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 3 of 9


Jacob Link and Henry Batke.
Photo courtesy: Don Fredrick, date unknown
It is here that we see a connection between the Batke family and the Link family and what was to become a lifelong friendship!  The Alexandrwsk Church was also the church where Katherine Batke, daughter of Henry Batke, was baptized  May 20, 1912 by the same Pastor:  Pastor G. Rath. 

In 1992, Frieda Link Byron, in answer to some questions for her niece, Pam Link Schoonaert, said, and her exact words were, “the Links had some neighbors, the Batke family, that traveled with them to Canada from Russia, to St. Joe”.   We now know that they must have become friends through work and church, but they were also neighbors!  “Being neighbors” doesn’t necessarily mean right next door, but reasonably close!  The small villages around Chortitza were populated with both Mennonites and German Russians.
I envision them quietly, (even secretly) making their plans to leave Russia, sitting around someone’s kitchen table, with the “lamp down low”.  As it turns out there were four groups that planned to leave.  The Batke family, Friedrich and Maria Link and their family, Jacob and Maria Link, and Peter Link, age 24 a single man.  Peter never married.

Since the Batke and the Link families lived in and near Mennonite villages near Chortitza they may have been viewed  as such by the local population.  The Mennonites were being targeted, giving all even more reason to leave.

June 25, 1912
 On June 25, 1912 the Batke family, consisting of Henry Batke, age 34, and his wife Katherine Reck Batke, and their infant daughter Katherine, 7 months old, were issued a travel pass in German and Russian to exit Russia to Germany and “return” by the German Kaiser Embassy.  It is suspected that this pass enabled them to flee Russia through Germany and on to Bremen where they boarded  a ship called the Pallanza on July 13, 1912.   The ship’s manifest also lists Johann 38, Anna 65 (great grandmother Batke), Anna ll, Karl 29, Friedrika 24, and Lena 2.  Total of nine.  They went through customs in Quebec, Canada on July 28, 1912.  There destination was Swift Current, Lydiard, Canada.  They settled on a quarter section of land containing 160 acres. 

One has to assume that the Batke’s, and the Links may have had help from some of the Mennonites who were already settled there, as the end of July arrival does not give much opportunity to find or build shelter.  We can  assume that they all helped each other!  We know that they did build a 16x24 house, an 18x30 barn and a 12x14 grainary.

After August 9, 1912
Maria & Friedrich Link, Canadian prairie, c1913

The next family to leave was the eldest brother of Jacob, Friedrich Link, born Oct. 14, 1876 and his wife Maria Knack Link. Born in Kronstahl, Jekaterinaslav, Russia on Dec. 10, 1877, and their children, Elisabeth Link, born in Kronstahl, Russia, Dec 6, 1900, Fredrick Edward Link, born Feb. 15, 1904, in Kronstahl, Russia., daughter Helena Link, born July 30,1905, Osterwick, Jekaterinoswaw, Russia., son John Link, born Dec. 18, 1907, Kronstahl, Russia, son Jakob (Jack) Link, born Jan 21, 1910, and son Peter Cornelius Link, born Aug. 9, 1912, Kronstahl, Russia.  Since Peter Cornelius Link was their last child born in Russia on the date of Aug. 9, 1912, it was shortly thereafter that the family left.  Total of eight.   They made their way to Rotterdam, Netherlands and sailed on the Noordam, from Holland-America Shipping Line.  Their fare was $380.00 for the family.  Their port of arrival was Halifax, Nova Scotia.   Maria had just given birth to Peter on the 9th of Aug. and their arrival date in Nova Scotia was August 25, 1912!  Destination was Moose Jaw, Canada.   He established a wheat farm there in what would seem to be a very short time.  

A very near tragic accident happened to baby Peter on the ship Noordam,  (remember he was only a few weeks old!)   The baby was lying on the bunk,  when the boot of a sailor man, who was high up on the mast, fell, and landed on the head of baby Peter.  At first they truly believed the baby was dead as a result, and they were preparing to put him overboard, when he was observed to have taken a breath, and they suddenly realized he was still alive!  (As told by Marvin Mutschler.)

When the family arrived in Canada, the children (including baby Peter) somehow became separated from the adults, and Friedrich and Maria had no choice but to get on the train bound for Saskatchewan without their children.  The children had possession of the family pots and pans and nothing else.  Somehow the children made it to Saskatchewan awhile later, and they were all reunited!!   (Also told by Marvin Mutschler.)

