My great grandparents, Carl and Henriette (Hensel) Schumacher were farmers, first in Minnesota and then in North Dakota, where they owned land in the famous Red River Valley. I had heard of the Red River Valley as a child, but only from the old song that bears it’s name. Recently, while preparing for a trip with three of my sisters; Cheryl Masterson, Caryl Reed, and Alena Stevens; to Wisconsin and deciding to go through Fargo, North Dakota to visit our great grandparents’ graves, I was reading through my great aunt Bertha (Schumacher) Hallgren’s journal to get more information, when I came across the fact that my great grandparents had actually lived in the Red River Valley when they moved to Fargo, North Dakota. For a farmer, to live in such a fertile area and not be able to farm the land must have been just awful.
They had farmed in the Lisbon, North Dakota area. Later they moved to Fargo, when Great Grandma became ill, and the family left the farm for good. For my great aunts, Mina (Schumacher) Spare and Elsa (Schumacher) Lawrence, the move to Fargo was a welcomed one. They never really loved the farming lifestyle, and they saw the move to Fargo as a definite “step up” in the world. For Bertha and Great Grandpa, it was one of the saddest moments in their lives. They loved the outdoors, farming, and especially the Red River Valley’s fertile ground. They would take walks in the spring, summer, and fall, walking two to three miles to the edge of town to look out on the fields of crops that grew in the Red River Valley. They always wished they could go back to farming, but Grandma needed to be in town and closer to medical care. It wasn’t just this illness that plagued her, but the fact that the last nineteen years of her life were spent in a wheelchair, that made the need for closeness to doctors and hospitals so important.
My guess is that both Great Grandpa and Great Aunt Bertha hoped that someday they might be able to move to the farmland of the Red River Valley, but I expect that they knew deep down inside that it was not to be. Great Grandpa was getting on in years, and grandma was never going to get well enough to move back to the country. The wheelchair was extremely limiting. Sadly, there was a medicine that came from Germany that was helping Great Grandma, but it became unavailable during World War I, so the doctor did other drastic treatments…electric shock treatments and drawing up the cords in her knees, which rendered her wheelchair bound for the rest of her life. For Great Grandpa and Great Aunt Bertha, they were thankful that they could walk out to the edge of town and see the Red River Valley, but always sad that they could not walk those crop fields and dig in the fertile dirt there. They would always miss farming.
My daughter, Amy Royce has been having a few adventures lately…and some life changes. Recently, her husband Travis had to go to Toronto on a business trip, and he was going to be gone over the Memorial Day weekend, so Amy’s friend, Amber Rose invited her and several other friends to go with her to Orcas Island, where Amber used to live. The plan was to relax and eat fish tacos on Lopez Island, and steak and fresh prawns on Friday night. She was really looking forward to the adventure, but she said that it was strange to think that Travis was on the other side of the United States, in another country.
The girls had a great time on Orcas Island. They took the ferry to Orcas Island…a ride which lasted an hour and ten minutes, and always goes by far too fast. The views from the ferry boats are amazing and so relaxing. Once the girls got to the island, the adventure was on. They built campfires on the beach and watched the sunset, and enjoyed the wonderful views. The next day they went up to Mount Constitution to look at the amazing views from there. Of course, Amy posted some great pictures to make us all jealous…and it worked!! Still, while I was jealous, I was also happy for her, because I knew that she was having a wonderful time, and it would have been a bummer for her to have to spend the Memorial Day weekend by herself.
Amy received an early birthday present this year, when she became a great aunt for the first time. Her nephew, Chris Petersen and his fiancé, Karen had their baby girl on May 30. While is was very exciting, Amy had hoped that the baby would hold out until her birthday. Nevertheless, Amy is excited to meet her new grandniece.
