My ancestors:

Lot Nr. 17 Schröttinghausen:
Hermjohannes family farm

My father was born on lot # 17 in Schröttinghausen.  Like most of the “Kolonate Properties,“ as they were called, this one was hundreds of years old, and the church records date it back to the 13th century, when two brothers, Johann and Hinrich Von Skröttinghusen settled the village.  Those same records also mention other farms of the area that still exist today.  The Hermjohannes property was situated in the oldest part of the village, which belonged to the Busches, and where there was also a small lake that has long since disappeared.  The “Lange Pool”(Long Basin) as it was called, was said to have been part of a moat.

 

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Therefore we assume that these two brothers, Johann and Hinrich Von Skröttinghusen were the the first owners of the Hermjohannes and Hinrich farms, which were next to each other.  The latter was sold over a century ago, when the owners moved to America.  A section of the old property is still connected to my parents’ house, the so-called “Beihaus”.  The old Ballmeier house (now Husemeier’s) was in the Kotts property though my grandmother always referred to it as “Hinneke’s Kotts.”  What is odd is that the estate records which date back to the 1700s, never mention the name Hermjohannes at all.  At one point it was called, “Clamor im Busch”, another time, “Franz Daubenflage” (Daubenflag referred to a strip of arable field situated in front of the property).  The name first came up around the time of my great-great grandfather (around about 1780?).  He must have died early, because his widow, born a Schierholz-Holzel from Oberbauerschaft, (Rüschen, Dünnerholz) (ruffles, thin wood) was married a second time to a Klostermann from Wimmer.  Technically, this man was our ancestor, and therefore our name really ought be Klostermann, but because he married into the property, the name of the estate took precedence over his, and the name Hermjohannes remained.

(It is quite possible that someone in Johann Von Skröttinghusen’s family married someone whose first name was Hermann, and through that union the name Hermjohannes originated.)  This, our first known ancestor at least by name, had two sons.  One was the heir of the estate while the other was known as a, “Vedder.”  It was customary for the sons and daughters that did not inherit the farm itself to either marry into another property or be taken on at the farm where they were born.  Those were an unfortunate lot.  They were little respected, were entitled to an inheritance only if they married, and they even had to work without pay.  This meant that the few pennies required for the most modest pleasures such as Prim, tobacco or liquor, had to be asked for or demanded.  This was how things were according to what we were told by my father, who still knew his great uncle.

My great grandfather, William Hermjohannes, born 1798, was supposed to have been a somewhat tough and proud farmer.  It was said that he didn’t pay much attention to his first wife, Anna Elisabeth, born Volbert, a neighbor’s daughter.  She had a daughter, who at the age of 17 married a Mittelkraemer in Harlinghausen, and then died at age 18 after giving birth to their first child.  Her mother must have died early as well, because my great-grandfather married her when he was 20, but then later took a widow named Blomenkamp from Börninghausen as a second wife.  She was born Marie Ilse Große-Schweinefuß from Engershausen Lot #2.  She had been previously engaged to a neighbor’s son, a Redecker, but he ended up marrying someone else.  Supposedly, she then, out of desperation, married an innkeeper named Blomenkamp, who then died of alcohol poisoning.

 

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From that marriage she had two children which she brought into the second marriage, but they both died young, and hence the Hermjohannes estate property ownership fell to a child of her next marriage.

Ilsabein Groβe Schweinefuβ sideboard

Father and grandfather repeatedly inquired to find out more about the Inn in Börninghausen, but no one knows anything about it.  Only an old ledger account book still exists.  In it are also transactions made by my grandfather and great grandfather.  My great-grandmother was said to have been a very good person, and those who knew her told us that she, “bloomed like a rose on a bush”.  And supposedly my great-grandfather loved her dearly and held her in the highest regard.  There are two pieces of their furniture still in existence and which we had restored; a big sideboard and a box seat made from a canopy bed.  Both are from her dowry and we are very proud

