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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

52 Ancestors # 27: Wilhelmina Elisabeth Pluecker Fermazin


My dad always referred to Grandma Minnie as his “mean grandmother”.  I feel that was a misnomer. Misnomer is from the French indicating a lack of fit when it comes to naming according to Webster. So I am going to tell you why. I did not know Great Grandma Minnie. I think I only met her twice.  However, I have researched her and talked to my Dad's cousin Char and gained insight into Minnie's life and times. I gained great admiration and respect for her.
 Minnie did not like my dad and his sister talking at the dinner table or interrupting when she was visiting. Dad said she always told Grandpa that “children should be seen and not heard.” Dad and his sister, Lola, cowered whenever Grandma Minnie spoke.
            One remembrance that Dad told was when I was born: Grandma Minnie sent Dad’s  uncle Leonard to Copley Memorial Hospital that day.
“Robert, are you going to raise her Catholic or Lutheran?”
A long silence ensued. No answer.
Leonard raised his voice. “Are you going to raise her Catholic or Lutheran? Ma wants to know.”
More silence.
With his hands clasped on his lap and head staring down at the floor, Dad mumbled, “I guess, Catholic.”
Leonard yelled, “That’s it then!” and  stomped out of the room.
Mom just sat there holding me and staring at Dad.
Not everyone saw Minnie in the same way. My Dad’s cousin Charalways described Grandma Minnie as warm and gracious. She spoke fondly of Minnie and loved her dearly.  After Minnie’s death, Char rescued Minnie’s set of Lenox fine china, which surely would have been tableware for her sister, Nettie’s cats otherwise.
          Char was raised Lutheran.  Maybe that made a difference. Grandma Minnie taught Bible studies, worked the women’s annual boutique, and sewed quilts and blankets for St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. Char’s husband and Grandpa were deacons in the church. Grandpa raised my Dad and Lola as Catholic, only because Grandma was Catholic but he was not anti-Catholic, like Minnie. Grandpa used to transport the nuns to the grocery store and shopping in his old Packard, but he never
Fermazin Ancestry: Robert August Fermazin

Figure 1: Grandpa’s car
converted to Catholicism out of respect for Minnie.
      Wilhelmina Elisabeth Pluecker was the daughter of immigrant Germans who came from the village of Kohlgrund in Fulda area of the Hesse, Germany. 

Figure 2: Kohlgrund, Germany is 40 miles north west of Kassel, Germany.
Hessians.  The Pluecker’s  settled in Aurora, Illinois in 1868, 40 miles west of Chicago. In 1885 Minnie married Charles Fermazin who was an immigrant from Popowo, Posen, Prussia in1876.  He arrived at age 9 and met and married Minnie when he was 20 years old. She was 18. They made their home in Aurora for four years. He was raised on a farm so in 1889, when the opportunity presented itself for the family to farm in Minnesota, they took it. Charles’ half-sister Caroline Steingraber was living in Lakefield, Minnesota so this paved the way for them to settle there.  
       Lakefield had many things to offer. It was a  German Lutheran community with rich farmland at cheap prices. Lakefield had electricity, a dentist office, a hospital, a grain mill, a train station, and in 1897, telephones  and a high school, which would give the older children the opportunity to receive a high school education. The children received their primary education in a one-room schoolhouse.
Fermazin Ancestry: Lakefield Minnesota

Figure 3: Lakefield, Minnesota. One room schoolhouse.
Lakefield, Minnesota 1900-1908 Coutesy of Jackson Historical Society
Figure 4: Lakefield, Minnesota 1900-1905. Coutesy of Jackson Historical Society.

Lakefield, Minnesota 1900-1908 Coutesy of Jackson Historical Society

Figure 5: Lakefield, Minnesota 1900-1905. Courtesy of Jackson Historical Society. 