The adventures began for Amy about the time she and her family moved to Washington state, and they have continued in one form or another since that time. she and her husband, Travis have gone on several whale watching cruises, and taken a number of Ferry boat rides. They go to the beach regularly to watch the sunsets, and of course, Amy has lots more of her very favorite form of weather…rain. Her kids have moved there too, and now the family bowls on a league, taking first place on the league this year, and second place in the countywide tournament for the first place winners of each league. Her life has changed in many ways, and she is totally content in her new home. I am happy for her. He has flowers and plants that grow there that don’t in Wyoming, and she has her favorite bird…the hummingbird at her home on a regular basis. She loves the gray squirrels that hang out in her yard, and she loves the mountain views they have there. Life is full of adventures for Amy now, and that is very cool. Today is Amy’s birthday. For one month she and her sister get to be the same age again!! Sorry Corrie, but happy birthday Amy!! Have a totally awesome day!! We love you!!
My grandpa, George Byer served in the Army as a cook during World War I. He always prided himself on making sure the men had the best meals he was able to make. Wartime doesn’t always mean that the men have the tastiest of meals. In fact, the meals are pretty basic most of the time. Even in this day and age, the men in a war zone often have MREs…which is Meals Ready to Eat. They are basically dried food. They can be eaten as they are, because its not always convenient to heat them. The idea is to create a meal to keep our troops running strong out in the field. They are packed full of calories and nutrients. Of course, that doesn’t mean that they are packed full of taste.
Still, when I look back at my great aunt, Bertha Schumacher Hallgren’s journal, when she spoke of the food the men had to eat during the Civil War, I have to feel awful for those brave men. She spoke of Hardtack, which was served to both armies. It was basically a thick cracker, that they could carry with them. Because of the lack of preservatives in those days, Hardtack was often wormy. It was so wormy, in fact, that the men called them Worm Castles. Hardtack was so hard that the men joked…if you bite into something soft, you might think it’s a worm, but it’s probably a ten penny nail…now that is a hard cracker. When I think of our brave men having to eat such food, it makes me feel nauseous. These are the people that we sent out to fight our battles, while we are safe at home, and here they are eating such awful things. Still, it was what they had, that and dried or salted meats.
I suppose they got used to the food, but I still think that is was sad that we as a people were not able to give them food that was safe to eat. I have to think back on the MREs, and while they might not taste great, at least they don’t have worms. And I have to wonder what Aunt Bertha would have thought of the MRE. She had seen so many awful foods that the men had to eat, but to think of them eating something that was dried…well, that would be just strange. Maybe the MREs weren’t the tastiest meals, but at least they were safe to eat, and many a soldier has survived on them for sure. I guess that sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.
I think it is always a cool thing when we look through old family pictures of people we never knew, or at least don’t remember, and suddenly find ourselves looking at a familiar face…one very similar to our own. Such was the case for my youngest sister, Allyn Spencer Hadlock, when she read my story a couple of days ago, about my great aunts, Mina, Bertha, and Elsa. For much of her life, Allyn had noticed similarities between her sisters and other family members, and in reality there are many strong family resemblances, but she just didn’t see one that she could say looked a lot like her. She just assumed that she was of the Heinz 57 variety…a mix of several or many other family members. All that changed when she read my story, and looked at the picture of our great aunt, Mina Schumacher Spare. The picture of Mina bore a remarkable resemblance to pictures of Allyn, and to certain looks she saw in her reflection in the mirror.
Something about Mina’s face simply reminded Allyn of herself. She mentioned it to me, and I set about looking at pictures of Allyn and Mina to see for myself. I think Allyn hit the nail on the head. While Allyn’s eyes are bigger than Mina’s, the rest of her face is quite similar to Mina’s. I always find it quite remarkable to be able to see ourselves in the face of one of our ancestors. I am finding more and more that the Schumacher genes in my family tree are very strong genes. There are similarities that have jumped out at us through several of our family members and the Schumacher family, which is to say our grandma, Anna Schumacher Spencer and her parents and siblings. I love finding look alikes among the family members and ancestors. It gives people such a sense of belonging to see just where their characteristics came from.
