Stories from the Past: To Marry or Not to Marry (Part 5)

I wish I had more stories for you from my great-grandparents. Here is the final installment of “Stories from the Past”!

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.

Stories from the Past: To Marry or Not to Marry (Part 5)

Julia, who was worried that Martha, at age 29, would be an old maid, however exerted pressure. She told Martha that it was time she got married, that Julius was a hard worker and an honest man and his children needed a mother. Martha in later years talked about how she struggled over the decision about whether or not to marry Julius. She confided in Dr. Pete at the hospital and asked for his advice. He told her not to get married as she had a good job and didn’t need to get married. Finally, after a lot of pressure from Julia and others, Martha relented. She later said that she agreed to marry Julius because she felt sorry for his children. When she met them they were very dirty and full of lice. Finally, Martha agreed to marry Julius and when the wedding day arrived she changed her mind. This caused quite a scandal. Pressure was again put on Martha to reconsider. She finally gave in but this time Julius insisted that she put down $20 as a promissory note. If she again refused to marry him she would forfeit the $20. Julius was extremely upset about losing a days pay and having to cover the expenses of the wedding that didn’t happen and he wasn’t taking any chances that he would be caught again in a similar situation. This time Martha was true to her word. Martha and Julius married at the McDermott Baptist Church at 821 McDermott Avenue. The year was 1910 and Martha was 29 years old and Julius was 30 years old.

Julius married Martha a few months after his wife, Serafina, had passed away. He said that he had no shame that he married so quickly after his wife’s death, as he needed a mother for his children. Serafina had died in the month of February 1910. Graves were dug by hand so she could not be buried until the spring thaw. Martha took the children to their mother’s burial before her marriage to Julius. Julius did not attend the burial. It was not known why but it was thought that he didn’t want to take the day off work and lose a days wages.

After Martha and Julius married, they moved with Bill and Olga to a house on Dorothy Street in Winnipeg. Martha had to quit her job at the hospital to care for Bill and Olga. Julius left his employ with August Remple and found a job with the City of Winnipeg digging sewers. The early years of the marriage were happy. Julius was making more money and Martha liked living in their own home. The oldest child Edward was born while the family was living on Dorothy Street. Julius and Martha had applied to the government to rent land for farming. They received about 160 acres. The land was situated near Dog Lake, Manitoba, the closest town being Camper. It was a terrible piece of land, unsuited for farming. There were about 20 German families living in the area around Camper and the Kelms seem to have the worst land.

Stories from the Past: Hardships (Part 4)

First of all, congratulations to my cousin, Daniel Kelm, and his wife, Leah, for their marriage on October 25!

Records to do with the following installment of “Stories from the Past” can be viewed in previous blog posts, Journey to Canada and Finding Serafina Kelm. “Julius Junior” in the story is Gustav Kelm. We don’t know why there is a name discrepancy, but a possibility is that Gustav is a middle name.

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.

Stories from the Past: Hardships (Part 4)

The journey by ship from Russia to Canada was full of many hardships. Julius and Serafina’s young son Julius Junior became ill on the ship coming over to Canada and he never fully recovered. Julius died of respiratory problems and he was buried in the pauper section of Brookside Cemetery. This was the area set aside for free graves for people that had no money to purchase a burial plot for the deceased. Serafina died in 1910 and was buried in the section just opposite of where Julius Junior was buried. It is believed to have been tuberculosis or because of a weak heart [note: the death record states “organic heart failure”].

When Serafina died, Julius had to board out his two children Bill and Olga. He had to work and had no one to care for them. He therefore placed them on a paid basis with some people while he went to work. He lived in the basement of his employer’s home, August Remple, at 808 Ballantyne Ave. The people who were boarding the children and the Remples, knew each other. Martha and Julius met at 808 Ballantyne as they were both living in different parts of the house. Soon, Martha’s sister Julia began to play matchmaker, as did the people caring for the children. They were not interested in looking after Bill and Olga and certainly did not do a very good job of caring for them. Martha for her part did not want to marry.

Stories from the Past: Martha Kirsch (Part 3)

My great-grandmother, Martha Kirsch, was born in April 1881 in Lutsk, Volhynia, Russia, to Samuel Kirsch (Wisniewski in Polish) and Karolina Wurfel. As all of the Kirsch children born between 1877 and 1897 were born in Ludwischin (village), Lutsk (district), Volhynia (region), Russia, it is possible Martha was also born there.

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.

Stories from the Past: Martha Kirsch (Part 3)

Martha came from a very poor family of 19 children. She recalls her father, [Samuel], as an old man with a beard, who married three or four times. Martha’s siblings Julia, Carl and Daniel all immigrated to Canada, too.

