The Extended Batke Family with Link neighbors

The Extended Batke Family with Link neighbors
Pictured in the photo: (Back row, standing, left to right) Herman Fredrick, Anna Batke, Henry Batke, Sr., Selma Batke, Henry Robert Batke, William Batke and Arthur Engler. (Front row/sitting, left to right) Donald Fredrick, Robert Fredrick, Katherine Batke Fredrick, Ruth Batke, Edwin Batke, Katherine Reck Batke, Jerald Batke, Edna Kwiatkowski Batke, Mary Batke Engler and Elaine Engler. Taken c1940, possibly to celebrate Henry and Katherine’s 30th wedding anniversary, October 22, 1940. Photo courtesy: Don Fredrick.

About Henry Batke and Katherine Reck

Heinrich Batke, the son of Martin Batke (c1848-b1912) and Anna Lock (1848-1939) was born in Chortitza, Russia on September 7, 1877. Also in Russia, Catharina Reck was born on October 14, 1890. Her parents were John Reck and Renata Shirk. Henry and Katherine married in Russia on September 22, 1910. On July 13, 1912, Henry, his wife and seven month old daughter, Katherine, sailed from the Port of Bremen, Germany on the ship Pallanza. They traveled to Quebec City, Canada arriving on July 28, 1912. They immediately left on a special Canadian Pacific Railroad train to Saskatchewan, Canada. The Batkes homesteaded in Lydiard, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan between 1913 and 1918. On October 3, 1917 Henry Batke became a citizen of Canada. Due to England's sovereignty over Canada, he became a British citizen. Finding farming in Canada difficult, on December 7, 1921 the Batke family, now also including Mary, William and Selma, left for Yellow Pine, Alabama. After the birth of Anna and much hardship in Alabama, the family moved to St. Joseph, Michigan where children Henry, Ruth and Edwin were born. Henry, a furniture maker in Russia, became a machine operator at the 1900 Corporation, a fore-runner of Whirlpool, in St. Joseph. After Henry's death on April 7, 1949, Katherine Reck Batke married Gustav Schmeichel in 1959. Katherine Reck Batke Schmeichel died at the Claremont Nursing Home in Benton, Michigan on October 28, 1979.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Fredericks Celebrate Before Leaving on Missionary Assignment, 1963

In late 1963, Don and his wife Barbara Schroeder Fredrick celebrated with their families, both sets of parents and a sibling, prior to their 5-year missionary teaching assignment in Taiwan. 

Herman and Katherine (Batke) Fredrick home, St. Joseph, MI, 1963

Pictured (L to R): Lorenz Schroeder, Don's father-in-law; Jeanne Fredrick, Don's sister; Katherine Batke Fredrick, his mother; Ella Esboldt Schroeder, his mother-in-law; Barbara Schroeder Fredrick, wife, with daughter Heidi Fredrick, 3 months old; and Herman Fredrick, his father.

Don Frederick took the photo at the home of his parents on Wolcott Avenue in St. Joseph, Michigan.  What a wonderful remembrance.

Photo courtesy: Don Fredrick

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Whirlpool and Auto Specialties Manufacturing Co. 1984

The picture below appeared on the front page of The Herald-Palladium on Saturday, June 16, 1984.  The caption under the photo reads:

"SJ DIVISION IN TRANSITION: Whirlpool's St. Joseph Division, first home of the company's washing machine, is scheduled to have all washer production phased out in 1985 as division will concentrate solely on production of parts.  Shift to parts production has begun, and washer production is now limited to compacts.  St. Joseph Division produces parts for other Whirlpool divisions, and company is seeking other manufacturers as parts customers.  Division is running strong, as 100 workers have been recalled, bring hourly and salaried employment to about 1,400.  Plans also have been announced for installation of $400,000 electrically operated plant system.  Division plants are shown within bordered area of photo, except for Plant 7 in Benton Harbor.  Complex at top of photo is Auto Specialties Manufacturing Co.  U.S. 33 is at top right and Upton Drive is in foreground (H-P aerial photo by Chief Photographer Harry Smith)"

Double click to enlarge photo

Many Batkes including Henry Sr., (and relatives) and some Links, including Jacob, worked for either the Whirlpool Corporation (1900 Corporation) or for the Auto Specialties Manufacturing Co. -- both pictured above.

