THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF HUGH WETZEL LESTER, PART II, THE WETZELS

Also read,
The Autobiography of Hugh Wetzel Lester, Part I, the Lesters

As my children all know, my mother was Minna Bertha Wetzel. Her father, Gustave Moritz Wetzel was born Dec. 27, 1818, in Weissenfels, Germany. He had two or more sisters. Because of his social standing he was not supposed to do any manual labor even to lacing his own shoes. He had a very good education. Perhaps he attended the University at Halle. I do not know. Halle is where his wife was born. While in his teens, he undertook to ride an unbroken horse. In spite of Grandfather's efforts, the horse raced for the barn and scraped him off at the door. As a result, he was badly ruptured all of his life. His father was a giant of a man, said to be about seven feet tall and broad accordingly. As a result, he was badly ruptured all of his life. His father was a giant of a man, said to be about seven feet tall and broad accordingly. He could stand by the side of a horse, grasp a six-foot man by the coat collar with one hand and lift him over the horse and back again. He is reputed to have killed a man by one blow of his fist. He married a French woman who was as small as he was gigantic. My grandfather "took after" his mother in size and in other respects. Though born to wealth and gentry privileges, he was very much a republican. Nothing would satisfy him but to migrate to a free country. Because of being the oldest son, Grandfather was entitled to privileges similar to English entail. Grandfather thought such disposition of an inheritance unjust, and insisted that his sisters share equally with him in the estate. In 1842, when he was only 24 years of age, he had "sold out," had married, and was on his way to the United States. His father died before Grandfather was 21.

He married Bertha Liebrecht, who was born in Halle, Feb. 2, 1822. He was a "cut" above her in social standing. Her family was well to do, but not land owners. They owned and operated a stage station, with all the horses, vehicles, harnesses, and other equipment. Someone, I think my Grandmother Lester, quoted my Grandmother Wetzel as saying that her family washed clothes twice a year, in other words they had so many clothes and linens, etc., that they did not need to wash clothes more than twice a year.

Grandfather's choice of Grandmother was a case of love at first sight. He saw her first through a window. She and another girl were eating pickles. Grandfather was sufficiently interested that he waited outside and eventually followed her home. Thereby learning who this girl was, he pulled wires to obtain a proper introduction. The episode sounds as though Grandfather were a student at Halle at the time.

Grandfather and his wife crossed the ocean on a sailing ship. The voyage was stormy and took three months. They lost a mast and had to obtain one from a passing ship. After once reaching the middle of the Atlantic, they were driven clear back to the coast of France. Grandfather was never sick a day and Grandmother was never well a day on the entire trip. They had planned to return to Germany on a visit. At that time they could have afforded the trip, but they did not dare undertake it, because of the misery and danger which would have resulted for Grandmother.

Some years after Grandfather and Grandmother came to this country, one of her brothers, I seem to recall that his name was Edward Liebrecht, though I am not sure, was due to be called up for service in the German army. To avoid the draft, he managed to slip out of the country and sail for America. Shortly after he arrived, the Mexican War broke out. He immediately volunteered, served in Scott's army and was one of the first of our soldiers to enter the City of Mexico. After the war he married a Spanish lady and they sailed for New Orleans. Grandmother got a letter from her brother stating the he and his wife were ready to take passage on a Mississippi River boat. They were never heard from again. It was thought that they were murdered. They had a large sum of money on them. I have a picture of this great uncle that has come down to me from Grandmother through my mother.

Grandfather and Grandmother Wetzel landed at New York. The first established abode that they acquired, as far as I know, was in Galena, Illinois. They probably lived also in other places. I know they lived in Blackriver Falls, Wis., when mother was born. Grandfather knew U. S. Grant personally before the Civil War. Grandfather arrived in this country with a large amount of money, but he had neither the training nor experience for a business man. One venture was a heavy investment in an iron foundry. It burned and was a total loss. There was no insurance. I do not know whether or not insurance was then obtainable on that kind of property. Another business venture was a fairly large store. Grandfather is said to have lost the rest of his money because he gave credit to everybody and was a poor collector. Many of his debtors are said to have gone to the California gold fields in 1849 and neglected to pay G. M. Wetzel before they left. After this loss, Grandfather had no more money than the average immigrant. He earned a living for his family as be could, usually by farming.