                   Relatives, German culture, and a Lutheran community  may have been the reason for moving with the chance to farm and raise their children in the open spaces of  Lakefield. German families that moved from Illinois to Minnesota also moved because of economic reasons. Their families were growing and they needed more land. In many cases the land they had in Illinois was more valuable so they could sell off the land there and buy more acres with the same amount of money. Minnie and Charles took the opportunity to lease a 215-acre farm and moved with their three children.  Four more children followed.
            Working the land and being a farmer’s wife was new for Minnie. She wasn’t a big woman. She was about 4’11 inches tall weighing 100 pounds soaking wet.  Like many nineteenth-century women, she dedicated herself to her family. Her experience may be understood only when we give full credit to the respect she herself gave to her role as a wife and mother. And like other frontier women, she believed that hard work, religious faith, and land ownership were prerequisites for family prosperity. 
The family attended church on Sunday in town at Immanuel Lutheran. I pictured Minnie on most days,  waking up before four, making breakfast of eggs sunny side up, fried potatoes, and toast with coffee and fruit.  I imagined that every morning upon awakening she dressed, donned a hairnet to pull her blond hair back, and put on her large flowered apron with a big pocket on each side. She skimmed milk, churned butter, did large washings, and tended her garden.  On some days she baked as many as six loaves of bread, and seven pies. While baking and doing the ironing she made supper, and tended the chickens. Besides washing all the dishes, making the beds, and sweeping floors. she sometimes made 100 pounds of butter, sold eggs and canned. 
All of this was done in addition to caring for her seven children, four boys and three girls ranging in age from two years to fourteen years. Despite days filled with varied activities and surrounded by her children, Minnie missed her mother and sisters. She wrote letters to them, which still exist, where she described her busy life  and mentioned her loneliness.  Winters in southeastern Minnesota were harsh. In 1894, the average temperature was 4.5 degrees, sometimes dropping to 15 degrees below zero with six feet of snow. One of the coldest recorded years was 1907 when the temperature was minus 15 degrees with six feet of snow on Easter Sunday. The fifteen years Minnie and Charles spent in Minnesota were difficult. Besides mild to severe winters, they endured economic to lean years.

They were taxed on their personal property. The value ranged from $ 139.00 to $ 321.00 with taxes from $ 1.17 to $ 2.88 per year. The value of their taxes reflected the amount of their livestock. They owned twelve head of horses,  four geldings, four mares, and four colts and four head of milking cows. Other equipment they owned were a buggy, a lumber wagon, two cultivators and a McCormick saw.
Fermazin Ancestry: Charles Fermazin selling farm Lakefield Minnesota 1906

Figure 6: Bill of Sale Fermazin selling equipment and stock.

      Why do I think my Dad misunderstood Minnie. I don't think he knew how harsh life was for her on the prairie and how difficult it was to raise seven children after her husband died in 1913. How lonely she must have been after the love of her life passed away. Minnie never remarried but she stayed involved with life and her church. Her boys became deacons in the Lutheran Church. That must have been a wonderful feeling for Minnie.   She truly is one to be admired. I admire her so much for all she gave us: family, religion, work ethic, love,  and our heritage.

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Copyright 2014 Nancy Fermazin Peralta

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Fearless Females Blog Post: March 2 - Photograph

March is National Women's History Month. Lisa Alzo,  is back for the 4th year giving us Blogging prompts to write each day about a female ancestor we would like to celebrate and honor.

For March 2 Lisa Alzo recommends:  — Post a photo of one of your female ancestors. Who is in the photo? When was it taken? Why did you select this photo? 

Grace Lorraine Worthing on her wedding day. February 7, 1942.  I have always liked this photo of my mother.  I selected this photo because my mother is so beautiful in this picture. She married Robert F. Fermazin at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Aurora, Illinois.

My mom was as beautiful on the inside as she was on the outside.  I miss her so much!
Love you Mom.

Copyright, 2015 Nancy Fermazin Peralta
All rights reserved

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Fearless Females Blog Post: March 1 - Favorite Female

March is National Women's History Month. Lisa Alzo,  is back for the 4th year giving us Blogging prompts to write each day about a female ancestor we would like to celebrate and honor.

March 1 — Lisa Asks:  Do you have a favorite female ancestor? One you are drawn to or want to learn more about? Write down some key facts you have already learned or what you would like to learn and outline your goals and potential sources you plan to check.

