My sister-in-law, Rachel Schulenberg has spent time in several areas of Wyoming in her lifetime. Most of them, I didn’t really know about. One place in particular was a surprise…the small town of Wapiti, Wyoming, where Rachel lived during her elementary school years. Rachel seems to have really enjoyed those years, and talks about walking by the “Weird and Wacky Smith Mansion” every day. When I look at the pictures of the Smith Mansion, I can see how it would be very interesting…especially for a kid. The mansion looks “haunted” in many respects, but it also looks somewhat like a “three ring circus.” It seems to have unusual entrances, strange floors…some of which are like a terrace, and in general, a look that is very similar to an oil derrick. I don’t know if the kids ever got in there to play, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find out they tried.
Rachel went to a sweet little country school in Wapiti, and apparently, the country life suited her…to a degree anyway. These days, she is back living in the country, but the roads in Homa Hills really don’t make country living easy. I lived out there for a while myself, and the Gumbo Clay is sticky and sloppy. It’s nothing like the picture perfect country lanes we all read about. Still, for Rachel and my brother-in-law, Ron it’s home.
Rachel’s years in Wapiti were sweet, and also bitterly sad. It was here that her mother, Connie Rae Mooren Franklin passed away. Rachel was just past 10 years old at the time. It was a devastating part of Rachel’s past, because she will always miss her mom. The family moved away from Wapiti shortly thereafter. Rachel had some tough years after her mother passed away, but one wonderful person came from her grief to give her purpose in life. Her daughter Cassandra “Cassie” was born when Rachel was 16 years old. Cassie says they went through high school together, and I’m sure that’s true. Many schools had an on-site daycare for young mothers. She graduated high school with her baby girl, went on to college, and got her accounting degree shortly afterwards. While she was in college at Northwestern Community College, she and Cassie lived in Trapper Village West. After her marriage and divorce, from her first husband and with two sons, Riley Birky, and Tucker Schulenberg (who was legally adopted by my brother-in-law, Ron), Rachel worked in home health for quite a while. Cassie tells me what an inspirationally hard-working single mom. She made their lives as close to normal as could be. The family had two dogs when Cassie was a teenager…a Poodle and a Shih Tzu.
Before her marriage to my brother-in-law, Rachel worked for and the family attended Glad Tidings Church. She met my brother-in-law, through her nest friend, Machelle Moore, who was not only with her through the good, bad, and ugly things in life, but was also, Ron’s niece. It was a marriage made in Heaven for both of them…and it made Machelle her niece too. Things just kept getting better and better. Then when Ron adopted her younger son, Tucker, it was the topper on what was to be a beautiful cake of life. Add two precious little grandchildren, Lucas and Zoey, and life is perfect. Of course, loss can continue to come, and Rachel recently lost her second mom (technically step-mom) Jan, and her grandmother. Today is Rachel’s birthday. She is an inspiration to a lot of us. Life wasn’t easy, but you made it beautiful for you and your family. Happy birthday Rachel!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My husband’s grandmother, Vina Hein was a remarkable woman. I was quite impressed with her work ethic. That might seem a funny thing to say about a woman who no longer worked outside the home, but she was, nevertheless, dedicated to he work…her home. For most of her life, she lived as a pioneer woman, because while her home had many things, and was a normal stick built home, it did not have an indoor bathroom, even though the bathroom was somewhat completed. Water was the main concern, as well water was used, and there is always the concern of a well running dry, I suppose.
Grandma was born on Groundhog Day, February 2, 1909. Of course, we all know that the ground hog has a 50-50 chance of guessing right concerning winter, and I personally think that the latest Punxsutawney Phil, maybe doesn’t have its act together. Todays prediction was for an early spring, but…time will tell. According to statistics, the groundhog saw its shadow in 1909, so that should have been six more weeks of winter. I have no idea what the winter ended up like in Montana, but knowing what Montana winters are usually like, In would be surprised if the winter ended early.
Grandma Hein saw many changes over the years of her life. From the early days of automobiles and airplanes to the more modern days of both before her passing. She saw telephones, and even the early days of cell phones. She was able to travel to the places where her children moved, and meet grandchildren, great grandchildren, and even 2nd great grandchildren. She lived a long and happy life, and yet we still never felt like she was with us long enough. Today, Grandma would have been 111 years old, but that would have been an unlikely birthday to have happened. Nevertheless, happy birthday in Heaven, Grandma Hein. We love and miss you very much.
