RECOLLECTIONS FROM THE HOMESTEAD AT SAND CREEK, EMMONS COUNTY, N.DAK.
-by Martha Schindler Neff (Mrs. C. G.) January 1973
My mother, Susanna Schmidt, was born June 24, 1878, at Khersan, So. Russia, close to Odessa, the fourth child of Elizabeth Temple Schmidt and Philip Schmidt. When she was 19 years old, she and her younger sister, Mary, immigrated to the United States. Their destination was Menno, South Dakota. Their passage was paid by their brother, Peter Schmidt, and older sister, Elizabeth, Mrs. David Keller. When they arrived at Baltimore, Maryland, after a long and tiresome journey across Europe by train, then by ship from Hamburg, Germany, their journey wasn't over yet – they traveled by train to South Dakota.
There they hired out as housemaids, took advance pay and paid off their debt. When that was paid, Mother hired out for another year and again took her wages in advance. This time she worked for a family by the name of Krombein who had a general store at Freeman. Together with her brother, Peter, they sent free passage tickets back to Russia for their parents to also come to America, with three half-sisters whose names were Caoline, Minnie and Pauline Gellner.
My father, Jacob Schindler, was born November 23, 1873, in So. Russia, and came to the United States with his parents Johann and Juliana Weisz Schindler. They settled on a farm close to Scotland and Yankton, South Dakota.
Our parents were married at Grandfather Schindler's home on March 2, 1902, and moved on a rented farm close to Parker, S. Dak., where I was born Dec. 30, 1902. Later they moved on a farm close to Marion where my brothers Johann and Jacob (twins) were born on Dec. 30, 1904.
Soon after the boys were born, the folks decided to move to North Dakota where some free homestead land was still available. Our father loaded all their belongings including live-stock, machinery, furniture and family all into a box car and journeyed by train to Linton in Emmons County, not too far from the South Dakota border.
Mother's brothers Peter and Martin Schmidt, were already living on homesteads close to the village of Temvik. We lived on Uncle Peter's place – in an old chicken coop – while Papa looked around for a suitable quarter of land still available to homesteaders. He found it close to Sand Creek with the help of relatives and neighbors. Some sod buildings soon took shape.
It is while the men were building these slabs of sod one on top of another for the walls, that my memory begins. The living quarters were two rooms. At first we had a dirt floor – then we had wide board floors. Mother bought red barn paint because it was cheaper than the standard orange, and painted the floor. How proud she was to have a wood floor! It was shortly after we were living on the homestead that a little sister, Alvina, was born, however she lived for just eight months. Cause of death we now think was pneumonia. Later a little boy was born whom we called Eddie; he died shortly after birth.
Following are some of the highlights that I remember clearly – one is the episode of the boys and their little red wagon which they really loved dearly and were always pulling around the yard. One day while Mamma and Papa were out in the hay field and Grandmother was staying with us, they decided to follow the road to find the parents. They went as far as the neighbors, Phaffs, about a half mile away. On the way they had to cross a narrow bridge over Sand Creek. When the neighbors heard their geese cackling, they went to investigate and here were these two little boys pulling their little wagon. When they asked them where they were going, they said they were looking for Mamma and Papa. I remember getting scolded for not watching them more closely.
Another time Mother was watering our few head of cattle at Sand Creek. We kids decided to follow her, disobeying her orders to stay home. One of the boys fell into a large hole – I think it was John. Jack and I held on to him and yelled as loud as we could for Mother to come help. Mother thought a wild animal was trying to drag him down into the hole. She came running as fast as she could, pulled him out, took us home and gave us some bread to eat, and told us to stay in the house, which we were glad to do for awhile at least.
Another highlight that stands out in my memory is the summer Grandfather and Grandmother Johann Schindler came to visit us by train all the way from McClusky, North Dakota where they had settled on a homestead about the same time our folks settled at Temvik. It was the 4th of July; we had driven into Linton for the celebration. There Papa met a man he knew who had just come by train from Bismarck who told him that he'd met a man, Johann Schindler, and wife, on the train who told him they were going to visit their son and family at Temvik. Well, it didn't take Papa very long to get all of us together and start back home by buggy. To our surprise he even urged the horses to a trot. The folks thought that Uncle Martin, Mother's brother, who had a butcher shop and lived in Temvik, would bring them out to the farm, but when we got close to home we didn't see any sign of life – everything was quiet. We finally found them in the living-bedroom which was closed up to keep it cool. What a good time we had! Grandfather had such a sense of humor. I can still see him with his goatee beard. They stayed a week. They brought each one of us our very own little sack of candy. We had never had that much candy before in our lives.
By this time Lydia, born March 30, 1908, and Emma, born November 15, 1909, had joined our family. Mother and a neighbor lady, Mrs. Speidelbach, often drove with horse and buggy into Temvik in the afternoon taking butter and eggs to trade for staples such as sugar, coffee and syrup. Flour was always bought in 100 lb. sacks. About this time automobiles made their appearance. Mother's cousin, Franz Temple, who operated the grain elevator and the flour mill, owned one of these new-fangled contraptions too.
One afternoon when we were driving to Temvik and came to the main road between Linton and Temvik, there were a number of cars stopping along the road, and the men were digging rocks from the rutted road. Our horses, not being used to automobiles, started to snort and rear up. Mother told me to hold the baby tight and for the boys to sit down and hang on. Fortunately one of the men came over and took the horses by the bridles and led them past the cars. Mother and Mrs. Speidelbach, whom we called “Tante”, worried all the time we were in town about meeting cars again on the way home, but when we drove home there was no sign of any automobiles, much to our relief. What exciting things to tell Papa after we got home!
