so does this show up as a post under “blog”?
So I, like most genealogists, have a “brick wall.” An ancestor whose forbears remain completely unknown to me due to lack of information. It’s super-frustrating.
I am looking for the parents of John Post, who was born in 1856 and emigrated from Neidenburg, Prussia (today it’s Nidzica, Poland). Naturalized US citizen in 1897. His wife’s name was Anna Meredith. He’s my great-great-grandfather.
Here’s the problem. There’s a family story (there always is) that John Post was one of three brothers who lost their parents somehow and went to live with another family, taking on the name of Post. No one knows what their original name was. Grandma Post says “Oh, I think Herman Post knew what it was” but of course Herman Post is no longer with us and hasn’t been since 1972. According to Grandma, the name sounded something like “Rexie.” That is totally not anyone’s actual name and doesn’t sound German OR Polish.
I asked on the Polish Genealogy Facebook group and someone suggested the name Reksa and said there were Reksas living in the area where John Post came from. Which is HUGE AND EXCITING. I haven’t followed up on it yet but finally, a clue!! I wonder where it will lead…
There are a million versions of this story, but they all contain the same main points: The village of Kienholz was buried by a landslide, an old man and a boy survive in a pub cellar on wine and cheese for years until a curious dog starts digging; excavation starts and they find the old man who dies three days later. The boy survives and they change his name to Kienholz.
That’s the short story. Here are two longer versions that I received from my aunt years ago. They were typewritten and photocopied a million times over; I ran them through an OCR scanner and cleaned them up… [brackets] indicate where the original was blurred and so I filled in the blanks with the obvious choices.
LEON KIENHOLZ, M. D.,
10 ELLIS PLACE
OSSINING, NEW YORK
TELEPHONE: WILSON 1-0056
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE VILLAGE OF KIENHOLZ
(Copied from the Bigstone, S.D. “Headlight” about 1880 )
Over four hundred years ago in a small but freedom-loving land of Switzerland, there was situated in the highlands of the province of Berne, on the northeastern slope of a mountain that rose from the shore of the deep Lake of Brienz to a height of nearly 2,000 feet, the village of Kienholz, an earthly paradise, surrounded by fruitful fields and meadows bright with flowers. The most magnificent fruit such as apples, currants, cherries, etc., grew luxuriantly. A failure of the harvest was altogether out of the ordinary, for large forests of fir and pine surrounded the isolated community forming, as it were, a beautiful green room which protected ti fruit from the raw cold winds that would often have damaged it. In these forests, too, were many turpentine trees, from which torches were secured to furnish light for the village. These torches burned with a very bright flame and for a long time. This circumstance gave the village and the surrounding community the name of Kienholz”, as the trees from which these torches were made, were known as “Kienholz”. The town bears the same name yet today.
To the north of the village towers a snow-capped mountain, its slopes broken by two tablelands, called Giebelegg and Gammen. Just between these two plateaus, high up near the peak of the mountain, a large spring bubbled forth, and gaining volume as it rushed downward, formed a brook of crystal clear-ness, flowing through the village and supplying it, both winter and summer, an abundance of clear sparkling water. In short, the people of Kienholz had nothing to be desired and believed themselves hidden as it were, in a Zoar. But they were soon to learn that safety is only where the wings of divine Providence are outspread.
One day the little brook suddenly ceased flowing, causing great distress to the inhabitants of the village, owing to the sudden cutting off of the water supply. To be sure the Lake of Brienz lay only three quarters of a mile away but considerable difficulty was encountered in carrying the water from there. This then was an earnest warning from a neglected Providence to the inhabitants, who considered themselves so secure in their little paradise spot. But greater judgment was in store for them. The reason for the sudden stoppage of the flow of water in the brook was now ascertained. It was found that the waters of the brook, but a short distance from their source, again disappeared into the ground and no one could learn what its underground course was. Grave fears were entertained that eventually a gigantic landslide would occur and bury the entire village. As time went on and nothing happened, the people became indifferent and careless as formerly. After seven years after the brook had ceased to flow, on a beautiful warm day in mid-summer almost all the people in the little village were out in the meadows making hay, a great mass of earth, comprising a great part of the mountain softened by the constant flow of water into it, tore itself loose and overwhelmed the village and surrounding land so that apparently every human being had been destroyed.
