Category Archives: LENTZ

The Dairy

On Saturday I stopped by to visit my grandfather’s niece who has an apartment a block or two away from the church where my parents married. Her name is Delores.

Earlier, before I left the house where I am staying, my host, Mike, knocked on the guest room and asked if I wanted to tour a dairy operation up north.

I had already told Delores that I’d be stopping by and with only five minutes to get ready, I passed.

Eventually I got on my way, biking downtown from the house, in the northwest quarter of town.

I introduced myself to Delores, who is the same age as my grandmother. Both were born in 1927. Unfortunately, she didn’t have many photographs or history to share, as she downsized when moving in to her current apartment from a house.

She did, however, share a remarkable story.

It was 1932. She was a young girl. Her grandfather, my great grandfather, was ill. Delores remembers boarding the train in Watertown with her mother, Augusta Fromke Bunde, to visit the grandparents, Albert Fromke and Augusta Lentz, in Grover. Augusta, Delores’ mother, had come to help her mother, Augusta Lentz.

Our visit was brief, and I was soon on my way again.

I then ran into Mike at the grocery store downtown, where we chatted a little. We got to talking about the dairy farm. During the visit, he asked the dairy man, whose surname is Goens, “Do you know a Delores Goens?”

“Yes, she’s my mother.”

Then I became the subject of conversation.

“Yes, she called to say some strange man had called and planned on stopping by. She has no idea who he is,” the man explained.

Mike then talked about his house guest, and the puzzle was complete.

So while my relatives from my dad’s side of the family were touring a dairy outfit owned by some of my mother’s relatives I was visiting the dairy farm owner’s mother.


The Pastor in Bütow

Wittenberg, Germany in the time of Martin Luther
Wittenberg, Germany in the time of Martin Luther

My mother’s family had been German Lutherans for more than a hundred years, probably much longer. Unfortunately I haven’t found many German records of my ancestors beyond the late 19th century.

However, today I came across the name of one of the pastors in the major town in the area where my ancestors lived. The family, my family, may have lived there for centuries.

His name was Szimón Krofey.1 He was born in 1545 in the village of Dampen, not far from the villages of my ancestors.

His father, the mayor of Dampen, sent Szimón off to the university at Wittenberg, where Martin Luther had entered as a student and never left. Luther became a professor and figurehead of the university.

Despite Luther’s death in 1546, the year after Szimón’s birth, his remarkable influence upon Wittenberg, the university and Northern Europe also extended to Szimón personally. In 1579, upon finishing his studies, Szimón returned to his roots, becoming pastor of the Lutheran church in Bütow.

When and how my ancestors converted isn’t known. I assume they were Christians, Catholics, who became Lutherans. Did Reverend Krofey have something to do with it?

More than three hundred years later, in 1880, my great grandparents were married in that very Lutheran church in Bütow.


1. Sometimes his name is translated as Simon or Shimon Krofey, which looks Jewish to me. (Think Shimon Peres.) It is the Hebrew form of Simon or Simeon. In Kashubian, it is Szëmón Krofey.

Postmark Bytów

Albert Chmielowski is a Polish religious figure. Albert is known in Polish as Brat Albert, meaning Brother Albert.
Albert Chmielowski is a Polish religious figure. Albert is known in Polish as Brat Albert, meaning Brother Albert.

I am really getting into Twitter and tweeting. Another world to explore. I have had an account for a few years, but have never really delved into the Twitterverse, until now.

Today I discovered some artwork: a giant reproduction of a postage stamp with a Bytów postmark. Bytów is the town where my great grandparents were married, on October 27, 1880 . Today it is Poland, then it was Germany.


‘Outgunned by a Frigate’

The figurehead on a ship is a major feature of the commercial. It reminds me of a similar one on a ship my ancestors took to America in 1887.
The figurehead on a ship is a major feature of a Range Rover commercial. It reminds me of a similar one on a ship my ancestors took to America in 1887.

I love the story line in a Land Rover commercial.

Produced by Y&R, the commercial is titled “The Collector” and “takes us on an unexpected journey across land and sea, bringing together events that began two centuries ago.”

It is one the better commercials I have seen in awhile.

At first I thought the spot debuted during the Super Bowl. I may have seen it for the first time while watching the game. It actually premiered in November of 2012.

The moment I saw the lady I thought of the ship my great grandparents boarded  to get to America, the Weser of the North German Lloyd line. A figurehead like the one in the commercial adorns the Weser.


Understanding the Junkers

While in the Suzzallo library browsing the stacks, I discovered a book which is turning out to be a great find.

The Great Elector by Derek McKay has details on Pomeranian society that are extemely useful in helping me understand my ancestors and their experiences. The book title refers to Frederick William of Prussia and Brandenburg.

It was a brutal life. The leading classes were callous.

In sections of Chapter 5 titled The Junkers and The Peasantry, McKay goes into expert detail on the situation.

First, he explains the Junkers and the very origins of the word.

