Monday, July 30, 2018

Military Monday - Letters from Henry part 8

Henry didn't stay at Camp Merritt very long.  The next we hear of him is this postcard received sometime in June 1918.

According to the book "A History of the Transport Service: Adventures and Experiences of United States Transports and Cruisers in the World War" by Vice Admiral Albert Gleaves, USN, published 1921 (available on internet archive), there were nearly 280,000 troops transported to Europe during just the month of June 1918.  The transport ships could be American, British, Italian, French or Russian and there were approximately 128 ships in use that month.  One ship could carry as many as 10,000 troops on board!

from "A History of the Transport Service...." by Gleaves
Based on the next letter, dated "England June 23, 1918" - Henry's ship was probably sailing from June 5 - 21.  Of note, each letter written from this point forward bears the approval of a Censor, so there are few details about camps and battles.

Dear Parents
I am safe and sound in England landed here two days ago we were on the water 16 days had a nice trip no storm only a few days that the sea was quite rough.
This is quite a pretty town near this camp from what I could see by marching thro at night have not been able to get up the in day tim yet.
I suppose you are busy with hay by this time, I seen some of the people here were putting up hay if you need any help let me know and I will be there to help you but maybe not this year. How is every body same as always. How is Grandmother this summer I send her my best wishes. Don’t run your Ford too much or it will wear out.

Don’t foget to tell me all the news and you can write to the rest of them tell them I am getting along fine. With Love and best Wishes, Henry

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Surname Saturday - Klopfenstein Reunion

Last week I traveled to Grabill, Indiana for the "Worldwide Klopfenstein Reunion".  This was actually the third such reunion held in the past 10 years.  The attendees were all descendants of one of the Klopfenstein brothers who came from Frutigen, Switzerland by way of France to the United States in the early to mid-1800's.

We met in Grabill (near Fort Wayne) because there was a large number of Klopfensteins who settled in that area.  Many of us spent the night before at the Klopfenstein Inn in Fort Wayne which is owned by a distant Klopfenstein cousin.

Grabill is a small town in a very Amish area of Indiana - we passed several horse and buggies on the way there.  The reunion itself was held in a large building called the "Fudergong" - basically a converted garage.

Across the street was an old Mennonite church which had been converted to a museum about Grabill and the area.

There were nearly 190 people from 24 states at the reunion.  I attended with my mother and our cousin Emily Klopfenstein. 

Several people had brought memorabilia to show and stories to share.  We visited with distant cousins from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Florida, Texas and Washington State.

It was fun to meet people from all walks of life who all had Klopfenstein DNA in their blood.

My immigrant Klopfenstein was my 3rd Great Grandfather, Christian Klopfenstein.  He was born in Froideval France on 17 June 1788.  He was from an Amish family who had fled to France to avoid persecution.  On 15 January 1811 he married Catherine Stooky in Grandvillas France  Their first seven children were born in France before they emigrated to the U.S. Two more children were born in Ohio.  They arrived in New York on 27 July 1824 on the ship "Elizabeth".

Christian died on 12 January 1873 in Fulton County, Oh.  His wife Catherine died 2 March 1851 in the same county.  Both are buried in Johnson cemetery there.

Their daughter Mary Klopfenstein was my ancestor.  She was born 13 January 1817 and married Jacob Graber in 1842.  He was also from France but they met and married in Ohio.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Military Monday - Letters from Henry part 7

Well, Henry was finally on his way from Camp Sherman in Ohio.  But where did he go?

His next postcard was postmarked Jersey City, NJ on May 29, 1918:

Dear Parents.
I am at this Camp for a short time. Got here this forenoon safe and sound and my next trip will be over by the looks of things will try and write you a letter later. With Best Wishes, Henry.
My address. Pvt. Henry Steinbrecher. Co.A 329th Inf. Camp Merritt New Jersey

I believe that when he says "my next trip will be over" - it means "over seas"  or "over there".

He writes more the next day, telling about his journey over the mountains.  Probably quite an experience for this farm boy from northwest Ohio.

