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 7 of 9


Mom told my sister that the women and children started to get off at the wrong stop, but managed to get back on the train, and then did get off at their destination of St. Joe, Michigan!!  When they arrived, someone took them to a church and fed them bread and milk.  The Batke family stayed for a time, perhaps only weeks, in the parish house of Rev. Louis Nuechterlein.  The Links were given a place to stay on the St. Joe River front.  Both Grandpa and Mr. Batke had found work at Auto Specialties.   I conclude that Grandpa’s experience working at the Rempel Factory in Russia, may have been of help in his getting that job!
View toward the Link and Batke homes on Vine Street. Photo: c1970s

St. Joseph, Michigan must have seemed like “Heaven on earth to them”!  St. Joseph is a beautiful place!  They lived just below the “Bluff”, and about 2 blocks from Lake Michigan.  There was so much in a small area, such as the once famous “Silver Beach”, which was an amusement park with a wooden roller coaster, a merry-go-round, and the Shadow-land Ballroom, which is where our parents met!  It was also a port where big cruise ships docked, the St Joe River emptied into Lake Michigan,  factories, and beautiful shopping area, the park above the Bluff, and a pier and lighthouse!

My dad once pointed out a small house to me on the west side of Vine St. as being the first house that the family had lived in.  There was a bigger house in the yard where a family named Yetski lived.  They lived in the little house for quite some time.  Mom told of Grandma making a tree of paper roses (thought to be made of crepe paper) on stems, of all colors!  She was sent to buy the paper for the roses for Grandma.  The rose tree was used in place of a real Christmas tree one year, while in the little house.

They later moved to house next to 626 Vine St.  This is where the family spent their first real Christmas, with a real tree with candles, which  they could only light on Christmas Eve.

626 VINE ST.

They eventually moved to 626 Vine St. and this was their final move!  They were home!!  It took them ten long years, from 1912 to 1922, and so much hardship and suffering, and the loss of three children!!  Think of it – if they had not done this, none of would have ever had the privilege of living in this wonderful country! 

Auto-Specialties in upper left hand corner;
Whirlpool in forefront where Henry Batke also worked.  Photo: 1984.
Click on photo to enlarge.

Grandpa and Mr. Batke both became machinists (tool and die) for Auto-Specialties.  Grandpa worked there for nineteen years.   At some point, he was also a night-watchman for the Nylon Products Co. which made parts for refrigerators.  The name may have been changed, because I remember it as the Bendix Corp.  His hobby was woodworking, and he became an excellent cabinetmaker, having a woodworking shop beside his garage.  Our grandpa Jacob also played an instrument much like an accordion, but smaller with buttons instead of keys, by ear.  How we loved to hear him play!  Now I realize that it was probably Russian music!

Maria and Joseph Link, St. Joseph, Michigan, c1925
Grandma was an accomplished seamstress!  When I was a young girl, Mom told me about Grandma making her own patterns, and sewing for others.  But it got so she couldn’t see well enough to sew anymore.  Mom said that Grandma made all of her clothes, and I would guess that she also made the boys clothes.

The boys spent much of their time outdoors sledding and fishing!  By this time Grandma was beginning to be in poor health, so Mom often stayed inside to help her mother.  She did the laundry by hand and did the cooking!  She was 11 years old, or less!  It was Uncle Ray’s job to cut wood and keep the fires going!  They had big responsibilities for children so young!

She tells the story of she, and the boys cutting creosoted wood railroad ties, which are hard to saw!  They had a saw and a sawhorse and they would show off for the train engineers!  Uncle Fred would say, “come on Frieda”, and they would run and go cut the wood!  The engineers would yell, “don’t work too hard!”

They all attended the Trinity Lutheran School.  There was a teacher named Schleter who was quite mean or very strict!  She says, “we all had to go to a room to take German”! (Kids who spoke German had to study German!!!)  Everyone was segregated, girls on one side of the classroom, and the boys on the other side.  They were told to be quiet, but some boys made a noise and then Fred whispered.  She came running with a stick and hit him, and hit him, over and over on his back!!  Fred never cried out or said a word, until it was over, then he cried quietly.  The teacher didn’t last long!  She got in trouble that day and was soon gone!  Mom guesses that Grandpa may have complained to the school. 

At one time a tornado must have been very close to St. Joe, as the school got very black during broad daylight and children were very frightened with all the wind and rain.  Grandma met them at the school to get them home!

She tells of playing marbles after she had her work done, which she called, “Kimmies”, of having lots of friends, and a 9:00 curfew!  They often played “Hide and Seek and Run sheep, Run”!

She tells the story of she, and her friend Florence making fudge that didn’t harden.  They gave it to Jake, and he ate all of it, and didn’t even get sick!!

Raymond did a lot of fishing on the pier and brought the fish home to Mom.  She loved fish, so she cleaned and fried them!  She soon got to just fry them!!

She did go wading in Lake Michigan, but the boys learned to swim in the St. Joe River.  Their friends would just throw them into the river, and it was swim or drown!

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