Grandfather’s Homesick Sister Brings Him Come to Land of Opportunity

Family connections, grandfather’s farming skills help him make his way to Kansas in the land of opportunity.

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Grandpa Philipp was born in Horrenberg, Germany, on March 30, 1876. His father was Wendelen and his mother was Theresa. The children were Rose, Bertha, Carl, Frank and Eugene, the youngest. Horrenberg was a little country village near Heidelberg. Grandpa grew up on a farm and helped with the horses, cattle and sheep. Rose married and came to America, the land of opportunity, as her husband was to accompany his sister. Their brother was a priest in America and wanted the sister to be his housekeeper. In America, Rose lived on a farm four miles north of Ellinwood, Kansas. She was homesick for some of her family. Grandpa's older brothers didn't want to come to America as they both had girlfriends in Germany. Later, Frank had to go into the army. Because of a broken jawbone, Carl was not eligible for service. Eugene, our grandfather, wanted to come to America, but his father thought he was too young to leave home. They later learned that Mr. Creulich was coming to America to visit a son who was a priest. Grandpa's father then consented for him to come with Mr. Creulich.

On July 30, 1892, at the age of 16, Grandpa left Germany for America. There were approximately 1,600 people on the ship Spardum. After a 12-day voyage, they arrived in America on a hot August day. Grandpa didn't have much to say about the ship ride to America. He recalls that the ladies stayed on one side of the ship and the men on the other. The men had fun teasing the ladies about being sick. Grandpa said most everyone got sick, including him.

The people aboard the ship were taken to Castle Garden in New York, where they had to wait for trains to take them on their way. Grandpa and Mr. Creulich traveled together as far as Chicago by train. Grandpa recalled Mr. Creulich telling him to go to sleep and when he woke up Mr. Creulich would be gone. When Grandpa awoke, sure enough, he was gone. Grandpa never saw him again, although Grandpa did learn through correspondence that Mr. Creulich lived with his son in Louisville, Kentucky, for some time and later moved to Michigan to be with his sister. Grandpa was on his own.

In spite of his youth, he didn't encounter any major problems while finding his way to Ellinwood, Kansas. His father had told him to send his sister a telegram when he arrived in America so she would know that he was coming to see her, but Grandpa, a stranger to his new surroundings, completely forgot about it. He traveled by train to Kansas. Although he couldn't speak any English, he got along real well. He knew that the priest, his brother-in-law's brother at Ellinwood, Kansas, would help him find Rose and Simon. Grandpa recalled that the train came into Ellinwood from the east.

When he got off the train, he met a lady walking toward him on the street. He asked her the way to the priest's house. She couldn't speak German, but she motioned with her hands to give directions. Grandpa walked a short way and soon noticed a church with a cross on the steeple. When he got to the church he recognized the hymns, which were being sung in German. He stood in the back of the church until the service was over. As people were leaving he asked a lady where the priest's house was. She spoke to him and very kindly took him there with her. She was the priest's housekeeper and the sister of Grandpa's brother in-law, so she knew who Grandpa was.

Soon the priest came home. He said Grandpa should spend the night with them and he would help him meet Rose and Simon in the morning. The next day was Sunday, and the priest was to offer Mass at the country settlement where Rose and her family attended. It was named St. Peter & Paul. Grandpa went with the priest and met his sister Rose there.

Grandpa recalled she was very happy to see him. He lived with his sister and her family for four years. He felt at home there because of the children and her farm animals. He attended a country school the first winter he lived in America. He had attended high school in Germany but he wanted to learn English, which he did. He also helped his brother-in-law.

About this time, the Cherokee Strip was opened for settlement in Oklahoma. Anyone at least 21 years old was eligible to stake 160 acres of land free. They were to build a shanty and drill a water well on it. Grandpa wasn't eligible to stake a claim because of his age, but he went on the run with his friends from Barton County and helped them stake their claims.

Grandpa wanted to take up farming for his own, so he used the $476 that his father had given him when he left home to buy his land in Oklahoma. He had worked for $8 a month the first year and $12 a month the second year, saving this money to use when he decided to start out on his own. Grandpa also worked on the railroad whenever he could and on a threshing crew, where he earned $1.25 a day or about $60 a season. Grandpa was proud to have a farm of his own, as this was his first farming experience where he was boss. He had a horse, which his sister had given him, but he had to buy work horses and a plow. He also bought a brand new wagon for $55. He built a shanty on his land.

