Friday, January 13, 2006

Sinking of the Tuscania

A year ago last November, I wrote about the service of Sidney and Jack Bernitt in World War I. Sidney Bernitt was aboard the troop ship TSS Tuscania when it was sunk by a German torpedo off the Scottish Hebrides on February 5, 1918. He didn't survive. The 200 who died were the first American mass military casualties since the Civil War.

One of the most moving stories of the sinking was an "Eyewitness Account" by reporter Irvin Cobb and published in the Saturday Evening Post. Cobb was on the SS Baltic, which was traveling in the same cross-Atlantic convoy as the TSS Tuscania. His article concludes:
Our history is full of splendid sea slogans, but I think there can never be a more splendid one that we Americans will cherish than the first line, which is also the title of the song now suddenly freighted with a meaning and a message to American hearts, which our boys sang that black February night in the Irish Sea when two hundred of them, first fruits of our national sacrifice in this war, went over the sides of the Tuscania to death: "Where do we go from here, boys" where do we go from here?"
Steven Schwarz, who maintains a comprehensive Tuscania web site, recently alerted me to several eyewitness reports of the sinking that suggest that Cobb embellished his own "eyewitness" account. The problem was that the Baltic was not close enough to the Tuscania for Cobb to have actually observed the details he writes about so movingly. This annoyed several of the troops that survived the sinking.

For example, Donald A. Smith, a 1st Lieutenant aboard the Tuscania wrote:
A well-known American writer for whom I have great admiration wrote afterward in a popular weekly of the men singing “Where do we go from here, boys?” He was on the S.S. Baltic, which had led us across the Atlantic only a hundred yards or so ahead. I sometimes doubt if, after his interrupted poker game, he really heard that song, because our comrade ships, our cruiser, and our destroyer convoy disappeared into the night. These were their orders. Our boys did sing; they sang some camp songs; they sang “Nearer, My God to Thee,” and they stood in their places and waited while the Tuscania listed farther and farther to starboard and sank farther and farther by the bow. They did this because they were unable to help with recalcitrant boats, and they realized that they could best help by standing fast. But when they sank, the Baltic must have been some fifteen miles away.
Reporter Paul Frederickson noted the account of another passenger on the Baltic, who recalled:
We didn’t know exactly what had taken place, but we knew something bad was in the air. We saw destroyers circling around the TUSCANIA and we saw a few lights on her. Irvin S. Cobb was aboard our ship, and he was running around frantically trying to find out from the Baltic’s officers just what had happened. The incident was right down his alley and in sight of the convoy, and yet he couldn’t get much information.
Also of note are the accounts of Warren McCarty and Leonard Zimmerman, both privates on the TSS Tuscania; William B. Jones, who was aboard the SS Baltic; and C.W. Nice, aboard the USS Kanawha, an oil tanker in the convoy .

The part of his story that seems to annoy Cobb's critics the most is his account of the men standing on deck and singing as the ship went down. To be fair to Cobb, the way I understood his account, was that he learned those details after he arrived in London, not that he heard the singing himself.

No matter the details, it is a dramatic and tragic story.

• You can read more eyewitness reports here.

• Members of the 6th Battalion Company D of the 20th Engineers aboard the Tuscania, including Sidney Walter Bernitt. (Full passenger list.)

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

German Christmas in the Kolm Household

In October 1984, Lee Kolm (born 1911) recorded his memories of growing up in Oregon. This is how he recalled Christmas time:
With German forebearers, I lived in a German Christmas atmosphere. As a boy my Mother, I remember, lighted candles on the Chrismas tree once an evening. A short burning of candles and then candy was taken from its hanging place on the limbs and passed around.

Always plenty of German cookies to eat at Christmas time. I liked a particular cookie that was hard as a rock and it had to be dipped into coffee-milk to soften it for eating. My mother also made at Christmastime a wonderful dessert called carrot pudding. Not a bit of carrot taste and this delicious steaming dessert was served with hot brandy hard sauce. What a treat!

(If anyone has a recipe for "carrot pudding", I'd love to try it)

Have a Merry Christmas!


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Friday, November 11, 2005

World War I Draft Registration

In 1917 and 1918, all males born between 1872 and 1900 were required to register for the draft. The draft registration cards are a great source of genealogical information, with registrant's home address, occupation and physical description.

Lee's father Will Kolm had to register, as did several of Lee's uncles.

