How we got to Biebelsheim

I’ve been a (nearly) lifelong amateur genealogist, inheriting my mother’s, grandmother’s, and great-grandmother’s passion for family history by the time I was in high school. Gladly taking all the research they had amassed over more than 40 years as a start, I slowly added to their data, spending hours in various libraries staring at microfilms of census records; city directories; county birth, death, and marriage records; and the like, keeping handwritten notes on index cards for later organizing and transcribing. It was the 1970s – we had no computers, much less the internet.

Fortunately, Ann, Ariel, and Minnie (mom, grandmother, great-grandmother), also had cherished an extensive collection of family letters, diaries, memoirs, and photographs that enriched the family story still further. It is such a blessing that the Freemans, Bucks, Gareys, and Nutts corresponded across thousands of nineteenth century miles and 150 years to share their stories with my generation and those that follow us.

Sadly, my father’s family, the Emrichs and Bakers, shared none of that interest in family history. A couple of drawers of old photographs and albums, a few letters, and I think one diary, were stowed away but never talked about. My mother’s enthusiasm for her family’s tales was entirely counterbalanced by my father’s disinterest, and, unlike her, he never asked his parents or grandparents about the family past.

So, I had a large task ahead of me to tease out the Emrich family story. My usual archival sources didn’t get me very far, and the microfilmed census and city directory records ceased providing any clues from before about 1850 in New York City. Then, two things occurred that changed everything. Although they were separated by a decade.

In the late 1980s my father’s older brother Ray Emrich and his daughter Lynn translated from the German a typewritten transcription of handwritten entries that had been found in an Emrich family Bible (later lost) that Ray had received some 40 years before and had put away, unread. Ray sent it to me, and to my immense delight, there emerged from the pages four generations of Emrich births, deaths, and marriages stretching back to the early 1700s in Biebelsheim, in the Palatinate region of Germany. Save for a one day driving visit to Biebelsheim in the late 1980s by my brother David and his wife, who took a few photographs of the village and the exterior of a large house signed as “Weingut Emrich,” the next decade saw no further progress.

By the mid-1990s, however, rudimentary internet searching led me one day to the German national phone directory, where I immediately found two Emrich households listed in Biebelsheim. Huzzah! Letters to Heinz and Heino Emrich, introducing myself and offering the information I had about great-grandfather Jacob and his forbears, were translated into German by a friend, and airmailed immediately. Just a few days later, I received an early morning phone call at my home in Dallas from a lovely young woman who, in German-accented English, announced that her mother in Biebelsheim had received my letter and that, yes, we could very well be related.

It turned out she lived in Plano, Texas – about 20 miles from me! – and within days, Heike Emrich Dean and I had met at a diner for breakfast. While we haven’t met again (I moved to Philadelphia) we have remained fast friends ever since.

Nothing moving very quickly in this story, it took another 20 years before my (other) brother Gary, his wife Kathy, and I would visit Biebelsheim and spend the day with Heike’s parents Heinz and Waltrude, her brothers  Fred and Heino and their wives, Christiane and Sylvia. (Thanks, Heike, for making the connections; we’re so sorry you couldn’t be with us. But next time!). We are, in fact, related, nine generations removed. We are so very happy to have been welcomed so warmly by our lovely Biebelsheim cousins at Weingut Emrich, and we’re looking forward to an extended U.S. visit this spring by Fred and Christiane’s charming and talented daughter Laura.

Over the many years I’ve been doing this genealogy thing, I’ve had the good fortune to visit many of the towns where the Freeman, Buck, Garey, and Nutt families lived and even met distant relatives there: Dighton, Kansas; Thetford, Vermont; Glencoe, Minnesota; Wethersfield, Connecticut; and many more. But no other place has captured my heart, my imagination, and my love for family stories like Biebelsheim on the Nahe River in German wine country. Perhaps it’s because it took so long to get there.

[A future post will tell more about our visit with the Emrichs in Biebelsheim.)




Emrich & Freeman families genealogy online

Decades in the making,  and thanks to Minnie Buck, Ariel Freeman, Ann Emrich, Neil & Barb Freeman, Lee Foster, David Eilers, and many, many more, the Emrich/Baker and Freeman/Buck genealogies are now online.   The online version that was previously posted here proved too difficult to edit, so it has been removed.  If you would like access to the online version of the trees, please post a comment on this site with contact information and I’m happy to link you to that site.

BF Buck, Eleanor, Keith, Gene, Ariel

This project is never finished, so new information, corrections, and updates will continue to be forthcoming.  And please provide corrections, additional material, and comments anytime.

The Legend of Johann Nicholas Emrich

Probably the most intriguing family mystery I have encountered during more than 40 years of genealogical research (obsession!) is the rumor of a great Emrich fortune that was lost.  I think most everyone, if only secretly, wishes that great riches would unexpectedly drop on us like Dorothy’s house – only not ending in any fatalities. Perhaps this is why so many lottery tickets are sold. I confess to the occasional purchase of one myself!

The legend of the lost fortune of Johann Nicholas Emrich/Emerick has engrossed, if not obsessed, a legion of Emrich descendants for at least a century.  Our immediate family was evidently caught up in the frenzy in the 1920s, but there’s scant record of the extent to which we took the legend seriously.

Here’s what we know.

Three decades ago, my uncle Ray (Dr. Raymond J. Emrich), one of my father’s two older brothers, sent me a typescript of many pages, a translation from the German that he and his daughter Lynn had made of a much older document that Ray had among his files.  He had, I believe, heretofore forgotten about it. This astonishing treasure provided our family, for the first time, detailed birth, death, and marriage data about our Emrich ancestors, reaching back more than two centuries to the family’s village of origin, Biebelsheim, now in the Rhineland Palatinate of western Germany.  The story of my great-great-grandfather Jacob, “the immigrant” who was the first of his many siblings to emigrate to New York, unfolded like a long-awaited blossom from the transcribed entries found in an old family Bible that, very sadly, has since disappeared.

Ray had received the original transcription in the 1930s from his first cousin Karl Eilers, whose office secretary had typed the German text directly from the Bible in 1921.  The transcription was proffered to Ray, an undergraduate at Princeton, on one of his many holiday visits to the Eilers’ homes in New York. With the document came a tale of a large fortune that might come to the lucky Emrich who could prove descent from whatever ancestor once possessed the fortune.  Ray’s memory in 1989 when the translated document came to me did not include any details of who that distant ancestor might have been, nor the original source of the pots of money, nor whatever might have become of the loot since 1921. Whether cousin Karl related any of these details to Ray at the time we do not know, but evidently Karl thought enough of the story/rumor to link it to the ancestry details recorded from the  family Bible he borrowed from his grandfather’s cousin Dr. Frederick Emrich of Boston.

Only now, more than 30 years after Ray and Lynn translated the Bible entries, has our living branch of the Emrich-Emerick-Emmerich-etc. family  – it’s spelled so many ways – finally caught up to the forgotten legend of the fur-trapping Johann Nicholas Emerick, our (possible) ancestor.

