Dr. John Moritz Modricker
Having attained by the Grace of God the age of 67 years, I feel grateful to my Creator for the health of my physical body and the freshness of my mental faculties. At the urgent request of my son, Herman, I will try to give a short description of my eventful life, free from any orational embellishment or fictious nature and I earnestly hope that my children may be greatly benefited by the avoidance of the many mistakes I have made and endeavor to live a true Christian life, which is the source of all true happiness. To the disciple of Christ, life is not a failure, but a preparatory school for the celestial blessings. The immortality of the soul is an axiom firmly planted in our whole being and cannot be disputed by any philosophical system.
The family name Modricker is an abbreviation from MODERRKKER and appeared in print in a book, “The Emigration of the ‘Salzburg’ from Tyrol, Austria”. Guided by history and substantiated by the oral assertion of my beloved mother, my researches prove conclusively that my great grandfather was one of the 600 Salzburg, who emigrated from Austria and found a refuge in the domains of the liberal free thinker Fritz, King of Prussia. As soon as the queen of Austria promulgated an edict commanding the renouncing of the Protestant Lutheran creed and the adoption of the Catholic creed as the state religion under the heavy penalty of confiscating their property, my great grandfather defied this royal edict, sacrificed all his earthly possessions inclusive of a fine gristmill and wandered with a cane in one hand, his beloved wife on the other and my grandfather an infant on his shoulders from the picturesque mountains of his beloved Tyrol regardless of all consequences, over the wild mountains of Bohemia into the plains and swamps of Prussia, where a wise King had proclaimed religious tolerance as the crowning glory of his reign. These 600 Salzburg, whose name always ended with “er”, endured all the hardships, privations and vituperations of the fanatic Catholics with heroic resignation, their trust in God was tested to the utmost, their defense and adherence to the Protestant faith was sublime and they proved themselves worthy successors of Dr. Luther who defied the whole Catholic hierarchy with his memorable words at Worms: “Here I stand, I cannot otherwise. God help me. Amen”. But our admiration of these 600 faithful Salzburg will, increase, when we remember their mental depression, produced by the loss of all earthly goods, transplanted at once from the invigorating air of the Tyrolese Alps to the cold, misty coasts of the Baltic Sea. While the atmosphere in the southern mountains regions is dry and rare, and there are sharp contrasts between seasons and devastating storms in the northern plains the atmosphere is damp and heavy; but in both these zones men are hardened by conflict with the roughness of the climate and our sturdy Tyrolean ancestors cultivated the large waste lands, downs, morasses and heaths at East Prussia with renewed vigor which the benevolent King Fritz released their taxes and granted many other privileges besides religious tolerance.
My great ancestor acquired a tract of land at MUHLAIK about one mile distant from the county seat, RASTENBURG, PROVINCE of EAST PRUSSIA, 12 miles distant from KOENIGSBERG, the capital of the Baltic Sea and about 20 miles distant from the Russian and Poland frontier. The language of the peasants around Rastenburg was Polish and Low German. This village Muhlaik* (a Polish name) was the birthplace of my father, and his four brothers, of my mother and her Bro. Carl Gutzeit (generally called Oomihe) and also my oldest Bro. Fritz. At this village, father and mother have spent their childhood and school days and here they were united in matrimony and in order to remind my children of their humble origin in case their posterity may dwell in palatial residences a description of the old homestead may not be amiss. (*Was the resting place of my grandfather)
The house in the rear of a fine orchard is like the rest of the buildings in the village erected from wood and mud, one story and one half high about 30 X 50, the roof is covered with straw and moss and on top invariably a stork nest, built on a wagon wheel. The window glasses very small, divided by lead, the small door divided in the middle. The floor made from a mixture of straw and clay, solid compressed like asphalt, the ceiling consisting of big joints covered with boards. The fireplace is in one corner of the room, serves for cooking and heating purposes. A big oaken table stands in the center, a dozen wooden chairs around the walls, painted in blue. Pictures from the Bible and a portrait of Dr. Martin Luther hang in every house. Spinning wheels and a woolrad(?) are the ornaments in every household and the art of spinning the finest thread is the aim of feminine perfection. The bedrooms are perfectly dark ill ventilated, the bedsteads are immovable of solid oak, and a canopy of heavy hangings forbids a peep into the Sanctum. Thick feather beds on top and below of colorful dimensions invite the guest to suffocation or strangulation and compel him to jump out in the midnight air and seek relief from prosecuting Comanches(?). Nightly terrors can be ascribed to the violation of all hygienic laws.
The marvelous height of the pear and apple trees in the orchard and courtyard attracted my boyish eyes and the stupendous trunks of the oak trees with the outstretched branches totally submerged the old home. Some historical reminiscences were narrated by my beloved mother at our visit to her birthplace and have occupied a prominent place in my memory all these 60 years. Yonder hollow pear tree was once the hiding place of the silver and gold during the Napoleonic War of 1812. The frozen pond in the middle of the village was the drilling camp of the French and Russian soldiers in 1812.
That moss covered little building across the street was the little schoolhouse where a crippled gray bearded soldier at a salary of #25 per year and free rent tried to implant the rudiments of writing and reading in the minds of my dear mother and father.
And what horrible recollections are connected with the wooden image of the dragon over the gate! At this gate my father was ordered as a sentinel to watch for the return of my grandfather from the City where he (grandfather) went occasionally with the laudable purpose of receiving instructions from the learned pastor but in reality to build up the inner man with copious draughts from the brewery or distillery. Naturally high tempered and sanguine, grandfather couldn’t tolerate any opposition to his fixed religious doctrines. Following verbatim the advices of his adored Dr. Luther in the words: “Whosoever dislikes wine, wife, song, remains a fool his whole life” or “Wer nich liebt Wein Weib, Gesand, Blech ein Narr sein Lebelang.” – Dr. Luther.
He frequently entered in very animate controversies in the pastor’s study and in order to seek a palliative for his irritability, commences to love the wine and the song but entirely forgot his wife and children at home. With neck breaking speed he (grandfather) drove his fiery horses over the hilly road towards Muhlaik and ended his debauchery in dealing out the customary castigations to all the members of his household, whenever the gates were closed. These brutal acts naturally had a very depressing effect on my father and may have induced him to avoid the use of any intoxicants later in life, as mother often mentioned, that father used only wine or beer in case of necessity; or father has had a dread of becoming a drunkard by heredity. The laws of heredity are observable in our family. The great grandfather was an abstainer-followed by grandfather a periodical drinker to excess. Father Johann Modricker total abstainer followed by Dr. Johann Moritz Modricker a periodical drinker and total abstainer since April 28th, 1897 followed by Albert Modricker, a periodical drinker to excess, while Frank, Herman, Carl, Adolph and Theodore are temperate (Note by typist: “temperate” was crossed out and the words “total abstainers” written underneath). I am not informed that grandfather has ever changed his mode of life but my father’s distress and suffering was greatly relieved by mother’s sympathizing love for him and an attachment was formed between my father and his adored Charlotte Gutzeit, who grew up as neighbors children and knew one another so intimately, that their marriage was not a surprise to any villager. Their union was a union of hands and hearts, tested in joy and sorrow. The date of the grandparents’ death is not recorded (?). I have visited the old homestead when it was in possession of the youngest brother (Michael) of my father and found neglect and decay everywhere. The five sons of my grandfather are personally acquainted to me with the exception of my father whose face I cannot recollect as I was 3 years old at his death.
Gottleib Modricker the 2nd son in the family learned the baker trade at Rastenburg, was noted for his parsimony and good speculations. He move to Gerdauen about 8 miles distant from Rastenburg, amassed a good fortune in a bakery and restaurant, bought many houses and extensive tracts of land in the vicinity and at last lived on his villa outside of Gerdauen. His visit at our house once every year was always the occasion of great rejoicing among us children, as every one of us received one great silver dollar. These visits were returned with prompt regularity by our family and a real attachment was formed between us and the three beautiful girls of uncle. The oldest girl, Laura, a beautiful brunette was by family contrast destined to become my future companion. Many happy hours we have spent in one another’s company, but the consanguinity was an unsurpassable barrier to our union, we had only the affection of a brother toward a sister and I was present at Laura’s wedding to a rich landowner. Laura died in her childbed and the 2 other sisters, my cousins, may be still living and happy or unhappily married, as far as I can tell. Should by chance, one of my children ever visit East Prussia and Gerdauen, they can easily trace up their social and financial standing, as certainly the cousins will call to their memory the gallant medical student Moritz who played the part of the best man at Laura’s wedding and was so vociferously applauded for his recitation 46 years ago.
The 3rd son of my grandfather named Moritz, also learned the baker trade at Rastenburg and established a confectionery in a 3-story brick building opposite our residence. I can recall the big sign - - MORITZ MODRICKER BAEKMEISTER over the door, painted in blue and gold. His wife was called “fat auntie”, very indolent on account of her obesity, visiting my mother daily and continually knitting stockings. Her inability to furnish an offspring induced my sportive uncle to seek for strange fields and after years of anxious expectancy, a girl was born to that lonesome household, named Linda, whose mother was a beautiful domestic strange to relate, the domestic was not alone retained in uncle’s house, but Linda was adopted and fatty Auntie transferred her maternal affection on this illegitimate child of her recreant husband. This immoral act of my sport of an uncle bore bitter fruit, as domestic infidelity will always be punished. Noted for the best rifleman, decorated with many medals for superior marksmanship, president of every dauve (HW notes he doesn’t know this word) given in the spacious hall of the ancient castle arranging the festivities at every picnic in the beautiful groves and shady forests, affluent conversationalist with very limited education, a pseudo-chevalier a la Don Quixote, my sportive uncle Moritz commenced at once to abhor the monotony of domestic drudgery at the oven, frequented beer gardens and Gesangviveine (Singing Societies), became an expert at the whist table and baccarat, took an active interest in the revolutionary movement of 1848, was at last forced to sell his property, played for a few years the role of an actor then a quack lawyer, was rewarded on account of previous political services with the office or a market master, acquired by his versatibility an unusual appetite for strong drink, gained thereby a rubicund nose and a bloated face and found a merciful sheltering roof on the estate of his Bro. Gottlieb, where he and “fatty Auntie” died. The same uncle in his boyhood wounded unintentionally my mother by trying to shoot pigs in the garden.
The 4th son of my grandfather named Carl, learned the carpenter trade and worked for my father and stepfather. He married a country girl and was not recognized in our social circle. I can recall his house in the suburbs of Rastenburg and the lively beautiful fresh faces of his boys and girls, but false conception of social prerogatives forbade us becoming intimate with our poor relatives, although their moral character was as good as ours. My mother has visited the poor relatives frequently, distributing some presents.
The 5th son, Michael, inherited the old homestead and cultivated the soil. He wore always the typical peasant’s costume, a high fur cap, long blue coat with real silver buttons and top boots, his manners were boorish, and morose. His highest ambition was to raise fat pigs and to sell his honey and lard to the Russian Jews. Occasionally he furnished the geese and ducks for our household. I presume that he died at Muhlaik and that one of his heirs may have repaired the old home or has built upon the ruins a modern residence.
JOHANN MODRICKER 1796 – 1836… My father the first born in the family was born at Muhlaik and died at Rastenburg. These dates are permanently impressed on my memory from the inscription on the oaken cross over father’s grave, which my stepfather Ferdinand Helmig has caused to be erected as a worthy tribute to the memory of a real good man and alas! How many recollections spring up suddenly connected with that sacred spot on the beautiful cemetery over there on the hill! In the family lot was also buried my stepfather (1856) and between the two husbands rest peacefully my dear mother, Charlotte Modricker Helmig, 1792 – 1861. Perhaps my brothers Fritz and Carl and certainly Oom Carl Gutzeit are sleeping in that graveyard; but I am unable to chronicle this fact neither do I know, if my three step sisters, Natalie, Rosalie and Minna are still living or dead. My hopes to visit them have never been realized all these 40 years as my financial circumstances forbid the execution of my plans so far. My father escaped the tyrannical treatment of my grandfather in learning the carpenter’s trade at Rastenburg under Master Bordash, a very wealthy architect. Animated by a laudable aspiration to become a master also and thereby gain a competency for my mother his adored Charlotte, father undertook the Herculean task to resume his school studies during his apprenticeship as carpenter, visited the drawing school, mastered the different branches of architecture and passed a creditable examination before the government board of architects. Meanwhile his means became exhausted and mother’s patrimony consisting in several acres of good land and a windmill extricated him from financial trouble and enabled him to commence the carpenter’s trade licensed (as) master in the rural district. He was united to mother in marriage, lived for a short time at his little villa and traded the same for a 3 story brick residence at Rastenburg. My oldest brother, Fritz was born in the country in 1821 while brother Carl was born in 1831 and I was born June 25, 1833 in Rastenburg.
The natural amiability, probity and honesty secured father an extensive field of labor and the happiness on the side of a devoted woman was the blessed sequel of a union of heart and hand. But alas, father’s happiness was only of a short duration. During a journey in the severe winter season, father contracted nervous fever and expired after an illness of four weeks, in the arms of my beloved mother on January 8, 1836, leaving behind a lonesome widow and 3 sons, Fritz 15 years old, Carl 5 years, and Moritz 3 years old. How great was the mental shock to my mother! How empty were the rooms to my bereaved mother! Father’s spirit, so related mother, appeared to her every night and she imagined to have felt his hand on her palpitating heart and her ears seemed to have heard words of consolation from his pallid lips. A respected citizen, a kind husband and father demanded more than ordinary funeral ceremonies. Father’s casket was therefore first carried to the old cathedral and deposited at the altar, an unusual ceremony at that time, where his Christian virtues and civic attainments were amply extolled in the presence of an immense congregation. During the ringing of the 32 massive bells and the funeral songs by the school children, the procession marched to the graveyard on yonder hill and deposited his oaken coffin in that grave where my mother overtaken with grief, fainted and was carried home unconscious.
