52 Ancestors #5: Ernest Biel
Ernst (Ernest) Biel1 was born in Hungary on May 2, 1875.2 He departed Bremen, Germany, on August 19, 1897, aboard the S.S. München, arriving at the Port of Baltimore on September 1, 1897. According to the ship’s manifest, he planned to travel to Hebron, North Dakota, to join his father. Prior to immigrating, Ernest farmed in or near Dolatz, Hungary. The ship’s manifest also indicated he paid his own fare and had $12 in his possession.3
A comprehensive but undocumented record4 identifies Adam and Elisabeth (Heinz) Biel as Ernest’s parents. 1910 and 1920 census reports (excerpts shown below)5, 6 and a county land ownership map7 support this conclusion, but I haven’t yet located any documents that establish a direct connection between Ernest and Adam and Elisabeth Biel.
In any case, it seems Ernest was very determined to make his way in his adopted country. He filed a declaration of intent for naturalization (a.k.a., “first papers”) in Stark County in April 1898,8 less than a year after his arrival in the United States, and was naturalized in Burleigh County on May 2, 1904.9 What a way to celebrate his 29th birthday! Maria was most likely naturalized at the same time due to what was called derivative citizenship, granted to the wife and minor children of a naturalized man.10
In February 1905, Ernest “proved” his homestead, and thus became the owner of 160 acres in Section 10, Township 137, Range 95, Stark County, North Dakota.11 Homestead filing fees were relatively modest—$18 total over a five- to seven-year period—but that cost was multiplied many times over in terms of the hardship and sacrifice it took to improve the property. To be awarded ownership of a homestead property, a person had to live on and farm the property for five years, build a home, and make other improvements. The last step in the process was to convince two people—family, friend, or neighbor—to testify that the homesteader had, in fact, satisfied the requirements for legal possession of the property.12
Ernest married Maria Arnold on June 7, 1903,13 just a few weeks after Maria’s immigration to the United States. Except for a brief period when Maria was working in Bozeman, Montana, Ernest and Maria lived on their property in Lefor, North Dakota, until Ernest’s death, at age 51, on January 12, 1927. Ernest is buried at St. Elizabeth’s cemetery in Lefor. His gravestone shows that Ernest and Maria intended to be buried together,14 but that didn’t happen.
It appears Maria sold their property shortly after Ernest’s death and then moved to Gladstone. Maria subsequently married Mike Hensel in 1929. The Hensels lived in Gladstone until 1960 when they retired to Dickinson. Mike Hensel died in 1970 at age 92; Maria Hensel died in 1978 at age 93. The Hensels are buried at St. Patrick’s cemetery in Dickinson.15, 16
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1 Ernst Biel is the brother-in-law of the Peter Ernest Arnold, the Arnold family patriarch.
2 Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA. Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2005, registration card for Ernest Biel, serial no. 167, North Dakota, Stark County, Roll: 1819496.
3 Approximately $350 in 2014 dollars.
4 Dreyer, David. Elisenhain-Josefsdorf-North Dakota Family Register 1872-1990. San Mateo, CA: David Dreyer; draft dated August 2014. http://www.banatbooks.com/FamilyRegister.htm. Accessed 31 January 2015.
5 1910 U.S. census, Stark County, North Dakota, population schedule, Township 137, Range 95, p. 11A, dwellings 133, 134, and 135, Adam, Ernest, and Nick Biel families respectively; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 31 January 2015); citing NARA microfilm publication Roll T624_1148.
6 1920 U.S. census, Stark County, North Dakota, population schedule, Township 137, Range 95, p. 1B, dwellings 14, 16, and 17, Henry, Ernest, and Nick Biel families respectively; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 31 January 2015); citing NARA microfilm publication Roll T625_1339.
7 1914 U.S., Indexed County Land Ownership Maps, 1860-1918 (source: Various publishers of County Land Ownership Atlases. Microfilmed by the Library of Congress, Washington, DC). Map of Township 137N, Range 95W, Stark County, North Dakota, portions of sections 3, 10, and 14; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 31 January 2015), citing Collection Number: G&M_97; Roll Number 97.
8 Personal record: declaration of intent, District Court, Stark County, North Dakota.
9 Personal record: naturalization record, District Court, Sixth Judicial District, Burleigh County, North Dakota.
10 Naturalization Records. http://www.archives.gov/research/naturalization/naturalization.html : accessed 31 January 2015.
11 Personal record: Homestead Certificate No. 6732, Register of the Land Office, Bismarck, North Dakota.
12 About the Homestead Act. http://www.nps.gov/home/historyculture/abouthomesteadactlaw.htm : accessed 31 January 2015.
13 Undated/unsourced obituary for Maria Hensel, courtesy of Clarice Arnold. Likely source: Dickinson Press, February 1978.
14 Find A Grave entry for Ernest Biel, courtesy of Jaycie Smith. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=108062327&ref=acom : accessed 31 January 2015.
15 Maria Hensel obituary, previously discussed.
16 Undated/unsourced obituary for Mike Hensel, courtesy of Clarice Arnold. Likely source: Dickinson Press, May 1970.