| "The best laid plans of both mice and men gang aft aglee."
forcibly applies to the Besser and Blaise emigration plan. Had
father lived to carry out his undertaking, with his knowledge of
horticulture and agriculture, love of fine stock, ready cash on
hand, with the opportunities at hand our success would have been
Grandfather was a renowned army surgeon for 26 years.
Grandmother, a forester’s daughter. Father in his youth studied
these branches in opposition to grandpa's wishes who wanted his
only son to take up medicine and surgery. Right here in the new
purchase, the very best part of Iowa was undoubtedly a good
place for the development of his enterprise.
stated in my first letter that he had contracted for 50 head of
long yearling steers at $5 per head, to be delivered Nov. the
1st. This was in 1844. At the same time and place he paid 200
franks in gold for a 2 year old short horn heifer eligible to
registry. Peter Kramer, who had been sent with one ox team to
Burlington after various goods, was to bring this heifer too.
When Kramer arrived, father had passed away. Mother,
prostrated with grief, was asked what to do with this roan
beauty and her answer was: "What you men think best."
I had been
sent to accompany Anna Marie one mile through the woods to Mrs.
Whilpert's. When we returned, these wise men had butchered the
fine heifer, one of the most valuable animals in this, then
territory, of Iowa. To say I was astonished would put it too
mildly. I was distracted, got raving mad, and called them
ignorant fools. Their excuse no pen or lot being there to put
her in and leaving her tied to the wagon, some of the cattle
might injure the heifer. Living in the woods a sensible man
could have cut poles and made a pen to do, in less than an hour.
If they had only turned her loose I would have watched her,
being tied there was no danger of straying away at once. More
than that, coming 70 miles tied to a wagon it was like home to
her. 8 or 10 dollars would then buy the best fattened heifer in
the settlement south of us. Mr. Black, a Kentuckian, had
brought her to town with her dame, an imported cow, weight,
pastured on prairie grass, 1800 pounds. This heifer would have
born a thoroughbred male about March the first, falling with the
time she was bred; this gave me a forecast of what was to
follow. Through this man's advice no provision was made to
receive the 50 head of cattle.
Mother's delicate constitution, no relatives or acquaintances
further than Mrs. Wilpert-Kramer brother's sister, unused to any
business management and advised by Dr. Maley, not to worry,
induced her to enter into a marriage contract with the older
John Joseph Kramer. The contract was written by Jacob Wiemer
and witnessed by Casper Klett. It was stipulated how much
should be invested in timberland for us children- some $400, the
balance he could use, also all the personal property, stock,
etc., further; that we were to be sent off to some good school
for at least two years.
Unfortunately for us, stepfather's brother, Peter Joe, was of a
speculative disposition and not any too honest either. He, as
business manager, had failed to have this contract recorded.
When land came in the market and he was sent to Fairfield to
buy some, the best 80 acres of the lot he had deeded to him self
and John Joseph. I happened to see that deed when his chest was
left open one day- and foolish boy like- I told mother about it
she looked at me incredulously, soon got convinced by my
earnestness. This was the greatest mistake of my life. Mother
turned pale and fainted. Not long after this occurrence she
took sick and died leaving as addition to us children, little
Joe Kramer two years old and a one week old baby girl for my
sister- 12 years old- to take care of. Mother died Oct. l3,
1847, the baby when two months old.
The evening before mother died she told the rest of the family
to go and rest, Nicholas would stay with her. Being free from
pain and feeling better, we all felt more hopeful. It was then
when she exacted a promise from me- in case she was called away-
to be faithful and stay with the family. "You know," she said,
"what arrangements were made, see that justice is done to all
and don't forget, little Joe is your brother too." "I am afraid
Peter Joseph will continue to influence Pa."
This was putting a load of responsibility on my young shoulders
too heavy for a 14 year old boy to manage with discretion.
We were satisfied with the contract made, although when I asked
the advice of both Casper Klett and Herr Blaise, they were of
the opinion that some good man ought to be appointed as
guardian. M. I. Whistler had been proposed. Thinking the
contract on record, we were told to remain together as a family
and we therefore concluded to risk stepfather's fine promises.