For Allyn, who had always felt like simply a mix of the ancestors, seeing a picture of Mina that reminded her so much of herself, was a very cool feeling, and I can relate. I have come across different pictures of myself that remind me of Great Aunt Bertha Schumacher Hallgren, Aunt Ruth Spencer Wolfe, my daughter, Amy Royce, and my granddaughter Shai Royce. When you find that look alike, it seems to leap off the screen at you. It is just the coolest feeling, because even though you never had any doubt that you were a part of this family, you still wondered just exactly where you fit in. Then, when it has becomes so very clear, just exactly where you fit in, you start looking for other similarities you might have with that person, such as the fact that I laugh exactly like my Aunt Ruth…so much so, that every time I laugh, she comes to my mind. It is another connection I have to her, even though she passed away in 1992.
Unfortunately, Allyn and I don’t recall Great Aunt Mina or Great Aunt Bertha, so we are not aware of other similarities, although I have been told that I got my writing abilities from Great Aunt Bertha…a thought that I am honored to hear, because I consider her a great writer. Great Aunt Mina was a very capable woman, who got an education that was more than what many women received in those days, and that moved her into supervisory positions at her work. Allyn has that capability too, and in fact was just promoted to Clinic Billing Supervisor at Central Wyoming Neurology, where she has worked for some time now. She has shown that her abilities are just what they want in their office, and we are all very proud of her achievements. I’m sure her look alike, Great Aunt Mina Schumacher Spare would have been too. It is a testament to her belief if a good education, and never giving up just because you are a woman…something that we don’t have as big a problem with these days, but that Mina and her sisters, Bertha and Elsa dealt with for sure. Obviously, there is more about Allyn and Mina that is alike than just their pretty faces.
My Uncle Bill Spencer always loved the handwritten letters that were written by his family. It didn’t matter to him if it was nieces or nephews, his siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins. He saw in every word, great value…as if it were pure gold. The more I look at old letters, and search for information about my family online, the more I realize that Uncle Bill was really on to something. Seeing the handwriting of our ancestors…be it on a letter, draft card, or photograph always gets me excited. To think that my ancestor actually signed that card, or wrote that letter is very cool. I especially love finding things that were written in some other language. When my grandmother Anna Schumacher Spencer and her brother Albert Schumacher were in school, the teacher made fun of their language. When they came home and told their mother, my great grandmother, Henriette Hensel Schumacher, she decided that German would no longer be spoken in their home. I don’t know if she ever changed her mind on that issue, but if German was spoken, it was not often. So to find a letter written in German by my Great Grandmother Henriette Schumacher to her daughter, my Aunt Min Schumacher Spare is especially exciting. I wish that I understood then, what I understand now about the handwriting of my ancestors. I am so excited about to find these great letters from people I have come to feel like I know well.
When I look at the handwriting of my great grandmother, I see a woman who, even in the face of much pain and adversity, prided herself on her handwriting. Of course, life happens, and we can’t always have the same control of our handwriting that we once might have, but at the time of this letter in May of 1911, her handwriting was pretty and delicate. My great grandmother suffered much with Rheumatoid Arthritis, and yet, I believe that she loved beautiful things, and that she was a delicate and beautiful woman. I know that she was so proud of her family. She would like to help them all she could, but with a large family, and tough times, it was not much. Nevertheless, it was her hope that all of her children would succeed in anything they chose to do…after all, America was the land of opportunity.
Mina Schumacher always wanted to be a teacher, but in the end, she became a bookkeeper. I think she was probably ok with that, but maybe always felt a bit of regret. Nevertheless, her hanwriting to me shows strong woman who loved the pretty and delicate things in life. She often signed things using beautiful script or calligraphy. It was her own sense of style. Many people never give any thought to the impression their signature will make on another person, but she did, and I loved it since the first time I saw it in my dad’s photo album. It was just as beautiful and graceful as she was. She knew that the handwriting of our ancestors is important.
