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 9 of 9


Grandpa was a widower for thirteen years.  He married Grandma Ethel on March 26, 1938, in St. Joseph, Mi.  She was born in Veedersburg, Indiana on October 13, 1896. 

I never knew that she was not my real grandmother until I was about fourteen or fifteen years old.  I was so shocked to learn of this!  She was a wonderful grandma to me!  We lived in the house two doors down from Grandpa’s house until I was nearly four years old, and even at that young age, I have some memories of her there, and we often visited St. Joe after moving to Allegan. 

I will never forget the last time I saw her, I was told that, “Grandma wanted to see me.”  She was lying in bed.  I know now that she was saying good-by to me.  They only told me that she was “sick”.  She died of breast cancer a short time later on January 24, 1948.  I was 8 l/2 years old.

Grandpa married a third time to Clara Leek.  According to his death certificate, Grandpa passed away at the age of eighty-two, but he was actually 83, not quite 84.  He suffered for a long time with heart disease and emphysema, even having to have oxygen in the home.  I have recently learned that Mr. Batke also had emphysema, from his granddaughter Elaine.  We feel they were exposed to pollutants while working at Auto Specialties.

Mr. Batke died at his home at 714 Vine St. St. Joseph, Michigan on April 7th, 1949.  Grandpa was a pallbearer for his funeral.

Grandpa Link died January 14, 1970, and Grandma Maria Link died in 1929.  All are buried in Riverview Cemetery, St. Joseph, Mi.  His death certificate says that he was born in 1888, and his headstone states 1886. 1886 is the correct year.  It also gives his birth date as 3-6/5-1888.  His birthday was actually on March 5, 1886.  Mom was born on his birthday, Mar. 5th.


It seems that this has become a story of two families that formed a lifelong friendship, experiencing so much together!!  The people of St. Joseph, Michigan were so good to the German Russians!  It was here that they found what they had fled Russia for – Freedom!  Freedom to live their lives without fear or repression!  They were certainly free in Canada, but they did not escape the poverty until they came to Michigan!  Could they have found this anywhere else?  They were given so much help by kind, loving people!  Perhaps there were others who were helped to settle in the area during the 20’s, despite the stigma attached to Germans before, during, and in some cases, after WWI!  More than likely, there are many stories yet to be discovered!


  • Friedrich Link  B. May 1852, fled Steegan, W. Prussia for Russia
  • Elizabeth Hopp, B. 1854,   married 1874
  • Jacob Link   B. Mar. 5, 1886  Maria Phillips, B. Mar. 5, 1895
  • Three Years in Russian Military
  • Married on September 9, 1911
  • Batke’s flee Russia June 25, 1912  Arrived in Canada
  • Fredrich Link family flees Russia after August 9, 1912, or as soon as mother and baby could travel.
  • Jacob and Maria Link flee Russia November 24, 1912
  • Jacob and Maria depart Netherlands on the S.S. Ryndam, January 18, 1913
  • Peter Link flees Russia actual date unknown, along with Maria Knack Link’s brother, sister-in-law, infant Elizabeth, and Maria’s sister, Catherina Knack.  They depart on the Barcelona, Bremen, Germany on March 15, 1913.
  • The Russian Revolution
  • Infant Maria born on ship, buried at sea.  Arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia January 27, 1913  (8 days to cross Atlantic) Boarded Canadian Pacific Rail Road  January 28, 1913 (next day) Destination Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada (Swift Current)  Stayed 6 years.
  • WWI  1914 
  • Six children born over six years.  First little Jacob found dead.  1919
  • Border Crossing at Portal, North Dakota December 7, 1921
  • Arrived in Yellow Pine, Alabama
  • Deceived
  • Theodore born, dies about 2 months later 1922
  • Recruiters
  • Grandpa and Mr. Batke make their way to St. Joseph, Mich
  • Anonymous donor
  • Train to St. Joe  July 3, 1922 (6 mos. Later)
  • Grandma dies January 14, 1929  Age 34  (6 ½ yrs. in Michigan)
  • Grandpa remarries to Ethel Steffy  March 26, 1938  (13 yrs. later)
  • Mr. Batke died April 7, 1949
  • Grandma Ethel dies January 24, 1948  Age 51  (10 yrs. later)
  • Grandpa remarries a third time to Clara Leek
  • Grandpa dies January 14, 1970  Age 83  (48 l/2 yrs after arriving in Michigan)

Ich been klein
My hearst ist kleen,
Da sol niemond drin bonen,
Jesus aline,

English Translation:

I am small,
My heart is clean,
No one should live in it, but
Jesus alone.
As given to us by our mother Frieda Link Byron   Easter April 12, 1998.


At this time, little has been learned about how the families got from their home, across Russia and up to the ports on the North Sea.  This still has to be explored.  One possibility has recently been found that was used in 1875, but of course things could have certainly changed by the year 1912!  Even at that time, because of new restrictions put out by the Russian Government, immigration to Canada and parts of the United States began.  Most of the immigrants from Chorititza and other South Russian colonies traveled down the Dneiper River by boat, to the Black Sea, across to Odessa, then overland by train to Hamburg, because shipping lines were not allowed to pick up travelers from Russian Ports. Five shipping lines transported the immigrants by different routes, depending on their destinations. Of course, this is only one possibility as other railroads must have been built by that time!

Our mother, Frieda said that little Maria was buried at sea, was buried in the Baltic Sea!  This seems unlikely, because they would have had to travel up and around Denmark!  But Sharon and I both remember that that is what she said! 

Since undertaking this project, I have learned that the story may never be finished! As more information comes in all the time, things are made clear that were once unclear, but I wanted to get what we do have down on paper now, realizing that the story of “Jacob and Maria” is not complete!

Special Note:

On June 25, 2010 the daughter of Henry and Katharine Batke, named Anna Batke Pesko, who was born in Yellow Pine, Alabama, their grandson Don Fredrick and his wife, and their great granddaughter Heidi Fredrick, granddaughters Jeannie Hartman, and Elaine Engler Bush,  along with myself, granddaughter of Jacob and Maria, all met for the first time, or for the first time in about 60 years to have lunch at the Depot at Silver Beach, in St Joseph, Michigan!!  Wouldn’t that be a surprise to our Grandparents!!!  
Daughter and Grandchildren of the immigrant Links and Batkes
near where the Link and Batke homes were located on Vine Street.
  Don Fredrick, Linda Pesko Van Hoedt, Anna Batke Pesko,
Darlene Byron Milbocker, Elaine Engler Bush
and Jeannie Fredrick Hartman, 2010

On August 20, 2010, four of us met again at the Depot.  There was Sharon Byron Lampros, Elaine Engler Bush, Anna Batke Pesko, and myself.   Sharon and I had a few questions for Anna, which she graciously answered.  She told us that she remembers our Grandmother, and that Grandma and Grandpa were her Godparents!   She also confirmed that our Uncle Jake did stand up at her wedding!   It was quite amazing to us to meet someone who actually knew our Grandmother!     And the friendship goes on!

Darlene Byron Milbocker 2010
Unless otherwise noted, photos courtesy of Dee Milbocker. Homestead maps/passenger lists courtesy of Elaine Beaudoin

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