Memoir - DOC by gabyion

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                                      by Mary Ratzlaff Wohlgemuth 1,2

       My Father was Johann Ratzlaff, Sr., born in PLOTSK by the rural village of GOMBIN,
DEUTSCH-WYMYSCHLE COLONY, RUSCH-POLEN on August 11, 1851 – the eldest son of
PETER RATZLAFF and his [second] wife HELENA WEDEL RATZLAFF, the daughter of
Peter Wedel. They were of Deutsch-Germanic-Polish descent and spoke the PLATT-Deutsch
[Low Germanic] language dialect.
        My Father migrated to North America from Central Poland when he was a young man in
the early spring. I think it might have been in 1874.3 I do not know if his brother David J.
Ratzlaff came with him, or if the Stepfather David Ratzlaff and their Mother Helena and their
half-brother Frank Ratzlaff came all together – we think they did.4 They came from Gombin and
were thirteen days on the rough Atlantic Ocean. When they came to MARION COUNTY,
KANSAS, there was nothing there but prairie land – no trees, no barns or houses, not even any
neighbors... there was nothing! The RATZLAFF FAMILY settled along the small stream called
FRENCH CREEK on barren prairie lands. It was a few miles north of where the city of
HILLSBORO is now located. There was no town yet except the County Seat of Marion, Kansas
which was many miles to the southeast. There were no roads or a railroad here yet.
        My Father John Ratzlaff was the first pioneer immigrant in this region. Then
BENJAMIN UNRUH came with some more immigrant Deutsch Families from Poland, and they
also settled near the FRENCH CREEK in [May] 1875. Then the region was called
JOHANNESTHAL SETTLEMENT – named for my Father!5 Later it was changed to FRENCH
CREEK when more settlers came, and a church was built and named JOHANNESTHAL
       My Mother was EVA SCHRODER RATZLAFF, born on July 14, 1856. She was the

          RDS: Original document compiled and edited by Evelyn Wohlgemuth-Klassen (EWK), daughter of Mary
Wohlgemuth in April 1979. Scanned into electronic form and edited by Richard Sims (RDS), great-grandson of
Mary Wohlgemuth, son of Vicki Mills Sims, in September 2001. All bracketed in-line editor‟s comments by EWK,
unless otherwise noted.
          EWK: The “original notes” were written by Mary Ratzlaff Wohlgemuth, daughter of Johann Ratzlaff and
Eva Schroder, nee Unruh Ratzlaff. In the 1950‟s they were found among the collection of personal memorabilia,
which included family records, grandfather‟s very tattered old German Bible, family photos, old faded letters and
notes, newspaper clippings, obituary notices, and also notes from the many “verbal talks” which Mary had with
members of her Family. These were then sorted and combined together and then set down in this written narrative.
         RDS: He migrated from Hamburg, Germany to New York, arriving May 6, 1874 on the ship
„Westphalia.‟ [1]
            RDS: Ship records [1] show that Johann did immigrate with his stepfather‟s family.
         RDS: [2] states that Johannestal was named for an important Mennonite Elder (Altester) Johann Bartel
(1797-1862) of Deutch-Kazun. pp. 82, 133.

and her older sister MARIA were born at Warshau [Warsaw], Polen. MARIA was married in
Poland to my Father‟s first cousin Jakob Ratzlaff and they had two young children born there in
        Much, much later when I was older I learned my Mother EVA and my Aunt MARIA
were not born of Schroder – they were born UNRUH girls. They were „fathered‟ by an Unruh,
but I don‟t know how that came about! I think his name was DAVID UNRUH.6,7,8
        After my Grandfather KORNELIUS SCHRODER II died in 18528 [Dec. 13, 1852 at the
age of 28 years... they were married Nov. 13, 1851], my Grandmother Eva Schmidt Schroder re-
married to HEINRICH NICKEL on January 20, 1858, and they had four children born of this
NICKEL BLOCK, and HENRICH H. NICKEL who had married my Aunt SARA UNRUH
NICKEL – she was quite elderly, yet we wrote letters to each other. She lived a long time.
Imagine – 90 years!
        All the NICKEL Family, including my Mother Eva, and Maria and Jakob Ratzlaff and
their two young children migrated together from Poland to the United States [June 4, 1877]10.
The NICKEL Family settled north of the town of HILLSBORO, Marion County, Kansas. Jakob
and Maria Ratzlaff‟s Family then moved to Ingham County, Michigan [Oct. 1877].
        Shortly after my Mother EVA arrived in this country, she and my Father John Ratzlaff
were married on August 5, 1877, and they settled in FRENCH CREEK on a farm – and here all
of us children were born at FRENCH CREEK. I had seven brothers and six sisters, with me that
makes fourteen children, but two died when they were babies. Our big family lived four miles

          EWK: David M. Unruh was born Dec. 12, 1836 at Schoneich, Dorfer Kammerei, Kulm West Prussia.
(Dorfer means rural village, and Kammer means small chamber board of deputies) He was the son of Heinrich
Unruh II and Petronella Nickel Unruh and lived at SWINIARY, Deutsch-Wymyschle Colony Poland. This is also
where Eva Schmidt Schroder had settled when they moved from Prussia. We think both the “girls” were then born at
Swiniary, Deutsch-Wymyschle Poland which was near Warsaw, Poland. David Unruh was married to Eva Schroder
Unruh (born Aug. 23, 1837 at Nischewka). She was the daughter of Kornelius Schroder I and Maria Kliewer
Schroder. They also were the parents of Kornelius Schroder II who had married Eva Schmidt!
             RDS: To clarify note 6, Kornelius Schroder I married Maria Kliewer Schroder and had five children,
including Kornelius II and Eva Schroder. Kornelius II married Eva Schmidt in 1851 and had three children born
1852-1856. Eva Schroder married David Unruh in 1859 and had fourteen children born 1862-1882. EWK infers
that it is this David Unruh who actually fathered the three children of Eva Schmidt. [2] has a short chapter on the
David M. Unruh and Eva Schroder family.
            RDS: [1] has three sources for Kornelius Schroeder II. The most complete, from T. Janzen, has Maria
(1852-1931), Cornelius (1854-1854), and Eva (1856-1930) being born to Kornelius Schroder II. It also lists
Kornelius Schroeder as passing away on December 15, 1855 at the age of 31. The second source, G. Harms does
not list his son Cornelius, but agrees on the date of death. The third reference, from K. Ratzlaff, does not list any
children, but agrees with Mary‟s and EWK‟s year of death as 1852. If Kornelius passed away in 1852, then
Cornelius and Eva could not have been fathered by him.
           RDS: [1] also lists four younger children who died as infants or children. One daughter, Emilie, is also
listed on the immigration ship list of the ship „City of Chester‟ June 4, 1877 from Liverpool, England to New York.
             RDS: I could not find Jakob and Maria Ratzlaff or their children Peter W. and Pauline in the immigration
ship lists of [1].