The nobility of the lands east of the River Elbe sprang from a mixture of native Slavs landowners and German colonists and soldiers who had settled there in the late middle ages. As many of the newcomers were the younger sons of German nobles, they were called Junkers (Junk-herre) or young lords. By the sixteenth century these Junkers dominated Brandenburg, Pomerania and East Prussia, at the same time as the influence of their princely overlords had declined.

The Reformation was a pivotal period. Family members were practicing Lutherans into the 21st century. Catholic churches were converted to Lutheran ones. Ironically, this would happen in reverse at the end of World War II: Lutheran churches and cemeteries became Catholic.

The Lutheran Reformation and the resulting confiscation of church property benefited the Junker nobility rather than the chronically indebted princes. Although most ecclesiastical land went to the crown – the electors owned a third of Brandenburg and the dukes two-fifths of East Prussia – the best came into Junker hands, either directly or on favourable long leases.

Who are the the electors? I’ve always wondered about the use of this descriptor. According to Wikipedia, Frederick William was known as “The Great Elector” (Der Große Kurfürst) because of his military and political abilities.

Princes and royalty were not absolute monarchs, however.

But noble power not only profited from the decline of the princes and collapse of the Catholic church, it also benefited from a parallel downturn in urban fortunes. As the towns’ political influence slipped (Königsberg was the exception till the second half of the seventeenth century), the burghers could no longer enforce their monopoly over industry and trade. Instead the Junkers bypassed the towns, exporting their own agricultural goods and importing directly what they needed. This commercial role of the Junkers coincided with burgeoning profits from an expansion of manorial farming.

It is sad to read how backwards German society was. No wonder so many sought new lives elsewhere, some going east to Russia and others heading west to the Americas.

From the fifteenth century a contracting population in north-east Germany and Prussia had made it difficult for the lords to live off peasant rents, unlike in the more populated regions of the German south and west. They turned instead to managing directly parts of their estates, the manorial lands (the demesne), and forcing their peasant tenants into bondage, tying them to the soil and enforcing labour services of two or more days a week. These labour services and other dues were regarded as assets of an estate, having a monetary value when it was sold.

I am wondering how this was different from feudalism during the Middle Ages. It sure doesn’t appear that society had progressed much.

This system, known as Gutswirtscschaft (literally, manorial economy), where the manors functioned as self-contained economic units, was accompanied by the princes’ abandoning judicial and taxation control of the peasantry to the Junker lords.

Direct Junker authority (Gutsherrschaft) over the rural population allowed them to regulate who occupied peasant lands and to force the peasants to ask permission to marry or to move. Moreover, to ensure a cheap, steady supply of manorial servants, young peasants not immediately needed on the family farms had to work for their lords for a couple of years at low wages (Gesindezwangsdienst). This manorial economy, based on what Marxist historians called ‘the second serfdom’, was found in varying degrees throughout Europe east of the River Elbe and the Bohemian mountains, but also in most of Brandenburg west of the Elbe.

By enserfing their peasant tenants and directly farming their own manorial lands, the Junkers during the sixteenth century took full advantage of western Europe’s growing appetite for agricultural goods, particularly grain, but also timber, wool, hemp, flax and hides.


A German at Castle Garden in 1887

One of my automated alerts sent this to my inbox just now. Although whatever it is was uploaded today, the document has been deleted, which is frustrating because I’d like to read and see it in its entirety. My great grandparents were German, arriving on a ship and processed through the Castle Garden immigration depot in 1887.

German Man Reports on Castle Garden 1887
German Man Reports on Castle Garden 1887. Name. Date. Weeding Out the Ailing and the Friendless and the Very Poor – An Unhappy Russian Family – A Marriage…/German-Man-Reports-on-Castle-Garden-1…


Stagecoaches in Pomerania in 1811

Heinz Radde, a man of German descent born in Pomerania who now lives in Switzerland, has just sent information on a map he recently discovered. The map is of the stagecoach (postkutschen) network in Pomerania in 1811, during the Napoleonic era.

Heinz is likely a distant cousin of mine. We are both subscribers to a mailing list about Pomerania and genealogy. He described the map as showing the “public transport by stagecoaches in Pomerania.”

It’s interesting that certain bigger towns, especially in Eastern Hinterpommern — for example, Rummelsburg —
had no connection at all.

I imagine this might be the way my great grandparents took to get to their ship in Bremen to immigrate to America in 1887. I don’t know if they would have had the money for a train nor if a passenger or other train reached some place nearby Kreis Bütow.

Anyone interested in this time period, with Napoleon on the scene, should read about Baron vom Stein.


Heinz lists his source as “Post- und Reisehandbuch für Deutschland…”, Verlag Steinersche Buchhandlung, Nürnberg 1811.

Bernice Schmeling, Member of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Rauville

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve just read about a woman who likely knew my maternal great grandparents. Bernice B. Schmeling lived to be 104. She and my great grandparents attended the same church, St. John’s Lutheran Church in Rauville, South Dakota.

