I just received my results from Ancestry DNA. The results confirmed the research I’ve completed over the last 20 years that I am officially a displaced European “Mutt”!
For nearly two centuries, my genes were created by a indiscriminate breeding of the cast-off population of Scandinavia and Germany. That my ancestors ended up in the Midwest portion of America by choice or a lack of direction is still under review. What is known is that all arrived seeking a better life for themselves or their family, not unlike the current crop of immigrant settling around us now.
My family history includes stories of young men and woman escaping war and famine. Some came for opportunities not available in their crowded homeland. Some were following their dreams, while others arrived because they drew the short straw! Whatever happened that made them take to the sea in the mid-eighteen hundreds, they all ended up as farmers and shopkeepers on the dusty plains of Dakota.
Together they survived because of a rugged independence imbued on them by the conditions they chose to settle in. They were a stubborn, some would say obstinate, people who made the best of their situation. (Who else would think that rotted cabbage and dried up whitefish (Sauerkraut and Lutefisk) could be cherished as the makings of a holiday treat?)
The fact that I still live happily in the rural midwest could be considered a testiment or a curse of the genes that shaped my being.
A Man’s body in tree since 1862 is found. – Wood choppers in Le Sueur County make gruesome discovery while working in woods. “Man hid in Hollow Tree, During Indian Outbreak. Unable to Extricate Himself.”
The Le Sueur News tells about a startling discovery made recently on the farm of Edward Gleek of Ottawa Township in the woods along the river. In clearing a piece of land, it became necessary to cut down a gigantic white oak tree which broke in falling, disclosing the fact that it was hollow for a distance of about fifteen feet, beginning several feet above the ground and the cavity ending in a large opening concealed among the branches of the lower side of the tree which leaned considerably.
Within this hollow was found by the horrified choppers the mummified body of a man, not at all decayed, but dried and shriveled by the lapse…
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2012 – The Minneapolis Tribune recently ran a series on the 150th Anniversary of the Dakota Indian War.
Because my family had deep roots to that area, I have spent time researching their involvement in that action. Here is a little of what I found.
150 years ago – The Dakota Indian War
My grandmother’s 18 year old grand uncle, Johann Melchior Wahl arrived in Baltimore, Maryland from Württemberg, Germany in 1862. Less than three months after his arrival to the farm in Carver County, Minnesota, the first attack on the unsuspecting farmers in Acton, Meeker County, Minnesota signaled the start of the Dakota Indian War. Within days Melchior had enlisted and was marched to Hutchinson, MN along with other area farmers, to defend his new countrymen. During his time as a soldier he not only participated in notable battles with the Dakota, he also served as a witness to the hanging of the 38 Indians at Mankato. Later…
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Dusty gravel roads
Near swaths of ripening wheat
-Father’s furrowed brow
I think of my father, especially when I am trying to solve a problem that requires some patience. When all seems lost, I think back to my days on the farm, remembering the endless chores and the way my father attacked them day after day after day. Dad’s stoic acceptance of running a small farm with old equipment held together with bailing wire and cardboard gaskets, in a weather cycle that didn’t produce enough rain to parch the sandy soil, taught me that even in a losing effort there are battles to be won.
Though our family gardens were doomed to be raided by the neighbor’s pigs and the Massey Harris combine and the old John Deere tractor were unwilling farm servants, dad always found ways to persevere. Even when most sane men would throw in the towel, his stubborn Midwestern will would drive him through the crisis.
I remember lots of happy times too. Noon-time meals with the entire family sitting down to meat and potatoes, covered in gravy served with Mom’s fresh white bread on a plate in the middle of the table. I loved hearing his lunch time dreams of tomorrow, when the next harvest would run over our bins.
I remember him during those times of joy and sadness and wish I could stand near him again to walk in those fields of Dakota. Even though Dad rests in peace, I just wanted to say just one more time, Happy Fathers’ Day dad; I love you this much.
To my sister, who I loved very much.
I thought again of prairie fields
And remembered warm summer suns.
I felt the wind that blew back then
And played with my family again.
The big front yard, the pasture gate
Sweet memories swirl around me.
I hold the thoughts tighter now
I’m scared that I won’t remember.
Baseball games at reunion parks
Our families played there together.
The children ran, while old folks looked
And the winners called for their treasures.
We grew older then and some moved on
Black and white pictures replaced the elders.
The family picnics are much smaller now,
I’m missing so many aunts and uncles.
To return once more to yesteryear
Will have to wait for awhile.
I have dreams to share and kids to hug
Before I lose another smile.
Those sweet memories
Of the way it used to be
When I was safe in my mother’s arms
On the infinite Dakota prairie.
Where life could be hard
And money was in short supply.
But, love would surround me
While adversity passed by.
Passed between these ladies
I clung to their arms
Knowing they’d protect me
From dangers on those family farms.
They were with me when I was young
Advising, suggesting, sometimes stern.
Leading protectively on the long dusty roads
Teaching me lessons, they hoped I would learn.