This is the life of E.G. Barr, known by his many friends
affectionately as Gus Barr and by his children, grandchildren and
great-grandchildren as Grandpa Barr.
This recording is being made this day Jan 29th, 1961 at the home of his daughter, Evelyn in Racine Wisconsin. Now we will talk to Mr Bahr….We understand Grandpa, that before you came over to this county, your name was pronounced Bear.
Ernest Gustuv Bear
I at this time want to ask you these questions…I want your mothers maiden name, your father’s name, something about, what knowledge your have about their parents, what year you were born and what town you was born in Germany.
I had a different line, but...I was going to say that….. my father married my mother, see, that is the way I should start out, isn’t it, huh?
I don’t know where I’m at…am I here or there?
You were in Germany….
In Germany now, oh, yes, that’s right, then, ok, let’s leave it that way….I was born Germany.
What year were you
I was born in 1874
In some little village or town…..
In the village by the name of well, Strasberg,
How big a village was that?
It was a pretty fair sized village, it’s a town, not a village, really…..
Do you remember how large?
It was something like probably, oh a population of probably 1200 people I think anyway, maybe more, then my father he…. , how do I start out now?
What was your mother’s maiden name?
Oh, yes, then my father, he lived in Strasberg, see..
Right in town.
Yeah, bothers my throat. (clears throat)……..
What was your father’s occupation?
He run the mill in Strasberg.
That’s the flour mill…..
Yes, when he….the mill burnt down and then he moved well, he was married in Strasberg.
He was married.
Ya, he was married.
Did the mill burn down before you were born?
You don’t recall that….
No, I don’t recall that.
Can you tell me how many brothers or sisters your father had?
think he had 7 brothers.
7 brothers, no sisters.
Not that I know of.
And your mother’s maiden name was what….
Mother’s maiden name was Heimann.
Your mothers’ maiden name was Heimann and she was born around Strasberg. When we talk about Strasberg, we are talking about Strasberg, Germany? Can you tell me where it is located?
Well, I don’t know just where, it is located in West Prussia, bedkreinen? in German.
Then you also said you was born in 1874, was you the oldest?
No , my sister was, Elva, Elveena, Alvina .
How many children was born to your parents while they still lived in Germany?
On my side, that would have been 3 and 4, 7 children.
That was born in Germany? Your brothers and sisters?
You said your father was a miller, but the mill burned down before you were born. What did he do after that?
After that, he bought some land along side my grandfather, my mothers, see, he bought 10 acres of that, and he planted it into fruit trees and kept enough out to raise a little grain for flour. See, that’s the way he got…. Then what…
Is that the only means he
had making of his livelihood?
At that time, yes I think, at that time…He dealt in cattle and stuff like that, he used to, and down to the market, Hubbard, that’s another town, (that wouldn’t have to be brought in). He didn’t do much of anything and we just lived there.
Can you recall these many years ago something about your early childhood, while you was still in Strassburg, about the church or about the school?
Oh yes…. we use to go to church, and my sister got confirmed there in Strasberg, that was the Lutheran Church, put that down, Lutheran church.
Did you go to public school
in Strasberg or weren’t you old enough?
We had a school a little closer, the name of that was Shincogo?, that’s where I went to school about 2 years and my oldest sister.….
Now, in Strasberg, you said your father purchased a few acres…and fruit trees, did you raise any grain?
he raised rye, corn, wheat, or what ever it was, I don’t know, he had buildings
then, he could put grain in. He had to thrash it with a flail, that’s the way
they thrashed all grain at that time, with the flail.
How many acres would you say was the average size farm in those days?
My grandfather had quite a chunk, about like a quarter here, cause he was an old timer there, see, and that way, then …I had…. my mother had 3 brothers…. 7 brothers I said. Do we have that down already?
I don’t recall, it is ok to repeat. How many brothers?
6 or 7 brothers, some got killed during the war, in…I don’t know… I guess at the time of Napoleon, you know, see…
Were there hard times that you recall in those days in Germany? Were your parents hard up or were you satisfied?
No, we never was hard up, we always had plenty to eat, what do I want to say…
Now, you said your mother had 6-7 brothers, do you recall any of those brothers while your were in Germany?
