Amelia Pauline Raesler
Amelia Pauline (Raesler) Welch
Born: 25 Jan 1871
Gnadenfrei, Prussia, Germany
A brief history of Amelia Pauline (Raesler) Welch
[The following history was written by Amelia's Granddaughter Nellie (Welch) Fry:]
Amelia Pauline Raesler was born January 25, 1871 in Gnadenfrei, (Free by Grace) Prussia. The name Gnadenfrei was later c hanged to Peilau and the new name now is Pilawa Gorna. The province was Schlesien or Silesia, now called Wroclaw. It is now part of Poland.
Those were the exciting times in Germany. On January 18, 1871, one week before Amelia was born, in the hall of mirrors in the palace of Versailles, King William assumed the title of German Emperor. France surrendered the capital of Paris and the German Empire came into existence.
The German Empire was dominated by Bismarck, called the "Iron Chancellor." It was a period of great industrial growth, the age of railroads and banking, industrial capitalism and speculative wealth. Industrial centers sprang up, especially in Silesia.
Gnadenfrei is a small town located at the foot of the Stowie mountains in upper Silesia. It is a region of textile industry and nearby coal mines. Nearby the remanent of an eighth century fortified town was discovered during archaeological excavation in 1958. In the middle ages it was a fortified locality on the route to Bohemia.
The Poles originated in the ancient pagan tribe of Slavs. But, in 1237, the Duke of Breslau encouraged German colonization which became wide-spread throughout Poland. He profited by it to raise the general level of culture in his duchy, which included the greater part of Silesia, and to give his authority a solid economic basis.
Amelia and her family were Germans. Her parents were August Raesler and Ernestine (Kunard) Raesler. Why they left Silesia is not known. But it was during a time of rapid industrialization and the poor and working class always suffer during those times. Also, there was a great deal of military competition throughout Europe. The largest number of immigrants who came to America came for economic reasons.
On the passenger list to America, August is listed as a farmer. But, Amelia said he was a shoemaker in Germany.
They are listed on the Hamburg passenger list on May 9, 1880:
There was another brother, also named Robert, who died in Gnadenfrei.
They sailed on May 9, 1880 out of Hamburg on the steamship "Silesia" under Captain Ludwig for New York.
They arrived in New York City in late May and were processed at Castle Clinton in Battery Park. From there they went directly to Chicago.
Chicago had always been a town for the immigrant. They came in old clothes, carrying rope-tied bundles, bursting trunks, suitcases strapped and patched.... men, women, and children burdened by an odd assortment of carryalls.
Chicago was the mid-continental transportation center with twenty trunk lines coming into it. Locomotives and long trains of cars and cattle and freight carriers ran wildly through parts of Chicago on the street levels. In the six downtown stations, on cold windy nights, scores of children slept as their immigrant parents sat with worried, starring eyes, holding onto their rope tied bundles in awe of the hissing and roaring of departing trains.
Amelia and her family stayed in Chicago. On June 3, 1880 the Federal Census lists the family on the census taken on West 19th Street in Chicago. A year later they were at 51 Canalport Avenue. These two streets intersect at this point so it may have been the same address.
This was the Bohemian section of Chicago with the largest Bohemian settlement in the United States. It was a poorer section of town; only the Chicago river separated it from the railroad station and to the south a few blocks away was the Union Stockyards. Seventy-five miles of sewer lines poured filth into the river; which in turn, poured into the lake from which the city drank its water. The reek from the river and odor from the stockyards, yard privies, and packing plants filled the air.
Disease killed off the weaker citizens and babies. On August 22, 1881, one year and two months after arriving in America, Amelia's mother Ernestine (Kunard) became ill and died two days later. She is buried in grave number 144 in Wunders Cemetery in Chicago.
It was a time of city and business corruption and bigoted natives joined to protest the "Polocks" and the "Hunkies", etc. One day, Amelia's father, August Raesler went out to look for work and was never seen or heard of again. What happened to him remains a mystery. Six children were left orphaned in a strange land without relatives or friends.
