The sixty-sixth birthday of Israel Ulmer was quietly celebrated
at his modest but modern cottage at Dawson last Friday. Mr. Ulmer
and his nieces and nephews were in attendance. Born in Pennsylvania,
Mr. Ulmer came to Nebraska with his mother and other members of
the family in 1885 and has lived in the Dawson vicinity ever since.
Not the least interesting item of the day was the exhibit of or
the discussion of the many heirlooms of the family now at Mr. Ulmer's
home or in the possession of his various nieces and nephews.
The family bible, a copy of the New Testament, has been in the
Ulmer family since 1775. The book of religious devotion was printed
in 1682. How long it has been in the family is not known. Upon Mr.
Ulmer's shelf, in use and marking correct time is a clock which
came to Mr. Ulmer's mother's house at the time of her marriage,
but whether or not as a new clock or a family keep-sake no one living
can tell. The family is in possession of a candle mould, which evidently
saw generations of use, and a lamp, which burned lard as an illuminant,
the lie of which few persons now living have seen in use.
The father of Mr. Ulmer's mother was a weaver who had seven daughters
of whom Mr. Ulmer's mother was, or course one. The work on the farm
was done by all of these seven daughters. Still in use, but not
in constant use, is a woolen quilt, which belonged to Mr. Ulmer's
mother. For this quilt Mr. Ulmer's mother and her six sisters, raised
the sheep upon the family farm, sheared the sheep, washed, combed
and carded the wool. Their mother spun the yarn and the father wove
the woolen cloth and then the family made the quilt. Likewise they
raised flax, which the mother spun; and was woven and today the
various members of the Ulmer family have hand spun linen towels
and other linen fabrics and even grain sacks in use, which were
One of them has a rope of flax. When Mr. Ulmer came west in 1885
and upon occasion for many years thereafter he wore a pair of linen
pants made by his mother literally upon and from their own Pennsylvania
farm. The distaff used by the mother is still in Mr. Ulmer's possession,
likewise her spinning wheel; he also had flax prepared for spinning
but not used. There are several baskets woven from wooden strips
from brush or trees, which grew up on the Ulmer farm.
Several of the nieces and nephews have bone handled knives and
table china which date back to the early part of the nineteenth
century if not to the century beyond.
Mr. Ulmer's father called Martin whose name Martin D. Ulmer of
this place bears, in early life became a bed-ridden invalid. From
his bed of sickness he directed farm operations and it was currently
said that he could by his management from his bed make more success
than his more favored neighbors. Of course, his management would
have been fruitless without the dominant courage and industry and
thrift of wife and children but with them his family could conquer
their surroundings and their misfortune and could win from a stingy
soil not only a mere living but at least a modest competency.
It is indeed a far cry from the days when a family could wrest
it's entire living, food, clothing, the necessities and conveniences
of life from a simple farm to the complexity of life today. Few
families of today are of the mould of this family, which did so.
Indeed one might be tempted to question whether or not there were
many families of such caliber even in the days in which they lived.
The possessors of those heirlooms today may well in deed feel that
in them they have a heritage of which they may well be proud.
This article is a reprint from The Dawson Herald, April 25, 1940.
Charles M. Ross was the publisher, Dawson, Nebraska, Richardson
To Mr. Israel Ulmer, "Many Happy Returns of the Day."