John Jacob Astor

Like most legends, the tale of John Nicholas and his great fortune has been told in many versions, with many different John Nicholases, over the last century and a half.  The nucleus of the story is that Johann Nicholas Emrich (we’ll spell the surname the way our family does from here on) was a prosperous German-American fur trapper and merchant in the 1780s who met a young and very poor John Jacob Astor on board a ship, taking a shine to the boy and teaching him the business, eventually making him a one-third partner in his various enterprises.  By 1816 when John Nicholas died, without immediate family, he had fallen out with his two brothers Valentine and Christopher and left his large fortune in trust with Astor, declaring that the Astor interests should wait 90 years and then distribute the estate to the descendants of Valentine and Christopher. Not only was Emrich supposedly blessed with a great deal of cash, but also huge swathes of land, including much of what is now midtown and lower Manhattan in New York, as well as valuable coal-bearing lands in central Pennsylvania.  

History tells that Astor eventually amassed  an enormous fortune of his own, and died in 1848, the first recorded millionaire in the history of the United States.  There is no independent record that Astor ever acknowledged the existence of John Nicholas or the fur trader’s portion of the Astor businesses.

U.S. District Court in New York City, where the trials took place

In 1928, a battery of New York lawyers, representing three individuals alleging to be descendants of Valentine and Christopher and stating that they were also acting on behalf of more than 900 other Emrich heirs, filed suit in U.S. District Court claiming that the Astor interests had failed to fulfill the terms of Johann Nicholas’s will.  The plaintiffs sought the Emrich “share,” two-thirds of the huge Astor fortune, amounting to what today would be several billion dollars. Edna Carnahan and Christina Campbell of Wisconsin and John Thomas Emerick of Illinois were the plaintiffs. Carnahan claimed she had, a year before, discovered an old leather trunk in her attic in Eau Claire, in which were hidden several documents outlining the 1816 agreement between John Nicholas and Astor.  (Conveniently, it was just a little more than 90 years since the death of John Nicholas,)

The defendants, headed by Astor trustee Charles Peabody, Astor’s great-great-grandson William Vincent Astor, and various banks, contended that Carnahan and her co-plaintiffs had never even heard of John Nicholas Emrich, or the connection to Astor, until finding the previously unknown trunk and its equally undiscovered contents.  Along with the alleged partnership agreement between Emrich and Astor was a statement from John Nicholas explaining that he had placed the documents in the trunk to keep them safe and out of the hands of Astor, whom he said he distrusted. John Nicholas seemed to have fallen out with many people in his life by then.

Arch Street landing1800
The Port of Philadelphia in about 1800, where John Nicholas may have based his fur trading business

Calvin I. Hoy, one of Carnahan’s and the other plaintiffs’ lawyers in the 1928 lawsuit, published a short book, John Jacob Astor, an Unwritten Chapter, in 1936, relating the plaintiffs’ highly detailed story of John Nicholas’s papers-filled trunk and its mysterious reappearance in the early 20th century.  According to the materials found hidden in the lining of the trunk lid, John Nicholas died in 1816 in Philadelphia and was buried “in the Lutheran Cemetery” there.  (This writer can find no evidence of a German Lutheran Cemetery in or near Philadelphia dating as far back as 1816.) He left the trunk in the care of a distant relative in upstate New York, George Emrich, who safely kept it and carried it with him when his family later migrated west to Wisconsin.  As the story went, George’s sons traveled back to New York City in 1849, a year after Astor’s death, carrying the papers with them. They appeared in Surrogate Court there, seeking to probate John Nicholas’s will and affirm that relationship with Astor. They returned home with a certified copy of a court decree, confirming the validity of Emrich’s claim to two-thirds of the Emrich/Astor fortune, but that no distribution of the great estate could occur until the 90-year trust expired, in 1906.

As attorney Hoy tells it in his book, the brothers later had a falling out with their mother Nancy (George’s widow), and one sibling took the copy of the court decree and it was never seen again.  By the 1880s the family had delegated a young Wisconsin attorney to represent their interests in the “Emerick affair.” Decades went by while the attorney made numerous fruitless trips to New York to try to negotiate with the Astors. He claimed the Astors financed his travels, but had made no commitment to share their vast wealth with the Emrich family.  The Emrichs and their lawyer eventually quarreled and parted ways – generation after generation of the family apparently squabbled with nearly everyone around them – but not before he reported having seen the original Surrogate’s Court decree in the New York records.

The 20th century lawsuit, filed as Carnahan v. Peabody in May of 1928, claimed that Edna Carnahan had found John Nicholas’s trunk in her attic “the year before.”  Yet, some 900 Emrich relatives, “descendants and heirs” of the brothers Christopher and Valentine, had been identified in the intervening period, a seemingly huge undertaking with a rather miraculous outcome in such a short time.  (Our cousin Karl Eilers had made the transliteration of the family Bible with its genealogical record some six years previously. Was he aware of the story of John Nicholas at the time? Had he been approached by the three Emrich descendants who would later sue the Astors in 1928?  Unfortunately, either he never told Ray Emrich the details of the story about the great lost fortune, or Ray later forgot them.)

In his 1936 book, Calvin Hoy waits until near its tail end to deliver the sting of an implied conspiracy: when a title search looked for the 1849 New York Surrogate Court decree acknowledging the Emrich claim to two thirds of the Astor fortune, it was discovered that the book had “been hidden, secreted for a number of years and when found, it was mutilated and the pages covering the court records for 1849 were gone, together with the indexes.”

In a complex legal interpretation of trusts and perpetuities in common law of Pennsylvania and New York in 1816, the District Court in New York in 1928 invalidated the plaintiffs’ argument, dismissing the complaint. An appeal filed a year later resulted in the same outcome.

The failure of the suit against the Astors in 1928-29 is a tale that has been told in countless Emrich-descendant households ever since – on both sides of the Atlantic.  In 2018, posts in genealogy chat spaces still complain about the injustice perpetrated on the 900 descendants (certainly more now!) of Valentine and Christopher.

But just who was Johann Nicholas Emerick/Emrich?  Edna Carnahan and her co-plaintiffs claim he was the eldest of four children, born in 1749 in Darmstadt, in the Grand Duchy of Hesse.  His grandfather was a prominent innkeeper, descended from a family whose lineage could be traced back to the 15th century. The story includes a grieving widowed father who moved his family to the British protectorate of Hanover, an unloved and unloving step-mother, and a son who, wishing to get away from an unhappy home life, took off for the New World to make his fortune.

Over the past 90 years, however, the legend of John Nicholas and his fortune has mutated into a fantastic array of versions.  He was from a prominent Dutch family of Amsterdam. He was born elsewhere in Hesse. He originally came from Hagerstown, Maryland!  Stories of his death and final whereabouts are even more varied. He died on one of his fur-laden, ocean-going vessels and was buried at sea.  He died on one of his ships anchored in the Delaware River, his body brought to Philadelphia where he was buried in Germantown. Or in the cemetery at Old Swedes Church (now Gloria Dei Episcopal Church) in the city.  Or in a vault inside the church.

John Nicholas’ estate, according to one claim, included the land on which Trinity Church, Wall Street in Manhattan has stood since 1846.  He purportedly owned vast acreage in Germantown/Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C., and Boston. His cash was located in Bremen or Berlin, as well as in the United States.

