Then it was life of a different sort
The following is the first of a four-part series based on Milla Klammer's journal written while growing up and living in the Howard Lake-Waverly area.
By Milla Klammer
My great-grandparents were John and Mary (Kelson) Stoppelman. They had 11 children. Joseph was the oldest and was my grandfather.
Joseph was born in Germany on Jan. 16, 1845, and married Rika Kluschke. They lived near Le Sueur, where he cleared some government land. A tree fell on him, and he was killed on Jan. 14, 1877. Joseph and Rika had five children: Frank (my dad) born Sept. 21, 1869, Jule, Charlie, Lena and Hannah.
After my grandfather Joseph died, my grandmother Rika married William Rahn, and they had five children. My father Frank told me that when he was 12 years old. His stepfather (Rahn) moved to the place where Leo Stoppelman's dad lived. He told me how they moved and loaded all their things in wagons pulled with horses and how their cattle walked. My dad had to walk, too.
When evening came, they would put the horses and cattle in a farmer's yard for the night, and the next morning they would go on their way. I can't remember how many days it took to go from Le Sueur to Howard Lake.
As Dad got older, he went out and worked for people. One family I know he worked for was Henry Gruenhagen.
My dad was 26 years old when he married my mother, Ida Dorothy Marie Prigge, on Oct. 31, 1895. They first lived on the Inkie place on the north shore of Howard Lake. It used to be Luther Zech's and now it is Durhdal's. From there they moved to the place in Woodland Township where I was born. It had all log buildings on it. The house was log where I was born on Aug. 3, 1909. I had a brother Ruskin, born March 8, 1898, and a sister Esther, born Jan. 14, 1905.
In 1911, Dad bought another farm which had a frame house on it, and he moved that house to the farm where we lived. We had to do some fixing on it. I remember Ma telling me that I was only two years old then. Dad farmed our 200 acres of land. He plowed with a gang plow which he hitched to four horses and plowed two furrows.
We did the seeding of grain, planting corn with a two-row planter, and everything was done by horses. When it was haying time, Dad cut the grass, let it dry for two to three days, and hoped for no rain. Mother would rake it in bunches, and then Dad and the hired man would pitch it on a hay rack with a fork and unload it and pile it in a big stack.
At harvest time, Dad would cut the grain, and Ruskin and the hired man would shock it. Later, they would stack it, let it stand awhile, and then thrash it. It would be fun to have thrashers. Mother would bake cookies and donuts and make good things to eat.
Sometimes the men would stay over night. They would sleep in the barn on the hay, and early the next morning (six o'clock), we had breakfast ready for them. When they would finish thrashing, they moved to the neighbor's place. Dad and another fellow went thrashing the first year he was married. I remember mother saying that the day I was born, dad was thrashing. Later in the 1930's, they didn't stack much grain, shock or thrash.
When the corn was ripe, Dad would cut it with a binder, which made bundles, and shocked it. Later we would husk it by hand.
Sometimes it got pretty cold. I remember the time, Nov. 11, 1918, it was a nice warm day, and we were in the field picking up corn. We heard church bells ringing and a whistle blowing and other noise. We wondered what was going on. That was the day the First World War stopped and we had peace. They called that day Armistice Day - Nov. 11, 1918.
Dad never bought seed corn. When we husked corn by hand, and he'd find a nice looking cob, he would throw it in a basket. Then later he would take it upstairs in a bedroom and put it under the bed to dry. Sometimes he would tie the cobs together with twine and hang them on the wall to dry. Later in the winter when it was dry, we would take it downstairs and shell it by hand. We'd shell a couple bushels or more whatever he had upstairs. That was the seed corn he planted in the spring.
Mother saved seed from most of the garden vegetables to plant. In the fall when you dug the potatoes, mother would pick out the nice ones and save those to plant in the spring.
We planted a lot of potatoes and in the fall we would dig them. Dad had a V plow, which he would use to plow open the rows, and then the kids and mom picked the potatoes up. We would get a good half a wagon box full.
Mother had a big garden. She planted everything peas, beans, lettuce, radishes, onions, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, pie pumpkins, and cabbage - enough cabbage to make sauerkraut (a 10-gallon crock jar full) to last all winter. In those days you grew your vegetables. We never bought canned goods.
Mother would buy dried fruit like peaches, pears, apricots, prunes and raisins. She ordered them from a grocery catalog named Savage & Co. She would get five to 10 pounds of each at a time. She also got rolled oats and wheat. We would peel and cut apples in thin slices and lay them on a screen and set them outside and let the sun dry them. She dried sweet corn too. Mother canned and made a lot of jelly, so we always had plenty to eat.
In the fall, we would butcher two hogs and make lots of sausage - like head cheese, blood sausage, bratwurst and summer sausage. We would fry the side pork and put it in a jar and cover with lard. Hams and shoulders we would salt cure and smoke. We had a smoke house that we would smoke the summer sausage and bratwurst in too. By Christmas time, we were all stocked up for the winter.
We milked about 20 cows by hand. We had our milk and cream, and when the cream got sour, Mother would churn it, and we had fresh butter.
No refrigerator in those days; so to keep things cold, we had ice in a wooden box. In the winter, Dad would cut ice on the lake and pack it in a small building with lots of sawdust around it so it would keep nearly all summer. Then we had a smaller box made to hold two big cakes of ice (two-feet square) which we set outside near the house. We kept things cool there in the summer. When the ice was gone, we would put our butter, etc. in a pail and hang it in the well pit.
We got water for drinking and cooking from the well. If the windmill didn't pump it, you pumped it by hand. We had a cistern for rain water which we pumped by hand, too, and then used the water for washing clothes, dishes and taking baths. That was "soft" water - not Culligan.
In the summer when it was hot, we pulled all the shades (green ones) down in the house to keep it cool no air conditioning. We had a small building close to the house where we cooked the meals and ate. We called it a summer kitchen. That way the house stayed nice and cool.
We had the wash machine, cream separator and a gasoline engine to run the things in the summer kitchen, too. We never, ever thought of air-conditioning in those days, or electric lights. We had kerosene lamps.
When the wind blew, the windmill would pump the water to the barn in a large wooden tank for the cattle to drink and for us to use in the house. We carried the water in with a pail. When it wasn't windy and the windmill wouldn't turn, then we would pump water with a pump jack and gasoline engine, and sometimes, by hand.
Stories | Columns | Classifieds | Obituaries
Community Guides | Special Topics | Cool Stuff | SEARCH | Home Page