In September, 2010 the abandoned site was photographed by Elaine Beaudoin showing the demolition of the St. Joseph Whirlpool Plant.

Looking toward U.S. 33

Looking toward St. Joseph water tower
There were signs promoting a possible development on a large piece of the old Whirlpool site as a hotel, commercial, residential and/or marina development.

The parts plant in Benton Harbor mentioned in the 1984 newspaper photo is still in production but we heard that it will be closed next year in 2011.


On February 18, 2011, via email to Elaine Beaudoin, Don Fredrick share the following information from his Aunt:

Anna Batke Pesko, via telephone, said Henry Batke, Sr., worked at the 1900 Corporation when he first started working in St. Joseph/Benton, Harbor Michigan. He was making toys at 1900 Corporation before it became a washing machine manufacturing company.

Henry Batke, Jr., also worked at 1900 Corporation/Whirlpool. His career had a great deal to do with union matters and participation--not sure whether at union leadership levels or not.

Jacob Link worked at Auto Specialties.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Memories of Olen and Selma Batke Smith

Don Fredrick, nephew of Olen and Selma Batke Smith, remembers:

"I remember well going with my family to Oklahoma for a visit as a child with Olen and Selma Smith who took Bob and I and parents to the State prison Rodeo where prisoners were given prizes for running around in the ring with bulls trying to attach ribbons to horns. At times a tragedy as inmates were gored or thrown in the air by the bulls. I was about age 8 or 9.  I understand this kind of thing is still going on annually in Oklahoma.  Nothing like visiting one of Uncle Olen's oil wells and listening to oil well stories."

Don Fredrick, December 13, 2010

In response to Don's comment, Olen and Selma's son shares his memories:

"Don, I have read, with interest, your comments about your trip to Oklahoma visiting my parents, Olen and Selma Smith.  Dad and Mother loved company, and they had just the tour to take if one is willing, and has the time.  You referred to the McCalister, Okla. prison, SE of Seminole, Okla. about 90 minutes.  Believe the "inmates" continue to entertain during select summer months, as this has been a "Crowd Pleasing/Fund Raising Event" over the years.  Dad and Mother, at one time, had over 100 oil wells.  It was financially more productive to buy select leases with producing and non-producing wells...revamp, buy better equipment, clean out the old holes...price per barrel was on the rise when they, Mom and Dad, were actively working a very successful living over the many years.  Both enjoyed being on the Oklahoma Beef Club, which provided 50 yard line seats at the Oklahoma Home Games, and they also enjoyed traveling with the Oklahoma team for many years on Chartered Flights.  Ran into Dad/Mother, in Denver, inside a large bar, with Dad standing on top of a large table leading the Oklahoma Fight Song to a crowd of Beef Club Members  playing his/Dad's "Boomer Sooner Song Box".  I had flown out to Denver and dating Jackie Sergeant, from Coloma.  Jackie was working for Frontier Airlines, and we were meeting Mother and Dad in Denver...Okla. playing Colorado that weekend.  Dad and Mother loved driving their Cadillac to select Oklahoma games with Dad pushing a button on the Cadillac playing "Boomer Sooner" and getting immediate attention from "friend and foe". 

The picture of the Heart Grave stone in Buchanan is the beautiful resting place for Olen and Selma...That location is among many of Dad's relatives.  I plan to be buried at the feet of Dad/Plot, with Judy expressing interest in being buried at the feet of Mother/Plot.  Buchanan was home for Dad, having been reared their and graduating in Buchanan High School.  Summers in Buchanan, and Winters in Florida worked for them...Mother's cancer cut her life too short.  She was anxious to spend time with her Brothers and Sisters in the Michigan all of them did visit the Oklahoma homestead, and all had fun!