After father’s death a guardian was appointed and mother remained in possession of the residence and some acres of land and forest outside the city, where revenues gave sufficient income to the family. In her bereavement, Uncle Carl Gutzeit and his family, who lived opposite our dwelling lent a sympathetic hand and in due time persuaded my mother to accept the proposition of an architect named Ferdinand Helmig born in 1805 at Schippenbeil, 31 years old, 7 years younger than my mother.
FERDINAND HELMIG: 1806-1856 Six months after father’s death, Mother married Ferdinand Helmig and was severely criticized for this act, but in justice to her I will state, that the urgent request of the many carpenters who were idle since father’s death also the great anxiety and care of her small children prompted mother to marry so soon. Surely this union was a speculative one on both sides. Master Helmig was without any patronage and found a home well-provided and willing hands to work for him while she, raising of us 3 boys, was not any encumbrance upon him. Master Helmig was a man of prepossessing appearance, a giant in stature, baldheaded, inclined to obesity, a man of the world, highly educated, of great business tact and executive ability. With firm hand he assumed the domestic and social duties laid upon him and proved himself as a worth successor of my father but could never enjoy the ardent love of my mother. He was a good provider, amassed a good fortune in few years, bought another 3-story brick house across the street, which Uncle Carl Gutzeit on account of bad management was forced to sell. In this sale was a wise benevolent proviso made, namely, that Oomche Gutzeit must be kept for lifetime, good boarded and clothed by the possessor of the property, all at the request of my mother. In few years the whole family moved into that remodeled property and we boys and Oom (probably means uncle) occupied the rooms in the 3 stories for our study during our school years at the gymnasium. Master Helmig introduced an iron military discipline in our household, instant obedience was required on all occasions right or wrong, he abstained from corporeal punishment at the request of mother and I can very well remember with what disgust he threw the cowhide once in the corner as mother interfered in the well deserved chastisement of Carl and me, as we were guilty of causing the blindness of two splendid horses, which we watered after excessive sweating. The absence of father Helmig was anxiously awaited for as well be Carl and me as by his own children Natalie, Rosa and Minna, as a temporary relaxation from the hateful silence, which reigned during father’s presence and in fact, we welcomed the days and weeks when father was confined to his bed on account of the gout which recurred with periodical regularity and at last undermined his health. Yet we children, and I believe mother, have never studied sufficiently his magnanimity, his intense love toward us all, under this stern features was hidden a warm heart. Mother far inferior in culture could only admire his business qualifications without rendering reciprocal love. This may explain the little disharmonies later more perceptible to us children. The military discipline introduced by Master Helmig was a necessary result of his own military career as Cavalerist in the Prussian army; this explains also the selection of soldiers as his servants in the stable. His spirit was also discernible in the severe apprenticeship of my two brothers Carl and Fritz, and in the curbing of my pride as a high school scholar when he ordered me to carry a heavy ladder on my shoulders through the aristocratic quarter of the City or on other occasions demanded to take a seat on the manure wagon driving through the whole town. All done for laudable object; Father, was s cosmopolitan, hater of class distinctions, friend of labor, a true democrat, under a monarchial government. Yet he helped subdue the insurrection of 1848, when Captain of the Militia he drove the rebels in the lake and incarcerated the leaders which were fighting only for liberty. His loyalty to the crown and the fear to lose his property by the vandalism of the ungovernable hordes of Anarchists explains his antagonistic action.
Realizing the advantage of a higher school education and utilizing the opportunity or visiting the Gymnasium, which was located at our place, our parents allowed us 3 boys to visit the Gymnasium and gladly (paid) the exorbitant tuition fee.
Fritz Modricker, 1821 -? My oldest brother, visited the common school and several classes in Gymnasium, showed a great desire to learn the carpenter’s trade and was an apprentice under father’s instruction. He acquired a thorough knowledge in his profession, became a skillful draftsman and graduated with honor. He traveled for seven years over the greatest part of Europe finished his education by working at the prominent Capitals and had the great misfortune to be crippled for life in falling from a scaffold three stories high at Bremerhaven. The news of this accident cast a gloom over the whole family; mother’s heart was nearly broken. Fritz positively refused the amputation of his legs, was carefully treated at the Hospital at Berlin and under galvanic treatment regained the use of his limbs supported by crutches. As the long absence from home had entirely obliterated brother’s face from my memory, I was anxiously awaiting his appearance in a Post coach; he was carried on our carriage and the scene at home and my mother’s tearful face can never be forgotten. Master Helmig liberally paid all expenses and nothing was left undone to restore Fritz to health. After 2 years Fritz could walk on a cane and his indomitable will and ambition helped him to aspire to the position of a master carpenter in spite of one partially paralyzed leg. Fully prepared for the examination he graduated at Koenigsberg and – oh irony of fate! Located at Rastenburg, a successful competitor of father. Since this time a disharmony in our family was apparent. Mother’s sympathy was always on the side of her crippled son, she never ceased to help him financially, although Fritz by his marriage to Emille Grossman(or maybe this writing was Goosman by HW) was the fortunate possessor of#1000 cash and all the furniture besides his old comrades gladly accepted the opportunity to work under him in preference to Master Helmig and thereby materially enabled him to gain a splendid patronage to the detriment of our family. My father, proud and jealous of his prestige suffered his defeat by a stepson who was reared by him and liberally supported during his misfortune, in gloomy meditations and seclusion from society, whose leadership he had assumed for 20 years. Deprived from all patronage he commenced to hate the public, showed aversion against Brother Fritz and nurtured a constant mistrust against mother, whom he accused of supplying his antagonist with means. These false delusions were frequently intensified by the treacherous Oom Carl Gutzeit, who fabricated reports of having witnessed the transport of wheat and other articles from our granary into Fritz barn and all these lies – for the sake of a bottle of Snapps. Mother overheard the whispered conversation between her maudlin Brother Carl Gutzeit and her husband and tried her best to contradict the false reports, but – stepfather’s suspicions could not be dispersed by any logical reasoning. He regarded Fritz the destroyer of his family and was haunted with visions of speedy bankruptcy, although the income derived from rent and his land amply protected him from such causality. This constant dread combined with prolonged attacks of gout terminated after 2 years in an organic disease of the heart, with dropsical effusion. In the 3rd year of my medical studies at Koenigsberg, in the month of March 1856, I was called to the bedside of my stepfather, my magnanimous benefactor and nursed him till he died March 31, 1856 in the presence of mother and my 3 beloved sisters, 20 years after the death of my father.
In all truth I can say that no citizen of Rastenburg, with the exception of my father, received more honor or respect at his obsequies than that as was accorded or shown to my step father, Master Ferdinand Helmig, and, as it may not be amiss to give a brief idea of the same, owing to its somewhat singularity, I may state that the entire population, numbering some 8000, turned out to do him the last honors; and strange to say, the casket containing the body was deposited before the altar in the old cathedral - - an unusual event or occurrence in those days in a Lutheran community in Germany. Twelve pall-bearers, clothed in mediaeval black robes, tall, three-cornered hats, and with long staffs, wrapped in mourning and carried in one hand, bore the coffin on their shoulders - - six on each side - - through the streets for a distance of about one mile, far out to the hill in the cemetery, whose doors at the entrance represented, in carving, the sun with its rays—symbolizing resurrection. These twelve pallbearers were relieved at intervals in carrying the casket by the twelve others who kept step, side by side, with the other pallbearers. All pupils of the schools and gymnasiums, all trades unions, clothed in special garb befitting their calling, the city council and aldermen, one battalion of soldiers from the garrison, preceded by subdued martial music, also helped to pay their respects to an honored and beloved citizen. This vast procession marched in perfect accord with the doleful tones of the three massive bells of the cathedral.
I cannot close the important epoch of my school life without giving my children an idea of life a Rastenburg, preceded by a geographical survey of the city, followed by reminiscences of a social nature.
Rastenburg, twelve miles from the capital, Koenigsberg, on the Baltic Sea, connecte at present by a railroad, was selected by the Knights of the Middle Ages as a place of rest or rast—refuge—after their severe though gallant military exploits and achievements in battles with neighboring enemies. Necessarily the place must have offered many natural advantages for defense and attack in those days when even gun powder was unknown and battles were fought and decided by hand to hand conflicts, battles axes, halberds, swords, etc. The Guber River ran between two enormous high hills. The Knights Templers built a church and castle on a steep precipice on one of these hills, fortified with massive boulders and bricks, one hundred to one hundred and fifty feet high. The citizens erected their dwellings inside these sort of Chinese walls, and as far as possible to the plateau. In the course of centuries part of the walls were torn down, a city laid out, a bridge built over the river connecting the opposite parts of the city called Freiheit (Liberty). In the valley between the two hills flowed the Guber, fed by two lakes, which gave the motive power to the gristmills.
The legendary, poetical mill wheel was here deeply impressed upon the youthful mind, and the reverberating hammering sound of the old moss covered mill reminded me forcibly of Schiller’s immortal verse: “Die werke gehe tag und nach, Im tick tac geht der Hammerslag” (inserted translation: The works/mechanism go day and night, In tick tac goes the hammer). The scenery surrounding the mills also called forth the familiar popular song: “In einem teifen grounde Dageht ein muehlen Rad”, (inserted translation: In a deep ground, There goes a mill wheel.) What joy and pleasure we enjoyed in splashing our young feet in the spray gushing from the old mill wheel or climbing hand over hand up the old boulders in search of birds’ nests, or during the winter, building artificial fortresses of snow and then engage in sham battles and maneuvers, or sliding down the hills or steep declivities on sled to the river or when sleds or boards were not to be had, then on bunches of straw used as a protection to our trousers.
The lakes served us children in the summer, for purposes of nautical explorations – a la Columbus or Robinson. We explored the lakes with crude hand made boats, using hoop poles for oars and aided with inflated ox bladders, instructed one another in swimming; in winter the frozen glassy surface was generally crowded with old and young engaged in pastime or exhilarating sport of skating – some also teaching others quite as expert as the renowned Hollanders, and many say I was quite accomplished in this line, having taken more than one prize, for long and short distances and for intricate lettering, figuring or scrolls. Happy days of youth! How pure were our hearts, how few and simple were our desires!
The medieval aspect of the city with its high walls and turrets, invited our youthful hearts to new explorations and adventures. The old church or cathedral, five hundred years old at least, was especially an object or source of curiosity.
Our residence being in close proximity, every evening, almost, found us youthfuls playing in the churchyard to annoyance at times to the two pastors in their study. This old cathedral was noted, among other things, for its wonderful construction of arched ceiling, and the Kings of Prussia, William III and IV, never neglected to pay a visit to this church during their occasional tours of the country. To my youthful eyes the dimensions of the church appeared colossal. It was one hundred feet wide by five hundred feet long, the two turrets about 175 or 200 feet high, the walls about ten feet thick, while the three bells were of such magnitude that it required a score, or more properly speaking, twenty four men to ring the same. The great pipe organ was eighty feet in height and required a most proficient and skillful musician to manage this colossal instrument. Prof. Kiesel, who also gave instructions in music at the Gymnasium, operated or presided at the organ. Under his leadership, assisted by forty other instruments, was produced “Creation” by Hayden, -- Schiller’s song of the bell – “Death of Jesus” and many other classical pieces. Possessing a very good alto voice, I was selected to give a solo from “The Creation” and I can distinctly recollect the momentary feeling of embarrassment that overcame me when I faced the vast assemblage standing, as I did, fifty feet above the audience.
The walls of the church were ornamented with full and complete armors of the Knight Templars, the floors were of marble, and underneath were the sarcophagi of the Knights with their respective names, station, etc., cut thereon. The carving on the altar, with its large candles represented the Lord’s Supper.
Around the altar on the walls were life-size paintings in oil of all the ministers since Luther’s reformatory movement. The crucifix, with Christ affixed thereto, fifty feet above the floor with the Virgin Mary and the beloved John at each side, represented the retainment of the Catholic cultus, as also were the separate pews below and in the galleries, reserved and held individually by the tradesmen, aldermen, burgomaster, counts, dukes, professional men and scholars.
At times an entire battalion of soldiers attended the services and, naturally, as the classification of pews could not permit, it somewhat marred the devotional services, which, in the winter, by the way, as there were no heating appurtenances, were almost unendurable, especially in very severe weather.
During one of these forced attendances we youthfuls detected the subterranean passage leading underground from the church to the castle on the principal street. This passage was spacious enough for a mounted Knight and his steed, the floor was lined with skeletons, while the air permeated with a pestential, suffocating odor, prevented our further explorations. On one occasion our youthful minds concocted the gruesome plan of examining the metal coffins at the bottom of the great turrets. With long ropes, our feet securely fastened and firm grip with our hands on the same, we assisted each other to descend, but our sacrilegious curiosity was punished by only detecting medieval dust and ashes instead of silver or gold. Climbing or ascending to the highest possible point in these great towers was certainly a risky and hazardous undertaking when it is taken into consideration there were no stairways, only beams, rafters, joists, etc., and these decayed more or less. However, we accomplished the feat and were usually rewarded with a fine view of the city with its accompanying church spires, gilt crosses, etc., but in our descent we suffered untold anguish not only as to our own safety but of the feelings our dear parents should entertain did they know that one misstep would mean an end to our juvenile existence. But such is youth! The daring temerity of climbing trees of great height in the cemetery with the purpose of carving our names in the bark of the highest possible point of the tree, incurring the risk of falling, added greatly to our preparatory study of military duties and strengthened our physical bodies.