north of Hillsboro in the FRENCH CREEK region in Marion County Kansas. Our farm was big
and DAD rented more extra land 1/4 section of land plus forty acres of rented land.11
        We older Children put in many working hours on these many acres of land. Many
summer months we got out of bed at 4 AM in the early dark morning hours, while it was still
dark. We worked til sundown, getting home late at night after walking four or five miles back to
our house. All of us kids did “man‟s work,” not only the Brothers, but the Sisters as well. We
worked just like men! Besides our own farm, we worked many, many acres of land including our
Dad‟s Mother and Stepfather‟s farm. These were our Grandparents David and Helena Wedel
Ratzlaff on my Father‟s side of the family. I grew up to get to know all my Grandparents well on
both sides of the Ratzlaff and Nickel families.
       We Children went to the FRENCH CREEK SCHOOL. I went thru the three grades with
my older Brothers Ben and John, Jr. We three children were in the same class all thru the three
grades. We did our lessons over and over til we knew them by heart! We Children had to walk
two miles to school, sometimes we crossed the wheat fields. On many cold nights after 4 o‟clock
PM, Dad would come with horse and wagon to pick us up, also the neighbors‟ Children, he
would not leave any Children behind!
       We sure did like to sing, sometimes we went to the Risley School to help out with the
        Some of the other French Creek School Children besides my brothers and sisters were
some of our Cousins... there was Cousin Peter W. Ratzlaff; Ed Jawarsky; Peter Golbeck; Peter,
Fred, and Frank Unruh; Herman and Paul Funk; Ruben and Paul Zacharias; then there was Peter
and John Baltzer; George and Ben Jantz; Henry and John Schroder; Henry, Herman, and Ben
Foth; Gerard, Ruben, Henry, Zacharias and Dave Bartel; George Cooper and many others... I
can‟t recall their names just now.13

           EWK: The translation of John Ratzlaff‟s German letter states: “We began our home in Marion County,
Kansas on December 15, 1877 on eighty acres of land Section 15... with many worries, hard work, and with God‟s
help. In order to feed and clothe this many [children] we had added to the 80 acres by renting much more land.”
          EWK: Risley School was on Risley Township section 12, just south of the 1874 Gnadenau Village –
named for John Risley, homesteader, who had a small school and a small post-office established in 1874 and named
for him.
            EWK: I think Mother was mistaken about her Cousin Peter W. Ratzlaff as he was the son of Jacob and
Maria Ratzlaff, and they had settled in Michigan in 1877. I am also not sure if all the names above were actual
related cousins. Mary did not mention any girls‟ names who had attended school with her. When I asked her about
this she said she could not recall their names – she seemed surprised!
         When we asked Mother Mary if her schooling had "been three successive school terms, or whether she had
attended more than a three-year term period, she replied "I went thru the third grade with my older brothers Ben and
John Ratzlaff"
         Also note that the three "Old School Photos" show only Ben and John Ratzlaff and Mary Ratzlaff – they do
not show the two older children Peter and Martha Ratzlaff and neither any of the younger Ratzlaff Children. We
assume that the next-in-line Children of Anna, Emil, and Della Ratzlaff were in the following age group, then
followed by Fred, Jennie, and Frank Ratzlaff. The youngest child Bertha Ratzlaff was born in 1899. She was only
ten years old when the Ratzlaff Family moved to California in 1909 and Grandfather John was 48 and Grandmother
Eva was 43 years old in 1909! We asked Mother Mary if Emil or Anna were on these school photos and Mother
answered “no.”

         My Father John Ratzlaff helped organize the German First Baptist Church in Hillsboro in
1881. He was a “Charter Member” of this church. Before this church was organized, our Parents
went to the Johannesthal Church here in FRENCH CREEK. Father was one of the first pioneers
to settle in French Creek. He was rich, well-off financially according to those years [standards].
He was a “leader” as were ALL the Ratzlaff and Wohlgemuth men. They were important
        Both my parents joined the Baptist Church. And the church building was built in 1884,
the year I was born! All of us Children attended this church, where we had an organ! My how
we did love to sing! [Church was erected 1884 at West Grand Avenue]. At the “Turn of the
Century” in year 1900, my brother PET was 21 years old; my sister MARTHA was 20; JOHN, Jr.
was 19; BEN was 17; I [Mary] was 16; sister ANNA was 14; brother EMIL was 13; DELLA was
11; FRED was 9; JENNY was 7; and FRANK was 5 years old; our baby sister BERTHA was
only 1 year old!
        In March 1902, Father received an important letter. He ran to fetch some friends, and
they quickly drove with horses and covered their wagon and drove to “Sherrokee Oklahoma”
where land was opening up there. Father was lucky, he got some free range land! Then he asked
the older children to run the place. So he sent my older brother Pet and Ben to work the land
there, and sister Martha was sent along to keep house and to help out. When Uncle Frank
Ratzlaff went to Oklahoma on January 29, 1903, our Father quickly built a new room onto the
east side of our house! This range land in Oklahoma was so dry, and there was no water! They
could not raise anything – no crops would grow on this desert land, and there was so much
“shedge brush.” Then Dad sold the Oklahoma range land cheap, and they all came back to
Kansas in the late summer of 1903. Then when PET got home, he soon married Clara Quiring
Ratzlaff in September 1903.15
        On February 17, 1904 we went to the Risley School to help out with the singing. On
August 26, 1904 our Cousin PAULINE RATZLAFF came from Dearborn, Michigan to visit all
her relatives. Her Mother was my Aunt Maria, the older sister of my Mother Eva. Her father
was Uncle Jacob Ratzlaff, who was my Father‟s first cousin. They lived in Michigan.16
        On September 11-1905 I received a letter, and it stated:

            EWK: Mary must be right in her assumption when she stated her Father was "rich" as the first
immigrants were financially well-off and therefore able to finance the trip to America. They were also the first to
buy up most of the Santa Fe Railroad lands in 1874! It was stated “A few single families of considerable wealth
arrived in America in 1873 and selected several sections of land near Marion Center, Marion County, Kansas… they
came from Prussia, Poland, and South Russia” John Ratzlaff arrived May 6, 1873 and settled in the region which
bears the FRENCH CREEK name established in 1875 on Section 11. Hillsboro, Marion County, Kansas was
incorporated in 1881.
            EWK: The range land was known as Cherokee Colony in Oklahoma Territory. Oklahoma was not a
State of the Union until Nov. 16, 1907. From what Mother said it appears that Uncle Frank Ratzlaff was also living
with her parents. Grandmother Helena Ratzlaff died April 22, 1907, age 85, and Grandfather David Ratzlaff died
Jan. 19, 1908, age 77. These were the parents of Great Uncle Frank.
             EWK: Pauline married Wm. Foster in 1907, and they had one daughter. Pauline died in 1911 from TB.