The fearful deep abyss with its high craggy walls today gives evidence of the terrible disaster when that stupendous mass of earth broke away from the surrounding slopes, burying in an instant an entire village with its inhabitants. After a time the road loading from Brienz to Merigen which passed through the village of Kienholz was restored. Now, one of the freighters, who freighted goods from Brienz to Oberhasle, owned a remarkable dog and who, on every trip, when he reached a certain spot, would stop and scratch and would not leave until his master had gone a long distance ahead. At first the dog’s actions were given no attention, but finally it occurred to the driver as somewhat strange that his dog should act so always when reaching the same place in the road. He obtained permission from the authorities to make an investigation. The permission having been obtained, he set to work and had not dug long [when his] pick struck against a stone arch, which proved to be the roof of the wine cellar of an old hotel in the ill-fated village of Kienholz.
The driver now proceeded to work his way to the door of the cellar, which was soon done and the door forced open, when to his astonishment, an old grey-haired man and his two and one-half. year old nephew stepped toward him. With them was a rooster who had shared their lonely imprisonment. The old man died in a few days for he was too weak to endure the light of day. Before he died he was able to relate the incidents which placed him and his nephew in such a strange predicament. He said that his people had all gone to the meadows to make hay. Before going they had placed the child in his cradle and carried him down cellar for the old man had wished to wash the cheese while watching the child. The rooster had cone into the cellar to pick up the crumbs of the cheese that fell to the floor. Suddenly the old man heard the crashing and roaring of the landslide but was unable to leave the cellar before it was upon him and he had only time to shut the cellar door and thus he, with the little boy, and the rooster, were buried alive.
The Inn had been carried away and destroyed by the great mass of falling earth and rock. Fortunately the road had been built again directly over the buried cellar and they daily heard the rumble of vehicles in passing. At first every time the old man heard the rumble of a wagon he shouted with all his force and the rooster, too, had bravely added his voice to the clamor, but finally after many fruitless efforts, he ceased, resolved that no help could be expected from the human agency. For food they had cheese and wine with which the cellar was stored. There was a large quantity of the cheese remaining. The supply of wine, however, was nearly exhausted.
This is the story the old man related before his death. The little child grew and prospered and since he was the only remaining inhabitant of the once beautiful district, the rescuers resolved to give him the name of the city so suddenly destroyed two years before, and so named him Kienholz. . The child so strangely [rescued] became the founder of the Kienholz family.
(Research and typing done by Marion F. Kienholz, wife of Leon H. Kienholz, M.D. 10 Ellis Place, Ossining New York) and Ella E. Kienholz, wife of Lawrence Kienholz, Spokane, Wash.)
Brienzer Legends by A. Streich
WHEN THE TOWN KIENHOLZ WAS BURIED
Underneath the mudflow of Lammbach the blooming town of Kienholz was buried. It’s wealth in houses and fields was greater than its neighboring “Church Town” of Brienz.
On a nice summer Sunday some hundred years ago, a man of the Alps came into the town of Kienholz and told the people to be careful of the mountains. Towards the evening, thunder, and a big grey cloud appeared in the blue sky. Everyone who lived in Kienholz fled from their houses. One of the mountains collapsed and an avalanche filled the valley. The castle Kien was crushed, and mud and stones covered the town so completely nothing more could be seen.
It now looked like a desert. Nothing more indicated that there ever was a town there, so great was the devastation.
THE FAMILY NAME KIENHOLZ
A merchant wagon arriving in the country of Brienz passed through Kienholz of necessity. After the town was buried they travelled over rocks and mud that covered Kienholz.
Some weeks after the avalanche, some wagons were traveling to “Tracht”. One of the dogs started to dig on the side of the road. On the return trip the dog started digging at the same place as if there was nothing more important to do. Everytime they passed in the the next few days the dog repeated this act. Finally the owner of the dog reported this act to the officials in Brienz.
As soon as they heard of it the officials sent some men out to excavate.Toward evening they dug out a brick house. It was the cellar of the Kienholz pub. Within the cellar they found an old man and little boy that were still alive. These are the two the dog sensed.
After the old man was brought to the town of Brienz, he explained how he and the boy were taken unawares, and how he and the boy survived off cheese and wine stored there, and from the water that dripped through the stones. It seemed to him as if they were buried for seven years. They would have had food for only three more weeks. Three days after that the old man died. Some surmised it was because he couldn’t stand the daylight anymore. The little boy recovered. As a memory of the strange happenings, the city officials changed the boy’s family name Schneitter to Kienholz.
as translated by Margita Calkins from German for Cliff Chapman.