Old Swedes
Old Swedes / Gloria Dei Church where John Nicholas may have been buried

While most of the stories repeat the claim of the leather trunk found in the attic in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, at least one version claims the trunk was found in a house being torn down in Camden, New Jersey, more than 1,000 miles away.  One biographer wrote that in 1902, a representative of the Astor estate sought out an Emrich descendant, told him of $39 million in trust, and went with him to a Philadelphia churchyard where they opened John Nicholas’s tomb and extracted a black box. The Astor representative took an envelope from the box.  The Emrich heir wasn’t allowed to see its contents. The sources of conspiracy theories are nearly endless.

Now, here’s what we don’t know.

Death records were not comprehensively maintained in Philadelphia until the 1840s, so there is no known public record of the death of a John Nicholas Emrich at the home of Baltheus Emrich on High Street (now Market Street) in 1816.  If John Nicholas was buried at Old Swedes/Gloria Dei Church in South Philadelphia, his grave is unmarked and unrecorded.

In any event, our family is not descended from either a Valentine or a Christopher Emrich, as the family Bible entries carefully transcribed by Karl Eilers and translated by Lynn and Ray Emrich attest. So that lottery ticket is worthless.

The ruling in 1928, dismissing the Carnahan complaint based on the District Court’s opinion that the living heirs had no legal standing, concludes that “(the court’s opinion) makes unnecessary the consideration of any other question presented,” suggesting that the court never reviewed the “will,” partnership agreement, letters, or family stories.  Evidently, any records of the trial, including any physical evidence that might have been introduced, may or may not be housed at the National Archives.

Perhaps this writer will see for himself the leather trunk, the will, and the letters when, inevitably, he spends a few days in Washington D.C.


Carleton Buck and the Spanish Flu

The worldwide influenza epidemic of 2018 comes exactly 100 years after the outbreak of the “Spanish flu” in 1918. Millions died, but evidently the Emrich and Freeman families were spared any known fatalities. Surviving family chronicles offer only one account of the flu: letters to his parents from 22-year-old Carleton Buck, my maternal great-uncle.

Carleton Buck, 1918

Carleton Nutt Buck, (1895 – 1974), entered the U.S. Army in 1917, and sent a letter home to his parents, Rev. B.F. (Frank) and Minnie at Stockton, Kansas in early October, letting them know he
was settling in to Camp Funston, a newly-created Army training base located southwest of Manhattan, Kansas. The young man had recently completed a course in Kansas City, training to become a watchmaker, reporting in the letter to Minnie that he was the only recruit in camp with that occupation. (Amusingly, he also noted in the same letter that “…I have about all I need to keep me for some time [in the barracks] with the exception of toothpicks, which are very short here, and a person never misses them until he is forced to go without them.”)

Camp Funston had been the site of the first recorded case of influenza, later dubbed the Spanish flu, on March 18, 1918, when mess cook Albert Gitchell reported sick with a headache and fever. By the following day, more than 100 fellow soldiers had disclosed the same symptoms. The viral disease would eventually kill more than 50 million people worldwide before the epidemic subsided a year later; more U.S. troops would perish from the flu than in battle in World War I. Fortunately, Carleton had been transferred to Camp Pike, Arkansas the previous November, so avoided the outbreak, at least for the time being.

No mention of influenza is made in the few surviving letters and postcards Carleton sent to his parents and eldest sister, Ariel, during the following year, until October 8, 1918.

“Dear Folks (he wrote to his mother in Stockton)…

Yes, I am free from the influenza but we sure are having a siege of it here in camp (Camp Pike), as we are not allowed out of camp, and no visitors are allowed in camp except by special permission from camp Hdqrs…..

Yes, I know that I ought to be toughened to this army life by this time, considering the time I have been in, so I don’t want Mother to worry about me or my health, here, as I am perfectly able to take care of myself….”

By late November, 1918, the war officially at an end, Carleton was mustered out of the Army and was back home in Stockton. A watchmaker all his life, Carleton worked in jewelry stores and similar establishments in Kansas City, Greeley and later Silverton, Colorado, and ultimately in St. Louis. He died in 1974. He never married.


Wilhelm and Henry Emrich – Uncle and Cousin

Great-great-grandfather Jacob Emrich, “the Immigrant,” (1814 – 1881), was the first of his 10 siblings to venture from the tiny Rheinland village of Biebelsheim to America, in 1840.   On the passenger list of the ship “Solomon Saltress,” Jacob was described as a tailor.  I have written quite a bit about Jacob, his son, also Jacob (“Jake”), and their descendants on this blog.  But Jacob the immigrant was soon joined in North America by most of his surviving brothers and sisters (three others died as children in Germany), and some of their stories are memorable.

Biebelsheim in the 20th century

Jacob the immigrant’s next oldest brother, Wilhelm, was born in 1809, five years before Jacob the immigrant’s birth, to Jacob the “elder”  (1781 – 1827) and Anne Margrethe Hartmann Emrich (1783 – 1839), in Biebelsheim.  Jacob the elder was a butcher, but little else is known about the family and their circumstances in the Rheinland.  Biebelsheim was a small village then located in the Grand Duchy of Hesse, an independent nation ruled by Grand Duke Louis, an ally of Napoleon in the “Confederation of the Rhine.”  The Napoleonic wars, raging across central Europe when Wilhelm was born, were causing significant economic upheaval among farmers and working families.  The Emrich family no doubt experienced the same hardships.   

Biebelsheim in the 20th century. Emrich Weingut in the foreground.

By the time Wilhelm’s brother, Jacob the immigrant, sailed from Rotterdam for New York in 1840, the economic and political situation in the Rheinland was grim.  The Grand Duke, anxious to expand his kingdom and willing to start a war with the British-controlled state of Hanover to gain strategic territory, had imposed crippling taxes that reached 48 per cent and established an expansive forced-enlistment of most of the young men in the Duchy, aimed especially at working class and farming families.  The military attack on Hanover largely failed, and the Hessian economy neared complete collapse: farm prices had skyrocketed as crops lay unharvested in the fields while farmers served in the army, and the nation faced grinding debt from unpaid loans, mostly from Prussia, that had backed the failed military adventure. Widespread protests across the kingdom ensued, with conscripts mutinying in 1837 and 1838.  Crushed by the continuing severe taxes, the Grand Duchy’s poor became still poorer and the once burgeoning middle class was nearly wiped out.  Perhaps it was out of sheer, desperate economic necessity that Jacob left Hesse for America, a few months after his widowed mother’s death.