Name: William Louis Kolm
Address: 490 East Pine, Portland, Multnomah Co., Oregon
Birth: July 27, 1884 (age 34), native born
Occupation: freight rate revisor, United States R.R. Administration, OWR&N lines,
at cor. 6th and Oak, Wells Fargo Building, Portland
Nearest relative; Nellie Kolm (wife), same address
Description: Tall, medium build, gray eyes, light brown hair

Will's older brothers Henry, Frank and Charles were born before the draft registration cut off date. However, his brother Fred did register:

Name: Frederick William Kolm
Address: 12th & Chase, Columbus, Platte Co., Nebraska
Birth: May 28, 1882 (age 36), native born
Occupation: stonecutter, at E. C. Bergman, 12th St. , Columbus
Nearest relative: Mrs. Victoria Kolm (wife), same address
Description: tall, medium build, brown eyes, light hair

Neither Will nor Fred served during the war.

Lee's mother Nellie had three younger brothers; Bill, Jack and Sidney Bernitt.

Name: William Carl Bernitt
Address: 1459 Sacramento, Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon
Birth: June 21, 1885
Occupation: Sec'ty for S. Birkenwald Co., ? Flanders, Portland, Multnomah, Oregon
Nearest relative: Willa S. Bernitt (wife), same address
Description: medium height, medium build, blue eyes, light hair

Name: John A. Bernitt
Address: Cashmere, Chelan, Oregon
Birth: April 3, 1889, Marshfield Oregon
Occupation: no current occupation
Marital status: single
Description: short, medium build, blue eyes, light brown hair

No draft card has been found for Nellie's brother Sidney, probably because he enlisted before he had to register.

Jack Bernitt served in France as an airplane mechanic. Sidney Bernitt was killed when the troop ship Tuscania was torpedoed off the coast of Scotland. You can read more about the Bernitt boys in WWI in last year's Veterans Day post.

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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Web Site Update: Web Family Cards

To make navigating through Lee Kolm's ancestors even easier, I've used my genealogy program, Reunion, to generate web cards. You can start with Lee and work your way back to his earliest known ancestor.

I've put a handy link in the sidebar, so you can access the webcards page even after this post has been archived.

Give the web cards a try, and let me know if you have any problem viewing or navigating them.


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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Who Were the Relatives of Nellie (Bernitt) Kolm in Hayward, California?

Nellie (Bernitt) Kolm (1883-1869) told her grandson, Rich Kolm, that in 1894 she had travelled with her family by ship from Coos Bay, Oregon to San Francisco, to visit the Midwinter Exposition. At that time, she recalled that they had visited relatives living in the East Bay city of Hayward, in Alameda County.

The question: who were the Bernitt relatives living in Hayward in 1894?

Not to hold the reader in suspense: I haven't been able to find any such relative.

The town of Hayward is in Eden Township in Alameda County (it also includes San Lorenzo and Castro Valley). The 1900 census listed 522 individuals born in Germany (99 in Hayward) and none born in Prussia or Holstein. There were also 237 residents born in Denmark (which "owned" Holstein at one time).

Unfortunately, none of the Germans carry one of the names we know were associated with Nellie's family: Bernitt, Hilmer(s), Frehse, Voelters, Klahn. It's hard to know if they were cousins with a surname we haven't found as yet, or if they moved away from the Hayward are before 1900.

I'm hoping that someone will read this and come up with a clue (or at least a suggestion of where else to look for information). Comments would be appreiciated!

History of Hayward
About Eden Township (1877) and 1878 Map of Alameda County
Articles about the California Midwinter Exposition
California Midwinter International Exposition photos
Alameda County, CA, 1900 Census. Eden Township is covered by ED 327-331. (note that I used the searchable version at

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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Major Update: Postcard Photos of Coos County

I have made a much needed update of the Coos County Postals site. The site was originally set up to document the postcard correspondence of Will Kolm and Nellie Bernitt, focusing on the period from 1909-1914.

In addition to a colorful new style (compare to ugly 1999 version), I've expanded on the story of Will and Nellie, and added transcriptions of all of their existing postcard correspondence (not only those postcards shown on the site).

Any comments, corrections, or questions would be appreciated (you can email me, or reply to this post).

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Thursday, September 15, 2005

Friedrich Bernitt, sailmaker in Neustadt

Neustadt in Ostholstein (East Holstein), Germany is a port city on the Ostsee (Lübecker Bucht) and the home of our Bernitt ancestors. According to family stories, Friedrich Bernitt worked there as a sail maker (Segelmacher) "in a large building or loft".

Sailmaking was an important occupation in an era when ships were driven by the power of the wind, rather than a motor. A sail making business (Segelmacherei) often used a loft to work on the sails, beacause they were so large. The shape of the sail would be made on the floor, and the sail cloth laid out, cut, and sewn to specification.

Again acording to family stories, the Bernitts lived on a small farm. They may have lived outside the city of Neustadt, causing Friedrich to "commute" to his sail loft, which would have necessarily been near the harbor.

We don't really know any more about the Bernitt family when they lived in Holstein. I am hoping more information about their life there can be found.

• Learn about sailmakers and their tools from HMS Richmond living history site (about English methods, but it is likely that similar methods were used in Holstein).