His first major problem occurred when he drilled a well for water on his land. Everyone in the area was making their wells just 20 feet deep, so Grandpa did too. He contracted typhoid fever from the water and was taken to the hospital in Wichita. Grandpa said he was fortunate to be released from the hospital after a two-month stay, as many people died with typhoid fever that year. Rose had him stay with her until he was stronger, then he returned to his own farm. He then drilled his well 50 feet deep, and he didn't have any more trouble with it.

Grandpa said he usually rode the freight trains for his trips to Ellinwood to visit Rose and his friends, the Arons brothers. About three years after he moved to Oklahoma, Rose and her family did too. Grandpa recalls that the first two years were poor ones and no crops were harvested. Many people left the area during this time.

The third year was better, and soon the settlement progressed. Many people built new homes. A Catholic church 30 feet wide and 50 feet long was also built. It was a frame building. Grandpa was chosen to haul the sand for this project because he had a new wagon that wouldn't break down. He hauled the first load of sand for the church, which they named St. Peter and Paul. This church was named after the church that they had attended in Barton County, Kansas.

The priest in charge of this church came only once a month, and he couldn't speak any German. The people were unhappy about this so they reported it to the bishop. This priest was replaced by a priest from Belgium who could speak German, but it wasn't his native tongue, so he spoke English instead. Rose and her family didn't speak English at all and felt that their religious needs weren't being met. They decided to find a settlement that had a German priest, so they put an ad in a newspaper. They were pleased to receive a letter from a man in Charleston, Arkansas, who said that they had a German settlement there with plenty of farmland. Simon and Rose decided to move their family to this German settlement in Arkansas.

Grandpa remained in Oklahoma, but he went to visit his sister in Arkansas for Christmas. Valentine Gilsinger was a neighbor of Rose's who had several daughters, one named Elizabeth. Grandpa met the Gilsingers during his visit, and he and Elizabeth corresponded when he returned to Oklahoma. They were married at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Charleston, Arkansas, on February 14,1905. Grandpa sold his farm in Oklahoma in 1905 for $3,000. He bought a farm in Arkansas for $1,900. He built a house and other buildings on it and erected his first wire fences. This was an improvement from the wooden fences, which the cattle easily broke.

Grandpa raised cotton on this farm. Since he used the barn manure to fertilize his fields, he had big bales of cotton to sell. He had learned to do this in Germany. He hand-picked his cotton crop. Three of Grandpa and Grandma's children were born while they were living in Arkansas: Lenora, January 1906; Carl, April 1907; and Rose, September 1908. In November of 1908, they decided to leave Arkansas because Grandpa didn't like cotton farming. He was used to wheat farming, and the cotton farm was just too different for him.

Grandpa read an ad in the German newspaper Ladman about a man in Ellis County who wanted to trade for a farm in Arkansas. They traded farms, and Grandpa and Grandma moved to their new 160 acre farm 1 mile west and 2 miles north of Ellis, Kansas. Another daughter, Margaret, was born in November 1913. While they lived on this farm, Grandpa raised wheat, horses, cattle and chickens. He also had a job as a rural mail carrier. Carl and Lenora attended St. Mary’s School in Ellis.

In 1914, Grandpa and Grandma decided to move to Durant, Oklahoma. They moved all of their farm animals, machinery, and household furniture and goods to Oklahoma in a boxcar on the freight train. After six months there, they didn't like the climate and country so they moved back to their Ellis County farm, of which they still had possession. When this farm was sold, Grandpa bought a 320-acre farm for $8,000 in Trego County, five and one-half miles southwest of Ellis. They moved to it in August 1915.

Grandpa built onto this house, adding a new barn and granary and a shed for his buggies. He said he had a hard time getting started in Kansas. They sold cream and eggs and worked hard farming the land. The children attended St. Mary's School in Ellis and later attended South Glenco School in Trego County, which was one-half mile west of their home. This was Grandpa's last farm and he loved it dearly. All of his grandchildren can recall the stories he loved to share while walking through the pasture to bring the cows home to milk. Margaret and her husband, Frank Schneller, now own Grandpa's farm. Grandpa and Grandma Philipp moved to Ellis, Kansas, in 1955. Grandma passed away on January 23, 1967, at the age of 82. Grandpa passed away on September 27, 1971, at the age of 95.

Ellen Farrell
Hill City, Kansas


Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then CAPPER’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from CAPPER’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.