Meanwhile, brother Wilhelm married Maria Elizabetha Senz from Planig, a nearby village.  They had at least two sons, Peter, born in 1838, and Heinrich, born in 1844.  Maria Elizabetha died in 1850, when Peter was twelve years old and Heinrich six, and in 1852 Wilhelm and the two boys left Biebelsheim for America.  It is likely that they first went to New York City, where Jacob and his second wife Philippine Dielmann Emrich (1825 – 1886) were living in the suburban town of Morrisania with their three daughters and were expecting their first son, Jake.  In 1856 Wilhelm and Heinrich, by now known as Henry, were living in Galesburg, Illinois.   A farming town founded just 20 years before as the site of a new manual labor college, which later became Knox College, Galesburg was home to the first anti-slavery society in Illinois, founded in 1837, and was a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Wilhelm, soon known as William, worked as a butcher, like his father Jacob in Biebelsheim.  He evidently never remarried, and died in 1869.  By 1858 William and Henry were well established in Galesburg, while the elder son, Peter, was living in Quincy, Illinois, some 100 miles south of Galesburg. That year, Galesburg hosted the fifth of seven public debates between between Abraham Lincoln, the Republican candidate for the United States Senate from Illinois, and incumbent Senator Stephen Douglas, the Democratic Party candidate standing for re-election.  On a cold and blustery October day at the door to Knox College some 20,000 people – many times the population – crowded the town to hear the two men speak for more than three hours.  Lincoln biographer Carl Sandburg, himself a native of Galesburg, described the crowd that “sat and stood hearing Lincoln and Douglas speak while a raw northwest wind tore flags and banners to rags.”  Another Lincoln expert wrote of the contrasts between the two politician’s methods and material, Douglas making his “typical statement concerning the Declaration of Independence being written by white men and meant to apply only to white men.”  Lincoln, meanwhile, emphasized that the Declaration of Independence was meant to apply to all men.  “Uncertain and forced to the defensive at the beginning, (Lincoln) appeared at his best toward the end. In this, the fifth debate at Galesburg, he began to stress the moral issue. The Republicans regarded slavery as a wrong and were charting their course accordingly, whereas Democratic policies took no account of the rightfulness or wrongfulness of slavery.”  

While we don’t know if William and Henry Emrich attended the debate, it is unlikely that at least the father would have been among the very few people of the town not to have been there.  Historians report that a large majority of the townspeople were Lincoln supporters, and strongly anti-slavery.  Nevertheless, in the same year as the debate, when he was 14, Henry Emrich became a printer’s apprentice in the offices of the local Free-Democrat newspaper, thus launching his decades-long career in the newspaper publishing business.  

A few days after his 18th birthday, in January of 1862, Henry enlisted in the 13th Illinois Cavalry of the Union Army, and with his fellow recruits was soon headed southwest, towards Missouri and Arkansas to do battle in the Civil War.

Bayou_Forche copy
Union troops at Bayou Forche, the successful battle to capture Little Rock

The 13th Cavalry was initially assigned to forage for food and supplies, in fact taking food from local farmers and families to supply the Union troops.  They also scouted for information and glimpses of rebel troop movements and encampments, as well as keeping 200 miles of railroad lines open and usable for movement of Union troops and supplies.  All these assignments entailed spending hundreds of hours in the saddle and countless skirmishes with reconnaissance units of the rebel army.  By the next year, the 13th was engaged in a number of campaigns and battles, attempting twice to capture the Arkansas capital of Little Rock,  succeeding the second time in September 1863.  By spring of 1864, Henry was assigned to the staff of General Samuel A. Rice, an Iowa attorney now commanding troops from Iowa, Wisconsin, and Indiana. Very quickly, the Division was drawn into a series of battles along the Saline River, Henry following the General on horseback into each skirmish, during one of which he was injured above the eye by an exploding shell, his only battle wound of the war. Finally, on April 30, 1864, as Union troops and arms were crossing the Saline River at Jenkins Ferry, the Confederates advanced on General Rice’s army.  The ensuing, very bloody battle resulted in a strategic Union victory that protected the United States’ occupation of Arkansas.

General Samuel A. Rice, Henry’s commanding officer

Decades later, Henry’s account of the Battle of Jenkins Ferry appeared in the National Tribune, a monthly newspaper for Civil War veterans and their families, describing the Union victory in battle.  

“The enemy had brought several pieces of artillery up during this attack… and began to throw shell; but they did not do it long, for after two or three shots had been fired the 29th Iowa led by Colonel Benton and the 2nd Kansas (colored), led by Colonel Crawford, promptly charged the rebel battery and brought the guns into our lines, turning the rebel cheers upon the appearance of the battery into howls of dismay….

For another hour did the enemy make charge after charge upon our now wearied and rapidly-thinning line, but no one thought of faltering, as knee deep in mud and water, hungry and wet, our boys stood firm as a rock; and at last the rebel leader, seeing the utter uselessness of slaughtering his men by hurling them against the Union line, retreated and left us in possession of the bloody field….

The rebel loss was terrific….The Battle of Jenkins Ferry saved the state of Arkansas to the Union arms at the time….”

General Rice later died from wounds he received in the culminating battle, and the headquarters staff was disbanded and reassigned.  

Henry was mustered out of the Union Army in January 1865 at just age 21, returning to Illinois to resume his, ultimately lifelong, career in publishing newspapers. He twice joined his brother Peter in Quincy to work at the local Herald newspaper there, but ultimately purchased an interest in the Galesburg Plaindealer, where he remained until his retirement and death in 1919. Henry and his wife, the former Caroline Rulf, had five children.  Peter, listed in Quincy business directories as in the wallpaper and window shades trade, married Elizabeth Gutbrod; they had two daughters.  Peter died in about 1908 in Quincy.

Henry emrich ca. 1900


The family history book – 2017 edition

How we got..The Freeman- Emrich family history book is in a constant state of flux:  new discoveries and insights are found, new connections to relatives we didn’t know we had are made.  But for now, you can read the entire thing here at

When the file opens, look for the right and left arrows ( < and > ) near the edge of the screen and you can turn the pages.

Look for another edition in the future.


Ancil Beach Freeman

Great-grandfather Ancil Freeman, who set aside his Quaker faith and enlisted in the Union Army in 1862 to fight to end slavery and defeat the “wicked secessionists.” He lost a leg in battle; his brother Thornton and two cousins died for the same cause. No one erected a monument to his sacrifice, but he and at least a half-million dead represent the truly patriotic Americans who offered themselves to help end a great evil. It’s time for a monument to them.

 Ancil Beach Freeman

Biebelsheim Families

Many thanks and congratulations to Biebelsheim resident Sandra Hummel for her amazing work, with her collaborator, on the recently-published Biebelsheim Families book.  What an incredible undertaking to collect so much data from the village church records, government archives, and local resident’s documents and records!  There is a wealth of new information that we’ve gleaned about the Emrichs in our ancestral town, taking us back several more generations, to about 1620.

Sandra’s research has also helped to uncover more clues in the puzzling mystery related to the fabled 18th century Emrich fortune, which seemingly spurred cousin Karl Eilers’ genealogical research efforts in the 1920s.  Will John Nicholas’ will ever be found?Hummel_Biebelsheim_cover


Jacob and Adelaide with (L to R) Clarence, Jay, Horace)
Jacob and Adelaide with (L to R) Clarence, Jay, Horace

Jay Leroy Emrich was born in the New York City community of Morrisania (now in the southern part of the Bronx) in 1888 to Jacob and Hannah Adelaide Timpson Emrich.  The youngest of three sons, Jay, brothers Horace Henry (1880) and Clarence Timpson (1883) and their parents moved to Pueblo, Colorado in 1890.  Their father, known by the family as Jake, had then joined the family smelting business after twenty years as an accountant for Fisk, Clark, and Flagg, a New York manufacturer and purveyor of menswear, primarily gloves and neckties.   Well versed in the financial management side of business ventures, Jake went to Colorado to become accountant, and later chief clerk, for the Colorado Smelting Company, which had been founded by his brother-in-law Anton Eilers.  