Yes, I remember the one, two…..one was oldest, August Hymen and Herman Heimann, my mother’s name also Heimann, and then…..
How about on your father’s side, did you know any of his brothers or sisters?
He had, I could remember 3 of them that come down there once in awhile to our place to visit my father.
What occupation did they follow?
were farmers around there some wheres, I don’t remember where…..
Heimann’s were farmers too.
Yes, Heimann’s were farmers too.
Now as you look back, these 80 some years ago, are there any incidence that you recall in Strasberg, Germany, before you left?.
Well, I don’t know what you call infalty (incidence)
I mean was there something outstanding that happened that you remember those many years back?
Well,,,,,,,,I, the only thing.. they were always talking about the wars you know, that had been, in Germany, they said there was hard times, must have been long before we children were born. And they said that France, that was Napoleon’s time, she, my mother said that everybody had to hide their children so they wouldn’t kill them, see, that was in Napoleon’s war, see and then they’d kill them, she said. And.,,,course, I don’t know.
Where would they hide them?
In cupboards, like that, where ever they thought it would be the best.
Now, just briefly going back, you said there were 6-7 children born to your parents.
Did all those children live or were some buried in Strasberg
Three were buried in Strasberg, Germany. There was Martha, Adolph and Emil.
Well, if we have covered whatever you have recalled in Strasberg… didn’t about this time your father have the desire to come to America?
No, he had no desire himself, the only way he got over here was my first uncle, he was uncle by marriage, he married my mothers sister, his name was…..
That isn’t important….
She got married and her and her husband came to United States, their name was Zimmer, not Summer, Zimmer. Then there was talk about coming to America, so then Uncle Zimmer, he wanted my dad to go with him you know see, …. at that time, but then when he went with him as far as Hamburg, and he looked at the water and so on.. and he (that’s the way mother said it) said he didn’t think he should leave without the family, then he turned back. Then he’d come along, my youngest aunt got married, my mother’s sister got married, his name was Chris Byer, so then he kept urging my dad to go along with them again, and finally he made up his mind to go, see. Well, then he left us children all behind, see.
Do you recall what year that
Along between 1882-1883.
He came over to this country?
Him and my Uncle Byer, came over to New York and they stayed there in New York.
How long did it take for them to cross the ocean?
Oh I don’t, know how long, that would take about 2 weeks maybe, it was slow going you know, and…
They landed in New York?
From New York, they stayed there a while and worked in the lumberyard there for awhile. Then Uncle Byer got anxious to go work on towards the west to take on some of the land you know, that was out in the west, and so they started out and they got to Scranton, Penn, got to Scranton, Penn and there they worked in the coal mine, for about… they came up early in the spring you know, must have been oh about, well, the most of the summer I guess they were there. Then Uncle Byer, he wanted to go west and they worked in the coal mine, yes. So one….then…. in the coal mine…..
What did you hear from your father, did he wish you to come over to this county?
No ……..the way that was, it was, he figured on coming back and getting us, you know see, because he hadn’t made no arrangements with us, but he was going to stay to see if he liked it, something like that, I guess. Then in November, he was about ready to come over and that was on my birthday that time, so he still was working in the mines, and he got killed in the mines on my birthday, see. They couldn’t find my uncle,…. he left, let’s see how was that……so he went on and I don’t know, they lost the address.
So then the only way he got word after he got killed was that ….he had been boarding, but he rented a room by himself for awhile and then after he got killed of course, nobody knew the address, he had a letter from Aunt Zimmer, see, from the old county, it took quite a little while before they found out and I got the letter here…..
But your mother and the children were still in Germany.
We were still in Germany all the time, you see.
What decided your mother and children to come to the new county.
My throat bothers me….
Mother, Uncle Byer, he came west and he stopped in Minnesota… I don’t know that town, Madalyn? Minnesota….and he wrote from there for his wife to come, he worked for a bachelor, my Uncle Byer did, he wrote for his wife to come, that was my mother’s sister, see. My mother… my grandmother, she thought it would be a good thing for them as my aunt was coming over to here Byer and she thought it would be a good thing if she come along,
Yes, my mother, and then she wanted to keep Elva the oldest sister, she was ready to get confirmed that year, and so she wanted her to stay and my youngest sister that was still living then, to stay there with Grandma, see. Then they bought this place that we had, see, this little place. August, that is Uncle Hymen, he took possession of the farm, the home place and they bought this little farm……..Then…… they moved in there and my 2 sisters, that is the young one and oldest and Grandma Bahr she lived with….
