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OF MRS. A. J. MATHIES (MARGARET DICK)
(written for her grand-daughter Linda Regehr )
Translated by L. Ross from papers written by her mother Margaret Mathies at 81 years of age.
My parents were Johann and Margareta (nee Enns) Dick. There were five sisters:
- Anna married Johann Berg 1913
- Justina married Wilhelm Dick
- Margareta married Abram Mathies 1919
- Sara married Jacob Koop
- Lena married Mr. Ehrlicher
- Abram Dick married Margaret Enns
- Johann married Marichen Wiens
- Peter married Paula Wiebe
- Jacob married Anna Berg
- Hermann married Anna DeFehr
- Gerhard married Louise Goertzen
I remember things at three years old in 1900. My parents built a new light brick house. We carried Sister Sara in the cradle across the yard to the new house. We lived in the village of Schonbrun.
There were six settlements:
- Jacob Warkentin
- Aron Janzen
- Johann Mathies
- Cornelius Enns
- Johann and Margaret Dick (us)
- Johann Berg
Every settlement in Schonbrun had a house with a few rooms for the hired help family. The house had a huge bake oven. The wife would heat the oven and we would bring in long bake tins of 4 loaves of bread, either white or dark (schwarzbrot), buns (Zwieback) or cookies (water melon syrop).
The cost of hired help was cheap. We also had girls help in the house for the children. My mother never went to church with a child on her lap. We also never had to wash our own floors. There was however lots to do as there were no items ready-made, knit or crocheted. Butter was made from 15 cows, pork was packed in salt, ham and sausage was smoked. The hired help received food and lodging free. The one-classroom school was in the middle of the village across the street.
Every settlement had a woods across the street with a small river and bridges. A dam was built to stop the water and we had a swimming hole in the summer. In spring the water ran over the dam. Fish were put in the river and multiplied quickly and there was plenty for the six settlements including crabs.
Near the water was the house for the village cow herder, a Russian family of 10 boys. A blast of his horn early in the morning, the cows already milked by us, meant he was taking the cows to the pasture. Towards evening he returned them all. The cows already knew which barn they belonged to. The cows however did have identification branded on top of a leg. We bred our own calves which were taken to the pasture as well and whenever we wanted a calf roast we slaughtered a calf 6 weeks or so old. Horses to the age of 3 years were pastured. The herders built a board fence for them and they remained in the enclosure for the summer.
We had our own blacksmith. he would receive free housing and was paid for the work done. There was also a brick yard. The road and walkways were dirt.
Girls wore aprons and braided their hair. They started going to school at 7 years of age and stayed in school until 21.
Everyone went home for lunch.
The teacher had a small room attached to the school and if he got married a kitchen and bedroom would be added. High school was 100 miles away. Boys and girls were in separate schools. When it was time for me to go to girls school which father had promised me, mother requested I stay home to help. My sister Anna was ill with TB. I overheard my father insist I had been promised to which my mother suggested I would turn the whole town of Halbstaadt, in which the school was, upside down.
I was also the only daughter at home who could ride horses. This started when my brother and I (Peter), during threshing time, would drive the horses to pull the stone. We had no threshing machine yet. In winter I learned to knit socks, patch pants, embroider pillow cases. While I sat by the window the first year watching the school and students I cried a lot.
Sister Anna died in 1918 at the age of 24. This was a great loss to me. She had married in 1913 to John Berg.
There was political unrest and in the fall of 1913 John Berg was sent to Siberia and Anna went along as far a Dawlekanwo where she stayed with Kornelius Enns until she knew where her husband was. Abram Berg, her brother-in-law travelled with Anna to Siberia to an Island. Anna returned home in 1916 and her husband was released when the Czar was killed. All prisoners were released and the revolution started.
Father had already died in 1914 when I was 14. Every night my father sang songs with us and read to us out of the book called "Komt zum Heiland" (Come to the Lord). He would kneel down and pray out loud with us. We inherited more than great riches and I missed him.
The transportation of the day was a wagon called a Droschka. There was no roof and it had 2 benches. 3 people could sit in the back and 2 in the front. If it rained we used a wagon with glass doors to go to church, funerals or visiting.
In May 1919 brother John and Marichen Wiens and Abram Mathies and myself had a double wedding.
In a month mother had to go for a cancer operation in Oflof. She returned home dead. Abram took Grandmother Enns at 81 years of age and my sister Sara who lived with us to Grandmother Enns' son Jacob Enns to live.