No doubt the dry, thin air of Colorado was an adjustment for the three little boys all under ten years old, but it must have been an adventure traveling across more than half of the country in 1890 to move to the decidedly unlike-New York steel and smelting town of Pueblo, located on the Front Range of the Rockies about 100 miles south of Denver.  Their journey very likely took them on a train, by way of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, which served Pueblo directly from Chicago.

The Timpson family, about 1875. Adelaide is standing, to the right of her mother Sarah
The Timpson family, about 1875. Adelaide is standing, to the right of her mother Sarah

Their mother, Adelaide (1856), was the beloved eldest child of Thomas and Sarah Timpson, both descendants of well-to-do and well-connected old New York City families. Thomas (1827), son of a War of 1812 veteran who was a founder of the notorious Tammany Hall, managed the family farms in Westchester County, New York, which had been in the Timpson family since the mid-18th century.  He was also an original founder and trustee of the town of Morrisania,  a village in lower Westchester established in 1848 on part of the 18th century estate of Lewis Morris, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and Lewis’ nephew Gouverneur Morris, a drafter of the US Constitution.   In 1872, Thomas was Superintendent of the National (later American) News Company, a Manhattan-based publishing house.  

Sarah Moulton Timpson (1831) was descended from an early Massachusetts Bay Colony family, her Moulton grandfather (Benjamin, 1767) and great grandfather (Stephen, 1745) both serving in the Revolution and helping to fund a company of soldiers in the war.  

Stephen Moulton’s father, Ebenezer (born in Connecticut, 1709) was a preacher who, disaffected with the Congregational Church, joined the Baptist church and established a ministry of note in New England. Also a successful merchant, he amassed a considerable fortune, then lost it to debt at the conclusion of the French and Indian War, fled to Canada for a time to escape his creditors, and finally returned to Massachusetts after the Revolution.  Ebenezer descended from four generations of Robert Moultons, his great-great-grandfather (born in St. Olave Parish, Southwark, London, England in 1590) having emigrated to Massachusetts with his wife Deborah and at least one son, also Robert, and settling by about 1636 in Salem.

Nothing is known of Adelaide’s education or upbringing, although she was devoutly religious and was known for making extensive and thoughtful marginal notes in all kinds of religious books, but the family was prosperous and Adelaide, her two sisters, and brother were accustomed to a settled, upper middle class life in the city.    

Jake Emrich (and for purposes of this study, Jacob Emrich III) , born in 1852 in Mott Haven, adjacent to Morrisania, New York, , was the son of Jacob and Philopena (or Philippine) Dielmann Emrich.  Philopena (1825), her brother Anton and her sisters Wilhelmina and Elizabeth were probably from Mensfelden, Duchy of Nassau, Germany, 50 miles northwest of Frankfurt.  Nothing is known about either of their parents, nor about the circumstances of Philopena’s and Wilhelmina’s emigration to New York,  but in 1848 Philopena married the widowed Jacob Emrich there.  Jacob’s first wife, Henriette Mauer Emrich, had died soon after childbirth in 1845, leaving him with two tiny daughters, Catherine, or Kate (1842), and Elizabeth (1844).  

Jake’s father Jacob Emrich II was born in Biebelsheim, in the Prussian district of Hesse, in 1814, the sixth of 11 children of Jacob Emrich I and Anne Hartmann Emrich, and grandson of George Emrich, who was also born in Biebelsheim in 1735.  The village, with 315 inhabitants in the year Jacob was born, is located just east of the River Nahe and south of the Rhine, in an area that had experienced almost constant political and military upheaval since the 16th century, when it had passed from French to Austrian Habsburg control.  Under Spanish military authority during the 30 Years War (1618 – 1648), the district was occupied by French Revolutionary troops in 1792 and remained under Napoleonic domination until 1814.  (Today, the village is in the heart of vineyards and winemaking country.)

Jacob Emrich II, about 1870
Jacob Emrich II, about 1870

Jacob was apparently the first of his surviving siblings to emigrate to America, in 1840.  No details are known specifically about the Emrich family in Biebelsheim at the time, but general economic and political conditions in the small German states in the period were such that farmers, though they had been freed to some degree from many obligations and dues owed to the landowning aristocracy, were nevertheless often desperately poor, their properties too small to yield any kind of prosperity, and earning barely enough to survive.  Artisans – skilled workers in handicrafts and trades belonging to the traditional guilds – also saw their economic position declining because of the growing industrialization in many of the German states after about 1815.  We know only that Jacob Emrich was a tailor in America, but whether he had been a guild artisan in Biebelsheim is as yet unknown.

Jacob landed at New York, almost certainly at the docks near South Street on the East Side – as neither of the historic immigration stations at Castle Garden nor Ellis Island yet existed – on October 26, 1840, having sailed on the “Solomon Saltress” from Rotterdam.  Sailing packets like the “Saltress” that plied the North Atlantic at the time took as long as six weeks to complete their journeys, and the conditions endured by Jacob and his 125 fellow German immigrant passengers (one evidently died en route, according to Captain Joshua Gray’s ship’s manifest) had been unpleasant at best.   

As described by the Smithsonian Museum of American History, “Traditionally, the trans-Atlantic packets sailed when they had loaded enough mail, cargo, and people to justify a voyage. Passengers could be delayed days or even weeks waiting for the holds to fill. Ship owners began experimenting with regular timetables, and the 1820s and 1830s saw a boom of scheduled shipping lines across the ocean and along the coasts.Travelers with enough money purchased “cabin passage” and slept in private or semiprivate rooms. The vast majority of passengers, usually immigrants (and probably Jacob), bought bunks in steerage, also called the ’tween deck for its position between the cabins and the hold.  Most crossed in the steerage area, below decks. Conditions varied from ship to ship, but steerage was normally crowded, dark, and damp. Limited sanitation and stormy seas often combined to make it dirty and foul-smelling, too. Rats, insects, and disease were common problems. A typical packet in the 1820s and 1830s could accommodate only 10 to 20 well-to-do cabin passengers. Rich or poor, many travelers alternated between anxiety and boredom on long ocean crossings, depending on the weather.”

The 25-year-old from rural Germany certainly must have found life in New York, like the ship, to be crowded, noisy, and dirty.  The city and its neighbor, Brooklyn, across the East River, had a combined population of 350,000 when Jacob arrived and settled on the Lower East Side in Kleindeutschland (Little Germany).  There, thousands of German immigrants were clustering, establishing beer gardens, sport clubs, libraries, choirs, shooting clubs, German theatres, German schools, German churches, and German synagogues.  The Bowery was the western boundary of Little Germany, and it was there, a few streets from the Emrich family’s tenement flat on Hester Street, that Jacob opened a men’s clothing store with partners John Charles and Nathan Bidwell, at the corner of Pearl Street and the Bowery, 128 Chatham Square.  