They were placed in the "Home for the Friendless" in Chicago. A family by the name of Stoner took Louise and Amelia into their home. Later they gave Amelia to the Jacob H. Eshelman family for a servant. The Eshelmans moved to Shannon, Illinois and in 1886 moved again to Sedgewick, Kansas where they farmed.
Although Amelia was only ten years old and a very small child for her age, the Esheleman family felt they were doing an act of charity to take this little waif into their home. The least she could give in exchange for this was her labor.
Jacob Eshelman was a devout member of the Brethren in Christ Church. He devoted a great deal of time to the ministry and had spent time as a missionary to Japan. They attended the River Brethren Church, long gone, in Sedgewick.
All week long Amelia looked forward to Sunday, when she could go to church. Although her family had been Lutheran in Germany, Amelia joined the Church of The Brethren in Christ and was a very devout christian for the rest of her life.
For the next eight years she worked almost as an indentured servant. She did not always get to go to school as there was much work on the farm that had to be done. She did attend Doty School District 24 in the year of 1886-87 under the name of Amelia Eshelman, age 16. Her teacher was David W. Layer.
One of her duties was to wash all the family laundry on the washboard. Being a thrifty woman, Mrs. Eshelman would often say to Amelia, "use more elbow grease and less soap." On her eighteenth birthday they set her free and she left the Eshelman home never to return again.
She got a job with the Harvey House in Newton, Kansas. Fred Harvey ran a chain of depot restaurants for the Santa Fe Railroad. The Harvey Houses brought order and graciousness to track-side dining. Harvey advertised for "young women of good character, attractive and intelligent, 18 to 30." He paid $17.50 a month, plus room and board, and required them to be in every night by 10 p.m. She was transferred to the Harvey House in La Junta, Colorado.
One Day she took a trip to Creede, Colorado, a mining town in the Rocky Mountains. In a restaurant in Creede, she noticed a tall young man hurriedly leave a freshly served bowl of oyster stew. By working in the Harvey Houses, she was used to people leaving food in their hurry to board the train. She assumed this gentleman had to leave his oyster stew for some pressing engagement. So... she sat down and continued to eat the stew. To her embarrassment, he returned and found her eating it. This is how Amelia met Frank Welch, her future husband.
Frank ran a livery stable in Creede and one day he was thrown from a horse and injured. He developed brain fever and was nursed back to health by Amelia. They were married July 27, 1882, in Lake City, Hinsdale County, Colorado. They are my grandparents.
They first lived in Jimtown between upper and lower Creede where he searched for gold. Shortly after the birth of their first son they moved two or three miles east of Regnier, Oklahoma, in the Oklahoma panhandle in what was then Oklahoma Territory. It was just east of what is now Kenton, Oklahoma. Cattle ranching was their livelihood.
Grandma was an expert at midwifery. Although she was only 4 ft., 11 inches tall, she bore eight children, six boys and two girls. With grandpa's help she delivered all of her own babies, as well as most of her grandchildren.... myself included. They moved again, onto the Conkle place by the Cimmaron River in southeastern Colorado. One day their youngest daughter was playing with fire and accidentally set the house on fire. It burned to the ground and everything was lost.
They moved into a two room rock and mud house 21 miles west of Campo, Colorado. Grandpa added to this house four more rooms and a front and back porch. Around it was his many rock collections. Beautiful yellow roses bloomed abundantly in the yard. It became the family ranch house. As the children reached twenty one, they all homesteaded around the ranch until they owned a very large cattle ranch.
The ranch house was located on a bend in Pat Canyon. It had been a favorite meeting place of the Indians. Tell tale signs were all around. Just above the ranch house was a deserted village of rock circles where they had camped. There were Indian pictures on a rock by the spring, telling their stories and areas where many arrowheads were found. Searching for arrowheads became Grandpa's lifetime hobby.
There were rolling hills covered with buffalo grass, deep rocky canyons and with a clump here and there of cottonwood or hackberry trees and wild choke cherries on the hillside. Speckled over the hills were cedar trees. It was a land that could be kind and beautiful or harsh and cruel as it was one winter when the snow piled so deep that it buried the cattle alive.
Disaster struck their cattle herd twice.... once when hoof and mouth disease struck the country wiping out entire herds and again with the "black blizzards" of the 30's.
