Claude F. Congleton – AKA “Buster Brown”

In October 1903, Eugenia Selestine Hoar, daughter of Benjamin Franklin and Eugenia Chichester Hoar of Healdsburg married A. Claude Congleton, son of Agnes Call Congleton Wilson of Bailhache Avenue. The young couple set up housekeeping in Healdsburg and on February 13, 1905 their son Claude Franklin Congleton was born. Eugenia, better known as Jennie or Birdie, and baby Claude kept the home fires burning while Daddy Claude was away working as a brakeman for the Railroad.

Tragedy struck the young family early on when, in December 1906, just one day before his twenty-fifth birthday, A. Claude was killed while working on the train to Eureka, California. Little Claude F. was not even two years old at the time, so he never got the chance to know his father.

AN EXTENDED FAMILY

In June 1909, when Claude was six, his mother married George Taeuffer, who was the

PHOTO 1
Claude F. Congleton in striped shirt seated on George Taeuffer’s knee with Birdie Taeuffer standing next to them. Mae and John Taeuffer are to the right. Ernest and Sophie Taeuffer are at the far right. Seated from the left are: unknown, Dorothy and Ernest Taeuffer, and Helen Wilson.

brother-in-law of her late husband’s sister, Mae Congleton Taeuffer. George soon took Claude under his wing and made him a part of the Taeuffer family. In May 1910, the Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar reported that “George Taeuffer and son, Claude, returned to their home over on the West Side Monday after a stay of two weeks with Mr. and Mrs. E. Taeuffer.”

 

PHOTO 2
From the left: Dorothy and Ernest Taeuffer, Claude F. Congleton, and Helen Wilson playing with a litter of kittens.

Luckily for Claude, he had two cousins and an aunt who were close to him in age. Cousins Ernest and Dorothy Taeuffer were three years and one year older, respectively. His aunt Helen Wilson was just two years older. The four children were inseparable. Fancy parties were held frequently, particularly for the little girls. In 1910, for example, Dorothy Taeuffer hosted a party for her little friends where “chocolate, bread and butter and cake were served in her own wee dishes.” Birthday parties typically included favors or souvenirs for all in attendance in addition to the traditional cake and ice cream.

In 1912 when Claude was seven, his half-brother, George Edwin Taeuffer was born. Possibly in an effort to give the new mother a little break, Claude began being included in excursions with his grandparents, Agnes and Albert Wilson. In 1913 he enjoyed a two-week trip to the Wilson’s cottage in Jenner along with his aunt Helen. The John Taeuffer family including young Ernest and Dorothy joined the group for a portion of that seaside vacation.

A PROPHETIC NICKNAME

The popular comic strip “Buster Brown”, depicting a conservatively dressed boy who behaved mischievously, created in 1902 by Richard F. Outcault for the New York Herald was in its heyday when Claude was a child. The recurring theme of the comic was that each time the naughty Buster’s misdeeds were discovered he would always promise to behave better, but of course he never did. Claude’s mother chose to dress her son in the style of Buster Brown and he would soon become known by that nickname. The name was so pervasive that his cousin, Mildred Harris Farrell, who was only three when Claude died, would recall it seventy years later.

Claude’s experience in grammar school was a mixture of academic struggle and extracurricular fun. He was held back in the second grade and his promotion from fifth to sixth grade was only “conditional.” Yet he participated in the Healdsburg Grammar School Bazaar Mother Goose Pageant held in June 1916 performing “Sing a Song of Sixpence” as part of a chorus of 4th graders and then again as part of the 5th grade “Tinker’s Chorus” the following May. He also recited “Spare That Tree” at the Burbank and Arbor Day Program celebrating both Luther Burbank’s birthday and Arbor Day in March 1918.

His mischievous behavior started catching up to him when in April 1917 it was reported in the newspaper that Deputy Game Warden Henry Lencioni had caught twelve-year old Claude and his friend Fred Mason on Mill Creek fishing before the season had opened. The boys were in possession of a total of 163 trout which were confiscated and taken to the Detention Home were the children there reportedly enjoyed a fine fish dinner. The incident even made it into the California Fish and Game Commission Report for the year where parents were warned that such behavior by youngsters would no longer be tolerated on account of their “tender years” and offenders would be prosecuted without exception.

