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.

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

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