Stories from the Past: Ludwig Kelm (Part 1)

My apologies for the long absence. I am making it up to you by posting part 1 of a very exciting document recently found in the Kelm Archives: a document containing stories compiled from interviews with my great-grandparents, Julius and Martha Kelm. I will post these in installments, which I will list together later for easy finding. Credit for the meticulous transcription goes to my Aunt Phyllis Kelm Reakes.

The following is about Julius’ father, Ludwig Kelm (born 1838 in Kadzidlowa, Leczyca, Lodzkie, Poland; migrated with his family to Volhynia in the late nineteenth century), who is named Frederick in the original document. I don’t know if the misnomer resulted from a misunderstanding by the interviewer or if Frederick was a middle or preferred name. Nonetheless, I have replaced all instances of Frederick with Ludwig.

Stories from the Past: Ludwig Kelm (Part 1)

Note: The following stories were written by a Kelm family member who was close to Julius and Martha. They were both interviewed and their stories retold revealing insights into their personal lives, marriages, births, and deaths. The stories were transcribed by Phyllis Kelm Reakes with permission to share from the original author.

There is no known photograph of Ludwig Kelm but by all accounts Julius said he was a very handsome man. He had black, curly hair and a tall, muscular build. Julius said that his grandson, Edward Kelm, looked a lot like him. Although Ludwig was handsome, he had a mean, abrasive manner and he spoke in a loud, gruff voice. He was not well liked and his son, Julius, despised him. Julius remembers that his father, was quite a wealthy landlord by the standards of the day. He had a large farm with grains, cattle, chickens and other farm animals. Mention was made several times that Ludwig had many bees and beehives and these bees produced honey which increased his wealth.

According to Julius, Ludwig was married several times which was not unusual for these times given the high mortality among women giving birth. There were many children born to the first wife. Not much is known as this wife other than she died giving birth to Julius [Note: Julius was born in 1878 and his mother, Wilhelmina Langner, died in 1880]. Ludwig then remarried a beautiful woman who was much younger than himself. There were no children born to this union and the wife did not live very long. She died suddenly and the cause of death was unknown. Julius said that she was bewitched. The other women were jealous of her beauty so they put a hex on her and this resulted in her premature death. It is not known when the second wife died but Julius certainly remembered her as being his stepmother during his tender years. Ludwig then remarried a third time and there were about seven more children born into this union. Julius recalled this stepmother with much warmth and kindness.

Julius recalls that Ludwig, in addition to being very mean spirited, was very selfish. Julius was the oldest son and did not have to serve in the military. He wanted a dowry to be able to have his own place and get married. Ludwig refused to offer him any kind of help and Julius hated him for that. The stepmother decided to try and help Julius but was afraid of her husband and what he would do. Knowing Julius was planning to marry she began to sell, secretly, some of the cream and milk from the farm to others in the area who used the cream to make cheese. Soon she had saved enough money to buy Julius two shirts and material for a suit and gave these articles to him as a wedding gift. Julius was very grateful to this stepmother for having done this act of kindness for him. Julius did marry a woman named Serafina and settled on some land in the Volhynia area. Julius said that he worked very hard and soon had his own horse and buggy. He decided to hitch the horse to the buggy and drove to his father’s farm with his wife and baby beside him. He said that he went only to show his father that he was able to be successful without his help.

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