Monday, January 11, 2010

Bergmann story, cool read

Century farm contains family memories
By Herman J. Lensing
Ken and Marilyn Bergmann don't farm, but they still own the 122 acres of farmland, north of St. Rosa, which has played a big role in his family's history.
"My father and mother had a family of 14 children," said Ken."Thirteen of them reached adulthood."
Bergmann bought the farm from his father, John. His father had acquired it from Ken's grandfather, August, who had obtained the land from John Hoeschen more than a century ago.
"The farm has an interesting history," said Ken."Originally there were two parts that were homestead, but when August purchased it in 1893, there was just one farm."
August, like a number of early settlers of land north of Melrose, was a native of Germany. "He was born in Allenstein, East Prussia," said Dave Bergmann. "He was born on a farm about 40 miles west of the border with Russia."
August's mother died when he was about 18-months-old. His father remarried and his stepmother raised August.
"At that time in Germany the oldest son had the right of inheritance," said Dave. "After August left the German Army, in 1884, he decided to move to the United States. It wasn't until 1893 that they sent his personal belongings over."
August left Germany to avoid bitterness, which might have resulted had he insisted on his getting the family farm, according to the Bergmann family history. At that time a number of people from Germany were coming to the United States, and August had friends who had settled here. He also had one other reason for deciding to immigrate to the United States.
"We have his discharge papers from the German army," said Dave. "In those papers it states that he was discharged, but he was subject to recall if he immigrated to any country around the Black Sea. If he came to the United States and established a family, he was not subject to recall."
August Bergmann did come to the United States. He married Gertrude Bormes, of Freeport, and they had a family of 12 children."
"We have always said that he came here because he wanted to move someplace where the weather was as miserable as where he grew up," said Ken. "The land here is like the area where he grew up. There are hills and lakes, and cold weather. But he knew some people who had settled in this area."
Prior to moving to the farm near St. Rosa, August had lived for a short time in Meire Grove. He left his mark on the site he had purchased.
"August built the barn and the present house," recalled Dave. "Before that they had lived in a log house south of the present house. There was also an older log cabin, a one room building, that was here before he was. We used that as an icehouse. We used to have ice in the summer time."
The farm, located between a lake and a swamp, always had water, even in the dry years in the 1930s, Ken and Dave recalled. The present house on the farm was built in 1908 by August.
"August and Gertrude moved their family in here, but she only lived in the house about six months. She died because of complications from childbirth," said Dave.
August and Gretrude's son, and Ken and Dave's father, John, purchased the farm after John was discharged from the U.S. Army.
"It was sort of funny," Ken said. "Grandpa had been drafted into the German Army and dad was later drafted into the U.S. Army.
Their father served in the U.S. Army during World War I, and took over the farm in 1919. In 1921 he married Hilda Bruns and they started their family. Their 14 children were: Irene, David, Norma, Melvin, Duane, LaVerne, Eugene, Loren, Joan, Ken, Audrey, Janet, Ellen and Darlene. The farm provided a variety of growing experiences for the family. Ken and Dave recall hunting ducks and pheasants on the land, the various crops they grew and the work they did.
"Did you ever have to ride the horse, or hold the cultivator?" asked Dave of his younger brother Ken. "Cultivating was one of the first things we did after school was out."
Ken never had held the cultivator, but he did have to ride the horse as they cultivated corn rows.
"They usually had the little kids ride the horse when cultivating," said Ken. "That way the person holding the cultivator didn't have to steer the horse."
The cultivator had to be guided between rows of corn. If the lay of the land was hilly, the person on the horse had to steer the horse to help keep the cultivator straight to the rows.
"If you didn't, you could get hit with clumps of dirt," said Ken.
Fun as riding horse sounds, Ken noted at the time he felt he was working.
"I would ride the horse all morning. Dad would let us have a little nap after we had cultivated in the morning and when I got up I would be so stiff I didn't want to move," he recalled.
The horses were used on the farm until the 1950s, according to the brothers.
"Dad liked them," Ken said. "They didn't leave tracks in the fields like tractors did."
But as the horses got older, and tractors became common, they did have a tractor on the farm.
"The only tractor we had was a Ford 2N," said Ken. "It is still in a shed here. We would hire others with tractors to do work, but the only tractor bought for the farm was that Ford."
Corn wasn't the only crop raised. Oats, alfalfa and meadow grass were also harvested for farm use. Flax and clover were grown for cash crops.
"The clover was popular because you could take a cutting for hay, and then later harvest it for seed," said Ken. "All I really remember of the flax is that they told us to not play in the flax bin in the granary. Apparently you would just keep sinking in the flax."
Dave and Ken both recalled that at one time there had been a pond to the east of the buildings on the farm, but it has shrunk in size. The pond was home to ducks and turtles during the year. Ken thinks that it may well be that draining some of the farm's meadows to the south of the building affected the pond size.
In recent years, he has seen an increase in the number of deer and coyotes in the area. The deer increase is interesting because one of the stories his father (John) told was how excited August would get when he saw a deer track.
The Bergmann farm helped to produce crops and families, and it also helped preserve part of the family heritage segment of the family, which stayed in Germany, according to David.
David has an interest in the family history and for a number of years had searched on maps for Allenstein. He could not find it.
"I thought it was a small town, like St. Rosa, which might be too small to put on a map," he said.
One day while talking with a friend, who had escaped from eastern Germany just ahead of the Russian Army during World War II, he asked if she had ever come across Allenstein. It turned out that she had been raised in the town, and knew Bergmanns from that community.
She helped them locate Bergmanns who had since settled in (then) West Germany after World War II. The Bergmanns were able to get in touch with the German side of the family, and even provide photographs of mutual ancestors.
"What they were really interested in was the discharge papers (of August)," recalled Dave, who along with Ken had attended a family reunion in the 1990s in Germany.
While none of John's sons farm the land (it is rented), Ken and Marilyn have kept the farm and use the ancestral home.
"Some people wonder why I keep it," he said. "It is in the family."
The farm, land, buildings and family farm stories associated with them helped to complete a cycle of family memories.
It may be because of those memories, that Ken holds the farm. In their family, the farm provides a link in the family history and culture. It has been the site of reunions and get-togethers for the family.

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