Because things were getting dangerous we immediately arranged other quarters in Alexanderkron for ourselves should we have to leave. Many others had already moved 100 miles south. Abram was drafted by the white army and it became dangerous for us at home so some of my family and myself fled Shonbrun. Shortly before Xmas in 1919 one night we left. One night as the red army clashed with the white army and the train on which Abram was working was being bombed, the men fled the train. Abram and his brother-in-law Abram Thiessen (sister Liese's husband) and cousin David Mathies took the chance to disappear. They walked for 3 days and were robbed on the way. They finally arrived at sister Liese's house safely in Memrik. They stayed there for Xmas 1919. Then Abram had the opportunity to go to Schonbrun with a Russian on a sled who was going to visit his bride. When he arrived he found us gone.
The Mathies settlement had been sold earlier; New Year's day 1920 I was at John Berg's in Alexanderkron for supper and as I as sitting at the table looking out the window I saw Abram's grey hat drive by above the stone fence. I screamed "it's Abram" and Hans Berg shistled outside and the sleigh stopped. I was right.
There was no mail at this time. My brother Peter who also had been drafted by the white army showed up in June of 1920 with 9 shells in one leg. He had been in a hospital already for some time but his leg and ankle were stiff and had grown together wrong and he was on crutches. The men took him to a Dr. Wiebe a bone doctor and while they held him down the Doctor re broke the leg. The doctor gave us dried weeds which we had to make a brew with hot water and brother Peter had to bath his leg every day and he was able to walk without support or stiffness again.
We stayed there until 1924.
Thoughts of the "auswanderung" emigration started. I always thought all of America had palm trees which I finally got to see for the first time in 1974 on a trip to California with my daughter Margaret. We started on our trip to Canada on the 21st of June, 1924. It was early morning, Tante Pankraz with whom we lived, had breakfast ready for us. We were allowed a food basket (25xl5xl2 inches) in which we packed roasted buns (Zwiebacks'), sacharin, watermelon syrop cookies, tea pot, cooked milk, roasted and milled wheat (this was our coffee). Then we had a wooden box we had made where had pillows, blankets and a few clothes. Glass dishes were packed in between. We took a ladder wagon filled with straw, usually used for grain, to the train station called Lichtfelde. There were 24 people, widower Berg with 6 children (school-age) Wilhelm Penners with 3 children (school-age) Mr. & Mrs. Friesen, John Mathies family with 2 children and on our passport were Widow Maria Janzen (Abrams sister) and daughter Helen, Abram and Margaret Mathies And daughters Margaret 3-years old, Annie 1 1/2 years old and my brother Herman Dick 17 years old. Herman was on our passport but with a note that he pay off his own trip. The cost for a grown up was $125.00 and half price for young children.
We rode the train 1200 miles north through Kharkov, Kieve, Moscow for three days and left Russia at the Red Gate, Estonia to the Port of Riga, a fishing port. With 2 small steamers we crossed the Baltic Sea, through the narrows of Denmark, crossed the North Sea, English Channel to Southampton, England. Here we had to pass medicals and boarded the CPR ship Menedosa [Minnedosa] for our trip across the Atlantic to Canada. We landed at Quebec, transferred to a train and the first people got off in Waterloo. Next day some went to Vineland area and some to Manitoba.
We were taken in by a Mr. and Mrs. Leis who took us home in a car. They had a son and daughter at home, 25 acres of land and 18 cows. The children worked in the town in the winter. Leis' paid us together $25.00 for the month in the summer but only room and board in the winter. We couldn't afford this since we owed for our trip so in October of 1924 we moved to Bamberg. Here is where our Willy was born.
Abram was offered $3.00 per day to work in the woods and paid another $1.00 per person for him and his workers to eat dinner at our house. They wanted only meat, potatoes and hot coffee. This lasted only for 4 months. We moved to Vineland to Mr. Bill Fretz. Abram needed the English language to get a job but the old father at Fretz' could understand German and we were hired.
The men received .15 cents per hour and the women .10. We had free accommodation and all the fruit and vegetables to eat. This lasted only until October.
Kornelius Tiessen & 2 children, Abram Bergs & 3 children, John Dicks & 2 children and us all lived together in one house in 1926. Hans Dicks had written there was work in Tavistock, Kitchener area but only for four months. Then a letter from Abram's brother Hans and Margaret Mathies told us about a job in Essex County at a brickyard for $3.00 per day.
We moved to Kingsville. Church was held in the Town-hall and we lived at Broadwells house with Hans Mathies family and Frau Maria Janzen (Abram's sister) and her daughter Helen. Maria Janzen worked at the Kingsville Hotel and lived there during the week. Helen stayed with us. We enjoyed it there and sang together a lot.
In 1930 we moved and Abram worked for Grant Fox at Olinda. It was depression time and my brothers George and Herman came from Windsor to live with us. Herman would walk 5 to 8 miles to catch the trolley in Ruthven to go to work in the Kingsville Tobacco factory for $4.00 per week. George meanwhile stayed home, slept till noon and afternoon would play the Ballalika and sing. He was good company and we gave him $3.00 per week credit. In spring he got a job at Heinz and Herman too and they moved to Leamington.