Lenburg Family

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    AvatarKathy Heckman

    Biographical Sketch of Jacob and Anna Lenburg
    by Harry T Lenburg
    Jacob Lenburg was born in Rendsburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany on March 28, 1832, and spent his youth there, receiving his schooling and religious training in the Lutheran faith. At the age of 18, he was supposed to take a three-year apprentice training as a shoemaker but on account of his health, he had to give up. He then took up mason training and completed that. After completion of his apprenticeship he was supposed to spend three years of his life in the military service. In apprentice work and in the military service only a small allowance was received, so Jacob decided rather than spend three years of his life in the military service with no future he would come to America. He arrived in March 1854, coming to Valparaiso where there were German friends. He had no money or prospects of work. He finally received work with the Salyers.
    Anna Rohwedder was born in Rendsburg Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, November 3, 1831. She spent her youth there receiving her schooling and religious training in the Lutheran faith. Her father passed away when she was a teenager. All of her brothers were in the military service and fought in the Danish Prussian war. Anna being the oldest had to do the farm work and manual labor as it was customary for females to do manual labor along with the males. The government, in their war effort, required anyone able, to assist in the transportation of war material. Many times Anna transported material and ammunition to the battlefield, sometimes driving all night to the destination. After the war was over, her brothers returned and took over the farming. Anna found work on a large farm as a cook and was put in charge of the farms accounts as the owner was also a tax collector for that district.
    Now she and Jacob Lenburg having known one another and having a prenuptial agreement had agreed upon his migration to America. If it was all right over here, he was to send for her. She engaged transportation and left her country leaving her family of four brothers and one sister and mother behind. They finally came to this country. Three of the brothers served in the Civil War, one of them giving his life on the battlefield at Hattiesburg Mississippi. Her mother made her home with her until her death and is buried in the old cemetery at Valparaiso
    Anna Rohwedder’s voyage over here was by sailing vessel which took six weeks. It was very stormy in the boat stove had a hole in the side and came very near to sinking. She arrived in the spring of 1855 and came to new Buffalo, Michigan, where she stayed a while with some German friends, and finally came to Valparaiso, with no money. In those days everyone struggled to make a living. She had to have work, so she got a job doing house work a Judge Anthony’s home. She had many amusing experiences while there.
    Then after being in this country a year, she and Jacob Lenburg were married March 28, 1856. They started housekeeping in Valparaiso and he continued working for the Salyers, at this time, hauling produce and grain to Michigan City. Then they decided to go into farming on a farm at Hoosier Nest, south of Wheeler. The farm at that time belonged to a Fifield, but it did not work very well so they bought 40 acres on what is now State Road 49 across from Bulls Eye Lake. They farmed and hauled cord wood for the Bartholomew’s, but it was very discouraging. In 1859, it being all open country, a cow straight away, so Jacob spent all day and night hunting it. This was in the fall it was very cold and wet. On the day before he had the misfortune of dropping a plank on his foot, so being out in this inclement weather, he caught a cold and also developed an infection in his injured foot’s big toe. He was laid up for about six months and surgery at this time is not very practical. He finally had to have it amputated. Of course this made it very difficult. They had to live, so Anna had to carry on hauling wood and doing whatever she could. She spoke many times of hauling cord wood in the bitter cold weather and then waiting at the square in Valparaiso for someone to buy it. Jacob was drafted for the service in the Civil War but was rejected due or due to his foot injury.
    In 1860, not seeing any future in their present position, they purchased 80 acres in Portage Township. Later the old Lenburg Homestead was built there. In March 1861 they moved in with the Benjamin Fifields for two years, until they were able to build a house which was made of logs.
    The land that Jacob and Anna purchased in Portage Township was unbroken. They had to grub and clear it in order to be able to plant crops. This was a long and heartbreaking task. Not being able to produce much, they had to seek all kinds of outside work. One was carrying chain for surveyors, as all of the land had not been surveyed yet. Consequently, not having any money to pay for their land, they borrowed money from Offley Leeds at Michigan City, and for 10 years was only able to pay the interest. Mr. Leeds was very patient with them, giving them plenty of time. He did not force them to pay the capital, which was very fortunate for them. Not being able to raise hay and feed for their stock on their land, they had to go to the Calumet River bottom and cut their hay and haul a distance of two miles. At that time they were using oxygen which made it a very slow and tedious task. They had to cut the hay with the hand sickle and rake it together with the wooden rake. They would cut the grain with the hand cradle, and thresh it with a flail. Their land, being all trees and brush had, to be cleared. This was a very hard and difficult task for all they had to use was an axe and grub hoe. In planting corn they were clear strip, then plow it the best they could. Then with an axe they made holes in the furrows and planted their corn. The ground was full of roots, so unable to cultivate, they had to hoe the best they could and leave the rest to nature.