Well, then your mother and your sisters and you came to this country?
Well, then we came here….well, then the time come when they wanted to go and of course, when, in about …. I can remember going off but that is about all.
Now, can you tell me the names of your sister that were born in Strasbourg?
Hmm…We was all born in Strasbourg.
Yes, but what are their names
Mrs. Elvina Kiley (Elva/Elvina) would that be right?
What was her maiden name?
Elva, we always called her Elvina in Germany you know.
But Bertha and I and Momma, my mother, we come over with my Aunt Byer, see.
You used to tell interesting things about what happened on that ship you came over on, when the waves were so high….
I remember that
Tell us about that…Where did you leave from? You left Strasbourg. Did you take your ship from Hamburg?
Yes, we took our ship from Hamburg.
tell you how it was…We got to Hamburg and our ship that we was to take was
gone, we didn’t get there in time. And from there on, then we had to stay in
Hamburg a few days and wait for the ship to come in that was going out. Then we
was in the waiting room I can remember, there, and we had to wait till that ship
came in. Then while we were sitting and waiting, there was people crying, you
know, and they didn’t have quite money enough, and I was listening, they must
have been German because I can remember. And I said to myself, I wished I had
the money, I’d give them money to come over, I was always ready to help. I felt so sorry for them, you know. I was
sitting there with mother, and Elva, and Jeske’s wife, Hattie, she was only a
And so then, finally we had the ship come in and it was an immigrant ship, it was a freight ship, you know, that is taking horses and cows, bringing stuff over here, so then we could use it. …so then……
Now, you took the ship and you came over to the US.
Well, we took the ship, I was going to tell about the voyage that we made.
Tell us about the voyage
we took the ship and I was gonna tell you our voyage…
You want to tell us about your voyage….
we got on that ship it was awful rough right away on the start, it was windy
and rough but they went anyway. And as we went on further, the worse it got.
The ship got to playing from one side to the other and the waves kept a going
over the ship, see.
So my mother and my sister Bertha, we/they slept, and we had them, what do you call them, berths, one down below and one above. We slept down below and aunt had another one, her and the baby, her baby slept just right on the other side, with little Lyle in between us. Then all at once it got so bad it threw me out of bed and I fell down on the floor. Then the captain and I don’t know who they all were, they was a workin’ fast to keep the water out, see. We had a close call there, that time, but we got by there, that was across the English Channel, you know, see. That’s rough you know, it’s rough and if it gets windy then it’s worse. That was quite a storm.
Was there any other incidence that happened on your voyage?
Not much, once we got to going. Well, I and sister, we went up on deck and looked around and down toward the fence.
I really didn’t get seasick at any time until I was up there one day and then I
got seasick and then I was sick all over. I don’t know, if it was the water
that I drank or what that made me sick.
Where did you land when you came to the US?
could find out, really, it must have been Liverpool, I think, ain’t it, no?
Liverpool is in England.
Is it? Liverpool? Ain’t that a watcha callit…..
You didn’t land in New York?
We wanted to go to New York….but our ship wasn’t dated for that, it was dated that way, but they didn’t take us to New York.
You don’t recall what state you was in first when you reached this county?
No, we never stopped till we got to Minnesota.
Well, you must have landed in a boat someplace before….
We landed in, well no; it seems when we landed, that was a harbor.
I couldn’t exactly say……but it could have been, I don’t know many of them harbors anymore…
You don’t know what state it was in?
Well, we was in America then, you know.
You didn’t stop in Pennsylvania or any place.
No, we didn’t stop in Pennsylvania.
Did you stop to see Aunt
No, then we would have had to go by New York, she was in New York, see, but we couldn’t stop there. I can remember when we got there, the harbor, they had an investigation for all of them, to see what they had in their trunks and so on, we didn’t have much, only a couple of feather beds and we had.…….
