Memories of Grandpa and Grandma Schwinck

by Wm Schwinck, 1945
edited by Cornelia (Lela) Schwinck Rabbass, 1994

Carl Martin Frederick Schwinck was born July 21, 1861, to Frederick and Caroline (Falkendahl) in Moelln, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Germany. Augusta Wienke was born at Seedorf by Demmin, Germany on November 27, 1865. They sailed from Germany to America in 1884 with some of grandma's relatives, the Schwartz family, and came at once to West Point, Nebraska. Carl and Augusta were engaged and soon tied the knot on July 16, 1884. Grandma told me that she was sitting at the sewing machine when grandpa came to her one afternoon and, in German of course, said, "Let's get married!" She left the sewing machine and to the judge they went, were married, grandma went right back to her sewing machine and grandpa went back to work! Needless to say, she didn't stay there always for the "bundles of joy" began arriving in due time-nine in all. Sad that four died in infancy. The others are: Alvin born in 1886, Henry in 1867, William in 1890, Adele in 1893, and Otto in 1894.

Dad's first job was with the West Point Creamery as the blacksmith, which was his trade in Germany. This creamery included a large building, a blacksmith shop, a few hundred acres of land to raise their own crops, and 300 cows. Dad worked here for $9.00 a month doing the blacksmith work during the day and milking cows for 2 hours every morning and evening, including Sundays. Their home was a two-room house in the Valley of the Hills north of the creamery. He often told us of a severe snowstorm that completely covered the house. He had difficulty finding their house when he came home from work in the dark. Their next home was in the third ward. One time flood waters surrounded their house. They brought their calf and some chickens into the house and put them in the attic to keep them from drowning.

About 1888 dad rented a frame lean-to shed a half-block from Main Street. This was his first blacksmith shop. He prospered enough to buy a home in the third ward. At this time the town boasted a bakery, the old depot, the Neligh House, an apartment house, the Green Tree Hotel managed by Joe Meister, and the National Hotel, which was later the Kerkow and Ickman Garage building. Henry Diers also owned the West Point House (the Auditorium).

The first blacksmith shop that dad owned about 1892 was on the north side of Bridge Street. Here he worked at his trade doing everything by hand, hammering out plow shares, grinding them on a foot-powered grindstone. He received 15 cents each. He began attending farm sales and bought machinery, buggies and wagons which he then rebuilt and sold. He did this to keep his workers busy.

His first gasoline engine was a Webster Upright with torch or not tube ignition which took quite a while to get started as the torch always had to be heated first. Batteries or magnetos were not known then. About 1898, he got his first gas engine; battery ignited later followed by magneto ignition and finally an electric motor.

In 1908 electricity was installed in the shop, but not in the house, which stood next to the shop! Dad thought it was too expensive for the house as it cost 20 cents per kilowatt per hours and a minimum charge per outlet, including wall switches! Needless to say that all lights were drop cords with switches on the sockets!!

Dad had a contract with the bridge builders and did their blacksmith work at night and also did horseshoeing at night for the ice man so they could keep busy making ice during the day.

Mother, besides raising the family, kept busy at her sewing machine mending buggy side-curtains and, later, binder canvas and whatever dad brought in for her to fix.

About 1894-95 dad was encouraged by the Blacksmith Supply Company salesman of Omaha to buy new buggies, but when dad told him that he had no money the salesman took him to the Henry Van Brundt Wholesale Vehicle Company in Council Bluffs where he was able to purchase his first buggy with credit from the Blacksmith Supply House. Dad was very grateful to them to help him get ahead. Soon he was able to buy in larger quantities. The new buggies had to be pulled into the shop every night. During the day the showroom was the great outdoors.

A few years later dad bought adjoining land on the east. This gave him a half-block front on the north side of Bridge Street where a new two-story building was built. It was always called "The Building" by family. This building had a platform, open elevator which transported the new buggies to the second floor showroom.

In 1896 dad's first implement purchase was from the Plano Harvesters Company, makers of binders, mowers and rakes. The plows, cultivators, and other implements were purchased from Kingman Implement Company, Peoria, Illinois. About 1899 the riding plows were being sold but it was difficult convincing the farmer to ride while plowing so the Kingman Company sent out a pair of Shetland ponies to demonstrate the ease in pulling the Kingman Klondyke sulky plow. Gradually more farmers purchased these plows. In 1902 dad purchased his first John Deere #8 edge drop corn planter. John Deere Plow Company had just moved from Council Bluffs to Omaha. Here again it took a great deal of patience and work to convince the farmers this new planter was worth the change-over. Dad eventually contracted only with John Deere until his death in 1945. There was great respect mutually shown between dad and Deere. He also sold the Deering Harvester Company line, later succedded by the International Harvester Company.

Our parents were God-fearing, staunch supporters of St. Paul Lutheran church in West Point. They were very frugal and yet ready to help anyone in need, especially those in the relation. Many of Aunt Ida's family were given jobs around the place during depression years, to help them. Dad's brother, Uncle Ernst stayed with them quite a bit.

Grandma never learned to speak English but that was not a determent when carrying on a conversation with her grandchildren. She was interested in everything and especially loved flowers.

Grandma died of cancer in 1940 and grandpa of complications of old age in 1945.


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2013 Carole Schwinck Meyer