    The Civil War even made things more difficult for them since money had little value. But through these very difficult times they kept their health and spirits, always putting their faith in God to bring them through. Having been brought up in the Lutheran faith and there being no Lutheran Church here, and not many Germans in this region, services were held by a traveling Methodist pastor. They took part in the service, always being very broad minded and cooperative and all matters of public welfare.
    Eventually they became active in the building of a church which both the Methodist and Lutheran worshipped until the year of 1896, when they separated. Jacob bought and gave the ground on which the Lutheran church now stands and gave a substantial amount toward the building of the church. He was a member of the church board for many years. Jacob and Anna were always very much interested in the educational and religious factors in their community. There was never a religious activity, in the community, turned away from their door without receiving some kind of support being a financial or otherwise.
    They always believed in education and used their influence for the betterment of educational opportunities. This was one of the best assets for young people. Being so minded, Jacob served several years on the school board of trustees and incidentally his son John served on the board eight years and introduced and built the first high school. His grandson Harry, as a Trustee introduced the first motor bus service, obtained a first class commissioned high school, built a modern high school building, was one of the first officers of the P.T.A. and added the first athletic, music and business opportunities.
    In the early days there were very few doctors and road conditions a timer impassable. Neighbors and friends had to depend on one another in times of sickness, death and other uncontrollable factors. Both pioneers having been through hardship and unfortunate events and being of a charitable disposition, were always in demand. Many children and mothers, at that time, appreciated Mrs. Lenburg’s aid and care in their hours of need. Many a death bed prayers and consolation were given and final services and burial were conducted by them. They were always willing to be of help in time of need, many receiving food and clothing in destitute circumstances, and some receiving aid in the purchase of homes. They never forced anyone for repayment of loans if they were just getting to start life, always remembering their own struggles.
    An amusing experience for Jacob was it 1884, having a desire to return to his birthplace and having accumulated sufficient money toward a trip, he returned to Germany and upon his arrival was arrested for neglecting to serve in the military. He being farsighted had taken out his citizenship papers soon after coming to this country and being an American citizen was released. One of the reasons for taking out his citizenship papers was that a presidential election was being held that year he was persuaded to vote Democratic ticket and Fremont was the candidate. He often said later “I did not know any better but that was the last and only time I voted democratic. Times are always better under Republicans.”
    There were many amusing and critical times in their lives. In later years they were able to take life a little easier, enjoying several trips to the west. They gave up active farming in the 1890s after having raised and educated their two grandchildren. Jacob kept up enough farming activity to occupy his grandson. They took an active interest in managing their property and financial interests, also whatever public and religious interests that were brought to their attention. At one time they owned 700 acres of land in farms but had a given some of that to their children and disposed of some. When Jacob died there were about 300 acres being farmed by their grandsons and tenants.
    They raised the following children: John, James, Lewis, Don, Ernestine, Minnie and Alvina. All married and lived and raised their families in Portage township within a mile or so of their old home with the exception of Alvina, the youngest daughter. She married adopted son of her mother’s sister, Mrs. Carl Ohlfest of Kansas. They lived in Kansas and other Western states. Her husband’s occupation was a barber. This daughter is the only child living now and the others have passed on. (Alvina died September 30, 1971 in Clifton Texas)
    Louis, the third son, due to family trouble and separation, passed away at the age of 28, leaving three children: Harry, age five, Minnie, age four and Flora, age two. The mother, in an agreement took the second child Minnie and the grandparents took Harry and Flora and made a home for them by adopting them. They raised and educated them as their own children.
    The oldest one, Harry, now living and owning the homestead. (Harry died March 3, 1955)

    Jacob died as a result of an accident when preparing equipment to take another farm to repair a building. He fell over an obstruction and broke his leg. This happened on July 12, 1914. The bone would not heal and he lingered on for a little while and then passed away on October 2, 1914 at the age of 82 1/2 years old. Anna being 83 years old, persisted in living in her home, always feeling independent and never wanting to be dependent on anyone. She did not want to be a burden on anyone and she was most happy if she could do something for someone else. Anna always persisted in paying for what she got, refusing charity of any kind. She occupied herself in having a flower and vegetable garden, taking pride in her flowers and was often praised by her neighbors.
    At the time of the first World War Anna was thought to be sympathetic to the Germans although she was not, for both of their early childhood‘s were spent as Danish subjects and had naturalizations to show that they had been Danish subjects. Many times they spoke of the Prussian oppression. They gave as much and sometimes more for every drive for funds, and was as loyal and devoted as anyone could be.
    She continued to be active until the day of her death. Anna worked in her garden the day before she passed away on May 13, 1924 at the age of 93 years.
    Both had lived a very full life and it being always there conviction that you cannot live separated lives from your neighbors and your God.

    (Retyped as near as the original by KMH October 13, 2018)

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