One day in mid 1916 or early 1917, my great uncle, John Spare, who would marry my great aunt, Mina Schumacher on January 8, 1921, was involved in an altercation along the Mexican border, while he was serving in Company B of the North Dakota National Guard. John had enlisted on June 30, 1916 at the age of just 17 years, and his company was assigned to the United States/Mexican border, as we were in the middle of a war with Mexico…really this was border patrol, because there were some pretty dangerous characters running around Mexico, terrorizing the people. One of the most notorious was Pancho Villa. The viciousness of José Doroteo Arango Arámbula…better known as Pancho Villa, was well documented. In a story told by a survivor of his first raid on March 7, 1916, the ruthlessness of this villain is made clear. Pancho Villa and 600 of his renegade followers rode into Columbus, Mexico (population 350) at four o’clock on that morning, riding horses and mules stolen from the Calvary at Camp Turlong just across the border. The camp was the headquarters for the 13th Calvary, and there were about 120 soldiers stationed there. Pancho and his men stole everything of value in the town, and set fire to all its buildings. Many merchants were killed, but the townspeople resisted so strongly that Pancho lost 100 men. He nevertheless, escaped to ride again and continue his raids on both sides of the border.
In haste, the United States sent soldiers to guard the borders. Unfortunately they were not well equipped, because of the unpreparedness of the military machine at the time. Many of those men, including my great uncle’s company were sent down there without ammunition, and told that those who had ammunition would fight an attack if it came, while the others would dive under the bridge until the attack was over. They neglected to tell them that none of them had ammunition, and the men did not know that until all of them jumped under the bridge at the same time. It was then that the horrible truth was revealed. The hope, apparently, was to make Pancho think this was a large army to be reckoned with, in the hope that they would not try to attack them. They sorely misjudged the ruthlessness of this man, but the good news was that Pancho and his men were already in a gun fight with the 13th Calvary, so they took little notice of this small band of men hiding under the bridge, hoping that the villain and his men didn’t circle around and come back. I don’t know how long Great Uncle John was stationed there, but it is my guess that one day was too much…unless they were given some ammunition, that is.
Great Uncle John survived the war, and returned to Fargo, North Dakota, where he married my Great Aunt Mina. While he would still serve in the military for a long time, their lives would be happy and blessed with a daughter, Pauline Jessie Spare, who always went by Paula, on March 23, 1922. Pancho Villa continued to wreak havoc in Mexico, and along the border, until 1920, when he retired. For whatever reason, he was given a large estate, which he turned into a Military Colony for his formers Villistas, as his men a become known. Then, in 1923, Pancho decided to once again involve himself in Mexican politics, and on July 20, 1923, when he was killed by an assassin, who had probably been hired by the president of Mexico, Álvaro Obregón. When I read that Pancho Villa had been assassinated on this day in 1923, I remembered that Great Uncle John Spare had once had a close encounter with him, and I wondered how he and Great Aunt Min felt when they heard the news. Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico was a long way from Fargo, North Dakota, and a number of years had passed, so maybe they gave it little thought, or maybe they breathed a sigh of relief, knowing what kind of a man he was, and just how close Great Uncle John had come to losing his life that day, along the United States and Mexican Border.
Whenever I read through my Great Aunt Bertha Schumacher Hallgren’s journal, I find something new. I may have read it before, but somehow, a new thought jumps out at me this time. Yesterday, as I was looking through it, I saw what a visionary she was. Many people kept clear family records, dating back for centuries, but the one thing that many of those records were void of was the stories that made up the lives of the people who were listed there. Aunt Bertha mentions that so much of how life was for our grandparents or great grandparents is being lost, because people only kept the birth, death, and marriage records, and never really told the future generation what their ancestors felt like. She was so right.