Five generations of cranky German ladies. From bottom right, clockwise: Alvina Pirius Quast (great-great-grandmother), Clara Quast Schultz (great-grandmother), Lavarian Schultz Post (grandmother), Jeanette Post Hauschildt (mother), and I’m the baby in Clara’s lap. Must have been taken around 1972 given my age in the photo; can’t be any later than 1974 as that’s when Alvina died. I was born in 1971 but have no memory of her at all.
While I was in Neuenfelde in 2006, Jürgen Hoffmann supplied me with a whole bunch of material on the Hauschildts, including a bill for blacksmith work from Caspar Hauschildt to a Peter Quast in Hinterbrack. Most of the items relate to horseshoes being applied or adjusted.
Other items include:
So my great-great-grandfather John Post is my total brick wall. I have his obituary, which says he was born in Neidenburg, East Prussia. (It’s Nidzica, Poland now.) Neidenburg was the name of a Kreis (sorta like county) AND a village, so there’s a larger area I need to look at than just one village. So far I haven’t come up with anything. He married in 1881 and came over after that with his wife and presumably one child. Family rumor has it he wasn’t a Post at all but was born with another name and then raised by a Post family and took their name. ARGH. I’ve looked at some of the church books in the area (I was told there were Posts in the Narzym, Poland area), but so far nothing’s come up. I’ve got like five more microfilms on order with the LDS and I’m hoping something comes up there. It’s SO frustrating when I’ve got Quast names back to 1635 and can’t get past 1856 with this guy.
This text comes from placards posted for visitors to the old church in Neuenfelde, Germany.
Because the third mile of the Altes Land (east of the Elbe) was settled in an ancient river valley, the Saxon settlers built their church on the highest point for miles, the “church dune.” It offered everyone refuge when floods covered the land, most recently in the flood catastrophe of 16. and 17. February 1962. It is unknown when the old church was built. From it remains the baptismal font in the vestibule and the gravestone of a Priest Johannes from 1507, which is now located in the south wall.
As the community grew, the old church became too small. Under the pastor and provost Johann Hinrich von Finckh (whose picture hangs on the north wall) it was decided in 1677 that a new church be built. After two years all the permits were approved, and after three more years the money for the new church was all collected, in the most part from the sale of seats in the new church. In 1682 the building proceeded easily. The old church was torn down, on 23. May the cornerstone for the present church was laid, and soon on the first Sunday of Advent, 3. December of the same year, the first worship was celebrated in the new church. This record build time was only possible because the build-master Matthias Wedel from Stade employed four building firms to work simultaneously.
The uniformly Baroque decor makes the church attractive; it wasn’t done over hundreds of years but came together in only fifty years. The baptismal font of 1683, probably made in Hamburg, replaced the old baptismal font (now in the vestibule). The crest on top, in today’s form not on the cover – stood until 1954 as the overhang of the pulpit. In the baptismal bowl is told the history of the fall from grace; the crest shows Christ with the world in his hand (“To me is given all power in heaven and on earth; therefore go and make disciples of all men, baptize them…”) [Matthew 28:19] and in two layers underneath are the twelve apostles.
The Hamburg wood carver Christian Precht built the altar from 1686 to 1688, though generally he worked in Stade [three miles away]. The altar is an extraordinary early example of altars on the south shore of the Elbe. The picture is a riddle; there is no Last Supper or crucifixion. [Is my German failing me here? Original: Das Bildprogramm gibt Rätsel auf; so fehlen eine Abendmahls – wie eine Kreuzigungsdarsettlung.]
On the pulpit gallery are the church chairs for the family of the provost von Finckh (north) and the family of the organ builder Arp Schnitger (south). His signature mark showed a compass, work of the organ builder, to whom an arm reaches out of the clouds. Schnitgers avowal: My handiwork that makes me world famous is a gift from heaven. The organ builder Arp Schnitger, 1648-1719, working before this in Stade, was involved from the beginning of the build. He planned the very high place of the organ and built 1683-1689 a still world famous organ with 34 registers in the main body, manual auxiliary and pedals. He married a woman from Neuenfelde and remained here as a community member and was buried in the church (a grave marker in the north door remembers him).
— The ceiling paintings of the Hamburg painters Berichau and Wördenhoff of 1685
–The large crown of candles given by a church member in 1709
–The pictures of Jesus and the apostles on the lower gallery (painter unknown) and the chairs in the altar area
–The brightly colored chairs in the north side from 1729, where many community members sat. The “Bunten Stühle” were crowned by eight virtues: facing the church, the four cardinal virtues of antiquity; self-control, bravery, wisdom, and justice; facing the altar the three Christly virtues of love, faith, and hope – and here is a fourth, patience. Opposite in the south stand the lectern and pastor’s chair of 1730 and the provost’s chir of 1731.