Ilsabein Groβe Schweinefuβ box seat

to have them.  Great-grandmother had a lot of siblings.  I remember being told that there were ten.  One sister married an innkeeper in Getmold named Spreen, another married a Mittelkraemer in Harlinghausen, (the mother-in-law of the aforementioned Anna Elizabeth Hermjohannes, nee Volbert).  One brother lived in Harlinghausen, one in Schröttinghausen, (Kleinkrögers).  Additional siblings included the Gödeckens, the Maschs of Engerhausen, the Schnittkers of Harlinghausen (Fünfhausen) and the Linkenhägens of Eininghausen also belonged to her family.  And of course, there was the heir to the farm.  Great-grandmother died at the age of 52 of tuberculosis.  She had had two children in her second marriage, my grandfather, Franz , and his brother William Hermjohannes.  The latter married a daughter of Große Dunker in Getmold.  He ended up making a modest living as a farmer, and stayed with his wife and three children in the Kotten of one of his later sons-in-law, Blase, in Lot 15.  Another daughter married a Schlottmann who was in the military, and his son stayed in the Kotten as well, until at a very old age he was farming a piece of property he rented with his family on the Holsingschen Estate in Getmold.  His great uncle was a very unconventional person; very smart, very old fashioned, and then simultaneously very modern.  Until his dying day he used an old-

Luise Balsmann

fashioned, “Ölkrüsel,” as a lamp.  On the other hand, when no one in the village could even be interested in a common newspaper, he himself had a subscription to the largest and most sophisticated periodical, the “Reichsboten”.  But I digress, back to my grandfather.  Everyone who knew him respected him greatly, and some even revered him.  His appearance was the epitome of a Westphalian farmer; blond, blue-eyed, and very slim, as were all the Hermjohannes, except Aunt Louise Balsmann.  She was quite plump, and also distinguished herself by reaching well over 80 years of age, while all other family members, who were otherwise very strong and healthy, died right around the age of about 70 years old.

Grandfather died when I was 12 years old, and so I was therefore able to have known him well.  I had a great respect for him although he was always very quiet and serious.  He was what one might, or ought to describe as pious, and though he never really spoke about his inner thoughts or feelings, he expressed his Christianity more through deeds than words.  He was smart, and did a lot of reading and writing.

 

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Unfortunately, there was very little to no reading material available in the countryside, except for, of course, Bible and Hymn books and various devotional and sermon books.  Among the very few publications that did exist were the Sunday paper, the “Blue Monthly” (which contained reports about the goings-on related to church), the “Weltumschau” and the blue “Ravensberger Folk Calendar”.  There was also a Lübbecke Circular, which arrived 3 times a week, and on the Sundays when we stopped by to visit with Uncle Carl from Oldendorf, it would come back with us on our walk home.  All calendars, monthlys and Sunday papers were carefully preserved, and grandfather with his unquenchable thirst for reading could immerse himself in the material so deeply that he

Hermjohannes grandparents – Charlotte and Franz

would neither see nor hear anything.  In wintertime he would always spin a “Schier piece” every evening – a great achievement – and yet he always found time to take a reading break at 8 o’clock.  He was a pillar of the community and until the end of his life, a leader in the Presbyterian Church.  Pastor Volkening, the son of the famous revival preacher in Minden, Ravensberg, was a man he was great friends with.  He was the one who delivered my grandfather’s funeral sermon, including the line:  “The ones who have truly evolved in life will arrive at peace and serenity in their chambers.”  Among other things, in that sermon he mentioned not only grandfather’s intelligence, but also his wisdom, and said, “To remember the righteous is sacred.”  He died of stomach cancer at the age of 71.  Of Grandmother Hermjohannes I cannot write much.  She was a very capable and decent farmer’s wife, honest and sincere.  But she could be domineering, and sometimes perhaps a bit too frank.  Mother did not always have an easy time of it, and every so often father would have to intervene and re-establish the balance of power.  Then things would be fine again… for a little while.  I always found it not only difficult to understand but also somewhat exasperating that my grandmother would seek solace in the bible and hymn books, when she was in fact always the one to initiate conflicts and power struggles.  But I must also say, with increasing age she more and more readily recognized the wrongs of her ways, and hence found ways to offer various apologies for Mother.  Mother was never one to hold a grudge and under her exemplary, loving care my grandmother passed away quietly and peacefully at the age of 71 years.  My grandparents were very young when they married, 21 and 17 years of age. It was rumored that grandmother was still growing as a young woman, and to disguise this fact, her grandfather father would, while sitting under an apple tree secretly extend the hems of her dresses so that she would not notice. (Until just a few years ago, that same apple tree was still standing).