In June 1920, Claude completed grammar school and was promoted to high school. But academics were not in his future. The following month, at the age of fifteen, he traveled to San Francisco with his mother and step-father to enlist in the U.S. Navy.

THE NAVY WILL MAKE A MAN OUT OF HIM

On July 20, 1920, Claude F. Congleton enlisted in the U.S. Navy for a period of three years. Because he was not yet eighteen, his mother had to sign a consent form. Claude was actually only fifteen at the time, which was apparently too young for enlistment. So Birdie Taeuffer signed an oath swearing that his birth year was 1903 rather than 1905, which would have made him seventeen. At the time he was described as being 5 feet 6 inches tall, 139 lb., with light brown eyes, brown hair and a ruddy complexion. On his insurance paperwork he listed his mother Birdie Taeuffer and his brother George Edwin Taeuffer as his beneficiaries.

After enlistment at the Naval Recruitment Station in San Francisco, California, Claude traveled to the Navel Training Station at Great Lakes, Illinois, arriving on July 31st. There he began his training as an Apprentice Seaman.

PHOTO 4 - USS Prairie 1919On October 11, 1920 Claude began his first assignment on the USS Prairie in San Diego. The ship was originally built in 1890 to be an ocean liner. It was acquired by the U.S. Navy in 1898 and re-fitted. It then would be decommissioned and recommissioned three times before the U.S. entered the Great War in 1917 at which point it was converted into a destroyer tender. Claude served aboard her until her final decommissioning in November 1922. At that time, he was transferred onto PHOTO 5 - USS Nechesthe USS Neches where he served the remainder of his 3-year hitch. The USS Neches was a much more modern ship having been commissioned in late 1920.

Claude’s Navy service record does not indicate that he received any academic training nor did he receive any training in small arms or rifles. He did, however, get into a number of scrapes with various offences listed including; being out of uniform, AWOL for a few hours, gambling, using obscene language, wearing a dirty uniform at inspection, repeatedly absent from muster and for sporting a “non-regulation haircut.” His punishments for these offences included being fined, being put on restriction, and even a day of solitary confinement. Considering the fact that he was a 15 to 18 year old boy away from home for the first time in his life, these behaviors could pretty much all fall into the category of youthful transgressions.

But in spite of the list of errors he made, at the end of his 3-year stint, on July 19, 1923 Claude F. Congleton received an honorable discharge with the rank of Seaman 2nd Class and a recommendation for reenlistment. He was discharged at Port Angeles, Washington and given funds to pay for his transportation back to his point of enlistment, San Francisco.

FALLING IN WITH THE WRONG CROWD

After leaving the Navy, Claude made his way from Washington State back to Healdsburg where he just didn’t seem to be able to stay out of trouble. His name was back in the newspaper when in 1925 he was called before the Justice of the Peace on a charge of driving with no tail light.

It was soon thereafter when he found work at the Healdsburg Concrete Pipe Company. Nevertheless, he apparently could not resist the lure of easy money. The state fishing commission suspected that a gang of salmon poachers was operating on the Russian River at that time. It would turn out that Claude was among their number. This choice would prove to be the worst one of Claude’s life.

On the evening of Saturday, December 18, 1926 Claude drove a borrowed Nash roadster to the Tucker Street home of his boss at the concrete plant, Alfred Sousa. He and his friend known only as Shipp had been drinking. They convinced Sousa to drive them to the Grant gravel plant shed about 100 yards upstream from the railroad bridge on the Russian River. There they were met by several other young men, including Delano Grant, in a Ford coupe. Around 11:00 pm Claude proceeded to the shore of the river and got into a small rowboat without oars, determined to collect the illegal net they had set in the river several hours earlier to catch salmon. Sousa tried to dissuade him, urging him to wait for the morning. But it was to no avail, and the young man pushed off into the river. In a few minutes those on the shore heard a splash. A hurried search yielded the empty boat, but no Claude, and it was suggested that perhaps he had crawled to shore and gone home.

Around 12:30 am, Alfred Sousa went to the North Street home of Claude’s parents, George and Birdie Taeuffer, to inform them of the evening’s events. It was 2:00 am when the police were notified. They proceeded immediately to the river where they found the rowboat with the weighted fishing net pulled most of the way inside, lodged against snags and willows under the highway bridge, but no sign of Claude.