The Jacob Emrich family home near the Boston Post Road, Mott Haven, Morrisania, New York
The Jacob Emrich family home near the Boston Post Road, Mott Haven, Morrisania, New York

Shortly after the birth of daughter Philopena, known always as Phebe, in 1851, Jacob and his family moved 11 miles north to the Mott Haven community, part of Morrisania, in Westchester County, to a large frame house just off the Boston Post Road.  In the 1860s, most of Jacob’s neighbors in Morrisania were fellow German immigrants and more than half were described in the census as “tailors,” as was Jacob.  

Jacob and Philippine Emrich in the 1860s with (L to R) Anton, (probably) Philip, Phebe, Minnie, and Emma
Jacob and Philippine Emrich in the 1860s with (L to R) Anton, (probably) Philip, Phebe, Minnie, and Emma

The younger Jacob III, “Jake,” was born in 1852, and four more children, Phillip, Anton, Emma, and Wilhelmina (Minnie) followed.  The clothing store, Charles,  Emrich & Co., prospered, and in 1860 or 1861, Jacob hired his 21-year-old nephew, Anton Eilers, to work there.  

Anton was the son of Philopena Emrich’s sister Elizabeth Dielmann Eilers.  He, his widowed mother, and younger sister Emma had arrived in New York in 1859 from Germany, traveled immediately to Ohio to purchase a small farm, then returned to New York in less than two years and settled in Morrisania when they discovered that farming didn’t suit the young Anton, who had been educated as a mining engineer at distinguished German universities.  Within the year, while many young men were fighting in Virginia and elsewhere as part of the Army of the Potomac, Anton was courting his 18-year-old step-sister Elizabeth Emrich.  Lizzie, as she was called by the family, had a “head for numbers,” and was working as a bookkeeper for a delicatessen in Little Germany.  While employed there, she made the same, daily journey from home as her father and Anton Eilers, first by the Third Avenue horse-drawn trolley to the Mott Haven or Morrisania station, then the Harlem Railroad across the Harlem River Bridge and along Third Avenue to Forty Second Street, and finally by another horse-car trolley to Chatham Square.  Anton and Lizzie were married in 1863, making his aunt and uncle, Philopena and Jacob, also his parents-in-law.  The couple continued to live for a time in Morrisania, near her parents and siblings.   

Anton would soon leave his father-in-law’s employ to partner with mining consultant and later US Commissioner of Mines and Mining Rossiter Raymond, eventually serving as Raymond’s Assistant Commissioner, and traveling with Raymond and other colleagues across the West and Southwest over multiple summers beginning in 1872  to study and report to Congress on the state of mines and the infant mining and smelting industry.  Eilers’ work focused on recommendations for  disciplined, scientific methods for the extraction of minerals from ores and the improved efficiency of metallurgical processes that was needed to make the smelting business profitable.  He and Raymond ended their roles in the federal Commissioner’s office in 1876, and Anton established a partnership with German immigrant miner Gustav Billings in the latter’s mining operation in Utah’s Salt Lake Valley, later jointly opening a new smelter and works in the booming silver mining district of Leadville, Colorado and building what would become a great personal fortune from the industry. Lizzie and their six children – Else, Karl, Anna, Luise, Emma, and Meta – joined Anton in the west and were eventually settled in Denver by 1880, where the Eilers household, in a large residence across from the site of the future Colorado State Capitol, included 29-year-old Phebe Emrich, Lizzie and Jake’s sister.  Nothing is yet known of why or how long Phebe was in Denver at the time.  

Jacob (Jake) Emrich, late 1860s
Jacob (Jake) Emrich, late 1860s

Nothing is known either about Phebe’s younger brother Jake Emrich’s youth or education, but he must have had the same “head for numbers” as their sister Lizzie, for by age eighteen he was working as an accountant for Fisk, Clark, & Flagg in New York, not far from his father’s Bowery-district clothing store. He and fellow Morrisania resident Adelaide Timpson were married in 1878; their families lived barely a mile apart, but we presently know nothing about how and where they met.  They continued to live in Morrisania until the move to Pueblo in 1890.

Anton Emrich, late 1860s
Anton Emrich, late 1860s

While Jake had evidently not, until the move west, been directly associated with the Eilers smelting business, his and Lizzie’s younger brother, Anton, born in 1859 in New York, had.  “Uncle Tony” graduated from the Columbia College Schools of Mines (now the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University) in 1883, where he studied under the brilliant chemist and engineer Charles Chandler, the founding dean of the School.  When he left Columbia, he went to work for the Tombstone Milling and Mining Company in Charleston, Arizona.  Then in 1884 Anton Eilers (whose son Karl would a few years later also graduate from the Columbia School of Mines) hired Tony to work at the new Pueblo plant of the Colorado Smelting Company, first as an assayer, later chemist, then, in 1886,  mine engineer and superintendent of the Madonna Mine in Monarch, Colorado, an especially crucial and then-profitable Eilers property.   By 1887, rapidly rising within the company, Tony was transferred by Eilers to the newly opened Montana Smelting Company and given the amazing title “Mining Engineer acting as Expert for the Montana Smelting Co. of Great Falls, Montana, in Montana, Idaho, Washington and British Columbia.” Tony died, of causes unknown, in 1893 while serving as Superintendent and Metallurgist of the United Smelting & Refining Co., in Montana.  Following a funeral in Pueblo, his remains were sent to New York to be buried in the Emrich family plot near his parents at the Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.

The Jake Emrich family’s move to Colorado from New York in 1890 occurred at a particularly challenging time for the family business in

The Colorado Smelter, also known as the Eilers Smelter, Pueblo
The Colorado Smelter, also known as the Eilers Smelter, Pueblo

Pueblo.  His brother-in-law and Eilers’ fellow smeltermen and mine owners were increasingly concerned about the  declining quality of ores from the Colorado mines, as well as increasing importation of cheap Mexican minerals and the Congress’ unwillingness to adjust tariffs to protect the industry and jobs that were fueling the Rocky Mountain West’s economy.  Jake’s early years at the Colorado Smelter would have been unsettled ones, as consolidation across the industry continued; high railroad freight rates squeezed smelter owners; labor disputes were an increasing concern; the Rockefeller-led trust that controlled the lead industry (lead being the usually-profitable by-product of silver production) was keeping lead prices low; and the stimulus sparked by the Sherman Silver Act of 1890 caused silver producers to flood the market, resulting in an ironic and critical drop in silver prices.  By 1893 a full blown national recession was underway.  

Nevertheless, Jake and Adelaide proudly sent their eldest son Horace to college at the distinguished Colorado School of Mines in Golden, just west of Denver, where he graduated, receiving many honors, with a mining engineering degree in 1903. Horace’s younger brother Clarence would also graduate from Mines, in 1908.  Jake, tragically, would not live to see that happy day, nor the birth of his grandchildren.

