The Last Link:

Looking Back

A short story based on

fact, with first hand memories of my ancestors

         By Tom Mueller



This story depicts a German family's quest for their own farmland and happiness.  They were originally from Germany, then immigrated to Prussia, then to Russia and then to America.  The story spans two continents, four centuries, and 8 generations from about 1750 to the present.

Written Dec. 28, 2001 through Jan. 19, 2002 :  revised 2004

                                                                                 Copyright  2-2004   


This story is dedicated to my cousins, Mary Lee Mueller Cato and Darlene Mueller Koehn, who both live near Lodi, California.

Mary is my Uncle Alvin's daughter.  In our Christmas card to her this year, I mentioned I was doing some genealogy work & asked her for information.  Her reply to me fueled my fire to continue in earnest with my genealogy work along with stories of our ancestors.  She was interested and wanted to read my work.  She encouraged me through her first e-mail, and we started an e-mail dialogue, which encouraged me even more.  It fueled my fire to continue, and then when I was in the middle of entering my findings in our computer, I started this short story.

Darlene is my Uncle Evoldt's daughter.  I asked Mary to involve her in finding family names, birth dates, wedding dates, etc.  Darlene's mother, Lydia was also involved.  I remember when I was at Darlene's home in California about 15 years ago, having a conversation with her, discussing my children.  She asked me if I believed in building memories.  My answer to her was “What?”  She explained that she believed in building memories with her children.  This is something I have often thought about, and tried to incorporate into my own life.  I think it influenced these writings about memories of my ancestors.  


If you want to know where you are going, you must understand who and where you came from.  Not until you understand this can you really understand how to break the mold that cast you and go beyond to become a better person.  This knowledge helps you reinvent yourself and recreate the type of person you were destined to be.  

      Tom Mueller

      Jan. 6, 2002



1. Family Bible

2. 1954 Fredonia Golden Jubilee Book

3. 1954 Gackle Golden Jubilee Book

4. Prairie Public TV. “Germans from Russia, Children of the Steppe, Children of the Prairie”

5. World Book Encyclopedia

7.National Geographic, maps


9.Sunni McPheeters web site,  my second cousin, once removed

10.Uncle Alvin Mueller

11.Cousin Mary Mueller Cato

12.Cousin Darlene Mueller Koehn

13.Family Pictures

14.Joseph Welder Heritage book, my Great, Great Great Grandfather on my Mothers, Mother's Mother side

15. Oral history from my relatives



In December 2001, I took a handwritten story I wrote about 10 years earlier out of a drawer.  It was titled “MY SUMMER HOME”.  It was about the summers I spent at Hulda and Martin Ehmann's farm, 13 miles southeast of Gackle, N.D.  Hulda was my Dad's sister, my aunt.  After a few days I decided to write about a trip Hulda and I made to north of Fredonia, to see her aunt, Louisa Weispfenning, wife of deceased Christ Weispfenning.

 A few days later I decided to write about other ancestors I remembered, and I haven't quit yet.  I had the idea to compile a book of ancestors I knew, listing dates, names and places along with a one-page writing of my memories about them.  I was still doing this at Christmas when my children came home.  My youngest, Sara, typed and entered some of the stories into the computer and printed them for an extra Christmas gift.

On December 28, 2001, after telling them about a box of family pictures I used to go through when I was a young boy at my Grandmother Maria Mueller's, I felt a need not only to record genealogy with short stories, but to write this short story.  I dropped what I was doing, I'll go back to it when I'm done with this, and started writing about the box of pictures, to see if I could tie it in with my ancestor's history.  But I wanted to go deeper than the names, dates and places.  I wanted to try to understand them as people, I wanted to study their pictures, study their dates, do the math, and find out how old they were at important events in their lives.  I was trying to uncover forgotten facts, gain insight into their lives, ask and answer all the right questions, and see if I could touch their souls.  Doing the research could give me a license to write about them, to try to tell a better story; hopefully something that would be more interesting to read, something that would be remembered and added to our oral history.        


January 1957, Grandma's house, Napoleon N. D.                  page  7                  


Late 1700's, Who they were and where they came from         page 10

1804-Alexander 1, reissues Grandmother's manifesto            page 11

Skipping Stones                                                                       page 12

History of life in Russia                                                            page 14

N.N.Weispfenning, generation # 1-W                                      page 17

Georg W. Weispfenning, generation # 2-W                             page 18                        

August Gabriel Weispfenning, generation # 3-W                     page 20

Jakob Muler, Generation # 1-M                                                page 22

Jakob Muller, Generation # 2 -M                                              page 22                                 

Salomon Mueller's Grandmother, Anna Salo Muller                page 23     

Christian Muller                                                                        page 26

Christoff Mueller, generation # 3-M                                          page 27

Andreas Muller                                                                         page 29

Search for Salomon's ancestors                                              page 30                      

To America                                                                               page 32

Johannes Weispfenning, generation # 4-W                             page 35 Other Interesting Facts about life in America                           page 42

Johann Weispfenning, One can only imagine                          page 45

Maria Weispfenning Mueller, generation # 5-W                       page 46

Salomon Mueller, generation # 4  M.                                       page 49

Emmanuel Mueller, Golden Valley N.D.                                  page 53

Norbert H. Mueller, generation # 5-M, # 6-W                          page 54

Thomas G. Mueller, generation # 6-M, # 7-W                         page 55

Stacy & Shane Mueller, generation #7 -M, # 8-W                  page 59

Sara Mueller, generation # 7 M, # 8-W                                   page 59

Closing                                                                                    page 60



                                    January 1957

It was a cold night.  I was staying with my Grandma Maria Mueller.  My parents left town for the night and this was my usual home away from home. “Grandma, where's that box of old pictures?” I asked.  “I moved it, it's under your bed in the bedroom,” she explained.  As I crawled under the bed, I saw many boxes, but this one was just a plain brown cardboard box that the groceries were delivered in. It was only about 6 inches tall; the kind that canned tomatoes came in.  It still had the 8 or 10 circles in the bottom of the box from the cans.  This is a box I had gone through before.  It contained many pictures of the extended Mueller and Weispfenning families.  As I went through it, I would ask many questions.  This time, rather than just looking at the pictures, I opened up two Western Union telegrams from the U. S. Army, telegrams that Grandma had saved for many years.  As I was reading the telegrams, I was astonished at what I was reading.  The first telegram stated that my father, Norbert Mueller, was missing in action during WW II. The second was even more astonishing.  It stated that he had been declared dead. I didn't understand how this could be, because I knew he was alive.  “Grandma, what's the deal, how could this be?”  She explained that he was shot out of his tank, had taken shrapnel to his face and was in the hospital, and had amnesia.  They couldn't find him, and thought he was dead.  To this day I don't know how much of this is true, since he wouldn't talk about it. I do know that he had several operations in the 1960's and 1970's to remove some of the shrapnel and he was listed as a disabled vet.  He received a government check for $13.00 a month until he died. He had a 10% disability on his left side and had minor loss of power on that side.

Looking further I saw a picture of a boy about 13.  I asked her, “Who is this?”  She said it was her son Johnnie, and he had died a few years after that picture was taken.  “Grandma, how did he die?” I asked. She told me he ran home after basketball practice and caught pneumonia and died.  I found out 30 years later that he was found west of Gackle and died from a gunshot wound.  My Dad told his sister Hulda in the late 1980's in her home in Jamestown, speaking in German so I wouldn't understand, that Grandpa Mueller thought it was accidental but the Sheriff at that time insisted that it had to be self inflicted. Grandpa was city marshal of Gackle from 1919 to about 1942.  Johnnie died about 1926 so I'm pretty sure Grandpa was city marshal then.  My dad spoke to Hulda with so much emotion that I couldn't help but take notice, even though I couldn't understand all of the German.    Later I asked Hulda about it, since she was like my second mother and I had spent a lot of time with her every summer. I was pretty confident that I could get the facts from her about this German conversation.  As usual, she had the courage to explain it, and I'm sure she had a good reason to do it, which I didn't understand at the time.  She told me Grandpa had tried to have a new hearing or a review done, but it never happened.  She also told me that he threw the pistol down the outhouse and until his dying day never accepted the official version.

Anyway back to the story about the box of heirlooms.   The box contained much more, but it disappeared after Grandma moved to Jamestown to a nursing home.  Would it ever show itself again?

“Tommy, it's time for you to go to bed”, Grandma explained.  “Tomorrow we are going to make noodles and I am going to make you borscht soup.”  She knew that I loved borscht soup. I don't know if it was the beets or the cabbage or the cream that made it tastes so good, but I knew I would eat two big bowls of it.    

“Grandma, just one more question, who is this?” I asked, holding up a picture.  She said it was her parents.  “Who were they?” I asked. She said, “In order to explain who they really were, we would have to go back to Russia, then back to Germany.”

             And this is where our story starts.

                           Late 1700's

Who they were and where they came from

First we are going to have a history lesson, and then we will turn to our ancestral relatives and see if we can get to know them.

I have a little written history of the Weispfenning and Mueller branches of my family in Germany, mostly information off the internet speaking in general terms about the towns they came from.  However, I have more written and oral history about both the Mueller and Weispfennings in Russia, and some written and oral history of the other two branches of my family, the Ivanovs and Weigles. There are many writings on this time frame in history, and for some reason it is speaking to me night and day.  It's speaking to me in volumes, while I am trying to go to sleep, while I am trying to work, while I am trying to eat.  I can't imagine why, maybe because my dead ancestors are speaking to me and they realize that if I don't write about them it too will be lost to time.  For some unknown reason I have realized that if I don't do this, there may be no one else who will do it.  Other family members don't share the same life experiences with our relatives; many never met them and couldn't write about first hand memories.  Here I go again with “looking back and the last link”. If I don't do this, there will be no written record for later generations to rely on.  They will be in the same situation as I find myself in, without information.  I have come to realize that it's my responsibility to know my relatives. It's been done poorly by me and past generations, but blaming  “being to busy or it's too far away, or I'm not interested right now” just doesn't seem like a good excuse right now.  Uncle Alvin Mueller once told my wife that every family needs to have one member that takes care of this, so it gets preserved.  He said it should be the youngest.  He was the youngest and did more than his share in preserving old family pictures and heirlooms.  Some of the pictures and documents I used to write this story.  It's like having the torch passed down to me.   

It's really easy to tell of an earlier generation of our family that came to America in the late 1800's, three and four generations back, because I have a lot of written records, and memories.  I have obituaries and information from the Gackle and Fredonia Jubilee Books, written and published in 1954. I have wedding and family pictures, which speak to me.  We still have aunts and uncles who remember them, rich oral history that needs to be written down now, not 10 to 15 years from now.

To write about earlier generations before them, seven and eight generations ago, those that lived in the German provinces and Prussia in the mid-1700's and in the early 1800's, takes a little more imagination.  However, after I read a few German family stories, I realized that all Germans from Russia share the same remarkable circumstances.  Almost all left for the same reasons.


                            Late 1700's

In the late 1700's, the French Revolution took place and affected the areas to the north of France, Germanic provinces.  Many people from unorganized German provinces fled to Germany and Prussia [Poland].  The King of Prussia, Fredrick the Great, was offering Germans free land to settle in a portion of Poland he received in 1795.  There were many people leaving these provinces and going to Germany and Prussia.  There was much religious persecution and poor political and economic conditions in the southern German provinces.  Our Weispfenning ancestors stayed in Prussia until the early 1800's, when their children went to Russia.

Also in 1762, Catherine the Great, a German princess who married the Russian Czar, convinced her husband that the German people in the unorganized German provinces would be a good choice to settle the unsettled Russian lands.  She issued a manifesto giving German farmers and tradesmen free land, if they immigrated to the Virgin Steppes, as the land was called.  This land was in the lower Volga River area of what is now Russia.   About 7000 families immigrated to this area, and in 1768, there were over 100 German villages along the Volga River.  This was the first wave of Germans to Russia.  The ancestors we are tracking in this story didn't go to Russia quite yet, mainly because peace returned to the German and Prussian regions and they stayed put. Also our relatives, the generation that went to Russia, weren't born yet.  