My uncle, Bill Spencer has always been a very interesting man, and I mean that in the very best sense of the word. I don’t know what kind of a student Uncle Bill was in school, but he has always loved learning, probably more so on his own than in a classroom. Somehow he doesn’t strike me as a kid who would have loved being in class, but I could be wrong. His passion was, of course, the family history, but Uncle Bill likes history to go along with his family history, and that is where my uncle and I are the most alike. My Uncle Bill worked meticulously and tirelessly on the family history, someday hoping to get it into the hands of the younger generation, which ended up being me and a few others who cared about it the same way he did…and for his hard work, I will be forever grateful.
Much of my uncle’s knowledge about things was self-taught. He learned about antiques, guns, stamps, and coins; and then he incorporated his knowledge into businesses he owned and ran. And he would pass his knowledge along to anyone who wanted to listen. It was Uncle bill who got me interested in stamps and coins, and while I don’t have large collections, I have a few that I like. I think it might have been his love of stamps, coins, and guns that sparked Uncle Bill’s interest in antiques, but I don’t know that for sure. His knowledge of family history and his Dad, Allen Luther Spencer’s ability to make furniture, might have had a part in that too. In addition, the era that my Uncle Bill was born into, did not have the ability to mass produce furniture like we have today, so the beautiful furniture pieces became one-of-a-kind works of art, and not just the useful, but cookie-cutter furniture on our day.
Uncle Bill is getting older now, and some of his recent memory escapes him, but the past remains vivid, at least on his good days. The last time I saw him was a good day, and that made my sister, Cheryl Masterson, my cousin, Pam Wendling, and me very happy. His stories about the old days were vivid and full of knowledge, and any slips in his memory, were humorous and sweet, and still tied to people of the past. His advancing years, make me feel the urgent need to visit as often as I can, and my sisters, Cheryl, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, and I hope to make the trip late this upcoming summer for another visit. With each passing year, we just never know if Uncle Bill will still be with us. He isn’t the oldest sibling in his family, but he has lived the longest. Nevertheless, one day, he will no longer be with us. I pray that day is a long way off. Today in Uncle Bill’s 98th birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Bill!! Have a great day!! We love you very much!!
My uncle, George Hushman entered life in a troubled situation, and in the end, it was destined to get worse. His mother passed away when he was very young, and his dad was not involved or interested in his children’s lives or welfare. Uncle George and his sister, Betty were placed in an orphanage. They would not be one of the few older children to get adopted, because as most of us know, adoptive parents prefer babies. That might seem like the end of a sad story, but it isn’t. While George was not adopted “officially,” he did have families who “adopted” him in many ways. Wallace and Hettie Saint John, who were my future son-in-law, Kevin Petersen’s great grandparents, were very good to Uncle George, who was friends with their sons. The treated him like one of the family.
Then, of course, there was the Byer family, into which Uncle George would marry, making him my Uncle George when he married my aunt, Evelyn Byer. This was the point when Uncle Georges life took its most amazing turn. Upon their meeting, my aunt and uncle only had eyes for each other. Their world was suddenly filled with all of God’s greatest blessings. Their marriage would produce five beautiful children, Sheila “Susie” Young, George Byer, Shelley Campbell, Shannon Limmer, and Greg Hushman. They also went on to have many grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren. Theirs was a match made in Heaven. They were happy, and they were together as much as it was possible. Their marriage would endure the hardships and sadness that every marriage does, and it thrived. Anyone who knew them could see their great happiness. At the time of Aunt Evelyn’s passing on May 4, 2015, they had been married for 68 years. That is almost unheard of!! When Uncle George joined her in Heaven, they had been married 71 years, and they were reunited on Uncle George’s 92nd birthday. What a wonderful birthday present. Their eyes got to see each other once more, their hearts were reunited. I’m sure Uncle George was ecstatic!!
Uncle George was a quiet sort of man, but always kind. I always loved going over to their home, because we were always treated kindly by them both. They had built their house in Mills, Wyoming, in 1948, with the help of family. They loved their home, and unlike most couples, they would live in that same home for the rest of their lives. Most couples look around some before settling on their forever home. Others moves several times before really finding one that suits them. Not Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George. The knew what they wanted, and they never waivered. Theirs was a sweet forever home, where the couple that lived there were forever in love. Happy birthday in Heaven Uncle George. We love and miss you very much.
During his reign, Hitler was determined to rid the world of those people he decided were of an inferior race…basically anyone who was not blonde haired, blue-eyed, and fair skinned. It was a seriously strange idea considering that Hitler had dark hair, and it is rumored that Hitler may have had both Jewish and African ancestry. I don’t suppose he would have liked knowing that much, or maybe he knew and didn’t care.
