HATS!!!

George Eastman pretty much created amateur photography when, in 1888, he introduced the Kodak #1 camera to the world. This camera was sold pre-loaded with a roll of film.  Once film had been exposed, the entire camera was returned to the factory in Rochester to be processed. The camera would be refilled with new film and returned to the owner while they waited for their prints. But when the economical “Brownie” camera came out at the turn of the 20th Century, the hobby exploded in popularity.

Hats were also all the rage at the turn of the century. And the ladies of Healdsburg were more than delighted to use the new photographic technology to document their fine plumage. Mae Congleton Taeuffer, Maggie Pauli Fischer, and Katherine Pauli Grabner are featured in the top row. Sophie Scheuer Taeuffer is at the bottom right of this grouping.

But the ladies were not the only ones wearing and photographing hats. Babies, children, and basically the whole family got into the act. The young man in the middle is Fritz Grabner. The family grouping includes Mae and John Taeuffer, Maggie and Alvin Fischer, and the youthful siblings Fritz and Katie Grabner all sitting on the back porch of the Taeuffer house on Magnolia Drive.

And, of course, getting silly with hats became a part of it as well. As, apparently, did the phenomenon that would come to be known as “hat hair.” So far the identities of these ladies remain blessedly anonymous.

 

 

John and Mary Call

John McCall was born in Scotland on June 20, 1822. Four years later, on August 10, 1826, the woman who would become his wife, Mary Fulton was born, also in Scotland. While still a young girl, Mary immigrated to Canada with her parents. In 1844, the Fultons then immigrated to Rhode Island, where Mary and John met. They were married October 25, 1846 in Providence and later moved to Savoy, Massachusetts. Two years later, on February 24, 1846, a boy was born nearby. Later in his life, he would be described as a “lame” boy, but whether his disability was due to an accident or a birth defect is unknown. When that boy was orphaned, the McCalls adopted him and named him Finley.

In January 1849, a bill was introduced to Congress proposing the creation of the Minnesota Territory in what was then the Iowa Territory. The McCalls left Savoy on February 1, 1849 and headed to that region despite the prevailing belief that the people living there were only semi-civilized. In March of that year, the measure passed and the Minnesota Territory was established. In 1855, Freeborn County, Minnesota was created. In 1859, John McCall purchased a plot of land in that region and began to farm. He became a naturalized citizen in May of 1860 in the 3rd District Court.

In July 1860, the family was living in Red Rock Township, Mower County, Minnesota where young Findley attended school. By now they had dropped the “Mc” to make their surname “Call.” Living next door were James and Eliza Stokes, possibly brother and sister-in-law to Clarinda Stokes Vanderwalker who lived several miles away on the other side of Austin, Minnesota.

On February 14, 1861 in Moscow, Mower County, Minnesota, Clarinda Vanderwalker gave birth to a baby girl, who she named Agnes. Sadly, Clarinda did not survive the childbirth leaving her husband Isaac with four daughters and one son under the age of thirteen in addition to the new baby. Isaac did not own a cow and had no way to feed his new infant daughter. The nearest neighbors who did own a cow were the Calls, who lived 16 miles away on the other side of the main market town of Austin. As Isaac traveled the 16 miles through the drifted snow from the Call’s farm to his own on horseback with the milk for little Agnes, the jostling would cause the milk to be churned into butter. This situation was clearly not working out and the solution quickly became obvious: the Calls would take in the baby. A few months later, Isaac Vanderwalker left Minnesota to fight for the Union in the Civil War. By the time he returned, Agnes had become a permanent member of the Call family.

Mower County Transcript 29 July 1869In 1868, the Calls moved from the Red Rock farm to the nearby settlement of Lansing, Minnesota where John established a shoe store. He placed an ad in the Mower County Register in 1869 advertising “Boots and Shoes at the lowest possible rates.” The family became active in the local Methodist Episcopal Church. In January 1868, Mary and John served on the Committee of Arrangements for a fund raising event to benefit the Reverend Canfield and his family. In 1869, the Mower County Register published a “Sketch of Lansing” that listed John’s store as the only outlet for footwear in town. But as pleasant as life in Lansing may have been, it would not be long before an opportunity to the West beckoned to the Call family.

The trans-continental railroad was completed when the golden stake was driven at Promontory Point, Utah on May 10, 1869 providing rail service west to Sacramento, California. The connecting lines extending service to Santa Rosa in Sonoma County were completed in 1870. In that same year, the Calls decided to relocate to the West. John, Mary, and little Agnes boarded the train and told their friends they were headed for Santa Rosa, California, leaving 24 year old Findley on his own in Minnesota. As they were headed across the plains in the train, they were reportedly waylaid by a band of American Indians. Mary Call was afraid that the Indians who boarded the train would steal little nine-year old Agnes so she stuffed her under the seat and covered her with a pillowcase. The crisis passed without further incident and they were soon on their way again.

In 1870, the population of Healdsburg, California was around 1,750 people. The plannedRussian River Flag 10 November 1870 clean railroad extension that would reach the town the next year promised to bring an expansion of the agricultural industry as well as many tourists to the increasingly prosperous town. By the summer of 1870, the Calls were living in Healdsburg and John had set up his shop “next door north to Hertel’s store” on the west side of the Plaza. The following October John moved his shoe store into the new building on the Odd Follows Russian River Flag 31 October 1872 cleanlot on the South side of the Plaza next door to Lockwood & VanSlyke’s book store. The Russian River Flag reported that the shoe store cost $200 to build, while the bookstore cost $225. John continued to ply his trade there on the Plaza for some years. Meanwhile, Mary kept house and little Agnes attended school.

John had been a Master Mason in Minnesota and in 1871 he joined the Free and Accepted Mason Sotoyome Lodge No. 123. He took his turn as an officer of that organization, serving as Tyler (the guy who guards the door during the lodge meetings) from 1875 through 1880.

Lodge life must have agreed with him, because he was also a member in good standing of the Healdsburg Lodge No. 64, Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.). In 1874 he served as Vice Grand (second in command) and in 1875, he served as Noble Grand (presiding officer) for that lodge.

At fifty years old, John Call had the first indication of what would become a debilitating vision problem later in his life. Just after New Year’s Day 1873 he traveled to San Francisco to consult with an oculist who determined that he was developing cataracts in both his eyes. This was not something that a shoemaker could live with and so he underwent what was in those days a dangerous surgery to have them removed.

The following year John made two major real estate transactions. In January 1874 he purchased lot 1 of the Sotoyome Rancho from John N. Bailhache for $750. His descendants would hold that land for the next 100 years. In February 1874 he sold the south half of lots 76 and 91 in Healdsburg to Mrs. Louisa J. Vaughn for $850.

