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1943: Lemke family immigrates from Germany to Rock County

Bits By Betty
Lead Summary
Betty Mann, Rock County Historian

The following article is part of the Diamond Club Member group that began in the January 7, 1943, issue of the Rock County Star Herald. Members of this group consist of persons of age 75 and older.
The following appeared in The Rock County Herald on July 29, 1943.
A lone, dim light, shining in the inky darkness, served as a beacon to direct an ox-drawn wagon and its four weary occupants toward shelter.
As glad to hear his father say that “this was a good a place to stop as any” was a 15-year-old boy Theodore Lamke. He, his father, a brother and sister, had ridden all the previous night and part of the day in a freight car from LaCrosse, Wis., to Edgerton. There they had unloaded their belongings, set up the wagon, yoked the oxen and started their trip from Edgerton to the Julius Zellmer farm, southwest of Luverne.
The wagon creaked slowly along until dark, and then the elder Mr. Lemke began to look for a place to spend the night. Finally he saw a small light in a settler’s home, a short distance north of lower Mound lake. The owner, whose name was Lynch, was glad to keep them for the night, so all got out of the wagon, had a bite to eat and went to bed. That was Mr. Lemke’s first night in Minnesota.
Mr. Lemke, his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Ferdinand Lemke, and his brothers and sisters came to the United States in 1875. Mr. Lemke was born in Germany, Sept. 8, 1864, and was going on 11 when they set out for this country.
He remembers the trip on the ocean well, mainly because of the excitement that he experienced. One night, the ship crashed into a huge ice floe. The mishap frightened the passengers to the point where some of the women were almost hysterical. The following morning, they looked out over the water and could see huge icebergs in the distance. Had they hit them, considerable damage would have been done to the ship, and it was possible that it would even have sunk.
It was a glorious sight, Mr. Lemke said, when New York harbor came into sight. Coming from a rural community, they were glad to set foot on Mother Earth once more. They came by train to LaCrosse, Wis., and lived near that city for five years. There Mr. Lemke attended school when he didn’t have to work.
One of the jobs he had while living in Wisconsin was helping his father clear timber from the land. Oftentimes, he helped his father cut corn wood and trimmed newly fallen trees.
Repeated requests by Julius Zellmer, a relative of the Lemke’s that they should come to Rock county and get some of the free land caused them to decide to come west. It was a busy time getting ready for the trip, Mr. Lemke recalls. They were busy all one day, moving their four oxen and what other property they had from Salem, 20 miles away, to LaCrosse. Their car was one of 16 “immigrant” cars in the train that brought them to Edgerton.
The first year the family was in Rock county, they lived at the south edge of the Mounds. Their neighbors helped them by letting them have a couple of hogs to raise, and they managed to get along until fall. Mr. Lemke states that he and his brother cultivated corn with one ox, and did other hard work that year.
They helped with the harvesting at the Zellmer farm, where they were using one of the Marsh harvesters, the binder that used wire to tie the bundles. Mr. Zellmer had horses, and they were having difficulty to pull the machine. Mr. Lemke offered the use of his four oxen, and they pulled it with comparative ease, but there was one drawback. They had to be led around the field as they could not be guided in any other way.
This will be continued in next week’s edition of the Star Herald.
         Donations to the Rock County Historical Society can be sent to the Rock County Historical Society, 312 E. Main Street, Luverne, MN 56156.
Mann welcomes correspondence sent to

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