The History of a Christmas Gift
by Patricia A. Johnson
For Christmas, 1996, I am giving my oldest grandson, Chad W. Lewis, an old pottery mug. It seems a rather eccentric gift, but it truly does have a bit of history to it. The mug was given to me by Frederick Kuhlman. Mr. Kuhlman is Chad's great great grandfather. His daughter is Anna Kuhlman Meier Martin. Anna's son is Richard Wayne Meier. Richard's daughter is Cindy Meier Lewis and Cindy is Chad's mother.
Mr. Kuhlman is affectionately known to me as "Grampa" Kuhlman. For many years we were television watching buddies. We were also "smoking" buddies, and sometimes we even worked in some story telling AND some story listening. I usually picked "Grampa" up on Saturdays, to watch television. This time frame would be middle to late 1950's. Television was relatively new, and if a family had a set, they were very popular with friends and family that did not have one. This new technology fascinated "Grampa", and we would sit and watch Lawrence Welk, Sgt. Bilko, Gunsmoke, and Saturday Night Wrestling. "Grampa" had comments for all of these programs. He could have pursued a career as a TV critic. I smile as I remember his analysis of Lawrence Welk. "Ach, he was no good as a farmer --- he had to play music to make a living". Yet he loved to watch the polkas and hear the old songs. Saturday Night Wrestling was his favorite of ALL programs. He would get so mad at the villians and cheer for the good guys.
Many evenings were spent listening to "Grampa" relate stories of when he was young. I wrote a few facts down as he told me things from the past. I wish I had been smart enough to write down MORE of it, while on the other hand, I am grateful I wrote the few things that I did! Sometimes he surprised me, like the time he told me he had been married once before he married Anna Weber, the mother of his seven children. As I recall him in my memory, I can see him as the dapper and neat old gentleman that he was. Usually dressed in his dark green shirt and pants, the ones that are sort of like a work uniform. He wore a light brown hat, and it was worn tipped rather roguishly to the side. He was a small, thin, man and very neat in appearance.
To return to the subject of the mug, "Grampa" gave it to me and told me that it was one of the few things that he possessed that had survived his emmigration from Rosenburg, Russia in 1912.
I have always treasured it and want my grandson, Chad to have it. "Grampa" wanted me to have it and he would be pleased to know I have passed it on to my grandson. "Grampa" died in 1971, so my grandchildren can only know him through my memories.
I would like to share some of the items I know, as well as, some of the things I wrote during our many story telling sessions. Later generations can learn what he was like from these things. It is the "passing on of memories" from one generation to the next that is most important to me.
The genealogical facts about Frederick Kuhlman are :
Born: 12 March 1883
Where: Rosenburg Omead, Russia
Parents: George and Lotta Kuhlman
Married: Anna Weber
Left Russia: 04 February 1912
Left Liverpool, England: 24 February 1912
Arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia: 04 March 1912
Arrived in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: June 27, 1912
Arrived in Scottsbluff, Scotts Bluff Nebraska: September 1916
Died: 17 May 1971
Where: Bridgeport, Morrill, Nebraska
Buried: Scottsbluff Cemetery Scottsbluff, Scotts Bluff, Nebraska
Father of seven children: Catherine, Fred, Anna, Jacob, David, Mary, Esther
Some of the notes I wrote as "Grampa" reminisced are as follows.
He and his wife, Anna and baby daughter left Rosenburg, Russia and travelled by bus to a port. I don't know where that port was. "Grampa" called it Liebauer, but I couldn't find any city on the Atlas that looked like that name. From Liebauer the family took a "little ship" to Liverpool and this took 5 days and nights. Before they boarded the "little ship", they were told it was too full and they would have to wait for another ship. As they turned to walk away, someone shouted at them to hurry, if they could get on, there would be room for them. He said they ran as fast as they could. I can imagine the panic as the two desperate adults and little two year old Catherine ran for their lives. Anna was pregnant and I'm sure "Grampa" carried little Catherine. He told me that they had to leave their trunk and boxes on the dock in order to get on the "little ship". There was no way to gather them up and still run for the ship. These held all of the worldly possessions they had planned to take to the New World. How the brown mug survived this chaotic beginning I do not know, but "Grampa" told me it did, and I believe him. The last sight of their things was when "Grampa" looked back and saw them sitting on the dock. He said, "I'll bet they are still sitting there".