My first twenty years of life have illustrated the truthfulness of the “survival of the fittest” – born with an unusually weak and delicate constitution, hardly able to keep my head erect for three months after birth. During my first three years I was afflicted with an illness, whose name I do not know, which produced such excruciating pain as to cause me to cry incessantly, thereby robbing my parents of much rest, day and night. I escaped the major follies and deviltry of youth by keeping only in remembrance a cicatrix, visible to this day, in the center of my forehead. This cicatrix was caused by the extraction of a sharp pointed stone after being imbedded in the tissues for three months. The stone was taken out by my step father and reluctantly elicited the fact that the minister’s son, Carl Kah, pushed me backward with such force to the ground, that, in falling forward, I let drop the plate of cucumbers I was carrying, and picked up the sharp pointed stone with my brow. This stone is still preserved as a memento in the family. At another time, during one of our coasting pleasures with sleds, my knees came in contact with a good sized fence post, injuring the knee to such an extent as to compel as four weeks incarceration in the house, where leaches, cataplasm and an endless variety of liniments effected the complete use of the knee, but, today, after fifty years dormancy, I feel the same knee affected with rheumatic pains.
One of my greatest accidents befell one of my eyes, when, in playing, my brother Carl slammed the door to and with such violence and rapidity that the tongue of the lock caught the right eye with such force as to push the eye ball from the socket. The physician inserted the eye, applied a dozen leeches and the necessary bandages kept me in darkness for several months. In consequence to this youthful tomfoolery is the inability of the right eye to read any print. And here, as I’m recalled to it by the door, I might as well describe my birthplace as far as I can recollect it. …As stated before, the dwelling was of brick three stories high, with attic windows in the red-tiled roof; the outside walls were plastered and painted a red; there were four windows in the basement, and a great door, with big brass knobs, all ornamented and highly carved, led to a hall eight feet in width. The walls were finely frescoed painting, and, I may say, the mind was invariably attracted to this reproduction from holy writ. The great staircase led to the second and third story, the finely carved banister furnished us children, when no elderly person was around of course, a means of gliding down and wearing out of our trousers. On the right side of the spacious hall stood the massive trunk, on stout iron wheels, six feet long, three feet wide and four feet high, with three locks, and contained the linen, self made, of the family. Opening the first double door to the right, we enter the parlor, a large, square big room with three double windows, ornamented with self interwoven red and white curtains; in the niches, by the windows, are stands and chairs, where my mother was wont to knit, mending or repairing our torn clothes. Between the windows were hung large mirrors; along one side was a sofa upholstered in red cloth and in front of the same a large heavy rug. The room also contained a huge wardrobe with wondrous brass ornaments, a white porcelain oven, immovable and about twelve feet by six feet; a large center table, a number of can chairs, the walls were fresco painted, representing various landscapes and hunting scenes, as also were the acacia trees and potted plants. The ceiling was ornamented with gilded stars; in the center a great chandelier containing a dozen wax candles, the border hand painted with beautiful flowers. On the left side of the room, near the door, stood Master Helmig’s folding writing desk surmounted with a bookcase with glass doors, containing books on architecture, the drawers containing immense rolls of drawings of edifices, buildings, churches, theatres, bridges, Holland windmills, plans and specifications for waterworks and other structural works, all of which was a fruitful field for our childish curiosity. The floor was always kept a very white cleanliness and sprinkled with the finest of white sand and on special and holidays with evergreen and calamus. A glass door led to the sleeping room where a great bedstead with fine hangings overhead, was placed at one side, while before the bed or near it was crude cradle in which my three (step?) sisters and I were reared. This room also contained a great fireplace. In the adjacent room was the sleeping apartment of my brothers Karl, Fritz and myself, which room likewise had a fireplace, but in the form of an oval. From this room opened a door to a small courtyard, which led to a brick stable, where four horses, two cows, and two men servants were comfortably quartered. This stable was comparatively near the main dwelling and is explained by the want of expansion owing to the dense population. In this courtyard was a long trough at which several score of geese and ducks were watered and, during the winter months, many were the finely roasted fat and juicy ducks sent to me during my studies at Koenigsberg and Berlin by me dear mother and loving sisters. These were consumed and devoured with rapacious appetites by fellow students and myself. The floor of the kitchen was brick as was also the hearth, at which was consumed some time in starting a fire by means of striking two pieces of wood, saturated with phosphorus or sulphur together. The chimney was a huge affair extending from the basement through the entire height of the three stories while at or near the base we children could not only see within, the rows upon rows of smoked hams, sausages and cheese, but also the starry firmament a strange spectacle always to us in the day time, while in the kitchen the smoke begrimed oil painting representing an artist’s creation of a female figure being struck in the bosom with a dagger, made a most ghastly impression on our young minds. A visit to the cellar was never attempted without being in the company of mother, Uncle Gutzeit, auntie or one of the female domestics. It seemed to us like a visit to Dante’s Inferno. After going down the forty stairs to the floor of the cellar, the cold atmosphere and the high arches with their accompanying cobwebs fraught us with the expectation of momentary collapse, and anxiously we grasped our mother’s apron strings peering into the surroundings illumined by the faint candle light. There stood barrels of cabbage, here were amassed the piles of turnips, potatoes and other vegetables, while barrels of whiskey, brandy and wine in bottles and kegs of beer seemed a veritable brewery and distillery combined. Undoubtedly, to a certain extent this subterranean region was the starting point to all of my misery in later life - - misfortunes which have so disastrously influenced my future career, forcing me to seek a refuge in a foreign land, deprived forever of the social pleasures and happiness with my dear relatives.
Part of the second and third stories were occupied by a professor of Latin and his family, named Claussen, who had paid rent for thirty years and, although they were only our tenants, his social high eminence prevented us from becoming very intimate - - a certain reserve always being maintained between the two families. Such is the vogue socially as regards professional men even if their salary isn’t always sufficient to provide a well-filled larder for their families. A portion of the third story was also occupied by the two domestics, while the rooms in the attic were occupied by two soldiers of the Jaeger (hunter) battalion who received daily visits from us children. Gaily uniformed in green coats, with brass buttons and red, high collars, gold bandoliers, high felt hats with white trimmings, and the terrible rifles with flint locks, held a certain mesmeric influence over us, second only to the fascination exerted by “TEDDY” ROOSEVELT’S ROUGH RIDERS over young America during the memorable campaign of 1900. My earliest recollection was in connection with these soldiers, who frequently carried me on their shoulders. In the garret, above the attics, was a sort of “curiosity shop” consisting of old irons, chains, saws, hammers, signs, French swords, also costumes belonging to the middle ages, beards, wigs, masks, old-time buckle shoes and other odds and ends. These relics furnished us youthfuls with the material for playing such parts as Renaldo, chief of the marauders, or Carl, in Schiller’s “Robbers”, or giving an imitation of “Bluebeard” in his bloody castle. Here we imitated thunder and lightning by use of iron plates, sheet iron and saltpeter, conjuring Maphisto in Goethe”s “Faust”, aided by igniting alcohol to produce the ghastly light in the witch scene of the Brocken and Hamlet’s monologue in the graveyard. The long tin tubes from disused pipe organs and a battered medieval accordion were brought into requisition, rendering such discordant, infernal music as to make one think bedlam had broken loose.
All these histrionic efforts stimulated our phantasy and developed our love for literature, art and music. Later, under the leadership of brother Fritz, we put up a real stage in one of the rooms and gave some very creditable reproductions of Wagner’s “Der Freishcuetz”, my sister Natalie, taking the part of “Kunigunde” and brother Fritz “Casper”, companion to Satan; further on, we played parts from Schiller’s “William Tell”, to the great satisfaction of our parents, fat auntie, the jovial, loquacious uncle Carl Gutzeit, inclusive invited guests.
As the customs of that time required it necessary to be properly trained for social functions, we received proper instructions in the art of dancing and ballroom etiquette, under a professor of that calling, who made regular visits to our city and arranged a dancing club. Thus we were enabled to participate in the grand balls, during the winter, given in the spacious salon of the old castle, where ceremonial, artificial manners and speech suppressed all naturalness and hypocritical coquetry was a la mode. These aristocratic balls were approved by the clergy who, although not participants in the dances, gladly witnessed the waltzes of their wives and daughters with their hilarious male partners, or seeking a retreat to indulge in a game of whist and consume good quantities of wine. Alas! Some of the pernicious customs of social life in Germany has been the cause of the downfall of many young men of splendid physique and noble aspirations as well as the ruin of many virtuous women, and the statistics of suicide will corroborate my statement.
During the writing of this biography, I was suddenly afflicted by failing eyesight, produced by the detachment of the retina of the left eye, (mentioned at the very end of this manuscript – caused while remodeling the house on 59 Miami Street, Wabash, In.) and henceforth I will be enabled to see with the right eye only aided by magnifying glasses. It is indeed a sorry affliction and a hard task for me to write and I may be compelled to abbreviate to a certain extent or dictate.
STUDENT LIFE AT THE UNIVERSITIES OF KOENIGSBERG
AND BERLIN 1853 - 1858
On September 13th, 1853, I graduated with high honors from the Gymnasium at Rastenburg, and was at liberty to select and study theology, law, medicine or philosophy at any of the German universities. My dear mother tried to persuade me to prepare for the ministry, but lack of spiritual faith in the divinity of Christ was an insurmountable barrier and besides I abhorred the idea of an unbeliever expounding the Gospel of Christ. The study of law seemed very monotonous, stale and dry, besides it required an outlay of money for nine full years, which at the end of the study, would find me without money or patrons. As the study of philosophy would also have to be prolonged indefinitely with out sufficient remuneration, I decided to study medicine, which, although incurring great expense, alone promised speedy remuneration. Therefore, I may safely assert, as the study of medicine did not have any great attractions for me, it was selected more from dire necessity and mercenary motives than anything else.
In the month of October, 1853, my step father, Master Helmig, concluded to accompany me to the nearest university which was at Koenigsberg – a city of 120,000 inhabitants, where the old alma mater was founded by the great elector, Albertus, magnus auno 1462, whose likeness, in bust, engraved on silver, formed an adornment on the red cap of every student matriculated in the academy. An incentive of Master Helmig to take part in this journey was the ardent desire to see and inspect the first locomotive brought to that section of the country, the railroad from Berlin to Koenigsberg just having been completed. Another desire was to bring his wheat to the market, thereby realizing a good sum for my matriculation and tuition fee. Seated on the sacks of grain we traveled with our own spanking team for three days over the beautiful pike road from Rastenberg to Koenigsberg, passing the noted battlefield of Friedland, where Napoleon’s old guard routed the Prussian troops, through Eilau, where the great Napoleon directed from the tower of the church the masterly movements of his veteran soldiers, viewing also the old Castle of Thoran where once dwelt the beautiful Aennchen of Thoreau, who was immortalized through that popular song: “Aennchen von Thoreau ist die mir gefaelt – Sie ist mein Leben, mein Gut und mein Geld.” (inserted translation: Aennchen von Thoreau pleases me (I like her), She is my life, my goodness and my money)
The old capitol Koenigsberg made a deep impression on my memory. The immensity of traffic was something great. At the market place were over 200 one-horsed two wheeled wagons loaded with lard, honey, flax, etc., coming from the interior provinces of Russia, under the leadership of a Jew, farther on, passing over the River Pregel, we noticed immense flat boats loaded with rye and wheat from Poland, inspected the vessels with their cargo of tobacco from Havana, and our increasing curiosity was at last capped at seeing the locomotive, the wonder of that time. In order to more clearly witness the speed of this iron horse which revolutionized traffic and commerce, we ascended the tallest tower, Haberberger Church, watching anxiously its appearance coming in from a great distance, and, in order to give a more minute description of this wonderful invention to my mother upon his return home, made a flying trip of some distance. For three days Helmig and I visited the more prominent places of interest, such as the old castle containing the room in which all kings of Prussia were coronated, the splendid art galleries, and inspected the fortifications around the city, which, although not completed upon our visit, made Koenigsberg an impregnable fortified city at that time. The small Castle Lake in the center of the city was surrounded on all sides with splendid villas, residences, mansions of the rich merchants and numerous beer gardens, where military bands gave forth noted martial music and where civilians, as well as students and officers, held tournaments daily with beer mugs as weapons. This attracted our attention and implanted in my youthful mind the motto of Horace: “Dulce est Desipere in loco”. – It is pleasant to drink on certain occasions.
This northern Venice was the summer resort of the aristocracy and of the educated classes of Koenigsberger society. Generals of the army and lieutenants with their sweethearts, wealthy burgers, with their modest children, professors and students, gathered here for the sole purpose of passing time, imbibing beer and listening to the strains of the military bands—gondolas, gorgeously decorated and dexterously managed by skilled hands of the students traversed the beautiful small lake, where the President of East Prussia resided, and whose walls therein where hung, among other very valuable art pictures, of the great master with the barbaric relics of instruments of torture used at the time of the inquisition, foremost among which was the iron virgin, whose laughing face when kissed would, through mechanism, open, revealing the sharp pointed iron spikes and, slowly closing, embrace the victim to death and then send the unfortunate to the subterranean dungeon of the grim castle. The various implements of torture such as thumbscrews, dislocating and stretching apparatus, and beds of Proeastinus invented and used by the order of the Jesuits were carefully inspected and naturally aroused our anger and indignation against the bigots of the Middle Ages. This feeling of horror was mitigated at our visit to the art museum, which contained a collection of works from the old masters down to the modern artists, especially were the works of art of beautiful Queen Louise of Prussia, General von Blucher, Sharnhorst, the great statesman of East Prussia, Freicherr von Stein and Hardenberg and other historical celebrities who were instrumental in conquering the battle lord Napoleon of France and helped to lay the foundations of the present German Empire.
In the evenings we visited the Royal Theater, a magnificent structure of Corinthian architecture and witnessed Richard Wagner’s “Tannhauser”, the drama “William Tell”, etc. Before my stepfather took his departure, we inspected the old Alm Mater, erected by the Elector Albertus, in 1461, and the historical Aula Kantiana, also the old building of Anatomy in the suburbs, where I was to be duly instructed in the art of dissecting cadavers thereby learning the foundation of medical science. At that time antiseptics were unknown and the odor arising from the corpses, in different stages of decomposition was intolerable and my stepfather proposed a hasty retreat from one of my future abodes so repulsive to his sensitive nature.