At the age of 20, my grandfather was not the slightest bit interested in getting married yet, though the necessity was there, since a woman’s presence was missing in the house.  At some point he saw grandmother somewhere, (who was said to be very pretty in her time), and immediately declared that if she could be prevailed upon to agree, that he’d like to marry her.


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Ossenschmidt family farm in Neuenfelde
1959

Grandmother was born an Ossenschmidt of Neuenfelde-Getmold.  The Neuenfelde farms were properties that for many years were rented out to farmers by the Ippenburg Estate, similar to the Schröttinghausen farms which back in grandfather’s day were let out to individuals who would have to offer their manual labor and other menial services in lieu of rent.  Unfortunately, I can’t remember anymore the exact date that the properties were sold and divided up, but it definitely happened quite a while ago because the Neuenfelde Estate has been a private property for a long time.  Grandmother had two brothers, however one died of typhoid fever while serving in the military.  The other brother inherited the farm, and with his wife, a born Haselhorst (Coors) they inherited another additional farm in Harlinghausen.  My great-grandmother Ossenschmidt was born a Heuer from Getmold.  She had three sisters:  one inherited the Heuer Estate, another married into the Große-Dunker’schen Estate in Getmold, and the third married into the Kramen family in Offelten (property number 16).  Two of the sisters were twins, and this particular phenomenon was not uncommon in this family.  On the Ossenschmidt Estate, (that of Grandmother’s brother), of the 12 children, there were 3 sets of twins.

Karl and Lotte (born Schlake) Hermjohannes
December 16th, 1928

My grandparents had nine children , of which father was the second oldest.  The eldest was Charlotteand she married into the Thase family.  She was 2 years older and father’s favorite sister (probably because she was the sibling most similar to grandfather).  The age difference between father and aunt Balsmann is 8 years.  Between them, were two additional children, Francis and Louise, but both died in the same year.  The boy swallowed a bean, and choked to death on the way to the doctor.

Uncle Karl , the next in line of succession had bought a mill in the so-called Trotzenburg in Oldendorf.  But he once avoided getting pulled into the gears of the mill by just a hairsbreadth, and his wife, Aunt Lotte(born Schlake, Getmold), would not rest until he’d sold it.  He did, and then acquired the business house opposite Dunker’sche, and ran

Clara (born Hermjohannes) and Friedrich Quade family circa 1905:
Clara, Lisbeth, Friedrich, and Fritz

it as a pig farm.  His only daughter married into the Buck’schen Estate in Eielstädt.  He himself died in 1934 at the age of 68 years from a serious intestinal infection.

Aunt Clara and Uncle Heinrich married the two siblings Friedrich and Marie Quade of Harlinghausen, (they were 2 second cousins through the Mittelkraemers).  They moved to Posen in 1903 and settled there.  After World War I, when Posen became a part of Poland, they moved to Silesia, and after the 2nd World War they had to move again but this time back here, where they were born.  Aunt Clara had six children , Uncle Henry five.  The youngest uncle, Fritz, was born when his cousin of the Thasen family was already married and expecting the first child.  This uncle Fritz died of meningitis after spending 8 days in his sick bed when he was not quite 24 years old.  Up until that time he had been tall and strong and healthy as an ox.  And so it was a particularly hard blow for his parents and sisters, as well as his bride to be, Klara Dunker of Getmold.