• Photo of sailmaker's building with loft at Mystic seaport. (photos from Schifffahrtsmuseum in Brake/Unterweser)

Official Neustadt in Holstein site (in German), photo gallery (click on "Fotogalerie") and Harbor Webcams.

• Some articles about sailmaking from the Maritime History Virtual Archives.

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Thursday, August 04, 2005

Carl Kolm, Holländer

The marriage of Heinrich "Carl" Emanuel Kolm and Christine "Maria" Maack in 1829 was recorded in the Hagenow, Mecklenburg-Schwerin parish records. On that record, Carl Heinrich was described as a "Holländer". At first glance, this designation seems obvious: a Holländer is someone from Holland. That is the definition given by German-English dictionaries. Unfortunately, in this case, the translation is wrong.

Extract from the Hagenow Parish Records
Carl Kolm and Maria Maack marriage record

An important clue is the field in which the term is entered: Beruf. A Beruf is a "occupation". It is the field labeled "Wohnort" that shows were the person is living. In this case, Carl Kolm lived in Bakendorf, a village near Hagenow.

So what occupation is a Holländer? If you look up the term in German dictionaries, particularly those with more archaic terms, you learn that a Holländer is also a term to describe a particular type of dairyman.
"östlich von der Elbe der milchwirtschafter auf einem gute, meist pächter."(definition from the Deutsches Wörterbuch von Jacob Grimm und Wilhelm Grimm)
In English, that means "east of the Elbe River, the dairyman (or "milk manager") on a farm, usually tenants".

The term appears to have originated in the 1600s, when emigrants came east from Holland, initially settling in the Dutchies of Schleswig and Holstein and the marshes of the Elbe river. These "Dutchmen" introduced new techniques for processing milk. They usually leased the cows on a "Gut", being responsible for milking and selling the dairy products. As the practice spread, the term "Holländer" became associated with the dairymen themselves.

In 19th century Mecklenburg-Schwerin, a "Gut" was a large piece of land owned by a rich landlord, and farmed by "Pächter" (tenants). The way I envision a "Gut", it is closer to an "estate" than what I think of as a farm.

Translation of the extract from the marriage register:
Year: 1829 Page: 39/40 Date: 10th February
Groom: Kolm, Heinrich Carl Emanuel; Profession: Holländer; residence: Bakendorf; status: single
Bride: Maack, Catharina Maria; residence: Hagenower Heide; status: single
Father of the groom: deceased Holländer Jürgen Heinrich Kolm of Melkof
Father of the bride: "tree caretaker" (forester?), Joachim Maack in Hagenower Heide

Was ist ein Holländer? (in German, Google English Translation)
GenWiki entry for Holländer (in German)
Mecklenburg Rural Life Museums from the Garling Mecklenburg genealogy page (see the FAQ).
Map of Mecklenburg showing Bakendorf

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Did the Lüneburg family come to America in 1852 on the ship George Canning?

We know that Maria Dorothea Caroline "Doris" Lüneburg (born September 2, 1842) came to America from Mecklenburg with her family some time before 1860. In that year, most of the Luneburg family was living in Middleton in Dane County, Wisconsin. Unfortunatelty, Different records list different years for the Luneburg immigration to America.

According to Doris's obituary, she came to America at "age 8" (about 1850 or 1851). The 1900 Census says 1853 and the 1920 Census says 1850. Records of her siblings suggest the family arrived in America in about 1851.

The newly released database of ship passenger lists from Castle Garden in New York includes one possible listing for the Lüneburg (or Luenburg) family:

The ship George Canning left from Hamburg, arriving at Castle Garden on July 30, 1852:

Name ______________ Occupation Age Sex
HANS ___ LUENNEBURG Unknown 44 M
ANNA ___ LUENNEBURG Unknown 46 F

This is a very close (but not exact) match to our Luneburg family:

- Carl Friedrich "Wilhelm" Luneburg (born Dec 1807) - age 44 in July 1852 (age matches, name does not)
- Anna Sophia Dorothea (Klauck) Luneburg (born Feb 1804) - age 48 (age close, name matches)
- George Luneburg (born about 1833) - about age 19 (age match, name close)
- Marie "Mary" Luneburg (born about 1834) - about age 18 (age match, name match)
- Friedrich "Fritz" Luneburg (born Feb 1838) - age 14 (age and name match)
- Heinrich "Henry" J. Luneburg (born Nov 1840 or 1841) - age 11 (age close, name match)
- Maria Dorothea Caroline "Doris" Luneburg (born Sept 1842) - age 9 (age close, name match)

It is possible that ages (and to a lesser extent names) were either written incorrectly in the passenger list, or transcribed incorrectly into this database. Hopefully further research will clarify whether this is our Luneburg family.