Grandfather and Grandmother Wetzel had six children, the older ones born, I think, in Illinois and the younger ones in Wisconsin. The oldest, Emma Wetzel, born about 1846, was married during the Civil War to Fred Miller. Fred Miller was an orphan who knew nothing of his parents, even their name. He took the name of the family which raised him. He was a handsome man, a good husband and father and a good provider. He and Aunt Emma were married when he was permitted to come home from the front on a furlough. Uncle Fred's war service was extensive. He is said to have participated in General E. N. Bank's ill fated Red River Expedition.

Aunt Emma and Uncle Fred Miller had the following children: Morris M. called Morry, Clara, Nora, Wallace, Alex, James Vick, and Curtis. Morry was born about 1866, and died July 21, 1933. He married Kate Donaldson and had two children, Lura who married Peter Frahm and had three children, and Fred who died in 1918 at the age of 18 without having been married.

Clara, born about 1870, died about 1910, married Hugh McGovern. They had two children, Leah and Herbert. Leah married Clarence Daley had has had several children. Herbert served on a submarine during the First World Was, was badly gassed, and disappeared some years after the war.

Nora, born about 1872, married Hugh McGovern, the widowed husband of her sister. she had no children and is now dead.

Wallace, born about 1874, had a son and a daughter. The daughter, Dorothy Crabtree, corresponded with my mother up to the time of her death, as did Leah McGovern Daley. The only time I remember seeing Wallace was when I was four years old. I was enroute to Colorado with my father and mother and we stopped at Luverne, Minn. where he was working for a harness maker and learning the trade.

Alex Miller grew to be an adult but died without having married. He worked for Grandfather Lester herding cattle when I was 5 and 6. I do not remember seeing him since.

James Vick was married, had children, and at this writing (1954) is living in Kalispell, Montana. He was a great lover of flowers as a child. Grandfather Wetzel suggested naming him James Vick after a florist then in business in a big way in New York City. Grandfather wrote to the florist, whom he know, about the naming of the child. For years a seed catalog came addressed to James Vick Miller. Grandfather at one time had an opportunity to go into business with James Vick. Perhaps it would have been a good venture. Seems as though I have heard of a firm, James Vick's Sons. I do not know whether or not any successor of the firm is now in business.

Curtis had children. he died at Kalispell, Mont., about 1952.

Of the Miller children I knew Clara best. She was a surpassingly fine person. She died of a cancer at the side of her head, a lingering painful death.

The Fred Millers lived on the north end of Big Twin Lake, Elm Creek Township, Martin County, Minn., from the late 1860's until about the end of the century; and then moved to Kalispell, Montana. Aunt Emma died there about 1906 and Uncle Fred Miller died a few years later. Aunt Emma used to tie a knot in her apron string to remind her of the things she needed to do. One morning she was discovered to have died in her sleep. There was a knot in her apron string. She was a fine person and a very good mother. My mother was a child when her sister, Emma, was grown up. Mother who was sickly as a child, has told me may times that Aunt Emma was always very good to her and did many acts of kindness beyond the duty of a sister to make life happier and easier for the sickly child.

Grandfather and Grandmother Wetzel's second child was Louise, born about 1851. She is said to have been one of the two beauties of the family, the other being Aunt Matilda, or "Tillie," Mrs. S. P. Pope. Aunt Louise married Peter Saxer, born in Switzerland, but who migrated to this country with his father's family, settling in Wisconsin. I have heard Mother speak of Matt Saxer, probably Matthew, a brother of Uncle Peter, Lucia Saxer Nedveded, and Nettie Saxer Williams. Mother corresponded with Lucia as long as Lucia lived and then with Lucia's daughter-in-law. Nettie Williams' husband was killed by the kick of a horse.