The altar vestments are modern. The unicorn on the green hanging is an ancient symbol of Christ: the unicorn is the strongest of all animals, no hunter can capture it, only in the embrace of a virgin will it let itself rest — a reference to the son of God, who became human from a virgin, the holy one, the “unicorn of the holy,” which with unbeatable power even tears apart the bonds of death. The pelican on the white hanging is also a reminder of Christ: as the pelican feeds its young with its own heart’s blood, so Christ gave his life on the cross, so we can live through him.
The old church tower fell victim to lightning in 1786; today’s church spire from 1841 with its height of 39,60 meters protrudes into the flight corridor of the Finkenwerder firm Messerschmidt-Bölkow-Blohm and therefore sports a red flight warning light.
Around the church sits the old graveyard, which until our century served the people of Hasselwerder and Nincop (in 1927 united with Neuenfelde) and Francop as a resting place for their dead; the old sundial there warns: “you do not know the day or the hour…”
photo by Margret Pirzer, non-commercial share creative commons license. Thanks Margret!
“Puurten” is Plattdeutsch dialect for the German “Pforte,” which means gate, or portal. The Quast family owned this land from at least 1720 to 1970 when Julius Quast wrote the following account:
Jacob Quast (father) and Jacob Quast (son), Nincop Judges 1677 to 1741
Jacob Quast, named in the male population list of Nincop in 1691 and in the militia roll of 1710, was called the Nincop Judge and lived on the farm in Nincop that is owned by Hinrich Köpcke today (vastly reduced in size). It can be demonstrably verified that he held this office from at least 1677 to his death on 18 March 1716. He was 81 years old. Jacob Quast was a highly respected figure in his time. His name is mentioned in many documents. At the time of the construction of the Neuenfelde church (1682) he was also the administrator of oaths. His name can still be read on a beam behind the altar.
Two particularly valuable documents from those available are especially important for our family history. They are therefore reproduced below in full.
The available records show that Jacob Quast was married twice. From the first marriage came his son Hinrich, named in the “Designation of the fathers’ and sons’ names and ages in the Hasselwerder Altes Land parish house” of 15 June 1682. It says under Nincop:
“Jacob Quast, the judge and oath administrator of this church is 47 years old. Has one son Hinrich, 18 years old. [Lower Saxony State Archives of Stade, Rep. 5a, volume 220 No. 21]
In the description of 1691 Hinrich is no longer mentioned as a son of Jacob, because at that time he was already married and a farm owner. His age, however, is specified as 25 years. Jacob’s sons, Johann Quast and Bartelt, are named as 4 and 3 years (respectively). In 1695, a son, Jacob, was born. In 1716 he was 21 years old and succeeded his father in the office of judge. Mr Detlev Schulte in Daudieck reported his appointment by the court in “The appointment of judges and tax collectors [?] to Nincop” of 1716. He held the office until his death in 1741.
Altogether, father and son held the administration of the judge’s office together for 64 years.
According to the “List of required tithers, etc.” in the year 1720, the young Jacob was already the owner of the “Purten-Quast Farm.” According to the tax list of 1716, the heirs of the late Magister Johann Hinrich von Finckh (d. 1699) were the previous owners. The acquisition was with certainty made through a purchase.
The farm has been handed down since that time in a seven-generation succession from father to son and is now (1970) a quarter-millennium in the family’s ownership.
Jacob Quast (father) was our great-great-great-great-great-grandfather on our great-grandmother’s side of the family.
– Chronicle of the Quast family. Julius Quast, 1970.
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.
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.
So there’s this guy in Cranz, Germany (near Hamburg) who has catalogued every house in the village and knows who lived there when, for years and years back. His name is Jürgen Hoffmann but you’ll never find him on the internet; his name shows up in passing but he’s got like zero presence online. Just one of those people you have to know about in order to find him.
Fortunately I was introduced to him by the Quast family I stayed with on my trip to Hamburg in 2006. He gave me a ton of information on the ancestors of Caspar Heinrich Hauschildt, who emigrated from Germany to the States, and in return I gave him info on Caspar’s descendants here in the US.
Hoffmann sent me some amazing pictures — pictures of the old Hauschildt home in Cranz plus pictures of the blacksmith shop where Caspar Heinrich worked. Here they are.