        “Miss Mary Ratzlaff, Hillsboro, Kansas
        Dear Madam: You are hereby notified that your name was presented before the
        Hillsboro Choral Union of Hillsboro, Kansas and was duly voted upon and you
        may now become a member of said organization by signing its Constitution and
        paying the initiation fee of 50¢.
        The Choral Union extends its invitation, I am
        Yours truly, H. James Nickel, Secretary”17
        Sometime by 1906 my Father John Ratzlaff placed Pet and Clara Ratzlaff on some land at
Oakley, Logan County, Kansas where there was some free range land. It was here that the first
grandchild [Elsie Ratzlaff] was born to them on January 25, 1906. Father bought some land at
Oakley on June 4, 1906, but the land was also dry and very rocky. Everywhere there was dry
land nothing would grow, and water was so hard to come by the crops would not grow. Then
they all came back the second year [which would be 1908].
       Father bought a General Mercantile Store at a sale real cheap at Lehigh, Marion County,
Kansas. Here he put Pet in charge of the books and monies, John Jr. worked the stock, and I
clerked and waited on all the many customers who came into the store. Lots of people came to
do business with us, and I got to know them all! I loved working in this store.18
         On November 11, 1907 I received a postal card from Lanigan, Canada, and it shows a
picture of a train with people laying tracks. And on the back it said: “Hello. Here I come on
train to make a stop at your place for a few minutes and I ask if you don‟t want to come along?
Well what news? Are you still well? How is everything. Do you go sleighing already by this
time? I dreamed last night you had 8 feet snow in Kansas, is that so? Well another wedding out
here... J.J. Gerbrandt with Benna Bartel that moved down here from Moundridge [Kansas], that
will be the 21st this month. Best regards, yours truly G.A.K. Hope to hear from you soon. Good
       In March 1908 John Nord came from Oklahoma to claim his sweetheart, my sister Martha
Ratzlaff, and my brother Ben planned to marry Agnes Janzen. There were so many people
coming to the weddings that DAD went and rented a big canvas tent like the ones we used for
our church revival meetings! Then Henry Eitzen Wohlgemuth came to “help out to set up this
huge tent.” Then he asked Dad if he could marry me! When Dad consented, I did not object... I
knew Henry and liked him but I did not think to marry him. I liked working in the store and
wished I could continue, then Dad said, “You might as well get married now while we have the

           EWK: Mary Ratzlaff possessed an excellent alto-vocal singing range as well as mezzo-soprano. She was
well known for her musical talents, having taught herself to play the organ by means of piano lessons, which had
appeared in their newspaper! Years later after Mary was married to Henry Eitzen Wohlgemuth and living in Durham,
Kansas she was a member of the Durham Community Choral Union, as was her daughter Evelyn.
           EWK: This must have been around 1906 when Grandfather bought this store. As Mary said she had
worked here about three years. She married in March 1908 and worked until she was pregnant about 3 1/2 months,
as Arthur was born in December 1908. The stock market collapsed in 1907!
           EWK: Mary wrote in a corner „Gerhard Koffer‟, or Kopper? The card bore a box #123. Lanigan is
located near Lanigan Creek, which empties into Lost Mountain Lake between Watrous and Regina, Saskatchewan
Canada. He must have been one of Mother‟s admirers!

big tent up. We may as well add one more wedding to the others!” Dad thought to save some
money that way! So we all three couples were married under that big tent at a triple wedding
ceremony on March 26, 1908. Dad had bought lots of balogna, and the ladies baked lots of pies,
cakes and zwieback [biscuits].20
       I was 23 years old and My Henry was 30 years old at the time we were married. Henry‟s
folks were Peter and Helena Eitzen Friesen Wohlgemuth. They had moved to Anaheim,
California about 1905, at least they were living there before we were married. My Henry was a
carpenter by trade. He learned the trade “handed down from generation to generation.” He was
around 15 years old when he helped build the Gnadenau Orphans Home in 1893 at Hillsboro,
Kansas. It is now an old folks home. My Henry was a good carpenter. I continued to keep
working in Dad‟s Store after we were married, while we were building a house in the country
near Hillsboro. Then in July 1908 we moved into our new home. I was pregnant at the time, and
on December 15,1908 we had our first child, a son named Arthur Oliver Wohlgemuth.
       In March 1909 we went to Ingals, Gray County, Kansas. It got hot and dusty. Here in the
summer the corn fields dried up. The heat killed the corn plants so there was no crop to harvest!
While at Ingals we received a post card dated May 28, 1909. It showed the Hillsboro 20th
Century Band standing in front of the Confectionery Lodging building:
        “Dear Friends, Received your very welcome postal and was glad to hear from you
        once. We are well and I hope you are the same. P.W. Ratzlaff and Mrs. went to
        Newton, Kansas last week to meet his sister Pauline [Ratzlaff Foster], who was on
        the way home [to Michigan] from California. The doctor gave her up! [She died
        of tuberculosis April 1911 in Michigan] We have plenty of rain now. How is it
        up there? With best regards to all, I‟ll close. P.B.U.”21
       Henry and I drove down along the Arkansas River over to Garden City, Finney County,
Kansas. Here we had our wedding picture made. I don‟t like it – we were all wrinkled and
mussed up from the long drive. It was so hot and windy and the dirt blew everywhere! From
here we drove down to the southwest corner of Kansas by the Cimarron Desert, and then over to
the Kansas-Oklahoma border line to Liberal, Seward County, and from here over to Meade,
Meade County, Kansas. All this region was very sandy. Henry looked for work; there just
wasn‟t any carpentry work anywhere!22

            EWK: It is possible that Rev. ? Pankratz performed this triple marriage as he was at the helm of the
German First Baptist Church in Hillsboro, Kansas at the turn-of-the-century. Mother Mary had told us that she “had
lots of male admirers, and could have married any one of them, that she had not planned to be married yet as she
liked working in Dad‟s store, and she had not thought to marry our Father Henry. She knew him and liked him, but
she would have chosen otherwise.” She would say no more; she never complained of her lot.
            EWK: P.B.U. stands for Peter Unruh who lived at Ellinwood, Barton County, Kansas located along the
Arkansas River. P.W. Ratzlaff stands for Peter, the brother of Pauline. They were children of Maria (grandmother
Eva‟s sister) and Jacob Ratzlaff. They were first cousins of the John and Eva Ratzlaff‟s children.
            EWK: Our Father must have thought to find carpentry work in this region among some friends and
relatives since between 1906-1908 almost the entire Kleine Gemeinde Church group had re-settled around Meade,
Kansas. Originally this church community group of 68 pioneer families had migrated from Europe in 1874 led by
Cornelius Jansen. They went to Jefferson County, Nebraska where they purchased 20,000 acres of Burlington
railroad land and established their Minnonite Church with Rev. Elder Abraham Friesen. By 1877 more Deutsch-
German families came and joined the Russian Lane Colony. By 1887, the region was known as Jansen, Nebraska,

