Monday, August 18, 2014


Recently I was asked to write up the story of my Great-Grandma, Emilie, and so I thought I would post parts of it here.  It was fun to find out a little more about her, since she passed on to heaven when I was young.  I took out the last names for this blog version.

Emilie was born October 22, 1899, as the sixth of nine children born to Johann and Anna.  Emilie's childhood was marked by the death of her mother when she was just 8 years old.  Her older sisters had big shoes to fill as they had to take care of all the family needs- the cooking, sewing and other household tasks.  Her sisters became very dear to her, and they enjoyed singing together and visiting throughout their lives.

Emilie's family, like many of that time, valued thriftiness and hard work- so much so that Emilie's father would not let them go to school on the first day for two reasons.  One, that it was too much excitement, and two, they didn't do any school work that day anyway so they might as well be working at home.  Sometimes when there was a lot of work to be done at home they would take turns going to school. 

When Emilie was 17 years old she was baptized on confession of her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ at Emmaus Mennonite Church, where she remained a faithful member her whole life.

Emilie got to know her future husband, John, while she was in grade school, but they didn't get married until she was 27, on June 8, 1927.  They were married at Emmaus, with John's father officiating.  Afterwards the reception was held in her father's barn's hayloft.  Her dress was beautiful and typical of 1920's fashion, with a low belted waist and two diamond shaped pins.  It was sewn by a seamstress in town for $7.00.  She wore a wreath of real myrtle leaves and flowers in her hair. 

John's father built them a new farm 3 miles from where Emilie grew up, where they settled and remained until they had to move to the nursing home.  The new house had an unfinished upstairs, and so it was very cold in the winter.  Emilie would put sad irons in the beds for warmth.  John and Emilie enjoyed farm life, and worked hard to provide for their family.  Emilie helped with the milking, separating the cream and washing the separator each day.  They sold milk, cream, and eggs at their door.

In 1928, a little over a year after they were married, they were blessed with their first child, a son, named Edgar John.  The first time Emilie took him to church was in 1929 for the dedication of the new Emmaus church building.  Edgar was six months old.  Then in 1931 their home was blessed with a daughter, Linda Marie, and nearly 6 years later, in 1937, they brought home their youngest blessing, Elfrieda May.  The children loved listening to Emilie tell them Bible stories, the story of the Good Shepherd was Linda's favorite.  They also would gather around the piano and sing while Emilie played.  One time when Emilie was in the hospital, Linda wrote her this note, "Dear Mother, I am going to try to be good, I am going to make the rooms look good tomorrow, and if I hit Edgar, please tell me that I should not do that, and I will try to mind you.  Sincerely yours, Linda Marie."  Emilie loved children, and always made sure visiting children were well entertained with cookies and toys. 

Two things Emilie really enjoyed were her garden and her chickens.  She raised a large vegetable garden and flower garden each year.  Some of the things she grew were strawberries, rhubarb, green beans, asparagus, and tomatoes, and she would do a lot of canning each summer, so they could enjoy the produce all year.  She had a large chicken house, and faithfully washed all the eggs in the basement even when she no longer had the strength to care for the chickens.  She would raise a new brood of chicks almost each year.  The chickens were also useful for eating, as this story told by her grandson, Stan, illustrates.

"One summer day when I was 7 or 8 years old, my parents left me at Grandma and Grandpa’s farm for the day. The morning activities took us out to the henhouse. First, we collected eggs in wire baskets, and then we washed the eggs. Then, Grandma got out these long rods with hooks on the ends, and showed me how to catch a chicken by its legs. Grandpa then appeared, and they suggested that I go in the house for a little while. I was curious about what Grandpa was going to do, so I stood at a distance. I sure was surprised to see him lift the chicken up to a stump, swing his ax, and “take care” of the chicken. I was also surprised that the chicken just fell there next to his chopping block, instead of running around the yard like my big brother had told me would happen in such situations. Grandma then showed me the process of scalding and plucking feathers. I had no idea that a chicken had different kinds of feathers in different parts of its body—the downy feathers were especially hard to pluck out. When we went inside later, I saw that Grandma had rolled out dough on the kitchen table and was cutting noodles. I then realized that chicken noodle soup was on the menu for dinner—I never did like chicken noodle soup very much, but I certainly wasn’t going to complain after all that work! Now that I’m older, I wonder how often Grandma and Grandpa butchered chickens. Did they do it that day to show me, or was that just part of their normal procedure for preparing dinner? After that experience, I remember how my brother and I would terrorize the chickens by trying to catch them with those wire hooks, when the grown-ups weren’t watching."

Emilie's granddaughter, Diana, also related a story about her Grandma's chickens and garden.

"One day Grandma butchered a chicken and brought it into the kitchen where the chicken clucked.  I couldn't figure out how a chicken could talk without a head.  I got the idea Grandma didn't like that it had happened either.  Grandma knew I liked flowers, so one day when I came over, she said, 'Come out to the garden, I want to show you something.'  Out in the garden was a large patch of blooming flowers.  They were very pretty."

Emilie enjoyed pretty things and was very thoughtful.  When company came she would set the table with her best china on a white tablecloth and often served meatballs, bread, rolls, carrot jello, canned peaches, and a piece of cake with frosting.  She tried on her wedding dress for her granddaughter, Diana, when she asked, and her daughters could not believe she had done that!  Her great grandchildren remember that she would serve them cherry nut ice cream when they came to visit and she would get out old antique toys for them to play with.

(this is me trying on Great-Grandma's dress back in 1989)

Christmas was a special time each year.  When the children were little, Emilie would decorate the tree in the parlor and not let the children in to see it till Christmas.  Elfrieda remembers the traditional foods they had were yellow soup (Gelbe Suppe, in German)  with raisins and currants, peppernuts, and a fruitcake.  In later years their granddaughter Diana remembers the German feather tree setting on a table with cardboard village houses covered in glitter lined up around the bottom.  There was also a candy sack for each family member.

Emilie and John enjoyed almost 65 years of married life together.  The last few years were spent at a nursing home.  Even when she could no longer communicate in whole sentences, she was still able to sing the old German hymns of her childhood.  Emilie entered heaven on April 16, 1992, at the age of 92.  She was a faithful, patient, understanding, loving and quiet wife and mother, who passed on to her children and grandchildren a love for God and His Word through her example.

1 comment:

  1. Just read about her last night, in the book: "For the Children".


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