During the dictatorship of Napoleon, peace, order, and religious freedom returned to Germany.  However, the Revolution left many people ruined.  They lost their land, their livelihood, and couldn't get their land back.  They were heavily taxed and had to pay back taxes.  This was more than they could bear.  In 1804 Czar Alexander I of Russia renewed his Grandmother Catherine's manifesto.  This started the second wave of Germans to Russia.  There were 2 things that the Germans felt strongly about:  (1) having a home, knowing who you are, knowing your roots, having a homeland, they could say  “I'm a Deutschlander” and (2) which almost contradicts the first, don't be afraid to pack up and leave to attain these goals.  Immigration to Russia provided just what many Germans wanted - a new life where they could own their own land and farms again, rather that working for someone else.  Their desire to move on to new places was known as wanderlust.  Many of the Germans that went to Prussia, then to Russia, had been wanderers [nomads] in Germany.



Czar Alexander I wanted farmers and craftsmen to come and settle on the Virgin Steppes above the Black Sea.  This was new land [it was called New Russia] won from the Turks in war, now known as Bessarabia.   In return, they were promised:

  1. Religious freedom
  2. No taxes for 10 years
  3. After 10 years of exemptions, they would be treated like the other citizens, but they would not have to house military personnel, except those involved in battle
  4. Exemption from military and civil service for time eternal
  5. They received a loan to get established, which had to be paid back from the 11th through the 20th year
  6. Each family could bring into Russia, “duty free”, properties or commodities worth up to 300 rubles
  7. Craftsmen could join guilds and carry out their trades without hindrance
  8. There would be no serfdom
  9. They would receive 30 - 60 dessiatin of land
  10. If any family wanted to leave Russia, they must pay the Crown their debts, plus taxes for 3 years use of the land           

Almost all of our relatives that went to Russia went with their extended families.  Most Germans went in family groups, two brothers, or father, mother, family, and aunts and uncles.  This would go back 6 generations from my generation.  You can just imagine two of our great, great, great, great uncles, brothers talking amongst themselves.  One is saying to the other, “The wife and I have been talking about the great opportunities that await in Russia.”  The other brother says, “Yes, we are talking about the same things.”  By sharing their thoughts, they are able to muster the courage to actually pack up their young families, with two or three small children each, and embark on the journey of their lives.  It's interesting how they all had young families, preschool children, some of them with lots of memories of their home in Germany, some of them with only a few memories, and some of them of no memories because they were too young when they moved to remember.  And then there were the children that were born after the move.  You will see this repeated again.

                                    SKIPPING STONES

I know general things about the families that left for Russia in the early 1800's.  Their names would have been names we recognize.  They all named their children after their relatives,  or they used biblical names, so we would find names like Hulda, Helma, Evoldt, Johannes [Johnnie], Otto, Christ, Fred, Rebecca, Maria, Justine, and Magdalena.  Like a stone skipping on the water emerging one or two feet apart, we would see a one or two generation skip before the names would emerge again.

From her web site I was able to find 3 previous generations prior to my great grandparents, Johannes and Susanna Weispfenning.  From this data I find that Johannes's parents, August & Katharina, had 12 children and I predicated 6 of the 12 names.  Two of the children didn't have names listed [born stillborn].  Maybe I could have gotten 8 names if they were listed.  They also had two Justinas.  They also had two derivatives of John, Johann & Johannes.   Johannes & Susanna named two of their children Justina and three of them John.  When you go back one generation from August, you get Georg & Karolina.  They had two names I predicted, Justina and Johann (John).  Three generations, all with Johanns and Justinas.   If you are confused, see the sheet about each family.             

I know that both our Weispfenning & Mueller ancestors went to Russia from Prussia.  However, many Germans went directly from Germany to Russia.  I know much about the modes of transportation many Germans use to get from Germany to Russia.  Some of them went overland in covered wagons. Many others made the trip to Ulm, Germany by wagon train, courtesy of their relatives.  Their relatives would take those who were departing to this point with their covered wagons, a distance of about 225 miles. The relatives who stayed behind returned to their point of origin, and the two groups would never to see each other again. This was only the first step of their journey; the others would be longer and harder.   Ulm, Germany was on the Danube River.  There they would board flat-bottomed shipping barges and float downstream, stopping at Regensburg, Austria; then on to Vienna, a total of 300 miles for this leg of the trip.   Here they left their barge for another journey on a covered wagon, joining others with covered wagons to Lemberg, Poland arriving in Radzivilov, Russia, another 485 miles, Russia's port of entry.  Here they were kept in quarantine for four weeks to as long as three months, depending on the season.  From here they departed in small wooden wagons  [Russian style wooded carts pulled by only one animal, usually a horse].  They spent four weeks traveling some 470 miles, the last leg of their journey.  They arrived in Bessarabia, South Russia after traveling some 1500 miles total.  Their entire trip would take from three to six months depending on if they left in the spring or fall.  If they arrived at Russia's port of entry in the winter, they were held there until spring, since travel in the winter was very difficult.  Many of these people died in Russia, but their grandchildren with their children would come to America in the1880's to the early 1900's.  If you look at a present day map, you won't be able to identify this route because this region kept on redefining all the countries' borders because of war.  Poland and Austria went through 3 changes from 1772 to 1795 and again in 1939 and 1945 because of WW II.




By 1823, New Russia extended down to the Black Sea in the Ukraine and Bessarabia.  There were 3000 German speaking villages in the area at this time.  The Germans kept to themselves - still speaking German and only marrying among themselves.  They even settled in separate Protestant and Catholic villages.  There were difficulties in their new life.  About ¼ died of epidemics and diseases, and nomadic tribes raided and carried them away to slavery, especially in the early years.   

The German settlers made their homes out of bricks that they made by combining clay, water, straw and manure and then they make a plaster out of clay, water and manure to cover the bricks.  The homes were all one-story structures with two-foot thick walls, long houses one room wide, with the kitchen between the parents and children's bedrooms.  This was done so that the heat source, usually a clay brick or rock oven in the kitchen, would radiate to both bedrooms.  Many of the homes were made longer, with additional rooms for grain storage, then more rooms for the cattle, horses, and chickens.  The houses usually faced south with no windows on the north, maybe one in the kitchen, so they were protected from the north wind.  The thick two-foot walls kept the house cool in the summer.   The window shafts were so thick that they let in less vertical sunrays in the summer but still received a lot of light in the winter because of the lower horizontal sun.    Many had a summer kitchen just outside the house in a separate building.  This kept the cooking fires from heating up the house, and they could sleep in a cool house at night in the summer.  They also had storm cellars, with a staircase to an underground room.  This served as a refrigerator in the summer.



The Germans lived in villages in Russia, and went out to work their land, which surrounded the villages.  The economy in Russia was based on wheat, rye, sunflower seeds, and corn.  Their church was very important to the Germans.  By 1897, there were 1,700,000 Germans living in Russia.  They had built a paradise in Russia.     

The Germans came to be known as Black Sea German Russians, and this area became known as the breadbasket of Europe, largely due to the hard work of the Germans.  They raised red cows.  The Germans prospered in Russia, arousing envy, which later turned to hatred.  

In 1871 the German Reich was created in Germany.  This intensified the ill feelings toward the Germans in Russia. By 1875 there was trouble brewing.  In 1881, Alexander III revoked some of the German's rights granted to them 2 generations earlier.  He redefined the manifesto to mean only 100 years, revoked exemption from military draft, eliminated self-rule, changed the spelling of their towns, and prevented them from buying more land.  He also tried to impose the Russian language on them.  This was a grievous breach of contract.  What was next, maybe religious freedom?  ¼ of the Germans that were in Russia left for America at this time.  At first the immigrants to America communicated by mail with those who stayed in Russia.  Between 1915-1945 they experienced civil war, shootings, starvation and deportations to Siberia, where they were never heard from again.  Between 1932-1933, Stalin imposed collective farming on the remaining Germans and the rest of the country.  Farmers revolted and destroyed half of their livestock and crops.  Over 7 million died of starvation, ¼ of them German.  After this, some did go back to Germany, but most of them were sent to Siberia.  We can now go to Russia and find these villages, but we most likely won't find our ancestors.

Most of Bessarabia is in a part of South Russia called Moldavia.  It's northern & southern areas form part of the Ukraine.  This region covers 17,760 square miles.  It is bordered by the Dnestr River in the north & east, by the Black Sea and the Danube River on the south, and by the Prut River on the West.  Russia seized Bessarabia from the Turks in 1812.  The Treaty of Paris in 1856 gave the area to Romania.  Russia regained it in 1878, but lost it to Romania after World War I.  It was returned to Russia in 1940.  Romania occupied the area during World War II, but Russia regained control after the  war.

The location is important to us because we know that the Germans came to Russia in 2 waves, the first in the 1760's to the Volga River area farther north, and the second beginning in 1812 to Bessarabia, South Russia. We are able to trace both the Muellers & Weispfennings back to the mid-1750's. Since both our Mueller and Weispfenning ancestors came from Bessarabia, South Russia, we know that they came in the second wave in the early 1800's.  This tiny bit of information is important when you are trying to figure out who you are and where you came from.

If you go to Germany today, just like in America, when you meet someone and are told their name, the next question is “Where do you live?”  If you tell them that you are from the U.S.A., they want more exact information, your exact city and state.  This of course is very important because it speaks volumes to them about you.  In Germany, coming from the southern part of the country versus the northern part is like the difference between lightning and the lightning rod.      

The families that left Germany & Prussia would have to apply for a permit to immigrate to Russia.   These records still exist along with census data that could be used to research their names and their children's names and obtain dates of birth.  Following you will find the information you need to start the research to fill in the blanks, names, birth dates, marriages, and deaths, especially of the unknown generations, the ones that came before the ancestors listed below.

But before you start, check with me, this could be a life long research project.  I might be able to fill you in, and get to know you better.

                                 Sometime before 1750

                                  Germanic Provinces

         Now we are turning to the Weispfenning side of the family

We are going back to the German provinces located at the        German / French borders, which kept on changing because of wars, but first let me give you a visual aid of both of the Weispfennings & Muellers,  to help keep it all straight.


Generation #1  N. N. Weispfenning                 born 1750      Germany

Generation #2  Georg W. Weispfenning          born 4-10-1796  Poland

Generation #3  August Gabriel Weispfenning, born 1-5-1824   Russia

Generation #4  Johannes Weispfenning          born 6-26-1856  Russia

Generation #5   Maria Weispfenning Mueller   born 6-26-1888 N.Dak.

Generation #6   Norbert Mueller               born 8-11-1922 Gackle N.D.

Generation #7  Tom Mueller  born 8-22-1949, the author of this story                    


Generation #1   Jakob Muler                   born 1770             Prussia

Generation #2   Jakob Muller                  born 1813             Prussia

Generation #3   Christoph Muller            born 12-01-1842   Russia

Generation #4   Salomon Mueller           born  10-27-1884   Russia

Generation #5   Norbert Mueller             born 8-11-1922  Gackle, N.D.

Generation #6   Tom Mueller  Born 8-22-1949, the author of this story

                                N.  N. Weispfenning

                        Born before 1750 in Germany

               My great, great, great, great Grand father

                                    Generation # 1

He was born in Carbe / Driessen, Wuerttemberg, Germany.  His spouse is unknown.  Records show that between 1740-1750 he probably resettled in or around the Polish-German border District during the reign of Frederick the Great, who was King of Prussia from 1740-1786. He probably belonged to the group of settlers who were invited by the Polish aristocrat to farm their rich land.  He probably moved there as a young man, possibly marrying there, but definitely marrying a German.  He died after 1801.  Census records show he was still living then, but couldn't find him after that.  Information available shows he had at least 3 children listed below.

  1. Julia Weispfenning married Friedrich Bierwagon

  1. Georg W. Weispfenning, born 4-10-1796 in Gnesen, Grosse Polen

    [Great Poland]  Georg W. married twice

    Married 1. Dorothea aus Kohlstetten

    Married 2. Karolina Bauer in 1818

  1. Anna Christina Weispfenning, born 1801 in Zcherinowa, Poland

Died 2-06-1889 in Tarutino, Bessarabia, South Russia

Married Johann Bierwagon on 5-10-1819.  He was born 7-24-1795                        in Ludom, Poland and died 7-13-1876 in Tarutino, Bessarabia, South Russia.