Hitler had a plan in mind to create the “perfect” race. His plan was two-fold. Most people know about the Holocaust, and the mass killing of Jews, Gypsies, and other “undesirable” races, by starvation, beatings, and most notably, the gas chambers. It is not known exactly how many people were killed, but the number is estimated at 6 million Jews, and as many as 11 million other groups. It was horrific, but it was not the only plan Hitler had.
His other plan was the Lebensborn, which translates as “wellspring of life” or “fountain or life.” The Lebensborn project was one in which women…who were of the Aryan race, a historical race concept which emerged in the period of the late 19th century and mid-20th century to describe people of Indo-European heritage as a racial grouping. Heinrich Himmler founded the Lebensborn project on December 12, 1935, the same year the Nuremberg Laws outlawed intermarriage with Jews and others who were deemed inferior. In the beginning, the Lebensborn children were taken to SS nurseries. But in order to create a “super-race,” the SS transformed these nurseries into “meeting places” for “racially pure” German women who wanted to meet and have children with SS officers. The idea was that they were doing something great for “the cause.” The children born in the Lebensborn nurseries were then taken by the SS. The Lebensborn provided support for expectant mothers, we or unwed, by providing a home and the means to have their children in safety and comfort. For decades, Germany’s birthrate had been decreasing, and Himmler’s goal was to reverse the decline and increase the Germanic/Nordic population of Germany to 120 million. Himmler encouraged SS and Wermacht officers to have children with Aryan women. He believed Lebensborn children would grow up to lead a Nazi-Aryan nation. Once the children were born, the woman had the choice to marry the SS officer father, or give the child up for adoption. She was not allowed to keep the child on her own, and once she entered the Lebensborn she could not leave until the child was delivered.
Any children who were born with any defects were immediately put to death. The program had no room for any special-needs children. The children who were given up by the mothers, were usually kept at the Lebensborn for about a year before they were made available for adoption, and then only to SS or Wermacht soldiers families or members of the Nazi party. During their time in the SS nursery, they were named by Himmler. The whole purpose of this society (Registered Society Lebensborn – Lebensborn Eingetragener Verein) was to offer to young girls who were deemed “racially pure” the possibility to give birth to a child in secret. The child was then given to the SS organization which took charge in the child’s education and adoption. Both mother and father needed to pass a “racial purity” test. Blond hair and blue eyes were preferred, and family lineage had to be traced back at least three generations. Of all the women who applied, only 40 percent passed the racial purity test and were granted admission to the Lebensborn program. The majority of mothers were unmarried, 57.6 percent until 1939, and about 70 percent by 1940.
One of the most horrible sides of the Lebensborn policy was the kidnapping of children “racially good” in the eastern occupied countries after 1939. Some of these children were orphans, but it is well documented that many were stolen from their parents’ arms. These kidnappings were organized by the SS in order to take children by force who matched the Nazis’ racial criteria…blond hair and blue or green eyes. Thousands of children were taken to the Lebensborn centers in order to be “Germanized.” Up to 100,000 children may have been stolen from Poland alone. In these centers, everything was done to force the children to reject and forget their birth parents. The SS nurses were told to persuade the children that they were deliberately abandoned by their parents. The children who refused the Nazi education were often beaten. Most of those who rejected Nazi principles were transferred to concentration camps, usually in Kalish in Poland, and exterminated. The others were adopted by SS families. The whole Lebensborn program was twisted. It was like growing machines who would believe and do as they were told, which is what they thought the children would grow up to do.
Our aunt, Linda Cole was the middle child of my husband, Bob’s Grandma and Grandpa Knox. She and her husband, Bobby moved to Kennebec, South Dakota early in their marriage, and raised their two children, Sheila Gregory and Patrick Cole. In Kennebec, Linda and Bobby owned a hotel, and when people came to visit, they always had enough room for everyone to stay. My husband, Bob and I took our girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce to visit them once a year. It was a nice trip for us and they got to see family too. Running a hotel didn’t leave much time to travel, so the family that came to visit them was often the only time the saw the rest of us. Linda’s sister, Joann Schulenberg and her husband, Walt, my in-laws went often too. We all went in the summer, so it was often really hot in Kennebec. Nevertheless, the visits were fun, and I will always be glad we went.
Later, after a fire burned most of the hotel down, the family moved to Winnemucca, Nevada, where Linda and Bobby both found work in the casinos. They really liked working there and also enjoyed gambling on their days off. I don’t know how they fared in their gambling, but they didn’t really spend a huge amount of time at it. They liked the warmth and easy winters, and enjoyed the place they had out in the country. It was quiet, and that was nice after the noise of the casinos.
