Category Archives: North Dakota

Herman, Pauline & Family

Herman Lentz and Pauline Fromke pose for a photo with their children.
Herman Lentz and Pauline Fromke pose for a photo with their children.

It really is amazing what you can find online. My latest discovery is pics of family from my Mother’s side of the family, specifically my great-great aunt and uncle, Herman Lentz and Pauline Fromke. Someone added them to a family tree on Ancestry.

Herman Lentz as a younger man.
Herman Lentz as a younger man, possibly his engagement photo.

My Mom has talked in the past about being double cousins with a branch of the family in North Dakota. Pauline is the sister of my great grandfather, Albert Fromke, and Herman is the brother of my great grandmother, Augusta Lentz. The puzzle that is the family tree is coming together bit by bit. Albert and Pauline’s parents are Carl Fromke and Caroline Radde. Augusta and Herman’s parents are Ludwig Lentz and Marie Scharnofske.

What is particularly interesting to me is information on the family tree.

Herman was born in “Steitch, Germany.” I don’t know anything about this place. I don’t recall having seen it before. I’ll have to investigate the spelling and see if I can find a copy of the original source.

In 1880, at the age of 16, he is recorded as living in Wausau, Wisconsin, though I am not sure about the accuracy of this because he supposedly emigrated in 1883 or 1893. I’m guessing 1883 is the right year.

They were married in 1889, in Baltimore, Maryland, according to the source on Ancestry. Why Baltimore? There were some folks named Fromke living there going back to the 1840s.

These latest discoveries should provide excellent opportunities for further documenting the family tree.


Who Is Julius Fromke?

I’ve been going through the family tree yet again, searching for clues on how people I think may be related actually are.

One such source is obituaries, which with any luck will mention parents and places. I have been hunting for volunteers who do obituary look-ups.

North Dakota, where some of my Mom’s cousins lived, has a Public Death Index database worth searching, so I did, and discovered Julius E. Fromke.¹ He died on November 18, 1924 in Williams County at the age of 60, though no birth date is recorded. Doing the math, this means he was likely born in 1864, possibly 1865.

Yet, I don’t know who he is, where he belongs on the family tree. Who are his parents? Where was he born? There are many unanswered questions.

What makes this even more curious is that one of my grandfather’s middle names is Julius. How was Julius related to him?


1. Though a good resource, the North Dakota Public Death Index search requirements, methods of trying to prevent fraud, are cumbersome.

The Jensen Family of Lake Preston, South Dakota

I vaguely recall my dad talking about the Jensen family, usually while on drives through the countryside in the Willamette Valley. I never paid much attention to the names and details. They lived near Lake Preston, South Dakota, where my great grandparents lived on a farm south of town. I believe some of the Jensen clan moved to Oregon, not far from where my great uncle had a farm, if I have it right.

In this economy I’ve also heard about the great opportunities in North Dakota, thanks to an oil boom. The unemployment rate is ridiculously low and even jobs at fast food joints pay well. The town of Williston is familiar to me because my former Congresswoman, Darlene Hooley — a liberal Democrat I planned on running against in 2000 — was born there. While I don’t think I’ve ever been there, I may just head out there next summer, on my way to a family reunion in South Dakota.

Today I learned that some of the Jensens have joined the fray. They are in North Dakota working away with a true entrepreneurial spirit. A writer with The Huffington Post provides some of the details.

In the Williston area of North Dakota, where the unemployment rate was recently reported at one percent and job openings outnumbered the jobless 10 to 1, the Bakken oil field has sprung a boom economy that provides opportunities to anyone willing to take the risk.

At the age of 18, Evan Jensen took the risk and started a small business, to earn money for college and take advantage of the anything-goes atmosphere of the northern plains.

Growing up in Lake Preston, S.D. — population 600 — Jensen worked on the family farm growing corn and soy beans and helping raise around 4,400 baby hogs. When his father and his older brother — who had been a local truck driver — decided to head north to the Bakken field with a gravel trailer to explore trucking opportunities, Evan wasn’t going to be left behind.