Reading her obituary has been fascinating. Bernice was the daughter of Albert and Alvina (Britzman) Pieper. She was born on December 1, 1901 on a farm in Rauville Township, South Dakota.

On August 14, 1923 she married Edwin Schmeling and they settled in Rauville Township, where they farmed. Shortly after Mr. Schmeling passed away in 1958, Bernice moved to Watertown. She was a member of St. John’s Lutheran Church of Rauville and in her earlier years Bernice sang in the church choir.

She was buried in the cemetery at St. John’s, where my great grandparents were also buried, in 1932 and 1942.

I didn’t know Bernice, but I wish I had. It would have been nice to have talked with her about the church and my great grandparents.


Playing Around with Wolfram|Alpha

When I first heard of Wolfram|Alpha, in a news story, the search engine tool sounded pretty cool. And it is.

For some reason I don’t recall, I found myself at the site and decided to experiment with various keywords to see what results were returned. There may have been a link to something in one of my Google Alerts.1

My first search was Bytów, the town where my maternal great grandparents were married. It was a German town prior to World War II, but has been Polish since. Among the information given is a map of where it is located within Poland, the current weather, population figures, and nearby cities and airports. A chart shows a steady decline in population since 1999. The Baltic Sea is 36 miles to the northwest.

Searching for Pomorskie, the province where Bytów is located,  didn’t yield much. I decided to see what was available for Berlin, London, Dublin and Paris. Some of the city nicknames are cool. For example, London’s is The Big Smoke.

Then I moved onto surnames: Hill, Hay, Lentz, Wolf and Wolfe. Some, such as Fromke, Boal2, and Van Note, don’t have anything within the Wolfram universe. For some word searches, Scrabble scores (varying based on American or British spellings) and anagrams are given.

I then started playing around with Christian and complete names, starting with my own, Aaron Hill. Other neat features include having a list of people associated with a particular town or city and famous people with a given name. I searched for famous folks named Aaron.

I wanted to see what popped up when I typed James Hill, the name of the patriarch of the Hill family.

Moving onto to geographic place names, I went from Colo, Iowa to just plain Iowa to Watertown, South Dakota and Lake Preston, South Dakota, ending on South Dakota.

I then stumbled upon the examples pages. The ones that interest me the most and will likely be the most useful to me are: Human Genome, Words and Linguistics, Places and Geography, and People and History.


1. I’ve since remembered that a link to a page on Pommern, a place in Germany, was in my inbox, and, ever curious, I clicked on it. I was hoping it would have something to with Pommern the province, but Wolfram doesn’t have much on the region, even using the word Pomerania, merely giving the apparent dates of its existence, from 1013 AD to 1806, the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire. However, I don’t think it is accurate. The end of Pomerania really should be placed in 1945, after the collapse of Nazi Germany.

2. There is a fish with the name boal.

Herman & Pauline

Here’s what I found on Saturday while researching at the public library using I decided to delve into the lives of Herman Lentz and Pauline Fromke.

Information from the 1930 census has that Herman immigrated in 1883, but I am having a hard time finding him in any of the databases. There should be a record of some kind, a passenger manifest or something.

Pauline immigrated in 1886 or 1887. I am assuming it was actually 1887, although the 1900 census has it as 1886. In 1900, they were farming in Mazeppa, Grant County, South Dakota. This is where my great grandparents, Albert Fromke and Augusta Lentz, were living as well.

Pauline and Herman were both 25 years old when they married in 1889. They owned their house in 1930. It was valued at $1500.

He was born in January of 1864. She was born in September of 1865. Her middle initial is sometimes recorded as K. or H. From what I recall it is actually H. What her complete middle name is I am not sure, perhaps Henrietta or something.

They had a child named Oscar. Oscar was a popular name in the family. My grandfather and his first cousin shared the name. So there were at least three in the family named Oscar. This leads me to believe there is likely an ancestor named Oscar, perhaps Carl Fromke’s father or grandfather.

A Pauline Frommke, mistakenly transcribed as Pauline Frominke, arrived in Baltimore on April 19, 1887 from Bremen on the ship Donau, precisely ten days after Albert and Augusta Fromke with two children, Emil and Ottilie, arrived in America, on April 9. I think they were in quarantine for three days, presumably leaving New York City on April 12. The passenger manifest lists her age as 21, which matches the birth year, 1865, of Pauline Lentz.

So in compiling siblings, I have Pauline, and her brothers August and Albert, children of Carl Fromke and Caroline Radde. Then, there’s the Lentz family. I’ve only got two names: Herman and Augusta, children of Ludwig Lentz and Marie Scharnofske.

Herman and Pauline are buried in the Immanuel Lutheran cemetery in North Dakota, not far from the state line with South Dakota.


1. There is a different Herman Lentz, who was born May 24, 1864 in Stettin, Germany. A court in Fargo granted him citizenship on August 30, 1944, at the age of 80. I know it’s not Herman Lentz, son of Ludwig, because he died in 1936.