Description of the George Canning (with picture)
Passenger list of the George Canning from November 1852 (showing many passengers from Mecklenburg)

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Monday, August 01, 2005

When did Henry Kolm come to America?

According to a family story, when Carl Heinrich Christian "Henry" Kolm came to America, he first stopped in New York, then took a ship to New Orleans. After sailing up the Mississippi River, he got off the boat in Mendota - unfortunately it was Mendota, Illinois, rather than his goal, Mendota, Wisconsin. What we don't know is when Henry Kolm arrived in America. Some records indicate that he may have arrived in 1859.

Carl Heinrich Christian "Henry" Kolm married Maria Dorothea Caroline "Doris" Luneburg on June 23, 1862 in Madison, Dane County, Wisconsin. At that time, Henry was living in Middleton, working as a carpenter. It is unclear how long Henry lived in Wisconsin prior to his marriage. According to the 1900 census, he arrived in America in 1859, but do we have any evidence of this?


If Henry Kolm arrived in America in 1859, he should be listed in the 1860 U.S. Census. Searches for "Henry Kolm" do not turn up any entries. However, the name "Kolm" is not very common, and census transcribers (and indexers) often spell it wrong. A common mistranscription is "Kohn", since a handwritten lm looks very much like a handwritten hn. Many other spellings are found as well (Kollm, Kelm, even Rolm, when "K" is mistaken for "R").

In the 1860 Census there IS a Henry "Kuehn" living in Madison, Wisconsin (page 456):

Levi S. Vilas _ 49 M __ farmer _____ Vermont
Ester --- ____ 40 F _______________ Vermont
William --- ___ 20 M __ Attorney ___ Vermont
Henry --- _____ 18 M _______________ Vermont
Levi --- ______ 16 M _______________ Vermont
Charles --- ___ 14 M _______________ Vermont
Edward ---- ___ 7 M _______________ Wisconsin
Henry Kuehn ___ 23 M ___ Laborer ___ Germany
Margret Malene _20 F ___ servant ___ Germany
Rebecka Merricin 20 F __ servant ___ Connecticut

Henry 1860?The handwriting on this entry is difficult to read, and Henry's last name could be Kuihn, Kuelm, or some other variant (it's indexed as Kucker).

Is this our Henry? Without additional information it's almost impossible to know.

Castle Garden Immigration Records.

Castle Garden, located at the tip of Manhattan, was the first official immigration center in America, and operated until the opening of Ellis Island in 1892. The Castle Garden database includes ship passenger lists from 1830-1913.

A search of the database turns up one Kolm entry from the late 1850s or early 1860s: W. and Dorothea Kolm, ages 32 and 30, who arrived from Germany on 6/21/1861 on the ship Electric. This is probably Henry's brother William and Dorothea (Wetger) Kolm, who settled in Two Rivers, Manitowoc County, Wisconsin.

A search for likely spelling variants turns up a possible entry on the passenger list of the Ship Oder, that arrived in New York on June 15, 1859:

Christ. Kohn Carpenter 22 M Germany

Why is this a likely entry?

- Henry's full name was Carl Heinrich CHRISTIAN Kolm, so it is not unreasonable that he could be listed as Christian.

- "Christ. Kohn" was a carpenter, as was Henry Kolm

- Henry Kolm was born in August 1837, so he would almost have been 22 in June 1859.

- The ship Oder left from the Hamburg, which probably would have been the closest port to Henry's home in Warlow, Mecklenburg-Schwerin. (more about Mecklenburg emigration)

Further research (perhaps in the Mecklenburg-Schwerin permissions to emigrate) is required to determine whether the listings in the 1860 Census and on the ship Oder are our ancestor.

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Friday, July 29, 2005

Colfax County Landscape

Unlike the forested hills of Wisconsin, the plains of Nebraska were covered by tall prairie grasses. With the coming of the settlers, the prairie was eventually replaced by crops, especially wheat and corn.

The land surrounding Schuyler in Colfax County is gently undulating (OK, mostly flat) and almost entirely under cultivation. Trees line the Platte river and are clustered around farm buildings.

It must have been a great adjustment for the Kolm and Luneburg families, who moved to Schuyler in the 1870s from Wisconsin. It must have been even more difficult for Nellie (Bernitt) Kolm, who arrived in Schuyler in 1911 as the new bride of Will Kolm. Nellie grew up in Marshfield (Coos Bay), along the rugged Oregon coast.

