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.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Whirlpool and Auto Specialties Manufacturing Co. 1984

The picture below appeared on the front page of The Herald-Palladium on Saturday, June 16, 1984.  The caption under the photo reads:

"SJ DIVISION IN TRANSITION: Whirlpool's St. Joseph Division, first home of the company's washing machine, is scheduled to have all washer production phased out in 1985 as division will concentrate solely on production of parts.  Shift to parts production has begun, and washer production is now limited to compacts.  St. Joseph Division produces parts for other Whirlpool divisions, and company is seeking other manufacturers as parts customers.  Division is running strong, as 100 workers have been recalled, bring hourly and salaried employment to about 1,400.  Plans also have been announced for installation of $400,000 electrically operated plant system.  Division plants are shown within bordered area of photo, except for Plant 7 in Benton Harbor.  Complex at top of photo is Auto Specialties Manufacturing Co.  U.S. 33 is at top right and Upton Drive is in foreground (H-P aerial photo by Chief Photographer Harry Smith)"

Double click to enlarge photo

Many Batkes including Henry Sr., (and relatives) and some Links, including Jacob, worked for either the Whirlpool Corporation (1900 Corporation) or for the Auto Specialties Manufacturing Co. -- both pictured above.

In September, 2010 the abandoned site was photographed by Elaine Beaudoin showing the demolition of the St. Joseph Whirlpool Plant.

Looking toward U.S. 33

Looking toward St. Joseph water tower
There were signs promoting a possible development on a large piece of the old Whirlpool site as a hotel, commercial, residential and/or marina development.

The parts plant in Benton Harbor mentioned in the 1984 newspaper photo is still in production but we heard that it will be closed next year in 2011.


On February 18, 2011, via email to Elaine Beaudoin, Don Fredrick share the following information from his Aunt:

Anna Batke Pesko, via telephone, said Henry Batke, Sr., worked at the 1900 Corporation when he first started working in St. Joseph/Benton, Harbor Michigan. He was making toys at 1900 Corporation before it became a washing machine manufacturing company.

Henry Batke, Jr., also worked at 1900 Corporation/Whirlpool. His career had a great deal to do with union matters and participation--not sure whether at union leadership levels or not.

Jacob Link worked at Auto Specialties.

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