The 30's brought two blows simultaneously: the great depression and the dust storms.
On the east and north of the ranch as far as you could travel, the farmers and "nesters" had moved in with barbed wire and plows and plowed up every inch of buffalo grass. A great drought came and the winds picked up the dirt and the sky at midday was dark as at midnight. Dust blew nine days out of ten. It was everywhere. It was on everything. It was on every twig, every blade of grass, every strand of wire. It was in the hair of the half-starved jack rabbit and prairie dog. It changed the color of the bull snake.
The black dust storms would appear as a great cloud completely across the northern horizon. In a rolling motion and hissing moan they would descend upon you like a huge curtain dropping. Cattle and sheep died of starvation; prices collapsed. Finally, the government paid the ranchers $1.00 a head to shoot the cattle.
My grandparents held on desperately. They borrowed money from the Reconstruction Finance Company, which was a government agency, to feed their livestock. Then they borrowed again.
Just as the drought subsided, and the depression lessened, and prices began to rise, the finance company foreclosed. I remember the trucks that came and took away the livestock. What a sad day!
Grandpa came down with crippling arthritis and after an extended illness, died March 12, 1941.
I remember grandma as a short little lady with dark brown hair and brown eyes. She wore her hair in a knot on the back of her head, but when she took it down it came almost to her waist. Her ears were pierced. She never wore earrings, but sometimes at my urging, she would put a pin through one to show me.
She would make a big deal of keeping it a secret as she slipped a piece of candy from her pocket to mine (even when there was no one around but her and me). She prayed a great deal and taught me to pray as a child.
I could always tell when Grandma was working. She would sing as she worked.... mostly religious songs. Her favorite, and mine too was, "I Come to the Garden Alone." To me she had the most beautiful voice in the world.
In the spring I would go up on the hill behind the ranch house and pick wild flowers for her. She would make a big fuss over how beautiful they were as she put them into water.
Grandma lived twenty-five miles from Pritchett, Colorado, the nearest town. She seldom went to town, but when she did it was "dress up" time. She especially liked black colored clothing. She would put on her shiny black shoes, hose, and best black dress. On top of her head she pinned her black hat. I thought she looked splendid!
The thrill of my life was to get to sleep with Grandma. She had made a mattress of feathers and after much shaking and pounding, we would jump into bed and sink down deep into the feathers.
It hurts to remember that I did not see Grandma very often after I grew up. Why? We were of the same roots only I grew in a different direction. When I was young, I believed that time existed in infinite supply. Those things that I thought I could leave until tomorrow, I now perceive when it is too late.
I am thankful that she had a loving daughter who kept her and cared for her until she died at the age of 92 on March 19,1963, in Denver, Colorado. She is buried in Fairmont Cemetery in Lamar, Colorado, beside Grandpa.
She went through the uprooting chaos of immigration to America, the tragedy of her mothers death; the bewildering loss of a father who disappeared, and the breaking up and separation of her sisters and brother. She lived through two world wars, a fire, financial disaster, the death of her husband and one son.
Grandma cried a lot. She prayed a lot, and sang a lot ...but she always had faith. Time has taken her, but I will remember her always with love.
... (Granddaughter) Nellie Pearl (Welch) Fry, 1981
P.S. Aunt Louise, who cared for Grandma in her later years, told me that the doctor who treated Grandma asked if she was Jewish and she said, "Yes, My mother was Jewish but my father wasn't."
1- New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957
2- 1880 US Federal Census -- Chicago, Cook, Illinois (Page 8 of 48)
2- Colorado State Census, 1885 (Page 42 of 61)
3- 1900 US Federal Census -- Harrison, Beaver, Oklahoma (Page 9 of 9)
4- 1910 US Federal Census -- Harrison, Cimarron, Oklahoma (Page 7 or 9)
5- 1920 US Federal Census -- Regnier, Baca, Colorado (Page 15 of 16)
6- 1930 US Federal Census -- Carriso, Baca, Colorado (Page 2 of 3)
7- Hinsdale County [Colorado] Historical Society
9- Findagrave.com Link