Uncle Peter Saxer served all through the Civil War. Among other battles he fought at Lookout Mountain. As the column was climbing the mountain, a comrade fell from sunstroke. Uncle Peter thrust the man's head under the shade of a bush, and went on with the column. After the battle he looked for his friend and found him reviving. Uncle Peter and Aunt Louise lived briefly at Toma, Wisconsin, Plainview, Waubasha County, Minn., at Big Twin Lake, Elm Creek Township, Martin County, Minn., for years near Cavour, South Dakota, and for their retiring years at Hastings, Nebraska. In their early married life, perhaps at Plainview, they had a team of horses poisoned and the loss made things difficult. It was thought that the poisoning was intentional, but that the poisoner was trying to kill the horses of some other man.

Uncle Peter Saxer and Aunt Louise had six children, as follows: John, born about 1870, married a widow whose first name is Ada. They had three daughters, the first two being named Louise and Elizabeth. John and his wife are still living in Houston, Texas.

A second child, Paul Saxer, was born about 1872. He married Ida Karnatz and had one child, Vera, married to J. W. Biggerstaff. Vera Biggerstaff has had no children. Paul Saxer died about 1947 at Bethany, Missouri, where had had lived for many years, and practiced chiropractic. Paul and his brother, Claud, visited us (Helen and me) in Ft. Lauderdale in the winter of 1925and '26. My Mother and I visited Paul and Ida Saxer at Bethany, Mo., in the summer of 1947, just a few months before Paul died.

The third child of Uncle Peter and Aunt Louise was Claud, born Oct. 16, 1879. He was never married and died several years ago in southern California.

The fourth Saxer child was Arthur, born Aug. 20, 1881. He married Beatrice Hamson, April 24, 1906. They had one child, Alton, born about 1908. They also adopted a little girl. Arthur Saxer was well educated, and when he died, Feb. 25, 1932, was a professor at the University at Ogden, Utah. From the fact that he was known to Dr. T. N. Carver, my wife's father, I infer that Arthur's specialty was economics.

The fifth Saxer child was Lucia, born July 1884. She was never married and died in California during the Second World War. At a banquet while she attended college, someone jerked a chair from under her. As a result the lower portion of her body was paralyzed for the rest of her life. She was a teacher, and in spite of her handicap was a brilliant and successful one. She had great success in teaching handicapped children.

The youngest Saxer child was Edward, born about 1886. His wife's first name was Maud. They had two children, Harold and Eleanor Louise. Edward Saxer and both of his children live in or near St. Joseph, Mo.

Aunt Louise Saxer died Jan., 1934. Uncle Peter had died several years previously.

Grandfather and Grandmother Wetzel's third child was Henry Bertram, born March 1854. He has always been known as Bert. He married Ella Steele. They had five children who survived to be married, as follows: Hortense, called Tensie, was born Oct. 18, 1879. She married Purl Foster and they had thirteen children, including Herbert, Mava, Adelaide, Mary, Sylvia, Kenneth, George, John, and twins, Velma and Valara. In the early 1900's, the Fosters moved to northwest Canada. Hortense died upon giving birth to her thirteenth child. One of the above named twins was badly crippled by polio. After the death of the child's mother, Aunt Ella Wetzel went to Canada, brought the child to Minnesota, and had her treated for years by the Mayos of Rochester, resulting in a complete cure. The father then kidnapped the child and took her back to Canada.

Uncle Bert and Aunt Ella lost their next two children while they were yet small. One of them, Herbert, always found the ink bottle a great temptation. One he was discovered standing on a chair perched on a table and pushing the ink bottle onto the top shelf of the cupboard. He announced triumphantly, "Now, Herbie can't get it!"

Uncle Bert's second surviving child was Maud, born about 1885. She was and is a very good natured person. My father tells of seeing her a small child suffer a very painful fall while she was running. Instead of crying as was warranted, she got up, brushed her hands together, and said simply, "Hurt Maudie." By her first husband, Hoffman, she had two children, Chester and Vivian. Hoffman died many years ago. Later she married Walter Kehms, but divorced him when he took up with another woman. Chester Hoffman lives near San Diego, Calif. He has no children. Vivian has children and lives in Ft. Collins, Colorado. Maud for most of her live lived in Mankato, Minnesota, but now has retired to Ft. Collins.

