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A German family becomes American -Part I

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

Watched Ken Burns’ “The War” last week, and when I picked up the document below, I was struck by the similarities between the epic of World War II and the brief WWI history a dear friend lent me.

I am always touched to read of the courage and eagerness to work that our forebears exhibited on first arriving in the New World, and then surviving rough times to establish a new American family. A dear friend in Peachtree City shares part of his family history.

No doubt every new family forms with similar effort. It’s an old, old story.

Entitled “Document on Life of Frank Bumer written by Frank Bumer in German, translated into English by Frank Bumer in 1937 (with additions added through 1941) it was prepared by one of his grandsons, Frank Klein, in January 1994,” used here with his permission.

Allegheny County, Pa. February 3,1889.
I, Frank Bumer, was born March 23, 1861…in Berg, Rhine-Bavaria, Germany. My father’s name was George Bummer and his father’s name was Jacob.

My birthplace, Berg, is a village…situated a half German mile from the Rhine, on the river Lauter, and a quarter German mile from the boundary line of Alsace, in 1861 belonging to France….

At the age of two years I took Scarlet-Fever, during which my parents expected my death at any time. In later years I heard my father saying: “When I drove home from the field, I heard the church bell tolling indicating a death, yes, this is our little Frank.”

At the age of six years I started to attend the Public School for a term of seven years. While I had attended the school the first two years, the epidemic disease “Measles” broke out among the school children and I was not spared and was about two weeks in bed with my two sisters Trese and Rosie.

The first thing I asked for when I got better was an apple. I ate it and next day I jumped out of bed. In the year 1869 was the big flood of the river Rhine.

July 1870
Emperor Napoleon of France declared war on King William of Prussia. But instead of Prussia alone, the whole German States arose and went to war against France. Hardly a week after the declaration of war, the first battle was fought at Weissenburg, France,…located about five English miles from Berg, my homestead.

I can well remember the “Thunder of Cannons” at this battle, causing great fear among the people of Berg. I watched my parents, packing their most necessary things, to be ready for a run to safety in case of a German retreat. To our luck the Germans were gaining, and the serious danger was avoided. Then came the Germans advancing like bees and the next day of the battle, you could only see around Berg “Soldiers and Sky.”

 At these days, my father was drafted to haul with wagons and two horses food, mostly bread for the army. Only two days to haul, was the order, but weeks passed before he came home.

After he was gone about six weeks, we received from the men who were also hauling food and returned, the message that our father was shot. We, therefore, did not expect his return.

When one day, after eleven weeks, we heard the sound of our wagon and to our great joy, our father arrived home. The sad and sometimes humorous experiences of the eleven weeks in war, as he told us, would take a book to explain.

The day after the battle of Sendan, where Napoleon was captured, he went over the battlefield and found some trenches half filled with blood. After this my father got about 10 English miles to Paris, from where he had to drive back to Nancy. On this trip one of his horses died, and so he thought he can’t risk to drive home without passport, showing them that he can’t go any further with a two-horse wagon and only have one horse. As his leave was a sort of desertion, the rumor spread that he was shot as a deserter.

May 1871
Peace was declared and the German victorious army came back. Berg was the first German town the soldiers struck, there was rejoicing. That was great fun for us school children. The school was located on a little hill and whenever soldiers arrived, we ran out on the hillside, singing songs of welcome…and the soldiers were surely delighted.

More about this family next week…

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