PHOTO 6At first light on Sunday morning, the search began in earnest. Six local men probed the river with poles, working their way from the railroad bridge to the highway bridge. When that search was unsuccessful, the river was dragged with a net for more than 200 yards. Nat Pettenfill was one of the men who spent all day Sunday working at the river with a ten-foot pole. He returned to his gruesome task the next day and finally, at 9:30 am Monday, Nat Pettenfill of Front Street hooked the coat worn by Claude and pulled his lifeless body to shore.

The Coroner’s inquest was held that afternoon at the funeral parlors of Fred Young & Company. Henry Lencioni, now Captain of the county game wardens, who had arrested Claude nine years earlier for fishing out of season, came up from Santa Rosa to confiscate the net, which would later be destroyed. Other agents of the Fishing Commission scrutinized the crowd in an effort to identify members of the alleged salmon poaching gang. The inquest concluded with a determination that the cause of death had been accidental drowning. The newspapers were full of the grizzly details of the story and the Healdsburg Tribune even went so far as to point out that Claude’s death had come exactly 20 years to the month after his father’s violent death by the train. On Wednesday, December 22, 1926, twenty-one year-old Claude F. Congleton was laid to rest in Oak Mound Cemetery beside his father.

EPILOGUE

Although there may not have been any great accomplishments that can be attributed to Claude F. Congleton during his short life, it is worth noting that he did receive one posthumous honor. He must have made an impression on his younger half-brother because in 1942 Ed Taeuffer would name his first-born son in memory of his late brother, Claude.

 

Sources:
California Marriages, 1850 – 1952
Healdsburg California Death Certificates, 1905 – 1915
http://www.britannia.com
Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar: 5 January 1910, 25 May 1910, 10 July 1913, 23 June 1917, 26 April 1917,
Healdsburg Enterprise: 18 June 1910, 1 June 1912, 15 June 1912, 10 August 1912, 12 October 1912, 12 June 1913, 30 May 1914, 10 June 1916, 12 May 1917, 9 March 1918, 26 June 1920, 24 July 1920, 23 December 1926
Healdsburg Tribune: 15 October 1925, 20 December 1926, 21 December 1926
Sotoyome Scimitar: 21 December 1926
California Fish and Game Commission Report 1917
Conversation with Mildred Harris Farrell
Navy Service Record for Claude Franklin Congleton
Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships
Wikipedia

 

Cliff House in San Francisco

The original Cliff House in San Francisco was built on the bluffs above Ocean Beach in 1863. It was extremely difficult to reach and only the rich and famous could afford to pay the $1 fare to use the toll road. By the end of the 1870s it was losing money so gambling and liquor were introduced, much to the detriment of the establishment’s reputation.

In 1883 San Francisco Mayor Adolph Sutro bought the beleaguered Cliff House and set about refurbishing both the building and its reputation. He also commissioned a railroad to improve accessibility for everyday people. Unfortunately, the entire place burned to the ground on Christmas day 1894. Sutro replaced it with a $75,000 replica of a French Chateau that soon came to be known as the Gingerbread House.

The new Cliff House that opened in February 1896 featured an observation tower 200 feet above the Pacific, various restaurants, an art gallery, a gem exhibit, private dining rooms, several bars, and (lucky for us) a photo gallery. The establishment regained its family-friendly reputation and soon other attractions were being built nearby, including the amusement ride called Chutes at the Beach. Eventually more rides and attractions would be added to create the popular Playland at the Beach amusement park several decades later.

At the turn of the 20th Century, the good citizens of Healdsburg, California made periodic visits to San Francisco. As these tintypes attest, the Cliff House was one of the sights they took in.

Cliff House October 1899
John Taeuffer and Mae Congleton at Cliff House in October 1899

 

Cliff House
Standing: William H. Smith, Amelia Jane “Aunt Jennie” Congleton Smith Cook, A. Claude Congleton(?) Seated: Sarah Congleton Greaver(?), Agnes Call Congleton Wilson

 

Shoot the Chute
A yet-to-be-identified relative documenting his visit to Chutes At The Beach

 

 

Sources:
Wikipedia
Mashable.com – “c.1900 The house on the cliff” by Chris Wild
thevintagenews.com – “The long & peculiar history of the Cliff House in San Francisco…” December 26, 2016 by Ian Harvey
National Archives

 

Ernest Taeuffer, son of John

John and Mae Congleton Taeuffer started their married life on March 2, 1902. They set up housekeeping on the Magnolia Drive ranch located south of Healdsburg where John had grown up and where his father, Ernest Taeuffer, still farmed. The couple’s first child was a son, born November 11, 1902. They named him Ernest Louis Taeuffer, after both his grandfather and his late uncle.

