Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Letter to Granddaughter Zea about her GGGgrandmother, Anna Maria (Peters) Mindling

October 10, 2015
Cool, California

Dear Zea,

Here's Grandpa Tony's shot at that homework assignment you asked help for a couple of months ago. You'd asked for a bit of information about our ancestors. Although I didn't see your email in time to get anything to you then in time for your assignment, your question did inspire this project. I've been interested in our family's history since way back when my dad, Leo, placed the Jacob and Carl Peters grandfather clock into my care - the tall clock that you have helped me wind the last time you visited.

That clock has inspired me to accumulate many file drawers full of family records. But also many letters, photographs, and handed down treasures. As a scientist I kind of enjoy organizing data, so compiling a database of genealogical data - the raw facts of dates of births, marriages, and deaths - has come kind of naturally. But what I enjoy most are the hints at the stories - things that put us in touch with the people who, like us, have grown from childhood to adulthood, had brothers and sisters, and enjoyed reading, music, and art - the things that rounded out life just as they do for us today.

So what you will find here, besides the names, dates, and relationships that are the core for any family history, is a narrative where we trace the story of the connection between you, Zea Lilliana Mindling-Werling, now 14, and your great-great-great-grandmother, Anna Maria (Peters) Mindling, when she was 12 years old 155 years ago back in 1860. Yikes - there we go with numbers and relationships already. Lets get on with the story.

Note: Clicking on any of the photos will bigify them.

A steamboat on the Muskingham River at Marietta, Ohio. See that gazebo on the riverside - do you suppose your GGGgrandmother Anna Maria may have hung there with her sister and other buddies - maybe even boyfriends while watching the moon reflect in the river?

Imagine that you have hopped into a time machine - you have set the dial for 1860 and pushed the "Go" button. 

Are you up in your cute attic bedroom? Well, it has just disappeared – along with your entire house – poof – and you have tumbled 12 feet or so to the ground. Fortunately you have not been bruised too much, because not only is there no 303 Avery Street in 1850, but there is no Avery Street, just an open meadow with tall waving prairie grass that cushioned your fall. Better peek carefully up over the grass, because there could be Indians about.

Settlers cabin, Rogue River Valley - 1800's
In 1860 the Rogue River Valley was just beginning to become settled by white folks. They’d been arriving from the east in wagons along the Applegate Trail for several years. The indigenous folks, the Shasta people, were not at all happy about it and were still pushing back. But a mill had been built down on Ashland Creek and was churning out boards to build churches, hardware and grocery stores, homes and barns – the beginnings of the town of Ashland.

Although this is a different Mindling family, the scene we
are imagining of Anna Maria riding to church in a wagon
with her family would have looked a lot like this.
(note that you can click on any of these images to enlarge them. Try it.)

It's early 1860 and an Ohio immigrant farm family is on their way to church ...

At about the same time that you were on the anxious lookout for Indians, two sisters about your age might have been sitting behind their parents in the family wagon trundling along a dirt road through the green hills of southeastern Ohio on their way to church. Their Lutheran church was several miles from their farm, so it would have been a significant outing. 

Your great-great-great-grandmother (GGGgrandmother) Anna Maria Peters, 12, and her sister Elizabeth, 15, would have been in their best Sunday dresses, all frilly and lacy. Their brother, Charles, was on the wagon seat next to them, or since he was just five and perhaps to prevent squabbles he may have been up front next to their mother, Mary. Their mother was holding their baby sister, Margaret, who was just two, and was also due to have another baby in a few months. It was a big family! Their father, Carl, was holding the reins. The grandparents, Jacob and Katharina probably drove ahead of them in their buggy – as the family elders they got to go in front and avoid the dust. They would have been 76 and 69 years old, respectively.

On that long drive Carl may have been thinking about the farm chores needed to be completed in the coming week. Or, perhaps because he was watching his parents up ahead on the road, he was reminiscing with his wife about how he, his father and mother, and some siblings emigrated from Germany to America 27 years earlier in 1833 when he was just 16. The children had heard his stories of that adventure many times, always asking, “More Daddy, tell us more!”

The story of the Peters family's journey from Germany to America ...