Jacob Emrich II ca. 1900
Jacob (Jake) Emrich ca. 1900

The family owned, or rented, a small cabin at the bottom of the Glen in Palmer Lake, near the spring where everyone in the Glen made a daily visit to carry drinking water up to the cabins above, and just down the hill from the Baker family.  The Emrichs no doubt participated in many of the same Chautauqua programs and events as their neighbors. On the evening of Sunday, August 7, 1904 at about 6:30,  Jake boarded Denver & Rio Grande train number 11, the Denver, Kansas City, and St. Louis Express, at the Palmer Lake station for the trip home to Pueblo.  Weekend excursionists heading home, businessmen like Jake readying for work on Monday morning, and a number of holidaymakers traveling all the way to St. Louis on the D & RG to experience the great World’s Fair there crowded the train.  Jake took a seat in either the smoker or the chair car, near the front of the train, and settled in for the scheduled hour and forty five minute trip to Pueblo. It was raining lightly when the southbound train pulled out of the Colorado Springs station at 7:10, with orders to proceed with caution because of reported heavy rain between the Pikes Peak city and Pueblo.   Unbeknownst to passengers or train crew, who noted only light rain or drizzle for the next hour, a localized cloudburst, typical for Colorado summer evenings, had dropped an enormous amount of water into a normally dry arroyo, Hogan’s Gulch, upstream from the D&RG mainline tracks near the Eden Station, about 15 miles north of Pueblo.  The rushing water swept debris from a smaller road bridge into the railroad bridge downstream, weakening it.  

The aftermath of the Eden Wreck, 1904
The aftermath of the Eden Wreck, 1904

Traveling at only 16 miles per hour, the locomotive of Train No. 11 attempted to cross the bridge moments later, the engineer and fireman sensing no danger in the darkness that was illuminated only by the engine’s headlamp and occasional flashes of lightning to the west.  The engine’s front wheels barely touched the south bank of the gulch when the bridge gave way, dragging the locomotive, tender, baggage car, smoker, and chair car down into the raging torrent.  The air brakes on the two Pullman sleeping cars and the dining car at the rear of the train grabbed hold, and they and their passengers remained safely, if precipitously, on the tracks on the north bank of the creek.   

The chair car and smoker were crushed in the horrific flood, both cars spinning end-over-end at least once as they were dragged down the gulch towards Fountain Creek, the roofs peeled entirely off by the force of the rushing water.  Only two passengers in those cars miraculously survived, although one died from his injuries a few weeks later.  The rest perished, most probably almost instantly from drowning.  The fireman also survived, having fallen from the engine’s cab in the accident. At least 97 people died in the Eden wreck, as it came to be known around the world, although the conductor’s waterlogged passenger manifest was found unreadable, and it is presumed that some bodies were never recovered, some victims having been found days later and miles down the Arkansas River.  It is told that sixteen-year-old Jay Emrich visited the funeral parlors of Pueblo where victims were taken in the next days in order to find and identify his father’s body, his mother being too distraught to assume the dreadful task.  

Sadly, tragedy would strike the family again all too soon.

Next:  Horace, Clarence, and Jay


How did we get here from there? Carbonates and Cattle, Banking and Bibles – Chapter 2 : The Bakers

The Emrich boys’ first visit to the east coast was neither Jay’s, nor Lola’s.  In late September, 1912, when she was twenty and a sometime student at the University of Denver studying French, German, Latin, English, and Psychology, Lola and her mother Marianna set out on a seven week rail trip from Denver on a Milwaukee Road train to Chicago, their ultimate destination Boston, where the two women were to attend a conference of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.  For the first major stop along the way, they visited Roy Baker and his young family in Goshen, just as the Emrichs would nine years later.

Lola Baker, age nine
Lola Baker, age nine

Born in Denver in 1892, Lola was the second child of Frank Delos Baker and his second wife, Marianna Fowler Whalen.  

Frank was born in Wilmington, Illinois in 1858, the son of Leroy and Betsy Spicer Baker.  Leroy Baker (1835) was a descendant of Solomon Baker (1792), of Courtland, New York, who in turn descended from Solomon’s great-grandfather William Baker (1679), of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

In June 1863, when Frank Baker was five and two years after the death of his mother Betsy (about whom we know very little), Frank’s father Leroy, a captain in the Union Army, was wounded and lost a leg at the Civil War Battle of Deep Run (also called Franklin’s Crossing), near Fredericksburg, Virginia.  Union forces under the command of General John Sedgwick skirmished there with Confederate troops under General A.P. Hill during a reconnaissance to determine the movements and location of General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. The Confederate forces repulsed the Union probe. The small fight was the first action in the Gettysburg Campaign.   Leroy was sent home, and later married Betsy’s younger sister Mary.  Together they had one daughter, Minnie.

Little is known about Frank’s early life on the farm in Illinois.  His first wife, Harriett (Hattie) Hemmingway, died in 1881, just a week after the birth of their only child, Leroy.  The boy’s father left Roy in the care of Frank’s step-mother and step-sister, Minnie, after his graduation from the University of Illinois with a degree in mechanical engineering in 1888, and moved to Colorado, where the silver boom was creating plenty of job opportunities for engineers like Frank.  Frank first settled at a boarding house on Washington Street in Denver, run by the Fowler family.  

Marianna Baker, date unknown
Marianna Fowler Baker, date unknown

Marianna Phebe Fowler was born in 1864 in Plymouth, Ohio, the youngest of three children of Lindley and Belinda Hobson Fowler.  The Fowlers descended from an old and strict Quaker family of the Pipe Creek Meeting, in Union Bridge, near Frederick, Maryland.  Lindley’s father Caleb, a weaver, and his family migrated west to Ohio in 1815.  

Lindley (1838) was a farmer there, marrying Belinda (1834) and rearing their son, Addison, and daughters Emilada and Marianna.  (Addison and his wife Dora were the parents of Colorado painter Irene Fowler and distinguished Denver attorney Ernest Fowler.)  Lindley, Belinda, and the family went west to Illinois, and later the couple joined their adult children in Denver, where Lindley was a gripman on the Denver cable street railway and later motorman when the Tramway converted to electric power.  

The Baker and Fowler families, about 1896
The Baker and Fowler families, about 1896

Graduated from the Morris, Illinois Normal and Scientific School when she was seventeen, Marianna began teaching in grade schools in the area, her parents having moved nearby.  She married John Whalen, a fellow teacher at the school, when she was nineteen, and two years later they had a daughter, Mildred (who was called “Auntie” by the Emrichs decades later).   The Whalens moved to Denver in 1888, John planning to enter the law practice of his brother-in-law Addison Fowler, but within months, the family all contracted typhoid fever from their contaminated backyard well.  Everyone recovered except 28-year-old John, who died.

Denver in 1888 was the fastest growing city in the country (its population would explode from 4,700 in 1870 to 106,700 in 1890), the silver mines in the mountains to the west creating wealth and jobs on a scale hard to imagine, the city attracting millionaires and their mansions, as well as poverty and crime. The city’s initial horse-drawn streetcar had been operating since 1871, along Champa Street as far as 27th Street to the northwest, in what is today called Curtis Park, Denver’s first “streetcar suburb.”  The Tabor Grand Opera House had opened just six years before, said to be the most opulent building and the best-equipped theater between Chicago and San Francisco at its premiere. It occupied the entire block and was claimed to have, on its own, changed Denver’s image of itself from a frontier boomtown to a world class city.  Meanwhile, gambling flourished and con men exploited every chance to separate miners from their hard-earned silver and gold. Business was good; visitors spent lavishly, then left town. It was indeed a “wide-open (if rich) town .”