On September 25th, 1853, the recently graduated from the different Gymnasiums, called Foxes, and wearing red caps, were assembled in the courtyard before the old Albertus University and marched in a body up the old creaky stairs into the great Aula, where Professor Simpson performed the matriculation act. This Prof, Simpson was the same man who during the revolution of 1848, was delegated by the German Parliament to offer the crown of German Emperor to King Frederick William IV, of Prussia, in the name of a united Germany. King Frederick William IV refused to accept the crown and thereby kept my beloved Germany disunited 28 years longer, or, until the decisive battle of Sedan, under Bismarck’s regime and von Moltke’s splendid tactics, which impelled all Germans to offer the crown to Emperor William the First at Versailles, and thereby realized the fulfillment of Barbarossa’s dream, at Keifphausen Castlel, of a perfected united Germany.
In attempting a review of my life as student at the Universities of Koenigsberg and Berlin for a period of five years, I may be permitted to dwell on the scientific and literary side and then give a short synopsis of social character.
Having been duly matriculated and received the rules and regulations, each student selects his own professor as lecturer in the primary departments of medicine, but all students of the different departments, theology, law, medicine and philosophy, were expected to hear lectures on philosophy. The celebrated Prof. Rosencrantz, successor to Kant, Schlegel, Fichte, initiated our young minds in the abstract speculations of philosophy. These lectures also turned the mind of many students from orthodox religious creeds to infidelity and materialism. I have swallowed these lectures with great avidity and I felt an antipathy to all creeds and dogmas of the church and denounced the divinity of Christ as a pious fraud, and fortified my disbelief by reading all the great works of all skeptics of all ages. I may safely state that rationalism and materialism was a well cherished and nourished doctrine of all students at that age and time, including even the theologians of my acquaintance, whom we invariably stigmatized as pious hypocrites. Yet the materialistic conception of life was not potent enough to destroy in my soul the belief in a Supreme Being and the remembrance of my mother’s prayers and her truly Christian character offered a strong barrier against immorality and profanity, and, strange to relate, I often found myself awakening from sleep at repeating the Lord’s prayer and holding spiritual meditations with Christ.
The necessary qualifications to withstand the horrible odor at the dissecting table was lacking in some, but I endured the ordeal with complacency and can well recollect the gruesome surroundings in the Anatomical building; for instance, the row of articulated skeletons, on which we at times hung our overcoats, red caps, put cigars in their mouths, the collection of skulls in pyramidal piles, some of them partly covered with skin, thrown from the dissecting table, the nude cadavers with their names attached on a card to the great toe, specially the dropsical bodies, the bloated faces of drunkards, the emaciated forms of tuberculosis victims, the contorted faces of those who had committed suicide by hanging – all of these various objects made a deep impression on my mind and helped to advance my idea of materialism. This veritable reproduction of Dante’s Inferno hounded me the first few weeks during my sleep and I imagined myself being hounded by these poor mortals, whose bodies were mercilessly dissected in search of medical knowledge, while the smoke from our pipes and cigars acted as a palliative and disinfectant. Once, only once, was I overcome by the hellish sulphuret of hydrogen emanating from the intestines, and was forced to empty the contents of my stomach on the dissecting table – a powerful preventive from such an occurrence again, as it henceforth obliterated the functions of my olfactory nerves and rendered me invulnerable in the midst of all mephitic odors. This has also doubtless, been of great value in visiting hospitals and performing surgical and gynecological operations; in fact, I honestly believe that the effluvia emanating from the cadavers have made me impregnable to the attacks of contagious diseases and even the modern bacilli. Anyway, I can gladly confirm that, during the practice of medicine extending over forty years, I have never contracted any contagious disease nor minor ailments, or have I had recourse to laxatives, nerviness or used antiseptics, although I have often been exposed to blood-poisoning by post-mortem examinations and hospital practice.
The mastering of different departments of human and comparative anatomy was greatly facilitated by the previous classical education and a remarkable retentive, mechanical memory to such a degree that, even today, in my old age, I can readily call to mind the names of most all the muscles, veins, nerves, arteries, the lymphatic, etc., as the names are derived from the Greek and Latin. My ardent desire to study comparative anatomy often induced me to bring dogs and cats, caught in the streets of Koenigsberg, into my lodging room and improvise a dissecting table, also to appropriate, surreptiously, the feet and hands of bodies from the anatomical building for dissecting purposes.
While the study of human anatomy and comparative anatomy plainly elucidated the Darwinian theory, the lectures on Botany, Zoology, Mineralogy, substantiated the truth of the evolution theory and fixed this idea impregnably in our mind. The lectures on Histology, and Physiology, by Professor Helmholtz, of world-renowned reputation, were also given at the new Anatomical building on Muhlak Street, and students had a great advantage at Koenigsberg by hearing Helmohotz, the discoverer of the ophthalmoscope. I once had the honor of visiting this celebrated scientist at his home, located in a very narrow street, and found in him a very amiable gentleman, never dreaming of his future renown.
The medical students were literally forced to be on a run from the distant Anatomical building to the University, then to the Botanical Garden for lectures on Botany, thence to the Zoological Museum for Lectures on Zoology by Prof. Rattke, then to the University for lectures on Chemistry, organic and inorganic; for the most part traversing the obscure, squalid, ill smelling narrow streets, where many libertines obstructed the thoroughfare and frequently succeeded in alluring many virtuous young men from a the path of rectitude and prepare them for a premature grave.
At the end of two years of academic life, I received the honorary title, Candidatus Medicinae and was, therefore, admitted to attend lectures at the Medical, Surgical and Gynecological Clinics, the places of attendance also located in different parts of the city. Prof. Hirsch a great didactic teacher examined us every day in the diagnosis and therapeutics of internal medicine, including skin diseases; Prof. Seering presided over the Chirugical Clinic, situated on the Rollberg. He was a hearty and jovial gentleman, who had not yet outlived his Bacchanalian tendency and usually consumed great quantities of old Burguuder in order to overcome the tremor of his hands for the performance of delicate operations. Quite often he was unable to perform operations on a cadaver and his temper at such times was sometimes unendurable to us. Owing to his superior surgical knowledge and skill, his bibulous habits were overlooked and tolerated by the medical faculty and I can never forget the monthly “Kraentzchen” he gave to all his scholars at his residence, hardby the clinic, and where his three beautiful daughters, commonly termed, “the three graces”, served sparkling wine and accompanied us, with their sweet, soprano voices, in our hilarious student or college songs; the professor, for the time being, laid aside his authority and indulged in these social gatherings with all the vigor of a young man.
The field for the acquirement of surgical and gynecological knowledge was greatly enlarged at the Polyclinic, where the poor of the city received gratuitous treatment, and there was also established a laboratory where the necessary knowledge of preparing prescriptions was acquired – thus giving the candidates of medicine an ample opportunity of visiting the poor patients in their humble dwellings in the different and obscure parts of the city. These visits were always made per pedes as we called it, and were considered by us as healthy recreations, although we sometimes reached our boarding places in a very fatigued condition, but so great was our desire to serve humanity, that we often bribed the janitor with a gold piece for favoring us with a call to surgical or obstetrical services in the city, in order to acquire more skill in the management of the various cases.
The social life of students at the Universities of Germany has been so exhaustively described in the different magazines and newspapers of America that a review to any extent by me has been deemed entirely superfluous, besides the features in the main are essentially the same in the year 1900 as in 1853-1858.
I may here state that the students are ruled by a distinctly social democratic government entirely apart from civil government - - they form a republic in a dynastical monarch. There is an insurmountable barrier between the students and the rest of the people, commonly called Philistines. The code of honor is the only textbook of law and highest tribunal, and every student who violates this fundamental law is ostracized or in German, “Erklaert in Vershiss”. His social standing at the academy is entirely lost and can never be restored. The bandbulle of the Pope in interdicting the furnishing of bread and water to heretic was not so effectually executed in the middle ages, as the edict of the tribunal of honor, declaring a comilitones “in Vershiss”. All associations with such a student were forbidden, he could not drink his beer at the same table, and he didn’t receive any invitations to balls or excursions or social pleasure fetes of any sort, he could not challenge anyone to a duel, and only received contempt, and was soundly caned as a sign of the deepest humiliation whenever he dared to force his presence in the various clubs. Nevertheless, many ostracized students, free from the encumbrance of social life, enjoyed the esteem of the professors on account of their regular habits and adaptation to the different studies they had chosen, and, in after years, became celebrated for their prominence in their profession, while the code of honor adherents frequently overleaping the line of common decency and polluted by their excessive bibulous habits and amative adventures, entirely misfitted themselves for duties of a domestic life, became brutal husbands, corrupt officials, never passed the examinations, and many – yes, many—of these hilarious students have made their whole future life a total failure, often filling a drunkard’s grave in foreign lands, or, after squandering their parents’ money, totally unfitted for any manual labor, preferred suicide to a righteous life.
The students of the University of Koenigsberg were classified as “Landsmanchafter” or “Corps-students” and “Burschaften” – both subscribed to the rules of honor, and “Kamele” or “Camels” included those who didn’t participate in club life.
I was duly initiated as “corp-student” in the corps “Baltic”, whose colors were white, light blue, black and white, on our caps and bandoliers. The regulations compelled us to challenge to mortal combat, with swords or revolvers, any attack on the personal honor of a brother-student, frequently even from minor personal differences – to uphold the honor of society by all means, even at the sacrifice of life; furthermore, to protect and cultivate a spirit of chivalry toward the female sex and, lastly, to acquire the great talent of consuming enormous quantities of beer and wine in connection with singing Anacreontic compositions devoted to the admiration of Bacchus and Venus.
In all these different functions the corps-students acted the part or imitated the life of the Knights of the Middle Ages or the barons in feudal castles. It was also necessary to learn fencing at the private schools called “Paukboden”, the older and experienced fencers drilled the novices, and, at times, they inflicted some terrible blows upon our unprotected shoulders and legs. I was left-handed, and, therefore, nicknamed, “Scaevolus”, and this, fortunately, placed me in an unusually advantageous position, and I only received two marks or cuts, on the brow and wrist, and conquered my antagonists with six points, usually to my credit. It was regarded a great honor to be able to show marks, or cicatrices, on our faces received in duels, and the traveler may even today take cognizance of deep disfigurations on the faces of professional men; and this foolish distinction was even greatly admired by the opposite sex and the general public, which always felt inclined to pardon all the excesses in fighting and drinking, fully convinced that this class of young men, with their youthful exuberance, formed an important factor in the social structure of the German Government, believing further, their fighting qualities and other athletic exercises equipped them for the formation of a sturdy phalanx against the impudent aggressions of a foreign foe. As a general rule, history has repeatedly proven this prognostication. All the great philosophical thinkers of Germany, their prominent statesmen and generals, as well as diplomats, and all the founders of the greatly admired united Germany were schooled at the academies, and imbibed a spirit of valor and courage, unparalleled in the history of any other nation. Only the academies of Germany have given to the world a Schiller, a Goethe, a Bismarck, the latter who even excelled in frivolity and deviltry his fellow students, having fought over sixty duels and was called “the mad count”. But I must not forget another feature of academic life. Besides mustering patriotism and loyalty, the students cultivated a spirit of equality among themselves—social standing was literally obliterated; the son of duke or count, with a genealogy dating back one thousand or more years, and, abundantly supplied with money, cordially associated with the son of a shoemaker or tailor and often assisted, financially, a poor, struggling brother-student, to climb the ladder of fame. A generally brotherly and communistic feeling permeated all the different corps, which, and undoubtedly, will lay the foundation of a future German social democracy- - the dream of all progressive statesmen. I pray that my children may SEE THIS TIME REALIZED- - WHEN EQUALITY, LIBERTY AND RIGHTEOUSNESS NOT ALONE RULES THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, BUT ALSO MY BELOVED GERMANY, at present so advanced in education and scientific attainments.
During the first four semesters I participated in the different recreations and modes of life so natural to the corps-students, nevertheless as the three years were devoted more to the study and acquirement of knowledge, I was to that extent, a Philistine which means a separation from the students’ banquets and the Paukboden.
The year 1856 would have seen the end of my medical studies as my generous benefactor, Ferdinand Helmig, died on March 31st of that year and my inherited patrimony was entirely exhausted, had not my beloved mother and my three sisters come to the rescue by advancing their money for my further medical education, but, with the proviso, that I should honorably bind myself to remunerate them for the great outlay of money. Brother Fritz had bought all property of Master Helmig and assumed the obligation of paying the patrimony coming to our three sisters and he exchanged his property for mother’s residence located in Koenigsberger Strasse at Rastenberg. Replenished with the necessary funds for finishing my studies, I entered the University of Berlin, the center of medical science, where I had the great advantage of studying at the best clinics and hospitals in the world. Prof. Von Langenbeck lectured at the surgical clinic in Carls Strasse, his assistant was Dr. Billroth who, later at Vienna became the greatest surgeon of the world; Prof. Schoenlein directed the great Charity Hospital, the renowned auscultist, Traube, being his assistant. The postmortem examinations were directed by the great Professor Virchow, who up to this writing, 1901, is still living at an advanced age – the discoverer of trichinae, founder of Ellulor pathology and is called the nestor of medicine. Prof. Bush and Ewald gave instructions in the Gynecological Hospital, located back of the University, while Prof. Dove, the great Meteorologist, delivered his celebrated lectures on physical science, at the University. I also had the great honor of seeing the great naturalist, Baron Alexander von Humboldt as he made his daily visits to King William IV at his castle, also Count von Bismarck, the future founder of the German Empire and whose personality was indeed impressive; have witnessed the arrival of Queen Victoria’s oldest daughter, Victoria from England as the wife of “Unser” Fritz, the philosophical Crown Prince Frederick, later Emperor Fredrick III, who died of cancer of the larynx after a short reign of three months. The Prince Regent Wilhelm I, could be seen at his window opposite the University at eleven o’clock almost every day, always greeting friendly the passers by. Very little had I imagined that the great men we met on the streets and Under Den Linden were later destined to make the history of Europe - - - such men as Count Von Moltke, Bismarck, Prince Charles, Crown Prince “Unser” Fritz, including Prince Napoleon, once reviewing the troops Under den Linden; the Russian minister of War, Gortshakowsky who, later, inaugurated the Turko-Russian war and commonly called the Crimean War. Berlin was celebrated as the center of literature, are, and philosophy, and the greatest minds of that period were invited by the government to advance science, receiving splendid salaries; the University numbered 3,000 students at that time, including some from Asia, America and other foreign countries.