I often look for something more in the different sources that I use to build my family history, and even when there is a story, often it is simply and statement saying that the person died on a given day, and was buried in a certain place. While that can be good information, it doesn’t really tell anything about the person. I want to hear about their life. I want to know about some exciting things that they accomplished. Often, people don’t even post their obituary in it’s entirety. That is another sad thing, because it makes it hard to know for sure is this particular person is the ancestor you are looking for. The obituary would tell about their parents, siblings, children, and grandchildren. That information alone can fill in a history that has been missing a lot of really interesting and important information.
Birth and death certificates are another area that seems to be sorely missed in the actual media area of a persons information of Ancestry. Wehn you want to know about an epidemic that has hit, you have a real struggle on your hands. Much research is needed to find out what cause the deaths of people in the not so distant past, and it can be really frustrating. Marriage certificates are hard to find too sometimes. It really makes me sad that all of this documentation is missing from history, and all the stories about life are missing too. It really is up to us to make sure they get in there, just like my Aunt Bertha points out. Just knowing the dates does little to show who they really were.
I’ve been guilty of this myself. You get in a hurry, and forget to put in the personal information. I suppose it does help that I have written stories about these things, but I have not necessarily connected them with Ancestry, so that other people would be able to read some of it. I can see that I’m going to have to start doing a better job of putting in the stories that go with some of the people I am researching. People’s lives have so many interesting stories in them…so many twists and turns in their journeys, and I want to be like my Aunt Bertha, and pass that information along for posterity.
The more I write, the more connected I feel to my Great Aunt Bertha Schumacher Hallgren. I have a feeling that we both used writing for much the same reason…a release of the creative side of ourselves when much of our lives were spent taking care of others. Caregiving is something that is very much an exact science. You have to give the right medicines at the right times, and caring for sick and wounded bodies takes precision and proper methods. There is no room for creativity…other than in the use of items at your disposal to make your job easier, whether it be physical items or the use of your mental abilities to work around a difficult moment in the care of a patient who isn’t ready to give over their independence to someone else, after so many years of being their own person. A caregiver has to follow the instructions of the doctors to the letter in order to insure the improvement and continued health of the patient. And Bertha was a caregiver for many more years than I have been. She knew what it took, and what must be sacrificed.
Bertha quoted Charles Lamb, who in 1890 wrote “I love to lose myself in other men’s minds.” It might seem a strange thought, to want to get lost in the thoughts of another person, but sometimes their thoughts are so interesting that it is a desirable place to be. Must of us lose ourselves in another man’s mind periodically. Every time you read a good book, your mind pictures the thoughts and images created by the writer. You can’t help yourself really. It’s just how our minds are wired to work.
I have read Aunt Bertha’s journal several times, but it just never gets old. It seems like every time I read it, I discover some new story, whether it is written in the words or simply exists between the lines. Much of what a writer is like can be found living between the lines of the words they write. That is where their feelings live in their writing. Although I don’t recall ever having the opportunity to meet Aunt Bertha, I feel like I know her well. She has poured her heart and soul into her writing. She has been brutally honest about herself. She doesn’t leave out her shortcomings, but puts them into the stories, regardless of how they might make the reader feel about the kind of person she was. Her objective is not to paint herself as a perfect person, but rather to reveal to the reader the true person she was.
I think many writers would not have the courage to put on paper exactly how they were as a child, worker, caregiver, or person, because they don’t want to show the reader the negative thoughts, or mistakes they have made in their lives. The reality, nevertheless, is that none of us are perfect, but rather human. While Aunt Bertha was not perfect, I truly like the person she was. She reminds me a little bit of myself, and yet inspires me to try to be better than I once was. In her mind, she knows the kind of person she wants to be, and while she failed sometimes, she never quit trying. I find that her mind is truly a good one to lose myself in sometimes.