 

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1905: Fritz Hermjohannes
and his fiancée Klara Dunker

The date for their nuptials had been set.  The day he died was the one on which he was supposed to be married in the church, and so instead of a wedding there was a funeral.  Grandfather was so grief-stricken that he himself almost became ill.  The whole village went into a deep state of mourning, for all had liked this fresh-faced, happy and good-hearted young man.  The death of this uncle also resulted in a turn of events that changed the course of our lives.  As the youngest he was the heir to the farm, but now one of his brothers would have to take his place, and this exchange needed to happen quickly; his parents were already quite aged, and the death was a hefty blow which took its toll on them.  The next in line of succession would have been the next youngest, Uncle Heinrich.  However he had moved to Posen two years earlier and had a farm there that was flourishing.  He also had a somewhat frivolous nature and had married rather prematurely and not exactly to the delight of his parents.  So then Grandfather had emphatically declared in no uncertain terms:  “He will not get the estate!”  Uncle Karl and his wife did not place a particularly high value on the inheritance themselves since they were well enough satisfied with the output of  their own business endeavors.  And so Father approached Grandfather with the question, – might not he himself come in question as a possible heir, given the current circumstances?  In particular because Karl and Heinrich were at odds with one another, Uncle Heinrich encouraged my father (and this particular letter still exists) that since he’d spoken long enough on the behalf of all the others (and Father had long done such things in his characteristic unselfish ways) that it was now time speak on his own behalf and take measures to prevent his brother Karl from inheriting the estate.  And so it came to be that Father took over the estate and offered Grandfather the option to rescind the decision if he felt any regrets after a full year.  After a year passed, Father dutifully reminded his father of this proposal.  To this, Grandfather smiled and in a friendly way declined with the words, “That would be out of the question.  You are all so good to us!”  As a result the legal proceedings were undertaken, arranged by Grandfather himself and where both he and Grandmother signed the debenture of the property over to Father.  So then everything ought to have been fine, one would have thought.  Unfortunately, Grandfather then died on September 21, 1906, 1 1/2 years after the death of his son, and shortly before his own golden wedding anniversary.  After grandfather’s death,

Heinrich Hermjohannes family:
Johanna, Willi, Marie, Heinrich

(before that he would not have been so bold), Uncle Heinrich began, having been egged on by his wife, to accuse Father of having deprived him of his inheritance.  He declared that shouldn’t he, as the one now the youngest, be considered the rightful heir, yet he did not get the estate.  The brother Karl clearly must have been bothered in hindsight that he’d given up on the prospect to inherit with such nonchalance, and he now entered into the fray as well.  And so it came that after the fact there was an inheritance dispute.  It weighed so heavily on Father so as to almost cause him a breakdown, and so he finally agreed to turn the farm back over to his brother Heinrich.

 

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Luckily for us, there was a judge, (one who had been sought out by the two brothers), who stated that there was nothing more that could be done.  The decision had already been made, and unlike a Last Will and Testament, it was final and irreversible.  And so Father remained the rightful owner, as his parents had wanted. But in the end, as a result of the hostility harbored against him by his two brothers, father suffered greatly until his death, 26 years later.  Although he’d done nothing wrong and though he tried again and again to make peace with the brothers he loved, he never succeeded.  Uncle Heinrich, who had a fiery hatred and resentment growing and festering in his heart for almost 50 years, one which was no doubt enthusiastically stoked by his wife, died several years ago in relative poverty (as a refugee), while my own father with his good conscience (which he assured us all of on his deathbed) passed away in peaceful quietude on November 4th, 1932.

Luise Balsmann

My Aunt Louise Balsmann, played a role in these matters as well, as she had a tendency to meddle in family matters that didn’t concern her.  Though she really ought to have minded her own business, it was just like her to refuse to play second fiddle.  Father never really liked this particular sister much, as she was always trying to exert her control over him, and he, given his independent nature, didn’t let her get away with it.  As a result there was often friction between them.  His other two sisters, in contrast, tended to side with him.  In the end, my grandparent had, however, made the right choice.  They were lovingly looked after by my parents and it was just a shame that Grandfather’s death followed so soon after his son’s.  As mentioned before, Grandmother was a rather tough and domineering woman, but she became more docile and peaceful with age, and on January 7, 1912, she eased into a gentle death, unlike grandfather who had to suffer so much.