Highway 15 in Colfax County looking south towards Schuyler (Schuyler is barely visible in the distance).
Highway 15 North of Schuyler

(click for full size photo)

Highway 15 in Colfax County looking north across the Platte River towards Schuyler.
Platte River South of Schuyler

(click for full size photo)

More Nebraska Landscapes
Fertig Family Tallgrass Prairie outside of Schuyler (land of Clarence and Ruth (Kolm) Fertig)
Nebraska in single frames (video photo montage of driving across Nebraska)
Barns of Nebraska

(photos copyright 2004 P. Kolm, all rights reserved)

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Luneburg and Kolm Move to Schuyler, Nebraska from Wisconsin

The first of our relatives to settle in Nebraska were two sons of William and Anna (Klauck) Luneburg: the civil war veteran Henry J. Luneburg (1841-1880) and family, and his brother Fritz Luneburg (1838-1895) and family. The moved from Middleton, Wisconsin to Schuyler in Colfax County, Nebraska between 1871 and 1875.

In October 1878 both William and Anna Luneburg died in Middleton, Wisconsin. About a year later, in November 1879, their youngest daughter Doris, her husband Henry Kolm, and their children joined the Luneburg brothers in Schuyler.

When Henry and Fritz arrived in Schuyler, it was a young town. The railway station was built in 1868, and the first general store opened in 1869. In 1870, the year Schuyler was incorporated, Texas cattlemen started driving thousands of head of cattle into the newly established stockyards. Businesses were opened to serve the cowboys, and many newcomers settled in town. The population reached population of 600 by the end of that year.

This initial prosperity did not last long - grasshoppers and drought plagued the settlers during the mid-1870s, causing the cattle to be moved further west. Times were tough until the rains returned in 1877. The occupations of Henry and Fritz Luneburg during this period are unknown. In 1880 Fritz was a laborer living in Shell Creek Precinct, northeast of Schuyler. Henry died before the 1880 census was taken. Fritz died in 1895.

When Henry and Doris (Luneburg) Kolm arrived in Schuyler in 1879, Henry worked as a carpenter, as he had in Wisconsin. By 1888 he was breeding cattle and horses on a farm owned by the Wells and Nieman Flour Mill Company, just north of Schuyler along Shell Creek. Doris and her daughters cooked for the ranch hands. When the 1900 census was taken, it appears they were living on this ranch, in Grant Precinct.

Later, son Charles Kolm had a farm in Richland Precinct, closer to the Platte River. This farm was located two miles north of the Platte River, near Schuyler, which was mostly pasture and hayland at the time.

In about 1905, Henry Kolm retired, and he and Doris moved into the town of Schuyler. Even after Henry retired he was supposedly asked to come out to the ranch to look after machinery.

Henry Kolm died in 1909 and was buried in Schuyler cemetery. The widow Doris eventually returned to Middleton, Wisconsin to live with one (or both) of her married daughters, Anna (Kolm) Orth or Lena (Kolm) Staack. She died in 1924, and her body was returned to Schuyler, where she was buried next to Henry.

Herny & Doris Kolm grave

(Information about living on the ranch taken from a letter from Ramona “Mona” Staack Gray to Leland “Lee” Kolm, 1976. “I’m sure Mother said she was two when they moved to the ranch.” (her mother, Lena Kolm, was born in 1886). Mona indicates it was either the Fuller range and or the Wells-Nieman ranch.)

Schuyler Links
Obituary of Doris (Luneburg) Kolm (note that there are many typos and phonetic spellings in the original!).
Township map of Colfax County, Nebraska, from the 1885 Atlas of Nebraska
History of Schuyler, Nebraska (from the from the Nebraska "Our Towns" site)
Andreas' History of Nebraska, 1882 - Colfax County (including a description of the business of Wells & Nieman's Flour Mill).
Information about Schuyler from 1892 History (scroll to bottom of page)
History of the First Presbyterian Church of Schuyler (organized in December 1869. Minnie, Marie and Anna Kolm, daughters of Henry Kolm, jr., were members of this church)
A methodist minister in Schuyler (where the people apparently drank too much) from A Frontier Life: Sketches and Incidents of the Homes in the West, by Charles Wesley Wells, 1902.
Satellite Map of Schuyler
Schuyler today

Related Links
Railroad map of Nebraska, 1874
Prairie Settlement (Library of Congress exhibit about the settlement of central Nebraska - Custer, Buffalo, Dawson and Cherry counties - west of Colfax County.)
Ranchers and Farmers Collide in Nebraska, 1884 (homesteading in Custer County)
Nebraska State Historical Society Photographs, 1850-1938 (photos from all over Nebraska, including Colfax county).
Wessel's Living History Farm in York, Nebraska. Focus on the 1920s-1940s. At this time our ancestor Will Kolm was living on the west coast. His brother Charles was running the Kolm family farm in Colfax County.

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Monday, July 18, 2005

Location of Kolm Brothers Furniture Store?

Will Kolm was working as an embalmer for the Kolm Brothers Furniture Store in Schuyler, Nebraska from 1910 to 1912. The location of the store at that time is unclear.

Where was the Kolm Brothers Furniture Store and Undertaking Parlor located?

Kolm Brothers Ad

The above ad, probably dating from 1911 or 1912, indicates that the undertaking parlor was located in the "Sun building [by?] Folda Bank".