Lots of fond memories of Mother and Dad.  Actually, fond memories of our entire family.  That goes for all of my Aunts/Uncles, cousins.  I loved the Christmas seasons when we would all get together going to Trinity Church, and then to a relative's home after Christmas Eve church...Wonderful times!!!

Roger Smith, December 13, 2010

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Fredrick and Engler Burial Place, North Shore Memory Gardens

North Shore Memory Gardens, Front Entrance

The North Shore Memory Gardens located at 5027 Michigan (Rt.63) in Columa, Michigan was started in 1952-53.  The site had been an orchard and farmland.   Source: North Shore Memory Gardens Office.

Herman and Katherine (Batke) Fredrick and Arthur and Mary (Batke) Engler are buried here.  Both sets of graves are in the Garden of Devotion section behind a beautifully crafted stone Bible monument.

Garden of Devotion monument


Katherine Batke Fredrick (November 30, 1911 - August 10, 1997), the oldest child of Henry and Anna Batke, is buried here along side her husband, Herman Fredrick (September 20, 1906 - April 19, 1977).
They are buried in the Devotion Section, Lot 15C, Graves 1 and 2.  The GPS coordinates for the graves are: N 42° 12' 12.0"; W 086° 23' 33'.

Herman Fredrick Obituary
Herman Fredrick, 70, of 1322 Wolcott, St. Joseph, died at 11:30 A.M. Tuesday in Mercy hospital.  He was born Sept. 20, 1906, in Esk, Saskatchewan, Canada.  Mr. Fredrick was a member of Trinity Lutheran church, St. Joseph and retired in 1971 from Whirlpool corporation, where he had been employed 44 years.  He was a member of Whirlpool Old Timers club.

Surviving are his widow, Katherine; two sons, Donald W. Ypsilanti and Robert L., Salt Lake City, Utah; a daughter, Mrs. Robert (Jeanne) Hartman, Stevensville; two sisters, Mrs. Olga Schultz, Benton Harbor and Mrs. Ida Noack, Niles; a step brother, Adolph Lockman, Benton Heights and eight grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday in Trinity Lutheran church.  Burial will be in North Shore Memory Gardens.  Memorials may be made to the church.  Friends may call at the Front funeral home, Benton Harbor.

The Herald-Palladium, Benton Harbor-St. Joseph, Michigan, April 20, 1977

Katherine Batke Fredrick Obituary
See Children of Henry and Katherine Batke - Obituaries


Also in the Garden of Devotion Section of the North Shore Memory Gardens, Arthur L. Engler (May 1, 1911 - July 12, 2006) and his wife Mary Batke Engler (June 22, 1914 - July 25, 2008) are buried.  Their graves are about 50 feet away from the Fredrick graves.   

They are buried side-by-side in the Devotion Section, Lot 92C, Graves 1and 2.  The GPS coordinates for the graves are: N 42° 12' 12.7"; W 086° 23' 32.9".

Arthur L. Engler Obituary
Arthur L. Engler, 95 of St. Joseph died Wednesday morning, July 12, 2006, at Lakeland Regional Medical Center, St. Joseph.

Services will be held 10 a.m. Tuesday at Dey-Florin Chapel, Florin Funeral Services, St. Joseph, where visitation will be Monday from 5 to 8 p.m.  Burial will be in North Shore Memory Gardens.  Memorial donations in memory of Mr. Engler may be made to Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Joseph.

Mr. Engler was born May 1, 1911, in Stevensville to Lorenz and Louise (Heyn) Engler.  He retired in 1976 after 26 years of service as a security guard for Whirlpool Corporation.  He was also a member of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Joseph.

Survivors include his wife of 71 years, Mary (Batke), whom he married June 22, 1935, in St. Joseph; one daughter, Elaine Bush of St. Joseph; one son, Kenneth (Nok) Engler of Woodbridge, Va., and one brother charles Engler of St. Joseph.  Also surviving are five grand-children and three great-grand-children.  He was proceeded in death by a son, Charles Engler; five brothers and one sister.

