America – the Land of Opportunity and refuge. “Things will be better if we can only get to America,” seems to have been the cry in the 1880s and before. After my great-grandfather in Germany became ill and died, my great-grandmother, who spoke no English, packed up her mother, her three boys and two girls and moved to America. She had five sisters and two brothers living in Nebraska. Great-Grandmother found employment as a maid with a wealthy family, and she gave her children to her sisters and brothers to raise.
My grandmother, who was 8 years old in 1885, made her home with an aunt. The aunt owned a dry-goods store and had two daughters a little older then my grandmother. The aunt and her family treated Grandmother much like a servant: At 8 years of age, she was responsible for keeping the store spotless. In 1885, there was very little opportunity to travel, even short distances, so Grandmother never saw her mother, even though they were only 50 miles apart. Needless to say my grandmother spent many nights crying of loneliness.
However, there must have been some good in the situation, because by the age of 14 Grandmother could play the piano, knit, embroider, crochet and cook. These facts prove that while the aunt was very demanding of her little German-speaking niece, she also was concerned with teaching her the finer things in life.
Grandmother’s loneliness came through when she married at the age of 15. How she must have longed for a home of her own, a place where she truly belonged. Marriage, however, did not bring all sunshine and roses. Grandmother bore 13 children, three of whom died in infancy and another as a young man.
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.