Meanwhile, in 1878, daughter Agnes had married George Washington Congleton and the couple had moved in with George’s twice widowed mother, Almira Almy Congleton Burgess in her Healdsburg home on Sherman Street.

In 1881, son Findley left Minnesota and joined the rest of the family in Healdsburg. By 1882, John Call had “retired” to his farm on Bailhache Avenue and was focusing solely onhops farming, while his son, Finley, took over the shoemaking business. The main crops in Healdsburg in the 1880s were grapes, lumber, and hops. While the Call ranch focused on hops, they dabbled in plums as well. In an article debating the virtues of various plums Three plums with leaves on white background.and prunes, the August 11, 1881 Russian River Flag reported “John Call, of Bailhache’s addition, thinks that the Livey plum, propagated by him, is the best variety for this section.”

In 1887, daughter Agnes obtained a divorce from George Washington Congleton and, along with her two young children, Lulu Mae and Claude, moved back in with John and Mary Call in their Bailhache Avenue home. John’s health had begun to decline by that point and in 1889 he even withdrew from the Masons.

In his final years, John lost most of his sight and became dependent on his wife and daughter. Agnes married Albert A. Wilson in 1890 and the couple took over management of the ranch. John Call died at his home on Bailhache Avenue on October 24, 1892 and was buried in Oak Mound Cemetery. His obituary mentioned that the funeral had been conducted under the auspices of the Masonic lodge and that it had been largely attended.

In March 1893, John and Mary’s son Finley Call, died at only 47 years of age and was buried near his father in Oak Mound Cemetery. Three months later, Mary gained a small modicum of notoriety when she joined with a few of her neighbors to petition the Board of Supervisors to have their area removed from Russian River township and annexed to Mendocino Township. The grievances noted included the facts that the Russian River Township police officers located in Windsor were not able to respond in a timely manner to the “drunken tramps and Indians who congregate in the vicinity of our homes,” that since they were living in the suburbs of Healdsburg (in Mendocino Township) they did most of their business in that place, and that because they were living so far from their voting district they were “sometimes deprived of our votes on important election matters.” After some of the original petitioners had second thoughts and asked to have their names removed from the document, it was voted down summarily.

Mary once again expressed her resolve and independence publicly when, in 1899 afterpeaches attending a fruit growers meeting held in Truitt’s Theater, she signed an agreement with other “prominent” peach growers. The document affirmed that these growers, representing about 2,000 tons, would refuse to accept payment of less than $25 per ton for freestone nor less than $30 per ton for cling peaches.

Mary Call continued living with Agnes and Albert Wilson on the Bailhache Avenue ranch. In July 1902 she was an honored guest of the Old Folks Society annual dinner. The next month a party was thrown for her 76th birthday. The Healdsburg Tribune reported that “Mrs. Call is as hale and hearty as ever, and those present expressed the wish that she might see many more such pleasant birthdays.”

Mary continued to do well for several more years, but in later years began to suffer from dementia. In 1908 she signed ownership of the Bailhache Avenue ranch over to her daughter, Agnes Wilson in a gift transaction. Agnes continued to care for her until her death on May 20, 1911. Mary’s obituary stated “Gramma Call, as she was reverently referred to by all her friends,…was an interesting talker and it was a pleasure to listen to her narrate the early day experiences and the changes that have been made during her long life.” She was laid to rest next to her husband in Oak Mound Cemetery.

 

Sources:
Wikipedia
Minnesota Territorial Pioneers website
Freeborn County, Minnesota deeds
Clarinda Vanderwalker grave marker
1800 U.S. Census
1860 U.S. Census
1870 Census
Mower County Transcript; 9 January 1868, 15 July 1869, 29 July 1869,
Russian River Flag; 25 August 1870, 3 November 1870, 10 November 1870, 19 January 1871, 16 March, 1871, 25 May 1871, 13 July 1871, 14 September 1871, 2 November 1871, 28 March 1872, 24 October 1872, 31 October 1872, 9 January 1873, 7 January 1875, 14 January 1875, 12 December 1878, 16 June 1881, 11 August 1881
Sonoma County Tribune; 28 December 1876, October 18 1890, 27 October 1892
Sonoma Democrat; 24 January 1874, 7 February 1874, 11 July 1874, 8 January 1876, 4 July 1902
Healdsburg Enterprise; August 1897, 21 December 1878, 2 January 1879
Healdsburg Tribune; 14 August 1902, 31 May 1911
Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar; 15 June 1893, 13 July 1899
Free and Accepted Mason Records of the State of California; 1871 – 1889
Great Register of Sonoma County 1875
Great Register of Sonoma County 1882
Healdsburg History, Healdsburg Museum website
OurHealdsburg.com
Agnes Congleton vs. George Congleton court transcript
Oak Mound Cemetery index cards, Healdsburg Museum
Helen Wilson Peterson’s personal remembrances shared with Marie Taeuffer

 

Taeuffers in Frohmuhl 1700 – 1900

The Taeuffer family roots extend deep into the Bas-Rhin (Lower Rhine) region of France and can be traced back to the beginning of the eighteenth century. The family was, for many generations, a fixture in the small farming community of Frohmuhl. The village is located about 60 kilometers (around 40 miles) northwest of Strasbourg, in the canton de la Petite Pierre in the Vosges forest, in Alsace.


POLITICAL BACKGROUND

The region known as Alsace has seen a steady stream of political changes since the Holy Roman Empire. This desirable area has cycled back and forth between French and German rule a number of times. Alsace officially became part of France at the end of the 30 Years War in 1648 with the Treaty of Westphalia. Interestingly, the treaty stated that, although the King of France was the sovereign, all existing rights and customs of the locals would be left in place, thus setting a precedence that holds true up to current times.

The Franco-Prussian War which resulted in the 1871 unification of Germany saw Alsace and neighboring province Lorraine returned to German control. Particularly galling to the locales must have been the fact that Alsace was not even allowed local governance like other German member states. Rather, it was placed under the authority of the Kaiser and administered directly from Berlin.

The First World War saw Alsace liberated from German rule in 1919 with the Treaty of Versailles. Interestingly, this treaty included dispensation for Alsace from the French laws that had been implemented between 1871 and 1919 while Alsace was in German hands.

All went well until Hitler’s army invaded France in 1940, seizing Alsace and Lorraine as German territory. The area was again returned to French rule (for the final time) when the Allies liberated France in 1945. Again, the local rights and customs of the people of Alsace were protected with the implementation of “local law” provisions.

The latest change was in 2016 when Alsace, Champagne-Ardenne and Lorraine were consolidated into a single administrative region called Grand Est with Strasbourg as its capital.

