My great-grandparents, Paul and Augusta, sailed on The Deutcha Vandaha to the United States – the land of opportunity – in 1881. Before they came, this family of 11 sold all their possessions except what they needed for daily use. The money helped pay for the ship’s passage. Their 23-year-old son, Carl, had gone to the States several years earlier because he feared being drafted in the German army. He made his way to the Midwest by doing odd jobs until he reached Omaha, Nebraska. He found a good job in a butcher shop there. He wrote to his family to come to the States, which is why Great-Grandfather and his family set sail for America.
All went well on the journey. They arrived in Omaha in the spring of 1881. Great-Grandfather found a home for his family and a good job. But four months later tragedy fell upon the family. Great-Grandfather became violently ill and died August 17, 1881. What was a young mother to do? The oldest girl was able to do housework that was much in demand in those days. The teenage boys did small jobs about the city. Carl had applied for a homestead in northeast Nebraska and soon he proved up 160 acres of land. Carl saved enough money from his butchering job to buy a team of horses and a lumber wagon, a walking plow, some tools and other supplies. With these supplies and some of his brothers, he left Omaha for the homestead. The land was primitive, so Carl had to live under the wooden box of his wagon. Wild animals were always around, sometimes to be feared and sometimes to be eaten. When he got a house built, it served as a shelter for his horses, too.
When summer came and school was out, Great-Grandmother took her small children and traveled to Carl’s homestead to help him out and plant a big garden of potatoes and other vegetables. She spent many summer days canning and preserving the good things from the garden so they would have plenty of food through the winter months when they lived in Omaha. Great-Grandmother’s children grew up to be fine citizens of this country, through very hard work, many sacrifices and their strong Lutheran faith. Great-Grandmother lived to be 92.
Caroline Abendroth Zuhlke
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.