Uncle Julius’ Book — in English

So here’s the English translation of the stuff I posted a couple years back that I was lazy enough to leave in the original German. Figured I’d better get off my butt and post it in English so my relatives can actually read it. I’m pretty much the only one in my immediate family who speaks German.

From Uncle Julius’ book:

In the mid- to last-century strongly growing emigration to America, Altländers [residents of the Altes Land] took part in increasing numbers. It was mostly farmers’ sons, who had no opportunity here to start a family, but also farmers were selling their farms in order to find luck far away with their entire families. The government of the United States gave government land for favorable terms and encouraged the empty areas with all methods of settlement. It was first single people who left home, and then increasingly more others as well. It is therefore understandable, that the increasing numbers of emigrants seeking possibilities there to settle where their countrymen settled. The feeling of living among friends and relatives even far from home made their decision easier.

So it happened, that emigrants from the Alten Lande in America built colonies, for example in the state of Minnesota, in similar ways. The closeness of the land parcels of such settlements, for example in Goodhue and Zumbrota, have in part stayed the same for more than 100 years. In just one issue of the “Zumbrota News” from the year 1969 the following names can be seen in the ads and other articles: Hadler, Ruether, Holst, Banitt, Lohmann, Wendt, Diercks, Matthees, Struß, Hinrichs, Quast, Prigge, Stechmann, Oelkers, Buchholtz, Dammann, Dankers, Tiedemann, Hoeft, Reese, Witt, Bredehoeft, Hamm, Jonas, Merkens, Stehr, Pickenpack usw..

The attached text provides a very colorful narrative of life in Goodhue from a conversation with Hans Ilmers of Moisburg.

Also Cord Quast, the brother of our grandfather, went over there with his young wife Catharina (nee Stemmer), as he saw no possibility here to start a family. That was in 1868. He purchased land to settle in the size of 160 acres (about 64 hectares). Surely he like all settlers had a difficult beginning, but with diligence and perseverance he and his wife successfully started a farm life. In 1908 Cord and Catharina paid a visit to the old country after a 40-year absence. While there, they were invited to a wedding. The bride and groom’s photographer also took a group photo with Cord and Catharina Quast, Father and Mother (Heinrich Quast and Maria Bartels Quast) and our then 11-year-old sister Johanne. The photo of Cord and Catharina at the head of the family tree is a reproduction of the original.

As you can see from this table, the descendants took a large range, which makes one thing that the youngest descendants were not all included.

Also grandfather’s sister Metta went with her husband Jacob Stehr to Goodhue and acquired a farm there. Her descendants also live in Goodhue or in the immediate area. Jacob Stehr came from the house of the Stehr brewers in Vierzigstücken [place name].

Later father’s sister Katharina with her husband Jacob Behrens followed their relatives. Behrens came from Cranz-Neuenfelde. The pair never settled down in one place, instead they lived in various places in Minnesota and Iowa. The descendants live today in all parts of the United States.

The connection to our relatives over there was interrupted by the beginning of World War I up to 1938. During this time Cord Quast and Grandfather had died, as well as Aunt Katharina. When I first sent a letter to the Quast family in Goodhue after this long interruption, I got a long letter from the now-late Gertrude Quast, the granddaughter of Cord. The relatives were overjoyed to hear from us again. Gertrude wrote “The Quast family appreciates hearing from Your folks over there more than we can express in words!” Since this time there has been a regular exchange of letters.

Quast farm near Goodhue

Quast farm near Goodhue

Hans Ilmers (from Moisburg) in Goodhue

In 1963, Irene Quast asked me on behalf of her nephew Herbert Lemke about a Hans Ilmers that was supposed to live near Buxtehude. Ilmers was in Goodhue about 35 years before, worked with various farmers there, and became friends with Herbert Lemke. I was able to find Hans Ilmers in Moisburg. He owns a farm there.