THE COUSINS

 

1 Cousins resized
Ernest Taeuffer standing, Dorothy Taeuffer, Claude Congleton and Helen Wilson, seated.

When Ernest was just seven months old, his grandmother, Agnes Call Congleton Wilson, gave birth to his aunt, Helen Wilson. A year later, in 1904, his sister, Dorothy Agnes Taeuffer was born. And a year after that, in 1905, his Aunt Birdie Hoar Congleton, gave birth to his cousin, Claude Congleton. These four children who were a mixture of siblings, cousins, and an aunt would spend much of their formative years together as a group.

 

 

 

In the early 20th Century, the first eight years of education were lumped together under an umbrella called Grammar School. Children were grouped according to their progress rather than strictly by age. In 1911, Ernest, Dorothy, and Helen, despite having an age range from 7 to 9 years old, were all in the same “High First Grade” class at Healdsburg Grammar School. As the years went by, Ernest and Helen pulled ahead of Dorothy, as would be expected due to their being older. Claude followed along just a grade or two behind his older cousins. In 1817, at fourteen, Ernest would graduate from Grammar School and head for High School.

Birthday parties for the little ones was a popular pastime in the early 1910s. In June of 1912 the group of four attended not one, but two fancy parties with ice cream, cake, and “dainty little favors” or “souvenirs” to commemorate first Dorothy Taeuffer’s eighth birthday on Magnolia Drive and two weeks later Helen Wilson’s ninth birthday on Bailhache Avenue. Ernest attended a similar birthday party in February 1913 honoring one of this classmates, Miss Leota Van Devere in Dry Creek.

2 Whist_marker 2 resizedBut birthdays were not the only excuse for a party. The extended family and neighbors took pretty much every opportunity to have a gathering. The party may have been for a special occasion, such as John and Mae Taeuffer’s tenth wedding anniversary in 1912 or simply a gathering to play progressive whist (a card game similar to bridge). And the little ones were always included. Many evenings spent playing progressive whist at the Taeuffer’s, the Wilson’s, and various neighbors of both families were reported in the local newspapers. In all cases, the evening would last until refreshments were served around the midnight hour. For the most part these events took place on Saturday nights. But not on school nights.

THE WORLD CHANGES

3 Liberty Loan posterIn 1917 a new type of story began receiving high visibility in the local newspapers – the bond drives organized to finance the United States entry into the Great War. Both Ernest L. and his sister Dorothy were listed as bond subscribers for the four drives held in June 1917, October 1917, April 1918, and October 1918. These official U.S. “Liberty Loan” bond drives were augmented by the YMCA Drive in December 1917 and the United War Work Campaign in November 1918. Ernest Taeuffer’s donations to both of these drives conducted at Healdsburg High School were also documented in the local press.

HEALDSBURG HIGH SCHOOL

Attending High School in Healdsburg in 1918 was an exciting adventure. In September the Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar reported that the entire faculty was engaged in registering pupils to begin school in the newly constructed high school on Grant Street which would open on September 30th. They reported that “as the floors of the new high school building were hardly ready for the tread of many feet, the work of enrollment was performed at the old building on Fitch street.” The total enrollment would be 172; 4 Specials, 25 Seniors, 32 Juniors, 45 Sophomores (including Ernest), and 66 Freshmen.

4 HHS Yearbook 4 resized

High School provided the opportunity for Ernest to participate in several extracurricular 5 HHS Band 1919activities. As a Junior in 1919, he played in the newly formed band led by Professor Numberger. The band entertained their fellow students at lunchtime, playing music at noon, however, as Principal Morehead announced at the February assembly, “NO dancing would be allowed as the health authorities will not allow it.” It was, after all, the time of the influenza pandemic.

