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The lure of land

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Joined: 17 Mar 2009
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Location: Liverpool, NY

PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2020 3:45 pm    Post subject: The lure of land Reply with quote

Some of you may remember the song lyrics “give me land lots of land under starry skies above”. Although under different circumstances, this was the sentiment of the early settlers of Concordia. They dreamed of acquiring a significant amount of land that they could farm.

By the middle of the 1800s Germany suffered from severe over population. Large families resulted in an ever increasing population which could not be supported by the available land. The primogeniture rules of that day decreed that the oldest son inherited the entire family farm leaving the younger ones to fend for themselves. In some cases the farms were subdivided into smaller lots to permit more families to own land. Eventually the lots became so small (as small as 5 acres) that they could not support a large family. The amount of land a person owned was considered significant. In various records, people were classified by the amount of property that they owned. Heads of households with large amounts of property least 100 morgen (1 morgen = about .62 acres) were listed as a Vollmeyer. Those owning subdivided property might be a Halbmeyer or a Viertelmeyer, etc. People without any property would be usually classified as Hausling. Family incomes were supplemented in various ways. For example, they would grow small amounts of flax which the women would then spin into thread and weave into linen cloth. (Note. Many of the immigrants to Concordia grew hemp as a cash crop. This was sold in Lexington and shipped to the South for making burlap bags and rope to bind the cotton bales.) Farmers would find extra jobs to supplement their income. My ancestors did carpentry work on the side and they also maintained colonies of bees for honey and wax which they could sell.

In the mid 1800s northern Europe was hit by an extended period of bad weather. Very poor harvests resulted in widespread starvation. They also suffered a serious blow from the industrial revolution in England. This produced large amounts of cotton cloth that flooded the country and caused the linen market collapse. Young men would walk at least 100 miles to Holland looking for summer jobs. The common expression of the day was “Amerika hat es besser”. A German official, Gottfried Duden, had spent some time in America and wrote a book extolling the virtues of living in America , particularly Missouri, citing its excellent growing conditions and a seemingly endless supply of fertile land at the bargain price of $1.25 an acre. This book was widely disseminated in Germany, inspiring many to consider emigrating. By the end of the 1800s, over 5,000,000 Germans had immigrated to the United States. Many of them settling in the Midwestern states. As late as 1950, census records indicate that over half of the residents of Missouri had some German ancestry. Clearly many of those who came were enticed by the lure of land.

The plight of Henry Bruns

My third great grandfather, Henry Bruns (baptized Johann Heinrich), had a slightly different problem than most of the other immigrants. He had a sizeable farm in Buren, Germany; however, he had four sons. He wanted to treat them equally and not have all of his land pass on to his eldest son only. If he divided the land into four parts, they would have considerably smaller farms. They would only be a Viertelmeyer. So he came up with a plan. He would sell his land in Buren. This would give him sufficient money to take his family to America and buy considerably more land there. So in November 1839, he sold his farm and packed the family (his wife, four sons, a daughter, and a niece) on the ship Meridian sailing to the port of New Orleans. A younger cousin H.D. (Heinrich David) Bruns also emigrated on that same voyage. They hurried up the Mississippi River to witness the marriage of H.D.’s brother-in-law Conrad Stuenkel who was also a cousin of Henirich Johann. See a copy of the marriage certificate with both signatures.
After a brief stay in St. Louis, they went to the Concordia area and began purchasing land. In six different purchases Henry accumulated a total of 320 acres, enough to provide 80 acres for each son.
My grgrgrandfather, John Henry(christened Heinrich Johann) received the plot of land on the north side of the property that the elder Henry donated to St. Paul’s for their first church and cemetery, just north of present day Concordia.

One would like to say that John Henry lived “ happily ever after”, but that was not to be the case. John Henry’s wife Christine Frerking died quite young leaving him with two young children. He remarried and continued living on the same farm with his second wife Anna Detmar. During the Civil War when bushwhackers threatened Concordia he rode out with a group of neighbors to confront them. He was killed in the massacre of Oct. 10, 1864. There is a legend that he buried his valuables in a side yard before leaving. However, no one ever found that treasure. It did provide an incentive in later years for children to dig up the garden in that area. Anna continued to live on the land with her second husband Gerd Ficken but, eventually the property reverted back to John Henry’s first daughter Sophia Bruns. She married my grgrandfather, Louis Stuenkel, son of Conrad Stuenkel.

The next person to enter the picture is my grandfather Jacob Pape. He was a 15 year old orphan when he immigrated to the U.S. as an indentured servant to a farmer in Arkansas. Besides his personal effects, the only thing he brought with him was his confirmation certificate for identification and a bolt of linen that his mother had given to him. After serving several years in the rice fields of Arkansas, he sold his bolt of linen to the farmer’s wife and set out for the wheat fields of Washington state. After several years there, he went to Concordia to see a young girl he had met on his arrival to America. She was Maria, daughter of Louis Stuenkel. He then married Maria and worked for his father-in-law on the farm. He pooled his earnings with a small inhertance of 500 marks given to him by his father and held in trust back in Germany. With this money he was able to purchase the farm from Louis.
Jacob built a new home on the same spot where John Henry Bruns house originally stood. This new house became the Pape homestead. There Jacob and Maria raised a family of seven children. Most of the children took up various occupations and moved to other locations. Jacob planned to hand down the farm to his youngest son Elmer. Sadly, however Elmer was killed in Italy during WWII, the second person who lived on that farm to become a casualty of war. So the farm was handed down to Jacob’s oldest daughter Flora and her husband Henry Hensiek. After Henry died, the farm was sold to neighbor Wilber Schlesselman. Wilber farmed the land but left the house unoccupied.

At a 1984 Pape family reunion, some of the attendees went out to the farm to see what remained of what they remembered. The area was considerably overgrown, but the house still stood there, much like I recalled. The watertower that Elmer had built was lying in a heap behind where the milk parlor and summer kitchen stood. The beehives were gone, so one did not have to worry about being stung by the bees, like we children were when we played in the orchard and root cellar next to the house. Most of the other buildings had collapsed, but behind the old barn the windmill was still standing. A tree had grown up in the frame which kept the tower from tumbling over.

To this day, no one ever found John Henry Bruns’ treasure buried next to the house.
(By the way. the song lyrics cited above were from the old ballad “Don’t Fence Me In”, popular in the 1940’s)

stuenkelgerberdingmarriagehg_350 (1).jpg
A copy of the Conrad Stuenkel and Marie Gerberding marriage certificate. From the records of
Holy Ghost German Protestant Church, St. Louis, MO.
Note: the signatures of the witnesses, Heinrich David Bruns and Heinrich Johann Bruns.
 Filesize:  125.29 KB
 Viewed:  813 Time(s)

stuenkelgerberdingmarriagehg_350 (1).jpg

Pape Homestead(with water tower).jpg
Remains of the water tower behind the back wall of the milk parlor.
(photo courtesy of Phil Dieckhoff)
 Filesize:  156.68 KB
 Viewed:  813 Time(s)

Pape Homestead(with water tower).jpg

Windmill and end of barn.jpg
The windmill at the end of the old barn being supported by a tree growing within its frame.
(photo courtesy of Phil Dieckhoff)
 Filesize:  59.37 KB
 Viewed:  813 Time(s)

Windmill and end of barn.jpg

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