I may be pardoned for not commenting on the beauty of Berlin and its social life, as an exhaustive and minute description can be found at any bookstore, in case my children should feel the inclination to post themselves of Berlin life, and I may here only state that, the rigid examinations before the State Board of Examiners, compelled the candidates of medicine to lead the life of a hermit surrounded by skeletons and books. After a successful examination as BACCALAUREUS, I underwent the severe crucible of all of my so far acquired medical knowledge under a staff of self appointed drillmasters for the final examinations, similar to the Quiz process at the American colleges, and was at last licensed to practice medicine, surgery and obstetrics in Prussia, with the proviso of yet discharging my military obligations for the term of one year at my own expense.
At this critical period of my life my funds being entirely exhausted in finishing my studies and being in debt to my mother and sister for their financial support, I concluded to postpone my military service indefinitely and, in case of detection, expected to have accumulated enough money from practicing my profession to pay my expenses of one year’s voluntary military service in the hospital.
I continued to live in the suburbs of Berlin and practiced medicine but the income was so small that any accumulation of money was out of the question. The fear of forcible enlistment in the Prussian army, without pay, hung over my head like the sword of Damocles while the continued remorse of being regarded as an ungrateful son and brother drove every joy away. To sooth my conscience and hoping, in some way, to gain the necessary money to reciprocate, I concluded to enlist in the foreign volunteer regiment, which the Pope of Rome wanted against Garibaldi. As enlistment at the Italian bureau in Berlin would only result in a forcible detention by the Prussian military authorities, I risked stealing away from Berlin and presenting my papers in a Catholic country, like Austria, expressing my willingness to serve the Holy Father in my capacity of physician. Carefully but with some apprehension, I walked over the Prussian frontier at Silesia, climbed over the BOHEMIAN MOUNTAINS, passing the identical forests where my GREAT GRANDFATHER walked with his wife and child when seeking a refuge for the exercise of his religious creed. I was greeted cordially by the Catholic priests in Austria and hospitably entertained at their tables. But my hopes and expectations were rudely blasted. At the capital of Bohemia, Prague, I presented my credentials at the recruiting bureau and was ordered to remain a week. There existed an international understanding between Austria and Prussia to extradite any volunteer who had not absolved his military service in his native land. Upon my return to the bureau I was arrested and transported back to the Prussian frontier and delivered to the military authorities, who punished me for evasion of military duties to His Majesty the King of Prussia by pressing me into the 28th Infantry Regiment, located at the Fortress JULICH, PROVINCE RHEINISH PRUSSIA, for an indefinite period as a common soldier and deserter.
Only a criminal condemned to penal servitude can tell the terror of the situation, which overcame me upon my entrance into the fortifications and barracks at JULICH. Above the gates I imagined I read the immortal words of Dante’s Inferno: “HE WHO ENTERS HERE LEAVES HOPE BEHIND.” Thoughts of suicide disturbed my sleep and I would have ended my existence then and there had not the voice of God and the sympathetic letters from my mother and sisters palliated my anguish and called me to my duties. With stoic resignation, I endured the terrible physical drilling under the command of a sergeant. My accomplishments in athletics while a student greatly aided me to master the military evolutions; patiently, and with assumed delight, which I was for from feeling, I underwent all their barbaric treatments, while my soul, in reality, was in constant revolt against my tormentors, whose devilish, inventive brains not only planned by day but by night new tortures, frequently giving false alarms of an enemy. This only increased my anguish the more, as I was far their superior in intellectuality. Physical fatigue was, however, almost unknown to me, and I soon became expert in handling a rifle, fencing with the sword, or swimming the river in full uniform with Knapsack and ammunition. But, in spite of all my punctuality and diligence I could not ameliorate their brutish abuses and was innocently sentenced now and then, to the guardhouse for from one to eight days, where my diet consisted principally of bread and water. Often I stood guard at the old powder house during the night hours, gazing at the heavens, anxiously pleading with God for relief from this detestable, miserable existence, condemned to imitate the frantic evolutions of a monkey, living the life of a machine while my soul was filled with high aspirations and thoughts. Marching, at times, for three days in a stretch, in hot summer months, with complete soldier’s equipment on our shoulders, for the only purpose of invigorating our bodies for a possible conflict with the enemy and maneuvering on a grand scale under the commands of overbearing officers, who were utterly repulsive to my inner nature, which always loved, from youth, literary occupations.
This severe discipline lasted three years and had the salutary effect of cultivating a sense of strict obedience, combined with promptness and punctuality, as, also, an unendurable and lasting hatred of all militarism. After three years there was seeming relaxation of military discipline, I enjoyed the great privilege of giving lessons in Latin, Greek and French to some of the prominent families in the city of Julich and Aachen during the evenings, and, during the day, was commanded to duties at the military hospital in the capacity of hospital steward. Later, I was transferred to Aix ls Chapelle (Aachen) by the order of the colonel of the regiment, who admired my endurance and appointed me as assistant surgeon under the regiment’s physician. The sudden change in my condition I reported to my beloved mother and sisters at home, promising the liquidation of my old debts. Alas! My dear mother died, October 1861, and she could not see the rehabilitation of her son. The great distance from home made a visit at the funeral impossible, and I wept bitter tears of regret at the demise of a good, Christian mother, who had been so anxiously concerned over my welfare – had sacrificed love and money without realizing any returns during her life. A report of her sudden death (possibly heart affection) was sent me by a lawyer, named Ruttke, the husband of my sister, Minnie and, later, I received a copy of her last will and testament in which I was excluded from further inheritance on account of having already overdrawn more than my legitimate share.
During my service as military assistant surgeon I was detailed to the daily morning examinations of sick soldiers at the guardhouse, and frequently I dispensed soldiers from the fatiguing exercise on account of their natural constitutional weakness - - some of whom I had ordered to the hospital, giving, intentionally, fictitious names to their complaints. This act provoked the anger of the regimental physician who was entirely under the control of a colonel, whose chief ambition was to have the rank and file of the regiment complete. Frequently harsh words were exchanged between my superior and myself, as, on one occasion, the irascible, aristocratic, gray-haired regiment surgeon accused me of filling the sick room with healthy soldiers, ordering for them perfect rest and good diet, including beer, etc. I resented this insult by challenging him to mortal combat with revolvers. The old gentleman gave vent to uproarious laughter and reminded me of my previous station and gave me to understand that this insolence would be punished by degradation at the next meeting with the colonel. In anticipation of more brutal treatment I planned on October 1864, MY FLIGHT FROM GERMANY and found, fortunately, a man whose means facilitated my escape from the discipline of German military life and separated me forever from my persecutors.
During the year 1864, I was called to a restaurant in the neighborhood of the military hospital to render medical services to a bronzed gentleman with Spanish physiognomy. His name was Daniels, a gentleman of leisure, who occupied his time between fighting King Alcohol and making experiments with chemicals. He was suffering from delirium tremens and was greatly benefited by my prompt and effective treatment. During his lucid intervals he confided to me the secret of an explosive pill-mass of his own composition and which was entirely different from the pill-mass used n the Prussian needle gun – Zuendnadelgeweyhr – and far superior to it, and had intended to offer this to the French at Paris.
Daniels had amassed a good fortune by operating in quick-silver (mug*mercury?) mines of Spain, and had deposited the bulk of his fortune in Duren with a lawyer whose address I easily obtained. The lawyer commenced a correspondence and promised me a good reward in case I could effect the departure of Daniels to America, giving, as his reason, the continual debauchery would ruin Daniels not only physically but mentally and thought a change of scene would be beneficial. I persuaded Daniels to try and sell his secret to the United States at Washington where he could doubtless receive a good sum for it, and was very enthusiastic about prospects in a foreign country.
As soon as my plan for escape had matured, I persuaded Daniels to accompany me to Duren, Rhinish Prussia, where we kept ourselves hidden for several weeks at the residence of the prominent attorney, who, seeing an opportunity of getting rid of Daniels forever, procured passports and sufficient money to pay our expenses, but how much of Daniel’s money the lawyer retained for his own individual use, I am unable to state. We departed from Duren and, with our full beards and conversing in French or Spanish, looked like wealthy tourists, and arrived at Bremen unmolested by the police, November 1864, with letters of introduction to Captain Heidorn, of the sailing vessel Amaranth, a new vessel recently built. As great caution was necessary not to come in contact with the detective department, we were securely lodged at the brave captain’s residence and greatly enjoyed his hospitality. In fourteen days we were to sail from Bremenhaven and all my promises of bringing Daniels to America would have been frustrated had I not taken decisive steps. In order to enjoy himself for the last time on German soil, Daniels had made the rounds of all the saloons in Bremenhaven, and I found him sound asleep on a bench at some distance from the vessel while the bell gave the last signal for embarkation. Quickly I ordered a laborer, who was fortunately near, to carry the drunken Spaniard on a wheelbarrow to the vessel, and shortly he was safely laid upon a cot in the cabin room, while the vessel lifted her anchor and sailed in the North Sea. My soul expanded with joy over the successful escape from German militarism, enabled at last to breathe the free air of the ocean, and hopefully looking toward the land of the free and the home of the brave, when we reached after ninety days of continuous sailing, tossed in all directions, from the north of Halifax, south, to the Bermudez Islands, by repeated hurricanes, over the tempestuous, turbulent waves, which, at times, seemed to devour the ship or sink her to the bottom of the deep sea.
After a pleasant voyage through the English Channel, viewing at night on either side the beacon lights on the English and French shores, the chalky colored cliffs of the coast of the Emerald Island (Ireland), presented picturesque scenes, while the quiet waves allured for awhile all passengers to a sense of complete security, when, all at once, the captain announced the approach of a storm and quickly ordered the hauling in of the sails. Before his order had been executed, a north-eastern storm, accompanied by hail and lightning, threatened to uproot the ocean and dashed our ship over the summit of the gigantic waves then down into the abyss with such vehemence that the wooden railing or guards on deck was smashed into many pieces and a part of the kitchen swept overboard. The captain’s brother in-law, as second officer, was fastened with ropes to the nearest mast so that he could manage the rudder, and the passengers, consisting of four hundred persons and thirty five seamen, were safely hoarded in the lower cabins, while Daniels and I were in the captain’s cabin, never for a moment realizing our imminent peril, bringing libations to the offended God Neptune in grossest and utter contrast to the ardent prayers of the poor women and children in the lower cabins, and whose lamentations were heart rending. The first cyclone was followed by a number of other severe storms, which made constant vigilance necessary, day and night, in setting, resetting and hauling in sails. The endurance of the robust, weather beaten “platt deutch” sailors was taxed to the utmost, but, willingly and gladly, every command was executed of the intrepid captain, who told me that, during his twenty years service on the sea, he had never encountered such boisterous weather, not even at Cape Horn, where his present cook, with frying pan in hand, was hurled into the sea and the next wave lifted him again on deck. Daniels and I were glad we did not live in the time of superstition when the offended God Neptune was appeased by sacrificing human beings, for surely in the time of Jonah, Daniels and I would have been selected as the guilty cause of the storm, for the further reason our features were in marked contrast to all others on board.
At other times the sea presented a different aspect. A placid calm and tranquility seemed to prevail over the entire ocean as far as our eyes could penetrate; the sails were not inflated and hung loosely from the mast and spars. The sun arose in its majesty from the watery horizon and spreading its life giving golden rays over the green expanse of the deep, inviting the monsters of the sea to come to surface and inspect our ship, where card playing, dancing and music were indulged and all the terrors of previous hardships and anxiety were forgotten. These dances were often continued past midnight, while the jolly full faced moon illuminated all the outlines of the vessel, which lent a ghostly aspect to the young men and women who swore eternal love in the dimly lit balustrade or, sitting on the soils of rope, or swinging in the life boats. Some of the more venturesome of the young men lowered themselves with the aid of ropes to the water and dared to risk a swim, not deterred by the risk of the proximity of sharks, one of which had swallowed at once gulp the corpse of a passenger who was given a sea burial by being cast overboard with all nautical ceremonies. The captain, Daniels and I acted as pallbearers, undertaker and chaplain, while the jack tars sang a doleful hymn at midnight under the ghostly light of the moon.
After about sixty odd days of sailing our provision became almost exhausted and a dangerous mutiny, under the leadership of an educated Jew, broke, loudly demanding to bring the vessel to the nearest harbor at Halifax, but Capt. Heidorn was not to be cowed and mastered the situation by putting the leaders in irons during the rest of the voyage, feeding the male passengers on rice three times a day while the women and children received better fare and an ample supply of beer and wine from his own well stored bunkers to the great chagrin of Daniels, who was in constant fear of a famine in liquor and kept himself almost continuously in the captain’s cabin, near the steward’s kitchen, whose office was to supply the table with stimulants.
The appearance of an army of hog fish announced at last the proximity of land, while the presence of an American pilot dispensed all doubts of our speedy landing.
ARRIVAL IN NEW YORK CITY - JANUARY 25th, 1865
On Jan. 25, 1865, we dropped anchor at the harbor of New York City, not far from Greenwich Street, at the piers, all the emigrants being duly registered at Castle Garden. I tried to keep my eye on Daniels but he finally escaped my vigilance and what became of him in his future life I am unable to state. I notified the attorney at Duren of Daniels escape and the futility of my keeping track of his movements. I also sent letters to Brother Fritz and my three sisters of my arrival in the new world, where militarism was unknown.
