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


A growing family, a one-room school   Dear and Poppy began life together in West Ely, Missouri, where Poppy taught school. They and their first two babies, Victor and Rudolph, moved to Woodworth, Illinois, where their third child, Olga, arrived a few months later.

Anna Wolter writes her history

Part Two: Marriage, family, West Ely, Missouri, and Woodworth, Illinois
Anna Wolter and Henry Waldschmidt — she first knew him as “Jake” — went their separate ways after high school. Henry went off to college; Anna took a job at the phone company. They met again as maid of honor and best man at the wedding of mutual friends.

In the year 1899 my father decided to sell the farm — he was only fifty-one at the time, but seemed to be getting tired of farming. He and my mother made plans to move to a small town, and they chose Buckley. Why Buckley? I remember clearly they chose this place because they knew of the fine congregation they had in this town, both church and school. Both are still popular. My parents might have considered moving to Champaign, but church and school there were not doing well — in fact, the school closed and has never reopened. Life on the farm during my childhood days was a good experience. However, I always longed for town or city life.

In March 1899 we moved to Buckley. I enjoyed the change — seeing and talking to people every day, going shopping, hearing the whistle of the trains, living only a block from church and two blocks from school. This was real life.

Shortly after I started school, our class had to sing at a funeral service — an elderly person had died. Pastor Blanken delivered a fine sermon. I thought to myself what a wonderful woman the deceased must have been. Several hours later when I was in our back yard (our home was on a corner lot), I saw a carriage with a pair of fine horses driving along our street. This family, dressed in black, were members of the deceased’s family. I never dreamed that someday I would be closely related to this fine family, whom the pastor had praised in the sermon I had just heard.

At the beginning of September, when school reopened, I saw a fellow leaning against a pillar in the schoolroom, whom I hadn’t seen previously and I asked some of the girls who this student was. I was told his name was Jake Waldschmidt. I soon found out that Jake was his father‘s name, who was a good friend of our teacher, J.M. Gross, who had given this lad the nickname Jake. His real name was Henry. He and I soon became good friends. After close of school in the afternoon, the pupils usually walked along Main Street to the post office, picking up the mail. Henry and I paired off quite regularly. Those were the days!

Shortly after our confirmation, Henry attended college at Addison, Illinois. I took a course in bookkeeping. At the age of sixteen I started working in the telephone office, working eight hours every day. (This, you see, included Sundays.) During church services, I hired a substitute, paying her ten cents an hour. This sounds ridiculous, but when I say that I was being paid four dollars for fifty-six hours of work, the substitute was quite satisfied.

During the following years, Henry and I didn’t see much of each other. We had become interested in other girls and boys during our teenage years. However, during the summer of 1906 when we were twenty years of age, one of my friends, Pauline Luhrsen, asked me to be maid of honor at her wedding. Henry, being a good friend of the groom, was requested to act as best man. So it happened on that day we found each other again! Thanks to the Lord.

Henry had one more year at college. Then he accepted a call to West Ely, Missouri, after his graduation from college in 1907. He lived at the parsonage with the pastor and his family for six months until the pastor accepted a call to Colorado. Then Henry was invited to board with the pastor’s son and family until we were married on January 3, 1908.

The first six months we lived in an old cottage on an old country road half a mile from school. Then we moved into the house the congregation had just completed. It was new, but that was all I can say for the place. There were three rooms on the first floor and three rooms upstairs. No bathroom, no water of any type, no electricity. Kerosene was being used. The lamps had to be filled with kerosene every day. If not, the lamps extinguished themselves. I can’t forget the lamp chimneys. They had to be cleaned at the same time. In order to get water, we walked across a very large garden to where they had a pump in the schoolyard. We pumped up water for drinking, cooking, bathing, canning fruit and vegetables, also for washing clothes, etc. All this water had to be carried from between schoolyard and parsonage.

Ten months after our marriage, October 27, 1909, Victor was born at eleven o’clock p.m. Our doctor who delivered the baby lived in Palmyra, seven miles from our house. He traveled by horse and buggy on rough, lonely roads. Highways were not in existence. When there was no moonlight, a person traveled in utter darkness, hence the worry that the doctor might not reach our house in time to deliver the baby. My mother was with me for several weeks until after the baby was baptized.

Not quite a year later, our Rudolph was born on October 26, just before midnight. He was also born at our house, having the same doctor, the same worries. However, the Lord heard our prayers and all went well.

The next morning, Poppy took baby Victor out of his crib and carried him to my bed to see the baby. I’ll never forget the expression on his face. Seeing the baby in my arms, he quickly turned away, putting his head on Dad’s shoulder. He was still a baby, not being able to walk alone. He seemed to realize the situation, refused to come to me. I felt extremely sorry for him, because he had been very much attached to me. My sister was with us to help take care of the two babies.

