Tangled roots

So many names, familiar certainly, but who are they to me? The same name, separated by a generation or two? Variants of those names based on language, religion, familiarity, or remarriage?

These are the questions I dealt with recently when I received a packet of family records from an aunt. She sent death certificates, newspaper obituaries, and funeral cards for several relatives, most of whom were born before 1900. I recognized the names and even remember meeting some of them when I was very young, but that was a long, long time ago. So, with a stack of papers, some vague memories, a few e-mail conversations, and some ancenstry.com hints to guide me, I finally sorted out how my grandfather (Peter Arnold, born 1893), his sisters (Maria Arnold, born 1884, and Anna Arnold, born 1891), their stepbrother (Peter Schwartz, born 1892), and my great grandmother (Anna Oberding Schwartz, born 1859) made their way to the United States.

Our family’s immigration story is probably more common than unusual. Mr. Schwartz and his step-daughter Maria Arnold immigrated from Hungary to the United States in 1903. Their passage was paid by Ernst Biel, who wished to marry 19-year-old Maria. Ernst and Maria married shortly after Maria’s arrival and eventually settled near Gladstone, North Dakota, our family’s home place. Widowed in 1927, Maria subsequently married Mike Hensel, a widower, in 1929. They lived in the Gladstone area until 1960 when they retired to nearby Dickinson.

Mr. Schwartz ended up further west, in Helena, Montana, where he worked as a gardener at a county poor farm. After some months, he was able to send money back to Hungary so that Mrs. Schwartz and their children could join him. They arrived in New York on November 30, 1904. Family lore: Mrs. Schwartz and the three children were “discharged” from immigration detention on December 3, 1904, upon receipt of additional funding for meals between arrival and discharge. The discrepancy resulted, apparently, because Mrs. Schwartz bought passage for Anna Arnold even though Mr. Schwartz didn’t want to pay her fare. Once in Helena, 14-year-old Anna worked as a maid in a private home to pay back the additional cost.

Anna Arnold married in 1910 and settled with her husband, George Carl Focht, in the Gladstone area. My grandparents, Peter Arnold and Magdalena Wehner, married in 1915, and eventually owned a farm near Gladstone. They had 11 children, 10 of whom survived to adulthood. Magdalena died in 1930. Peter married Margaret Pfeiffer in 1934; they had one child.

For whatever reason, I did not realize that Maria and Anna were my grandfather’s siblings. Maria did not have children and, according to my uncles’ accounts, she definitely believed that “children should be seen and not heard.” As far as I can tell, a visit to Aunt Mary’s usually meant solitary confinement to a chair where the unfortunate child was left to his own devices to wait for his parents’ return. Anna and George, on the other hand, had 11 children, thus accounting for the many “Focht” references in our family history.

Despite my ignorance about our family history, I am comforted that my grandfather and his siblings lived close to one another. I don’t (yet) know the details of what happened to John and Anna (Oberding) Schwartz after their 1903-1904 immigrations, but Anna’s headstone in a Gladstone cemetery is a good indicator that she followed her children to that area. More to come…

Along the Way ~ The International Peace Garden

The International Peace Garden (IPG for simplicity’s sake) is located on the border of North Dakota, USA, and Manitoba, Canada.1 The IPG has, for me, been a “bucket list” destination for many years. So, once I knew our 2014 family reunion was planned for North Dakota, I was careful to include the IPG in our travel plans.

The IPG was dedicated in 1932 as “a living monument symbolizing that two nations can live in harmony along the longest unfortified border in the world.” Its location was initially marked by a simple cairn constructed of stones gathered from both Canada and North Dakota.

IPG-entrance cairn

The entrance cairn at the International Peace Garden

Weather did not cooperate with our 2014 tourist agenda—this area is usually hot and dry by late spring through the summer, but the days and weeks preceding our visit were cold and wet enough that planting at the IPG was behind schedule when we visited. So…the gardens weren’t as well-developed and lush as I hoped, and the cloudy, misty day we visited definitely limited our photo ops. That said, I’m still glad we went.

What struck me most about the IPG is that every major component—the Peace Tower, Peace Chapel, Floral Clock, the entrance cairn, etc.—is equally situated across the U.S./Canadian border. The garden is much larger than this central core—it encompasses music and athletic camps, a campground and hiking trail, and several picnic areas. Lake Udall, on the U.S. side of the border, was hand dug and constructed in 1934 by the U.S.’s depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The site’s first building, now known as the Historic Lodge, was constructed by the CCC in 1937. The IPG has since been enhanced by gifts from civic groups including the Masons, Eagles, and  veterans’ organizations. The garden’s 9/11 memorial site, opened in 2010, includes ten girders from the World Trade Center.

IPG-Peace Tower

The Peace Tower

IPG-Peace Chapel

The Peace Chapel

IPG-Sunken Garden

View from the Sunken Garden west toward the Peace Tower and Peace Chapel

1We stayed in nearby Bottineau, ND, where we also enjoyed Mystical Horizons and the Four Chaplains Memorial.
2This is just one example: the design of the Floral Clock is different each year.

Sources for this post include International Peace Garden, Wikipedia, and various tourist brochures.

“Along the Way” is a celebration of a few of the roadside attractions we visited when we were in North Dakota earlier this summer. Posted for Susannah Conway’s August Break 2014.


20140808 Accidental Selfie

I was surprised to find this unintentional selfie among the many photos taken during our recent North Dakota vacation. I am delighted that one of the prompts for Susannah Conway’s August Break is “selfie,” giving me an excuse to post this image.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 48 other followers