RELIGIOUS HISTORY

The way religion was established in the area vs. the rest of France also reflects an independent spirit. During the 16th century Protestant Reformation, Strasbourg (in 1523) choose to become Protestant. Subsequent efforts by the Roman Catholic Hapsburgs to eliminate this “heresy” eventually resulted in a patchwork of Protestant and Catholic territories throughout Alsace with each village making its own choice.

Another example of the independence of the region is that the 1685 Edict of Fontainebleau which suppressed French Protestantism throughout the country was not applied to Alsace.

Yet another local law concerning religion is Alsace’s dispensation from the 1905 French law separating church and state. Consequently, unlike the rest of France, public subsidies to Catholic, Lutheran and Calvinist churches, as well as Jewish synagogues are allowed in Alsace. And in fact some religious instruction is required in Alsatian schools.

LANGUAGE

The language known as Alsatian is generally recognized as a dialect of Low Alemannic German. Use of the language is fading in modern times, although it is now being offered as an optional course in many of the schools. The modern people of Alsace consider themselves more Alsatian than French and certainly not German.


TÄUFER, TÄUFFER, TAEUFFER

The original spelling of the family name was Täufer, the German word for Baptist, Mennonite, or one who performs baptisms. Whether or not that was an indication that the family was historically Protestant, like many of the people of Alsace, the family eventually became members of the Catholic faith. It is evident from the Germanic-sounding given names of family members in the early 1700s that the Täufers, although officially French citizens, identified culturally as Alsatian.

Nicol TäuferNicol Taeuffer Pedigree

Nicol (also spelled Nickel) Täufer was born December 15, 1752 in the Baptist village of Weislingen, just a few kilometers from Catholic Frohmuhl. His father, Frederic, was the son of Joannis Täufer and Marie Dinell. Nicol married a woman by the name of Anna Marie Macart who was of French ethnicity. It was likely she (along with the French revolution) that began the strong French influence on the family. In 1786 the couple had a son. His name, documentPierre, reflected the influence of the ongoing French Revolution. At the same time, Nicol began using the French spelling of his name, Nicolas in official records. He and Anna Marie also had a daughter, named Magdelena. Unfortunately, she died in 1811 while still a young woman.

In 1804, Nicolas and Anna Marie built a roadside inn in Frohmuhl, where weary travelers might find food, shelter, andkeystone hospitality. To welcome guests, a carved block of the locally quarried sandstone was set as the keystone above the door. It read “1804 / Nicolaus Taeuffer / Anna Maria Macart”. Spelling consistency of his first name was apparently not a high priority. Soon after establishing the successful business, Nicolaus started the family tradition of public service when he became mayor of Frohmuhl in 1814.

Pierre Taeuffer

Like many of his neighbors in Frohmuhl, Nicolaus’ son Pierre made his living as a farmer. In 1810 He married Catherine Keile. (As a testament to the ambiguity of the region’s national identity, the records of the Pierre and Catherine’s family throughout the first half of the nineteenth century reflect both French and German spellings of the name Täuffer/Taeuffer interchangeably.)

The couple was blessed with a daughter, Anna Marie named after her grandmother, in document1811. In 1814 they had a second daughter, Catherine. On May 22, 1844 Catherine married Auguste Noetinger. Unfortunately, the bride’s mother did not live to see her daughter married. The newlywed couple soon left Frohmuhl to settle in Strasbourg. On April 1, 1851 the Noetingers had a daughter, Anne Marie, followed by two sisters, Marthe and Elizabeth, and a brother, Alexander.

In 1821, Pierre and Catherine had a third daughter, Barbe. Unfortunately, she died on May 7, 1845 unmarried and only 24 years of age. Pierre and Catherine’s youngest child, and only son, Jacques, was born in 1825.

In 1828 Pierre took over from his father, Nicolas, as mayor of Frohmuhl. He served in that capacity off and on until his death on May 28, 1850.

Jacques Taeuffer

Pierre’s son, Jacques, married Sophie Winter, born in 1828, on September 26, 1848. Their documentfirst son, Georges, was born on December 1, 1849. Georges went on to earn his living in Frohmuhl as a wheelwright. He also managed the family inn built by his grandfather. Following the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, he continued the family tradition of public service by serving as “civil records officer,” a position similar to county clerk. He went on to marry Catherine Wintcerith on June 15, 1875.

 

Jacques’ son Georges Taeuffer had five children:document

  • Their first born, Ernst, was born March 21, 1876 and died May 26, 1942 in Tieffenbach.
  • Their second son, George, was born April 16, 1878. He married Marie Wintzenrith and lived until 1933. They had a son, Eugene, born 1915 and a daughter, Lucie, born 1917, who married Marcel Dann.
  • On March 1, 1880 they had a daughter, Maria Josephina, who lived a long life, being finally laid to rest on April 23, 1976 in Strasbourg.
  • Their second daughter, Marie was born in 1883 and married Oscar Grandadam. Oscar died on October 12, 1914 defending France in World War 1. Marie died in Frohmuhl in 1960.
  • Lastly, came son Victorine, born March 27, 1886. Victorine died on March 7, 1962 in Haguenau.

document

Jacques and Sophie’s second son, Jacques, was born in 1851. He was also a farmer, and married local girl, Magdelena Dinkle. They had three children:

  • Daughter, Sophia, on March 25, 1881, followed by three sons;
  • Ludwig in 1882, Victorinne in 1887, and
  • Louis Joseph in 1899.

document

In 1852, after his father, Pierre, died Jacques took over duties as mayor of Frohmuhl. The next year, he and Sophie had their third child, a daughter named Catherine. In 1854 she was joined by another brother, Ernest who would eventually go on to seek his fortune in America.

 

 

Sophie Taeuffer 1863 - 1892
Sophie Taeuffer   1863 – 1892

 

The next addition to the family was a son, Louis, born in 1858. The sixth and final sibling was Sophie, born 1863. This youngest child was much beloved and the family was devastated when she died in 1892 at only 28 years of age, possibly from appendicitis. Her husband, Eugene Kieffer, was so bereft that he left Frohmuhl and did not maintain further contact with the family. Her photograph, a copy of which Ernest Taeuffer kept in America, hung on the wall of the family restaurant for many years after, well into the 20th century.

 

In 1871, as a result of the Franco-Prussian War, Frohmuhl once again became a German possession. Jacques Taeuffer went suddenly from serving as mayor, to serving as Burgermeister. At the same time, he was compelled to change the spelling of his name to Jakob Täuffer. It is very likely that this transformation was a bitter pill to swallow for the young, headstrong, and self-proclaimed Frenchman, Ernest Taeuffer. In addition, as a German citizen, Ernest would have been subject to mandatory conscription into the Kaiser’s army when he turned 20 years old. In order to avoid that indignity, in 1873, nineteen year old Ernest Taeuffer left Frohmuhl for America, never to return.