Did you notice the last names of Julia and Anna's husbands?  I wonder what they did for a living.  Did they make beer, or just deliver it?  I'll bet that they knew a lot about German beer.  Were they brothers, two brothers that left German provinces to go to Russia?  This is fulfilling prophecy.  I just figured it out.  I wrote the story about two brothers talking about going to Russia on page12 over two weeks ago.  This page wasn't written until the end and inserted here.   Granted these two guys don't have as many greats in front of their names and they would only be my uncles through marriage, but they are my uncles, and although they didn't come from German provinces, but Prussian provinces, to Russia, it still counts, doesn't it?

       # 2.  Georg W. Weispfenning was our direct ancestor.


                               Georg W. Weispfenning

Son of N.N. Weispfenning & unknown mother

     Born of German descent in Poland, after his father moved there                                                                                                                                                                                            

                        from Germany between 1740-1786

                        Born 4-10-1796 in Great Poland

                                    Died in Russia

               Went to Bessarabia, South Russia in 1814                

                   My great, great, great grandfather

                                 Generation  # 2

Georg W. Weispfenning was born on 4-10-1796 near Gnesen, Grosse Polen [Great Poland].  He went to Bessarabia when he was 18 years old in 1814.  He was a shoemaker, and had come to this land, New Russia, as a single man.  Because of not being married and his young age, he received no land from the Russian Czar.  His first wife was Dorothea Kohlstetten, no children known.  In 1818 he married Karolina Bauer [some records show it as Sauer], who was born on 4-15-1803 in Gross Polen.  They lived in Kulm, Bessarabia, South Russia and in 1834, after the birth of their third child, went along with other land-less Germans and assisted in founding the village of Dennevitz.    It was here that they received 66 hectares of land [247.11acres]. They had 6 children, listed below.

  1. Johann Weispfenning, born 1821 in Kulm, Bessarabia, South            Russia.  Married Elizabeth Werner 10-4-1845 in Dennevitz,   Bessarabia, South Russia.  She was born in 1828.  They had at least one child.

  1. August Gabriel Weispfenning, born 1-5-1824 in Kulm, Bessarabia, South Russia.  Married Katharina Hehr on 10-18-1845 in Dennevitz, Bessarabia, South Russia.  They had at least 12 children.  He was our direct ancestor.  See more on him later.

  1. Wilhelm Weispfenning, born 5-8-1834 in Kulm, Bessarabia, South Russia.  Married Christina Dorothea Rall on 10-6-1855 in Dennevitz, Bessarabia, South Russia.  She was born 2-12-1835 in Wittenberg, Bessarabia, South Russia.  Wilhelm was baptized on 5-10-1834 in Kulm, Bessarabia, South Russia.  He died after 1862 and she died after 1862.

  1. Justina Weispfenning, born in 1838 in Dennewitz, Bessarabia, South Russia.  Married Philipp Hedrich on 11-8-1856.  He was born in 1833 in Teplitz, Bessarabia.

  1. Karolina Weispfenning, born in 1839 or 1841 in Wittenberg, Bessarabia, Russia.  Married Conrad Goehner on 12-27-1859.  He was born in 1839 at Wittenberg, Bessarabia.           


  1. Martin Weispfenning, born on 6-29-1844 at Dennewitz,               Bessarabia, Russia.  Married Rosina Sandau.  She was born in 1842 at Katzbach, Bessarabia, Russia.  They had at least 8 children.

                      #2 August, was our direct ancestor


August Weispfenning

Son of Georg & Karolina Bauer Weispfenning

My great great grandfather

Generation # 3

August Gabriel Weispfenning was born on 1-5-1824 in Kulm, Bessarabia, South Russia.  He married Katharina Hehr on 10-18-1845 in Dennevitz, Bessarabia, Russia.  She was born on 3-25-1827 at Alt-Postal, Bessarabia, Russia.  They had 12 children listed below.

  1.  Anna Maria, born 6-7-1846, died after 1880.  Married Gottlieb Geiszler on 2-12-1865 at Wittenberg, Bessarabia, Russia.  Their son Fred Geiszler, is the Fred from the flax story coming up in Johannes & Susanna story, watch for it.  

  1. Friedrich Weispfenning, born June 1, 1848 in Dennewitz, Bessarabia, Russia. Died after 1881.  He married Katharina Boepple on 10-6-1867 in Dennewitz, Bessarabia, Russia.

  1. Christian Weispfenning, born 11-3-1851 in Dennewitz, Bessarabia, Russia.  Died after 1884.  He married Dorothea Brost, born 1855, died after 1884.

  1. August Weispfenning, born 2-3-1853 in Dennewitz, Bessarabia, Russia.  Died 8-3-1906 in Dennewitz.  Married Karolina Scherer on 10- 27-1878.  She was born on 11-1-1856 in Alt-Elft, Bessarabia, Russia.  She died on 1-28-1930 in Russia.

  1. Justina Weispfenning, born 2-22-1855 in Dennewitz, Russia.  Her death date is unkown in Dennewita, Russia.  She was baptized on 2-24- 1855, one of her sponsors was Anna Maria Freitag nee Griss

  1. Johannes Weispfenning, born 6-26-1856 in Dennewitz, Bessarabia, Russia.  Died on 4-21-1932 on His farm 3 miles north of Fredonia, N.D.  He married Anna Susanna Schneider on 12-8-1878 in Bessarabia, Russia. They had 12 children, Maria was my Grandmother.  See much more on them coming up.

  1. Karolina  Weispfenning, born 7-7-1858 in Dennewitz, Bessarabia, Russia, died 1917 in Parkston S.D.  She married Martin Wudel on 10-6-1880.  He was born on 2-1858 in Russia and died in 1956 at the age of 98 in Parkston S.D.  They had 13 children.

  1. Johann George Weispfenning [known as George Sr.], born 1860 or 1861 in Dennewitz, Bessarabia, Russia.  Died 1903 in Fredonia.  Married Christina Quast in Russia in 1883.  She was born on 12-25-1864 in Dennewitz, Russia and died 8-14-1953 in Jamestown, N.D.  They came to USA in 1886 with his brother Johannes & family.  Stayed in Parkston, now S.D. over the winter.  They came to Logan County with his brother Johannes in 1887, now N.D. and homesteaded northwest of where Fredonia would be started 1904.   They had 11 children, 2 died in infancy

  1. Stillborn daughter, born 12-21-1861 in Dennewitz, Bessarabia, Russia

  1. Stillborn daughter, born 11-15-1862 in Dennewitz, Bessarabia, Russia

  1. Justina Weispfenning, born 5-4-1868 in Dennewitz, Bessarabia, Russia, died 1868, in Dennewitz

12. Immanuel Weispfenning, born 10-2-1870 in Dennewitz, Bessarabia, Russia, unknown death date

                         # 6 Johannes was our direct ancestor

Four of the above children came to America, to Dakota Territory. They were Anna Maria, Johannes, Karolina, Johann George {George Weispfenning Sr.].


I am going to write about our ancestors on both sides that lived in Germany, Prussia and Russia first.  Then we are going to America and write about both sides that came to America. So we will be switching back to the Weispfennings after we examine the Muellers, in Germany, Prussia and Russia.  We will track our direct ancestors through these countries and find out when they moved.

These are some of our ancestors that we know of who lived in Germany, Prussia & Russia, from the Mueller side.


                         Jakob Muler  - Generation #1

Jakob was born in 1770 in Prussia.  We feel his family came here from Germany in the 1740 - 1750's.  He was confirmed in 1785.  He moved to Paris, Bessarabia , probably in 1832, records are vague.  He married Elizabeth Haller, who emigrated from Prussia [Poland] in 1816, to Russia, we think Paris. She was confirmed in 1790 in Poland.  He died a widower.  We feel she was his second wife because Jakob & his son, Jakob came to Russia in a different year than she did. We only know of one child, Jakob listed under Paris family book census.  There are probably many more children but only found one record of him, explained below.   These records show that Jakob #2 had an older male named Jakob, a widower living with him.  We concluded from this that it must be his father.  The above dates were also found in this record.   From these dates and this name we took license to write on Jakob #1.  We feel he was my Great, Great, Great Grandfather.


        JAKOB MULLER - Generation # 2


Jakob Muller was born 1813 in Danzig, Prussia.  He married (1) Anna Rosina Hiller About 1836 in Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.  She was born in Poland, and died December 01, 1840.  He married (2) Anna Justina Salo January 18, 1841, daughter of Joachim Salo.  She was born 1819 in Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia, and died December 15, 1870 in Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia. I have a picture of this woman and have put it into the photo album of old photos of the Mueller's & Weispfenning.  I also wrote a story of Anna Justina Salo before I knew her name, titled Salomon Mueller's Grandmother.  I decided to leave it in as is, and after the story add the new information.  Look for it below, titled Salomon Mueller's Grandmother.


Confirmation: 1827, Poland

Emigration: 1832, Poland to Bessarabia

Children of JAKOB MULLER and ANNA ROSINA HILLER[wife #1] are:

1. MICHAEL MULLER, born October 02, 1837, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia; died January 03, 1838, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.

2. CHRISTIAN MULLER, born November 27, 1838, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia; died October 10, 1878, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.

Salomon Mueller's Grandmother

                                 My great great grand mother                                                                                                                                              

                                        Died in Russia  

I have a picture of my Grandfather Salomon Mueller's grandmother, taken in Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.  She would be my great, great grandmother.  The year in the picture would be around 1890 give or take 10 years, if I am doing my math correctly.    Our picture estimates her age, and Grandpa Salomon's birth date gives the liberty to estimate her age.  She probably was born around 1850.                                                 This picture is on a hard paper post card.  On the top of the picture is written “Great, Great Grandmother Mueller” & on the back is written “Grandpa Mueller's Grandmother” in my mother's handwriting.  On the bottom of the back is written “Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia” in my handwriting.  I can't remember who gave me the picture, but it was probably my mother.  I can't remember writing on it.  The back of the picture is a post card printed in English, but it was never used or postmarked.  Grandpa Salomon may have brought the picture with him to America when he came in 1905.  For sure, he looked at this picture with warm memories, just as we remember our grandparents.  

She is standing alone outside a home, wearing a white cap tied under her chin and a long, dark dress with a white lace collar - probably her best dress.  On either side of her is a bent back kitchen chair with a flowerpot on each one.  She is standing on a long, colorful rug which she probably made the same way my Grandma Mueller made her rugs - by cutting up old clothing into strips, braiding the strips, and sewing the braids together into the desired length & width.  The home looks like it was made from clay brick, then plastered with a clay mud plaster, the type they built in Russia.  We wonder why she was alone.  Was she widowed?  Why were the flowers important to her?

It's nice to have this picture of her, but how much better it would be if we knew her name, when she was born, married, and died.  We know that she was a mother & housewife who carried on the traditional German way of life in Russia, the traditions which were passed on to us.  I'm pretty sure that she was our paternal grandmother because who ever told my mother that this was Great, Great Grandmother Mueller possibly knew what they were talking about, and that's what she wrote, ''Mueller”.   When I look at her picture she looks just like a German grandmother.  She sure does look like she belongs to the Mueller's.  If only I could have spent some time with her, probably watching and helping her cook some German food.  I used to do this with Grandma and Hulda.  Maybe we could have made kuchen out of freshly separated farm cream with some homemade cottage cheese   added to the thick custard along with two ripe sliced peaches.

Well, it felt like I struck Gold when I found out her identity on the internet.    So now I can write more on Anna Justina Salo Mueller.  She was born 1819 in Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia, married Jakob Muller, generation #2 on 1-18-1841 and died on 12-15-1870.

They had 12 children, Christoph Muller was one of her sons.  He was my Great Grandfather.

Children of JAKOB MULLER and ANNA JUSTINA SALO [wife # 2] are:

1. CAROLINE MULLER, born January 11, 1842, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.

2. CHRISTOPH MULLER, born December 01, 1843, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia; died October 19, 1893.

3. PETER MULLER, born July 30, 1845, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia; married LOUISE KLITTMANN, November 01, 1875, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.

4. ELIZABETHA MULLER, born March 12, 1848, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia; died March 17, 1848, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.

5. FERDINAND MULLER, born January 23, 1849, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia; died January 05, 1856, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.

6. SAMUEL MULLER, born September 18, 1851, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia; died September 23, 1851, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.

7. ANDREAS MULLER, born August 25, 1852, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.  See more information on him coming soon.