CHampa Street horse-car
Champa Street horse-car

Within a year of John Whalen’s death, Marianna married Frank Baker, the boarder at the Fowler’s house on Washington Street.  The couple sent announcements that they were “at home” in a two-story brick, Queen Anne-style house on Stout Street, a block away from the end of the Champa Street horsecar line.  Together they had Erwin Frank (1890), Lola Mary (1892), and Fred Phelps (1896).

By the time the children were born, Frank had risen to be chief engineer at the Globe Smelter, owned at the time by wealthy Denver entrepreneur Dennis Sheedy but after 1899 a property of the American Smelting & Refining Company (later AS&R), just north of Denver.  He was widely admired in mining circles in the west for his leadership in design and construction of metallurgical plants across Colorado, and for his invention and patent of many related devices, including the “Baker Cooler,” used for large scale after-cooling of materials, often semi-molten, that have been “roasted” to release the precious minerals from their original rocky repository.   No doubt he had a demanding job, but the family made time to spend the summer each year in Palmer Lake, a foothills village some 50 miles southwest of Denver that was the site of the Rocky Mountain Chautauqua Assembly.

Denver & Rio Grande depot, Palmer Lake
Denver & Rio Grande depot, Palmer Lake

One of the more than 400 locations around the country that hosted Chautauquas, the annual six-week long summer gathering at Glen Park in Palmer Lake, established in 1886, featured lectures, debates, concerts, non-denominational Protestant religious services, outdoor recreation, and burro or hiking excursions up the mountain canyons to Ice Cave, Balanced Rock, and “around the horn.”  Families from Denver, Colorado Springs, and far beyond usually arrived by way of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad (D & RG) at the village on the small lake bearing the name of the founder of that great Colorado-based railroad, Civil War General William Jackson Palmer.  Like many of the Chautauqua’s attendees, the Bakers started out residing for the summer session in a tent cottage, a canvas-sided, one room cabin with a permanent roof and raised platform floor, hugging the hillside near the Chautauqua Auditorium, itself a semi-permanent structure where many of the assembly’s programs were presented.  The family probably started out renting the roofed platform from the Chautauqua Association, but eventually purchased the site and enclosed the cottage with permanent walls, gradually improving the always-rustic structure.  By 1908, the children older and the family outgrowing the tiny “Juanita” lodge, Frank and Marianna purchased a second, larger cabin across the road, which retained the name “Idlewild” given it by its previous owners.  They added a second floor, wrap-around porch and extra sleeping quarters for the many visitors who joined them for parts of each summer.             .

Glen Park, Palmer Lake. The Bakers' cabins flank the road at the upper right, the "X" marking Idlewild
Glen Park, Palmer Lake. The Bakers’ cabins flank the road at the upper right, the “X” marking “Idlewild”

When Lola and her brothers were small, the family traveled by train to Palmer Lake, but when a teenager – by then an accomplished recreational horsewoman – she rode her white horse, Snowball, as far as Littleton, ten miles south of Denver, where the horse was stabled overnight.  A round trip by streetcar to and from home was followed the next day by the 50-mile ride on horseback, her mother following in a buggy drawn by the black, “bag of bones” horse Jim, to The Glen at Palmer Lake.  The family would stay all summer, from Decoration (now Memorial) Day to Labor Day, Frank commuting from Denver on the weekends.  He would watch from  Idlewild’s second floor porch on Sunday evenings until he spied the smoke curling up from the oncoming Denver-bound train’s smokestack, the signal to take a horse and ride across to the Palmer Lake station.  

Elephant Rock
Elephant Rock

Lola recounted the lazy summer days she and her brothers enjoyed, running to the road when the farmer from Fern Glen came by on his wagon, selling fresh vegetables; or when the “meat man” with his bloody wares under fly-repelling netting came along in his wagon; or when the man on the ice wagon brought blocks of ice that had been cut from frozen Palmer Lake in the winter and then stored in sawdust in the ice house next to the lake all summer.  The children and their many visiting relatives and friends would carry picnics to Elephant Rock across the valley, build a bonfire on the elephant’s “head,” and spend evenings watching the sunset over Chautauqua Crest, the mountain backdrop of Glen Park.   The family could enjoy the concerts by the Chautauqua brass band that performed in the tiny wooden bandstand on top of Lookout, paddle canoes around the single jet fountain in the Lake, go horseback riding to the Black Forest or up the Perry Park Road, attend Sunday church services in the Chautauqua Auditorium just down the hill from the cabins, and on very special Sundays after church be treated to dinner at the YWCA, also near home.

Several generations of Bakers and their relatives and friends continued to enjoy summer vacations at Idlewild and Juanita, long after the Chautauqua ended in 1910.  As of this writing, the cabins at Palmer Lake are still owned by the descendants of Lola’s older brother, Erwin.

Lola’s and Marianna’s journey to Boston in 1912 traced much the same route – by rail – as Jay’s and Lola’s 1923 auto trip.  They stopped at several points to visit friends and relatives, and touched the steel barrel at Niagara that Bobbie Leach had famously ridden in over the Falls the year before.  In Boston for nearly two weeks, Lola recorded each day’s programming and speakers at The American Board convention at the Tremont Temple Baptist Church, the focus of the women’s trip. Among the distinguished speakers was Booker T. Washington, who addressed an audience of more than 3,000.  The duo also found time for several trips by streetcar, subway, and elevated railroad to see historical sights, among them the Bunker Hill Monument, the Charlestown Navy Yard, and Harvard University at Cambridge, and they were taken by a friend in his automobile to Lexington and Concord one afternoon.  Mother and daughter returned west on an indirect route by way of New York, where their stay included a rare, for “tourists,” visit to Ellis Island hosted by missionary friends, Lola describing in her trip journal the arrival and processing of several thousands immigrants disembarking at the vast immigration station there.  They touched the Liberty Bell at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and in Washington D.C. they visited museums, the monuments, the Capitol, and even toured the White House, where they admired First Lady Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt’s china collection.  The final leg of the trip home from Chicago, in a lower berth, was on the Rock Island Railroad’s crack express, the Rocky Mountain Limited.

Jay Emrich, with his School of Mines lapel pin, about 1910
Jay Emrich, with his School of Mines lapel pin, about 1910

Lola had graduated from the Manual Training High School in Denver in 1910 and enrolled at the University of Denver the following year.  She must have taken a break in the fall 1912 term in order to join her mother at the missionary convention in Boston, but she returned to DU in 1913 for one more term, before withdrawing permanently.  By then, she and Jay Emrich were courting and were soon informally engaged, although they seldom saw each other, as Lola lived at home, while Jay worked at the American Smelting & Refining works in Leadville, Colorado, a mile higher in altitude and a slow train ride away.


Next:  The Emrichs

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