Pioneer Citizen Observes Anniversary

Feature Story August 2004
Pioneer Citizen Observes Anniversary
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 so produced.

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 County Nebraska.

To Mr. Israel Ulmer, “Many Happy Returns of the Day.”