8. STILLBORN CHILD MULLER, born October 09, 1855, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia; died October 09, 1855, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.

9. JAKOB MULLER, born January 27, 1857, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia; died January 17, 1858, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.

10. EUPHROSINA MULLER (TWIN), born December 24, 1858, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia; died December 26, 1858, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.

11. STILLBORN SON MULLER (TWIN), born December 24, 1858, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia; died December 24, 1858, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.

12. GOTTFRIED MULLER, born January 16, 1861, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia; died March 31, 1861, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.

    #2 Christoph Muller was my direct ancestor, he was my great grandfather

See more on him on following pages.


                                             Generation No. 3

Christoph & Christian were half brothers

Christoph was my Great Grandfather

Although Christian Muller is not my direct ancestor I am listing him here to show the ancestors of the Muellers who came from Russia in 1908 and settled in Golden Valley, N.D.  He was their direct ancestor.



CHRISTIAN MULLER was born November 27, 1838 in Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia, and died October 10, 1878 in Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.  He married EVA NETZER November 15, 1857, daughter of MICHAEL NETZER.  She was born August 18, 1839.

More About EVA NETZER:

Emigration: 1908, Russia to America

Homesteaded: 1908, Mercer County, ND


1. CAROLINA MULLER, born November 24, 1858; died August 06, 1859.

2. LOUISA MULLER, born August 07, 1860, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia; died April 02, 1864, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.

3. SAMUEL MULLER, born February 26, 1862, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia; died December 10, 1864, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.

4. FERDINAND MULLER, born April 18, 1864, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.

5. WILHELM MUELLER, born January 08, 1866, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.

        6.  ANNA ELISABETH MULLER, born March 11, 1870; died     November 03, 1887, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.

7. CHRISTOPH MULLER, born March 30, 1871.

8. EMMANUEL MUELLER, born August 26, 1872, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.

9. DOROTHEA MULLER, born August 30, 1874.

10. MICHAEL MULLER, born January 04, 1876, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia; died August 12, 1876, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.

       11.  JUSTINA MULLER, born March 03, 1877, Paris, Bessarabia,   South Russia.


Emmanuel and his wife and family, his mother Eva, brother Wilhelm and family and 2 nieces, Sophie and Salomina, daughter of Ferdinand came to the Golden Valley area in 1908.  We find that Sophie and Salomina's brother Wilhelm, also came to America, but don't know the date.  More on these people later when we get to the “Came To America” section.

This next story on Christoph Muller was also written before we discovered additional information on him.  I decided to leave this short story in and add more about him after his story.




    Generation #3


                                My great grandfather

                             Born and died in Russia

                     Son of Grand mother in story above

              Father of Solomon Mueller, my grandfather


The next in line would be Christoph Mueller, son of my Great, Great Grandmother, described above.  I'm sure he was born and died in Russia and one of his sons was Salomon Mueller, my grandpa. Boy if only I had a picture, it wouldn't even have to be all there, part of it could be missing.  Here's where you really understand what it means when they say a picture says a thousand words.  We also know that his wife's name was Dorothea.  Written history gives us both parent's names, from Salomon Mueller's obituary in 1953.

                              So now I can really write.

CHRISTOPH MULLER was born December 01, 1843 in Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia, and died October 19, 1893.  He married DOROTHEA SCHROEDER November 27, 1870 in Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia, daughter of CHRISTOPH SCHROEDER and ELISABETH FREDRICH.  She was born September 22, 1840 in Plotzk, and died February 11, 1901. Dorothea was married first to August Oelke on 1-23-1859. She had 2 sons from this marriage.  Andreas, born 11-28- 1859, married 1-9-1881 to Dorothea Boelke.  Samuel, 10-1-1861, died 11-30-1864.   She then married my great grand father when she was 30 years old.  So I will call her Dorothea Schroeder Oelke Mueller, using all of her names.


1. CHRISTIAN MUELLER, born September 15, 1871, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia; died November 26, 1874, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.

2. EDWARD MUELLER (TWIN), born July 31, 1874, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia; died August 19, 1874, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.

3. LYDIA MUELLER (TWIN), born July 31, 1874, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia; died August 19, 1874, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.

4. JOHANNES MUELLER (TWIN), born June 21, 1875, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia; die July 07, 1875, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.

5. LUDWIG MUELLER (TWIN), born June 21, 1875, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia; died July 09, 1875, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.

6. GOTTFRIED MUELLER, born March 18, 1877, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.  We have a picture if him with his wife and children.  We also have a picture of his widow when she was old with her daughter and her daughters children.  

7. SARA MUELLER, born September 29, 1878, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.

8. EMILIE MUELLER, born March 10, 1881, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia; died May 05, 1883, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.

  1. SALOMON MUELLER, born October 27, 1884, Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia; died October 22, 1953, Napoleon, ND.

Salomon Mueller  # 9 was my direct ancestor, he was my Grandfather.

                      ANDREAS MULLER GENERATION # 3

                             SON OF #2  JAKOB MULLER



Andreas is not my direct ancestor, but put him in the story because there were so few of this family that survived, most died as infants.

ANDREAS MULLER was born August 25, 1852 in Paris, Bessarabia, South Russia.  He married (1) KRISTINA.    He married (2) CHRISTINA JASKA, about June 04, 1878.  She was born in Borodina.

Children of ANDREAS MULLER and KRISTINA are:

1. JOHANNES MULLER, born June 13, 1902; died December 16, 1902.

2. THEODORE MULLER, born June 05, 1889.

Children of ANDREAS MULLER and CHRISTINA JASKA [?, not sure on last name] are:

  1. FRIEDRICH MULLER, born August 26, 1873; died January 28, 1877.

2. CHRISTIAN MULLER, born December 09, 1880.


This story I am about to write tells of the years of not knowing who Grandpa Sal's parent's & grandparent's were.  The research we were doing wasn't giving us answers at first. I wanted to know who they were, and the further back I could go, the better. My father and my aunts & uncles never talked to me about their grandparents on this side. Uncle Alvin has told us some old stories about Sal's trip to America & some other relatives that settled in Golden Valley, N.D., but he didn't have their names, just Muellers.  I wonder if Grandpa didn't write it down because it was too painful to think about it.  Also he couldn't do much about it. There wasn't any way to reach them. In the early 1900's many Germans vanished, some were sent to Siberia. That was one of the reasons why so many came to America.  I know now that the Russians made all the remaining Germans leave Russia when Hitler came into power, before WWII.  Even in the family papers Sal's mother is only referenced as Dorothea Mueller, not by her maiden name.

Cousin Mary Mueller Cato's efforts to find him on the internet did find him here in America through Sunni's web site [Weispfenning's].  But it didn't go back to his ancestors.  Sunni is the great great grand daughter of My great grandfather, Johannes Weisfenning, and the great granddaughter of Christ Weispfenning.

A couple of Sunday's ago my wife was surfing the web, trying to connect with Salomon and his ancestors.   We found a site on Paris, Bessarabia, Russia, found lots of Muellers [Muller], no Salomon.  I was making notes of the material we printed out, trying to line up the Mueller's [Mullers] we found in each family, one page for each family along with the kids listed.  Joyce said, “I just found a Christoph Muller with a wife by the name of Dorothea Schroeder”.  Sal's obituary listed his mother's maiden name as Baltzer.  That couldn't be Sal's parents, must be another Christoph & Dorothea.  We went on to other census categories, first births, then on to family census, then on to deaths, no luck.  We did find another Dorothea that married a Christoph Muller, but her last name was Oelke. How frustrating, if only we had their birth dates we could verify them one way or the other.  We were running out of data, and no Salomon.  We were at it for hours, it was 6:30 PM, and we stopped and had dinner.  Talking about our day, it was very exhausting.  I remember asking about her age, when she married Christoph, it was 30.  Seemed pretty old for that point in time to be getting married. Maybe she was married before and that would explain why she had 2 different last names, one her maiden, another her first husband's last name.  We discussed other aspects and things that needed to be checked out, 15 different directions, all at the same time.

After dinner we continued the search. It seems now we spent a few more hours on it.  I was sitting on the sofa going through all the printouts and my wife said that this Christoph & Dorothea Muller had 2 children, one boy named Gottfried and one girl named Saloma.   She asked, “Do you know Salomon's birthdate?”  “Yes, I have it, let me look it up, it's 10-27-1884.”  She got real excited and rose in her chair, “THAT'S HIM, his name is misspelled.”  It was probably entered onto this web site from German handwritten records, which were hard to read.  Then the interpreter who was working on it had to know how to read that particular German dialect.  This translation was done recently, over 100 years after it was written. Much of the German variations of speech and writing have been lost to time.  There are many of these kinds of errors in these web site databases.  After a few more hours of research, I was surprised to find that all of the other Muler & Muller data that we were working on and had printed out were of Salomon's relatives.  They all connected, one big extended family.  Now we had our genealogy going back 3 generations from Salomon.  Boy did I feel like a gold miner that just struck GOLD.

I have a theory of why Sal's Mothers maiden name was incorrect in his obituary, listed as Baltzer.  There was no written record of her maiden name, and after Sal's death his wife Maria was put upon to give information for his obituary.  She either made up the name or recalled it improperly.  It wasn't written down in the house, just Muller, no maiden name.

What a day, it was 12:30 AM, way past our bedtime.  I was so wound up I couldn't sleep.  I remember sitting on the couch in the dark with my eyes closed, my head back, trying to relax so I could go to bed.  I was sitting there with my eyes closed and had a vision of the ceiling peeling open, then the roof opening up and in an instant looking through the clouds and far beyond.  I saw a group of people, sitting there around a table and I looked to see who they were and recognized some of them.  They were my dead ancestors.  I opened my eyes and shook my head, yes I was still awake; I was too wound up to sleep.  What was that?  I never had experienced anything quite like it before.  What's going on here, what were they doing at that table?  Boy was that weird.

Now I wish I hadn't stopped the vision.  I wonder what they were doing at the table, maybe eating kass kneffla and German pork fry sausage, then having kuchen for dessert?  Have I ever told you that I think I have a very wild imagination.                        


                                  TO AMERICA


They started to come to America in the years following the Homestead Act of 1862, and by 1914 over 300,000 Germans from Russia had retraced their grandparents' route, almost one century earlier, back to Germany.  This time they went by railroad to Bremen,  Hamburg, and other German seaports.  This was the first step of their journey.  The others would be longer and harder.  Where did we read this before?  They boarded steamships 3rd class to America.  The trip took one to three weeks, depending on the season and the ship.  But most crossings were made in 11 or 12 days.  This voyage was very hard on them.  Some of them died, especially the young.  There were lice, disease, and filthy conditions.  Most of them arrived at Ellis Island and other eastern ports.  From here our ancestors boarded trains.  The Volga River Germans settled in Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska.  The Black Sea Bessarabia Germans went to Dakota Territory and Canada.  North and South Dakota became states in Nov. 1889.  Here they were able to maintain [1] their culture and

[2] Their language longer than any other Germans coming from Russia.  In North Dakota they settled 23 counties, grassland and rolling hills that resembled the steppes of Russia.  This area in North Dakota is now known as the German triangle.  It is located along a line from Strasburg to Ellendale, along the North & South Dakota border, and to a point above Devils Lake.

These Germans from Russia had special skills that would make their existence possible on the plains of Dakota Territory.  They were farmers who knew how to grow wheat and flax.  It's interesting that North Dakota and Bessarabia are on the same latitude.  They had the survival skills needed to build a home and barn where there were no trees for wood.  They also knew how to get water out of the ground by hand digging wells, 20 to 30 feet deep.  They knew how to heat their homes with buffalo and cow dung.  Even the names of the town in Russia and Germany were used to name their towns in America such as Strasburg, Selz, Kulm, and Fredonia.

I know that among the German families there were farmers and blacksmiths and shoemakers. It may not be a coincidence that Grandma Maria's brother, Fred, was a blacksmith and had three blacksmith shops; one in Fredonia, then another south of Gackle on the farm, and then moving it to Gackle.  His son Leonard also operated a welding shop.  You will keep seeing these similar circumstances repeated time after time, in their names, their occupations, and their willingness to pick up and move to better them selves.   When they moved to Russia, in the move to America two generations later, and again two generations later when my two uncles, Evoldt and Alvin moved to California for similar reasons, for a better life.  Two brothers were again seeking better opportunities, with Evoldt leaving first, then Alvin following later.  This time there were no covered wagons but good roads and cars to make the journey.  They moved to Lodi, California, which became a settling place for Germans from North Dakota.  


