AWOL! Adventurer. Good Character. Handsome. Naturalized Citizen. Homesteader. Industrious. Motorman. These attributes describe my great-great-uncle Reinhart Fermazin.
Reinhart was born on January 28, 1875 in Godziwy, Schubin, Posen, Prussia. He immigrated to America as an infant with his mother Carolina Hartwig and his sister Bertha.
Reinhart’s life was adventuresome as an adult. In 1898, Reinhart enlisted in the Spanish American War in Evanston, Wyoming. His military service occurred in Fort San Felipe, Manila, Philippine Islands. During his time in Manila, he served three times in the brig with ten days of hard labor and court martialed. On July 28, 1899 he was discharged. After his court martials and infractions, he mustered out at the Presidio in San Francisco with “service honorable and faithful, character good.”
In 1903, he married his first wife, Sharlot Wittelsbach, who died of consumption a year later. Two years after her death, Reinhart married Lillian Ryland. In 1908, Reinhart obtained a 160-acre homestead in Lemon, Perkin County, South Dakota where he built a 12 x 16 foot sod house with a lumber floor and roof, three windows, one door and a cellar 5 ft by 6 ft under the house. He drilled a 27 foot deep well on the property and built a chicken coop and a sod barn with a pole roof. He planted 70 trees. During the first year, he planted corn and potatoes, harvesting 15 bushels of corn and 25 bushels of potatoes.
By 1920, he moved back to Chicago where he obtained work as a motorman for the Chicago Surface Railway Company. In 1931at the age of 56, after Lillian’s death and 24 years of marriage, Reinhart married a young single woman, 21 years old, named Anna. They lived in Chicago for the remainder of his life.
He did indeed live an adventuresome life, AWOL in the armed services, suspected AWOL on his homestead and skirting the law on a few occasions. He was a fascinating guy! You can only help but love him.