That same year right fielder Ernest Taeuffer was unanimously elected captain of the 6 HHS Baseball 1919 editedbaseball team. That baseball team, however, only won one out of the four games played. They did, however, beat the prior year’s record, when the local team lost every game. They could be forgiven, of course, since in 1918 there had not even been a diamond at the new high school for them to practice on!

But Ernest did not allow his extracurricular activities to deter him from his studies. In December 1917 he was listed in the Honor Roll category “None below C” and in February 1918 in the category “One below B.” In March 1919 they dispensed with the categories and he was simply listed as having made the Honor Roll as a Sophomore. His scholastic efforts were rewarded when he was able to complete his High School education in just three years to graduate with the Class of 1920.

In the 1920 Ye Sotoyome Yearbook, Ernest’s Class Horoscope indicated that his nickname was “Earney,” his favorite expression “Yep!” his hobby “Selling stocks,” his ambition 7 HHS Baseball 1920“Broker,” and his destiny “Lawyer.” He was once again captain of the baseball team, still paying right field. The team did not have a good winning record, but they did have “a swell new outfit of suits.” The yearbook also made note that “Influenza visited our town this year and gave us several weeks vacation not saying how much hard work we had to make up. We can consider ourselves lucky that we did not have to wear those horrid masks this year.”

Ernest graduated Healdsburg High School in June 1920 with 33 other scholars, one of the 8 Ernest Taeuffer 1920 resizedlargest graduating classes in the history of the school. The ceremony was held in the auditorium and was celebrated with a program including musical numbers and an address by Professor C.E. Rough of the University of California. A reception for the graduates along with their parents and friends followed the program.

After high school, Ernest spent his time working with his father and grandfather on the Magnolia Drive ranch. But farm work was not enough to keep him completely out of mischief. In March 1923 Game Warden Henry Lencioni arrested him for illegally fishing for steelhead trout out of season on Dry Creek. The fine imposed by the justice court in Santa Rosa was $25. A pretty high price for some admittedly delicious trout.

LOVE ENTERS THE PICTURE

9 Mae Garrett 1923 resizedIn 1921, Bird and Virgie Garrett relocated from Ukiah to upper Dry Creek with their four sons and four daughters. Their eldest daughter, pretty and vivacious seventeen year old Mae Garrett immediately caught Ernest Taeuffer’s eye. In August 1922 Ernest and his sister Dorothy attended a “forfeit” party thrown by Mae Garrett and in that same month all attended a birthday party for one of Mae’s Dry Creek neighbors. Still in August, Mae joined Ernest and Dorothy, their little brother Norman, parents John and Mae Taeuffer, and Dorothy’s sweetheart George Harris on a hunting trip. The two families became close very quickly with the three Taeuffer siblings visiting the Garretts’ home in Dry Creek and two of Mae’s brothers, Walter and Harry, even spending the summer on the Taeuffer ranch.

Meanwhile, a tall, lanky stranger who had come to town to work on the bridge construction turned out to be too charming for Dorothy Taeuffer to resist, so after completing just two years of high school, she married George Harris in October 1922. Ernest Taeuffer and Mae Garrett served as their best man and bridesmaid. Everyone assumed they would be the next couple to be joined in holy matrimony.

The parties continued into 1923 when, in April, the Taeuffer, Harris, and Garrett families all attended a multi-generational masquerade party in Dry Creek. Two months later Mae Garrett graduated from Healdsburg High School. That November, Ernest celebrated his 21st birthday. He received a handsome pocket watch to mark his having reached adulthood.

OUTBREAK

Tragedy struck a month before Ernest’s 22nd birthday. In September 1924, Ernest’s fifteen month old nephew Bobby Harris was suffering with a bout of the dreaded poliomyelitis virus. Bobby would survive his illness with only one unusually small foot to show for it. In children, paralysis would occur for only about one out of every thousand afflicted. The rate in adults, on the other hand, was one in seventy-five. The virus lives in the throat and intestines and is spread through waste, or sneezes and coughs. The contagious period lasts about 7 to 10 days from onset and the incubation period is anywhere from one to three weeks. Family members could act as unwitting carriers. Caring for an infant with the virus was a hazardous undertaking, indeed.