       Then HENRY J. MARTENS came to see DAD and others to tell them about a “new land
was a colonization-agent and real estate man who had a family and lived near Hillsboro, Marion
County, Kansas. He was 40 years old. We all knew him and trusted him! We did not see this
land, we believed him as we knew him! So many people bought land from Henry Martens.
Some came from as far away as Oklahoma. DAD sold all our property and invested lots of
money with Henry Martens, and so did Henry and I. We put all our monies into this new land
venture! Then we packed up our belongings and then moved to California.
        I shall never forget the day that we arrived in California. It was on the day of My Henry‟s
32nd birthday, October 8, 1909. [I asked Mother if they came by car or train? She couldn‟t
remember, but it had to be by car, as they had Model Cars by then.] My folks, Henry and I and
baby Arthur, and all the other Folks settled down on this dry, parched desert land, all covered
with “shedge brush.” Ground was so hard to clear the new land, all the folks here had to work
hard to clear the land then till the soil. We had to dig ditches and wells for water and build
“shanties” to live in. It was such hard back-breaking work!
       While we were living at MARTENSDALE COLONY we received a postal card from
Hillsboro, Kansas dated November 9, 1909 addressed to Mrs. Henry Wohlgemuth, Bakersfield,
         “Dear Friends, Was very glad to receive your card. Are having just lovely
         weather this week, California cannot beat it, I guess. I am glad you all like it
         there. I know the climate is quite splendid. We are well and hope you are all the
         same. Wish best luck to all, ans. soon. Frank and Bertha R [Ratzlaff]”23
       John Frantz came from Kansas to visit the Ratzlaff Family and to ask Father‟s permission
to marry his childhood sweetheart Della Ratzlaff. They were married in LERDO, KERN
COUNTY, CALIFORNIA on March 22, 1910. Then the honeymooners went back to live on a
farm northwest of Durham, Marion County, Kansas.
         Our crops were in the ground and some were soon ready to be harvested, when in June
1910 all of us pioneer settlers were ordered off our land and property at MARTENSDALE
COLONY! We were told that „the land was not ours, it did not belong to us!‟ We could do
nothing! Henry J. Martens had lied to us. The land he had sold us „in all good faith‟ was not his
to sell, he did not own it they told us. We had been „swindled. ‟ All of us folks lost everything

but by 1908 this "Church body" had moved and re-established themselves at Meade, Meade County, Kansas. Father
Henry‟s mother was Helena Eitzen and her first husband was Peter F. Friesen. They had a son who died, and a
daughter Mary who married John Unruh. Mary was Henry‟s half-sister so there must have been relatives among this
            EWK: The card shows a picture of the residential area of Hillsboro, Kansas. In the foreground is a very
large two-story house with dormer windows on the 3rd floor. This I find is very interesting as the house shows the
“characteristic Germanic veranda" from the original German-built innovation of the 1700‟s with typical rotunda-
steeples! A horse-drawn wagon stands nearby in the driveway. Along the tree-lined street is an orchard that
separates this house from another one on the same street. Then there is a church roofline showing above the treetops.
This church has a graceful tower, and I recognize it to be the original Lutheran Church erected 1886, better known as
the Zion Church on East Grand Avenue. They had installed a console pipe-organ in 1893 at a cost of $400.00!
Behind this church is the roofline and steeple of the Methodist Church (Methodist Episcopal Church) organized in
1894, the only English speaking church in Hillsboro with leader J.G. Hill, the “father of the city of Hillsboro.”

we owned – our lands, property, our monies, and even the crops in the ground! We had to get off
and leave all behind. We could not salvage anything we owned; they took it all from us! Henry
J. Martens escaped; they hid him good with their smart lawyers! Even fraud posters were sent
out around the country and the sheriff in Kansas looked for him. He was never found. No one
could do a thing; the smart lawyers took it all away. They hid Martens; they would tell us
nothing! They said to get off the land or they would use force to remove us! It was a terrible
thing to do. All us poor people had nothing left. Henry and I lost all our monies. My parents
were nearly broke; they went to Rosedale Colony then, and later to Wasco Colony about 1912.
Henry and I and the baby then went to Anaheim where Henry‟s folks lived. I think they moved
here about 1905. While we were here in Anaheim, Orange County, California our second son
was born Harry Wohlgemuth on Christmas Eve 1910. Here around Anaheim there were some
artisian wells, and we could get water. We would have liked to live here permanently, but
because of „difficulties‟ with Henry‟s folks we could not stay! After much hardship we left
Anaheim with our two babies the 2nd week of April 1911 and came north to Winton, settling
near the town of Atwater, Merced County, California on June 4, 1911.
       In the leap-year of 1912 on February 29, 1912, Henry received a postal card from
Hillsboro, Kansas from his friend John T. Gossen:
        “Dear Friend, I send you this card whereby you can see what kind of weather we
        have here! Sunday we had a snow storm that beats the record! Let me know
        something about your country, would I find work there if I should come down?
        Yours truly. John.V. Gossen.”24
        My brother Emil Ratzlaff came to Winton. He married Tenna Nikkel in October 1912.
Our first daughter Edna Mae Wohlgemuth was born in Winton on December 12, 1913 and
Emil‟s daughter Eldora Ratzlaff was born in February 1915 after we left that region. Here it was
also hard to get water for our crops. Ditch water was used, and the ditches were always dried up
– just no water. The summers dried up everything, and there was no carpentry work up here. So
on July 12, 1914 we packed up and went to Walla Walla, Walla Walla County, Washington
across the Oregon border, and as far as Oakesdale, Whitman County, Washington where My
Henry worked in lumber camps until October. We think it was here in the camps that Henry
developed his stomach troubles. Later, he said it was from so much lye soap used by the China
man who washed the dishes! World War I had started in Europe June 1914, and things looked
bad everywhere – work was scarce. Things were bad everywhere we went. Here in our Country
there was not much work, no one had much money, everyone was scared of the war. Wherever
we went it was always the same old thing – the ground too dry and nothing wanted to grow, and
there was no money for new machinery, and water was so hard to come by.25
        In October 1914 we made a stop at Wasco, Kern County, California where my folks lived
by then. I remember Wasco in 1914 as being nothing but dust and wind. There was nothing
there, just lots of dust and tumbleweeds! We left and arrived in Kansas on October 28, 1914 and

             EWK: The post card shows a part of the business section of Hillsboro, Kansas buried under a huge snow
drift up to the depth of the heads of four men in this photo!
          EWK: Electric power was first introduced around 1912. Up to that time pumps were run by gasoline.
Not much force of power to generate the pumps to get underground water. And the dry alkolile-desert soil was
packed hard!