I still wish to describe this little burg where we lived. The place consisted of a church, school, parsonage, teacherage, a small store where we couldn’t even buy bread, milk or meat. Also six houses. These places were on one side of the street. Of course, there was no pavement, not even sidewalks. It seems every family owned a horse and cow. The pastor’s family and we shared one pasture. Sometimes the two horses got into a fight!

Our pastor, Rev. Kellermann, was born and raised in St. Louis. It was very difficult for him to adjust himself in this small burg. However, we had a fine class of people in the congregation. They spoke mainly the English language with the exception of several families who talked high German.

In early spring my sister suggested going home and taking Victor with her to Buckley. We agreed to this arrangement because Poppy had received a call to a congregation in Woodworth, Illinois. He was somewhat hesitant about accepting the call, which read that he would be teaching seventy-two pupils — all classes in a one-room school. However, this call would give us an opportunity to live only fourteen miles from Buckley, where both of our parents lived — especially being in need of help in the near future! So the West Ely congregation very hesitantly permitted Poppy to accept the call.

Now we could get started for moving, covering all our furniture with burlap. We sewed the burlap in order to fit each piece of furniture because it had to be loaded onto a truck, then into a freight car to Milford, Illinois, and once more onto a truck until it reached Woodworth. This was not only the household furniture but also the horse, cow, and chickens. Pop also rode in the freight car in order to load the animals. The trip of 200 miles lasted from Tuesday afternoon until Friday morning — West Ely via Woodworth. Automobiles were unheard of in those days.

After the house was cleared, I swept the rooms, packed a large satchel which I carried in one hand, and carried Rudy on the other arm. Rudy was eight months, a heavy baby. I walked at least a mile, crossing a large pasture. At one place, there was a high wire fence. I put the baby and satchel on the ground, crept with difficulty to the other side of the fence, and continued walking until I reached the farm house, where I spent the night with friends. The trip was exhausting, especially due to the fact that I was in my fifth month of pregnancy. The following day the people with whom I spent the night took us to the railroad station.

Woodworth had only two streets — the one running from east to west had a church, parsonage, school, teacherage, and four houses. On the other street from north to south was a grocery store, where again there was no bread nor meat available. For such items, we had to drive eight miles to Milford. Besides a small stationery store, there were ten or twelve houses. A great advantage we had in Woodworth was the fact that we had an excellent doctor, living only a block from our home.

As I mentioned before, Poppy had seventy-two pupils and was teaching all grades in one large room. Our family lived in a small apartment above the school temporarily until the teacherage was completed, which was four months later. I must admit this house was more conveniently arranged than the one in West Ely. We had four large rooms on the first floor and three rooms on the second floor, and one room in the basement with a cement floor. This room we always kept immaculate. Having no ice nor any sort of refrigeration, one kept milk, cream, butter, etc., down in the basement or cellar as one called it. [We used] a lot of cold well water to keep the provisions fresh.

However, there were many things lacking. No furnace, only stove heat — carrying all the fuel from the basement. No bathroom nor inside plumbing — only an outside toilet just like in West Ely. Again we carried all the water for drinking and cooking from a well in the school yard. However, near the kitchen we had a pump with rainwater we used for washing clothes and scrubbing.

After several months, another baby arrived, this time a daughter whom we named Olga. Rudy was now sixteen months, and Victor twenty-eight months. However, it was encouraging to live near our families. Augusta, our niece who had just been confirmed, moved into our home [and] was of help to us during the summer months. However, she had twenty piano pupils, [and] in the same semester Gusta took more lessons at the conservatory of music at Onaga.

In Woodworth we owned two horses, a cow and chickens. You will realize the need for two horses when I explain that it took us four hours to drive to Buckley, a distance of fourteen miles on heavy, muddy roads. Speaking of horses, I must relate an incident which occurred late one night on our way home after a visit at Teacher Bruns’ home. The automobile was a new invention, and horses especially disliked them — hence many accidents occurred. We were driving on a narrow road when suddenly a huge light appeared in the distance. I called, “Stop!” Poppy stopped so that Gusta, the three children and I could pile out of that [buggy], with blankets dragging on the ground. Each of us carried a child, and I took Victor by the hand, who was half asleep.

Poppy drove slowly ahead until he met the automobile. He then turned onto the left of the road as far as possible into weeds and grass. The horses stopped. When Poppy stepped out of the buggy, he noticed that both horses had become entangled in a wire. The only solution was to unhitch the horses, get them out of the entanglement, hitch up the horses again, get into the buggy, turn around, and pick up the family. A nightmare!

The people in Woodworth talked no English, only low German. Neither Poppy nor I could speak their language, however the pastor and teachers spoke high German. The people were very hospitable. We were invited out to dinner almost every Sunday, sometimes two or three invitations on the same day. These always included the suppers.

Back to Part One  |   A.R. Kretzmann’s note