My in-laws visited them periodically in their travels as snowbirds, and the sisters got to know each other again. For so many years they had lived far away from each other, that they were more like acquaintances than sisters sometimes. The girls’ younger sister, Margee lives here in Casper. She and Linda talked on the telephone often, and they were very close. It was hard on the sisters to be so far away from Linda, but as time goes on, you get used to things.
In May of 2014, Linda lost her husband, Bobby, and then Linda passed away in September of 2016. It had been a number of years since her sisters had seen Linda, and that made her passing especially sad. It always seemed as if there would be time, but when time ran out, it left only sadness where Linda had been. We can only look forward to seeing her again in Heaven. Today would have been Linda’s 73rd birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Linda. We love and miss you very much.
Animal skins were used for clothing and blankets for centuries. People didn’t have other options in ancient times. The fur trade continued into the Old West, and it’s history is filled with stories of adventure, daring, and savage warfare. It is said that being a trapper took a man of strong constitution. It wasn’t a job for sissies. The trappers suffered isolation in the wilderness, and battled constantly against wild beasts and wild men. Many trappers didn’t survive it, and in fact, the majority died in the silence of remote regions.
One of those men was my grandfather, Allen Luther Spencer. Grandpa, along with his brother-in-law, my Uncle Albert Schumacher decided to become trappers. Northern Minnesota was filled with animals that were perfect for trapping, and they had decided to make their fortune. It was a noble decision, but they really had no idea just how tough it would be. This was not a job for the casual trapper. Most trappings occurred in the great mountains. Here, the trappers spent the larger part of their lives. I don’t think my grandpa and my uncle really had any intention of living their lives in the isolated wilderness. They just wanted to make a living.
They trapped for a time, and really they didn’t do too bad, when it came to trapping, but I don’t think they were prepared for the cold and isolation. Northern Minnesota is one of the coldest places on earth. That would prove to be their undoing. Camping out in a tent in the winter in northern Minnesota…well, it was kind of crazy. I guess in that way, so were they. After a while, they realized just how crazy it was. While they had modest success at fur trapping, they decided that it wasn’t really worth it in the end. I can understand that. If it were just the cold, it might be one thing, but there were the wild animals too. Bears, mountain lions, wolves, just to name a few, while prime furs, are still a force to be contended with. When you pit man against beast, all too often, the beast comes out on top, Of the many trappers in the old west, many went out to trap, and never returned…not only never returned, but were never heard from again. I’m glad that was not the fate of my grandpa and my uncle.
So, since they were already in the woods in northern Minnesota, and it was an area known for its lumber trade, they decided to abandon the fur trapping business, and go into the lumber business. That turned out to be a far better decision. Not only could they make a decent living, but they were able to sleep in a warm bed at night.
The United States has long been known as “The Melting Pot,” in reference to the immigration of many of its citizens. The United States was not a country that began with all of its people in place. I suppose no nation was really. There is, however, a legal way to immigrate, and an illegal way to sneak into a country. For the purpose of this story, the melting pot refers only to legal immigration. Beginning in 1892, and continuing until 1924, Ellis Island, located in New York Harbor, was the entrance for immigrants entering the United States. Not everyone who entered the United States had to go through Ellis Island, however. First and Second Class passengers were not so required. They were allowed to do all of their immigration paperwork, and inspections onboard the ship that arrived on. The Third Class passengers, however, were required to go through Ellis Island. There, they had medical exams and legal inspections to determine if they were fit for entry into the United States.
It is estimated that 12 million immigrants came through Ellis Island in those years. In all, about 2% were denied entrance into the United States. Our nation was quite generous with its legal immigration requests. One of the main reasons for the opening of Ellis Island was the change in the immigration requests. “Fewer arrivals were coming from northern and western Europe—Germany, Ireland, Britain and the Scandinavian countries—as more and more immigrants poured in from southern and eastern Europe. Among this new generation were Jews escaping from political and economic oppression in czarist Russia and eastern Europe (some 484,000 arrived in 1910 alone) and Italians escaping poverty in their country. There were also Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, Serbs, Slovaks and Greeks, along with non-Europeans from Syria, Turkey and Armenia. The reasons they left their homes in the Old World included war, drought, famine and religious persecution, and all had hopes for greater opportunity in the New World.”
At one point, one of the men working on Ellis Island decided to bring his camera, and document the variety of people coming through. His photos really do show the “melting pot” that the United States was. He photographed a Romanian shepherd, a Serbian gypsy family, Danish captain, a bearded Greek priest, a Turkish bank guard, an Albanian soldier, an Algerian (wearing his finest clothes), and a tattooed German stowaway (who was eventually deported). It gives an inside look at the varied people who came to the United States, and these were just the third class passengers, seen on Ellis Island.