About his time in the USA, particularly in Goodhue, he said the following:

I went over there in 1928 when I was 18. Although I had learned the trade of butchering, I had to go into farming instead. From 1928 to 1933 I was employed at various farms, John Quast and his son-in-law Roy Schultz included. I remember John Quast very well. He was a good man at heart, and lived solely for his work on the farm. The working conditions on farms there were very difficult at that time. As far as I could tell, they were much harder than in Germany. Mrs. Alvina Quast is of German origin. Her parents came, as far as I know, from Pommern. One time I obtained a long tobacco pipe from Germany for John Quast, as one of that type was not available over there.

A terrible business crisis dominated the USA at the end of the 20s. The farmers got only low prices for their crops. Therefore I earned less money. For a while I worked at the Buchholtz butchery in Zumbrota, and also at the slaughterhouse in St. Paul. Farm workers were already pretty broke in those days. The farmers helped each other out by working as communities, especially at harvest time. Alvina Quast worked the hay mower herself often. This is how she had a terrible accident — a horse made an unexpected jerk and her foot was caught in the mower. The foot had to be amputated.

John Quast’s farm is 106 Acres, which is about 65 Hectares. It’s surrounded by still more rented farms. The farmers were, with the exception of a couple Swedes, almost entirely of North German origin, the majority from the lower Elbe region. They spoke Plattdeutsch in everyday conversation with each other. I recognized names like Ehlen (Sauensiek), Duden (Horneburg), Jonas and Diercks (Neuenfelde), Thiemann (Ostmoor), Meyer, Struß, Buchholtz, Stehr etc. There was a German school in Zumbrota. It was important to John Quast that every family member went to the Lutheran Church at least once a month. Services there were in German three times a month and once a month in English. Connections to German relatives were never spoken of. You knew that their parents or grandparents had immigrated from Germany, but nobody would say whether he still had relatives there. The first World War had a strong dividing effect.

Goodhue is not a closed-in city like we are familiar with here, but rather single farms lie within its boundaries. They’re connected mostly by field roads. Only three or four houses stood close together. This group of houses was called White Willow. The farmers built a dairy and a cheese factory here in a community effort. It didn’t thrive, though, and it was closed some years later.

John Quast had about 25 dairy cows back then. Those days there were no milking machines. Besides the cows, they fattened pigs, and also raised poultry. The farm had hard soil. Barley, wheat, and corn (for silage). The ground wasn’t any good for potato farming, and neither for fruit. The climate is markedly inland with hot summers and cold winters. I have awful memories of terrible droughts in early spring – the barley was maybe just ten centimeters high – and horrible snowstorms.

The buildings – houses, barns, and stalls – are made of wood. The rooms are large and very tastefully furnished. Back then there was still Prohibition in the USA, but just like here after World War II, there was plenty illegal distilling. At dance parties, bootleggers would sell their wares in the dark, and so there were always drunk people. Johannes Künne, the old brewer in Buxtehude, was also in Goodhue for a while. He also liked to hoist a few back then. Once when Hannes got drunk yet again, Roy Schultz said to me in the best Plattdeutsch, “Dat ward Tied, dat Hannes wedder no Dütschland geiht, as suppt he sicg hier noch blind!” “It’s time Hannes goes back to Germany before he drinks himself blind here!”

In the years 1928 to 1935, field work was still done with horses. John Quast had several harnessed teams of heavier breeds and a few gently tamed wild horses. Sons John and Walter had a pony to ride. Roy Schultz, however, had a tractor already at that time. The first cars (Ford) arrived in the area too. John Quast bought one. The grain was mowed with a grain mower pulled by horses. The most exhausting work was sitting in the huge mown fields in the blazing heat. I passed out unconscious one time. The dried grain wasn’t taken in, but threshed by a threshing machine that a business took from one farm to another. Neighbors’ help was enlisted with this too.

I wanted to mention that one of the Quast girls took a shine to me. Which one, I won’t say. It wouldn’t have taken much, and I would have had a Quast for a wife. Why it didn’t happen, that I won’t say either.

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