Also, the estate was in the best hands with Father.  His plan to sell the outlaying parts of the property to pay off and financially compensate his siblings after the death of his brother, in the end, wouldn’t have been necessary after all.  Through industry, thrift and efficiency alone, he would have managed as well.  And through it all, Mother stood by him faithfully, and they made a good team working together hand in hand.  There was probably not a house to be found that was as punctual and orderly as ours.  Father was an extremely selfless man, and he always gave the choicest work over to us to tackle, while he would take on the difficult tasks for himself.  He was strict, mind you, and he wouldn’t let us slack off, but he knew how to get us to work by using the right kind of language that would somehow make hard work palatable.  For example, he would employ work breaks.  And I must say about these 10 minutes of true peace, – we would lay down at the end of a field of our choosing, would stretch out and look into the beautiful blue sky – I look back on these moments with great fondness.  The lost time was accounted for again quickly though.  The other break times, midday break, the end of the workday, and Sunday rest would be upheld just as vigorously.  Everyone, with Father at the helm, would participate in the housework, so that we could enjoy an entire hour of midday break and yet we were always the first ones back working the fields.

 

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But I digress; these descriptions are to follow later.  I still wanted to mention that around the turn of the century, Father purchased the Von Busschese Estate together with the several acres of land that belonged to it.  This old castle in Offelten was later expanded by the brothers Blomenkamp into a furniture factory, and after a fire, today a modern factory building has replaced it.  The Offelter farmers who had this sumptuous bit of property purchased right out from under their noses, practically ran us out of house and home.  Mother was quite unhappy about Father’s spirit of entrepreneurialism, and she must have also been thinking about her old parents and their property.  As a result, father ultimately gave in to her and the farmers’ pressures and he ended up selling it again.

But now I’d like to switch over to my maternal ancestors.  Mother was born on October 12th, 1863 in Schröttinghausen, “On the Masch “, property No. 27.  Her parents were farmers; Friedrich Wilhelm

grandmother Charlotte Volbert
born Hübsche

Volbert, born on October 31st1834, and Charlotte, originally a Hübsche from Getmold, on property No. 12.  The former owner of this estate, Ewert Hüsemann, had emigrated toAmerica a hundred earlier.  It was said that he’d had a vision, one of a great battle on the Daßlage behind Knops mill.  Apparently it had made him very fearful, though it was quite possible that he wasn’t doing very well in general, as was the case with many farmers at the time.  At any rate, he then sold the

Hof Hübsche
Charlotte Volbert was born in this house
image from book”Getmold 775 Jahre” p.68

property of about 30 acres to a great uncle of Mother’s.  This particular individual was unmarried, and in contrast to the previously described, “Veddern,” he was able to earn the necessary funds for the property by making wooden shoes in the wintertime, and by being a, “Holland Worker,” in the summertime.  One could head over to that country on foot with a group of acquaintances, each with a scythe on his back, and cut grass for a living.  I do not know many more particulars about this man

and the times, however, I do still own a brass snuffbox that had once belonged to him, one originally from the Far East and covered with indecipherable images and inscriptions.  Anyway, this uncle worked and saved so much money that he was able to buy this farm.  He then immediately transferred it to his nephew, my great-grandfather and his wife Klara Ilsabein, born a Janwlecke from Wimmer, and they moved there to live together with him right away.  The small property they’d previously owned, which now belongs to the Stegelmeiers, had been just a cottage belonging to the larger Vogelpohl property, No.19.  My Great-grandfather Volbert was born on property No.18 and he married his neighbor’s daughter, a Vogelpohl.  Whether they inherited or bought the cottage, I do not know.  Grandfather’s eldest sister then inherited that little property, to which belonged little more than a house and garden, and there she lived and eked out a living with her husband, a Stegelmeier from Offelten, and their 7 children.  Great-grandfather had only one brother, but Grandfather had several siblings.  The oldest was Frau Stegelmeier, the aforementioned sister, then there was a brother who moved to America with another sister, Mrs. Kösting.