Well know, after you landed and got off the boat, you went to Minnesota. How did you go to Minnesota, on the train?
On the train, from there on we got into a boxcar, and they had seats/planks along each side and all the immigrants, they probably didn’t have enough passenger cars to take us and we didn’t have that kind of ticket. We got in there and sat on them seats until we got to…. I don’t remember stopping anywhere, it seems as though we kept a going right along until we got to Minnesota.
What time of the year was this? Fall, summer?
Let’s see, we went over there…..in the fall.
In the fall, you arrived then in Minnesota; did you stay in Minnesota for any length of time?
Oh, we stayed about….Uncle, he….there was a bachelor, he was working for a bachelor, he kept us there for about a week, I guess. Uncle was awful itchy to get some land and he wanted to start out. From there on…..I thought that was Baraboo where my uncle worked before…is that, Minnesota?
Now you left Baraboo to go
to Sioux Falls. How did you go from
Baraboo to Sioux Falls.
In a covered wagon.
Your uncle bought the covered wagon in Baraboo?
No, he bought that in Mitchell.
How did you get to Sioux Falls?
We got there by train.
You landed in Sioux Falls by train?
We got landed in Sioux Falls by train and from there on we took the train to Mitchell, see.
How big was Sioux Falls in those days?
I couldn’t say very well, I don’t think it could have been very big because…..
Do you remember what year that was?
That was between 1884 and 1883.
How long did you stay in Sioux Falls?
Well, I don’t remember how long we stayed in Sioux Falls, on the train slow, we had three trains, you see.
You arrived in Mitchell, what developed then?
In Mitchell, uncle, he rented a house and we all moved in there and then he went with the “landseek crowd” to Roscoe or Ipswich, whatever you might call it. He went with the landseeker and there was a land man taking him up there. When he come back he got this wagon and made a cover on it, just like they have in the pictures, and we started out across the prairies.
Now you say we, did you mean
your mother and sister?
No, my mother and sister stayed in Mitchell. She could of come and took up land, but she didn’t want to.
Did she stay with some friends?
Well, there were some Germans there. They had quite a lot of Germans there and they got acquainted with those Germans and they had quite a lot to do, they got a house and stuff like that. .
I assume that you or your sister, or mother or uncle…. Did any of you speak English at that time?
No, we didn’t speak nothin English
So your uncle bought a wagon and team of horses and what made you decide you was going to Roscoe?
Me? They took me-I was suppose to go. They said, Gustuv, you’re going along with us. And, I didn’t say nothing. Seems, I was willing to go. I didn’t know what I was getting into ‘til I got to going across the prairies you know, and it was just the wilderness, then, you know. Mitchell was small, there was no other town until we got to Aberdeen, see.
How long about did it take you to go from Mitchell to Roscoe?
Oh, it took us some….. I don’t know, how far it is, but we couldn’t make over 20 miles/day. How far is that from Mitchell to Aberdeen?
You spent approximately two weeks going from Mitchell to Roscoe.
I don’t know how much it would took, but it had to be quite a while because it was quite a ways. But we stopped in Aberdeen to water the horses. It was an Artesian well, if I remember.
In those days was there any sod shanties along the way?
There was some sod shanties and some with boards, but there didn’t seem to be anyone living there, in those that we passed, they were empty, you know.
Where did you sleep?
Well, I slept in the same place as at home, in the back of the wagon.
Were you homesick very much?
Did it make you sad because you had to leave your mother?
Yes, I was lonesome a long time. When we got to Aberdeen, Uncle, he bought a small raking plow and tied in on the side of the wagon, you know how it is, tied it up on the little footstep, there. Then,…. he bought a cow then too.
In Aberdeen, and what he needed to go out there with, because then…. we started out again. Then we came. I don’t remember when we landed there though, I can’t remember, that seems to be blank to me, see. But we got there anyway….
When you say you got there, you got through to the point where your uncle owned the land? Was there any buildings on it?
Was there any neighbors or community?
Not at that time.
All you had was prairie. Yah.
What did you uncle and you do at that time to make a place to live?
Well, I don’t know where he got the lumber, but he rounded up a little lumber to build that shack and we had the breaking plow and the team and he broke up a little to make sod and we sodded up the house, it had two windows in it, and we sodded up the house.