This year I would like to learn more about my Great Great Grandmother, Sarah (Salllie) Rice Ames. Sallie was born in Greene County, New York to Ephraim Ames and Sarah Johnson in 1811. I have no pictures of Sallie. I would like to find information on her growing up and information on what it was like to live in the wilderness of Western Pennsylvania in Liberty Township, McKean County. I do know that her husband was part Native American, Lenape.

Sallie had two brothers that I know about. Ira Rice and Joel H. (Jack) Rice. Joel was a Methodist Circuit Rider. I am hoping to find some of Joel's diaries. I have a feeling that
Joel married Sallie and her spouse, Adolphus Ames. I am hoping to find that information.

This is what women looked like in 1840. I do not have any pictures of Sallie Rice.

I do not know if their children were Baptized so will look for that in my research.


  • Through baptism we are joined with the church and with Christians everywhere.
  • Baptism is a symbol of new life and a sign of God's love and forgiveness of our sins.
  • Persons of any age can be baptized.
  • We baptize by sprinkling, immersion or pouring.
  • A person receives the sacrament of baptism only once in his or her life.
  • No specific age is named, but the expectation is that pastors will encourage baptism to be received promptly AND on a schedule compatible with having appropriate time for meeting with parents, sponsors, and others who are involved most directly in ensuring that the child to be baptized will be nurtured in an environment that will lead her or him to a commitment to personal discipleship to Jesus Christ in the life of the church.
I am a Lutheran and we believe that you must have Baptism to be saved. Methodists do not believe that you need Baptism to be saved.  However, baptism is a gift of God's grace to be received as part of the journey of salvation. To refuse to accept baptism is to reject one of the means of grace that God offers us.  Reference:

I am going to Salt Lake City in 2015 and plan to look for sources in the catalog at the Family History Center: Books and Films. I also plan to continue to search on line and of course source all of my findings.

Copyright, 2015, Nancy Fermazin Peralta
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Tragedy on the Homestead: Lake Koshkonong (the-lake-we-live-on), Wisconsin, March 1893

Tragedy on the Homestead
Lake Koshkonong (the-lake-we-live-on), Wisconsin, March 1893