November 24, 1912
Maria and Jacob traveled to Canada on the S.S. Rijndam, 1913
Our Jacob and Maria were the next to leave November 24, 1912.  Peter, Grandpa’s younger brother was to travel with them, but mysteriously, his name was crossed off the manifests twice.  They apparently had made their way to Hamburg, Germany and were to board the Prince Oskar, but their names are crossed off the manifest!  Then they make their way to Rotterdam, Netherlands, and his name is crossed off the S.S. Ryndam manifest also!  Grandpa and Grandma did continue on their way arriving in Halifax, Nova Scotia, without Peter! 

Their first child, a little girl they named Maria, was born on ship, but died, and was buried at sea.  They arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia on January 27, 1913 at 9:35 o’clock.  Tickets were $41.00 for two people.   They then boarded the Canadian Pacific Railroad at 8 A.M. on January 28, 1913.  There destination was Grandpa’s brother Friedrich’s farm, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada.  Upon their arrival in Moose Jaw, they would have traveled a third of the way around the world! 

Herein lies a mystery.  Sharon and I both remember our mother saying that baby Maria was buried in the Baltic Sea, which could be, if they traveled to a port on the Baltic, but that would result in them traveling by ship on the Baltic to get to Hamburg, which doesn’t make sense to us, but it may have to them!   Traveling for Grandma would have been easier on water, than over land, but we also know she became very sick at some point!  Pregnant and seasick??  We have never found how they traveled from home before getting on board the boats; by land, by horse and wagon, train, or possibly by boat on the Dneiper River.

From November 1912 to January of 1913 gave Jacob and Maria a nearly two month stay in Germany including travel time to Rotterdam (unclear)!  It is here that our mother told of an incident that happened in Germany.  They needed a place to stay, a man told Grandpa that “he knew of a place.”  He told Grandma to “stay here” while he went with the man to look.  She is alone in a strange country, and she became frightened when he didn’t return, and started to cry.  After a time, he did return and told her that the man had tried to rob him!  These were treacherous times! 

Elaine Engler Bush’s (granddaughter of Henry and Katherine Batke) thoughts on why the grandparents went to Breman and Hamburg first, were that their passes to leave Russia to go to Germany, said that they had to return!  So it is felt that they went to the end of the allowable line and then found their way to Rotterdam, Holland (Netherlands.)  There the Batke’s boarded the Pallanza and the Link’s boarded the Ryndam on l-27-13.  They then sailed for Canadian Ports of Quebec and Halifax.

MARCH 15, 1913
Four months later on March 15, 1913, Peter Link boarded the Barcelona from Breman, Germany with Friedrich, age 26 and Elizabeth Knack, age 25, brother and sister-in-law of Maria Knack Link , (our Jacob’s sister-in-law) along with their infant  Elizabeth, 4 months old, and Catharina Knack, age 18, also sister of Maria Knack Link.  Total of five.  They actually fled Russia earlier than this as it took some time to get across Russia.  They arrived in Portland, Maine on April 3, 1913.  Destination Moose Jaw, Canada.  Home of Friedrich and Maria Knack Link.

I have to ask myself, where was Peter for the four months?  Did he go all the way back?  Did he help escort Grandpa and Grandma because she was pregnant?  Did he go all the way back to help the Knack family get through?  How else would he have met up with the Knack family?  Communication was not what it is today!!

Notice that the four groups left about 3 l/2 to 4 month’s apart, different boats, from different ports, and each arrived in different ports!  There was a reason for all this!  When they did leave, they had to know that more than likely they would never return, leaving parents, grandparents, siblings, extended family, friends, jobs, possessions behind!  For the families with several small children, to pick up and leave for places unknown, took an enormous amount of strength and courage!  The women were traveling soon after having a baby, or while pregnant!  But they were strong Lutherans, people of faith!

It is quite certain that our Jacob, Friedrich, and Peter never saw their parents or sister again.  Why they didn’t leave also, is somewhat of a troubling mystery.  We now know that circumstances were extremely bad there, including starvation, so why didn’t they leave when they had the chance?   Were they not physically able to travel?  I do remember that Grandpa used to send packages to his sister; one would wonder if she ever received them.  Records show that she did immigrate to Germany after her children were born.

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