settled not far from my brother Ben‟s place. Over near Durham, Kansas my brother Pet and his
family lived and also my sister Della and her family.
        On a Sunday just as church services were started on October 15, 1916, my second
daughter Eva Lena was born. We rushed over to Grandpa and Grandma Quiring‟s place for her
to be born. We gave her the name of EVA LENA for her two grandmothers‟ names: Eva
Schroder Ratzlaff and Helena "Lena" Eitzen Friesen Wohlgemuth. But when we went to register
her birth, the man in charge said that it was a German name and to change it to the English name
of Evelyn, because of the World War I, because so many people hated the Germans and anything
connected with Germany! Many young American men had to “put on a uniform” and go serve in
the war. My brother Fred Ratzlaff had to go fight in the war overseas in the trenches in France
[Hindenburg Line Trenches in northern France]. Later my brothers Frank Ratzlaff also had to go
and learn to fight... also John Ratzlaff Jr. put on a uniform.26
        Sister Anna and John Quiring Family moved from Hillsboro, Kansas to California about
this time (July 1917). On July 20, 1918, we moved with our family to the McDonald Farm, one
mile northwest of Durham, Marion County, Kansas. Our small house stood close to the road and
behind it ran a small Cottonwood Creek. Across the bridge lived our nearest neighbors who were
the Frantz Family. Then by December the big flu epidemic hit our country. My sister Martha
Nord passed away from it November 1918, and the brother John, Jr. also passed away from the
flu in December 1918. He had come to Kansas to visit my mother Eva‟s first cousin Maria
Ekkert Goertz and her husband Franz F. Goertz who lived in Hillsboro. John was to have
married their daughter Mary Goertz when he died at their home. Pet, Ben, Della and I then
shipped his body by rail back to Wasco, California for burial. John had “put on a uniform,” but I
don‟t think he got to train much for the war when he died. The flu was very bad, it killed
thousands of people! We were lucky we did not get it!27
        On March 19, 1920, there were flood waters behind our farm. The Cottonwood Creek
rose high; the water came to the top of the bridge. The John Frantz farm was all under water.
The fields were full, flooded everywhere.
      On February 27, 1921, our third daughter Erna Viola Wohlgemuth was born here on the
McDonald Farm. We lived three years on this farm, we just could not make a go of farming, not
enough money to pay for feed for the horses or seeds for crops, and no money for new farm
equipment. The World War I had been hard on the farmers.
        Then on August 15, 1921 we bought some property – a big old 13-room hotel the end of
the main street near the Rock Island rail line in town of Durham, Marion County, Kansas. The
Cottonwood Creek ran along just west of our house. We made a “rooming-house” out of it, but
that did not work out so good. Our “roomers” never had money to pay us, and some that came to
spend a night would steal my nice linens and blankets! Some of the rooms upstairs we would
rent out to the school teachers. They would cook a bit of food but mostly they made candy and

           EWK: The United States of America entered World War I on April 6, 1917 and the Armistice was signed
Nov. 11, 1918.
            EWK: In researching the 1918 pandemic, it mentioned that it occurred in three distinct waves, first struck
May 1918, 2nd in fall of 1918 which was particularly severe, 3rd wave was somewhat less in May 1919. The
mortality rate for 1918 was approximately 20,000.

let it boil all over the stove and never clean it up, nearly set the house on fire! We finally gave it
up on the hotel business part. We got nothing out of all the hard work and lots of worry, we
gained nothing from it.
        In February, our last and fourth daughter was born February 15, 1924 named Pearl Rose
Wohlgemuth. Henry again wanted to give her a name beginning with “E” but I said no, so he
named her Pearl. On December 2, 1924 Henry received his U.S. Patent #1517481 for his New
Perfection Separator, which was a grain separator or thrashing machine which he had invented!
It took a long time coming as he had filed it on June 4, 1923, but by then it was too late to make
any money on it. Another big company had a thrasher machine and they would come in with a
“gang of workers from out of state” and would travel around the country to the different farms
and thresh wheat, then leave. They got the money! My Henry was self-educated. He didn‟t have
much schooling, but he was very intelligent and his invention was a good one. He was a good
        On May 2, 1927 we drove our Model T Ford to the Gnadenau School Reunion held near
Hillsboro, Kansas. My Henry got his education here at this school. Lots of people came, and
Henry got a photo of this reunion. Lots of “old timers” showed up, this school dates way back to
1874 when those immigrants built Gnadenau Village. My Henry‟s folks were some of those
early immigrants, and Henry was born in Gnadenau Village!
        Our third and last son Leslie Ray Wohlgemuth was born on August 16, 1928. He looked
like My Henry with his light colored hair and blue eyes. My other two sons had red hair and
freckles, and Eva Lena had reddish hair and light eyes while my other three girls had dark brown
eyes and hair, only Erna‟s hair was lighter brown. I remember my Father John Ratzlaff had a
bright red fuzzy beard, and his hair was reddish-brown, while my Mother Eva‟s hair was light
        The winters were bitter cold and the summers were hot and dry in our State of Kansas.
We had lots of electrical storms. Many a time Henry would gather up the family and the
neighbors and rush us to safety in the large underground cellar he had dug just in case it was a
tornado! Some of the electric storms were bad. One time a bolt of lightning struck one of our
four huge cottonwood trees in our backyard near the house. It split the tree trunk in two! One of
these trees measured five feet around!
        Then in the spring the rains would come, and the snow drifts would commence to melt.
Then we would have trouble. The rains and the thaws would cause flooding. Many times the
Cottonwood Creek would overflow and the water would come to the doorstoop of our house.
Then on May 1929 Durham, Kansas experienced its worst disaster – the Big Flood of 1929! It
had rained for some time, then that night it rained real hard never letting up.... a “cloud burst”

            EWK: I received a Christmas card 1974 from Sam and Esther Nickel (Mother‟s cousin): "Several years
ago we drove by, when we lived at Reedly in 1911-1912. We visited your folks at Winton, California ... your Dad
had rigged up a small windmill to grind feterita for flour ... that feterita was a kind of wheat grain brought over here
to this country by the Deutch immigrants”
            EWK: There also was a small bean thrasher machine that I thought Dad had built, but I was wrong – it
was built by our brothers Arthur and Harry Wohlgemuth. It is now over at sister Erna Mills‟ home. She wrote she
had picked it up when she had visited in Kansas at our older sister Edna Miller‟s home, and said it was not in very
good shape.