 

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They, their children and their grandchildren still wrote letters for a long time from there, as opposed to other former farmers of the area that moved away, like the Vinkes, Hinrichs, Hüsemanns, among others, from whom we never heard from again.  Grandfather Volbert’s youngest sister, Aunt Feldkötter who lived in Dummerten was closest to Mother, and she learned many good things from her.  She was always a refined woman, and until her marriage at the Von Oheimbs in the town of Stellung, it was rare for a farm girl to serve in an upscale home.  Great-grandmother Volbert and her other daughter, were also of a more delicate disposition, very dapper, yet also very sickly and sensitive, to the extent that my poor grandmother, who was too good-natured, was not able to assert herself and was often taken advantage of.  My great-grandmother died young, at age 52, of stomach cancer.  However, all other Volberts became quite old, some even over 90.

Grandfather Friedrich Willhelm Volbert was small and slender, and mother got her petite figure from him, so that even in old age she had the appearance of a young girl.  Grandmother, however, was small and rather chubby, and I take more after her.  Mother was an only child and therefore inherited the farm.  Great-grandmother Marie Ilsabein Hübsche, née Schmidt, was born in Offelten, property No. 18. (people called her Ilsken).  She died early, and my great-grandfather Karl Heinrich Hübsche, did not remarry.  As a result Grandmother came as a small child to Offelten, to live with and be raised by the sister of her late mother, her Aunt Balsmann, and attend the school in Oldendorf.  She married Grandfather Volbert when she was 25, and we all celebrated their golden anniversary with them in 1910.  Grandmother was very close to two siblings who lived on her brother’s farm, and even after his death she was very close to his wife, as well as her sister, Mrs. Kuhlmann in Getmold, with whom she did not really get along with especially well.  Grandmother was a kindhearted woman, almost too good, and though she was very thrifty and spent little on herself, was not particularly good at holding on to money, because her benevolent ways would often be exploited by others.  As a result Grandfather kept a tight hold on the purse strings.  It didn’t bother her though because to her money was neither here nor there.  And she always had enough, in particular to treat us children to small books and pamphlets, which she bought from a magazine hawker, to do us a favor.  She herself enjoyed reading, I believe, very much, and so she read not only the usual blue calendar etc, but also a second “publication”, such as the missionary leaflets entitled, “The Little Bee on the Missionary Field”.

Grandmother had the same leg problems as I have now, called arthritis. She became so stiff in the last few years of her life that she could no longer walk by herself, and then for the two years after grandfather’s death, she lived with us until she died on December 30, 1914.  I knew Grandfather only as rather quiet and reserved, a little “nöckrig” and, “prünig”, but with us children he was always generous and let us get away with a lot.  When we came to Obernfelde to visit them during holidays, our grandparents didn’t really know what to do with us.

 

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So they spoiled us with plenty of sugar and sweets that we were allowed to buy here and there for 5 Pfg apiece.  Grandfather suffered greatly from asthma, and often could not go to bed night after night.  He then died quite suddenly on March 17, 1912 of a heart attack, in Liesbeth’s arms, who’d spent the last two years with her grandparents taking care of them.  Then grandmother came to live