Dear Parents

Hoping these few lines will find you all well and happy the same as they leave me. Left Camp Sherman Monday at 2 pm. Arrived here on Wed morning 9 am fine and dandy.
We sure had some trip the second day we were among he mountains. Nearly all day just winding around them all the time the most crooked road I ever was on. I don’t believe that the track was straight for ten rods at a time.
Some places we went over the mountains and some places under them. It is quite cool here and last night it rained some.
This camp is in a woods plenty of shade trees all around some of these trees ought to be in Camp Sherman for it gets awful hot there some time.
We are only about 15 miles from New York City so you see we are near the ocean that makes it quite cool here.
I don’t think we will be here very long only long enough to get the rest of our Clothes and other equipment.
They are giving 24 hour passes to New York City to all those that want to go. About 40 a day. I don’t think that I will go do not care about going to the City have seen plenty of big cities they are all about the same.
Does John know when he will have to leave for Camp or not.  Has Rosa been to see you since she is back home again.
I want you to take good care of her and take her out riding in the Ford some time when you go to town or some place for you like that yourself. I don’t know much news so I will have to ring off but will try and write you some more before we start across if possible.
Don’t work too hard and don’t forget to write to me for I am always glad to hear from you.
With love and Best Wishes, Henry

Photo from wikimedia commons - LCCN2007664146

According to wikipedia, Camp Merritt was a transient base in Bergen County, NJ which served as the embarkation port for approximately 1 million troops.  From this base they boarded ferryboats to Hoboken, NJ where they left on transport ships for Europe.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Military Monday - Letters from Henry part 6

Henry continued to drill and Rosa stayed with him for most of the month of May.

On May 22, Henry wrote:

Dear Parents
This is Wednesday and sure is some hot a real summer day.
I thot I would wrie you a few lines while I have a few minutes time.
Rosa is still here but I think she will leave for home tomorrow so if you go to town or have nothing to do you can get her so she wont be so lonesome for you will want to take a ride in the Ford anyway.
Will John have to come in this next bunch or don’t you know yet. It sure makes us sweat out here drilling now. Rosa comes out here every evening for we can not get up town at the present time so you see we do not get much time to spend together.
How is everybody. Hope the folks are all well and grandma is she getting along like usual? Have you heard from Julia lately. I hope she will be cured of her ear trouble this fime for she sure has had her share of suffering. News is awful scarse here so I will have to ring off for this time hoping this finds you all well. God be with you till we meet again.
Henry & Rosa

Although he doesn't say he is leaving, he ends by saying "God be with you till we meet again" - a phrase he hasn't used before.  It makes me wonder if he knew he was leaving soon......

"Grandma" is Katherine Elizabeth Steinbrecher Steinbrecher - she was born 1839 in Russia and would have been 78 years old.  This picture is ca 1905.

As we suspected, on May 28, Henry writes this postcard:

Dear Parents
We are on our way Passed thro the yards of Buffalo an hour ago. Passed thro Cleveland at 12 last night I don’t know where we are going but will soon find out. 

Monday, July 09, 2018

Military Monday - Letters from Henry part 5

Rosa continued to stay at the camp while Henry intermittently left for exercises and drilling.  She kept busy by doing laundry for the camp.

She wrote 2 postcards -

On May 11 -

Hello Arthur hear I am yet and am going out to see Henry I think that he will go on guard duty some time tonight will write you more later. Just got home from work,
Rosa & Henry

On May 18 -

Hello John this sure is some place here. I only wish you could of see this place last Sun it sure was a sight the people that where out here. Henry is still out on the range think that he will be in the morning.
Your Rosa & Henry

Note: while most letters were addressed to Arthur and "Dear Parents", this one was for Henry's brother John (My grandfather).

Henry returned and wrote a letter - he hints at having to leave soon.

