A Christmas Tradition

In 2008 I sat down and interviewed my maternal Grandmother, Lucille Beiersdorf Chvarack Ash (1920-2011). We talked for over two hours. I asked her what she remembered about all of her relatives—grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, her husband, John Chvarack (1916-1967) & his family. Since I hadn’t known any of the folks we talked about, I learned a lot that day. At the end of the interview, she turned the tables and interviewed me. We had a good talk.

Lucille grew up in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. She was the only child of Herman (1895-1983) and Amanda (1894-1973) Steinhaus Beiersdorf. Both of her parents had several siblings who resided in Sheboygan. One of the stories Grandma told me was of the family’s Christmas Eve tradition.

Our entertainment was different than now & like on 13th Street—Christmas and so. We’d start at my Grandma’s, we went to church, came from church—we’d start at my Grandma Steinhaus’ & they would have some candy or little things, not big gifts, but little things, have a Christmas tree & we’d sit around. Then we’d go over there about a block to Ray and Olga’s & their 2 children & we would sit there for about a half hour or so & then we’d go over to my Aunt Ella & Uncle Walter’s & we would do something there–see their Christmas things & they had a piano so they would play a little bit once in a while & from there we went up about a block to visit another aunt and uncle, Martha & Gustav & that was Janet Steinhaus & Don & Kenneth & there we would do the same & we had one more aunt & Uncle Paul & that would be at the last stop–then they would come over to our house–from 13th street over so that was about, oh, maybe 8 blocks or so–they would come over there & then we would all have something– & have–oh coffee & drinks–I think the men had drinks, or had one drink–we would get coffee and then have some refreshments & Mother would always have cookies & cake & that was on Christmas Eve.

Essentially, the Christmas Eve tradition was to attend church services & then visit the homes of each Steinhaus family member in the immediate area “on 13th Street.” 

First, a look at the Steinhaus family:

  • Otto Steinhaus (1869-1954) married Emilie Binder (1867-1940). Their children were:
  • Walter (1891-1962)
  • *Ella (1892-1953) married Walter Axel (1893-1945)
  • *Martha (1893-1934) married Gustav Becker
  • *Amanda (1894-1973) married Herman Beiersdorf (1895-1983)
  • William (1896-1963)
  • Clara (1897-1974) married Rudolph Voigt (1897-1968)
  • *Paul H. (1900-1972) 
  • *Olga (1907-1981) married Ray Steinbruecker (1906-1980)
  • Edwin (1909-1955)

Unfortunately, I don’t think I have any pictures of these gatherings. I do have a picture of some of the Steinhaus siblings mentioned in Grandma’s interview:

Steinhaus family
  • Left to Right, Back Row: Walter Axel, Gust Becker, Herman Beiersdorf, Rudy Voigt, Emilie Steinhaus.
  • Left to Right, seated: Ella Axel, Amanda Beiersdorf, Clara Voigt, Martha Becker & Kenneth
  • Left to Right, children in front: Edwin Steinhaus, Allen Steinhaus, Olga Steinhaus. 

The picture was probably taken in late 1917 or 1918.

Now, to follow the path of the Christmas Eve gathering. Through US Census records and Sheboygan City Directories from the 1930’s, I was able to figure out the addresses of all of the homes mentioned. Each family owned their home. I wonder, if like my Great-grandparents, some were the original owners?

Bethlehem Lutheran Church

1 They started at church. This was Bethlehem Lutheran Church (1121 Georgia Avenue). It was the home church for most of the Steinhaus family. Newspaper articles in the 1930s indicate that there was usually a service at 7pm on Christmas Eve. This was the service that included the Christmas program from the Bethlehem Lutheran School that was attached to the church. While Lucille did not attend this school, I think some of her cousins did. So perhaps through the years, the family would start with watching some of their children in the program. 

2 From the church, they would all head to “Grandma Steinhaus’” home. This would be the home of Otto and Emilie Steinhaus (1437 South 13th St.) In 1930, their youngest son, Edwin, age 21 was still living with them. There they would have “some candy or little things, not big gifts, but little things…”

3 Next, they would go to “Aunt Olga & Ray’s”–Olga & Ray Steinbruecker (1524 South 13th St.). They would stay for about half an hour. 

4 Then on to the next aunt & uncle: Ella and Walter Axel (1617 South 13th St.) Grandma said that they had a piano, so I bet there would be some good music and singing at their place. 