Henry called it. Shortly after midnight Henry got up from bed „as he was worried‟ and he put his
feet in water! The house was flooded! He hollered for everyone to get up out of bed and then
grabbed baby Leslie and ran for the stairway. He then grabbed the mattresses and flung them on
the stair landing while I grabbed the blankets. Henry then rushed to the kitchen to get my
freshly-baked bread and grabbed a bucket of Karo syrup and just made it up the stairs when the
door blew open and a big wall of water rushed into our house! By daylight, we had four feet of
water inside the house. When we looked out the upstairs windows, we could see the water was
everywhere on this side of the railroad tracks. It was not so high on the other side – maybe two
feet at the most. When we looked out the north windows we could see the Main Street of
Durham, it was all under water. Maybe up to six feet deep or more. It was very muddy and was
floating around in swift streams, rushing around the corner of our house toward the dam under
the railroad tracks. It was so swift we feared it would undermine our house foundation and
sweep us away. Much later after the water went down somewhat, we went downstairs to take a
look at the damage. Everything was ruined, water everywhere. The only food we had was my
bread and syrup, and we had to share that with another couple who had rented some rooms from
us. Their name was Kitts, and he was a road construction worker. They were with us only a
short time. After the water receded, we had lots of hard work cut out for us. There was mud on
everything – we had lots of cleaning up to do. We had to dry out what we could salvage. All our
furniture went to pieces – everything was soaked with muddy water and the glue came undone.
We threw so much away! It was many months before the house was dry again, and it was so
damp in there and smelled so musty, it nearly broke our hearts! All the downtown stores lost
their merchandise. The farmers under water lost their crops. Henry was mayor then of Durham –
he had lots of responsibilities. We all suffered – it set us way back. We never got over that big
flood, but we were all safe! And on top of all our many worries that year, we had to have the
Stock Market Crash of 1929! It was too much.30

            EWK: The Christmas card of 1974 from Sam Nickel also said: “I think your folks came back to Kansas to
live at Durham where they had a flood and your Dad had a rooming house... at night he got up and stepped into water
and the cradle with the baby was floating in the room!” The baby Leslie was about 9 months old when the flood
came. It must have been a severe blow to our parents coming at a time when Father‟s health was failing and work
already so scarce. No one had any money those days – we all starved. Then that Stock Market Crash came on top of
everything else! I can well remember that big flood. My sister Edna and I shared a bedroom together with our two
younger sisters. It was a big north room with two big beds in it, and I recall Edna reading a book that night called
“The Bat.” And Father would bang the broom handle on the ceiling, wanting us to turn out the lights. And we
weren‟t asleep when he hollered up at us. Boy it did rain ever so hard. It never let up. I remember being scared.
Then in the morning I saw all that water – what a sight. We were all scared! After the water left, there was mud on
everything – several inches of mud. We helped to clean up the place and carried out stuff to let the sun dry it out.
The mud packed deep into the cotton and springs on the couch that Dad had built for us. We never could use it any
more after that. I recall how empty our home was and how damp and smelly it was. I was afraid of it – it was so
empty even when we whispered we could hear echos. But most of all, I remember coming home from school one
afternoon and I found my Mother Mary sitting flat on the ground and in front of her was a big muddy pile of family
photos. There she was hurrying to wipe off the mud from those photos – most were pasted together with mud. And I
heard her cry out “Oh my, oh my, oh my” and when I walked up to her she said “Oh Honey they‟re all ruined, our
precious pictures, all our valuable papers, they‟re all ruined!” I saw my Mother with tears running down her face.
She hurried to wipe them away and said “I‟m not crying,” but I think she had! When I offered to help her, she didn‟t
want my help, but I assured her I would be real careful when I wiped the mud off. When she saw that I was careful,
she said “I‟ll let you do it. I have so much to do, so much to clean up.” She then went to clean up the keepsakes in
her trunks, but she kept her eye on me. After several trips checking on me, she must have decided I was doing the

         My Henry had built most of our furniture. He had built a dark wood inlaid table using
many small pieces of different woods laid out in a star-shape pattern on its top, then hand-rubbed
until it shone! Another table he had built was made of light colored pieces of wood and the legs
were inlaid with bits of mirror glass cut in diamond shapes, then also hand-polished. Many a
cold winter night he would get out his bits of old paint and then paint some scenery pictures and
then set these in beautiful hand-carved frames. His paintings were very lovely, but he had to use
the paints we had – he could not afford the good oil paints. My sons were very handy with tools.
They were taught the carpentry trade handed down from generation to generation. By the time
they were thirteen years old, they were good carpenters.
        My son Harry was commissioned by the Durham Baptist Church to paint a large picture
of a “ship riding on the ocean.” It was to be used for the church Harvest and Thanksgiving Feast
in the fall. It was about 4x5 foot in size. They had him paint that picture but they never
furnished any paints. Harry had to buy the oil paints out of his own meager savings, and the
brushes and all the supplies. They furnished nothing; it was an expensive undertaking. Many a
night he would paint on that picture late at night, as he had to work in the daytime at carpentry.
He would burn up electricity. My how tired he was. Then when the Baptist Church came to get
that picture, they didn‟t even pay Harry. My son got nothing for his labors! And they didn‟t pay
for the supplies! It was such a big disappointment to my son. The church people hung it up on
the wall, but it soon disappeared from that wall, and we never saw it again. Whatever happened
to it? Someone has it, and by rights it belongs to my son Harry. That was not right what the
church did!
        Many a hardship did we experience. Many people failed to pay their obligations! Henry
and the “boys” worked so hard at their labors and got so little in return. Some never paid their
debts to us! And as the years rolled on money, became harder to come by. Although Henry was
ill most of the time with stomach problems, he still got up to go to work to earn money so he
could feed and shelter our big family. There was no money for doctors, there wasn‟t even a
doctor in our little town, and no money to pay doctor bills with, so My Henry had to suffer in
silence. The men folk would get up early in the morning and have to drive, sometimes many
miles, work all day, then drive home. Most often it was well after dark when they‟d arrive, then
clean up, eat a bite and go right back to bed! It was such hard work, and my “boys” had to do
such “man‟s work” for so little pay.
        One of the happiest times of my life was when I got to see my folks once more. They
came to Durham in the fall of 1929 after the Big Flood to check up on us. It was the first time I
got to see them since 1914, but I think they had been out to Kansas one time in between, but I
can‟t seem to remember if we got to visit with them. My parents had never seen our four
younger children! My parents were getting up there in age. It was a good thing they had come,
as my Mother Eva Ratzlaff passed away shortly after they returned to Wasco, California. She
passed away from a heart attack on February 25, 1930 – just six months later!31

job OK. After that she let me help her. I shall always remember this day as it was the closest I came to ever have
having seen my Mother cry!
            EWK: It was the first and only time that I ever got to see my Grandmother Eva Ratzlaff when she and
Grandfather John came to Durham in August 1929. I hardly recall my Grandfather John at that time as he and Father
remained outdoors most of the time. I think they stayed two days with us. But I do recall my Grandmother Eva and
that she gave my sister Edna and I a piece of material for a dress – it was polka-dots. I also recall Grandmother

