Growing up on small farm near Minden in the early 1900's
Written in 1997 for his grandchildren by Paul Brandt
Recent material sent to me by a distant cousin along with bits and pieces from my various relatives has given me a good insight into childhood in the community where my ancestors grew up - - Cammer (near Frille and Minden). Henry Prange, aged 93, was the distant cousin who provided most of this information in a taped interview about 1995. Henry's parents lived at Farm #33 Cammer. My great grandparents (Paul's) lived at #35 just across the road from the Pranges.
Cammer was a small village of about 500 near the border of Schaumburg-Lippe and Prussia in northern Germany. Frille was the nearby village that had an Evangelical Lutheran Church which served four surrounding villages including Cammer. Frille was about a 30 minute walk from Cammer and laid part in Prussia and part in Schambug-Lippe. During the 30 year war, half of the congregation was on one side and half on the other. According to Henry, Minden was a little more than an hours walk from Cammer. All of these villages were farming communities with little or no other businesses. Henry's grandfather, Friedrich Prange, was the Master Builder, or contractor, for the area. Henry's father, Henry and his brother, and the grandfather and uncle of the writer all learned the carpentry trade from Friedrich. All but Henry's father and grandfather immigrated to America when they were in their late teens or early 20's.
Henry was one of ten children. His dad spent full-time as a builder, so it was up to his mother and her children to do all the farm work on their 20 acre farm. Their main crops were rye, barley, potatoes, vegetables and fruit. They were completely self sufficient with the exception of using the mill in Frille to grind their flour (run by a windmill); a local tailor came to the house to make clothes for those confirmation age or older; and a shoemaker came to the house to make shoes for those of confirmation age. These were made from cow hides that were saved from butchering. Prior to confirmation age children wore wooden shoes. Henry commented that both leather shoes were identical (no right or left) and it took a quite a while to break them in. During World War I, Germany was blockaded and could not import cotton cloth. His mother grew flax, made linen cloth and sewed shirts and dresses. Besides 20 acres of crops she also raised sheep, harvested wool, and spun cloth for winter clothing. This was a remarkable women to juggle all the balls that were necessary for their family. They kept several horses, three or four cows, and a number of pigs, chickens, geese, ducks, and rabbits.
Their typical day began at 500 AM with chores for the animals. At 600 AM they ate their first of five meals for the day. It consisted of bread and coffee or milk. They then went to the garden or field and worked until 900 AM at which time they had the second breakfast consisting of sausage (metworst), cheese, bread, and coffee. Henry's mother of course baked all the bread from rye they had grown. At noon everyone returned to the house for the main meal - - a one-pot stew with potatoes, vegetables and some kind of meat. Butchering was done in the winter and they had no refrigeration in the summer. Consequently during those months they used smoked meat or poultry, all from their farm. They bought nothing except sugar, salt, and coffee from the one small store in Cammer. The next meal was at 300 and consisted of cake, cookies and coffee. Then back to work until 600 PM. Supper was served about 630 and consisted of the same one-pot stew from noon. Everyone tumbled into bed by 800 or 900 PM so they could get ready to repeat the routine the next day. On Sunday everyone walked to church in Frille. Worship services were in the morning and social activities in the afternoon. Henry mentioned one thing that jogged my memory (Paul Brandt, age 73) men sat on one side of the congregation and women on the other side. This was still the practice in Indiana for Lutheran communion services when Paul was small - - until about 1930.
Cammer's children went to a one room school. The first two or three grades which started at age 6, went to school at 100 PM for two hours. The older children attended from 700 AM to 100 PM. All went 11 months each year. The school had only one teacher. Confirmation school was two afternoons each week in the winter for a period of two years until age 14, at which time they were confirmed. Confirmation instruction was conducted in Frille by the minister and all the children walked from their villages.
Henry's family home burned in 1908. It was one of the last in the area with a thatch roof. Insurance companies no longer would cover homes with thatched roofs. The new home contained a living and bedroom space for his grandparents and Henry stayed with them. The entire family ate together in the dining room. This was one of the first homes in the area to have electricity. Others used coal oil lamps.
CHRISTMAS IN CAMMER Everyone cut their own tree from the nearby forest. Trees were decorated with paper roses and candles. The children's gifts were placed on the dining room table and consisted of clothing and one orange - - the only one they received for the year. All of this was done on Christmas Eve after children were asleep. When he was small, Paul's folks had the same custom of trimming the tree and placing his gifts under it after he was asleep.
Everyone walked or rode their wagon to Frille for Christmas Eve services. The children from each village prepared carols to sing during the service. St. Nicholas came a week before Christmas dressed in some kind of costume wearing chains which he would jingle. He would try to scare the kids and tell them that they better be good. Christmas Eve and day did not involve St. Nick, but was strictly religious. Other holidays were Easter, Frankton (about 10 days before Ascension Day), Pentecost, and Erntefest in late summer - - this was the harvest festival. Frankton was observed by decorating the homes with evergreen branches.
Henry described how the house was used in the old days, or when he was very young. A large door in the center entered into the deila. This was a large space into which they could back a wagon full of rye, thresh it, bag it, and store it in the attic. Animal stalls were on one side of the deila and the family lived on the other or in the rear. There was no central heat. They usually had an iron stove for cooking and for heat in a combined kitchen, dining, and living space. If they had another formal living space, it would probably have another stove. Bedrooms were unheated. Children went to bed wearing long johns and carried hot bricks wrapped in a blanket to put under the covers. The mattress consisted of several feet of straw within a burlap envelope and covered with a sheet. Over the children was a featherbed for warmth. Stoves in the house burned wood or coal. Wood was available from the nearby forest. Coal had to be hauled from some distance. Three or four times each year winter, Henry's dad had to leave at 400 AM with a team of horses and wagon; go to the mine and haul the coal home. This was a long day's chore.
Henry explained that the population explosion when he was young, caused young men to travel to Holland or the north seacoast of Germany to work on fishing boats during seasons when they were not farming. In his family it was common to have 10 to 13 children. He once counted 75 first cousins. Many of his close relatives immigrated to Holland, northern Germany near Denmark, and to South America in addition to the USA, since the oldest male child in a family inherited the homestead and farm. Also, some family sources said many young men left to avoid military service.
Henry, who was born in 1904, came to America probably in the mid 1920's. His younger brother, Herman, joined him soon after. Both came to Indianapolis and worked for Brandt Brothers General Contractors (Paul's grandfather and great uncle). Henry later attended the University of Illinois and completed a Bachelors degree in Architectural Engineering. Eventually he became the State of Indiana's chief architect in charge of the construction of facilities for State parks. Herman left the family firm to start his own home building business in Indianapolis. Paul had the privilege of doing the architectural work on Herman's own residence.
Henry died in 1996 at the age of 94.
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