000 or more. The fluffy little things made such a racket with their tiny little "peeps." We were so excited standing next to the wall in the chicken coop so we wouldn't step on one, watching Grandpa and Uncle Ike unpacking them. They put them in incubator trays warmed with light bulbs and water to drink.

Grandpa never said much, at mealtime we would bow our heads in silent prayer. I never ever heard him offer a prayer aloud, I had wondered if it was hard for him to pray in English.

I remember when we had a church just west of town across the canal. It was a white frame building. The sermons were always preached in German. The meetings seemed so long, probably because we couldn't understand. I'll always remember church in Grandma's living room when ministers came to Utah, after the church was gone. Maxine and I often hid as we were always asked to sing our German song, "Esgipt ein wunders shane as landt."

Grandpa always read the scriptures, I often think of him when I read in St. John. I believe it may have been his favorite as I remember him reading it a lot. I believe it is my favorite, probably because of this.

On Christmas Eve in 1945 Grandma passed away in her bedroom at their home. Grandpa seemed so quiet and lonesome after that. Aunt Mary came home from Peoria to live with Grandpa and Uncle Ike. On February 23, 1950, five years later Grandpa joined Grandma in death.

One of my greatest blessings has been the privilege of knowing each of my Grandparents very well. I remember the long quiet evenings in their home. Grandma would be sewing or doing some kind of handwork. Grandpa would read and take out his watch and look at it often. We just always felt loved and cared for.

Thanks to Grandma Melva for writing this history and sharing it with us.