       We hardly even recovered from that Big Flood when the Great Depression came along in
1932. First the flood, then the stock market crash, and now this disaster – it was just too much!
With My Henry sick all the time and no money for doctors, so much worries, it was
discouraging. Then one night My Henry came home after dark. He was all wet from the rain,
and he was shivering so. We put him to bed, but he never recovered after that. Although he got
up to go to work, he kept getting worse and worse. The doctor came to tap him – he had dropsy
by then. After the second tap we could expect him to die most anytime. Then on October 10,
1933, My Henry passed away from this life of toil and sorrow. We laid him to rest in the
Durham Baptist Church cemetery, Marion County, Kansas at the early age of 56 years!
        Then the responsibilities of keeping our family together fell to my two sons Arthur and
Harry. My what a burden for such young men to carry. They were young, just out of high-school
and in their early twenties – the youngest son was only 5 years old. Times were so hard with the
depression and people on relief. The oldest daughter went to help out by taking care of a very
sick lady who was dying from cancer. They didn‟t even have an extra bed for her to sleep in –
she was made to sleep in the same bed with that sick lady! She was so young to work so hard,
and for such small pay. But she did meet a nice young man, and then they were married July 18,
1934, and they went to go live on the Old Miller Homestead. Her husband was Gordon Miller.
His parents both died from the flu in 1918. They presented me with my first two grandchildren,
Ronald Dwayne and Marylyn Yvonne Miller!
        And now we have a new president, Franklin D. Roosevelt. He gets elected about 1933,
the same year My Henry died. He comes along and blames Herbert Hoover for the Depression.
He and his man called Eccles, they give us a new Democratic rule called New Deal, and we all
wonder what it is all about. He promises us all jobs – a big welfare spending program to put
people to work called the W.P.A. But we don‟t benefit here in the midwest, we all go on relief!
We wonder whom it‟s supposed to benefit – the rich gets richer, poor gets poorer! And how the
Socialists wanted to get in. They had a New Deal and wanted us to elect Roosevelt for president,
and none of us here in Kansas got any benefits!
       About this time my daughter Eva Lena gets ill but there was no money to help her. She
has kidney problems. But she got graduated from High School and then helped out at the Funk‟s
grocery store and helped my good friend Mrs. Funk at her home. Then on an Easter Sunday in
April 1936, she can‟t get up, her back was all doubled over in pain. We had to have help for her

giving us girls a crisp one dollar bill! And that was truly a gift! But my Grandmother really impressed me! She
lifted up her rather long black skirt and exposed her black taffeta petticoat. Then she sat down on Mother‟s bed and
pulled out some basting thread from the wide hem in that petticoat. Then she reached into the hem pocket and
withdrew those crisp green dollar bills! That‟s what I remember, I realize now that she had stitched those threads
across that wide hem to form separate pockets, and in these she had put her money. And the taffeta russles, that way
her money was “safe” for traveling. All she had to do was pull these separate threads whenever she wanted to get at
her money. What an ingenious idea! Whenever I tried to talk to my Grandmother, my Mother would gently say
“No, no honey. She doesn‟t understand.” Then years later after we came to California and Grandfather John was
still alive, I remember feeling so sorry for Grandpa lying there all cooped up and alone in his bedroom with hardly
anyone coming around to talk to him but Mother. Sometimes I‟d jump up and say “I‟m going in there and talk to
him” and again my Mother would say “No, no, honey. He don‟t understand” It was only years later that I began to
realize that my Grandparents must never have learned to speak English! I have asked several of my cousins about
this as they were living near my Grandparents, but none can recall. I ask myself how dumb can I get? I should have
realized that when Mother kept saying “No, no. They don‟t understand!”

as she could not walk. So Arthur had to drive her all the way to Hillsboro to the hospital Salem.
We had to carry her to the car and put her in the back seat, but she tried not to complain. When
Arthur got to the Hospital, they wouldn‟t take her! So then we got my Cousin Mathilda Ratzlaff
to help us – she was a nurse. She came and took a look at Eva in the back seat and then ran to
the telephone to get Dr. Abe Eitzen to help – he was a relative on my husband's side of the family
thru Grandma Eitzen Wohlgemuth. He takes care of Eva and takes X-rays. Then we learn she
had been born with a double set of kidneys as well as a double set of kidney tubes, but she has
only one bladder. Doctor tells us she was not born to have been a twin – her problem was her
bladder was infected. She got over it.
         After my Mother Eva Ratzlaff died in 1930, my Father John began to get very ill with
cancer on the mouth. It got so bad that it ate away his jawbone, and it fell out one night as he
was praying! He told the family to preserve it in alcohol, and it was to be buried with him in his
coffin when he died [this Mother did in 1941]. This left a big gaping hole in his cheek, and he
then could no longer chew or control his dripping saliva. He lost so much weight then and
became very weak. He refused to go to a Rest Home for Elderly and his married Children had
their own families to care for. Then my Father John and John Frantz made a trip to Kansas in
August 1936. They had decided that I, being a widow with grown children, should then care for
father. I had not made up my mind to give up my home in Durham, Kansas after having moved
so much, and I did not wish to leave my older children behind! The “ties that bind” were too
great. Then my elderly Father sent the money for us to come by train. It was a hard decision to
make – then I and my four youngest children came to Wasco, Kern County, California and
arrived on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1936 just in time for a feast at John Frantz‟ home!
Then afterwards they took us to “show us a great surprise” – they had moved the Old Ratzlaff
home from the ranch onto city lots in town! It was easier for us to get around since we had no
car, etc. and did not wish to burden the others. Della came with her daughter Ruby and buckets
of paint, and Eva helped and they got the inside of the house painted. But Father John became
totally blind, and he “took to his bed” by December. There he remained until he passed away
from Old-Age on October 9, 1941 – he was 90 years old. We buried him in the Ratzlaff Family
Plot at Union Cemetery, Bakersfield, Kern County, California.
        My daughter Eva got married to Ted Smith in June 1937, but was a widow in seven
months as Ted passed away from Lock-jaw in January 1938. She later re-married in August
1940. [They were divorced in 1950, and Louis Klassen then re-married an older woman with
four children.] The marriage was an unhappy one for Eva, and she became very ill. She had a
surgery in May 1945 and they removed a very rare appendix called a “Swinging pendant.” It had
a short growth coming out of each end and then the two ends met and joined to make a foot-long
growth that attached itself to Eva‟s spine. It had grown around her liver and was squeezing it.
They told us she would have died in less than three weeks! That makes three rare things born
within her! Then in July 1947 she had another surgery for subtotal-hysterectomy. Eva is the
Mother of Sharon Pamela born February 7, 1942. Eva lives alone now.
       My three younger Children finished their education in the Wasco Schools. Then along
came World War II [1939-1945], and the United States entered the war when Japan bombed
Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and destroyed the U.S. Naval base there! Many young
American men had to “put on a uniform” and go serve in the war. Several of my nephews had to
go, and some did not make it back!