Sometimes when we were in town Mother managed to spare a nickel for me to get a box of cracker jack, which had such wonderful prizes, or sometimes an ice cream cone, which had me puzzled as to how to get the ice cream out of the cone, till my cousin Lydia Schmidt, told me to eat the whole thing.
Sometime during those years a church was built east of our homestead, across Sand Creek. This was part of the Linton Parish of the “Evangelische Gemeirschaft”, or Evangelical Church. The first pastor I remember was Rev. A. Ermel and his wife, newly arrived from Berlin, Germany; they were also newlyweds. Mrs. Ermel was a trained nurse. Coming from the city, Rev. Ermel knew nothing about horse and buggy transportation, but he had to come out from Linton to serve the Sand Creek congregation, so he got a top buggy and one horse or pony. Many were the amusing incidents that the grownups related as to the new pastor's ignorance when it came to harnessing and hitching up the pony.
Many years later I heard Rev. Ermel tell these amusing incidents at the Lehr Camp Meeting. Mrs. Ermel or “Tante” as she preferred to be called, made many trips to church families, taking care of the sick. Once she also came out to our homestead when my brother Jack was very sick with a high fever. Our folks always said later that she no doubt saved his life as it likely was pneumonia.
Once every summer Mother and Mrs. Speidelbach took a day off and went berry picking along Sand Creek. Mamma would pack a lunch, get all us children ready, hitch the two tame horses to the buggy and away we'd go on a day of adventure for us kids.
My usual place was sitting down in the front part of the buggy holding the baby, Emma, and also keeping an eye on the toddler which was Lydia. The boys, Jack and John, would be behind the seat usually standing up holding on to the seat. On this trip while we were driving along suddenly the horses shied and jumped, maybe because of a jack rabbit which suddenly jumped up beside the road. When the horses jumped, it jerked the seat with the boys hanging on. The seat pulled loose, dumping Mamma and Mrs. Speidelbach, “Tante”, into the buggy box on top of the boys. Luckily Mamma had a tight hold on the reins and got the horses stopped. Everybody got unscrambled and settled in the buggy again with strict orders to the boys to sit down and stay sitting. We continued our outing without further incidents. Afterwards they all laughed at the amusing picture it must have been and how glad they were no one else was around to see it, but the boys were given strict orders by Papa not to stand up but to stay sitting while driving.
When I was old enough to start school I wanted the boys to go along, but of course they were not old enough, so I didn't want to go either, but I had to start. I was afraid of cattle because I had to go through the neighbor's pasture part of the way, and was deathly of their cattle, wild animals, and snakes. Along Sand Creek there were huge Bull snakes. Although we were told they were not poisonous, it didn't help me any; I still was scared stiff and would run till I was exhausted when I met one.
I well remember how shy I was my first day of school. My cousin, Lydia, who was a little older than I had me sit with her. The teacher asked something which I couldn't understand, not being able to understand or speak English. I asked my cousin what teacher had said. She told she wants to know your name, so I told her. Everything else that went on in school was strange to me until we got outside for recess. When the weather turned colder the folks decided I might as well stay home till the following year when the boys were old enough to start school also.
During the winter months we had to study the German ABC book. Also Papa would read out loud to Mamma in the evenings. We had to be quiet so we also absorbed a lot – mostly the Bible and German newspaper. Both the boys and I could read German before we could speak English. Papa was also musical, so we had a lot of singing winter evenings.
During the fall of 1911 it was time for the folks to prove up the homestead; also to become citizens. I well remember the day Papa came home from Linton, the county seat, and how proud he was telling Mother he could answer all the questions the judge asked him. As I recall, one of the questions was who was President of the United States. At that time both of our parents became citizens. We children, being born here, were citizens by birth.
Grandfather Schindler had been writing urging us to move up to the McClusky vicinity. Their homestead was just one mile north of what later became Pickardville. One day Papa came home from town and announced he had sold the homestead and now we could make plans to move up to Grandfather's, and Uncle John and Uncle Mike. So early in 1912 the folks had a public auction and sold everything. Most of all Mother hated to part with her prized sewing machine, but Father promised her another one. So plans were made which to us kids was a great adventure to ride on the train. It was a two-day trip, staying overnite at Carrington.
So came to a close the happy, carefree years for us children on the homestead at Sand Creek.
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Added note by Aneta (typist): Accurate family history is difficult to ascertain since virtually no written records exist. However, Martha gave me permission to add a few notes I had gathered or remembered.
Schindler - Schmidt Family Tree Information
When Mother Susanna Schmidt Schindler was five years old her parents moved to the vicinity of Warsaw, Poland, where the family lived for a seven year period, after which they returned again to the parental home at Khersan, South Russia, near Odessa, which was their trading center.
As a young girl she was robust and strong and enjoyed the best of health. She worked hard during those girlhood years, serving as housemaid in various homes. I recall hearing her tell also about working out in the hayfields, and how they welcomed a break when they were given white wine to drink. After she and her half-sister Mary arrived safely at Marion Junction, South Dakota, from Russia, she was employed at the Schoenhardt home there until her marriage on March 2, 1902 to Jacob Schindler. Since her husband was a member of the Evangelical Church, she also joined that denomination, having been brought up in the Lutheran Reformed faith by a devout mother.
I recall Mother telling how she caught a cold hanging out clothes after the twins, Jack and John were born; it was then that the eczema broke out which was to plague her for the rest of her life, ultimately becoming cancerous, which along with diabetes contributed to her death. (I mention this because we are being urged these days in writing any family history to include health facts which could have a bearing on subsequent health of children.) Father Schindler enjoyed good health for the most part, although he was subject to respiratory difficulties. Constant hard work and physical activity kept his weight down. Cause of his death was heart failure.