The war of the rebellion had been in progress about four years, devastating millions upon millions of dollars worth of property, sacrificing thousands upon thousands of human lives and, while gigantic armies were confronted in the South, yet no indication of the military spirit was hardly visible in the cosmopolitan City of New York, excepting at the recruiting offices where $900 bounty was offered and an occasional marching column of enlisted emigrants guarded by soldiers in blue, or the posters or bulletins, on the Bowery and Broadway, with latest telegrams, gave an impression that war was in the land and that the South would soon succumb to the fierce attacks of the North, whose ranks were being continually refilled, in a measure, from the great mass of emigrants. I also determined to enlist in the army and presented my credentials to a colonel of a German regiment, but was informed to wait for further orders.
My address was “Ship Amaranth”, my landlord, Captain Heidorn, who insisted on my accepting his hospitality during his six weeks stay, also trying to persuade me to accompany him on his next voyage to Hong Kong, which, offer, however, I declined, as my first experience on the water was not exactly to my liking or taste, while the prospect of being captured by Chinese pirates, and later, perhaps, my body boiled in a kettle, was not flattering.
During my stay with the Captain I made some money vaccinating the sailors on the different vessels, but was unable to rent an office, and, upon the advice of Professors Noegerath, Jacobi and Krokowitzer, whose hospitality I greatly esteemed, I concluded to practice in Indiana, selecting HUNTINGTON as my first stopping place. I went there in company with a young clerk named Hennings, from Bremen, Germany, whose acquaintance I had made on board the ship “Amaranth”, and who, being advised by his uncle in New York, a wealthy dealer in Havana tobacco, to return home, used the money intended for this purpose for our trip to Indiana, and later, bitterly repented of his folly. He was employed at Huntington in a dry goods store, lost his place in a few months on account of drink, and then left for a visit to Louisville, Kentucky where he committed suicide by jumping from a ferryboat into the Ohio River.
Huntington offered many advantages and I found an office already fitted by a Dr. Reinhardt, a German physician, who shortly left for Wisconsin on account of a malpractice suit then pending. My patrons increased day by day and my good success was a guarantee of building up a lucrative practice. In a few months I had booked about $600 and I felt greatly the need of domestic life in my great solitude. Not versed in the English language, my practice and acquaintances were exclusively among the German element, whose social features were not very attractive on account of their inferior education. This oppressive sensation of extreme loneliness was suddenly extinguished, as if by magic, at seeing, upon my first visit in the country, nine miles from Huntington, in a place called “Baerenshwam”, now Bippus, a maiden, pure as an angel, beautiful in body and soul, -- to me a living copy of Corregio’s “Lady and the Swan”, and having such a remarkable likeness to the long forgotten Augusta Frost in my student days, that I was stunned at once and felt, then and there, that God had sent this innocent girl to be my guiding star through life till death separated us. She was ten years younger than myself and, judging by the impression I had made upon her, hoped for a reciprocal love. My brain was in a tumult when examining her sick father, Jacob Spaeth, a wagon maker from Sachsenheim, Germany, and who had emigrated six years previous with his wife Dorthea and five children: Carl, Carolina, Augusta, Fredericka and August, and had, during the Civil War, by his ingenuity as a mechanic, amassed a little competence of forty acres of land. These three girls made on me the impression of ladies of the first rank, such as are generally found in the castles of noblemen in Germany, and their fairly chiseled features with their intellectual brows, stamped them unmistakably as descendants of Ducal blood, and their genealogy can be traced back to General von Spaeth, whose name to this day can be found in the court of the King of Wurtenberg. The children were noted for their beauty among the villagers at “Klein Sachsenheim” and, combined with these physical accomplishments, was noticeable a strict religious education which helped to build a character unyielding under all temptations of the world, nurtured by paternal love and filial devotion.
Their father, JOHN JACOB SPAETH, (born 1809 – died September 1865) was a man of irreproachable, firm character and unadulterated piety, reared his whole family in the fear of God and cultivated in his children the spirit of strict obedience, yet commingled with reciprocal love that amounted almost to adulation. All the domestic virtues so much admired in Germany were predominant in Master Spaeth’s family, and the morning and evening services at the home altar made the children strong in the faith of Christ and unpolluted from the snares of the world.
This genuine Christian spirit supported the oldest sister, Carolina Gottlieben, (born 1839 – died 1871), to console herself in her great grief, when, in her eighteenth year, the son of a minister in Wurtenberg, and he himself a minister, after declaring his undying love to her and yielding to the pressure of his aristocratic mother, rudely broke his engagement on account of social inequality and committed a grievous sin toward an angel of innocence, whose peace he had disturbed for life, although she, later, married a tailor by profession, named Otto Bein, at Danville, Illinois, and found some consolation in the rearing of two children. Her ideal of love continued to live in her heart despite the uncongenial marriage to a man with materialistic ideas and views - - a skeptic who only broadened the abyss between man and wife - - the wife who, later contracted brain fever and died a premature death.
The second daughter, Augusta, (born January 16, 1843) was a marvel of feminine perfection - - she of sanguine temperament was shamefully mistreated by her distant relative, Rheinhardt, a married man and saloon keeper at Huntington Indiana, who completely fascinated by her beauty, proposed the hellish plan of eloping with her and who after seeing his plans frustrated by the virtuous Augusta, tried to drag her name in the mire and, finally, to escape his persecutions, she fled to Lafayette, Indiana. There she fell into the wiles and snares of an immoral, sensual dude, named Herman Harms, a barber - - flattering her with brilliant prospects, he succeeded in marrying her, and to whom were born six children:
(Note – here 2/3 of a page is missing – HWM)
Here I may as well give a short continuation of the Spaeth family, and state that my esteemed father in-law, Johann Jacob Spaeth, suffered a fatal induration of the stomach, which assumed a cancerous from; he was treated by me and died in my office September 1865 in Huntington. Unable for months to swallow any solid substances only permitted the use of liquids, he manifested a spirit of divine obedience and patience which was only obtainable by a genuine Christian martyr; he faltered not for a moment in the belief of a merciful God and showed my mother in law, my dear wife and myself, how a good Christian could not only live but also die in perfect peace and love.
My mother in law, Dorthea Spaeth, nee Hartman, (born Feb. 22nd, 1809 at Sachesenhiem, Wurtenberg – died, April 6, 1879 Warsaw, IN.) was always a faithful wife and adopted the golden rule of her husband as her own, although a little avariciousness and worldliness, at times, was discernable, firm and obstinate in her conceptions of what she considered right or wrong, very easily disposed to prejudice, she domineered over the affairs of the family with an iron will and laid all plans with an acuteness and minuteness worthy of a diplomat. She was an indefatigable debater in family affairs and did not possess the amiability toward her children, which was such a prominent attribute of her husband’s. While the children, with the exception of the oldest son, Carl, loved their father with a filial love and an almost adoration, they loved their mother likewise but with a certain fear of the wrong of disobedience. She always assumed a certain distance and strangeness to her children and was therefore unable to awaken confidence - - but she was always a well-respected mother and died of dropsy April 6, 1879 at Warsaw, Indiana on her farm near the city.
The oldest son, Carl, (born March 10, 1837 at Sachseheim) a wagon maker by trade and a very good farmer, inherited all the main traits of his mother, physically and mentally, and borrowed his father’s genuine piety for the advancing of his own interests. His rebellious spirit against domestic duties was suppressed by the iron hand of his father, but never entirely conquered. Quarrelsome with his sisters and brother August, proud of the distinction of being the first born of the family and of his physical feats, he was, never the less, under the guardianship of his mother and younger brother during their life, and was advised by his mother, after his father’s death, to marry a widow who had five children with the prospect and, as was promised, of getting the deed of the woman’s farm which, legally, belonged to her children. He left her after one year of married life, entirely disgusted with marital life and its obligations. After this he returned to the protecting shelter of his mother and brother which he left only at their demise, and came, at last, under the protection of his sister Fredricka, my wife.
The younger brother, August, (born January 16, 1847 – died January 15, 1899) inherited his father’s mechanical talent and became a very skillful wood turner. He was the main support of his mother and sacrificed all the happiness of a married existence for the whims of an egoistic mother, while he tolerated, with philosophical fortitude, the continual upbraiding of his brother Carl, and, in a fit of despair, sold the farm near Warsaw, Indiana, for $900 in order to free himself from the endless complaints of a selfish, ignorant bigot; but Carl could not be shaken off so easily by this drastic measure, for he accompanied August in his exploits in Michigan, where the latter virtually sunk all his money in a sandy farm and then the two brothers came to Wabash. Here August married Rosalia Steiglitz, a prospective heiress of $5000. He worked continually at the Underwood Manufacturing Co., overtaxed his physical power and succumbed to an aggravated attack of LaGrippe. As the one child that was born to them died, he left no children and he is buried in the Wabash cemetery.
On June 9th, 1865, I was married to Christiana Fredericka Spaeth by Rev. Zeller in Huntington County, Indiana, nine miles east of the city of Huntington, in the presence of my wife’s relatives and some friends.
Since my engagement to a noble Christian woman in the true sense of the word, I was severely troubled with the presentiment that the long years of frivolity while a student and soldier would incapacitate me for a true, happy, contented marital life, always fearing that at intervals the periodic spells of intoxication would break out and mar the beauty of home life. Such forebodings always troubled my beloved wife and she freely expressed her anxiety to her mother, who vainly tried to dispel her grave apprehensions of the future. I was conscious of my undying love, and hope to conquer, by her love, the great intemperance, which had galled my whole life since I went from the paternal roof and engaged in the life of a student and soldier, fastening its bond of subjection so firmly on me that, even the prayer of a dear good woman could not extricate me from its deadly grip. In reviewing my past life, I coincide with the opinion of modern neurologists who regard intemperance as a nervous disease, inherited mostly and acquired in some instances, by social habits and surroundings, and I gladly welcome the day when habitual drunkards will be treated and kept in State institutions like those for the insane and furthermore, when drunkards will not be allowed license to marry. What great trouble and anxiety would have been spared my dear wife had such a law been enacted at the time of my marriage. What right had I, who was conscious of the thorn in my flesh, to make miserable the life of a trusting, innocent woman, bringing upon her such enormous agony of the soul? Yet we loved one another; I always hoping to prolong the intervals of these drinking spells by my own will power and she praying to God for help in all her tribulations and for my ultimate conversion to God. Alas! Why did I not possess the moral courage to confer the knowledge of my evil habits to her before the marriage? I feared to lose the love of this pure woman, whom I loved with such intensity that her loss would have driven me not only to despair but madness. I could not bear such a thought for a moment and yet I neglected her so shamefully. I loved to look in her sorrowful eyes with selfish reproach and kiss away the tears with the solemn promise to do away with drink entirely and make her happy.
At the earnest solicitation and request of my wife I visited the German Lutheran Church at Huntington and succeeded in keeping my appetite in check for a time, still thinking and hoping I could drink with moderation, but the frequent outbursts of complete intoxication commenced to show dire results in diminishing my practice and undermining the confidence a successful practitioner should possess. I could not comprehend why a doctor of medicine should not frequent saloons and drink in moderation, as in Germany, without losing patrons; but public sentiment was against drinking and a physician who, indulges in intoxicants will meet his Waterloo, sooner or later.
I practiced medicine in Huntington from Jan 1865, until May 1866, when the want of patronage compelled me to move to Lafayette, Indiana, where Herman Harms, my brother in law, promised a very lucrative field of labor. This would have been possible had not the German element, with its singing and social societies, offered great temptations, or had I possessed sufficient capital to hold out for some years.
My dear wife had to sacrifice her home life by assisting her sister, Augusta, in domestic work in order to keep my head above water, while Harms and I - - to my shame I say it - - gave more of our time than was necessary to the saloons and the singing societies. At last Harms and I quarreled; we separated and I moved to Logansport, Indiana, in March 1867, solemnly promising my wife a better and happier future.
At Logansport I gained a good practice but had the misfortune to lose one of my patients, afflicted with Eclapsia. She was an influential member of the Lutheran Church and it sealed my doom in a medical way, financially. Besides as I had not yet mastered the English language and my patronage was exclusively among Germans, and having a competitor in Dr. Hoffman, a German physician, I could foresee speedy termination of my medical career in Logansport. To cap the climax of my adversity and poverty this year, 1867, witnessed the birth of our first child, Albert, and whose birth almost caused the death of the mother. Upon the advice of some good Lutheran friends I sacrificed the medical and surgical instruments I possessed as also my office fixtures and furniture, and was, at last, driven to the extreme necessity of sending my wife with the six weeks old child to her mother at Huntington County, while I selected Columbia City, Indiana as my future home, sixty miles distant from my wife.
Upon the recommendations of Druggist Sandmeyer, I succeeded in establishing a good and lucrative practice and enjoyed splendid success. Prosperity was at last guaranteed and gladly I made occasional visits, mounted on horseback, to my adored wife and child in Huntington County. Later I persuaded them to come to Columbia City, where I remained from March 1868 until August 1871. In this city two children were born to us. Emma Augusta, born Feb. 3rd, 1869-died July 24th, 1896 at Wabash City, Indiana and Lydia Anna, born Jan. 10th, 1871 – died Sept 7th, 1871 at Danville, Illinois.