According to the "Schuyler Nebraska: Walking Tour of the Downtown Historic Disctrict" (GFWC Schuyler Civic Club), Henry purchased a building at 1123 C Street,in Schuyler, which was formerly the Banking House of Folda, 1915). Where he operated the Kolm Furniture Store with his daughters Anna and Minnie. This building is presently American Legion McLeod Post 47. It should be noted that this description indicates the purchase was in 1924, which was after Henry's death in 1918. It is unclear whether the date or purchasers are incorrect.

The description sounds very similar to the location of the parlor in the above ad, which mentions "Folda Bank". It is possible that Henry had a parlor in or next to this building before he purchased the property.

A 1912 postcard indicated that the "Kolm Brothers" store was adjacent to the Opera House, which was on the corner of 12th and C Streets. Again, this location is C street between 11th and 12th; very close to 1123 C St.

This was not the only location of the Kolm furniture store in Schuyler:
"Schuyler Municipal Building, 1103 B STREET - The "Municipal Building" was acquired by the City of Schuyler in 1992 and was constructed in 1978 by the Security Federal Savings and Loan Assn. of Schuyler. The new building structure replaced three former buildings at the location. The first building originally was the First National Bank. [...] Two adjacent buildings to the north had been occupied by Chase Drug Store, Kolm Furniture Store, Johnson Men's Clothing Store and a tavern. Prior to 1978, Security Federal Savings and Loan Assn. acquired the three various sites, tore the two north buildings down, and removed the second floor of the corner building which after building construction resulted in the building as it is now." (from Schuyler Nebraska: Walking Tour of the Downtown Historic Disctrict, Organized by GFWC Schuyler Civic Club)

It is unclear whether the Kolm Furniture Store was located in this building before or after it was located on C St.

Previous post: Kolm Brothers Funeral Store and Undertaking Parlor.

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Kolm Brothers Furniture Store and Undertakers

Our ancestor Carl Heinrich Christian "Henry" Kolm was a carpenter and joiner by trade. Only of his sons, Henry William (born 1863) continued his trade. Shortly after the turn of the century, Henry William opened a furniture store in Schuyler, Nebraska. Because the store provided coffins, it had a second business as an undertaking parlor.

According to Alice Kolm Stibal the embalming was done by a Jack Stovicek from the Gass Funeral Home in Columbus, Platte County. Henry's brother Charles briefly worked in the undertaking business, then took over the Kolm farm when his father retired, about 1905.

Kolm Brothers AdIn February 1910 Henry's youngest brother (and our ancestor) Will returned from Oregon and joined him in his business, doing the embalming. Will returned briefly to Marshfield, Oregon in June 1910 to marry Nellie Bernitt. The young couple returned to Schuyler, where Will recieved his embalmer's license.

Will had gone into debt to buy one half of the furniture/undertaking business and found the interest payments to be a heavy burden. Furthermore, he did not like working as an undertaker, especially when he had to embalm a child for burial. By 1912 he had become terribly discouraged in Schuyler. Henry bought his brother out and he and Nellie with baby Leland returned to Marshfield, Oregon. (Will maintained his embalmer's license even after returning to Oregon).

Will's Embalming License

When Will left to return to Oregon, Henry’s daughter Anna (who had been a rural schoolteacher), went into business with him. Anna carried on the business many years after Henry died in 1918.

Information about the Kolm furniture store/undertakers was from correspondence between Lee Kolm and his cousins Alice Stibal and William Roether.

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Thursday, November 11, 2004

The Bernitt Boys in WWI

Today is the anniversary of the official end of World War I, originally celebrated as Armistice Day. It seems appropriate to honor the two the brothers of Nellie (Bernitt) Kolm, who volunteered to serve the United States. Jack Bernitt served as an airplane mechanic in France and returned to America. His brother Sidney Bernitt died before even reaching European soil.

Sidney Bernitt

Sidney Walter Bernitt was born on February 26, 1889 in Marshfield (now Coos Bay), Oregon. Sidney worked for the postal service, both in Oregon and in Globe, Arizona. After war broke out, Sidney attempted to enlist several times, but had difficulties getting his release from the civil service, in addition to a slight heart problem.

Eventually, Sidney overcame these obsticles, and enlisted in the US Army in the Fall of 1917, joining Company D of the 6th Battalion of the 20th Engineers. During WWI this was a "Forest Engineer" regiment that provided construction materials to the American Expiditionary Forces in France, with most of the recruits from areas with an active timber industry, including the Pacific Northwest.