 

 

 

 

Sources:
Wikipedia
“The Germanic French – Researching Alsatian and Lorrainian Families” 2016 webinar by John Philip Colletta
Civil Records of departement du Bas-Rhin
Family lore from Lucie Dann as told to Bernadette Dann

 

 

 

Westward Expansion

The 1800s saw a massive westward expansion across the territory owned by the United States. My family participated in this movement along with the millions of others.

Slide1

 

Isaac Vanderwalker was born in Saratoga, Saratoga County, New York in 1819. As a young man, he moved with his parents to Jay, Essex County, New York where the family established a saw mill. There Isaac married Clarinda Stokes in 1845. They, along with several of Isaac’s siblings, then relocated to Marquette, Michigan in the early 1850s to dabble in the mining industry. That must not have worked out too well, because in 1856 the Vanderwalkers had moved to Austin, Mower County, Minnesota. Isaac spent the next several years in Moscow, Mower County farming the land. There, daughter Agnes was born in February of 1861. Unfortunately, Clarinda died in childbirth, leaving the infant and her five older siblings motherless. When the Civil War broke out a few months later, Isaac left Minnesota trusting Agnes to neighbors John and Mary Call and leaving the older children to fend for themselves with the help of other nearby relatives. Upon his return in 1865, he married Carrie Smith. In 1878 he made his final move to Alta Vista in Lincoln County, Minnesota to farm.

John Call was born in 1822 in Scotland and immigrated to the United States as a young man. In 1844 he married Mary Fulton in Providence, Rhode Island. They too were drawn to the West and by 1857 were living in Mower County, Minnesota. In 1861 he and Mary took in tiny Agnes Vanderwalker and gave her their surname. Opportunity soon called when the transcontinental railroad was built and the branch to Santa Rosa, California was completed in 1870. That year John uprooted his family and moved to Mendocino Township, Sonoma County, California where he established his shoemaking business.

John E. Congleton was born in Chautauqua, New York in 1816. He joined the U.S. Army in 1834 and soon found himself at Fort Jesup, Louisiana. In 1836 he married Almira Almy in Natchitoches, Louisiana, about 20 miles from the Fort. They then proceed to relocate to Arkansas in 1839, Missouri in 1842, Tennessee in 1845, and back to Missouri in 1950 (presumably with the Army) before joining his ‘49er brother, Aden C. Congleton, in Rough and Ready, California in 1852. The saw mill that John then established in Gold Rush country apparently did not work out, so in 1858 he relocated with his family to Petaluma, California where he made his living as a drayman.

Taeuffer Baseball

The Mendocino Township Nine


In April of 1895 the newly formed baseball team, the Mendocino Township Nine, began playing on a recently built diamond located “just across the railroad track in Heald’s addition.” George “Monk” Taeuffer played center field while his brother John Taeuffer held down left field. The Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar stated that “John Taeuffer…is referred to as the coming ‘phenom.’” In April 1896, George was starting pitcher in the first game of the season against Windsor. By 1898, John was playing first base and George was covering third.

Healdsburg Grammar School

Norman Taeuffer circa 1930
John Taeuffer’s son, Norman played on the grammar school team beginning in 1930. He started playing first base, then moved to second base. By the time 1932 rolled around he was the team’s pitcher. In May 1932 the Healdsburg Tribune reported “Taeuffer for Healdsburg pitched an airtight game, allowing only three hits.”

Practice on Magnolia Drive

Bobby Harris and Norman Taeuffer circa 1931
Living next door to each other provided plenty of time for Norman Taeuffer and his nephew Bobby Harris to hone their batting and fielding skills.

Healdsburg High School

Norman Taeuffer circa 1934
Norman Taeuffer’s career in high school baseball began as a freshman playing first base in 1933. On May 4th the Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar reported his season-to-date stats were a batting average of .500 (16 at bats) and a fielding average of 1000 (35 outs). It was a championship year for Healdsburg when, on May 25th they clinched the North Bay League northern division title. By then, Norman’s batting average had slipped to .384 (29 at bats) which was the second best on the team. Unfortunately, the squad was prevented from taking the overall North Bay League title when, on May 26th they were bested by the team from Tamalpais High School.

Norman Taeuffer Injury
Norman began his sophomore at center field. But his baseball exploits were cut short during the first league game of the year when, on April 4, 1934 he broke his leg sliding into second base. The article detailing his injury was featured on the front page of the April 5th edition of the Healdsburg Tribune. He would spend the rest of that school year on crutches.

The 1935 season started in April with Norman at first base, but by the end of May he was playing right field. The team ended that season in second place in the league, their dreams of a championship once again thwarted by the superior playing of the Tamalpais nine.

Most of the 1935 team graduated that year, so the 1936 team consisted of mostly new members, with only five on-going players anchoring the squad. Norman started his senior year at center field, but was soon doing service out on the mound. The local papers described him as the “big right-hander” and “probably the strongest chucker the locals have.” The team played several practice games against Santa Rosa Junior College that year, in addition to their league games against other high schools. Norman ended his high school career with the fifth highest batting average on the team of .333 with 42 at bats.

I.O.O.F Team


In April 1941, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) team from Healdsburg held try-outs. Among the new comers was Norman Taeuffer who earned a spot on the pitching staff. Before long, his nephew Bob Harris (no longer Bobby) joined the team. Soon Bob was outshining all others from the mound, his pitching described by the Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar June 16, 1941 edition as the “brilliant hurling of youthful Bob Harris.” And this while he was holding down similar responsibilities on the Healdsburg High School baseball team. The Odd Fellows just missed the first place spot that year when they were bested by the Sonoma Athletic Club on August 31, 1941 in a ten-inning game.

 

Sources:  Healdsburg Tribune; 25 April 1895, 11 May 1930, 23 March 1933, 4 May 1933, 11 May 1933, 25 May 1933, 3 May 1935, 12 March 1936, 19 March 1936, 26 April 1936, 28 May 1936
Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar; 27 June 1895, 22 May 1930, 23 March 1933, 4 May 1933, 11 May 1933, 24 May 1933, 25 April 1935, 23 May 1935, 7 May 1936, 21 May 1936, 17 April 1941, 16 June 1941, 29 August 1941, 4 September 1941
Sotoyome Scimitar – 29 May 1930, 9 March 1933, 23 May 1933, 29 August, 1941
Press Democrat; 30 March 1898

 

I want to give a special shout out of thanks to the Healdsburg Museum and Historical Society, without whose project to digitize their collection of historic newspapers this story could not have been written.

American Legion Auxiliary Sotoyome Post 111 – 1957 & 1958

In the 1950s, the American Legion Auxiliary was the women’s branch of the “men only” American Legion. It was a service organization comprised of wives and mothers of American Legion members and was focused primarily on veterans’ affairs and promoting patriotism, as well as other worthy causes.