After conquering all competitors, including Dr. Linville, the oldest physician in the field, for ten miles or more around Columbia City, making all visits, day and night, mounted on horseback, never knowing any fatigue, I was rudely awakened to the face that King Alcohol was still my master. I yielded to the temptation of strong drink and all my good intentions, all my energy became paralyzed after a few years of hard struggle, and I was reduced to the necessity of seeing my three children, Albert, Emma and Lydia, with their mother, seek a shelter with her mother and brothers at Warsaw, Indiana. This sudden transformation preyed heavily on my mind, well knowing that my children and wife were not welcome guests at their relatives and that the persistent privations and the machinations of my wife’s mother would, perhaps, finally, result in the securing of divorce for the sake of marrying her daughter to a more worthy man, and which would at last have effect on the mind of my always adored wife; fortunately, however, their resources were not sufficient to pay the divorce expenses, and so I hoped for a reunion, remembering the constant love of my wife for the welfare of our children. Once in awhile, I made clandestine visits to my wife and children, not venturing into her place of abode, but left tokens of remembrance, in the way of oranges, candies, etc., to my children.
As my practice in Columbia City was entirely ruined and my drinking was mentioned by different ministers of the Gospel even in their temperance meetings as a warning to young men in the community, I was forced, for a time, to seek refuge with the German farmers - - once my patrons and whose hospitality and sympathy will never be forgotten. The abstentious habits of rural life was instrumental in arousing the dormant religious feelings not yet full extinguished, and I concluded to use my acquired medical knowledge for the benefit of humanity once more; driven to this decision more fully by the unwelcome news that my wife with three children had gone to Danville, Illinois, where she engaged as housekeeper for Otto Bein, after the death of his wife, Carolina, my wife’s sister. Mother and Carl Spaeth thought that they were unable to support my wife and children any longer, and as a longer stay would surely have sacrificed their lives by starvation and the continual reproaches of the unmerciful blood relatives, my dear Fredericka, wisely and nobly, saved herself and children by accepting Otto Bein’s invitation to come to Danville – despite all prejudices and the anomaly of her precarious position, she preferred the advantage offered by a well filled larder for her children to the insinuations of the public and proved her undying love for me by refusing the seemingly advantageous marriage to Otto Bein, whom she held in extreme contempt for his selfish materialistic motives.
On a certain day in August, in the year 1871, a lonesome, footsore and wary traveler, with medicine bags swung on his arm, might have been seen on the tortuous road leading from Columbia City to Churubusco, a new station on the Detroit and Eel River Railroad then being built. He offered his service to do manual labor to the contractor or foreman of the new line being built, but was refused as his emaciated and careworn look, coupled with his feminine looking hands, were unable to perform the work desired. Hunger left deep lines of furrows on his intellectual and professional looking countenance, and too proud and ashamed to beg, he prostrated his weary body under an apple tree, standing about five miles distant from Churubusco, and devoured with rapacious appetite the fruit thereof. Recuperating his vital forces to some extent, he, at last, reached Churubusco with a solitary five cent piece in his pocket, and visited an old acquaintance, a grist miller, named Jacob Kichler - - a friend who put a stop to all his physical sufferings by inviting him under his hospital roof.
Refreshed in body and soul, I concluded to open an office in this hamlet in opposition to one competitor, Dr. Griswell, and who at that moment was afflicted with typhoid fever – thus monopolizing the country practice from the first week of my setting foot in Churubusco. I put my whole soul and body in the accumulation of a competence, hoping thereby to regain possession of my wife and children. For a long, long time I booked on an average of from $25 to $30 a day; I bought a lot on the main street of the little burg, erected a commodious residence and office, all paid and free from encumbrance, and liquidated old debts contracted at Columbia City. But, while prosperity was plainly visible, I was a very unhappy man, separated, as I was, from my wife and children; and, in order to console my troubled soul, I entered the old school house where the Methodists held their revival meetings. Their religious songs, their sympathetic appeal to sinners for repentance and salvation under the leadership of Rev. Nash and class leader, Michael Long, brought my sin sick soul to the feet of Jesus, whom I had neglected for so many, many years. I felt the need of an entire transformation, stood up for prayer and found thenceforth a true, spiritual and Christian sympathizer in Michael Long, whose family life was sincerely Christian. I became converted to Christ and resolved to serve Him faithfully. With the assistance of the local Methodist church, a correspondence was opened with the Methodist minister at Danville, where my wife and children lived.
The little Lydia had been laid to rest in the Danville cemetery, while Albert and Emma were carefully watched by the anxious mother. Once I made a visit to Danville and had the pleasure of surprising my wife with my altered appearance as a strict temperance man and a professed Christian, yet I could not prevail upon her to again venture the future in my company. Only after personal efforts made by the Methodist sisters of Danville, did my wife yield to my invitation of returning. Resolutely I made a second visit, declared my intention of not retuning home without her and the children. A carriage rolled before the door, I pushed Albert and Emma into the vehicle when my Fredericka also voluntarily followed and, arriving at the depot, we made a flying, triumphant trip to Churubusco, where we boarded with Michel Long, fully enjoying their Christian company. Shortly afterward we moved in under our own roof and peace and harmony was at last restored - - happy days after a long separation.
Three years of prosperity would have been prolonged indefinitely had my spiritual life, with its concomitant blessings, kept equal steps with the material blessings that came upon me. I became a respected, well to do physician and citizen, my property was free of all debts, had bought another lot near the new and to be then built Methodist church; my social standing was high in the community, my practice extended from Wolf Lake to Huntertown, Avilla, Columbia City, Fort Wayne, etc., about twenty mile radius, and no domestic trouble indicated a change in my prosperous condition. Five children were born during this happy epoch at Churubusco: Frank, October 1, 1873; Herman, April1, 1875; Minnie Rosalia, February 18, 1877; Carl Alfred Moritz, April 8,1878 – d. August 16, 1878; and Carl Otto, July 16, 1879.
These children demanded unusual exertion and care, day and night, and my wife contracted a sever attack of bronchitis, which, for a time, seemed to undermine her vitality permanently, but, from which she finally recovered. The almost impassible country roads at times, in particular the Port Michael Road, helped, little by little, to form an aversion to country practice among the farmers, whose notes I was often forced to sacrifice at a great discount to such usurers as Gandy, Niccom and the notorious Shylock, Moses Meyers; the constant demand of payment for old and almost forgotten debts contracted in Huntington, the necessity of transferring my property to my wife in order to avoid the penalty of an impending suit for malpractice and which, naturally, lowered my financial credit, and lastly, but not least, that, after years of total abstinence I was not yet free from the demon King Alcohol, who imperceptibly entwined my soul in its meshes while Satan whispered that my conversion was not genuine - - all these different elements combined or induced me to neglect my practice and to seek, if possible, a yet more lucrative field financially. At this auspicious moment of my indifference and apathy my brother in law, August Spaeth, appeared at Churubusco offering me a share in a merry-go-round in case I would liquidate a mortgage on his mother’s farm. Gladly I embraced this opportunity, moved back to Columbia City in 1879, rented my residence for a time, and then sold the property for a nominal sum far from its real worth. Quickly I lifted the mortgage of about $300 from the farm and moved to Warsaw, imagining to become wealthy in a short time from the glowing accounts I heard that could be made with a swing, but which on the contrary, owing to bad management by my brother in law in conducting the business, proved to be one of the greatest mistakes I had ever made in my life and I bitterly regretted this imprudent act. My brothers in law, Carl and August postponed their going out with the swing from month to month and when they did the business was not properly conducted, which was more owing to Carl than the younger brother; my practice was not sufficient to support my family, I was compelled to live on the money I had received from the sale of my property, until, at last, I was forced to collect the $300 due to me from my mother in law though at a heavy discount, and I then moved away from my ungrateful and deceitful relatives to Bremen, Indiana, an exclusive German town but with a surplus of German physicians. Here I buried a beautiful and angel like little daughter named, Amanda Rosalia, born October 10, 1880 at Columbia City, dying September 9, 1881 at Bremen.
Hurled from the lofty position of a successful country practitioner at Churubusco with fair prospects for an independent future for myself and family, conscious of having sacrificed my children’s home to greed and avarice, deceived in my nearest relatives, living from hand to mouth, day after day, at Bremen I consoled myself in the religion of Christ, joined the Albright Church and led an exemplary Christian life.
As Bremen could never offer me a sufficient income, I was persuaded to move to Wabash City, Indiana, upon the invitation of the church Elder and Dr. Baumgartner, where I arrived May 1882, and where I still reside and expect to die.
I had forgotten to mention my visit, in 1881 and before leaving Bremen, to my mother in law at her farm near Warsaw during her last illness. I relieved her last moments, closed her eyes, and attended the funeral in company with August and Carl, while my wife who had a short time previously made a visit to her and was, on account of great prostration, unable to attend the obsequies.
During the nineteen years of my continued residence in Wabash, I have never been enabled to command such a lucrative practice as I enjoyed at Churubusco, and in looking for the reasons I may state that, first of all, the occasional outbreaks of intemperance deterred a great may good people from employing me although convinced of my medical skill and knowledge. Secondly, the continued strife between the brethren of the Albright and German Lutheran Churches and partial preference given to a physician, who, shortly after his entrance into Wabash presented credentials from the Albrights at Bremen - - indorsing his moral character and recommending him to the support of his brethren - - helped to estrange me from the Lutheran brothers and vice versa. My abandonment of the Albright Church and return to the German Lutheran, which although for a time produced pecuniary benefit as regards practice, served to curtail confidence in me among the Albrights, who, en masse and intentionally, with the possible exception of a few members, persecuted me to the bitter end and who promulgated to the whole community that I was a reprobate, entirely unfit for salvation. One dear brother in particular had so forgotten his obligations to his needy though worthy brother that, upon the first week upon my arrival in Wabash, shamefully advised me to sell my horse in order to provide food for my children, which was naturally, and finally carried out by me, but, which act at the time, so utterly aroused my contempt for a set of bigots that, from the sale of my splendid horse, I plunged into an inexcusable spree, which had the effect of bringing my name into the newspapers as a subject unworthy of patronage. The venomous, vindictive pen of Captain Lee Linn, helped to drag me down to utter despair and all the demons of hell seemed to have been let loose against me, and when I afterwards had accumulated sufficient means to take my family to another place, I would gladly have carried out this plan had not various things prevented my doing, besides my wife and I had become tired of roaming from one place to another, etc. Bound thus by Draconian laws to remain at Wabash, I was forced to drink the cup of bitterness to its dregs by sending Albert to the woolen mills in order to help support the family, and, later on, my dear adored daughter Emma also worked at the same industry, both coming in contact with a rough element of boys, girls, and women, which had a very deleterious effect on the moral nature of Albert, teaching him the habit of “snapps” drinking, but this company was non effective to drag down the pure character or soul of my daughter Emma. These circumstances although almost excusable in any other family, save a professional man’s, were causes to lower my social standing in Wabash and thereby not conducive to building my medical practice. The success I was enjoying for a period of five years, in which I extended my practice into and around the neighborhood of Urbana and Largo, can be ascribed positively to the recommendations of a Rev. Debus, a classical gentleman, who, taking cognizance of my medical education, introduced me into his rural district, where only one doctor, an eclectic, named Lampert, administered to the wants of the sick but with an unusual failure. As soon as Rev. Debus was transferred to another field of labor in Dakota, and two or more educated physicians located at Urbana, Spikers and Largo, the German farmers, being of an economical character, preferred to employ their home physicians close by, than myself whose services would, of course, come higher; and I may mention right here in this connection, that a Dr. Martin, at that time located in Urbana, was mainly instrumental in an unprofessional way and against the ethics of our calling, in circulating derogatory reports of myself and thereby greatly depriving me of practice.
Another cause for the abbreviation of my income was my severance from the secret societies; true, in one order, I was admitted as Past Noble Grand to the Anastasia Lodge at Wabash - - a position I had attained during my stay at Churubusco, - - but I did not derive any material benefit from the order, as a certain coldness and indifference was plainly discernible to me from the start, besides five or six local physicians were also members and had enjoyed their confidence for years. I became utterly disgusted with their hypocritical show of brotherly love so widely different from the sublime principles as they should be enacted in reality, that I allowed my name to be dropped from the membership list by non-payment of dues, and therefore I cannot expect to be buried by the brothers of the order of Odd Fellows.
The Knights of Labor were laboring under a constant pressure of adverse pecuniary circumstances and could not advance my interests, although I was for years an ardent debater in their order and I expounded their cause with the fervor and vigor a la W.J. Bryan.
The I.O.G.T., or Good Templars, a temperance society consisting of physically wrecked and reformed drunkards and pious, though jealously inclined women, never flourished here to any great extent and were unable or disinclined to better my financial circumstances, although my total abstinence from drink had materially helped myself and family for a time. In order to avoid all temptations to drink I severed my connection with the German Lutheran Church - - noted as the beer church - - joined the Methodist Episcopal Church during a great spiritual revival meeting under the Evangelist Bittler. The Rev. C.E. Bacon, class leader Charles and the most spiritual members of the Methodist Church warmly welcomed my entrance in their midst and I tried faithfully to live up to the regulations of the discipline, avoided visits to saloons and was shortly noted as a strict temperance man, but this change did not ameliorated my financial embarrassment, the Germans in the churches, with few exceptions regarded me as a hypocritical pretender and failed entirely to patronize me. The poorer element of the English Methodist church saw fit to call me to their bedside, some not expecting to give me any remuneration, while the wealthy members seemingly were ashamed to employ me, pretending they didn’t understand my broken English, and thus I was for years plunged into the whirlpool of Scilla and Charybdis - - it was the drinking class, the educated Germans and saloon keepers that alone kept me from starvation. But still I remained at Wabash, hoping against hopes for better days; faithfully upheld by my true Christian wife and children - - Albert, Emma, Frank and Herman. Frank had learned photography and Herman the printer’s trade and whose board money was of great benefit in prolonging a miserable existence at least.
Four children were born in Wabash: Gustave Adolph, August 4, 1882; Theodore, December 24, 1883; Ida, March 15, 1885 and Frederick Alexander, June 5, the latter who died September 4, 1886, and is buried in Falls Cemetery, Wabash.