Liesbeth and Fritz Mittelkrämer

with us, and the over 200 year old house was empty for a time, and then rented out.  After WWI it was taken over by the young and newly married Mittelkrämer couple, they lived there for a while, then the lease was terminated in March of 1920, and then the whole property was newly rebuilt.  Since mother had no siblings, the family history there was kept shorter.
Grandmother’s sister, Aunt Hübsche, née Timmering, was born in Getmold, property No. 13.  But grandma’s grandmother was also a Timmering. The great-grandmother of the mother’s side is said to have been a Vinke from the Holzhauser wood.  Great-grandfather Hübsche also remarried, a Fangmeier from Getmold property No. 19.  They then had a son, and this family was named after his craft, called Hübsche Schneider “Pretty Tailors”.  They had a small farm in Destel, described as being just south of Getmold, near Howe.  They had many children, and one of them married his cousin, Louise Hübsche, with whom we still have a friendship to this day.  We are all still friends with the Hübsches from “auf dem Hofe”, people who are well known for their proverbial kindness.
One of Mother’s Hübsche cousins, went to Steinmann, and married into the Blasheimer Bruch family, another went to Pieper, to be neighbors of the Hübsches, another became a deaconess in Bethel.
Our relationship with the Janwleckens in Wimmer, the family of Great-grandmother Volbert, is one I know little about, since less was mentioned about them to me when I was growing up.
A cousin of Grandfather’s was the miller Frickenhelm who lived in Getmold, “auf dem Neuenfeld”.  My great-great-grandmother was reportedly a Dedering of Wimmer.
On the Volbert-Vogelpohl side of the family, the relationships just dwindled with time to include only the neighborhood, and from our side not much value was placed on creating closer relationships, since neither side of the family evolved for the better.  But the neighborhood was normal, neither good nor bad.  For the Stegelmeier family, grandfather’s eldest sister, times were rather tough because there was not much to be earned in the form of daily wages.  The aunt sewed clothes, still everything by hand.  Later they were called the “Jewish Tailors,” that is, they sewed handiwork for a Jewish company in Lübbecke, and that didn’t provide them with much income either.

 

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But despite their poverty, they were decent and honest, and their children have worked their way up, for example, there are the saddlers, Vogelpohl and Stegelmeier in Oldendorf.  Then there are the Stahsing who are painters in Dahlinghausen, and several others have thriving tailoring workshops.
The youngest Vogelpohl, Walter, is now branch manager of the Spar-und Darlehnskasse Bank in Pr. Oldendorf.

The family of Grandfather’s youngest sister, the Feldkötters, in Dummerten, all seemed to have found a better lot in life, as all are in good situations.  So much for the family history, as far as I can remember it.  But there’s one more peculiarity or gift that I’d like to share, one which seems to have been intrinsic to both sides of the family.  It was the gift of clairvoyance or telepathy.  We in the family called it “the foresight”.  My Volbert grandparents saw fires in advance several times, events which later became reality. Grandfather Hermjohannes, as well as his mother, both foresaw or “foreheard” deaths. Right before she died, the latter heard school children, as well as others, singing in the barn foyer for the occasion of her own funeral.  Grandfather saw a room in the house light up brightly in the middle of the night shortly before his two children died.  The clearest event I can still remember being told about is my mother’s story:  One evening in May, shortly after she got married, she went to the “Niendür”, and looked outside. There she could see that the property belonging to the Staahs, which was about 10 minutes away in Bärendiek, was in flames.  The fire had been just creeping slowly along the ground and had not yet reached the actual house, but it was clear enough for her to recognize as a real fire.  Mother turned around to yell, “The Staahs property is burning!” and when she turned to it again saw that everything was gone.  In August of the same year, while threshing, a spark fell into a pile of straw lying in the yard, and the house actually did burn, just as mother had forseen.

I myself have never seen anything but I did have a slightly eerie experience once.  When Grandmother Hermjohannes died, it happened at 11pm, and father and mother had gone to order the woman who prepared the dead for burial, and tell the neighbors, as was the custom.  No one else was in the house.  I had gone into the barn to milk a cow (frischmelke Kuh). Then I heard quite clearly how the parlor door, behind which the body lay, was opened and then closed again.  I had assumed that one of my parents had returned.  But it was not the case, since they came back later, and so it remained an inexplicable experience.  Another thing that sometimes happened, was that several people saw or heard something at the same time.  Such was the case of a story I heard told by a thoroughly credible witness… Father Mittelkrämer of Harlinghausen:

 

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As a young man he, his brother, and a neighbor were coming home from a prayer meeting that was held alternately in several different homes.  The three were standing outside for a little while afterwards, when suddenly there were fiery balls in the sky, while at the same time an ear-deafening noise broke out, and it was as if 10 harvesting trucks were all simultaneously racing across the road.  I think it was probably a premonition of the bombing raids of the last war.  All these reports came from only very reliable people, the types who’d be the last to believe in any kind of superstition.

NEXT – Chapter 2, Part 1:  Youth in Schröttinghausen