Word from Home in Pennsylvania

Word from home in Pennsylvania
By Bob Williamson

Last updated 2/19/2012
Word from home in Pennsylvania
By Bob Williamson
(This is a translation of a letter in German from Joseph Gross, father of Regina (Gross) Heim at Dawson, Nebraska.  Jacob and Regina and children had come west to a farm north of Dawson, Nebraska in 1874.)

Blooming Grove, June 13, 1875

Dear Jacob, Regina and children:

   For a long time now, I have been writing to you in my thoughts, but am able to take pen in hand only now. I know I have, unfortunately, waited too long, even though daily, and often during the day, I think of you with great intensity and sadness, wondering how often you do wonder yourselves how it could happen and, also, wondering how you are doing under the strain of two so heart-rendering graves right at the beginning.  These deep wounds will bleed for a long time, because you will be thinking of the two dear lost ones for as long as you live.  However, in due time, we, poor human beings, will see that the Lord does everything for the best. (He is referring to the deaths that first year of Solomon and Mary.)

   In this world, one has to suffer many sad losses, but this should encourage us to seriously strive to contribute our share to a better world.
   I have good cause to indulge in these reflections, because the time allotted to me in this life is going by quickly:  I am in my 68th year now.  How many never make it to this age! Very often I think of that saying: by the evening, I may be in quite a different shape from what I was early in the morning.

   What is of great concern to me, and all of us, whenever we think of you and all those who are affected, is this business with the grasshoppers?  Your Samuel wrote some time ago to Samuel Schafer that there are grasshoppers in your area, too.  We are quite worried as to what kind of news we shall be hearing from you. From the newspaper we have learned that here in and there in the Far West they have completely destroyed the wheat crop.  This can result in a major famine.   We have already spoken about you with great regret; you have let it turn sour on you.  You have planted winter and summer wheat, along with oats and, as Samuel wrote, 65 acres of Indian corn.  You had to buy the seeds at expensive prices.  It is very sad to think everything can be destroyed; for poor beginners, it is unquestionably even harder.  However, you are very close to us.

   We also would like to know whether the late-ripening seed which I sent you grew well.  Perhaps it, too, sustained damage because of the grasshoppers.

   If you should find yourself in money difficulties, let me know.  I will do for you what I can.

   Thus far the weather has been quite unfavorable here. The last winter was the most severe I have ever seen.  In April, it snowed several times and by the middle of the month, it was so cold as if it were still December. When it stopped snowing, it refused to rain.  The whole month of May was cold and dry.  A couple of weeks after the corn was planted it rained so much that the only one that could be used was one which had been set aside in powder for emergencies. After that, only powder could be used in a couple more tries.  Until the 5th and 7th of this month we got wet through and through. There is going to be very little hay.  The wheat is very short and not all of it formed the ear.  The corn is still very small and yellow in color.

   I am writing this letter with a hurting hand.  I got an ugly sore on my right hand.  I worked too long with it.  It is incredibly swollen. I have it in a sling.  And with the left hand I am busy swatting potato bugs, which of where we had one last year, we have as many as twenty this year.  Those who do nothing about it will hardly harvest any potatoes this year.  We have planted more than two acres.  There are few apples this year. The peaches and cherries have frozen in the wintertime.

   I read in the papers that on the second of May you had a big cold wave, In the Omaha area, the ice was half an inch thick.  The cold wave allegedly extended as far as California, where the wine turned to ice.  The cold snap did a great deal of damage also in other southern states.  If it is true, you will hardly have any fruit this year.  I am sorry to hear it.  If we were not so far away from you, we could help you with a few things.

   Concerning our health, we cannot complain.  Catharina (his wife) is still suffering with her rheumatism and I am little by little becoming harder of hearing. When Christian Heim (pastor) talks at the gatherings (church), I understand only a few words here and there. He has an incipient form of cancer at the nose.  He goes to the doctor daily.  The doctor puts some substance on it in order to “etch” it away.  He has hopes that it can be eliminated.  In early May, Jacob Straile died at age 87, and during his funeral, a horse was stolen from the stable of his son Got lob. They sent a good posse after him.  They caught him with the horse near Williamsport.
   I remain your loving father and grandfather,

Joseph Gross

(My grandmother was an 8 year old daughter in the Jacob G. Heim family which came west in 1874.  While babysitting me as a child I can remember her telling me of the trials and pains of getting established here in Nebraska.  The first few years were very difficult as the summers were hot and dry and winters long and severe.  Some way they made it and stayed and hence were the beginnings of the current organization known as the Pennsylvania Colony of Nebraska.  Bob Williamson)