5 Next was the home of Gustav and Martha Becker (1708 South 13th St.). 

6 Then to Paul and Anna Steinhaus’ place (1847 South 13th St.).

7 Finally, they would reach the last stop, Herman & Amanda Beiersdorf’s home (2211 South 14th St.) Refreshments would be served, and after visiting for a while, everyone would return to their own homes. According to Lucille, this migration would take until about midnight, then she and her parents would open their presents. 

All in all, the trip from the church to South 14th St. was about a mile. Sounds like the families would gather every year for the same routine. I wonder if each family had it’s own specialty when it came to refreshments? I also bet they all enjoyed the festivities and decorations at each house. Eventually, more children were added to the families & I’m sure the cousins would compare Christmas wish lists and try to figure out the presents under the trees. Then the grandchildren would come along as the routine continued. With all of them living in such close proximity, it is a sure bet that the families were interacting frequently. My Great-grandparents lived in the house on South 14th St. until Amanda’s death in 1973. I think many of the siblings stayed in their homes most of their lives. So the tradition ended with the passing of the elders. 

I asked my Grandmother if they then slept most of Christmas, since they had such a big night on Christmas Eve. Her response was “No, we’d get up on Christmas & we’d go to church & then for dinner we would go to Grandma Beiersdorf’s…” They would visit with the Beiersdorf siblings at the home of Augusta Beiersdorf (1868-1955). But at least everyone would come to one location, instead of traveling from house to house. As Grandma said, “the house would be full.”

One more thing I forgot to mention. Wisconsin weather in the Winter can be quite harsh. These two pictures of Lucille show some of the snowfall they had. I expect the transit from house to house might have been a little treacherous at times. 

So in this year when it is recommended not to visit family due to the pandemic, I thought it nice to remember another time when Christmas family traditions meant visiting house to house to enjoy each other’s company and the togetherness of family. 

Merry Christmas!

© MJM 2020

Veterans of the Great War

The 11th Hour of the 11th Month, 1918. The time when all fighting would cease in France after the Armistice had been signed that morning. The end to the Great War. That was 100 years ago.

So I figured I would dig through my family history information and honor those ancestors who served during that war.

I already mentioned Fred McKinley (1890-1972), Brooklyn, IN; my Dad’s Great-Uncle on his Paternal side. He served in the US Army from April 27, 1918 to November 1, 1918.

Fred’s cousin, Frank B. Crider (1896-1978), Morgan County, IN. Served in the US Army from July 22, 1918 to January 16, 1919.

Then there was Chester Emmett Boone (1892-1954), Connersville, IN; my Dad’s Great-Uncle on his Maternal side. He served with the US Army 309th Supply Company, Quartermaster Corps, Private, #778964. He departed from Newport News, VA June 6 1918. He left Brest, France June 29, 1919. Arrived July 8, 1919 at Hoboken, NJ, listed as a Private 1st Class.

Chester’s cousin, William Hobart Boone (1896-1991), also served in the US Army. The only information I have about his service is that he served in 1918.

On Mom’s side of the family—they were first generation citizens at the time of the War. I wonder how they felt heading off to Europe to fight against what might have been their own relatives.

First, the brother of my Great Grandmother, Amanda Steinhaus Beiersdorf (1894-1973):

William Steinhaus (1896-1963) from Sheboygan, WI. Served as a Private in the US Army M D, Private, #2822606. Departed from Brooklyn, NY to Europe Sept 17, 1918 with Ambulance Company 342-311. Listed on roster of sick or wounded in Hospital in Bordeaux France 11/16/18 w/ Left Inguinal Hernia.

William’s father, Otto Steinhaus (1869-1954) had two cousins who also served:

Paul Richard Steinhaus (1892-1964), Sheboygan, WI, US Army, Private, #2822617. Departed from New York, NY to Europe Sept 9, 1918 with the 86th Div, 171st Infantry Brigade, Company D, 342nd Infantry. He left Brest, France on June 12, 1919. Arrived in Hoboken, NJ June 20, 1919. He is listed as part of the US Army Machine Gun Company, 55th Infantry.

Herbert August Steinhaus (1895-1957), Plymouth, WI, served with the US Army Field Remount Squadron #318, #2831867. He departed from Newport News, VA on Aug 14, 1918, listed as Acting Corporal. He left Brest, France on June 23, 1919. Arrived Boston, MA July 5, 1919, listed as a Private 1st Class.

Who would have thought when these men came home from their service, that their sons would once again take up arms in another war in Europe.