A steamboat on the Rhine river. This is a 1900's excursion boat. Probably it
was a smaller craft that carried the emigrant Peters family. But
tthe towns, cathedrals, and castles would have looked much the same in 1833.
Carl Peters, Anna Marie's father, and his family had lived in Durkheim, Germany. In 1833 rivers and railways were the most efficient ways to travel. So their journey began with a voyage up the Rhine River from Durkheim to Cologne by steamboat. During that trip Carl stood at the ship's railing from dawn to dusk, marveling at fantastical castles and busy ports. In Paris the noise and white clouds of escaping steam startled him as the family hurried past a steam engine searching for their seat on the train that would take them to the port of La Havre. There they boarded a sailing ship for the month’s voyage to America.

The Peters family journey in 1833 from Bad Durkheim up the Rhine River to Cologne, then via train through Paris to the sea port off La Havre, where they embarked for America
The Ocean voyage via sail from La Havre, France, to Baltimore, Maryland, would have taken several weeks.

The journey in search of farmland from Baltimore to Wheeling, West Virginia, would have followed the National Highway, AKA Cumberland Road. From Wheeling, the two brothers and 16-year-old Carl then hiked down the Ohio River, exploring as far as Marietta, Ohio.

This map shows the Cumberland Road, and also gives a sense of the nation at the time of the Peters emigration.

The Ohio River near Marietta, Ohio
Painting by Henry Cheevers Pratt, mid-1800's

Father and son went on a six-day exploration down the Ohio River, looking for land where the family could settle and begin a farm ...

After landing in Baltimore, Maryland, the family travelled to Wheeling, West Virginia. They would have traveled on the Cumberland, ot National, Road. There they met Jacob's brother, Charles, who had travelled to America at the same time. The brothers left their families in Wheeling, and with 16-year-old Carl, explored down the Ohio River looking for land where they could settle their families and begin their new lives in America.

After a five- or six-day journey down the Ohio River on foot they arrived at Marietta, Ohio. During that trip they could find no one who spoke German, so it was with relief to find that the woman whose husband ran the hotel in Marietta spoke it fluently. She was also able to direct them to land they could settle. Thus Jacob, his wife Katharina, and their children Carl, John, and Margaretta, eventually settled on about 100 acres in Watertown Township in Washington County. That farm was to remain in the family for at least 100 years.

The Peters-Mindling farm about 1920
The children had remained silent during their father's often-heard tale of the family's journey to America. It was a warm spring day, and they may have dozed a bit as the wagon slowly made its way up and down and around the hills of Ohio. The dusty road was overhung with hickory, black and white oak, and walnut trees, and a bright blue sky pierced through gaps in the cover of green leaves passing slowly by overhead. But when papa's tale told with his strong German accent paused for a moment, Anna Maria, who loved the stories, said, "Tell us more, Papa - please?"

The Jacob Peters clock. The works
were brought to America in 1833.
The case was built by Jacob and
his son Carl on the homestead farm
in Washington County, Ohio. It
resided on the farm for many years,
then in the home of my Dad's Aunt
Anna and her husband Will Jones
in Beverly Ohio. On her death she
had the clock shipped to my Dad in
Novato, California. Grandma Hilda
and I have been caretakers since
the 1980's.
But is was grandpa Jacob and grandma Katharina who picked up the tale later that evening, as they sat around the fire in a cozy room warmly lit by a kerosene lamp. They told how 27 years earlier they had chosen about 100 acres, balancing their savings against the quality of land they could afford. With help from neighbors and relatives, Jacob and the children's father Carl, who was then 16, turned the land into a farm. Trees were felled to open up fields for cultivation, while retaining a sizeable "woodlot". A home, barns, and a workshop were built, and a good well located near the house which was soon overhung with a grape arbor. A forge was set up in the workshop to repair the metal parts of farm equipment, and even used to manufacture parts on occasion.

With the family settled in, and some time available, one of the first projects Jacob and his son Carl undertook in the workshop was to build a case to house the works for a clock which had been brought all the way from Germany. Since the clock was run by a pair of weights, it had to be tall to allow the weights room enough to drop, allowing the clock to run for eight days before re-winding. The weights were made of tin, curved and soldered into a cylinder, and filled with scraps of metal from the forge. Apparently at first the weights were not heavy enough to keep the clock running and turn the chiming mechanism, as an additional few inches were added to each one, together with more rusted nuts and bolts and odd bits of metal.