  This is where it really gets interesting.

Now we have more information about these ancestors and can tell a better story rather than just putting names, dates and occupations to our ancestors.  We have two sides.  [1] Our Grandfather Salomon Mueller and [2] our Grandmother Maria Weispfenning.  We will start with Grandmother's side first.  We have a wealth of information about this side and it starts with her parents and uncle back in Russia.  But first lets set this in time.  North Dakota became a state in 1889.  Custer's battle was on 6-25-1876.  The Whitestone Indian battle was in 1863 just 25 miles south east of where my great grandparents, Johannes & Susanna Weispfenning homesteaded in 1887 in Logan County.  These two people were my main focus.  I have written the most about their lives.  I think that standing in the remains of their mud brick home in the 1960's, and repeating their story about how they used their turned over wagon box for a home, when they arrived at their homestead site in 1887 has intrigued me.


We have two brothers Johnannes Weispfenning described below {my direct ancestor] and his younger brother, Johann George Weispfenning, later called George Weispfenning Sr., probably because their names were so close that their parents called one John and the other one George.  They both came together on the ship “Saale”, landing in New York, N.Y. on 10-25-1886. From there they took a train to Hutchinson county, Dakota Territory. Johannes settled in Tripp, and George settled in Parkston only a few miles apart.  This now is South Dakota, southwest of Sioux Falls.  The two Weispfenning families along with a Michael Brost family left the following spring for Logan county.  They all settled in the same area north west of where Fredonia, N.D is today.



The question that has been nagging me for weeks is, “Why to Tripp, Dakota Territory?”  Finally the answer has revealed itself after much research.  Johannes & George had a sister, Anna Maria Weispfenning Geiszler.  She was born on 7-07-1846 in Bessarabia, South Russia and died in 1916 in Tripp, South Dakota.  She married Gottlieb Geiszler on 2-12-1865 in Russia.  They came to America along with Anna Maria's sister Karolina who married a Martin Wudel.  Karolina's first child Johann was born in Parkston, Dakota Territory on 12-09-1880, 6 years before Great Grandparent came to America.  From this information I concluded that Grandpa Johannes and family spent the winter with sister Anna Maria on a farm near Tripp and brother George spent the winter with sister Karolina on a farm near Parkston.



                      Generation # 4

              Johannes Weispfenning

Son of August & Katharina Hehr Weispfenning

      Born in Russia, died at Fredonia, N.D.

   Came to America in 1886

      My Great Grandfather

Johannes Weispfenning was born  on 6-26-1856 at Dennevitz, Bessarabia, South Russia.  He married Anna  Susanna Schneider {Susanna for short} on 12-08-1878.  She was born on 10-28-1858 at Wittenberg, Bessarabia South Russia.  Her parents were Gottlieb Schneider and Justina Rattai.

They decided to leave Russia, and they came to America in 1886.   Their journey retraced their grandparent's journey from German to Prussia then to Russia, but this time by train.  Johannes was 30 years old, and Susanna was 28.  They had 3 children at this time, Fred - three days short of his 7th birthday, Rebecca - age 1 year 10 months and Johann- 10 days to 24 days old.  After arriving in Germany they set sail for America in 1886.  This generation of Germans didn't look German when they came to America.  They said they were German and they spoke German with some Russian and Ukrainian thrown in, but they looked Russian.  The women wore Russian shawls and the men wore high leather boots and long coats with long sashes at the waist.  Johannes & Susanna & their family arrived in New York and boarded a train to Tripp in Dakota Territory, now South Dakota.  Here their sisters, Anna Maria and Karolina and their family lived.  There were many Germans from Russia in this part of Dakota Territory, friends and family that had made the same trip before them.  Letters from America had to be one of the reasons that enticed them to this destination.   They came and spent the winter with their sisters on their farms, and left for Logan County to find a homestead the following spring.  I don't have direct history from these two sisters, but have written history on other Germans that came to Tripp the same year and left because the free land was gone.  Their money was also gone, so they couldn't buy land there.  So Johannes and Susanna probably left for the same reasons.  They had lost their youngest child. Johann had died on 3-15-1887.  One can only imagine how hard it must have been to leave the freshly dug grave.  They had done this before when they left Russia, leaving behind the grave of their first daughter, Justina, who died 4-22-1881 and a son named John.

It was the spring of 1887.  They boarded the train and went to Ellendale, 50 miles from where they would settle.  Ellendale was at the end of the railroad.  It had to be here that they bought the wagon, oxen and supplies.  There was no room for error; they had to have enough of all the right supplies.  Only a few trips were made to town each year.  A wagon pulled by oxen was the slowest form of transportation.  Even after Kulm was built, early settlers would walk the 7-12 miles there rather than go by oxen, because it was faster.  They could only do this if they could carry their purchases home on their backs.

Now they were ready.  They just had to find that special tract of land that they had picked out in Ellendale and filed on, using the Homestead Act of 1862.  They now journeyed where there were no roads, only a few trails, and on the final miles they blazed their own trail across the virgin Dakota prairie.

I know that government surveyors had already surveyed the land and had left markers.  There was no town of Fredonia yet.  I also know that the pioneer settlers found their land by wrapping a piece of wire around one spoke on the wagon wheel.  They used this as an odometer, started at a government marker; so many revolutions equaled one mile.

Their first home was the wagon box turned upside down, until a house of sod was built.  After that they built another house from clay bricks that they made by hand.  This clay brick house can be seen on Christ and Louisa's wedding picture.  This is the story I have been hearing over and over again for about 40 years.  It is the story of how my great grandparents, when arriving at their homestead in Logan County Dakota Territory in a covered wagon pulled by oxen, tipped their wagon box upside down and lived in it until their first home was built that spring and summer.  I heard it from my Dad and my Aunt Hulda.  It was something they were proud of; it was like saying I come from good stock.   I also remember reciting it to my children and feeling all the hidden meanings that went along with saying it. This could be the greatest story of our Weispfenning heritage.           

About two years ago, on a Saturday morning, I was at the barbershop. There was a young woman there with her two young sons. She was talking to the barber and he said something to her. Her response was, “Hey, of course I can do that, when my great grand parents settled on the prairie, they turned their wagon box upside down and lived in it until they built their first sod house.”  The hair on the back of my neck stood up and a wave went up and down my spine. I thought “Hey, that's my story”. I asked her who she was, she replied by using her married name. I then asked her if she wasn't a Weispfenning. She replied, “Yes, Milton Weispfenning was my father”.  Milton was my father's cousin from Fredonia.

Although many Dakota settlers built homes of sod, Johannes and Susanna's second home in N. D. resembled the homes they had in Russia, made from bricks they made, a mixture of clay, water, manure and straw.  The clay was usually obtained from the side of hills.  The hole that they used to get their clay from was only a few hundred yards from the house they built and is still there.  They would beat the clay and add water until the clay was broken down into a moveable consistency, then add straw and manure.  Wooden forms were built to make bricks and the mixture was scooped into the forms and leveled.  Then they were taken out of the forms and sun-dried.  After drying, the bricks were assembled into walls.  Then they would use a mixture of clay, water, straw and even fresh manure to form a plaster type consistency.  This would seal the cracks in the brick walls and cover the entire surface.  Fresh manure was also used to reseal the cracks at a later date; the finish was in constant need of repair.  I remember being told by some older woman that when they were children, one of their jobs was to re-plaster the house's cracks with fresh manure with their bare hands.  They were very proud of their new homes, having labored for months to build them.  It was a symbol of their hard work, their dedication to their children in trying to make a good life for them.  Building a home on the prairie fulfilled their dreams, giving them self esteem and a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment.  They often had pictures taken of themselves outside their homes with their livestock, organ stools and other prized possessions.  Here on the prairie making do, raising a family on what you could make, raise or create, not buy, was very satisfying; however, the financial side was very hard.  They realized that it's not always about money.  Being able to stay in N.D. and raise their children here was very rewarding to them.

There was little food at first and a lot of sickness.  Diphtheria and smallpox killed many, especially the young.  They still didn't fully understand how to avoid communicable diseases.  These are the reason why only 7 of their children lived to adulthood.  Two of their sons [Art and John] would die in 1902 from Diphtheria at the age of 2 and 7.

Soon after arriving, Johannes broke 5 acres of land with the oxen and a hand plow and seeded it to flax, his first and only crop that year.  One can only wonder what kind of yield he had.  We can only guess.  We do know that farming in N.D. was and is a very challenging and risky occupation with a lot of disappointing and discouraging events.  We do know the flax yields in 1889 of Fredrick Geiszler, (Johannes nephew, his sister Anna Marie's son).  Anna Marie was our first link to the Geiszler's when she married Gottlieb Geiszler.  The second link was when Anna Marie's great granddaughter Lenora married August Geiszler.  Fred settled south east of the Weispfenning homestead and broke up 10 acres of land, seeded 3 bushels of flax, and harvested 3 bushels of flax. The Geiszlers came to this area from Tripp, Dakota Territory, through Ellendale.  Sound familiar?  The Weispfenning and Geiszler's grandchildren would marry and link our families for the third time.  Rebecca Weispfenning Gumke, my Grandmother Maria Weispfenning Mueller's sister, married Christ Gumke.  Their daughter, Mary, married Simon Geiszler.  This is also our link to the Gumkes.  I always knew we were related to the Gumkes and Geiszlers, but when I would ask, I was always told, “Oh, that's from the other branch of the family.”  It was like it was too hard to explain to a young boy who didn't even know the people personally, and who couldn't keep it all straight.

Johannes and Susanna gathered buffalo bones for two years, which they sold at Ellendale for a few dollars per ton.  This is how they made their living. They used this money for food and supplies and for wood for a roof on the home they were constructing.  They gathered buffalo chips and cut slough grass that they twisted together for fuel.

They had 12 children, one of whom was my Grandmother Maria Weispfenning Mueller.  

                                   Their Children

1.  Fred            Born 10-28-1879 in Russia      Died 1945

2.  Justina      Born 4-22-1881 in Russia   Died in Russia date unknown

3.  John           Born and died in Russia    Dates unknown

4.  Rebecca      Born 1-28-1885 in Russia       Died 8-18-1977

5.  Johann        Born 9-24 1886 in Russia   Died 3-15-1887 in

       Tripp, SD

6.  Maria          Born 6-26-1888 on farm north of Fredonia  Died 6-15-62

7.  Christ          Born 7-23-1890 on farm north of Fredonia   Died 2-2-1962

8.  Justina         Born 6-11 1892 on the farm north of Fredonia    Died  ?     

9.  Magdalena   Born 1-28- 1894 on the farm north of Fredonia    Died     

        about 1965

10. John       Born 7-9-1895   Died 7-16-1902 on the farm north of

                    Fredonia from Diphtheria

11.  Otto       Born 4-25 1897 on the farm north of Fredonia   Died 3-18-76

12.  Arthur   Born 11-7-1899  Died 7-13-1902 from Diphtheria on farm


They retired from farming in 1919 but remained on the old homestead until they passed away.  They died 3 months a part, Johannes on 4-21-1932 and Susanna on 7-25-1932.  Their wakes were held outside in front of the clay-brick home that they built in 1887, then services were held in Fredonia and they were both laid to rest in the Lutheran Cemetery ½ mile east of their home on Hwy. 56, 3 miles north of Fredonia,  N.D.

Their son, Christ, married Louisa Rath and stayed on the farm until his death in 1962.  They farmed with Christ's parents until his parents retired in 1919.  

Christ & Louisa's son, Ted, farmed the land and built a house on the original homestead.  They bought land from his dad and his aunt in the 1950's.  He farmed until his death in 1996.  After Ted died his wife Mavis had an auction sale to sell the equipment and later sold the house.  It was moved off the farm.    

Son, Otto and his wife, Mathilda Rath farmed with Otto's father until his dad retired in 1919.  They stayed there and continued to farm until 1940.  They farmed until 1945 on other farms, then moved to Jamestown, N.D.   

Christ's daughter Alma and her husband Edwin Buerkle moved in after Otto left in 1940.  They farmed there until 1944 when they moved to another farm.  