Ellis Island was used as an immigration center until 1924, at which time it was used until 1954 as a detention and deportation center for illegal immigrants. Now it is a museum, and a place where people can go to see if their ancestors came through on their way to a better life. The island had a varied past, and played a major role in creating “The Melting Pot” the United States was.
A number of years passed between the first time I met Uncle Butch Schulenberg, who is my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg’s half-brother, and the reconnecting we had to him after my father-in-law’s passing. I consider those years a great loss, but I am thankful to have him back in our lives. There was no falling out or anything, just a lack of getting together, which is why I consider it such a great loss. It didn’t have to take that long. Uncle Butch is such a wonderful person, and I enjoy his company, and that of his lovely wife, Charlys very much.
Butch is a great teller of stories, and I mean the kind I love to hear…family history. The best place to get those family history accounts, is from someone who lived them. Growing up the son of the local sheriff, I don’t know if Uncle Butch had to be good so his dad didn’t get after him for embarrassing him, or if he was one of those who got into a bit of trouble because he knew that his dad could get him out of it. I might have to guess that it was a little bit of both, because I think that Uncle Butch has a mischievous side to him. I don’t think he was ever really bad, but as we all know, boys will be boys, so at least as a kid, my guess is that he tried to find out what his limits were.
By the time he got into high school, Butch had discovered football, and that proved to be a great part of his school years. Lots of guys love to play, watch, eat, and sleep football, so to get to be part of the team is a cool thing. Uncle Butch was a good athlete, and was often talked about or written about in the local paper. He still loves all the local sports in Forsyth, Montana where he lived then, and still lives. He is probably one of their greatest boosters, and he knows the local talent personally, because it is a small town, so everyone knows everyone else. He is able to see their athletic growth, and knows the local teams’ stats. That’s what being a booster is all about. It’s one thing to cheer for a team, because they are the local kids, and another to know just how good the local kids are. The kids and the townspeople love Uncle Butch too, because he is a friendly guy who can always be counted on to lend a helping hand, or just to shoot the breeze. Uncle Butch is well liked, because he is so friendly.
While Butch did live away from Forsyth for a short time, mostly while he was in the service, he has always been a local boy. He was born in Forsyth on November 9, 1940 to Andrew and Barbara (Fadhl) Schulenberg, and Forsyth would truly always be his home. Today is Uncle Butch’s 79th birthday. He doesn’t seem a day over 60 if you ask me. I think he’s a kid at heart and always will be. I will always treasure him. Happy 79th birthday Uncle Butch!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
From the moment he first saw her, my future uncle, George Hushman, knew that Evelyn Byer was the girl for him. He was taken by her beauty, and he never had eyes for another…nor did she. Theirs was a match made in Heaven. They married on September 1, 1947, and they would go on to celebrate 67 years of marriage together. Her passing on May 4, 2015 was the saddest day of his life.
Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George decided to build a house for their family soon after their marriage. They, with the help of family members built the iconic house that stood next to the Mills Fire Station ever since. Everyone in town knew the beautiful house. Until Uncle George’s passing, they would be the only family ever to live there. That is a sad thought to me, but some things cannot be helped. A home is meant to be lived in, not held as a shrine to it’s builder.
Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George would be blessed with five beautiful children, Susie Young, George Hushman, Shelley Campbell, Shannon Limmer, and Gregory Hushman. They would also be blessed with grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren, who are too numerous to name here. I have been blessed to be a niece to my aunt and uncle, as ar so many other nieces and nephews. Aunt Evelyn has always had a generous spirit, and many of us credit her with making our weddings perfect, by making the perfect wedding cake.
For years, Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George bowled as teammates to my parents, Allen and Collene Spencer (Evelyn and Collene being sisters). They had often double dated years ago, so bowling together was a logical next step. When the team decided they didn’t want to bowl any longer, Aunt Evelyn continued on by getting a team of some of her daughters together. I had the pleasure of being a substitute for them, whenever they needed one. We always had a great time. Those were really great days, and I miss them very much. We were close, and enjoyed each other’s company. There was lots of laughter and fun, every week. Time goes by so quickly, and before we knew it, we were saying goodbye to Aunt Evelyn and then, Uncle George. As it was with my parents, aunts, and uncles before them, we find ourselves losing all the elders in our family, and I find that very sad, because they were in great respect the glue that held us all together. Today would have been Aunt Evelyn’s 91st birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Aunt Evelyn. We love and miss you very much.