On July 11, 1957, officers for the 1957 – 1958 term were installed during the general meeting held at the Villa Chanticleer. Later that same month, the projects and goals for the 12-month term were planned and mapped out at the initial meeting of the officers, executive board and committee chairmen held at the home of the new president, Mrs. Norman (Maria) Taeuffer. The activities and accomplishments of this group of ladies are described below.

 

Legion Auxiliary Officers 1957

Front row, left to right: Mrs. Don (Margaret) Cadd, Mrs. R.J. (Ruth) Albini, Mrs. Norman (Marie) Taeuffer, Mrs. Laurel (Florence) Musselman, Mrs. Hazel Kolb. Back row, left to right: Mrs. J. Chittenden, Mrs. Chester (Elsie) Leard, Mrs. Thomas Alexander, Mrs. Harold (Lucille) Hoskins, Mrs. Jirah (Margaret) Luce.

 

 

SOCIAL ACTIVITIES

The group enjoyed many social activities including monthly birthday teas, which were held at St. Paul’s Parish Hall. Refreshments were enjoyed and cards were played. Responsibility for arranging the teas rotated between ladies each month. Anita Larrieu, Margaret Cadd, Elsie Leard, Mildred Gagliardo, Mrs. Roy Gannow, Mrs. Edward Beeson, Margaret Luce, and Miriam Tingstrom each took their turn. Also, monthly meetings of the Past Presidents were held. These gatherings rotated amongst the homes of various participants and featured refreshments and Canasta tournaments.

 

Lois Day Life Member

Mrs. Lois Day and Anita Larrieu

 

 

At the December general meeting of the Legion and Auxiliary held at the Villa Chanticleer, Mrs. George (Lois) Day, resident of Healdsburg since 1895, was honored for her 30 years of service with a Gold Life Membership award. Anita Larrieu prepared one of her famous cakes for the occasion, decorated to resemble a Life Membership card. Elmer Sandborn sang “If I Had My Way.”

 

But the Auxiliary was more than just a social club for local ladies.

COMMUNITY SERVICE

In the late 1950s, polio was a major concern throughout this country. The Auxiliary spearheaded several activities during the January 1958 March of Dimes fund raising drive. Ladies of Post 111 made and sold “Blue Crutches” in front of local businesses and raised $180. This initiative had originated with the Healdsburg group the prior year and by 1958 had spread to other communities. Also, a “Dimes Dance” was held in coordination with the Legion at the Villa. Admission to the dance was $1, but additional funds were surely collected “at the Villa’s beautiful cocktail lounge” bringing the total for the night to “over $500.” Later in the month, the ladies also participated in the “Porch Light” collection drive. The town and surrounding area was divided into sections which were assigned to the various volunteers. The details were published in the papers. On the prescribed evening, those interested in making a donation were instructed to illuminate their porch light so the ladies would know to knock on the door to collect.

In addition to the work done with the March of Dimes, the Auxiliary made donations to numerous local groups. These included monies given to the Healdsburg Elementary School for school lunches, to Healdsburg Junior High for underprivileged children, toward the cost of dinner for the 6th Army Band during the Future Farmers of America Fair parade, and to the Camp Fire Girls.

At the March 1958 general meeting, the Auxiliary presented the Sotoyome Post with two signs reading “Welcome to Healdsburg, Please drive carefully” in honor of the Legion’s 39th anniversary. These signs were posted at the North and South ends of Healdsburg for many years.

Jim Foppiano and Mildred Gagliardo

Mrs. Anita Larrieu again provided an elaborately decorated cake for the birthday celebration. This cake was designed as a replica of the “Welcome to Healdsburg” signs.

VETERAN SUPPORT

The Auxiliary also upheld a strong commitment to supporting the country’s veterans. They worked tirelessly to improve the lives of the residents of the Veterans’ Home in Yountville.

In October 1957 “Legion Day” festivities were held at the Home. The Auxiliary provided a picnic lunch for the Legion color guard and the former Healdsburgers living at the Yountville facility. Those veterans listed in the Tribune were Gidon McCord, William Allan, A.V.A. Johnson, and Fred Leoni. Also in October, Margaret Cadd, Mrs. Ray Ganow, and Anita Larrieu represented the Auxiliary at the annual bingo party in the women’s quarters housing 54 ladies ranging in age from 64 to 86 years.

In preparation for the Christmas festivities, in November a basket was placed in Biasotti’s Market to collect scraps of foil, lace, etc. to be used by the Junior Auxiliary members to make ornaments for the veterans’ trees. On December 14, 1957 a Christmas party was held for the mostly World War I Veterans. Participants from Healdsburg included Gracie Stewart, Margaret Cadd, Hazel Kolb, and Anita Larrieu. The morning began with each of the 2,000 veterans in residence being presented with a stocking filled with fruit and cigarettes while other ladies trimmed the trees. Later on, a “Christmas Review” consisting of singing and dancing by Florence Berning’s group of 50 youngsters ranging from 4 to 20 years was presented. The day concluded with cake and coffee in the evening.

An important activity each year was the making and selling of poppies for Memorial

Poppy Making

Margaret Cadd, Hazel Kolb, and Lucille Hoskins with two enthusiastic veterans

 

Day. The poppies, made in 80 veterans’ homes across the nation, represent those seen growing in Flanders Fields, France in 1919 (immortalized in John McCae’s poem). The poppy is also the official flower of the American Legion and Auxiliary. The first Poppy Day was held in Milwaukee, WI in 1920. Hazel Young began the tradition in Healdsburg in 1925. In 1958, the Auxiliary provided the supplies for the Veterans to make the poppies. Volunteers traveled to Yountville twice a week for six weeks in the winter to assist the veterans in making the poppies. Veterans were paid a standard amount for each poppy they made. The balance of the proceeds from selling the poppies in May was placed in a special fund used towards projects for veterans and their families. Lucille Hoskins (1957 Poppy Chairman for Post 111), Margaret Cadd, Anita Larrieu, Mildred Gagliardo, Gracie Stewart, Marie Foppiano, Mrs. Ray Ganow, Ruth Albini, and Hazel Kolb participated in the twice weekly visits. As Memorial Day approached, the Auxiliary then began selling the poppies on the streets of Healdsburg for donations.

 

PATRIOTISM

Promoting patriotism was important to the Auxiliary. An Americanism essay contest was held each year. Students submitted written essays describing their views on the topic. First prize winner in 1958 was Cyd Stockman, sixth grader. Marylyn Smith and Doris Pedroni took second and third.

