My Great Grandmother, Anna Gertrude Kuefler by Jerry Thompson

In my first 52 in 52 Challenge story, when I wrote about my grandfather Julius Kochmann, I discovered that the process of writing acts as a great catalyst for driving oneself to delve deeper into current website resources for a latest knowledge update on what you can discover about your ancestor. Because that worked nicely for me on the first try with my Julius Kochmann grandparent story (see, 52 in 52, week #13), I was motivated to write next about someone in the next generation back, one of my great-grandparents. Of my set of eight g-g's, I seem to have the most info about my Kuefler ancestors, so I decided to write about my great grandmother Gertrude (Anna) Kuefler.

Most of what I know about my great grandmother Gertrude (and her extended family), comes from the Kuefler family history book written by the late Father Juniper Kuefler, a Catholic Priest from the Galahad Alberta diocese, southeast of Edmonton. In his book, Father Kuefler has captured an extensive genealogy of the Kuefler's and related families, but also many precious family memories of both the bad and good times European settlers experienced in their ventures of emigration to North America.

According to Father Juniper Kuefler, Gertrude was born on October 10th, 1858 in Herresbach Germany (actually, Prussia). She was the child of Peter Kuefler of Herresbach, and Anna Catherina Heimermann from nearby Eshbach Germany. Peter and Anna were married October 22nd, 1857, and Gertrude was their second born. Although her given name was Gertrude, she was mostly known by her mother's name, Anna. The village of Herresbach Germany is in the Western area of Germany near the French-Luxemburg-Holland border, in the area called the Eiffel, west of the Rhine river near the old Roman town of Trier. Father Kuefler states that the land is generally not very good, people are poor, but people were happy. Still today, people are mostly Catholic, and life is still simple. Today, near the Herresbach village, is the well known Nurburgring race track which was built in the 1920s.

The climate of the Herresbach region is generally temperate but subject to great variations from year to year. Winters could be unusually cold or prolonged, but often mild, with the temperatures hovering only two or three degrees above or below the freezing point. Spring may arrive early and extend through a hot, rainless summer to a warm, dry autumn with the threat of drought. Precipitation in Germany’s northwestern and lowland portions is affected chiefly by the uniformly moist air, moderate in temperature, that is carried inland from the North Sea by the prevailing westerly winds. Although this influence affords moderately warm summers and mild winters, it is accompanied by the disadvantages of high humidities, extended stretches of rainfall, and, in the cooler seasons, fog.

Peter & Anna (Heimermann) Kuefler decided to leave Prussia and emigrate to North America on October 25th, 1868 with their three children, when my great grandmother Anna/Gertrude was just 10 years old. Father Kuefler, in his history book, states that they first settled in Iowa or Wisconsin where their first child to be born in America was born, but they moved to Minnesota in 1869 to settle in Central Minnesota -- initially in the Krain Township in Stearns County, but later moved to the Lake George Township area of the same County.

On 24 April 1877, Anna Gertrude married Mathias Joseph Schneider in Stearns County, MN; she was age 18, he was 29. Born 4 July 1847 in Germany, Mathias immigrated to America, thought to arrive in New York City on 5 October 1872 aboard the SS Nemesis.

Father Kuefler's book states that Gertrude and Mathias, perhaps in typical Catholic fashion, had fifteen children: Catherina Maria (1878-1898); Gertrude (1879-1962); Peter (1880-1966); John J. (1882-1937); Elizabeth (1883-1963); Christina (1884-1975); Mary (1886-1967); Anna M. (1888-1919); Mary Magdelena (1889-1954); Joseph M. (1891-1971); Martin (1892-1932); Ludwig (1894-1912); Henry J. (1895-1948); Barbara (1897-1897); and Michael Clemens (1900-1994). My maternal Grandmother Elizabeth was their 5th born child, she lived in Stearns County Minnesota for her whole life.

Many members of the Kuefler family wrote to Father Juniper Kuefler to give him information about the early years in Minnesota. Herbert Kuefler, sent a report mailed February 14, 1967 giving much insight about what life was like for the early settlers. I am not sure if great grandma Gertrude attended school in Minnesota, but I'm sure my grandmother Elizabeth did. Herbert Kuefler's description about the school ( ref, page 38) states "The early school was a one room country school at about the center of the Kuefler settlement. The building was well constructed, hot in summer, cold in winter. We had as many as 60 pupils some winter months. We had no water at the school. The school set on a desolate spot in the lonely prairie. It haunted us to even go there. One lower panel in a four panel door was always missing. It was spooky. Only trails led to the school. The snow was deep and often crusted. On other seasons it seems grass early morning invariably was wet. Children were uncomfortable from the time they left home until they returned. Some children walked as far as two and three miles, and none less than three-quarter mile. This is a school my sibling and I attended, as did your father and his sibling."

"The clothes we wore were that of other early settlers, no better, no worse. but definitely inadequate compared to today. I was fourteen when I saw the first pair of overshoes. We walked through the snow in leather shoes, which seldom thawed enough to be flexible. Not at all uncommon to have children arrive at school crying, frozen face, frozen feet, frozen hands. The (school) building was not warm enough to thaw frozen shoes, mittens, etc. We used slates instead of writing paper. Slates were cracked before long. New pupils used the seat of front desk for their for their desk and sat on boxes, facing the room. Not very exciting or much incentive for beginners. One sure way to get thawed out, was not to have a lesson prepared. Teacher thawed him out man!"

"With the exception of one Irish family, all settlers in the area, far and wide, were Germans, many of them immigrants. They were a jolly lot. Nearly all men and women alike had a remarkable convenient sense of humor. In my memory, wherever there were groups and meetings, there was beer, so the men had it on the women for pep. It was good innocent fun. Story telling was an art. During the winter evening, neighbors would gather. Whatever the activity for the evening, it ended with a sumptuous lunch with unlimited quantities of sausages, head-cheese, pickled pigsfeet, kraut, pickles, varieties of pastries and breads. There was much enjoyable singing, men and women."

It is from this rural and close knit neighborly German/Catholic environment that I know my great-grandmother, grandmother and my mother all learned the excellent skills of homemaking that included almost daily baking of bread and pastries, churning butter, making homemade soaps, and doing much pickling and canning to preserve foods before mechanical refrigeration. The women also did much sewing, quilting, crocheting, all supporting their families, farms, and their livelyhood.

A dedicated homemaker, farmer's wife and mother of fifteen, my great-grandmother Anna Gertrude died in Lake George (Township) in Stearns County, MN at age 44, in 1902. Her husband, Mathias Schneider, lived to age 75, at which time in 1922, he was living in my Grandmother's Elizabeth's house in Elrosa Minnesota. near Lake George where the Kuefler's had settled some 53 years previous.

My areas for further research about Anna Kuefler Schneider include seeking and reviewing church, cemetery and land records for the area, obtaining needed BMD official records that I am lacking, searching for newspaper information, and seeking more help from the Stearns County Museum Society. Hopefully I can formalize a plan soon and make progress this summer. I am a member of a Kuefler Genealogy Group on Facebook, and hope to share my findings with that fine Group!

Early Lake George School