So, remembering just a few named veterans from my family tree who served during the Great War 100 years ago. I also thank the other veterans who served our country in other times of war and conflict

© MJM 2018

Enjoying a Beautiful Day

This is one of my favorite pictures in my collection:

BeiersdorfGroup

Back Row: Herman Beiersdorf, Amanda (Steinhaus) Beiersdorf, Helen (Bendler) Beiersdorf, Marie (Beiersdorf) Knapton, Eldon Knapton
Front Row: August Beiersdorf, Fred Beiersdorf

These folks are all relatives on my Maternal side of the family. They lived in Sheboygan, WI. The outdoor scene shows water in the background, possibly the Sheboygan River, since there is land visible on the other side.

Herman & Amanda were my Great Grandparents. They were married in 1916. August and Helen were married in 1915. Eldon and Marie were married in 1914. Missing from the picture is Fred’s wife, Mary (Duchow). Perhaps she was taking the picture. Looks like all of them are having a good time.

A couple of other things to note in the photo:

crackerjack

 

Amanda and Helen are holding boxes.

Closer inspection shows that they are holding Cracker Jack boxes. The popular molasses coated popcorn & peanut candy first came out in 1896. This box design is seen in advertisements from around 1918, before the logo included “Sailor Jack” & his dog, “Bingo.”

 

 

Also, Amanda is wearing a bracelet.

bracelet

 

I’m pretty sure that it is a bracelet that I now have. It is a gold-color bracelet with a nice floral design.

bracelet2

bracelet3

 

On the inner rim are her initials and the date, 1913. This would have been the date of her high school graduation.

What a cool connection to the picture!

So, that’s about it, a nice photo of a group of siblings and their spouses enjoying a day outdoors. I wonder what they did that day. Did they have a picnic? Or did they get together after some event? Maybe for a walk after Sunday dinner? Who knows. But does it really matter? I’m just glad they posed for the picture so that day could be remembered.

© MJM 2017

Labor Day, Factory Workers in the Family

While most of the early ancestors on Dad’s side of the family were primarily hard-working farmers, those on Mom’s side of the family were factory workers.

They immigrated from Germany and Croatia and settled in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Sheboygan was a factory town on the shore of Lake Michigan.

So for Labor Day, I figured I would recognize these workers in the family.

First, going back in time: Mom’s parents were Lucille Beiersdorf (1920-2011) & John Chvarack (1916-1967 ). Lucille’s parents were Amanda Steinhaus (1894-1973) & Herman Beiersdorf (1895-1983). John’s parents were Mary Siprak (1876-1960) & Steve Chvarack (1872-1938).

US Census records from 1900 have my great-great grandfather, August Beiersdorf, working as a Coal Handler; his 18 year old son, Fred, was a Band Sawyer; and his 15 year old son, August, was a Factory Hand.

By 1910, August, Sr. had died. His son, Fred still worked as a Sawyer in a Chair Factory, August worked as a Cabinet Maker in a Furniture Factory, son William, 23, was a House Painter, son Albert, 17, worked in a Chair Factory, son Herman (my G-grandfather) at 16 years old was working as a Wood Turner in a Chair Factory.

Based on US Census Records in 1900 &1910, Otto Steinhaus, my great-great grandfather, worked in a chair factory. In 1910, his sons, Walter, 19 & Willie, 14, also worked in a chair factory. His daughters, Martha, 16 & Amanda, 14, (my G-grandmother) worked at sewing in a glove shop.

1n 1910, 1920 and 1930, Steve Chvarack shows up working in a chair factory. He died in 1938. In 1920, his son, Joseph, age 22, was working in a chair factory, & son, George, 20, worked as a shoemaker in a shoe factory.

Seems like it wasn’t until my Grandparent’s generation, the “Greatest Generation”, that children stayed in school at least through High School.

Great Grandpa Herman Beiersdorf retired from Armour Leather Company after 25 years in 1958, but as mentioned earlier, he started working at age 16.

Grandpa John Chvarack worked at a Tannery in 1940. Later, he made a career in the Army

I asked Grandma, Lucille, why she chose to go to Sheboygan Business College. She said she didn’t want to go to college and got a job at a factory where they knit stockings. Said she learned how to “hold your stocking here and go this way and that way and make perfect stitches.” She said she lasted 10 days & then enrolled in the business college. The business education came in handy later when she had to support herself after John’s death.

So there we have a few of the early jobs my maternal ancestors had. Many of them stayed with those factory jobs through their entire lives. Hard to imagine the working conditions in the early 1900’s.

©MJM 2016