Uncle Bert's next child was Fred, born about 1887. His son, Fred, Jr., now dead also had a son, Fred III. Fred has a daughter, Billye, now married. The wife of Fred, Sr., in named Viola. They live in Fairmont, Minnesota.

Uncle Bert's next child was Sidney, born about 1888. He and his wife, Ethel, have one child, Milton Wetzel, and have adopted a daughter, Donna Lee Wetzel.

Fred and Sidney Wetzel, shortly after they were married, migrated to northwest Canada, took out citizenship papers and acquired homesteads for wheat farming. The ventures were not successful, whether from poor crops or low prices, I do not know. I seem to recall hearing of droughts. Fred and Sidney both returned to this country and again became citizens of the United States. Sidney and his wife also live in Fairmont, Minn.

Maud Kehms and Fred and Sidney Wetzel all corresponded with my mother for the last thirty odd years of Mother's life.

Uncle Bert's youngest child was Bernice, born about 1890. Her married name is Olson and she has a son and a daughter. The son's name is Bermarr, nicknamed Barney, and the girl's name is _______. The Olson's live in Vallejo, California.

Uncle Bert died in Fairmont, Minn., Jan., 1934. aunt Ella had died a year or two previously. Uncle Bert was a short slender man, but very active. When my mother was a small child, a bully of the school nearly killed her by hitting her on the back of the neck with an icy snow ball. Uncle Bert, though only about half the size of the other boy, jumped astride his neck at one leap, forced him to the ground, beat or stomped him in the back of the neck, seized his hair and wallowed his face in the snow. In addition to being a good farmer, Uncle Bert was a skilled blacksmith, and generally a good mechanic.

The fourth Wetzel child was John, born about 1856. He died Nov. 13, 1880, without having been married. He and my mother were very companionable. He was a good natured, easy going chap.

The fifth Wetzel child was Minna Bertha, my mother, born at Blackriver Falls, Wisconsin, Oct. 16, 1859; but more about her later.

The youngest of the family, Matilda Julia Wetzel, Aunt Tillie to me, was born Aug. 3, 1863, probably also in Blackriver Falls, Wis. As previously stated, she was one of the two beauties of the family. When she reached maturity, she was a large, well proportioned, and striking looking woman. She was healthy, strong, and even- tempered. She and Mother were very companionable. I doubt that there was ever a cross word spoken between them.

Aunt Tillie married Silas Pearson Pope about 1880. Uncle Sile, as he Was to me, was about four months younger than my father, being born Dec. 20, 1856. His father, Martius Peter Pope lived near the Wetzels and was one of the finest men of the community.

Years later the elder Pope went back to his old home in Pennsylvania and visited his brother. The brother had just acquired a third horse for greater efficiency in operating his farm. he explained at great length why the acquisition of the third horse was warranted. Suddenly he asked, "By the way, Martius, how many horses do you have?" "Don't exactly know," came the drawling reply. "Seems like it's eighteen." The brother was shocked. "Why, Martius!"

Uncle Sile's homestead was in Elm Creek Township about four miles north and east of Father's farm. He was a man who was of great value to the community. He always held local offices, for many years being county commissioner. Consequently, most of his time was devoted to public affairs, while his farm was being operated by his boys and hired men, not I suspect to the more efficient operation of the farm, judging by remarks Uncle Sile would make after spending a day in Fairmont. Perhaps I should write to my cousin Walter Pope, one of said boys and clear up that point, only Walter would be a prejudiced witness.

Uncle Sile and Aunt Tillie had seven children. The oldest, Nettie Pearl, was born May 12, 1881. She married Seth W. Morton. They have had four children, Lloyd, born April 9, 1903, Verl Francis, born May 20, 1908, Audrey Matilda, born Feb. 5, 1910, and Wanda Ilene, born May 5, 1923. Lloyd married Verna Hutchison, and they had three children, Betty Jean, Lloyd Francis, and Barbara Joan, but the latter two died in infancy. Verl Francis Morton married Beulah Dean Parker and they have one child, Bobbie Dean, born Jan. 23, 1931. Nettie and her husband for several years lived in Triumph, Minn., where he had a harness shop; then they moved to Driscol, North Dakota, where they operated a farm and harness ship; then they moved to Chowchilla, Madera County, Calif., and finally to Riverbank, near Modesto, Calif.