The Herald Palladium, Benton Harbor-St. Joseph, MI, July 14, 2006, p. 5A, col. 5.

Mary Batke Engler Obituary

Smith Burial Place, Oak Ridge Cemetery

Selma Batke, daughter of Henry and Katherine Batke, married Olen Smith.  Both are buried at the Oak Ridge Cemetery.

The new Oak Ridge Cemetery on Front Street, originally 10 acres, was purchased from Warner Hamilton in 1864 for $500, to replace the first known cemetery in Buchanan, "The Old Burying Ground."  The first burials were made in 1867.  Records show that bodies were moved from "The Old Burying Ground" cemetery in Buchanan, to Oak Ridge as late as 1898. 

Oak Ridge Cemetery is located on the western edge of Buchanan, Michigan, between Terre Coupe and Front streets.  Oak Ridge Cemetery currently consists of approximately 45 acres.  There are 5 entrances: two on Front St., two on Terre Coupe, and the Polis St. entrance. Source: Oak Ridge Cemetery Buchanan, MI, Friends of Oak Ridge Cemetery, 2005.

Terre Coupe Street Entrance, Oak Ridge Cemetery, Buchanan, MI
Closest entrance to the Smith graves

Olen and Selma Batke Smith are both buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery.

On the gravestone, shaped with two hearts, is chiseled birth, marriage and death dates.  It reads:   SELMA Jan 27, 1919 - July 24, 1980; MARRIED Oct 24, 1940; OLEN June 9, 1918 - Sept. 13, 1995.

However, there are other documents, including Henry Batke's Declaration of Intention to become an American Citizen, that states Selma's birth year was 1918.

Olen Albert Smith and Selma Batke Smith are buried in Section A, Lot 317.  The GPS coordinates for the grave are: N 41° 49' 24.0"; W 086° 22' 41.9".

Olen Smith Obituary
Olen A. Smith, 77, of Boca Raton, Florida, formerly of Buchanan, Michigan, died Wednesday, September 13, 1995, at Healthwin Hospital, South Bend, Indiana.

The funeral was held at 10:30 a.m. Monday at Swem Funeral Home, Buchanan.  Memorials may be made to the City of Buchanan for the Buchanan Commons or Buchanan High School Athletic Department.
Mr. Smith was born June 9, 1918, in Virginia.  He retired as the independent owner and operator of Reclamation Oil Fields after 38 years.  He was a navy veteran of World War II.

Survivors include: two daughters -- Judy Maxwell of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, and Cheryl Richeson of Decatur, Alabama; a son Roger Smith of Coloma, Michigan; three step daughters -- Polly Koenegsknect of West Bloomfield, Michigan; Christine Gardner of Noblesville, Indiana, and Linda Morrer of Charlotte, North Carolina; a stepson, John Donley of St. Joseph, Michigan; nine grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.  He was preceded in death by his first wife, the former Selma Batke, in October 1940 (sic) and by his second wife, the former Agnes Donley, in 1981. 

Tri-City Record, Watervliet, Michigan, September 20, 1995

Selma Batke Smith Obituary
See The Children of Henry and Katherine Batke - Obituaries

Thursday, December 2, 2010

On Vine Street, St. Joe Michigan

Corner of Vine Street and Park Avenue

The Batkes and Links both lived on Vine Street in St. Joseph, Michigan.  Although they each lived at other addresses in St. Joseph, when they finally settled in, Henry Batke and his family moved into 614 Vine Street and Jacob Link and his family lived at 626 Vine Street.  Vine Street is now part of the historic area of St. Joseph.

Today, even though both original homes have been replaced with new larger homes, many older homes still remain giving Vine Street, just three blocks from Lake Michigan, the feel of the time when the Batkes and Links lived there.

The Batke home is marked with a green X and the Link home with a red X.

