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 6 of 9


Frieda’s memories of Alabama
Yellow Pine, Washington Co., Alabama is where Theodore was born.  Uncle Ray told Cousin Bonnie that Grandpa bought land and a house, sight unseen, and when he got there it was on stilts and seasonally under water.  They also lived in a tent while there.  They lived in Alabama for only about six months.  Grandma killed a snake that was crawling under the tent by clubbing it to death.  Mom said that she really disliked Alabama as it was very hot!!  We can assume tent life for the Batke family as well!  Update:  Picture have recently been found that we are reasonably certain are from Yellow Pine showing their living conditions!  (Bonnie Link Fago).

Theodore Link in casket, 1922
It is here that little Theodore died under unusual circumstances, (by a parasitic worm), and is buried somewhere near Yellow Pine, Alabama.  Mom describes being told by her mother and being shown by lifting his diaper, how he died, (quite gross).  Grandpa made his casket, which by the picture, could have been a drawer.  Grandma decorated it with a cloth that her mother had embroidered, that she had brought from Russia, which looked to me like Hardanger embroidery.  It looks quite pretty, with its tassels around  the edge.  There is a picture of Theodore in his little casket, with the family around him. But she didn’t know who took it. 

It was here in Yellow Pine that Mom saw a black person for the first time.  They sang, and carried their clothes on their heads and sang and sang, but she was afraid of them.  The men had taken stumps out of the fields, and then they sat in the holes and sang! 

She most enjoyed getting up in the morning, and playing make believe, by going out and covering her "hens." She made nests in the ground, putting a bit of straw in the nest, and then put in little stones, and put a big stone on top.  That was her hen!  She would do this every morning to see if there were any chicks!
The Link children in Yellow Pine Alabama, 1922

She tells of not having shoes, and stepping on what she called "prickers."  They had such strong barbs on them, that you couldn't pull them out without a tool! 

Maria Link left, and Jacob Link with cap,
housing in Yellow Pine Alabama, 1922
Photo courtesy: Bonnie Fago

Some recruiters came to their area trying to find men to work in the factories of St. Joe, Michigan.  It was quite an industrial city at that time, and the country was gearing up for war!  So Grandpa and Mr. Batke made their way north  to St. Joe. by train to find jobs to make enough money to bring their families there.  The families were left behind.  Grandpa and Mr. Batke met up with the Lutheran minister of the Trinity Lutheran Church, Rev. Louis Nuechterlein.  He mentioned in his Sunday service that the families needed help.  A woman anonymously donated the train fare for the families to get to Michigan.  They never found out who this dear woman was! 

Mom and Grandma were walking along a path going into the village, (probably Yellow Pine), when a rider on horseback came along with a letter for Grandma, and it had money in it!  That was the first time Mom had seen her mother smile in a long time!  After all, when Grandpa left, she could not know how long he would be gone, or whether she would ever see him again!  How could she raise her children alone in a strange land?  These things had to have been heavy on her mind, causing her great worry!!

So Grandma, the children, Mrs. Batke and her family, including John Batke and Anna Batke (Mr. Batke’s brother and mother) according to the Immigration Border Crossing records of 1921, took the train on July 3, 1922 to Michigan.  They didn’t have any trunks or suitcases, so they wrapped everything in sheets or whatever they had.

The train kept getting switched from one end to the other, but they stayed on the train.  Mom told of getting locked in the bathroom, because she couldn’t open the door.  She screamed for her mother, but Grandma couldn’t hear her.  Finally a man opened the door for her!  She says that the kids really enjoyed the train ride!  There were five Batke children at that time, and the five Link children!

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