        My Old Home in Durham, Kansas burned down to the ground on New Years 1943 or 44,
I forget which. “My Boys” then had to live in the garage-shed – my how cold it must have been
in there with all those open cracks and dirt floor. I worried plenty! Then my Son Harry
Wohlgemuth became a veteran and had to “put on a uniform,” and then he was sent to Trinidad
and Cuba in the Fall of 1944. It was then that my oldest Son Arthur Oliver Wohlgemuth then
sold the Durham property and came to Wasco, California to live and work in the Summer of
       My youngest daughter Pearl Rose met veteran Kenneth Schmedding and then they were
married August 1944. They gave me two young granddaughters – Gaile Marie and Catherine
Adell Schmedding!
       Then my daughter Erna Viola met veteran William Mills and they too were soon married
in October 1946. We had a Ratzlaff Family Reunion that same year and my oldest daughter
Edna Mae and her husband Gordon Miller and their two children came for the wedding! The
Mills gave me one granddaughter, Vicki Lynn Mills, and one grandson, William Glenn Mills.
       My son Harry Wohlgemuth returned safe and sound from World War II. And soon he
married Jean Mitchell, and they gave me a grandson, Dale Wohlgemuth.
       My son Arthur Oliver Wohlgemuth married Susie Dueck, and they gave me a grandson,
Dennis Wohlgemuth! Both “my boys” were married at a double-wedding ceremony on
September 8, 1950.
        Then along came the Korean War,32 and my youngest son Leslie Ray Wohlgemuth
became a veteran and “put on a uniform.” He was inducted into the U.S. Signal Corps December
1950 and was sent to Eta Jima Island of Japan to a big school for training as a telephone-
teletypewriter operator. Then in December 1952, he was sent to Korea to serve near the thirty-
eighth parallel. Just before he returned safely he was presented and awarded the Bronze Star
Medal for meritorious service. He then graduated from Fresno College, and later married Ann
Ragsdale. They gave me a grandson Leslie Ray Wohlgemuth, Jr.
       I continued to live alone taking care of my needs and my Wasco Property. The years they
come and they go quickly, and many changes took place. My Children are all grown-up and
gone from home. All my seven Children are alive, and they have married and given me ten
beautiful Grandchildren! I have lost some loved ones including my Husband Henry Eitzen
Wohlgemuth in 1933 and my young Grandson Dennis Lee Wohlgemuth in 1972 who was
accidentally drowned on July 22, and I have gained others thru marriage!
      My flower garden is getting to be too much for me to care for. And many new people are
moving into Wasco, and the “old ways” are changing! I sold my Wasco property in 1970 and I
then moved to Tehachapi, Kern County, California to live near my daughter Erna Mills. 33,34

             EWK: 1950-1953 with a loss of 54,246 U.S. men and a cost of $18 billion.
             EWK: I have often wondered why our Mother Mary never complained, or cried out against the hard lot
that life dealt her. When we asked why, she always replied “I did the best I knew how. It was not what I would have
chosen, but when it happens, you accept it for better or worse and you try to make the best of it!” “My Henry was a
good man, it hurt him that he could not provide us with a better home. He would have, but there was no money! We
did not plan to have so many children, but when they came we loved each and every one of them. Our children were
all beautiful and we were proud of them! We reared our children the best we knew how, and put them all through

                       "I am growing old and tired and will soon join my Maker!
                                     "When at the Judgement Bar,
                                    I‟ll stand before the MASTER
                                    And HE, the BOOK will open
                                   And CALL me by my NAME"35

school.” The one great Tribute that our Parents taught us was Honor. To love, to obey, and to honor our parents and
one another!
            EWK: April 1979. Mary Ratzlaff Wohlgemuth‟s Memior was gathered and written down very much like
our Mother would have wanted them to be. I have tried to mimic Mother‟s way of “speaking and sayings” of these
things that occurred to her during her life span. The dates are Mary‟s actual recorded dates. What a marvel that she
had such an excellent memory! The Counties and States were filled in for “future reference” – they are important.
These names, dates, places, etc. are all important anniversaries and have their own uses. They make us aware and
think about “where we have been and where we are going.” They serve to remind us of our ancestors and the
transformations that were made toward the “future” of the following generations!
           EWK: This short stanza is one of several poems that Mary Ratzlaff Wohlgemuth wrote in the 1940‟s,
and the signature is also Mary‟s.

                                  Addendum (EWK)

       Saturday September 23, 1972, Our Mother Mary fell and was found lying by the door
stoop of the front porch at her daughter Erna Wohlgemuth Mill‟s home – Tehachapi, Kern
County California. She was carried indoors by her Grandson William Glenn Mills and placed on
the couch. She remarked “I cannot move, I have a dead foot!” Mother Mary was brought by
ambulance to Bakersfield‟s Mercy Hospital. Riding with her was her Granddaughter Vicki Mills
Sims, a nurse at the Tehachapi Hospital, who stated “Grandmother Mary took the ride OK and
never complained on that long forty-mile ride – she seemed cheerful!”
       Medical tests were performed at the Mercy Hospital and she was put into traction for a
broken right hip. Surgery was scheduled for Monday, probably to repair and place a steel pin in
Mary‟s hip, which would take approximately five weeks or more to heal. However, upon
awakening alone in the hospital room she discovered she was in traction. The fright brought
about a massive heart attack – then the surgery was cancelled. Her recovery was slow.
        A month later Mary was transferred from the Mercy Hospital to the Beverly Manor
Sanitarium at Bakersfield – here she remained bed-ridden until her death. She suffered another
massive stroke that left her speechless for three days.
       Christmas morning around 6 AM December 25, 1972 MARY RATZLAFF
WOHLGEMUTH passed away at the age of 88 years, 1 month, and 10 days. Memorial services
were held at the Hopkin Chapel Mortuary, Bakersfield, on December 28, 1972 with the Reverend
Paul B. Orndoff of the Wasco Church of the Nazarene officiating. Interment in the Ratzlaff
Family Plot block 959 lot B in “Haven of Rest,” Union Cemetery, Bakersfield, Kern County


[1]   GRANDMA3 CD-ROM (Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry)
      The Genealogical Project Committee of the California Mennonite Historical Society.
      4824 East Butler Avenue, Fresno, California 93727-5097. (559)453-2225.

[2]   Ratzlaff, Kenneth L. A Family‟s Mennonite History: The Story of Our Claasen, Epp,
      Harms, Koop, Neufeld, Plenert, Ratzlaff, Unruh, and Warkentin Ancestry, vol. 1, 2nd ed.,

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