Every year or so, my dad’s 1st cousin once removed, Arlouine (Bunny) Probasco and her husband, Marvin come to Casper for a visit as they travel from their home in Buhl, Idaho back to visit family in the Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota areas. It is always a pleasant visit, giving us a chance to talk about the family history and, in general, what is going on in each other’s lives. Arlouine is the granddaughter of my dad’s Aunt Etha Pearl Spencer Fellon Hedstrom. Etha’s first marriage to Arloine’s grandfather did not work out so well, but through that marriage came Arlouine’s mother…also named Arlouine and her Uncle Harold. I found this picture of Arlouine’s grandmother, her mother, her uncle, and I hope it is something she does not have, because it will be great to give her something she has never seen before. I also found several others I think she might like.
Arlouine is a crafty person, and she makes butterfly fridge magnets and towels to hang on the stove that are very pretty. Every time she comes she brings us something, which is so sweet of her. She is also interested in the family history, so that gives us a lot to talk about. Here again, it took me a little while to place her accurately in the family history, so for a time, I just didn’t realize what a treasure her knowledge would be. This year, unfortunately, I missed her visit, because Bob and I were out of town. That frustrates me a little, because I wanted to see her reaction to the pictures and talk to her about any stories her mother and grandmother might have told her about.
Arlouine is an unusual name, and I have often wondered where it came from. I know her name was passed to her from her mother, but where did Great Aunt Etha get that name. It was not passed down from her Spencer side that I am aware of, so I have to assume it was from the Fellon side. Names that are passed down from generation to generation are really a cool thing, even if the name is something unusual or old fashioned. It is just the fact that you were named after a beloved ancestor that makes it cool. I’m sure that for Arlouine it is that fact that the name was her mother’s, even if she uses a nickname, that makes it special…at least it would to me.
As another year has come and gone since the passing of my great aunt, Gladys Pattan Byer Cooper, I am shocked to realize that it has been 25 years…or at least I was when I was reminded of that fact by a survivor of the crash of United Airlines flight 232, Jerry Schemmel, when he contacted me about a project he was working on. It seemed impossible that so much time had passed. To this day, I can picture that crash, every time the thought of Aunt Gladys comes up, or another plane crash, or most especially that crash comes up. My Aunt Gladys was such a wonderful person, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss her.
When Jerry Schemmel contacted me about writing a tribute to Aunt Gladys, I was so pleased that he had taken it upon himself to set up a tribute site to the victims of Flight 232, on the 25th anniversary of that horrible day. In reality, maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. It seems that Jerry Schemmel was not just one of the survivors of that crash, but a hero too. After surviving the initial crash, he went back into the wreckage and rescued an 11 month old baby. How many people can think that clearly after the plane they were flying in just crashed, or cartwheeled really, on the runway, killing 112 people? Not many I would have to say. Most people would be concerned for themselves and their own, but there are heroes among us, and Jerry Schemmel was one.
I am almost embarrassed to say that until I looked Jerry up on the internet, hoping for a picture for my story, I had no idea who I was in contact with. Maybe some of you know…or maybe, like me you are in the dark. Jerry Schemmel is an American sportscaster, and the current voice of the Colorado Rockies. I wonder just how many times I have heard his voice, since I am a Colorado Rockies fan. Probably a lot. While his education was in law, his biggest claim to fame is as a sportscaster. But to me, his greatest single act was when he saved that 11 month old baby.
I wish things could have been different for my Aunt Gladys, but it is comforting to know that after that horrific crash, there were heroes among the passengers who did their very best to save as many people as possible. While Jerry’s site “Welcome To The Tribute To The Victims Of The Crash Of United Airlines Flight 232” is a tribute to the victims of that crash, we should also remember the heroes, like Jerry who survived, went back to help, and never forgot those who lost their lives. I believe that crash changed Jerry forever, and I would strongly recommend the book he wrote about the experience called, “Chosen To Live”. I believe Jerry certainly was.