In addition, Girls’ and Boys’ State conventions were held in Sacramento. Boys’ State was

Girl and Boy State Delegates

Jim Foppiano (Post 111 Commander), Loretta Wright, Marie Taeuffer (Auxiliary President), and Pete Peterson

 

begun in 1937 and Girls’ State in 1943 for the purpose of “educat(ing) our youth in the duties, rights and responsibilities of American citizenship.” High School students were chosen to attend this event where they participated in mock elections and legislative activities at the county, city and state levels. In 1957 the auxiliary sponsored Loretta Wright while the Legion sponsored Pete Peterson. Loretta was appointed councilman of her city and Pete was appointed Supreme Court judge. Delegates for the 1958 Girls’ and Boys’ State were Sarah Ann Higbee and Steve Harrington.

 

Another example of youth outreach in 1957 was the formation of the Junior Auxiliary. All girls who were members of an Auxiliary or Legion Post family were eligible to join.

Between the Auxiliary, Legion, VFW, and War Mothers, numerous flags were donated throughout 1958 to local groups including the St. John’s Boy Scout troop, the Alexander Valley 4-H, and to Sonoma County for use at the Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach.

MEMORIAL DAY

Of course, Memorial Day was an important event for the organization. Preparations began well in advance. In 1958, calls went out in local newspapers beginning two weeks ahead for donations of floral arrangements. Most local merchants closed their shops for

Memorial Day

American Legion Sotoyome Post 111 Color Guard

 

the day. The festivities began with a morning parade. In addition to the Legion and Auxiliary color guard, the VFW, the Marine Reserves of Santa Rosa, War Mothers, Boy Scouts, 4-H, Camp Fire Girls and High School band participated. The parade began at the Healdsburg Shopping Center and concluded at the Oak Mound Cemetery. A solemn ceremony was then held, which consisted of speeches, laying of a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier, recitation of the poem “Flanders Field,” and a 21-gun salute followed by four trumpeters, led by George Izzett, sounding Taps. After completion of the ceremony at Oak Mound, the Legion and Auxiliary conducted additional ceremonies at Shiloh Cemetery in Windsor and Olive Hill Cemetery in Geyserville. After the long day, the participants retired to the Taeuffer ranch, South of Healdsburg, where Norman and Maria Taeuffer hosted a huge barbeque.

 

 

Memorial Day BBQ

Gracie Stewart, Guerdon Miller, Walter Gagliardo, Mildred Gagliardo, Lois Miller and Frank DeCarlo

 

CONCLUSION

When in July 1958 a new roster of Officers were installed for Sotoyome Post 111 Auxiliary, the outgoing officers of 1957 – 1958 could rest assured that they had successfully promoted their cause by caring for the old, nurturing the young, and supporting the community, while enjoying fellowship and good times.

 

 

Sources:
Santa Rosa Press Democrat: 14 August 1957, 18 August 1957, 3 October 1957, 13 October 1957, 18 November 1957, 22 December 1957, 30 December 1957, 16 January 1958, 12 March 1958, 27 April 1958, 28 April 1958.
Healdsburg Tribune: 15 August 1957, 19 September 1957, 3 October 1957, 17 October 1957, 24 October 1957, 26 November 1957, 19 December 1957, 26 December 1957, 16 January 1958, 23 January 1958, 30 January 1958, 5 February 1958, 20 February 1958, 6 March 1958, 20 March 1958, 24 April 1958, 1 May 1958, 8 May 1958, 15 May 1958, 22 May 1958, 29 May 1958, 5 June 1958, 12 June 1958, 19 June 1958, 3 July 1958.
Veterans’ Home of California Observation Post: 20 December 1957, 14 February 1958, 14 March 1958.

John Congleton’s Saw Mill

Several years ago, during a visit to my hometown of Healdsburg, California in Sonoma County, a dear cousin of mine shared with me an old scrapbook she had come across while clearing out her recently departed Mother’s home. In it was a newspaper article, written in the 1930s, that relayed some stories about our shared ancestor, John E. Congleton, who had arrived in California during the Gold Rush. The article quoted his Congleton Newspaper Articledaughter, Amelia Jane (Jenny) Congleton Smith Cook, as having stated (among other things) that her father “was not so much interested in gold mining as he was in the lumber business, for he [had] established a sawmill at ‘Rough and Ready.’” I had never heard about the family owning a saw mill in my prior twenty years of researching this family. I vowed then and there that someday I would make an attempt to verify this for myself…

Just Poking Around…

In October 2016 I traveled back to Healdsburg to attend my High School reunion. I decided to extend the trip to include stops at several of the Northern California repositories I had been wanting to visit since beginning my family research in 1994. My first stop was the California Genealogical Society Library in Oakland. There I found John Kitts Index at CGS LibraryCongleton’s name in a microfiche of “Kitt’s Index to Records in the Nevada County Recorder’s Office for July 21, 1856 to January 26, 1922.” It was not abundantly clear what the notations following his name indicated, but it sure looked like it was the location of a land record to me. Unfortunately, a quick search of the Nevada County Recorder’s Office website confirmed that they no longer were in possession of records of this vintage. Bummer.

I Wonder What I Will Find Over Here…

Proceeding with the confidence in my family historian ability to find stuff out and armed with the cryptic notation, I proceeded to the Doris Foley Library in Nevada City, California. I asked the helpful volunteer there if he was familiar with Kitt’s Index. And he responded, “Of course. And we have the original records on microfilm if you would like to see them.” After a short happy dance, I found myself looking at the record of my great great grandparents, John E. and Almira Congleton, selling their property, which included their residence and their one third interest in the “Newtown Sawmill,” to Porter Gilman in 1857 for $800. The description of the property indicated it was located at the bridge on Deer Creek on the East side of the Newtown Road Bridge. Now we were getting somewhere!

Hot on the Trail…

My new best friend at the Foley Library encouraged me to head over to the Searls Historical Library, also in Nevada City, to look for additional details. Once there, the friendly volunteer informed me that, sadly, the assessor’s records went back only to 1862 because earlier ones had been destroyed in a series of courthouse fires. However, she did bring me the original book “Kitt’s Index…” In it I was able to find later transactions by the individuals named in my ancestor’s deed. Using this information I was able to locate the assessor’s record of a portion of the property in the 40-lb. Assessors Book of 1862 that the volunteer was barely able to wrangle off of the shelf. At that time the 160 acres of land improved with “house, barn, fencing, fixtures, five cows, two horses, and two mules” was valued at $450 real estate and $250 personal property. The tax assessed that year was $9.61. This was pretty cool, but I wanted to see the land for myself.