The Kuhlmans spent one night in Liverpool before boarding the "big ship". The "big ship" took them to Halifax, Nova Scotia and took nine days and nights to cross the Atlantic. In the beginning, "Grampa" told me that they landed in Philadelphia, and it seemed reasonable to me. Later, when "Grampa" gave me his passport and immigration papers, I discovered that they actually landed in Halifax. When I told him this he nodded in agreement. Unable to read, he had to go by sound, and it sounded like Philadelphia to him. We got it straightened out, later. From Halifax, they travelled by train to Winnipeg, Canada. From "Grampa's" immigration papers I learned that they boarded the ship, CANADA ,24 February 1912 sailing from Liverpool. His name appeared on the ship Manifest page 4 line 17. Anna was on line 18. They landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia on 04 March 1912. They had the proper vaccination, as attested by the Ship Surgeon E. L. Bartlett. The inspection card for Anna says that the last permanent residence was Holland. Perhaps this is where they boarded the "little" ship for Liverpool. It looks like they left Russia on 04 February 1912, but not being able to read Russian, I can't be sure. The dates are easy to read but I can't read the text.
Telling about his life in Russia, "Grampa", told me that he worked in Rosenburg for 7 cents a day, $45 a year. This was in a flour mill, carrying sacks of flour weighing 200 pounds. Alex Reisig owned the flour mill. Many times "Grampa" climbed the stairs to his home, after a long day at work, to find nothing to eat. His mother, Lotta Kuhlman died of starvation. After registering for the Army and being rejected he told his mother to give a Ruble at Church the next day! He was age 17 when he went to work at the flour mill and he stayed working there for four years.
It took four months to go from Rosenburg Omead, Russia to Winnipeg, Canada. He was in Canada for four years. In Winnipeg he worked for 20 cents a day, 10 hours a day. He worked digging the sewers in Winnipeg. I remember one story of how he and his brother tapped into the pipe that fed the beer into a saloon above. They had a GOOD time down there! He laughed as he told this story.
"Grampa" had five brothers. They were Henry, Jake, Carl, Philip, and David. Philip and David were twins.
The last time I saw "Grampa" was when I was called to Bridgeport by his daughter, Mary. "Grampa" had been living there for several years and she had taken him to the hospital. I hurried to get there to see him, and I went directly to the hospital in that little Western Nebraska town. It was a beautiful Spring day, but I was sad as I climbed the old wooden staircase to the porch of the hospital. I found "Grampa's" room and went in. It was late afternoon, and the sun was lazily streaming through the window of the hospital room. The hospital was very quiet, because I had arrived in between the regular visiting hours. He brightened up when I came in and he talked to me for some time. He was scared, and he asked me to take him home. It was the second time in our years of knowing each other that I had to refuse him. The other time was one morning about 5:00 am when he wanted me to call Mary and have her come right away and pick him up from our house in Gering, where he had spent the week. I had to get stern and refuse him and it was quite a shock to him. He was heartbroken, once again, when I told him in the hospital, that I couldn't take him home. He had to get better, I told him. He hung onto my hand as I prepared to leave the hospital room. When I went to Mary's after I left the hospital, she was surprised when I told her I had talked to "Grampa". She told me that he had been unconscience all day and had not known anyone that came into his room. A spiritual event had happened, as far as I am concerned. "Grampa" knew he was dying and he had to tell me goodbye. I will always cherish this last memory of my dear friend, Frederick Kuhlman.
This is about all that I recorded about Frederick Kuhlman. Like MOST people, I waited too long to write things down. Time is the one thing I have taken for granted, and as I have grown old, I now know how valuable it is. But memories are even MORE valuable, and these are what I want to share with Chad. Each generation is a "bridge" to the generations that have gone before. I can remember things about people that seem to be from a different world. Chad will be that "bridge" for the future generations, when he recalls things about me.
The wonder of it all is that the people of each generation are made for their time. "Grampa" was a tough individual, and he was made tough for the adversity that he had to face in coming to this country. I thank God that he DID come to this country and endured all of the hardships. I consider it a privilege to have known him, listened to him, shared memories with him.
Sharing these memories is my memorial to Frederick Kuhlman. I hope that future generations can know a little bit about him.
Patricia A. Johnson
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