626 Vine Street, New Home

View looking out (west) from 626 Vine Street
down Pearl Street toward Lake Michigan

View from 626 Vine Street looking south toward 714 Vine Street

714 Vine Street, New House

Looking north from 714 towards 626 Vine Street

Silver Beach, on Lake Michigan,
just three blocks from where the Batkes and Links lived

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Story of Jacob and Maria Link - Part 1 of 9

Darlene (Dee) Byron Milbocker has put in writing the story of her grandparents, Jacob and Maria Link.  She has graciously permitted its posting on this Blog so the larger Link and Batke families can appreciate the struggle and the strength it took for these immigrant families to make a better life for all of us.  

Don Fredrick, grandson of Henry and Katherine Batke, commented on the history with the following:

“The whole story, as far as it goes, impacts us directly, our generation.  But the effect, perhaps in a lesser way is important for the generation that follows ours.    Origins mean something!  Origins mean a great deal when we realize that our ancestors had to face all of this to migrate to America and what it meant already in the early part of the last century as a result of the kind of culture developed by those already here.  Our kids need to know!!!  Their families need to hear the story that is so importantly told by both of you and now potentially will be repeated on the Batke blog even though there may be some uncertainty about who the characters are in the pictures.  Your history makes these pictures especially meaningful to you and yes, even the Batkes.  Thanks to you Dee and Bonnie.”   Nov. 2, 2010.

Written by Darlene Byron Milbocker
Granddaughter of Jacob and Maria
This is the story of Jacob and Maria Link and their escape from Russia in the year 1912, nearly one hundred years ago!  Thanks to the internet and the research done by so many of the family, the story behind the story has been discovered!  Until a short time ago, we were quite unaware, as our grandfather did not offer much about his and grandma’s experiences for his own reasons, and as a result, we did not inquire!    

And so, this story is written with a composite of information from family members who have tried to piece together their grandparent’s life story!  Timothy Link, son of Jacob Link Jr. did interview his Grandfather for a school project, which gave us our first bit of information.  His mother, Pat Link and sister Pam Link Schoonaert, all from S. Bend, Ind., at that time, gathered much information.  Bonnie Link Fago, (an enthusiastic genealogist) daughter of Raymond Link, from La Mesa, California, has searched intensely and has been very successful, as was Brenda Link, wife of Gary Link, from Vernon British Columbia, Can.  Brenda recently passed away on September 9, 2009.  She also was an enthusiastic genealogist and had contributed a great amount of information!  Gary is the grandson of Friedrich Link and Maria Elizabeth Knack and Gary’s father was Jakob  (Jacob, also known as Jack) Link.  Sharon Byron Lampros, granddaughter of Jacob and Maria, interviewed and recorded her mother Frieda Friedrika Link Byron on February 2, 1993.  I, Darlene Byron Milbocker, also daughter of Frieda Link Byron, not a part of gathering information necessarily, was graciously given information by all parties.  Our brother Frank Byron, who studies Russian history as a hobby, was also very helpful.  We three are from Allegan, Michigan.   Just recently, contact has been made with a Canadian cousin, Marvin Mutschler of Medicine Hat. Alberta.  He is the son of Anne Link, Mutschler, and grandson of Friedrich and Maria Link.  Marvin has given us some fascinating information that has been incorporated into our story!

Quite recently, contact was made with grandchildren of the Henry Batke family, and so much was shared by them!  Don Fredrick , son of Katherine Batke Fredrick gave us a wealth of information, and Elaine Engler Bush, Anna Batke Pesko, and Elaine Beaudoin  have contributed greatly.  Their information opened up many new avenues and filled in many gaps.

As you will see, generation after generation used the same names over and over, sometimes changing the spelling, making it very difficult to decide who is who.  It can be assumed that the names were repeated so often, to remember, or possibly  honor those that were never seen again. 

One day, it suddenly occurred to me that I had to put all this information, such as it was at that time, into “story form”, for the sake of my descendants.  So much has become available since, making original versions of the story obsolete.  So once again, I attempt to document their story, with the information we now have.  I have come to realize that this story may never be finished, as more information becomes available and some memories are “jogged,” making for some interesting insights into the lives of our ancestors.