Don’t Answer Yet, You Also Get…

My next stop was on Google Maps to look for the intersection of Newtown Road and Deer Creek. Unfortunately, it showed that the current Newtown Road ends at Bitney Springs Road just a few yards before it would cross Deer Creek. Rats. Undeterred, I headed out in the pouring rain to see what I could find. The GPS on my phone guided me onto Newtown Road and I followed it as it wound around for several miles before it turned and began running parallel to Deer Creek. As I approached the end of the road I pulled my car to the side and took off on foot with camera and umbrella. As I gazed across Bitney Spring Road I suddenly realized that I was looking at the abandoned continuation of Newtown Road and the decrepit old bridge across Deer Creek! This was the place!!Newton Road Bridge over Deer Creek

After another happy dance, I ambled over and found myself standing on the land that my ancestors had owned 160 years earlier. “I found you, Grandpa,” I whispered to the wind. This is why we research genealogy. For these moments of connection with our family from the past. And it all started two weeks earlier with an obtuse microfiche at the CGS Library in Oakland.

Moral of the Story

Look everywhere. At everything. And remember, those volunteers are out there just waiting to help you solve your mysteries.

 

Georgi Family Wedding Photos

We are so very fortunate to have wedding photos for Giacomo and Agnese Giorgi and all their children.

Click on an image to enlarge.

 

 

document

 

The Day the Taeuffers Returned to Frohmuhl

On September 5, 1995, Judi and Jean Taeuffer, along with their husbands, Michael Scott and Ron Hoopes, left their hotel in the small hamlet of la Petite Pierre in the French Department of Bas-Rhin. They drove out to the West and turned North onto a small paved road towards the village of Frohmuhl which Ernest Taeuffer had left over 120 years earlier on his way to America. The road was marked by the Alsatian hiking club as 1 hour 45 minutes to Frohmuhl (walking, of course). They did not know what they would find there. This is the first person account of that day as remembered by Jean.

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The narrow country road wound through a beautiful woods. It was so pastoral and deserted that I expected the road to turn to a dirt path at any moment. We came upon a placid lake that reflected the surrounding woods as perfectly as any mirror. We stopped to soak up some of the tranquility and try to capture the scene on film. A large, deserted building, white with the typical pink sandstone window sills and door frames whispered of another era. I began to wonder why in the world Ernest Taeuffer had ever left this beautiful place.

 

 

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Soon we were on our way again, and presently drove into the tiny village of Frohmuhl nestled at the foot of a small hill. One block later, we drove out of the tiny village of Frohmuhl. In this part of France, each small town has signs on each approach with the town name on them, and Frohmuhl was no exception. We stopped to take pictures of Judi and me under the Frohmuhl sign.

As with all the small towns in this area, the church spire was clearly visible on the hill. Investigation revealed that the sandstone church was built in the early 20th century, and included a war memorial listing the Frohmuhl citizens who had lost their lives in World Wars I and II. However, no old cemetery was is evidence. Conveniently, there was a town map posted on Rue Principal, which indicated the location of the current cemetery. We drove the two blocks, past the tiny train station, to the cemetery.

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The small cemetery consisted of closely spaced, well maintained graves covered with elaborate marble slabs. All graves held fresh flowers. There were numerous Taeuffers, as well as spouses and their families. However, the graves did not date back beyond Ernest’s generation. After photographing the various plots, we returned to the map in the center of town to consider our next move.

The mayor’s office, located above the one car garage fire department, indicated that office hours were 6 pm to 9 pm on Tuesdays. Happily, September 5 was a Tuesday. I was slightly disappointed to learn that the mayor’s name was Gaston Dann, apparently no longer a Taeuffer, as it had been throughout the nineteenth century.

Unwilling to simply wait until evening, our foursome continued to wander the village. People working in their yards or walking down the street had begun to notice us and we felt certain that the word was out that strangers were in town. Frohmuhl was not a place where tourists could blend in. Finally, we decided to inquire with a gentleman we had seen working in his open garage. Happily, he spoke some English and some German, as well as French. Michael was able to communicate that we were looking for people with the name Taeuffer. The gentleman indicated that he had only lived in Frohmuhl for the past two months, but that the mayor’s house was two doors down and perhaps he would be able to help us. We thanked him and wandered on.

While Judi and I were debating whether or not we should simply knock on the door, Michael did exactly that. A tall, blonde, young man answered the door and Michael asked if he spoke English. The youth reluctantly admitted that he spoke a little bit. Michael explained that the great grandfather of Judi and I had come from Frohmuhl and that we had come from California looking for family. The young man said “California, ooh,” and looked very impressed. Michael asked him if there were any people still living in the town with the name Taeuffer. He replied, “no…. but my grandmother was born with this name.” And we realized that, indeed, a Taeuffer descendant was mayor of Frohmuhl.

Michael told him that we would like to see town records and he indicated that the school teacher was also the Secretary to the Mayor and asked if we would like him to take us up to the school to speak with him. We agreed enthusiastically and the five of us proceeded up the hill. On our way, we learned our eighteen year old guide’s name was Michel Dann.

The school building consisted of a small, one room school house with living quarters for the teacher and his family above. Once there, Michel went in and brought out the teacher’s nineteen year old son, Eric. Eric spoke English quite well and was very interested in we Americans. He indicated that his father would speak with us when the children went to lunch in about 15 minutes.

We discussed what we did for a living, and they were quite interested to discover that I manufactured Coca Cola. Eric and Michel asked what we had seen in the area and recommended several points of historical interest.

They explained that this school was for the young children of the area and that older children went to school in similar buildings in other towns. Presently, a small bus arrived to take the out-of-town children home for lunch. The children came running out of the school, just as they would in any other country in the world, and the teacher invited us inside.

Unfortunately, although Richard did not speak a word of English, like any other teacher, he had a lot to say. Poor Eric did his best to keep up the translation. We were told that the original school and church had been located a little further down the hill, but that the railroad company had torn them down so that the tracks could run through. The railroad had then built the existing school in return for the right-of-way. Richard indicated that he would have more time to go over the records with us after school was out at 4 that afternoon. So we agreed to meet him then.

Michel asked us if we would like to meet his grandmother, and we, obviously, replied that we would. So we walked back into town and approached a small house. Michel walked into the back yard where a small white haired lady was working. They spoke a few minutes, and then came out to where we were standing. Michel introduced us and his grandmother, Lucie, invited us into the house.

We gathered around the dining room table and Lucie brought us Port wine and cookies. I tried to write down the family relationship on a scrap of paper, as I had thoughtlessly left the computer print-outs at the hotel. She had not been aware that she had had a great uncle Ernest who had gone to America, but was indeed familiar with the name Sophie Winter (Ernest’s mother). She also corrected me in the name of Catherine Taeuffer’s husband August Noelinger. The name was actually Noetinger and Lucie had a whole photo album of that branch of the family. She brought it out and went through great explanations that Michel tried valiantly to translate. The Noetinger family had moved to Strasbourg, where one of the daughters entered a convent, one married a count, and the third went crazy after the war and was always yelling that Hitler was coming. The son had joined the service and had left France for Indochin (Viet Nam).

