children: Clara Viola (b. 22 Sep 1863) and John Michael (b. 19 Nov 1869). (Two other children had died in infancy.) They were living on the farm near the Ice Cave Road.
Abbie’s parents, grandmother, brother Fred and wife sold much of their land in Decorah about 1870 and homesteaded in Clay Co., Dakota Territory. Two crops were destroyed by drought and grasshoppers. Simeon and his mother-in-law died and were buried in unmarked graves on their land near Spirit Mound. Mary Jane and the rest of her family returned to Decorah about 1873.
Abbie and Michael’s son Simeon Hugh (my grandfather named for his grandfather) was born 27 Jun 1872. Abbie was known for her hard-working, frugal ways—a farm wife and mother, she worked night and day to provide for her family. Her only photograph shows an extremely thin, worn woman. Certainly these were the outward signs of her illness, called consumption in those days. However family tradition has it that she had beautiful auburn hair. As Abbie became weaker she had a hired girl to help with the house and children. In a 10 year period Abbie had experienced the births and deaths of two children, the births of 3 living children, and the deaths of her beloved father and grandmother. These emotional hardships may have contributed to the decline of her health. There was no known cure for consumption. Abbie passed away 29 Dec 1875 and was buried in Russell Cemetery beside her infant children.
My grandfather (Simeon) Hugh died when I was 8 years old. He had been orphaned at age 6 and probably had only dim, sad memories of his family home and early childhood. After his father's death in 1878 his Aunt Elizabeth and Uncle Jacob Womeldorf became his loving adoptive parents. They saw to it that Michael's baptismal certificate, several family photographs and a wooden spoon carved by Michael were preserved and given to my grandfather. The spoon is carved in the traditional Decorah/Norwegian shape, and decorated with Pennsylvania German designs.
(Carol Womeldorf Komarek)
The Decorah Republican 11 Jan 1878, page 1 col. 4...Obituary: “Michael Womeldorf was born in Clinton Co., PA in the year 1836 and died at his home in Winneshiek Co. 4 Jan 1878. He leaves in sorrow a wife and three children. An old resident of Northern Iowa, having lived in the county twenty-three years, he was widely known and greatly esteemed as a man of strict integrity by all who knew him. A man of great kindness of heart, he was affectionate in his family, obliging to his neighbors and distinguished by all the gentler virtues that adorn a sympathetic nature...”
Michael was a son of Frederick and Barbara (Bierly) Womeldorf. He was the third youngest of their 10 children, born 23 Dec 1831 (baptismal certificate). By 1845 Michael, his parents and 7 of his brothers and sisters had left PA and settled near Cedarville, Stephenson Co., IL. They were part of a Pennsylvania-German-dialect speaking group of settlers from Centre and Clinton Counties,
PA. All the children except Michael and brother Jacob were married and had farms near Freeport, IL. However after the deaths of the parents in the cholera epidemics David and wife Mary Amanda sold the home farm and left together with Michael and Jacob for the new opportunities in Winneshiek Co., IA.
Michael Womeldorf 1831-1878
The 1856 Iowa State Census lists Michael and Jacob living with David and wife Mary Amanda in Pleasant Twp. In the Oct 1858 election Michael was elected Constable of Pleasant Twp. Family tradition and photographs show the 3 brothers as tall and good-looking. In Decorah the following spring on 19 May 1859 Michael married Mary Abigail Drake. Michael bought land from Mary’s father Simeon Drake. In 1861 he purchased land from Mary Abigail’s grandmother Peggy Stinson Adams. Michael and Abbie’s first child Lillie was born 31 Aug 1861.
Michael did not enlist in the Union forces—possibly because he was constable. Lillie lived just one year and was buried in Russell Cemetery in 1862. One year later daughter Clara Viola was born 22 Sep 1863. For a time after the war there was an upswing in the farm economy. In 1865 Michael purchased another farm in Section 4 just north of Decorah near the Ice Cave Road. Michael kept the land in Section 1 with its stand of black walnut trees and purchased additional parcels in 1869-70.
Besides farming Michael and his brothers did construction, masonry and carpentry. During the 1870’s they built the water wheel for a local mill. This was pointed out to Michael’s granddaughter Vivian by her father Dr. John Womeldorf when they visited Decorah 60 years later.
The US Census 1870 lists the family on the farm in Section 4 with children Clara Viola and John Michael (b. 19 Nov 1869). Two children had died in infancy. Simeon Hugh was born 27 Jun 1872. The financial panic and re-
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this page was last updated on Tuesday, 30 March 2021