I’ve visualized in my mind how this tragedy occurred. I picture ten-year old Nancy, hovering over her mother, Cornelia, sobbing uncontrollably.  Her hazel eyes were almost swollen shut as she cried out, “Ma Ma… Ma….”  With a flask in his left hand, her father, Ira pushed open the door of the homestead and stomped in, his unshaven beard growth of a week beaded with little drops of melting frost.  He dropped his gloves to the floor as he rushed over to Nelia’s (Cornelia) side, leaving tracks of white slush on the floor of the one-room shack they called home. Most of the year, he eked out a living fishing on Lake Koshkonong, but in winter he hunted for game.   The sobbing children looked fearfully at their father, saying in unison, “Paw, do something.”   Nelia Ames lay stiff and cold, breathing noisily, with barely a rise and fall in her small chest.  I imagined she had been lying on the bed in the corner of the room, listless and sick with fever and cough for the last two weeks after the delivery of her baby girl. My Great Grandmother, Cornelia Ames was probably hungry, cold, and suffering from post-partum depression.[i]
It was winter in Wisconsin. All of the garden vegetables were gone.  I pictured the one room cabin the following way. The last of the wild turkeys had been eaten one month earlier.  Only a lonely crust of bread remained on the table with a few scattered crumbs on the floor.   Little Caroline, born six weeks before, on January 21st, died two days earlier probably from prematurity, lack of nourishment, and proper care. In those days, when a child died, there were no boards to make a coffin. Relatives dug a pit and laid logs across the top. With a crosscut saw, one man in the pit and one on top, they ripped planks out of the logs for the coffin.[1]  Because of the family life, abject poverty, baby Caroline was laid to rest in a soap box in a shallow grave under the snow in Otter Creek Cemetery. [ii]  
    “Come children, we have to get some help here.  Hiram and George, you two get some coal and wood and get a fire goin’.” Irritated, Ira shouted, “Nancy, quit blubbering and gather up the little ones or I’m going to send you for the doctor.  I’ve got to get some help for your ma.  Be back in a few hours or so,” he said as he slammed the door shut, trudging out into the cold. 
    The Ira Ames family lived on a piece of land near Lake Koshkonong in south-central Wisconsin.  Perhaps, bringing the family to live on Lake Koshkonong was a good idea in the beginning.  Fishing for a living would provide support for the family.  Green ash, white oak, and silver maple groves dotted the horizon.  Hog pastures, wild turkeys, and lanes rutted out by cattle tramping through the area were common in this part of Wisconsin.  Bald eagles and osprey nesting in the trees, ruby throated hummingbirds and white sparrows were numerous.  Squirrels, raccoons, chipmunks, coyotes, and white tailed deer abounded.   In the spring, wild strawberries and fresh flowers dotted the landscape:  lilac, mauve, yellow and white crocus with their white central stripe along the leaves, fragrant grayish-blue morningstars with pinkish-white eyes, and deep purple violets covered the landscape.  The marshlands abounded with wild rice which grew seven feet high above the water, and so thick all over that it was difficult to push a canoe through it.  Mallards The marshlands were sprinkled with wild ducks of all colors, mostly mallards.[iii]
For the family of Ira Daniel Ames, the first part of 1893 was undoubtedly the worst year of their lives.  Life was unbearable.[iv]
      1893 was not a good year. The winters on Lake Koshkonong were always severe; the year of 1893 was an especially bad winter.   The country was in a depression.  The depression of the 1890s was on a par with the Great Depression of the 1930s in its impact on employment. In some places it began before 1890.  An agricultural crisis hit Southern cotton-growing regions and the Great Plains in the late 1880s.  Twenty-five percent of the nation's railroads were bankrupt; in some cities, unemployment exceeded 20 or even 25 percent. People of different incomes experienced the depression in markedly different ways. In the bitter winter months, some poor families starved and others became wanderers.  Vagrants, out of work, crisscrossed the countryside, walking or hiding on freight trains. Many appeared at back doors pleading for work or food.   People accused those who were out of work of laziness.  Some of the unemployed blamed themselves.  The newspapers were full of reports of despair and suicides due to these circumstances. [v]
           Ira Ames had fought in the War Between the States in Company D, 8th United States Infantry, and Regular Army for several years.  I feel he came home a broken and disturbed man.  His regiment had lost a total of 280 men:  6 officers and 53 enlisted men killed and mortally wounded, 2 officers, and 219 enlisted men died from disease. [vi]  Ira had suffered from measles pneumonia and subsequent pain as mentioned in his National Archives file.[vii] He probably suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder before we ever diagnosed it years later. Ira was probably an alcoholic. One newspaper article referred to him as “trading his wife’s garden as boot.[viii]
     After returning home from the war, Ira met and fell in love with Cornelia Palon. I envisioned him feeling that with love he could overcome his depression. They married in Albion, Wisconsin on June 25, 1868. Work was hard to come by after the war.  The first years were particularly difficult. According to the census, their status in life deteriorated.  Ira worked as a farmer in 1870 in Albion. [ix] By 1880, he was listed in the census as a day laborer living in Milton, Wisconsin. [x] In 1890, the Ames’ were living eight miles north at Gebo Point, on Lake Koshkonong.    During this time, I imagine the demons came back to haunt him and he began to take up the bottle.  The family suffered greatly from their father’s drinking habits. It was a hardscrabble existence. Things were not always been like this.   I imagined Ira had dreams, dreams of settling down, buying a farm, raising a family….  That was in the beginning.
         As the children came, their situation became more difficult. The first-born was Charles Henry in October 1870 and the last of the twelve children was Caroline who died with Cornelia in 1893. By 1890, the two oldest were no longer at home. Frankie, Chauncey, and Rosey Belle had passed.[xi]
        The family could not survive without food and heat during this severe winter of 1893.  Without proper care, the twelve by eighteen feet, one-room house, became a shack of wide, rotting, gray boards running up and down with cracks in the walls allowing the brisk, cold air in and the heat to seep through the openings. [xii]  I pictured their meager furnishings consisting of a table sitting in the corner covered with a red cloth, two beds, the family Bible open to Psalms on the lone dresser, and a shiny black, polished cook stove in the center of the room. The family lived in a lonely place about 80 rods (half an acre or half a football field) away from the nearest neighbor.  Ira began to drink more and more and worked less frequently, and cared less and less about the family.  He attempted to work as a fisherman, but was not doing well during this winter. They were isolated. There were no close neighbors. Possibly, they were so poor and working so hard to survive that they did not have time to socialize or Cornelia was so ashamed of their poor existence she did not associate with the neighbors. I visualized them living a hardscrabble life.
In March of 1893 life became so difficult for this family that the mother, Cornelia, froze to death but likely compounded by pneumonia, starvation, and frostbite. The doctor came and pronounced her dead.  He found six children, starving and freezing in the “shack”.  He called the authorities.  If they hadn’t intervened these children would have been dead with their mother.   They found the children scantily clothed, one little girl having on only a calico dress with no underclothing, and a little boy having on only knee breeches all torn to strings. The neighbors came and took them into their homes.   The two oldest boys, ages twelve and fourteen, were sent out to make it on their own and the four youngest were sent to the orphanage in Sparta, Wisconsin.[xiii]
Two years later, in March 1895, Ira died.[xiv] I conjured the following picture of him: a man in despair and depression from a broken heart.  Life had taken its toll. Nelia was dead, the children were gone, and fishing was poor.   The demons had returned and he had begun to take up the bottle again.  His spirit was broken, battered and bruised. All he had were memories.  My heart aches for my great-grandparents, Ira Daniel Ames and Cornelia Palon. For most people, life gets better as time goes on but for them it seems to have gotten worse. The depression came along with the sadness and deaths. They were unable to get out of the poverty existence.