Lucie regaled us of stories of the G.I.s that came to liberate Frohmuhl in 1944. We ascertained that some of the soldiers that came through were black men who tried to get the local girls to accompany them back to America. One of the soldiers continued to write his Alsatian sweetheart for two years, and the girl had only been 16 years old! I was very disappointed in myself that I had not brought my tape recorder. I asked Michel to ask his grandmother if she would write me the stories she remembered so that I could translate them. They did not seem to understand why I would be interested in such stories.

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We also learned that Frohmuhl translated to “happy mill” and had been named such by a convent of Catholic nuns who had lived in the building by the lake which we had seen earlier that day. Lucie told us that when she was a girl, unmarried young women would work making straw hats that were exported to Indochin.

 

Presently, we began to feel we had stayed long enough and we took our leave. We agreed to meet Michel back at his home that afternoon at 4 pm to go over the town records. And we left Frohmuhl to return to la Petite Pierre.

 

After enjoying lunch in la Petite Pierre, we returned to Frohmuhl, this time armed with genealogical print-outs and tape recorder. We met Michel at his home and proceeded to the school house. After releasing the children for the day, Richard asked that we meet him at the mayor’s office. Once there, he pulled the original town records (the micro-film of which I had gone through in Salt Lake City) out of the cupboard. He began going through them and photo-copying the birth records of various Taeuffers, all the time speaking in rapid French. I had the presence of mind to start the recorder, with the idea that one day I would learn enough French to understand what he had been saying.

Eric made a valiant effort at keeping up the translation. I told him that I had seen microfilms of the records we were holding. He could not believe what I was saying, and thought he must have misunderstood my English. But I explained again, that these records had been microfilmed in 1979 by the Mormon Church and were available to the public in Utah. They were amazed that anyone should be interested in the records of their little town.

Richard explained apologetically, that the records from several years in the late 1800’s were missing because they had been burned. He went on to say that in 1944, when the American G. I.s came through to liberate the town, they had made camp in the school house. It was very cold and they had no fire wood, so they had pulled up the floorboards of the school and used the records as tinder. I was horrified that our soldiers would have come in and torn up the floor, acting like so many barbarians. I reacted very strongly and with obvious dismay. Richard explained that the people in the town had been very happy to have the Americans destroy the school house floor, because they had chased the Nazis out.

As we went through the records, several people came into the office on various errands. Eric explained that when the office was officially open, no one ever showed up, but when they saw Richard’s car parked in front they all came around. I suspect they had just wanted to come in to take a look at the Mayor’s American relatives and see what we were up to.

After we had looked through the records we thanked Richard profusely and walked down stairs. Michel asked if we wanted to meet his uncle, Charles who lived across the street from the Mayor’s office. We approached a lovely home with beautiful window boxes spilling over with red blossoms. Michel spoke with the man in the garage and dragged him over to us. Charles did not speak English and was very shy with us. He was the reincarnation of our own Ed Taeuffer. We complimented him on his garden and, realizing we were making him uncomfortable, we took our leave.

As we walked down the street towards our car, a young girl approached. Michel told us this was Charles’ daughter and he grabbed her. He began to tell her who we were when she looked at him and said something in French which obviously translated to “yeah, I already know about them.” This Frohmuhl was beginning to feel more and more like Healdsburg.

As we walked past Lucie’s home, she came outside and began speaking to Judi and me enthusiastically. We looked to Michel helplessly and asked for a translation. He informed us that she had a present for us. She took us into her home and presented us with decorative plates depicting typical Alsatian scenes. She also gave us an old postcard with an aerial photo of Frohmuhl. We were speechless and could only thank her again and again. Michel explained that Lucie owned the local restaurant and showed us the location on the postcard. He then told us she wanted to show us something.

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We walked outside toward the restaurant where Lucie pointed out to us the keystone above the door. Upon inspection we found it was carved with the date 1804 and the names Nicolas Taeuffer and Anna Marie Macart. Again, we were speechless with delight.

About this time, Michel spotted a small red car approaching and flagged it down. He spoke to the driver for a moment, who then parked the car and approached us. It was Michel’s father, Gaston Dann, the mayor. He invited us to their home where his wife, Bernadette had just arrived. We all trooped into the dining room where we were served wine and cookies. Gaston told us that when Michel had come up to the car and told him that relatives from California were here he had though Michel was crazy.

We found out that Gaston and Bernadette were both teachers in local towns. In addition to being mayor of Frohmuhl, Gaston was president of the Alsatian society which was in charge of restoration of the numerous historical sites of the region. Gaston indicated that Bernadette had the next day’s afternoon free and that, if we liked, she would take us around to the various points of interest. We didn’t know whether or not we were supposed to decline out of politeness, and after a few rounds of Bernadette insisting it was not an imposition, we agreed. She told Michel and Eric that they would come along, as well, and it was agreed we would meet at the hotel the next afternoon.

They were very interested in finding out how we had known where to look for our family. I explained that we had found the slip of paper that said “Ernest Taeuffer came from the village of Frohmuhl in the canton de la Petite Pierre.” They nodded at the reference to the canton and laughed as I explained that, while I had found la Petite Pierre on the first map I looked at, it took several maps until I had actually found Frohmuhl. Gaston considered our theories as to why Ernest had left France, He verified that Ernest would have been required to serve in the German army, and agreed that he had probably fled to avoid that.

We stayed until we felt we should go, and gave many thanks to one and all. We drove back to our hotel with our heads spinning.

The next morning we drove to one of the recommended points of interest, the houses under the rocks in Graufthal. After lunch we went to await our guides at the tables in front of our hotel. Bernadette, Michel, and Eric arrived promptly at the appointed hour. Before we were on our way, however, Bernadette stopped to speak with some people she knew. Now all of la Petite Pierre would be aware of our mission.

Eric rode in the rental car with Ron and Michael, and Judi and I went with Michel and Bernadette in their car. We drove to the chateau at Lichtenburg. Bernadette knew the ladies working in the ticket booth. We received a detailed tour from our guides. The young men impressed us with their knowledge of and interest in the history of the area.

1995-0906 023In addition to the chateau, we were guided to several “typical Alsatian villages” complete with half-timbered houses loaded down with flowers, flowers, flowers cascading from window boxes, as well as lining the yards. We were then whisked out to the areas famous for ceramic ware. It seemed they were determined to show us as many points of interest as was humanly possible in the time allotted.

Finally, it was time to drop us back at the hotel. We thanked our new-found family again and again. Promises to write were made and hand-shakes were exchanged all around. And then they were gone and we were left with our heads spinning again.

A more perfect visit to Ernest’s home land could not have been imagined nor hoped for.