Zea, you will remember helping me to wind that clock a couple of years ago. Why do you suppose the clock was so treasured that it was carried all the way to America and the lovely case then hand crafted with such great patience and effort? My theory is that in a way it was as important a tool for connecting with the world outside the home then as our smart phones, tablets, and computers are today. Time was how you knew when you had to leave to get to church on time, when the train would arrive bringing visitors of farm supplies and equipment, when friends were expected to call. Plus, it was very cool - an imposing sign that your home was settled and comfortable.

Drawing of a German officer, by Jacob Peters.
From the Peters family we get much of our urge to learn, make art, 

and make music. Jacob and his son Carl were both avid readers, musicians,
and craftsmen. 
The care and skill that Jacob and Carl put into
crafting the case for the clock carried from Germany is one example.
The family maintained a library, and several books have from it
have survived to be handed down in our care. Jacob was also a 
musician, and we have a clarinet he once played, together with
some beautifully drawn sheet music. Carl was well known in his 
community for the children's toys he made in his woodshop, and
elegantly hand lettered aphorisms. NOTE - find Carl's paintings
of soldiers.
Soon it was time for the children to go to bed, but Anna Maria and her sister Elizabeth lay awake for some time, listening to and comforted by the muted voices of their parents and grandparents as they continued to talk about "the old days". There may have been tales about Carl's courtship with Anna Mary Henry, their marriage 13 years earlier in 1847, the births of their children, and the expected birth of another child.

But life was a bit harsh then - medical care was scarce, and drugs to treat infections not as available - and childhood mortality was high. Their first child, a daughter, Anna Catherine, had lived only three years. And as the family enjoyed their cozy Sunday evening in the spring of 1860, they could not know that Anna Maria's mother would die while delivering her fifth child, Margaret, in August of that year.

But despite the tragedies, the family lived a full and rich life, far from simply scratching out a living on hilly farmland. The family enjoyed music and books, and was known in the community for being among the early pioneers and for assisting their neighbors when needed. Carl remarried a second wife, Elizabeth Meister, in 1861. Unfortunately Elizabeth also died, in 1874, and Carl remarried a third time a year later. Working a farm required a partnership of a man and a woman, as well as the support of many children.

Carl Peters and his then wife, Anna (Starlin) with their
horse and buggy in 1896
Now we continue to move on from that Sunday afternoon and evening in 1860 with the Carl Peters family. In 1870 Anna Maria's sister, Elizabeth, married a young man, Nicholas, from the neighboring Mindling farm. The Mindlings had also emigrated from Germany, but that's a whole 'nother story. And then in 1875 Anna Maria and Nicholas' brother, Jacob, are married. I love this part of the story - it reminds me of the great old movie, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers - a favorite of your grandma Jean's/

Anna Maria and Jacob Mindling remained on the farm to help with the labor and management, and in 1877 when Carl turned 60 he deeded the farm to them. Part of the arrangement was that Carl and his then wife, Anna Starlin, would continue to live on the farm and be provided with a horse and buggy. In his long retirement Carl Peters continued with his music and reading, and enjoyed making elegantly drawn mottos and wooden toys for his grandchildren.

Anna Maria's grandfather, Carl Peters, in
1896. Zea's GGGgrandfather.
When Carl Frederick Peters was born on
September 8, 1817, in Bad Durkheim, Rhineland-Palatinate,
Germany, his father Johan (Jacob) was 33 and his mother,
Katharina, was 25. Carl was marrried three times, and
had one son and five daughters between 1848and 1860.
He died on July 23, 1907, in Watertown, Ohio, having
lived a long life of 89 years.
And there were quite a few grandchildren. My dad told me about them many years when my mom and dad sold ago their home so that they could travel in their trailer. That was when dad passed the Peters clock into my care. So I sat turned on a tape recorder and asked him to tell me the story of the clock. . In telling the story of where the clock came from and how he had come into possession of it, he also told me about all of the children who were born to Anna Maria and Jacob Mindling on that farm in Ohio. There were three girls and three boys, including my grandfather, and your Ggrandfather, John Mindling.