On January 23, 1918 the 6th Batallion of the 20th Engineers boarded the troopship Tuscania in New Jersey bound for Le Havre. The ship proceeded to Halifax, Nova Scotia, then, escorted by British destroyers, the ship made it's way across the Atlantic. Fourteen days into the trip, on February 5, the Tuscaniawas torpedoed by a German submarine. They were within sight of land, just of the Scottish Hebrides. Only a few of the lifeboats were successfully launched, but the troops remaining on the sinking ship remained calm.
With the lifeboats gone together with the rafts, the situation looked none too encouraging. The boys showed few signs of nervousness. Standing there, lining the rail, waiting for the next development, some six hundred of them smoked or talked quietly, discussing their plight. The remarkable part of it all was that they took everything in a matter - of - fact way with a sort of ''well, what's next?'' attitude. Occasionally few would sing some little song, indicative of their feelings, such as ''Where Do We Go From Here, Boys?'' or "To Hell with the Kaiser.'' The absence of any panic, or effort and time in prayer was notable. A casual observer might, had he acquired a few snatches of the conversation, have thought the latter practice was being indulged in. A closer observer would have revealed a collection of wonderful expressions from vocabularies replete with all the known cuss words in existence. The objects remarks were chiefly the Uboats, the Kaiser, the Germans the authorities criminally neglectful of the safety of the troops. (Link - other accounts have the troops singing "The Star Spangled Banner" and "God Save the King")

Most of the troops were rescued from the slowly sinking ship. Sadly, Sidney Bernitt was one of the 200 American soldiers who did not survive.

- Web site honoring the 20th Engineers
- Map of the sinking of the Tuscania
- Roster of Company D, 6th Battalion, 20th Engineers aboard the Tuscania.
- Eyewitness account of the sinking, by Irwin Cobb (published in the Saturday Evening Post)
-Memorial honoring those who died in the sinking of the Tuscania and Otranto on the Isle of Islay

(Edit January 2006: Be sure to read the update to this post.)

Jack Bernitt

John Augustus "Jack" Bernitt was born April 3, 1887, in Marshfield (Coos Bay), Oregon. Jack left home as a young man, supposely having "little to do with the family". By 1916 he was living in Cashmere in Chelan County, Washington, where he worked as a mechanic.

On August 6, 1917, at the age of 28, Jack enlisted at Fort Lawton. He was shipped to France, where he served with the U. S. Aviation Service as an airplane mechanic. Jack was promoted to Sergent on April 19, 1918.

Despite his supposed estrangement from the family, his sisters awaited his return. On May 27, 1919, Martha Bernitt wrote to her sister Nellie (Bernitt) Kolm, living in Portland:
John arrived in N.Y. with 644, Sat 24. Watch for him on way to Camp Lewis in couple of weeks.
He was discharged on June 12, 1919 and returned to Chelan County. There he married, and continued working as a mechanic until his death in 1970.

- Service record from the Washington State Digital Archive.
- History of the U. S. Air Service and Lafaetty Escadrille in France during WWI.

The Home Front

Life was difficult at home in Oregon, as well, particularly for those of German descent. Edward and Elise (Hilmers) Bernitt were both immigrated from Holstein, to the Coos Bay area. Their children and grandchildren were affected by the anti-German sentiment during the first world war. German language newspapers were censored, and the State Council of Defense for Oregon prohibited church services in German.
It was this propaganda that fueled the passions of Americans, both good and bad. To be sure, the committee reminded the nation that it was fighting for democracy and freedom. And its propaganda helped sell war bonds and promote positive actions such as reducing absenteeism in factories. But its releases also raised hysteria by portraying Germans as Huns, evil creatures perpetrating atrocities as part of their greedy aim to conquer the world. The committee hinted that German spies were hiding around every corner; that any work stoppages were tantamount to treason; that any dissent was unpatriotic; and that socialists and pacifists were secretly sympathizing with the enemy. (From the Oregon at War site: "To Be an American")
"Hamburgers" sounded too German, so they were called "liberty sandwiches". German pretzels were supposedly removed from lunch counters.

All of this had a lasting effect on Nellie (Bernitt) Kolm's son, Lee Kolm, who recalled:
I was descended from German grandparents and I felt WW I very much. Teachers told us how hateful, mean, and brutal were the Germans. Kaiser Bill and the Huns were considered barbaric people; savages, if you will. My Mother got me very mad by teasing me and calling me her little "Hun". I was about 6 or 7 years old and I have never forgotten my Mother's taunts. She was a kidder, but it was never funny to me.
When the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1919, celebrations broke out all over Oregon.
People grabbed anything that would make noise to add to the din as cow bells, tin cans and pans, whistles, buckets, sirens, saw blades, and 5-cent horns were drafted into service for impromptu bands. One woman was seen holding up an alarm clock and repeatedly turning the alarm key to do her part for the noise. Traffic reached a standstill in many places as police worked in vain to keep up. Cars and trucks, overloaded with human cargo, crawled along as the passengers yelled and waved flags. Oregonians released pent up hatred of German Kaiser Wilhelm with a vengeance during the spontaneous parades through the streets of Portland. Several effigies of the Kaiser paraded through the throngs of celebrants. One was dangling at the end of swaying rope. ("After the War")
Eventually life returned to "normal", with those that served and did not return living on in the memories of their families and friends.