Dear Parents
Will write a little this evening I and Rosa are here in our room just washed our hair and soon will go to bed for I will have to get up at five in the morning to get back by 6. we will not have to drill from 9 till 12 tomorrow for it is mothers day so they will excuse us for a while. You tell the folks we are not allowed to tell when we leave for if they find out we will be punished. But you can keep it to your self they wont have to tell it to anyone as far as I know we will leave this month don’t know where we will go. And when. For they don’t tell us any thing about it only that we leave in a short time. I have heard that we go to Texas till some time this summer and then from there over but that is only talk. By the looks of things we will soon be moved away.
You tell the folks to keep it to them self and you to or I may get into trouble.
Hope this will find you all well the same as it leaves us and don’t forget to ans. With Love and best wishes from us both.
Henry and Rosa

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Those Places Thursday - Mining for Great-grandpa

One of the stories that was passed down in the family was that my great-grandfather Charles Taylor "C.T." Hill had gone off to seek his fortune.  One version was that he went to Alaska for the Gold Rush, another was that he went to Arkansas to mine for diamonds. 

I never heard any more details about the Alaska tale - to date I haven't found anything to substantiate this.

The tale about Arkansas contained a few more details.  One was that he was the bookkeeper at the Red Cloud Mine, the other was that he was the Mayor of the town there called Rush.

I do have a picture of him at Red Cloud dated June 26, 1915.

C.T. Hill in center of photo
I was able to find a few articles online about him while he was there.  One cited the bookkeeper of Red Cloud Mine, Mr. Hill, a "Prince of good-fellows". 

from "Mountain Echo" November 19, 1915
And, there was the report of the first election of the newly incorporated town of Rush listing him as the Mayor - a "wide awake progressive gentleman".

from "Mountain Echo" October 27, 1916
Armed with this information, my cousin and I set off to visit the mine and the town where great-grandpa was the mayor.  First, it became very clear to us that he was mining not for diamonds, but for Zinc.  Zinc was discovered in this area of the Ozark mountains in the 1880's but the mining industry really took off in the years from 1915-1918.  Zinc was used to produce ammunition, so demand was tied to the war effort. 

Selfie at the turnoff to Rush
The town of Rush itself is now a Ghost Town.  Some buildings remain and are now the property of the National Park Service.  

There was a very nice interpretive trail that discussed the boom and bust era of zinc mining and described some of the structures.

While visiting the site, I tried to imagine great-grandpa living in one of these houses,

conducting business in the general store,

or traveling down the path that paralleled Rush Creek to get to the mine.  The path itself becomes impassable during periods of heavy rain, but things were hot and dry when we were there.

Sadly, Red Cloud Mine is gone, but we did see some remains of Morning Star mine along the trail. 

The people of Marion County Arkansas are very proud of their mining history.  Everyone we talked to seemed to have a connection to the mine - someone in their family worked on a mine, lived in Rush, etc.  From the owners of the Silver Run Cabins where we stayed (highly recommended), the Park Rangers at Buffalo Point, the librarian at the county library, the staff in the County Clerk's office at the Courthouse, and the staff at the Yellville Chamber of Commerce (largest town near Rush and county seat) - they were all friendly and willing to share their stories and photos.  It was a wonderful experience mining for information about my Great-grandfather and his life and times.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Military Monday - Letters from Henry part 4

Rosa continued to stay at the camp with Henry - even when he was away drilling.

On May 5, 1918 she wrote:

Brother Arthur,
Just a few lince don’t no very much to write am out on the camp grounds now at the Y.M.C.A. writing some letter. Henry is out on the range has been out every since Thursday morning and wont be in till Tuesday some time but they are going to have a big pade out here so that wh I am here am going to stay and see that I only wish that you could be here now you sure would see some thing you never saw in you life. All the boy’s are going to prade they got about 40 thousand boy’s out here now and still are coming.
I can tell you more when I get home, don’t no when I will be home am going to stay till Henry Leaves now. I think his days are few now the fpoor fellow. I sure do feel sorry for them.
Will tell you more later your sister Rosa & Henry. With love and best wishes to all the folks.

Henry returned from drilling and wrote a postcard on May 11 -

Dear Parents. Sat noon and is raining. And we did need some of it for it was getting quite dusty, we returned on Wed noon, and are drilling everyday. Rosa is working in the laundry here.
She was out here last night for I could not go up town on account of beng on guard.
What are you doing this fine weather it sure has been fine.
We may not drill tomorrow its not yet sure I  hope we do not have to. Best wishes to all
From Henry and Rosa.