Johannes and Susanna were both rugged individuals.  Their move to America had to take a lot of courage, especially knowing that they would never again see the family they left behind.  When you ask yourself, who am I, where did I come from, you can look to these two people.  They are the salt of the earth, their spirit lives on in you.  All you have to do is think about how you position your head when being told something you don't want to hear, or how you use your hand when you talk.  Have you ever heard, he looks just like his dad from behind.  Their spirit, mannerisms, and stubbornness live on in you.  Their hopes and dreams are what gave their children life, and that's why you are alive today.  Now you know who you are and where you came from. If you can't get your children to read this story because it's too long, too boring and just about dead people, have them read this paragraph.

One can only wonder what is was like to bury 5 children.  What kind of toll did it take on them?  How did it effect them emotionally and psychologically?  How did it affect their lives, how did it change them?  Did they feel responsible and what did they do because of it?

I have heard stories from their grandchildren that Johannes was a very strict disciplinarian.  He was always telling them not to touch.  One story even tells of grandchildren being tied to a tree so they couldn't get in trouble.  One has to remember that he was born in 1856 when self discipline was expected and needed to stay alive.  One can only guess if losing 5 children didn't effect them in this regard.  I'm sure he didn't want to bury another child or, God forbid, a grandchild.  He probably lived with this daily and took measures to prevent any harm to them.  We know life can harden you, we can

only imagine how they suffered over losing 5 children.  We know they struggled to position their family in a country so eventually their children would prosper.  I think we all owe them a big thank you.  

There is a lot of talk in N. D. today about young people moving off the family farm and even out of state, mainly because of financial reasons.  As the land was passed down from generation to generation, some one was expected to stay and work the land.  But this is not happening on many family farms.  Because of poor farm prices, the land is often sold to non-family members.  After writing about Johannes and Susanna, I have some thoughts on this subject.  I think that they would have given their blessing, even if they didn't agree, to anyone who wanted to pick up and leave to try to make a better life.  I think they would be the first to encourage their children and their grandchildren to pursue their dreams.  They might not have liked it, but would have understood, especially in hard financial times.    They did; they left Russia, then they left Tripp, to come to Logan County.  They were young, only 30 & 28, and nothing stopped them; not the Atlantic Ocean, not the vast open spaces of 1886 America, not the deaths of their children, they were unstoppable.  They came filled with dreams of making a better life, a better place to raise their family, and mostly a place where the following generations could prosper.  I know this because history records that the Germans from Russia KNEW that they would have great need in their lifetime.  They knew that even their children would struggle for prosperity.  They knew that their grandchildren's generation would be the first generation to prosper.  They knew this; they did this for their descendants, not just for themselves.  If you look back today, it did take two generations for reasonable prosperity.  This is true in most German families that came to America.  It's easy to understand this concept, to understand their feeling on this subject.  If you are a parent, and have children over 20, you slowly come to the realization that you gave up your freedom, a little at a time, to raise your children.  Especially in hard economic times, you sacrificed your time and needs so they could have a better life, most of the time without regret, and not even thinking about it.  You don't even realize the full extent of your sacrifice until the children are gone and you regain your freedom and find yourself with idle time.  You have forgotten how you used to use the time and how you used to fill it before you had a family.   Your children are your greatest achievement.        

               Other interesting facts about the early settlers.

In America, the Homestead Act required that they live on the land, not like in Russia where they lived in villages and went out to work the fields.  This isolation on the prairie caused them to be very homesick and long to see the relatives they left behind.  In Russia, the extended families would gather in the evenings and on Sundays, but not in Dakota Territory in the late 1800's.

Weekly church services helped them get through their homesickness.  Most of the early settlers who came to America never learned how to speak English.  30% of N.D. population today can trace their heritage to these Germans.  There are now over 1,000,000 of us and many have left N.D., moving to almost every state in the union.  North Dakota's major export is not our wheat, it's our children.

The first immigrants may have been simple, God fearing people, but they possessed the will and determination and intelligence to make their new lives work here on the prairies of Dakota Territory.

Most of the early immigrants to this area were from South Russia,  German's who came from 1885 to 1890.

The railroad was extended from Kulm to Lehr in 1898.  Kulm was named after a Napoleonic battle in German provinces, then brought to Russia and now to N.D.  Fredonia was formed in 1904 when George Gackle & Peter Billigmeier realized that the distance between Kulm & Lehr was about 20 miles, so on property they owned built a side tract grade, mostly built with donated labor from the local farmers.  Rails were laid by the Soo Line in the fall, and a grain elevator and store were built that same year.  This was the beginning of Fredonia.  The town was named by a crew of Frenchmen who built the elevator.  On 7-10-1914 Fredonia was incorporated as a village.


In 1888 they witnessed the worst blizzard in history.  In 1885 the first school district was formed, known as the Norby school district # 12.

In 1895 Napoleon had 42 residents.  Napoleon was the only town on the1895 county map that I recognized; all the rest apparently no longer exist or have changed their names.

They had to deal with numerous and large prairie fires in the 1880's & 1890's.  Often times a fire was seen at dusk many miles away, sweeping over the vast, wind blown prairie and by midnight it was at their doorstep.  I think this is why my Aunt Hulda Mueller Ehmann would always check the horizons at dusk, it was something she was taught from her mother Maria, daughter of Johannes & Susanna Weispfenning.

After a few years, the horse came into the picture and changed their mode of transportation and work.  The horse and railroad gave rural America the power to change their lives.  Wood frame homes replaced the mud brick or rock or sod homes and barns.

These ancestors also had red cows. There were three strains, 1. shorthorn [cattle raised for meat], 2. Milking shorthorns [cattle used for meat and milk] 3. polled shorthorns, no horns [cattle used for beef].  They were slightly larger than the Guernsey or Jersey cattle used only for milking, and a lot better eating.  Shorthorns also gained weight rapidly without too much feeding, and they were raised easily.  Shorthorns were imported from England to the USA in 1783.  This breed of cattle was best suited to their type of family farming.  Germans liked the versatility of the red cow.  They had more and better tasting meat than the milking breeds and they were good milkers.  Milking is something our ancestors knew a lot about.  The shorthorns were faded out in the 1980's & 1990's along with the family farm as we knew it.  Farms now specialize in beef or dairy cattle.  There are very few farms left still milking.  It has been taken over by large milking farms that milk 24 hours a day in shifts, 30 to 40 cows at a time, with cooling lines going directly into the semi.  The cows also wear a computer chip, which gets plugged in during the feeding process and gives the farmer feed weights that were eaten to insure that they are eating all the grain or to warn them of sickness if they are not.   

Our ancestors were born and raised on family farms.  They grew wheat, flax, oats, barley, and corn and raised cows, horses, sheep, pigs, chickens, ducks and geese.  They were self-sufficient and most of the time saved seed to renew their own crops. They sold crops, livestock, milk, cream and eggs.  Eggs were usually traded for groceries on their only weekly trip to town on Saturday night.  

Farmers no longer have a chicken coop, cow stanchions, separators or milking stools.  They get their milk on one of their daily trips to town.   Family farms are a thing of the past in N.D.

I have often said that my great grandparents and my grandparents, in their early days, would wake up in the morning and toss the homemade quilt off and fluff the pillows that they made using duck and goose down from the birds they raised and butchered.  They put their feet on the rug that they braided and sewed together from their old worn out clothes. They went to the kitchen and started a fire from wood they cut and chopped or from cow chips from their cows.  They fried bacon from the pigs they raised, butchered, cured and smoked along with eggs they picked from the chickens they raised.  They made toast from the bread they made using the wheat they planted, cultivated, harvested and had ground.  Then buttered it with butter they made from the cream they separated from the milk they got from the cows they raised.  And don't forget the jelly, all homemade.

They had large gardens and did a lot of canning, both fruits and vegetables.  They also canned beef, chicken, pork and sausage.  This is the best tasting meat you can eat. This was a way of preserving food before refrigeration.  Along with a garden, they had a potato patch, usually larger than the garden.  They always raised more than they could eat.  The potatoes remaining in the spring in the root cellar were their seed, already growing long sprouts ready for the rich North Dakota soil.  Everything they raised they renewed, whether it was livestock or crops.  They were very self sufficient and possessed skills that are no longer in practice.  They had to be tough, disciplined and stubborn to survive.  I have a bumper sticker that says, “You can always tell a German, but you can't tell him much”.



                                       Generation # 5

                                  Johann Weispfenning

Son of Johannes & Susanna Weispfenning

          Born in Russia 1886, died in Dakota Territory in 1887

                                       My great uncle

Johann Weispfenning was born in Russia on 9-24-1886 and left for America when he was only about 10 days old.  He was probably named after his father's younger brother or after his grandfather's brother, Johann.  They landed in New York on 10-25-1886, and journed by train to Hutchinson County, Dakota Territory.  This is now called Tripp S. D.  He died on 3-15-1887 and was buried at Immanuel Lutheran Parish, Kaylor, Dakota Territory.  Kaylor is only a few miles southeast of Tripp.  One has to ask, “Where is his gravesite, and could we find it?”  You also wonder if anyone has ever been back to visit his gravesite since he was buried there, even his parents.  You also wonder why they left Tripp, a settled community to go north 250 miles to Logan County.  They came to a place that was 50 miles from the nearest town, and this was before the horse and buggy days.  They had slow moving oxen wagons.  Was it because they had to pay for the land at Tripp, and couldn't or didn't want to try to make it under these conditions?  Did it have anything to do with Johann's death?  ONE CAN ONLY IMAGINE.  I'm sure that the lure of free land in Logan County had something to do with it. I also know they both had WANDERLUST in the tenth degree.

I wrote about this poor soul because he has been long forgotten.  It took me hours to research and do the math on his dates and write this story on him.  I have thought about him on and off for a week.  I have a thought of him but went on with what I was doing.  A few days later he pops up again, and I go on.  Three times, four times, it's like he's screaming to me  “Don't forget me”.

I had planned to do only direct relatives at this point in the story, to go from my great grandparent, to my grandparent, to my parent, then to me and my family, only giving names, dates and places on other siblings.  I plan on continuing with all the other relatives in my genealogy book, which has more detail, and having sheets on each of them, but not making it a part of this short story.  Well, I've made an exception, I realized he is very special.

Finally 2 AM, Saturday morning 1-12-2002, it's almost done, 114 years after his death.  I feel his soul has reached out and touched mine.  May GOD bless his soul and if you could, say a prayer for him, I'm sure he would appreciate it.  

Well Johann, that's all for now, maybe some day soon I can visit your gravesite and check up on you, to see if everything there is OK.  

The last few sentences have really moved me.

My wife has told me a few times that I can't write this or I can't write that, I'm only guessing.  My reply has always been well, I'll add to the front of it, probably or maybe or one can only imagine.  This would give me license to write the story.  It seems fitting that this story on Johann be titled 'ONE CAN ONLY IMAGINE'    



                                       Generation # 5

   Maria Weispfenning Mueller

          Born in Logan county, Dakota Territory 6-26-1888.

              Daughter of Johannes & Susanna Weispfenning

My Grandmother

Maria Weispfenning, daughter of Johannes & Susanna Weispfenning, was my grandmother.  She was born on the family farm in Logan County, that is now 3 miles north of the village of Fredonia, N.D.  She attended the country school there.  She married Salomon Mueller when she was 20 years old, on 6-6-1908.  They homesteaded on 80 acres 13  miles NW of Fredonia.  There their first 3 children were born, Hulda, Johnnie and Helma.  From there they moved to Gackle, ND on 2- 8-1915.  In 1943 they moved to Napoleon N.D.  Around 1960 Maria moved to Jamestown, N.D. were she entered a nursing home.  She died in Jamestown on 6-15-1962.

I stayed with Grandma Mueller a lot when we were in preschool and grade school.  I remember doing puzzles, having chamomile flower tea that she had grown & harvested and dried, making homemade noodles and borscht soup.  After Grandpa's death (in 1953) she lived in poverty - on welfare.  I can't remember that she ever had a house with running water, after Grandpa's death, just a pump and an outhouse.  I stayed with her overnight alone and with Lucy when my parents were gone.  She didn't drive, she sold Grandpa's car after he died.  She had a phone and had her groceries delivered.  She kept her chickens after grandpa died for a year or two, but gave them up when she moved and had no chicken coop.  She had to move to a lower rent house after Grandpa died and had to move about 3 times until she moved in with us.  Then about 1960 she moved to Jamestown when I was about 11 years old to a nursing home that is now the Stutsman County Museum.  She lived on the second floor.