It was not long before Ernest fell ill with what initially seemed like a bout of the flu which, in those times, was not a trivial ailment in itself. The October 7 edition of the Healdsburg Tribune reported that Ernest was at home suffering from an attack of influenza. Two days later the Tribune reported that he was in critical condition.

Quickly, the diagnosis would take a more serious turn. Like his tiny nephew, Ernest had contracted polio, specifically bulbar polio which attacks the medulla oblongata (brain stem). Within three days of onset patients will exhibit difficulty swallowing, speaking and breathing. This was the case with Ernest and it was only a few days before he became paralyzed. Just before dawn on October 10th, Ernest Taeuffer perished.

There was an outpouring of grief from the town. The October 10 Tribune reported “Just attaining to man’s estate, Ernest Taeuffer counted among his scores of friends not only those of this own age, but his elders as well. He was a carefree young man of amiable disposition, with a smiling greeting for all that had made him widely loved in the community where he made his home.”

The funeral service was held from the Fred Young parlors with Rev. D.J. Donnan officiating. It was “attended by scores of relatives and close friends of the deceased and his family, and a great offering of flowers was made it tribute to the memory of the youth.” Ernest was laid to rest in Healdsburg’s Oak Mound Cemetery.Ernest Memorial 4 resized

As the October 16 Healdsburg Enterprise stated “Ernest Taeuffer… was called by the Angel of Death Friday morning, after an illness of but a few days. Apparently in the best of health, the young man was suddenly stricken with infantile paralysis and all that medical science could do was of no avail.” Indeed, even in the 21st Century there is no cure for polio. The treatment is still just bed rest, pain relievers, portable ventilators, and a nutritious diet. It would be 31 years after Ernest’s death before the first polio vaccine would become available and mothers could cease their annual worry.

EPILOGUE

Ernest’s death may have prevented Mae Garrett from becoming an official Taeuffer, but she would be known within the family as “Aunt Mae” for the rest of her life. In 1926 she served as Helen Wilson Frey’s maid of honor at her marriage to Redding Peterson. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s she would attend many of the celebrations and parties held on Magnolia Drive, and even traveled on vacations with the Taeuffer family.

After high school, Mae had started working as secretary for Principal Morehead of the Healdsburg High School. In 1927, he took a job as Vice Principal at the larger high school in Monterey, California. When he was promoted to Principal two years later, Mae moved to Monterey to take a position as secretary and stenographer for her former boss.

Mae continued in that role for many years. But she did not forget her “family” in Healdsburg. In December 1944 Mae brought San Franciscan Don McKillop to Healdsburg for a visit with Dorothy Taeuffer Harris. The couple would soon be married. They adopted a son, Ronald, in the late 1940s and relocated to Diamond Springs, California where Don started a roofing business. Years later they returned to Monterey. The visits to and from Healdsburg continued until 1973 when Mae Garrett McKillop passed away due to complications of a life-long heart condition at 68 years of age.

 

 

Sources:
Healdsburg Enterprise: 17 June 1911, 16 March 1912, 28 June 1913, 6 February 1915, 1 May 1915, 13 May 1915, 19 June 1915, 24 June 1916, 23 June 1917, 27 October 1917, 8 December 1917, 20 April 1918. 12 October 1918, 22 December 1917, 9 February 1918, 1 February 1919, 15 March 1919, 26 June 1920, 16 October 1924, 9 June 1927
Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar: 4 July 1912, 10 July 1913, 18 March 1915, 6 May 1915, 15 May 1915, 14 June 1917, 1 November 1917, 18 April 1918, 19 September 1918, 28 November 1918, 31 August 1922, 19 October 1922, 22 March 1923, 1 December 1944, 14 June 1951
Healdsburg Tribune: 22 June 1920, 23 June 1920, 25 June 1920, 11 August 1922, 28 August 1922, 2 April 1923, 7 October 1924, 9 October 1924, 10 October 1924, 14 October 1924, 10 June 1929
Ye Sotoyoman Yearbook 1919
Ye Sotoyoman Yearbook 1920
Ye Sotoyoman Yearbook 1923
1920 Census
1930 Census
1940 Census
Library of Congress
Taeuffer Family Lore

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.

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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.

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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

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

 

1995-0905 058 edit 1

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.

1995-0905 095 edit 1

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.

1995-0905 110

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.