Grandparents Came to Land of Opportunity for Homesteading Land

To avoid losing sons to Franco-Prussian War, grandparents headed to land of opportunity with money belt holding all their worldly wealth.

| Good Old Days

The year was 1881. My grandparents and their five children left Germany for America – the land of opportunity – where their sons would not have to "goose step" in the Franco-Prussian War. They eventually landed in New York, then bought train passage to Dubuque, Iowa. The land office had given them maps of northwest Iowa, where homesteading land was available. Using some of the money from his money belt, Grandfather purchased a wagon, horses and supplies, then joined a wagon train crossing the Iowa prairie. It was in the midst of summer. One evening while camping by a cool, inviting stream, all enjoyed a refreshing swim. The next morning, nearly an hour after the wagon train had departed, my grandfather realized he no longer was wearing his money belt. He had taken it off by the stream the night before and forgotten to put it on again.

Taking one of his horses, he rode frantically back on the trail to the stream. There, hanging on a branch, swinging in the breeze, was the money belt – its contents so needed to buy supplies.

They bought homesteading rights in Clay County, Iowa. Three more children were born, including my mother. Some homesteaders lived in sod homes, but not my grandfather and his family. He and his sons built a log house. He insisted that his family learn English; no more German. They were thrifty, hard-working people.

When Grandfather died in 1904 of typhoid fever, he held considerable land ownings and was a respected American citizen.

Joyce Fodness
Spirit Lake, Iowa

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. 

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