The Frau Erica Project
Muellers in America:
The first 155 years


Pomerania (red) within Prussia (bronze), as it was in the 1880s when German-Prussian emigration was rising.

Adolf and Anna Grams

Adolf, kind and hard-working, did not suffer fools gladly. His son Armin, in Chicago for a conference, called his father and jokingly pretended to be a seller of vinyl siding. Adolf abruptly hung up and did not pick up when Armin tried to call back. Much of the following comes from Adolf’s grandson John.

Near North Side, Chicago
Anna and Adolf with their sons, from left: Armin, Adolph Kurt (A.K.), and Werner.
Photo provided by John Grams

Adolf was born and raised in a part of Prussia that is now Poland. He was the son of a forester and huntsman on a baronial estate. The huntsman provided all the meat for the baron’s family; there is a picture of Adolf standing in the snow next to animals his father had caught.

In 1907, when he was 19, Adolf came to America. The Kaiser had instituted a military draft, and many young men chose to emigrate rather than enter the military. He had at least one brother among the family members he left behind, but he never saw any of his family again until a chance meeting with his brother in America when they were already old men.

Because Adolf had little money, it took him a while to get across America and find a place to settle. Eventually he got to Chicago where he met and married Anna Mueller (no relation to the Muellers of Kendallville), probably through St. John’s Mayfair Lutheran Church, a German-speaking church where they were longtime members. Although Anna had been born in Chicago, the Muellers spoke only German at home.

St. John’s Mayfair and St. Luke’s Lutheran Church — two promient German Lutheran congregations in Chicago — figure into these archives many times. Adolf and Anna’s youngest son Armin was confirmed by Rev. Paul Luecke, a close relative of Armin’s future mother-in-law Helen Hedder.

During the Great Depression, Adolf supported his family by doing day labor. Armin, who was a little boy, would drive with his mother every morning to a street corner in Chicago where Adolf would wait with many other men to see if somebody would hire him to work for a day. Adolf was a very kind and hard-working man. He loved to tinker and build in his basement work shop. He never let anything go to waste, straightening bent nails and always fixing anything that broke rather than replacing it. Armin loved to sit in the basement and watch his father. It was Armin’s favorite place to be.