Our story begins with Friedrich Link, born 1852 in Steegan, West Prussia and Elizabeth (Hopp) Link, born in Rosengart, Russia 1854, who became the parents of our Jacob Link.  There were also Elizabeth, Friedrich, and Peter.   Friedrich and his parents may have become part of the migration of Germans to the Ukrainian Republic of Russia.  Most likely, they as others, fled their homeland to avoid the wars of the 19th century in Germany, through Germany and across Germany, by other nations.  (It is here that we find a discrepancy in our story!  I used the information we have from Brenda Link stating that they lived in Russia, but Grandpa Link, in his statement to his Grandson, Tim, said that they lived in Germany).   This is still being unraveled.

The journey to Russia in those days was an ordeal to try the strongest, beyond the endurance of many.  But the German immigrants still came to the Black Sea region by the thousands.

Peter and Jacob Link standing;
Elizabeth and Friedrich Link sitting.
Photo courtesy: Bonnie Fago, date unknown
Friedrich and Elizabeth were married in Russia, city not known.  His father’s name was Johan.  Her father’s name was Gottfried Hopp and her mother’s maiden name was Karoline Whorms.  Nothing more is known.

Friedrich and Elizabeth Link moved to an area above the Black Sea known as Alexandrovsk, Ekaterinoslav.  The city has changed names many times.  It was Yekaterinoslav 1776-1782, re-established 1783-1797.  It was Novorossiysk from 1797-1802, Yekaterinoslav from 1802-1917.  It was Sicheslav from 1917-1918, Yekaterinoslav again from 1918-1926 and became the province of Dnepropetrovsk/Dnipropetrovsk in 1926 to present day.    It is surrounded by Mennonite communities. 

Their sister, Elizabeth Link was born Aug. 30, 1875 in Gerhartstal, Russia,   She married Peter Schultz, who was born August 14, 1875 in Chorititza.  Both Gerhartstal, and Chorititza are Mennonite communities  in Russia.

At one time, similar promises had been made to the Germans of Prussia, and a group known as the Mennonites, by Catherine II, Empress of Russia.  The Mennonites had an important role in the background of the Germans who found themselves in Russia and eventually immigrating to Canada and the United States

Catherine II reigned from 1762 to 1796 as Empress.  Her son Paul I, reigned in Russia  from 1796 to 1801. Nicholas I, son of Paul I, reigned from 1825 to 1855, and Nicholas II,  reigned from 1894 to 1917, as Czars.  Catherine made promises to the Germans who immigrated to Russia.   Nicholas broke them!     

Catherine the Great had been very motivated to put swampland that the royal family owned to productive and profitable use, and was informed how industrious and innovative the Mennonite farmers were.  She encouraged only Mennonites to settle the region of Russia known as Chorititza, a city near the Dnieper River.  The Royal family exploited and profited quite well in this arrangement and helped to transform the region into a “breadbasket” for Russia.  The political climate changed over time however, and allowing these “immigrants” to be important agricultural producers fell out of favor after Catherine II died.  A plan was announced that all special privileges would end by 1880.  Now they were required to give up their culture, language, and deliver their sons to the Russian army.  Because of the changes in the Czar’s policies towards the Germans living in Russia, a large wave of immigration to America began in the late 19th century.  This included the Mennonites.  By 1912, 300,000 Germans had “immigrated from Russia to North and South America

The Dneiper River was an important route traveled by the Mennonite and Lutheran families in establishing the Dnepropetrovsk region, and Chorititza, nearby.  One and one half million Germans moved to Russia and were scattered about in communities above the Black Sea, the Volga, and the Dons Rivers, the Volhynien area and Crimea.  The Germans were all promised that they could:
1.         Keep their own language
2.         Churches
3          Have their own schools
4.         Never have to serve in the military.                                                 

In 1873 a delegation of 12 Mennonites explored North America, seeking large tracts of fertile land.  Canada was chosen, which promised privileges for the Mennonites, previously held in Russia, near Manitoba, Canada, such as:
l.          They could keep their own language.
2.         Freedom of worship
3.         Control of their own schools
4.         Exemption from military service