Martha said that there were so many children that at night her parents had to make a roll call to see that all the children were accounted for and none were missing. One evening one of the children was missing. The parents and the older children started to search for him. They found him sleeping in the outside oven. It was warm in the oven and he had crawled inside and fell asleep there.

The Kirsch farm was situated next to a school but the Kirsch children did not go to school as they were too poor and had to work. Martha’s job was herding cows. She would go outside all day in the field watching the cows and would hear the children singing in the school house when the windows of the school house were open. She sang along with them and soon she knew all the songs. At night she said she would sit on her father’s lap and sing the songs to him. He was amazed and asked her how she had learned the songs. She told him she had heard the children singing in the school house and learned the songs. This made her father very happy. Martha was very intelligent. She had an excellent memory. She never went to school but at age 30 while living in Camper, Manitoba she learned to read and write German from the minister that used to visit. She then taught all her children to read and write in the German language.

In Germany, the Remples were neighbours of the Kirsch family. They felt sorry for Martha and took her in. She worked for them as a domestic and they were very good to her. The Remples decided to come to Canada with their 12-year-old son, August. They asked Martha to come with them and she decided to immigrate with them to Canada.

About this same time Martha fell in love with a young man. They wanted to marry but he had to serve a year in the army first. She said that she could not wait for him as arrangements had been made for her to go to Canada with the Remples. The young man was very heartbroken. He told her that she would never be happy because she did not marry him, a man who truly loved her. Later, Martha learned that this young man had been killed in the army. She often told this story and over the years the words of her young man came back to haunt her. She did not have a happy marriage to Julius Kelm and although she loved her children she often wondered how her life could have been different if she had remained in Volhynia and had married her young soldier.

Mr. and Mrs. Remple, August Remple and Martha went to live at 868 Ballantine [Bannatyne] Avenue, Winnipeg. It is not certain if Martha’s sister, Julia, was already living in Winnipeg or whether she immigrated along with the Remples. Julia And August did not know each other in Germany [note: August and Julia Remple immigrated to Canada in 1890 and appear in the 1891 Census of Canada]. August Remple and Julia Kirsch eventually married each other. Also living in the house about this time was Martha and Julia’s brothers, Carl and Daniel, who worked for the CPR.

Mr. and Mrs. Remple were already fairly elderly. They had purchased a small farm at Oak Bank, which was not far from Winnipeg. Later, when Mrs. Remple was dying she only wanted Martha to look after her. Martha left her husband, Julius, and children to care for Mrs. Remple who died within a week. The house at 808 Ballantine [Bannatyne] was a large two or three story home that was located close to the General Hospital [Winnipeg General Hospital, now Health Sciences Centre]. August Remple was a sewer contractor and had people working for him digging sewer lines for the City of Winnipeg. The Remples also had rooms rented out to boarders, most of whom worked at the hospital which was located nearby. Martha got a job working in the laundry room of the hospital. She would wash the hospital sheets on washboards and folded the clean laundry. She described herself as being quite happy. She had a real job for the first time in her life and was making her own money. She was quite content and had no interest in getting married.

Stories from the Past: The Move to Canada (Part 2)

This installment of “Stories from the Past” is a more personal version of the blog post I wrote from records and secondary sources. We can learn so much more from the people themselves.

Stories from the Past: The Move to Canada (Part 2)

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.

Canada wanted immigrants and was aggressively advertising for people to come and settle in Canada. The Lutheran and Baptist church had ministers that acted as immigration agents. It  was through the auspices of the Lutheran Church that Julius Kelm and others from Volhynia immigrated to Canada. Martha Kirsch and others from Volhynia came under the auspices of  the Baptist Church. In each case they sold whatever they had to pay their fare to Canada and  arrived with very little. 

Julius and Serafina had one child that died in Russia [unconfirmed]. They came to Canada with the two remaining children, Olga and Gustav. They arrived in Quebec City in May 1904. Julius later would say that he came to Canada with nothing but 10 fingers [note: the ship manifest notes the Kelm family arrived with $5.00]. Julius said that when they arrived in Quebec City everything was in bloom. He and his family we glad to be in  Canada. Those who they were travelling with told them that it was more beautiful in Winnipeg. He wanted to stay in Quebec City but was unable to do so as their designation was Winnipeg. They boarded the train along with the other immigrants they had come with and  traveled to Winnipeg. Julius said that when they arrived in Winnipeg there was snow on the  ground and the weather was very cold.

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.