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 2 of 9


When Jacob was a schoolboy in Russia, he attended school 39 hours a week for 5 1/2 days a week. He had to read and write the Russian letters, the English letters and the German letters.  Each hour the teachers changed off and taught a different grade. 

Rempel Plant, Chortitiza, Ukranine, Russia.  Photo: c 2006
At the age of 16, he worked in a machine shop in the Ukrainian Republic, which is an industrial center.  He received a certificate of high recommendation from his employer B. W. Remple in 1902, which reads that “Jacob Fredrich Link worked in my plant in the metal-worker’s department in 1902.  He did a good job”.   Signed  B.W. Rempel.  Grandpa was 16 yrs. old.  The Rempel factory developed and manufactured an improved version of the seeder plow, also manufactured cultivators, fanning mills, reapers and underground packers that were used to pack newly planted seed to encourage germination.    

Later he became a furniture maker by trade, possibly working alongside a man who would become his lifelong friend, Mr. Henry Batke, who will become a very important part of our story.

When Timothy Link, grandson of Jacob Link interviewed his grandfather for a school project, he was told that, he (Jacob) was born, lived, and worked in Russia, but left when he was a young man, because the Bolsheviks were taking over the government life in Russia”.  “Life in Russia was changing so much that it wasn’t a happy life anymore and they were no longer free!”    Marvin Mutschler’s information adds more insight into the reason that the Link families left.  He states, “the only thing I remember my mom (Anne) telling me as to why our grandparents fled the old country was that, life was intolerable there and people were starving.”
Russia’s defeat in the Russian – Japanese war in 1905 resulted in revolts against the Czar in many places, including Yekateranoslaw (Dnepropetrovsk)!  Tens of people were killed and hundreds wounded.  There was a wave of anti-semantic attacks.

Jacob Link, 1907
Friedrich Link c 1907
Our grandfather and his two brothers were in the Russian Army, and I am told that in the pictures that we have of them, they are wearing officer’s uniforms!  Grandpa served for three years, from the age of 21 to 24 years of age.  I have to surmise that they were part of the Russian draft, (a promise broken)!  Our grandfather was a valet to a Russian General, waiting on him and polishing his boots, at least for a time, but he must have risen in rank, since he did become an officer.  (As told to Bonnie Link Fago by her father Raymond Link.)   I am told that when you were in the Russian Army, you were in it for a long time, (possibly life), and that many officers were being assassinated, and those under the officers were being assassinated also.  Many began to desert.

Peter Link, c 1907

 “Conditions were ripe for revolution as the country was without a real government!  There was no longer a middle class, the aristocracy was ruined and without influence, and there was much corruption!  There were about 100 million people gradually becoming poorer and poorer as they bore all the burden of taxation, and were being drafted into the Army by the thousands.  The revolutionary movement had a profound impact on the Russian character.  Its creed of violence and treachery was poisoning the whole structure of society!”  Quoted from the “Russian Dagger”.

It has always been thought that Grandpa and Grandma Link left Russia for a better life, but after studying Russian history and especially the events that took place in their own area, there can be no doubt that they fled for their lives!!  And just in time, as we will see!


Jacob Friedrich Link, born March 5, 1886, married Maria (Mary Philips) September 4, 1911, at Alexandrwsk Church, in Ukrainian Republic, Russia.  They were married  by Pastor G. Rath.  She was born May 14, 1895.  Their marriage certificate states Jacob Link, son of the “German citizen”, Friedrich Link, and Maria Phillip, daughter of the “German citizen”,  Ferdinand Phillip, were married, both Lutheran religion!  The distinction of being a “German Citizen” was always with them!

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