“I really wanted to tag along to see what it was like,” Jensen said. “After doing some research, I really wanted to be a part of it.”

So the three Jensen men made the 10-hour trip across the border to see what they could find.

A dramatic scarcity of housing and infrastructure greeted them in Williston, where most of the the mass influx of workers stay in RVs, trucks and “man-camps.” The facilities development can’t keep up with job growth in an area that saw a 261 percent change in job creation from 2009 to 2010.

After two days of sleeping in a pickup truck, Jensen began brainstorming ways he could improve the situation. “Because I saw that people were living in their campers and stuff, I thought about how we could turn a cheap trailer into a little apartment complex or bunkhouse,” Jensen explained.

Since many companies were already creating temporary housing solutions, Jensen wanted to provide something that the other facilities didn’t have.

“We were getting smelly,” Jensen said. “It was difficult to find a shower. So my Dad and I, we discussed building a shower house. I said, ‘Is that something we could build?’ My dad was like, ‘Sure.'”

The two continued the conversation on the 10-hour ride back to Lake Preston. “There was nothing else to talk about so I kept asking my dad questions,” Jensen recalled. “The potential set-up, how things would be laid out … By the time we got home, I said, ‘Do you think we can do it?’ He said, ‘You can — I don’t have the money.'”

In addition to a “friends and family” loan, Jensen used money he had saved from muskrat trapping to make the initial down payment on the shower equipment. Over the course of several summers, Jensen had shipped the muskrat hides to a fur auction in Canada, making about 15,000 dollars in the process.

Jensen spent his study hall breaks and lunch periods drawing up the plan and pretty soon he had a software-rendered version to show his dad. “My dad gave me a lot of feedback and we juggled around with it until we had a set plan,” Jensen explained. “Then we just went full bore and hit the ground running.”

Three weeks later the shower house was finished, built inside a trucking trailer, complete with an accompanying water tank. A month after that, Jensen had a North Dakota-registered limited liability company, and soon after he was in North Dakota charging five to ten dollars a shower.

In the beginning of September, Jensen started classes at McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, Minn., so he hired someone to watch the shower house in his stead. Jensen is hoping to become a composer one day and is thrilled with the college life so far. “I absolutely love it,” Jensen said. “I’m here to learn and discover what I’m good at. Now I really enjoy indie folk, but maybe I’ll be a symphony composer one day.”

Jensen has listed the shower unit for sale on Craigslist but is open to the idea of running it next summer as well. “It doesn’t break my heart if I sell it or if I keep working with it,” Jensen said. “Those are the two options. I’ll try them both.”

Though many people have commented on his ingenious idea, Jensen downplays the creative aspect. “I don’t think it was that brilliant — it took more execution than it took brains. People have tons of good ideas and no one will ever hear about them because people are afraid to open their mouths or spend a few bucks.”

When asked what he has learned from the experience, Jensen says, “If I see an opportunity, there’s not much to lose the way I look at it. In America, we have it well — we’re never starving. My worst day is someone’s best day on the other side of the world.”


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.

Immanuel Lutheran Church and Cemetery

Through the years I’ve asked my mother about the religion of her father’s family. They were German Lutherans. It gets a bit complicated because of theological and doctrinal questions which have led to church splits. I still haven’t sorted it out in my mind.

But yesterday, discovering that my great-great aunt and uncle were members of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Richland County, North Dakota has helped. The church was founded in 1884. It’s just south of Lidgerwood, near Elm Lake. There’s not much else around. It’s still a functioning church, with a congregation, and part of what’s called the Missouri Synod.1

They are buried in the cemetery across the road, Highway 18, from the church. The property may include a rather large parsonage. From what I’ve been able to see via satellite photos, Google Street View, and read online, it certainly appears to be the case.


1. The official name of the denomination is The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. The other major group is the Wisconsin Synod.