The greatest loss was inflicted upon the family when our good natured, angelic and pure Emma died of peritonitis, on July 14, 1896. She was her mother’s darling, full of tender sympathy and forgiveness toward her erring father and brother Albert; she developed in her heart the higher spirituality and her soulful eyes expressed the sweetness of a pure character. I am sure she was too good to live in this world and that soon I may be allowed to see her in the celestial home, where eternal bliss awaits us.
The repeated “backsliding” from the Methodist church was caused by my indulging in drink. I could not play the hypocrite and absented myself from meetings, ashamed to pollute God’s edifice and the members by my presence. But the voice of God called me repeatedly to repentance and once in a while I was awakened from the lethargic spiritual stupor by the continual prayers of my dear wife, also by visits from Brother Charles, Lamport, Light and Wade. And the greatest blow to the overthrow of my still materialistic views of life was given by the sudden departure of my dear Emma, whose voice nightly called me to repentance and admonished me to seek salvation of my soul at the feet of Christ. The consciousness that heretofore I had - - to an extent - - used the church only as an organization and for the advancement of material benefits and not solely for spiritual purposes, as it should be, was oppressive and revolutionary to my mind!
SAVED BY THE SKIN OF THE TEETH!
This last chapter of my life is written in the hope that my children may recognize in their life’s struggle the ruling hand of a kind Providence and that they may not rebel against God, but humbly submit to the loving Savior of the sinful world, whose divinity I had heretofore denied but who is now a personal ruling element in my soul, dominating my will and shaping my future in His grace.
From the year 1853, when I went out into the world from the parental roof, I enlisted as a recruit in the great army of drinkers and was marching slowly but surely to a drunkard’s grave. At my enlistment the Holy Bible was exchanged for Tom Paine’s, Voltaire’s and, later, Robert Ingersoll’s works and lectures; the Anacreontic songs of Horace and Juvenal were the hymn books of a materialist’s philosophy. Theatres and dancing halls replaced churches, and saloons and beer gardens were the revival campgrounds, where blasphemy polluted the moral atmosphere and stifled the gentler knocking of a kind Savior at the heart’s door. All my associates during the stormy college and military life had discarded the belief of their devout parents and had become materialists, atheists, or agnostics, and I contend that if these systems of philosophy or unphilosophy, did not have such classic names they would never have so many advocates. All “beer-guzzlers”, “booze-fighters”, wine bibbers, etc., of my acquaintance were also desecrators of the Sabbath or hypocrites in Christ’s Church - - not one of them believed in the Divinity of Christ and scoffed at the plan of salvation and the atonement. Most of the freethinkers of my acquaintance were also noted for their lax morals, wrongers of women, pleasure seeking gourmands and admirers of obscene and licentious literature, and their pernicious, destructive influence was perceptibly felt in their domestic and social relations, seemingly developing the brain, but actually deadening the heart.
The system of the materialist is that “man lives and dies like plants and animals. Born of a germ like plants and animals, like them he is developed. On the death of the body, the sensible principle, which is merely the result of organization, is extinguished with the organs and never lives again. We see everything around us perish and nothing reappear. Why should man be an exception to the general rule”?
This system purely negative, as it is, is born not of science but of ignorance and disregard of all the facts of nature. A man has spent his whole life in crime, has trampled under feet everything just and good; he has crushed the weak and oppressed the innocent; his whole life has been a prolonged insult to humanity. In spite of his crimes and his pollution he has known how to retain the esteem of his fellows, whom he is skillful in deceiving. When he dies he passes away quietly and with serene heart. Is this great criminal going to meet, after death, the same destiny with his miserable victims, and is the putting of his foot within the tomb enough to save him from all punishment, all expiation?
Look on the other hand at a man who has sacrificed his life to the performance of obscure duty. In reward for a lifetime of toil and devotion, he has reaped nothing but indifference, misery and disdain. He has lived, humble and modest, with no wealth beyond a day’s wages at his trade. When this man shall have returned his pure and holy soul to God, will all be ended with him? Will death be as bitter as life was to him? And can he not hope for, after this life, another destiny that of the great criminals who were the terror of mankind? If it were thus, the moral order, the harmony, which we apprehend between desert and punishment, would be utterly destroyed. Of what use would it be to be honest, good, faithful to obligations, devoted to duty? We should have to arm ourselves against each other; to wage wars of extermination and endless quarrels; to seek in force, violence and all bad passions the means of triumphing over our neighbor and, of securing for ourselves the greatest amount of brutal pleasures.
I cannot believe that it comes within the designs of God to let virtue be always prostrate and vice triumph unpunished. I cannot believe God is so imperfect. Such a God would be no better than we are. But to contend that God is imperfect and faulty is to deny His existence; for in His nature God is sovereignty just, sovereignty perfect, and to deny Him these attributes is to deny His existence.
Thus the system of materialism is atheism, pure and simple. But the existence of God is incontestable; for He is merely the Supreme cause of the effects that we witness, and every effect implies a cause. It is plain, in this view that materialism leads to atheism. In the depths of his soul man feels infinite longings for happiness, for expansion by spiritual growth. He comprehends the meaning of perfect justice and longs to see it rule about him. He has noble desires and would like to see everything harmonize with the ideal sentiment of truth and justice that lives within himself.
It is beyond doubt that this ideal thrust from justice that we feel within ourselves will some day be satisfied, that the equitable distribution of good and evil not vouchsafed to us in this life may be realized after death. Punishment for sin and reward for virtue await us beyond the tomb; this is what the feeling within us proclaims. Materialism, that preaches annihilation and scouts the idea of rewards and punishments after death, contradicts the strongest of our inner sentiments. The simple fact of our existence proves, it seems to me, that we shall not perish. Man’s body vanishes, but his body is nothing. The soul is everything and the being, the human being, is eternal.
Materialism has no philosophic basis. To deny is easy; but is not a philosophy; it is a question of explanation. We are surrounded not by negations, but with facts, realities. These realities must be taken account of; and materialism, which explains nothing, which slinks away and excuses itself, is not worthy of being considered as a philosophic conception.
My soul revolts against the consequences of the materialistic and agnostic philosophy --- if such it really can be called - - all free thought literature I consigned to the wastebasket, and I resolved to return to the study of the old and long forgotten Bible for spiritual light!
Fortunately my dear wife had kept intact her simple faith in a loving Savior and demonstrated by her daily life the sweetness of Christ’s character - - the possibility of living, day after day, in God’s presence. I suddenly began to consider this terrestrial life as prepatory school for our coming celestial home and the necessity at some time of rendering an account for our acts before the Higher Tribunal. The terrible words in Scriptures: “A drunkard shall not enter the kingdom of heaven”, sounded daily in my ears with thundering tones and the sweet invitation of Christ – “Come, come to me and I will give you rest”, appealed to my soul for giving my whole heart to God.
This full surrender to Christ came at last on April 28, 1897 at the Methodist Church under the exhortation of Rev. C. U. Wade, and this happy transformation will never be forgotten.
I arose a free man, born in Christ, kindly saved at the age of 64 by the skin of my teeth. A new and beautiful life opened up before me; the fetters with which unbelief had encircled my tortured soul fell off by the grace of God; besetting sin of intemperance, which had enslaved my soul since 1853, or for forty four years, was conquered by the love of Christ. And from than moment, up to the present date, the appetite for strong drink has never returned!
This is a marvelous experience! Praise be God for His mercy; I have been restored to my beloved family, the scales of darkness have fallen from my eyes and I enjoy the love of Christ in my heart. What great blessing to be admitted to the family of the children of God and to be an heir of eternal life. Henceforth the life of Christ shall be by guide, the Holy Scriptures the lamplight to me feet. Every verse and line of the good book has a different meaning than before my conversion.
(Note: The following pages were transcribed from Grandfather’s actual handwriting, as likewise pages 1 – 25 – HWM)
Wabash City, March 10, 1901
For nine years I have now occupied the same old residence on 59 Miami Street at Wabash, contrary to the wishes of my entire family and have always resisted all the suggestions of my dear children to a change for a better house with such pertinacity, that an explanation seems to be necessary.
This old landmark at Wabash in the heart of the City was selected by my dear beloved Emma in times of greatest distress, when my income didn’t allow the renting of an office and its location answered the purpose of office and residence, easily accessible. In spite of its antiquated repulsive aspect the old burg offered many advantages to my children. My son Frank could reach Frank Williams Photographic Gallery where he learned his trade in no time at all. Herman was living in close proximity to Plain Dealer and Tribune office; also, Minnie who worked at the Star; Carl had his route to the Wabash Depot, where he is at present employed as Telegraph Night Operator, considerably shortened; also Adolph and Theodore were enabled to do better services as messenger boys by dropping in at home occasionally and appeasing their voracious appetites, so happily developed during their juvenile growth.
I can not fail to mention here the heroic struggle of my Carl, the pioneer at the Telegraph Office, who conquered all the obstacles of domestic strife and physical exhaustion as a Telegraph messenger and passed a brilliant examination as operator, never for a moment forgetting his filial duties and fulfilling his office with regularity, thereby gaining the confidence of his superiors, who will promote him in time and anxiously need his services. Carl’s exemplary conduct is worthy of imitation by his two younger brothers, Adolph and Theodore and I prayerfully expect, that God will in His time richly reward them all for their devotion and sacrifices in behalf of their parents. The future of these three brothers promises to be bright, provided they will always follow Christ in his footsteps and stand united helping one another. May God in His mercy guide them safely through this world full of temptations; is my prayer.
At this point I cannot forget to mention the valuable services given to the parents by Frank, and especially Herman, who gallantly came to our rescue at the death of our lamented daughter, Emma, defraying all the expenses of her funeral and sending us some money from Battle Creek
FRANK the very talented artist is possessed of a roaming disposition and of a very nervous erratic nature and will not find any rest till he comes to the feet of Jesus, who alone is able to save. As his abode is unknown to us since he left Boston, we feel very anxious about him and must commend him to God’s grace. It seems to me that I will never have the pleasure of embracing him again, but hope to greet him in the Celestial Home.
Minnie has left us and is happily married to L N Giraux, a printer at Marshal, Michigan on Feb. 2, 1901. May her future be bright and her religious faith strong so that she may stand faithfully to God in times of trouble inseparable in human life.
Ida was happily converted during the splendid Revival Meetings at the Methodist Church under Mr. & Mrs. Harris, Feb. 1901, she professes the true love of Christ and will once enter the High School with holy ambition. In case of my death or mama’s we hope that all the brothers and sister Minnie will all help to enable her to finish school education, which might once prove mutual advantage.
My oldest son, Albert, seems to have inherited a great appetite for strong drink, which will never be conquered by his own will power, but can be radically extinguished by a true repentance and complete surrender to Christ. Our efforts have been so far in vain; but the time will surely arrive when he also will voluntarily pray to God for help. My example of total abstinence since 1897 should be a valuable lesson to him, and a careful review of my biography should teach hem, that God is not mocked, - “What a man sows he will reap”.
There are living at present under the parental roof: Albert, Carl, Adolph, Theodore and Ida and our old Uncle Carl Spaeth and the old burg (*residence*) still offers many other advantages besides the one previously mentioned. The “burg” in its decayed architecture preaches to me daily the lesson “Beware of Strong Drink”, and inspires my ambition to live a prayerful sober life. In the front room kneeled Rev. Wade and Charles prayed for my deliverance from Satan in 1897, and here my soul underwent a glorious transformation emerging from total darkness of sin into the liberty of God’s children. On April 18, 1897 I returned from the anxious seat at the old Methodist Church to my old Burg as a new creature, entirely cured by God’s grace and ever since this time I have spent many, many happy hours with God in conversation unconscious of my abject poverty, only rich in the love of Christ. The old gloomy building lost its repulsive aspect and I commenced to keep the burg in repair, performing manual labor in order to drive away the whispering of Satan for alluring me again to the baneful cup. All the repairing of the old house, erecting of a stable for the horse, the buggy shed, also pigeon and chicken house, the trouble and tedious task of converting the loft summer kitchen into a habitable room, the repairing of side walks in the yard, all this work requiring so much patience, was performed with the good intention of keeping me busy and diverting my mind from the drink habit for I honestly believer that, idleness is a promoter of intoxication. Thereby my children may easily understand why this house so greatly unfitted for my social standing constantly reminds me of the hard struggle I underwent for freeing myself from the drink habit. Furthermore, the artistic works of Frank, as “The Lion’s Bride” painted in oil, also “Christ Before Pilate”, a splendid oil painting, and “The Praying Child”, which now adorns my parlor room, were executed in the summer kitchen temporarily transformed into an artist’s studio and this happy recollection cheers my heart, as I look upon the paintings of my son, Frank, whose absence I deeply regret in my heart. Will he ever appear at my, or Mama’s funeral? The manual labor spent by me in repairing the ceilings of the different rooms was accompanied by very dire results, in detaching a part of the retina of my left eye, which was exclusively used for writing and reading. First I noticed some spots before my eyes and on Sept 1900 at Clark’s Drugstore I was suddenly disabled to see the letters of my prescriptions. This unfortunate occurrence can never be altered according to the diagnosis of two celebrated Oculists, De. Bulston and Wheelock at Fort Wayne, and I can henceforth see letters only with a magnifying lens by the right eye and in case the retina of the right eye should also become detached, total blindness would be the dire result. Fearing such a fate, I hasten to conclude my biography and may be excused if I omit to narrate many events during the last five years.
The following note is by Missionary Herman Warren Modricker, mimeographer of the preceding biography: Grandfather’s biography ended here.
A list of the names of the children born to Grandfather, Dr. Johann Moritz Modricker:
(Note: transcribed & saved to floppy disc 10/15/2000 by John Samuel Modricker, son of missionary HWM, son of the afore mentioned Frank. This has proven to be quite an interesting endeavor. As more genealogical facts surface, I will update this manuscript. Credit must be given a Mrs. Betty Lightle regarding the inserted translations from German)
Note: Dr. John Modricker died from injuries caused by a "hit & run" horse drawn buggy, as described in the local paper of Feb. 11, 1907. He was buried in Falls Cemetery.