A few months afterwards, Peter Joe had hatched out another plot
unknown to me which I will relate in the following.
Peter Joe went after Samuel Singmaster, brought him up and sold
him six long yearling and one two-year old steers for $50. I
was detailed to help Mr. Singmaster drive them to his place.
Two of these steers I had bought when calves with the money
obtained for a silver watch, presented to me by an uncle when we
left Germany. When Mr. S. Singmaster- pointing to these very
steers, remarked: "That a well mated pair they would make." I
could no longer hold my grief, big tears swelled my eyelids,
which the kind old gentleman noticed; then commenced a shrewd
questioning in so kindly a manner, that I confided all my
troubles and promises to him. "Cheer up, my lad." said he, "and
stick to your promises all your life and you will come out all
right too." This had the good effect to restore my usual good
spirits to "try, try again."
I began to "size him up" and formed an opinion of him, which put
in words would be about: A plain but shrewd man, with an
immense business capacity, a great admirer and willing helper to
any truthful, honest man, but always carefully guarding against
chances against him.
As we arrived in the yards at the Singmaster place two big loads
of rails were hauled by unusually big horses for those days.
The first team was driven by a stout colored boy whom they
called Phillip. The biggest load was brought by a rosy cheeked,
well fed lad, apparently about 15 years old. Mr. Singmaster
turned to me and with unmistakable pride and a smile said: "That
is my son Charles, don't you think he will make a Rustler?"
Arriving home, I found that Peter Joe had persuaded stepfather
to sell a fine young bay mare with a 6 month old colt beside her
and a new set of flatback harness for one-half their cost to a
neighbor for $55. Peter Joe thereupon rode off as my sister had
overheard some of their talk- to Fairfield, again to enter some
valuable timber land.
This accounted for the sacrifice- sales of stock. Peter Joe was
induced to come to Lancaster to make some explanations about our
estate. This was a ruse. He was detained there under some
pretext until towards evening. Finally, when he noticed Casper
Klett among a goodly crowd of men his "guilty conscience needed
no accuser," he smelled the mice and concluded "a change of
climate" would, be beneficial, he started for his horse, but one
Joe Middleton took hold of him and his horse’s bridle, the crowd
surrounded him and gave him the choice of between a ride on a
rail in "a tailor made" suit of tar and feathers or the
assigning of the title of that land to the rightful, original
owners, by them returning to him the $100 with which he had
entered it. It is needless to say the assignment was made. He
came home in the middle of the night with a doleful tale blaming
himself for being too "easily caught," but this was good news to
me and sister Kate, who had overheard the plot. This land
belonged as claims partly to father's friend, Herr John Blaise
and 40 acres of it to Casper Klett. Kramers tried to excuse
themselves to me; they wanted to teach other folks to mind their
own business. I had never hinted a word to anybody about their
advice, yet these former friends thought I did. It was years
after when they learned better, but the Kramers had forfeited
all respect in this community, which also rested to some extent
as a dark shadow on our innocent heads.
The readers will excuse me for writing this portion of our
history. Many, no doubt will wonder at my recollections of early
times- written for the Hawkeye Journal, what made such a lasting
impression upon my mind, to enable me after 60 years to give a
fairly correct description of men and places that we came in
contact with and yet so young at that early day.
These "ups and downs" will arouse a boy to thinking and
observing if there is any "metal" in him. My spirits would rise
like cork in water, the deeper the depression the higher the
rise, with me it was, "Cheer up and try again."
The involuntary treatment of the "Kneip cure" that I enjoyed
walking before breakfast through wet grass up to my waist during
the summer months for 6 years, made out of a delicate boy, who
had been kept at hard study from his fourth to his tenth year- a
fairly hardy youth, a close observer of nature and a good judge
of character and the ability of other men. This enabled me to
enjoy life by helping others as well as myself and preserve a
very good retentive memory up to the present day.