[i] ___________.  “Didn’t Know Her Sister Starved Near Milton.” Janesville Gazette, 6 May 1893.
[ii] Lesy, Michael. Wisconsin Death Trip. University of New Mexico Press. 2nd ed 2000.
(First published in 1973, this book is about life in a small turn-of-the-century Wisconsin town has become a cult classic. Lesy collected and arranged photographs taken between 1890 and 1910 by a Black River Falls photographer, Charles Van Schaik).

[iii] Swart, Hannah. Koshkonong Country - A History Of Jefferson County Wisconsin. W.D. Ward. 1975.
[iv] __________. “Mother Froze to Death, Babes Barely Saved.” Janesville Gazette, 7 March, 1893.
[vi] National Park Service. U.S. Civil War Soldiers, 1861-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007.
Original data: National Park Service, Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System, online <>, acquired 2007.
[vii] "United States Civil War and Later Pension Index, 1861-1917," database, Family Search ( : accessed 31 December 2015), Ira D. Ames, 01 Jul 1882; from "Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900," database, ( : n.d.); company D, regiment 8, , NARA microfilm publication T289.
[viii] _________. “Ira Ames is a Dead Man Indeed, Traded his wife’s garden as boot for swapping horses.” Janesville Gazette,  9 March, 1893.

[ix]  "United States Census, 1870," database with images, Family Search ( : accessed 31 December 2015), Ira Ames, Wisconsin, United States; citing p. 4, family 30, NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 553,207.
[x]  "United States Census, 1880," database with images, Family Search ( : accessed 31 December 2015), Ira Ames, Milton, Rock, Wisconsin, United States; citing enumeration district ED 193, sheet 328C, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 1444; FHL microfilm 1,255,444.
[xi] Cornelia Ames Family Bible (1868-1968) The New Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (American Bible Association) (1875) now in possession of Nancy Fermazin Peralta, Buena Park, California.

[xii] __________. “Mother Froze to Death, Babes Barely Saved.” Janesville Gazette, 7 March, 1893.

[xiii] __________. “Mother Froze to Death, Babes Barely Saved.” Janesville Gazette, 7 March, 1893.
[xiv] "United States Records of Headstones of Deceased Union Veterans, 1879-1903," database with images, Family Search ( : accessed 31 December 2015), Ira D Ames, 21 Sep 1895; citing Mitton Junction, Rock, Wisconsin, NARA microfilm publication M1845 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 1; FHL microfilm 2,155,576.