Other Links:
- Oregon at War (an excellent site run by the Oregon State Archives)
- Oregon WWI death roll by county.
- Wikipedia article on Armistice Day.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Henry Kolm & Doris Luneburg in Middleton, Wisconsin

When Carl Heinrich Christian "Henry" Kolm arrived in America from Mecklenburg, in about 1860, he made his way from New Orleans, up the Mississippi River towards the town of Mendota, Wisconsin. (Family legend says that Henry mistakenly got off the boat at Mendota, Illinois and had to make his way north on foot). Finally, he arrived in the large community of immigrants from Mecklenburg in Middleton Township, Dane County, Wisconsin.

The town of Middleton, on the shore of Lake Mendota near Madison, was originally called Mendota, then officially changed its name to Middleton in about 1870.*

Wilhelm and Anna (Klauck) Lüneburg settled in Middleton Township, in the Pheasant Branch area, in the early or mid-1850s. They were also emigrants from Mecklenburg. The two oldest Lüneburg children, George Luneburg and Marie (Luneburg) Nortmann, lived in Milwaukee with their spouses and children. The three younger children: Friedrich "Fritz", Henry, and Maria Dorothea Caroline "Doris" Luneburg lived in Middleton with their parents.

It is not known whether Henry Kolm settled in Middleton immediately upon arriving in Wisconsin. We do know that Henry Kolm and Doris Luneburg married on June 23, 1862 in Madison. On their marriage license, Henry listed his occupation as a carpenter and joiner.

After their marriage, Henry and Doris settled in the town of Middleton, where Henry worked as a carpenter. They had six children in Middleton: Henry, August, Frank, Mary, Charles, and Anna.

The Kolms remained in Middleton until November 1879, when they joined Doris' brothers Henry and Fritz in Schuyler, Colfax County, Nebraska. (three more Kolm chilren were born in Nebraska: Fred, William and Lena).

The elder Lüneburgs both died in October 1878. Wilhelm and Anna are buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Middleton.


• My earlier post about the 1873 Middleton Township plat map.

• History from the City of Middleton web site, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Middleton Tourism Commission.

• Photos from the Wisconsin Historical Society
--- 1873: Middleton Wisconsin Rail Crossing
--- 1876: Bird's Eye View of Middleton, Wisconsin

• Articles from the Wisconsin Historical Society
--- 3-14-1920 Wisconsin State Journal
--- 11-18-1928 Wisconsin State Journal
--- 2-5-1939 Capital Times

* This town in Middleton Township, Dane County has been called Peatville (1856), Middleton Station (Juen 1862), Mendota (July 1862) and finally Middleton (April 1870). It has always been located near the shore of Lake Mendota. (see "The Early History of the Pheasant Branch Watershed" for details)

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Thursday, September 23, 2004

Lewis Ancestry in Separate Blog

The Ancestry of Kathleen (Lewis) Kolm is now in a separate blog.
You can learn more about the Lewis, Hopkins, Betts and related families at .

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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Kolm and Lewis Family Trees Modified

The family trees for Lee Kolm and Kay (Lewis) Kolm have been updated with photos.
You can view the Kolm Family Tree here and the Lewis Family Tree here.


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Friday, August 06, 2004

Family Trees Added

I've added links in the side bar to family trees for Kathleen Lewis and Leland Bernitt Kolm. These don't seem to display correctly in any browser except Explorer (not too surprising, since I used Excel to make them), so they will be modified in the future. However, the URL will stay the same.

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Thursday, August 05, 2004

1873 Plat Map of Dane County, Wisconsin: Kolm, Luneburg

Carl Heinrich Christian "Henry" Kolm (1837-1909) emigrated from Mecklenburg-Schwerin in about 1860, settling in Middleton Township in Dane County, Wisconsin, near Madison. There he met and married Maria Dorothea Caroline "Doris" Lüneburg (1842-1924) in 1862. The Kolms remained in Middleton until 1879, when they moved to Schuyler, Nebraska.
The Dane County Historical society has put the county 1873 Plat map on-line. (NOTE: all links are to large images).

Property owners in Middleton Township include:
• "W. Lunenburg" in Section 16 (probably William Lüneburg, Doris' father)
• "H. Luneburg" in Section 26 (probably Doris' brother Henry)
• "F. Kolm" in Section 21 (either Henry Kolm with miswritten first initial or an unknown relative)

Southwest Middleton Township: Sections 16-21 and 28-33.
Southeast Middleton Township: Sections 13-15, 22-27, 34-36

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