Anna Maria and Jacob Mindling with their six children in August, 1911. The annotation is by John's wife, Amertt Mindling's - bless her soul for passing on so much information like this on so many family photos! Her reference to "our Daddy", indicates her husband, and your GGgrandfather, John Mindling

The Mindling family in 1925
Your GGGgrandparents, Jacob and Anna Maria (Peters) Mindling sit in front of the man with the dark suit. Their son, and your GGgrandfather, John Mindling, stands second from the left. His wife, Amertt, is to his left. Their son Leo, your Ggrandfather, is sitting on the ground at the far right. Taken at Jacob and Anna Maria's 50th anniversary celebration, July 4th, 1925.
July 4th, 1925, was a big day on the farm for the Mindling family. By then the children had moved away and started their own families or professions. But all six children returned to the farm with their families for the celebration of Anna Maria’s and Jacob’s 50th wedding anniversary. It was quite a gang, and must have been a wonderful party.  Anna Maria, who we first met as that 13 year-old girl riding in the wagon with her family, is now 73 years old. In the family photo taken that day she sits surrounded by her children, grandchildren, and a great grandchild. Among her six children in the photo is your GGgrandfather, John. 

Amertt Mindling shares a laugh
with Anna Maria and Jacob Mindling
while doing laundry on the Peters-
Mindling farm

When John Lewis Mindling was born
on January 18, 1883, in Washington County, Ohio,
his father, Jacob, was 30 and his mother, Anna Maria,
was 29. He married Selma Amertt Ward
on March 16, 1909. They had two children
during their marriage. He died on October 9, 1965,
in Santa Rosa, California, at the age of 82.
John and Amertt’s children at the celebration were Helen, 14, and your Ggrandfather, Leo, who was 16 at the time. They had traveled from Washington DC, where John was the secretary for a government railroad board. He had risen to a pretty high position through education and studiously applying himself to self-study. He was so proud of his accomplishment with Gregg shorthand, that he made it his son Leo’s middle name!

A bit of relaxation during
a visit to the farm in 1912.
On the left are your GGgrandparents,
Amertt and John Mindling
then John's sister, Anna,
and their parents, Anna Maria
and Jacob Mindling.
Leo and my mother (your Ggrandmother) were married in June, 1939. There is a wonderful story about their courtship which I will tell you someday, that involves a telegram, long-distance telephone call (a big deal in those days), another grandfather clock, flowers, and … well, that will wait until later.

John and Amertt Mindling in about 1938 at Niagara Falls

Tessie Mindling, Zea's Ggrandmother, in 1938
Tessie Mindling in 1938 on the Shenandoah Parkway, Virginia
When Theresa Natalie Tallitsch was born on October 30, 1914, in Chicago, Illinois, her father, Sebastian, was 24 and her mother, Elizabeth, was 20. She married Leo Gregg Mindling on June 3, 1939, in her hometown. They had two  children during their marriage. She died on February 15, 1995, in Auburn, California, at the age of 80.

Leo Mindling in 1928, age 16.
When Leo Gregg Mindling was born on March 26, 1912, in Richmond, Indiana, his father, John, was 29 and his mother, Selma, was 21. He married Theresa Natalie Tallitsch on June 3, 1939, in Chicago, Illinois. They had two children during their marriage. He died on May 14, 2001, in California, at the age of 89.
Tony Mindling, 1969
When Anthony Leo Mindling was born on August 23, 1940, in San Francisco, California, his father, Leo, was 28 and his mother, Theresa, was 25. He married Jean Hughson Howard and they had two children together. He then married Hilda Ann Torkelson on April 11, 1981, in Susanville, California. He has one brother.
Grandma Jean in 1969

Grandpa Tony and Jean Mindling, with Eric and Ian, 1969

Eric at Drakes Bay, California, 1975
When Eric Sebastian Mindling was born on September 13, 1968, in Reno, Nevada, his father, Anthony, was 28 and his mother, Jean, was 23. He married Rachel Werling on October 1, 1996, in Phoenix, Arizona. They had two children during their marriage. 
Those two children, as you know, included Sonora Theresa Mindling-Werling, born in Phoenix, Arizona, on September 17, 1996, and yourself, born in Oaxaca, Mexico, October 9, 2001.
So here you are, 14 years old and safely back in your Attic, 155 years after that day when your 12-year-old GGGgrandmother,  Anna Maria Peters, was riding down that dusty road in Ohio next to her sister.

Zea Lilliana Mindling-Werling

Someday you may be be someone’s GGGgrandmother – imagine that!


  1. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful family history.

  2. Such an interesting family story and what a wonderful gift to your granddaughter and all your grandchildren.

  3. Tony, an outstanding piece of work. Well written and really well researched, a great family history.

  4. Tony, an outstanding piece of work. Well written and really well researched, a great family history.

  5. Tony this was awesome. I kept several pictures. Thank you.