When I was about 10 or 12 she gave me a pink handmade quilt.  It seemed strange to me. “Why, what's this for?” I asked her.  Her reply was “It's your wedding gift.”   “My wedding gift?”  “Yes, I won't be here for it”, was her reply.  I think she made all of her grandchildren quilts.  I still have mine.  It's been retired for over 30 years now, but shows some wear.  Mine has 42 separate blocks on it, two patterns, stars and small block pattern sewed together, but mostly stars.  All have different fabric in each block, using material saved from past projects.  Only one block has writing on it.  This block shows a young couple dancing, with a taller person standing watching.  They are dressed western style, with cowboy hats, boots and scarf.  The women are wearing big long pleated skirts.  This block has 9 smaller blocks that make up the big block.  Four of the nine smaller blocks came from one piece of a small remnant that depicts this western scene. This western scene piece was a remnant from another project, then cut up into four smaller pieces, so the scene is scattered.  It has imprinted on it “honor your parents”

I remember that she gave herself insulin shots for her diabetes.  She spoke good English and German & wrote German and English.   She never really went anywhere.  I remember Ruth Wurl [welfare agent] showing up one summer morning to check on her.  Grandma was sick and wanted me to go back to my house to get our hot water bottle, she thought that would help her.  I went flying back to my house on my bike and announced to my Mom that Grandma was sick and wanted me to fetch the bottle.  My dad was gone, we didn't have an extra car. The next day when I went back to check on her she was much improved, must have been that hot water.  I was down at her house a lot in the summer on my bike, mowing her lawn and checking on her (she had no lawn mower, I brought mine).  On her last move I was there helping her, along with 2 men that owned a truck.  I spent more time with her than anyone.  I remember my Dad and I doing her lawn once and digging a new hole for her outhouse.  She was a very good person, fair and compassionate.  We visited her at Jamestown in the nursing home a few times.  She died in Jamestown and was buried in Gackle.  She never complained about her financial state but worried excessively about her grown kids.

This generation saw many changes on the farm, This generation witnessed the move from horse power to steam power and tractors, from the thresher to the combine, from huge haystacks to the bailer.   

                      They had 6 children listed below:

  1. Hulda                        Born  1909                    

  1. Johnnie                      Born  1911

  1. Helma                        Born  1915

  1. Evoldt                        Born  1917

  1. Norbert                      Born 1922

  1. Alvin                          Born 1923

Generation # 4

Salomon Mueller

My Grandfather

         Son of Christoph & Dorothea Schroeder Oelke Muller

                              Came to America in 1905

As the story goes, Salomon Mueller, my Grandfather, reportedly was a stow-away on the ship that brought him to Canada with his brother or half brother.  Uncle Alvin, Salomon son, tells a story of how they hid behind the big black dresses of the Jewish Grandmother's, sitting on benches up against the walls, during role call.  He then came to America through Canada.   Alvin has memories that his father,  Salomon, was put on a train when he wanted to go to America and sent to Ellis Island for processing. His brother was sent back because he had a rash. Although census records don't tell of a brother or half brother who could fit into this story, it could have been a cousin.   Funny how this information gets vague only after 50 years. It proves my point, we all need to write a history of ourselves, because someday our great grandchildren will want to know.  

Salomon Mueller was born 10-27-1884 in Paris, South Russia.  He came to America in 1905 when he was 21 years old.  Records don't tell us when he came to Fredonia and why. But Uncle Alvin has vague memories of a Labrenz family.  He thinks probably they were second cousins.  When I researched this lead I did find a Christian Labrenz family coming to Fredonia from Paris, Russia.  They homesteaded 10 miles NW of Fredonia in 1900, and Sal came in 1905 and homesteaded on 80 acres, 13 miles NW of Fredonia.  Was it a coincidence?  Probably not. They were both from Paris, Russia and settled 3 miles apart in America.  This family could very well be the link that brought Salomon to this spot on the earth.  I also know that in order to enter America you had to have a sponsor, so it all makes sense.  Were they related?  I haven't found evidence of that yet, but I know that Paris was settled by German farmers, all from one community in Poland [Prussia].  And they all came to Poland from Northern Germany.  So we know this small group of people all lived together for many years in Russia.  Where do you think they found their spouses?  History tells us that the Germans in Russia didn't marry out side of their race or religion.  They wouldn't even go to the next German village to find a spouse because they were Catholic Germans, or Lutheran Germans. That was strictly forbidden back then, even if she was prettier than the girls in your hometown. Yes even if she was smarter, tradition would forbid it. So were they cousins?  Probably yes, probably distant.  Thanks, Alvin, for this scrap of information from your childhood memories.  Alvin was 8 years old when his Grandparents, Johannes & Susanna died, and remembered this information when recalling a trip his parents made to Fredonia to visit his Mother Maria's parents. He also remembers being at their funerals.

The above information probably answers the question of who, why and when to Fredonia.  But it's not from the horse's mouth, its indirect information and can't be chiseled in stone for future generations to rely on.     

Salomon married Maria Weispfenning on 6-06-1908 at Fredonia, N. D.  She was 20 years old and he was 23.  They homesteaded 13 miles NW of Fredonia where they farmed until February 1915.  They helped start the Friedenstal German Congregational Parish that held services in the home of Johann & Caroline Schlecht, 8 miles north of Fredonia.  In 1910 this congregation built a church with a membership of about 25.  This church still stands.  It was moved in 1992 to the Logan County Museum site in Napoleon N.D.    

They moved to Gackle ND on 2-8-1915.  There he was employed at a dray line owned by Henry Jenner.  A years later he would buy that dray line and a few year after that he was appointed as marshal of Gackle, an office he held for 20 years.  They had 6 children, and in 1942 the family moved to Napoleon because he was elected Logan County Sheriff.  Term limits allowed him to only serve 4 years.  He then served 4 years as Napoleon Marshal.  He ran for re-election as sheriff in 1950 and won and served until his death on 10-22-1953. I remember Mom taking me to the courthouse once when Grandpa was the County Sheriff.  He always won reelection big.  I have a picture of him in his office in the courthouse in Napoleon.  

He moved his chickens in his basement during the winter.  He had slide-out trays that he took out and emptied every day.  They were lined with newspaper.

I remember having Sunday dinner with my Mom and Dad and sister Lucy and Grandma and Grandpa Salomon Mueller.  We had chicken, and they always scalded the chicken legs and fried them with the rest of the chicken.  They were great - I was sitting between my Grandpa and Dad and they piled their bones on my plate.  I remember thinking that was great because I could eat all that chicken.  I was only about 3 years old then.

I remember the day he died of cancer in his home.  I was four years old.  Sister Lucy and I were at Grandpa & Grandma Ivanov's, my mother's parents, they took care of us for about 3-4 days.  My parents were caring for Sal.  He was very sick.  The Muellers and Ivanovs lived beside each other in Napoleon.  I remember looking out the window at the Mueller's house and asking question's about what was going on. Where is my Mommy & Daddy, can I see them?  I knew our car was at the Mueller's house.  Can I go over and see them?  I was told Grandpa was sick, and I couldn't go yet.  I remember knowing my Grandpa Mueller well, hoping he would get better.  But I sensed that something was very wrong, by the way they were acting when answering my questions.  The day he died, about 3-6 p.m., I was allowed to join my parents in Grandpa Mueller's house.  I was there when they carried him out on a stretcher covered with an army blanket.

I was told about 1970-1980's that when he was Marshall at Gackle, he would patrol the main street of Gackle walking with a whip.  He would crack the whip so the kids in town knew what they were up against.  The guy that told me this (laughing) was older, late 60's, and said he was a teenager then, and they were scared of him and minded him.  They didn't want to get in trouble.

This is the union that connected the Weispfenning's & Mueller's.  Yes, they each would have probably married some one else if they wouldn't have found each other.  But Maria's children wouldn't have the last name of Mueller, but another German name.  I have wondered how they met, can't remember ever being told.  That's one of my unanswered questions, can anyone help?  Probably in church, that's where a lot of couples met back in those days.  It was the place that young men knew they could find a good woman, someone who would be a good mother and wife.  I wonder if that holds true today.


We also have a story of how Salomon's brother or half brother settled in Golden Valley, N.D.  Through the pictures I have retrieved a few names, and find that Salomon's half cousin, Emmanuel Mueller, his wife Sophia, their children, his Mother Eva, his brother Wilhelm and his wife Karoline and their children, his brother Ferdinand's two daughters, Sophie & Salomina all came together in 1908 to America.  This is three years after Salomon Mueller came to America.  We also found that Sophie & Salomina's brother Wilhelm came to America.  I have been able to contact 3 of their descendants.  Here we have 200-300 cousins, dead & alive, on this side of the family, all scattered throughout the USA. Some of their names are Mueller, Miller, Fandrich, Wolf, Galster, Lapp, Murchell, Link, and more, but I don't have it all researched yet.  footnote:  One year later I did connect with a number of these half cousins.

I think the two stories merged about Salomon's coming to America with his brother or half brother and the Golden Valley people.  They are definitely two separate stories.  Time took it's toll on the stories. Cousin Mary Cato Mueller offers the best conclusion.  “The story is too old not to have some truth”.  Both Mary and I remember stories about a brother or half brother Samuel coming with Salomon.  Salomon did have a half brother named Samuel, but he died at the age of 2 in 1864 in Russia. This could have been a third story that ran together with the rest.  Part of all the stories are true, but when they get recalled 20 years later and merged, they become only partially based in fact.

 I find that the Golden Valley Muellers were able to connect with Salomon Mueller by using the German newspaper, “Der Staats Anzeiger” as Erwin J Wolf from Hazen tells me.  Erwin is the son of Salomina Mueller, who married Joseph Wolf.  Erwin writes that his mother was the one to connect with Salomon at Gackle, ND.  They did drive to Napoleon years later when Erwin was able to drive them in 1944 or 1945.  They spent a couple of days there.  Erwin & his Dad later connected with Norbert Mueller in Hazen, N.D., when he worked on a carnival one summer after returning from WWII.

Here is one of the pages I have on these people.  More information is available and will be put into the book of genealogy still in progress.

        SON OF CHRISTIAN & EVA MUELLER, Generation # 3

                               EMMANUEL MUELLER

                                      Generation # 4

Emmanuel was born on 1872.  He came to USA from Paris, Bessarabia South Russia in 1908 with his wife, Sophia, his mother, Eva, his brother Wilhelm and his wife, Karoline. and their brother's [Ferdinand] 2 daughters, Sophie & Salomina.  Eva was 69, Emmanuel 36, Wilhelm 42, Sophie 12, and Salomina 18 [S & S generation #5].  They settled in Golden Valley, N.D.

Emmanuel married Sophia on  {  ? help }.  When they came to Golden Valley, Eva homested on 160 acres, Emmanuel on 160    acres in the same section as Eva, and Wilhelm on120 acres.

Their children                                1910 census

  1. Lydia                                        Born 1905

  1. Dan                                          Born 1907

  1. Ed                                            Born  ?

  1. Otto                                          Born   1903

  1. Maria (Mary)                            Born   1901

  1. Kathrine                                   Born   ?

  1. Lena                                         Born   ?

  1. Pauline                                     Born   ?

9.  Emilia                                        Born 1909   Died young ?


We have 8 pictures of these people, some were sent to my Grand- father in Gackle N. D. around 1930's from Salomina.  Some are from April & June 1973, but at this time I don't know how my side of the family received the pictures.

                          Generation # 5, Mueller side

                     Generation # 6, Weispfenning side

                               NORBERT MUELLER

                                       My Father


This is the generation that cracked the mold, they spoke German first, then English.  They changed their culture dramatically after WW II,  because of seeing the world.  They no longer were the kids fresh off the farm, that just fell off the manure spreader.