Was this a one room sodded shanty?
it was a one room
Was there a floor in it?
Yes, maybe not, I don’t know. Could have been a ground floor. Then we/he picked out a place there on his gramson?, he picked out a place there he thought he could get water there, it was a little pothole. I guess, Aunt hauled up the dirt, got enough water to get a long with, but it got so it didn’t freeze there. Then there this bachelor, had more than that but he had a shanty there, and we used to go there to get a little water to help out.
Then aunt, she sent me to get some water and I had a pail, I don’t know what kind of pail it was, but I couldn’t get nothing into the pail because the water was low, you know, tip it down, couldn’t get enough in there. So, there was some steps in the corner of that well, it was a square well, they made it square. And so then I didn’t know how to get out, I tried to climb out, I tried to get out but I couldn’t make it. Aunt could see me if she looked out, if she looked out she could see me, it wasn’t so very far, it was just off the claim and on the other fellow’s claim. So finally she did, look out I guess, she come and she got me, there was a rope on the pail of course and I got a hold of the rope and with her help she pulled me up out of the well. That was one way of getting out! Should have left me in!
Your Uncle homesteaded this land, is that not true?
How much land was it?
Did you build a barn?
we built a sod barn.
You had a team of horses and one cow.
What time of year did you arrive there? Was it spring or in the summer?
It was summer yet, it was warm yet, see.
Were you able to put in any crop that year?
What did you live on that winter, or did your uncle have money?
They had a little money, I don’t know how much, but……
In those days too, what did you use for fuel during the winter?.
They burned hay and buffalo chips, we called them, they were real buffalo chips though then, we could see the trails then, and people that had went through on the wagon train. We/ I don’t know what we did, we didn’t have much to eat, we had milk soup, as long as the cow lasted. She used to take and, we had bread, she baked some bread, I think she did, seems like we must have had some bread. Then from that time on she made this here soup, the same as you would have made milk soup, you’d take flour like you do in the old country, but we used water instead of milk, she had a little fat meat, she fry that meat just to get some …we didn’t even have no potatoes, I don’t know how we lived!.
I imagine you would have to
buy your meat, wouldn’t you, there was nothing to butcher?
There was nothing to butcher, but we must have brought along fat, because she always fried a little fat to strengthen the soup, see.
The first year you didn’t put in any crops did you?
What did you do the 2nd year, did you break land?
We was busy all the time. I helped, and aunt helped and when building the sod house, we all helped, sodden up the house too. When we weren’t busy otherwise, we’d take a team and go out and pick up buffalo chips, see, and pile them up for the winter. Then I don’t know …who made some, I don’t know about hay, was that the 2nd year? I guess we lived on cow chips until the next year. Anyway, I would pick up buffalo bones, they were buying them there in Ipswich. You could get 10 dollars a pound for a load of buffalo bones. We’d get the horn, we used to save the horns off them, a lot of them would polish the horns afterwards.
Did you put in any crops during the second year?
that I can remember.
How many years did you spend with your uncle in Ipswich
During that time did you break up any land?
Yes, I helped dig out the stone; he broke a little, maybe 5 acres. He couldn’t do very much with the team he had anyway, only old horses.
You said you spent about two years with your uncle in Ipswich.
the folks sent for me and I went/they took me to Aberdeen and I went to
Watertown and my step-father met me there and …….it was early in the morning
when we got there, we drove all night/a part of the night.
want to recall where we lived in Germany, where we had our home.
Sounds like Subnachisno- the village
Sounds like Griptoptobo, another village
Sounds like Shinkobo
Sounds like Chengago
That is all, now I quit!
Sobierszysno (1877) and Szymkowo (1901), Kreis Strassburg
This is a copy of a
postcard that Gus gave to Zale Puhlman of the city of Strasburg and the
church they went to when they lived there. Zale visited this city, the
church still stands, but there was evidence of ruin and the last vestages
of Communism when he was there visiting.
This is a copy of a postcard that Gus gave to Zale Puhlman of the city of Strasburg and the church they went to when they lived there. Zale visited this city, the church still stands, but there was evidence of ruin and the last vestages of Communism when he was there visiting.