Aunt Tillie's second child was Francis Clyde, usually known as Frank, born Oct. 16, 1882. He married Hulda Holverson, but they had no children. He farmed at Driscol, North Dakota, for a time, then moved to Athlone, in Madera County, California, and finally to Santa Monica, where he died during the early 1940's. He served in the army during the First World War, being stationed in the Panama Canal Zone. He contracted some kind of tropical fever that made his health bad for the rest of his life. He was a good athlete, particularly and expert bowler.

The third Pope child was Walter Ross, born Feb. 18, 1885. He served an enlistment in the Navy prior to the First World War. He first married Ethel Mitten, and they had the following children, Max, born Apr. 20, 1913, Buel Wood, born Aug. 31, 1914, Betty, born April 9, 1917, and Ann, born July 6, 1922. After his marriage, he lived in various places in Calif. In the late 1920's Walter's wife abruptly decided that she could not stand being tied up to a family any longer and demanded a divorce. Walter helped her get a divorce, and was left with a family of four on his hands, including two small girls. Aunt Tillie was a widow at the time, Uncle Sile having died Oct. 20, 1925. Aunt Tillie came to keep house for Walter and for the next twelve years helped raise the children. She was then in her 60's and 70's, an example of the fact that when one person does less than his duty, someone else will probably have to do more than his duty. In 1941 Walter married Nona Smith. When Walter and I were teen-agers back on our fathers' farms, we both know her as a sweet little girl and the youngest of a large family. Walter and Nona now live in Westminister, California.

The fourth Pope child was Mildred Irene, born Aug. 6, 1888. She married Ralph R. McMasters and they have one child, Ralph Roland, born April 15, 1912. Ralph, during practically all his adult life was salesman for Gregg shorthand books. He worked out o New York and then Boston after the First World War, and then he was shifted to various areas of California. While he worked out of Boston, they lived in Cambridge near Harvard Square, and also near the home of the T. N. Carvers, and apartments occupied by my father and mother and by Helen and me. Mother and Mildred were always good companions, when they could get together. Many times Mother used to tell about the good times that she and Mildred had "nosing" round Boston and environs. In California Mildred and Ralph lived in Berkeley and St. Helena, and have now retired to Los Gatos.

The Pope fifth child was Buel Woods, born June 30, 1896. This was just after the return of Father, Mother and myself from the State of Washington, of which more later. Mother was present at the birth, and I think I arrived next day. Buel married Ruth Esther Brayton, and they have three children, Dorothy Jean, born Feb. 21, 1922, and twin boys, Donald Kenneth and Raymond Keith, born July 20, 1927. In the First World War, Buel served in the air force, being stationed in Texas. He had both arms broken by the recoil of a propeller. The injury has caused him much pain and discomfort for the rest of his life. However, he is a skilled and successful electrician, and now lives in Modesto, California.

The Pope sixth child, Silas Pearson, Jr., called Percy, was born March 23, 1898. He was mentally defective, so that he was difficult as a child, and a source of trouble to himself and his family when he grew up. He married Vernadale Gardner and they had one child, Barbara Jean, born March, 1925. Percy's wife divorced him. He died March, 1930.

The youngest Pope child was Bessie Hazel, born, I think, Sept. 24, 1899. She married Albert Hayes and they have had three children, Robert, born Nov. 14, 1920, Ross, born Feb. 7, 1922, and Donna Jane, born Nov. 16, 1929. One of these boys was killed in the Second World War. Bessie and Albert Hayes live in California.

After Aunt Tillie and Uncle Sile retired from the farm, they settled in Chowchilla, California, and were already living there when my father and mother settled in that city about 1922.

END

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