Norbert Mueller & Helen Ivanov Mueller

Norbert Mueller

Born: 8-11-1922

Died: 5-19-1982

Helen Ivanov

Born: 4-8-1928

Daughter of George & Barbara Ivanov

Died: 5-19-1982

Married 8-11-1947


Lucy Patricia- born 1-25-1948

Thomas George - born 8-22-1949

Daniel James - born 2-15-1955

Norbert Mueller was born in Gackle, N.D. and attended grade school there.  He was inducted into the U.S. Army on 1-27-1943 and served in the 3rd Armored Division until 11-20-1945. He was an M-4 Sherman Tank driver in Company H in the 3rd Armored Regiment.  He was wounded in action twice - one time he was the only survivor of a crew of five.  He served in five major battles: Normandy, Ardennes, Northern France, Rhineland, Central Europe and was at the Battle of the Bulge.  He came back to Napoleon after leaving the Army and worked at his “dray line”, delivering merchandise from the train station to local businesses.  He also helped his father as a Deputy Sheriff.  Later, he worked at a lumberyard and as a Deputy Sheriff until his father's death on 10-29-1953, when he was appointed Sheriff of Logan County at Napoleon.  He left law enforcement in 1973 and started an antique shop in Napoleon.  He ran the antique shop until they sold the shop and their home and moved to Las Vegas in 1981.

Helen Ivanov was born on a farm SE of Napoleon and attended grade school at a country school and high school in Napoleon.  She started working for B.W. Meier Insurance Agency about 1958 when her youngest, Dan was two years old.  Later (1963), she started her own insurance agency.  She sold hail, auto and life insurance for companies like Milbank and Modern Woodmen.  She excelled at her life insurance at Modern Woodmen, and also competed in the top ten salespeople of the company.  In pictures we have, she was the only woman (we come from a long line of strong women).  She sold insurance until her death.

                                  Generation # 6 Mueller

                             Generation # 7 Weispfenning

                                     THOMAS MUELLER


This is the generation that broke the mold.  Most spoke only English, and lost their German heritage, as assimilation into American culture became more and faster than any prior generation.  Many of this generation married outside their German nationality, more than any generation before.  Times were changing and the old German culture wasn't making sense to this generation in their lives, especially in the regard of how they lived, who they were and had become.  Time marches on and change is constant.  

This is my generation, the WWII baby boomers.  The razor is double edged for us. We like to take credit for changing the world around us for the better.  But we are reminded by the previous generation and the faster pace life style of what we threw out, what we discarded, what we forgot.  What really matters, what really counts?  Who's right, what's right, who's wrong, what's wrong?  Maybe there is no right or wrong, maybe it is just what it is.  Maybe that's the only way to look at it. Forget about our German Heritage, turn our backs on what use to be, who our forefathers were, and live for the future.  But just wait a minute, maybe there can be a balance between the past and the present.  Maybe there is room in our busy lives to remember the past, to remember our German ancestors and their heritage.  The oral history of our ancestors is surely worth spending some time on.  To try to figure out who they were, to look back so we can understand who we are, so we know our history, so we can shape our future.  Being armed with past history allows us not to repeat the unwise, the things that we do and want to forget.  A wiser man is a richer man. Didn't some famous person say that?  Then there's the German food, especially the dough recipes.  Taking the time to preserve the recipes and passing it to the next generation can link parents and children by sharing a meal.  One could use this time wisely.  Do what Cousin Darlene told me to do 15 years ago,  “Take time to build memories with your children”.  This will return tenfold.

Have you ever tasted my wife's case knephla or her knephla soup?  She's Norwegian/Swedish.  The recipies were taught to her by my mother.  My mother knew what was good for me, and insured that I would be able to have her recipes through my wife.  How lucky can one German be!!

Thomas Mueller

Thomas Mueller - born 8-22-1949

Son of Norbert Mueller and Helen Ivanov Mueller

Wife: Joyce Nelson - born 3-24-49

Married 6-5-1970


Stacy Joy - born 12-1-1971

Shane Thomas - born 4-20-1974

Sara Beth - born 3-30-1977

Tom Mueller was born in Bismarck, ND at St. Alexis Hospital.  He lived in Napoleon, ND until graduating from High School in 1967.  He graduated from Dakota Business College in Fargo, ND in 1969.  Then he worked at Smith, Follett & Crowl - a wholesale clothing firm in Fargo - until 1970.  He moved with his wife Joyce to Carrington, where he worked at Borth & Speidel as manager of their men's clothing department until 1973.  Then they moved back to Napoleon, where he was employed at Family Clothing as assistant manager until 1975.  He bought his first store, Wheeler Shoes in Jamestown, N.D. and renamed it “The Shoe Box”.  In 1980, they added a shoe repair shop to the store.  

Two malls had been built in Jamestown, & it was change or go broke.  In 1983, they started a leather craft shop in the same building.  It evolved out of the shoe repair shop.  In 1985, they started Dakota Belt Company; it evolved out of the leather craft shop.  They sold the shoe store's inventory around 1986, and sold the shoe repair business around 1987.  The belt business was getting better, so Dakota Belt moved to a new location at 1009 17th St SW in 1990.  They added a moccasin factory to the business in 1993 and started making leather hats.  They set up in malls at Christmas (November - December) beginning in 1985.

Tom started a retail outlet in Deadwood, SD in 1985 with his brother Dan; it survived until gambling took the town over and they could no longer get their lease renewed.  They also started a retail outlet in Keystone, SD.

Presently (2001), Dakota Belt & Moccasin runs three retail outlets: (1) Oatman, AZ, (2) Mitchell, SD & (3) Frontier Village in Jamestown, N. D.  They manufacture about 50% of the items they sell.  They continue to set up in malls at Christmas.

I have decided to add the following story to my section.  It's something I have told to many of our relatives.

I met my wife, Joyce Nelson, on one of the first days of high school.  I was at my locker in the hall when she strolled by.  The hall was packed with kids, it was between classes, & everyone was rushing to get to their next class.  I remember that she really caught my eye, she really stood out.  I felt attracted to her.  She had this wholesome look about her, probably was the image of the girl that I had in my mind that would be the right one for me.  I knew her name from freshman initiation, but hadn't actually talked to her.  Because of our names being in alphabetical order, she sat behind me in history class.  We were friends through high school, & spent time together in a small group of kids.  We all went to movies together, but I actually didn't date her until after high school.  We were friends in high school.  When we were in college, I finally found the courage to ask her for a date, just me and her, that started our romance which led to our marriage.  You know how the story goes, I chased her until she caught me.

I am writing this last paragraph because while writing this short story I always questioned things like this about our ancestors.  How did they meet, when did they meet, why were they attracted to each other, why, why, why, dozens of questions, all now unanswered.  This was written for two or three generation down the road, because my children already know it.  It's my gift to the future when I won't be here.  It's like the quilt my Grandma Maria gave me for my wedding gift when I was 10 years old.  At that time I thought is was funny.  Now it's an item that I can examine and compare workmanship to others.  It speaks to me.  Her quality workmanship is different than others and I can figure out things about her.  Her patience, persistence, craftsmanship, design ability and mostly her foresight.   


     Now on to our children

                             Generation # 7  Mueller side

                         Generation # 8  Weispfenning side


                               STACY JOY MUELLER

Stacy was born on 12-01-1971 in Carrington, N.D.  She attended her kindergarten, elementary and high school in Jamestown N.D.  She graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn.


She now lives in Racine, Wisconsin and works in a suburb north of Chicago.  She works in the accounting department of a web site company.

                         Generation #7  Mueller side

                      Generation # 8 Weispfenning side

                   Son of Thomas & Joyce Nelson Mueller

                           SHANE THOMAS MUELLER

Shane was born in Bismarck N.D. on 4-20-1974 when we lived in Napoleon, N.D.  He attended his kindergarten, grade and high school in Jamestown, N.D.  He graduated from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.  He is now completing his doctorate in psychology from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

                       Generation #7  Mueller side

                  Generation # 8 Weispfenning side

           Daughter of Thomas & Joyce Nelson Mueller

                            SARA BETH MUELLER

Sara was born in Jamestown, N.D. on 3-30-1977.  She attended her kindergarten, grade and high school in Jamestown, N.D.  She graduated from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington in the geology field.  She now lives in Minneapolis, Minn. and is attending the University of Minnesota to obtain her masters degree in geology.  

So this is where I leave writing about the people in my family.  Maybe some day in the future one of my grandchildren or great grandchildren can pick it up from here and add to it.  But at present I don't have either.  Maybe someday though.  Hope this writing survives till then so their task to continue isn't so full of guess work.  Remember, make a written history of yourself.  Write down the dates, the reasons, the names.  Tuck it away where someone will find it when they are ready to look back at your life.  Make it easy for them.   It would be a way to tell it your way, so you can leave out the things you didn't like about yourself.  That way when you have it written down, that's what they will concentrate on and won't even look for and find the things you left out.  


And this is where the story ends.  About 10 years ago I told my Uncle Alvin Mueller about the story of the box of pictures I use to go through when I spent time with his Mother, my Grandmother Maria.  I asked him if he knew what happened to them after Grandma died.  I explained some of the pictures, he replied that he had seen some of these, and would check it out.  The next trip he made to N.D. he brought me the box I was searching for.  It didn't contain everything that I remembered, like the telegrams about my Dad's WWII service, but many of the pictures were there.

This takes us full circle, back to page one.  It seems ironic but here I am with the box of pictures from Alvin strewn all around me, asking some of the same questions I asked my grandmother, but this time to myself.  Instead of being January 1957, it's January 2002, 45 years later.  Instead of being in my grandmother's house, I'm in mine.  Instead of being in Napoleon, I'm in Jamestown, but here I am united with the same box of pictures and now they are mine to save and preserve for future generations.  This way they can see for themselves, which is the best way.

This has been my journey to find the answer to the questions I posed to my grandmother way back then.  “Who is this, and who were they?” I would ask, holding up a picture of her parents.   Remember her reply, “In order to explain who they really were, we would have to go back to Russia, then back to Germany”.  This journey involved many long hours, working every evening late into the morning hours and on weekends.  It has answered most of the questions I have asked myself over the years, I kept on digging until the answers immerged.  Looking at obituaries I have saved, talking to relatives, researching on the internet and in encyclopedias.  Also going through Jubilee books, and looking at all sorts of maps.  And the pictures are a story in themselves, pictures without names and dates.  Identifying them, trying to figure out who they were.  Counting the number of kids and trying to match them up with families.  Getting to know what they looked like at different stages in their lives. This process has led me to a feeling that I know most of them like I know my first cousins.  Tonight is seems that I have always known them, even though 2 months ago I didn't know that some of them existed, and couldn't remember some of the names of the people I knew.  Now I have really gotten to know most of them.  The feeling I have about them is close, no longer distant, and it feels good to know them.

I became obsessed with the questions, lying in bed, trying to sleep, thinking about my ancestors.  I am only now finding peace of mind, and can go back to normal, thank God.  Lack of sleep has taken it's toll.


It turns out that my Aunt Helma Mueller Hofstad had taken possession of the pictures and they journeyed to her home in New Rockford, then to Fargo, N.D., and then to Lodi, Ca. when she moved there.  After her death her brother Alvin took possession of the box and returned it to N.D. about 1990 to me. What a journey.  

So this ends my 3 -week journey to write this story, about the box of pictures and of my memories of my ancestors; to research the ancestors I didn't know so I could get to know them and write about them.  I feel a little reluctant to have anyone read it because I'm not a writer and received many poor grades in high school in grammar, English, and even composition.  My high school English teacher, Mr. Olig, whom I admire, wrote “not much thought” on one of the stories I had to submit to him.  It was the one that I thought, before I received his grade, was my best work to date.  I was crushed, but as in life, when you are doing something you think is good, after getting other opinions find yourself short of the mark you thought you passed.

Even though I feel this reluctance, I feel compelled to share this story with you, and my other in-progress work on a book of genealogy.  

I hope you find yourself in here somewhere and connect with who you are and where you came from. I certainly have enjoyed getting to know my deceased relatives and look forward to meeting and talking and exchanging info, dates, children's names, and pictures of you and yours.  This will all be added to the book of Genealogy now in progress. Just think, it's about you and yours.  Also don't feel that it's not your responsibility to know your relatives, don't make excuses.  You might like what you find, remember blood is thicker than water.

I have had this up on my office wall for years: Life's battles don't go to the stronger or faster man; but to the one that thinks he can.  So get your mind right, lets all try to reconnect.  

                                         Tom Mueller