Above: My great-grandfather, Henry Reinhard Jr. in 1890. Henry was born in Germany, emigrated with his parents to Minnesota, then married and moved
his family to Regan, North Dakota in 1907 and homesteaded there. After a life of hard work, Henry died penniless in 1955 at age 88.
If you've been following my website, you know that one reason I decided to take this trip was to do family research around America and to
learn more about where I came from, something I'm doing not just for myself, of course, but for everyone in my family. Up to this point,
all of the ancestors that I've researched on this trip have been on my dad's side and, more specifically, on my dad's mother's side, including
the Bradstreets and Chaplins in Massachusetts and the Myers' in Michigan (see My Dad's
Ancestors: Map and Photo Essay). It was now time to shift gears and start researching my mother's side of the family.
Note: For security reasons I haven't posted my mother's maiden name on my website.
In place of her maiden name I've used the name "Reinhard." But everything else I've posted about them
other than their last name is true, as far as I know.
My mother passed away in 1999 and never talked much about her ancestors. She had told me a few things over the years, here and
there, but not too much. Therefore, after she died I spent a lot of time at my home in Portland doing online research, trying to
learn more about her family's story.
My dad's ancestors, as I described earlier, were among the earliest settlers of America, arriving in New England in the early 1600s.
But all of my mother's ancestors came to America from northern Europe in the late 1800s and homesteaded on the Great Plains
(see My Mom's Ancestors: Map and Photo Essay). Her father's ancestors
came from Germany and Norway in the 1870s and homesteaded near Windom, Minnesota, which is why I was here. After leaving
Windom, I was planning to drive to South Dakota, where her mother's ancestors, from Norway, had homesteaded in the 1880s.
Both families then moved to North Dakota around 1900, where my grandfather met my grandmother.
To my knowledge, I didn't have any relatives left in Minnesota or South Dakota, and perhaps none in North Dakota.
Like I say, my mother never talked much about her family's history so this would be a real learning experience for me, as well as for my
siblings and their kids. I wanted to document my mother's family history as best I could, not only for myself but, more importantly,
for future generations in my family.
Above: Henry's wife and my great-grandmother, Petrina Blege emigrated from Norway in the 1880s
with her parents when she was about 20. She suffered from thrombosis and in 1927 doctors wanted to amputate her leg.
Petrina refused and died shortly afterwards, at age 61 in Regan, North Dakota.
I spent two days in the Windom, Minnesota area, mostly at the Cottonwood County Historical Society. There, with the help of two
delightful ladies, Bethene and Erma, I discovered several old plat maps of this area showing where my great-great-grandfather, Henry Reinhard
and his wife Carolina, had homesteaded in the 1870s after they emigrated from Hanover, Germany. I also learned that my great-uncle,
Gustav Reinhard, was apparently known throughout Minnesota at one time as "Mr. Alfalfa" because of scientific research he had done –
though I'm not sure if he was proud of that nickname!
After spending a couple days in Windom, I drove out one afternoon to find my great-great-grandfather Henry's old farm, which, according to the
hundred-year-old plat maps I had, was located just north of town. I didn't know if there would be anything left there or not, since he died
nearly 100 years ago, but I wanted to see the homestead anyway. Well-stocked with copies of the old maps, I drove down several dirt roads
while passing endless fields of corn and beans and, after making a few U-turns, I finally found his farm.
There were a few old buildings on Henry's farm, some in nice condition, but no one was around. It was obvious from the well-kept farmhouse,
though, that someone was living there. An old, red barn stood a few yards away with the date of "1893" painted on the front in large,
white faded letters. Henry had lived here from 1879 until his death in 1910, so I knew he had built the barn. I was excited to see this old
relic, which was part of my heritage. Of course, I never knew Henry or his son, Henry Jr., or even HIS son, Edward, who was my grandfather,
because all of them had died long before I was born. But it was a thrill nonetheless.
As I was walking outside of the empty barn, two farmers about my age stopped as they were driving by, having seen my truck parked there.
I introduced myself and explained that I was an ancestor of Henry Reinhard. They were interested in my story, introduced themselves as Mike
and Roger, and we shook hands. After a while, they opened up Henry's old barn for me and let me walk around inside. As we talked, I
discovered that Mike was a distant relative of mine, the only relative that I knew of in the state of Minnesota. After a half-hour, Mike
invited me back to his farm and the three of us relaxed in his dining room and shared family stories, kind of like an impromptu family reunion.
I learned a lot about my ancestors that day, and about the kindness of Midwesterners.
The Trail Band is the best thing to come out of Oregon since Henry Weinhard's beer.
Here's The Land at Eden's Gate, a tribute to the American pioneers of the 1800s.
The Land at Eden's Gate
There's a garden God is tending, where the fields are green and deep
With a harvest never-ending there, by waters cool and sweet
There a man can lay his burdens down, there a man can live in grace,
Oh, I hope I see before I die, The Land at Eden's Gate.
Oh, the morning sky has broken, like the dawn at Eden's birth
And it lights the pine and meadowlark, and shines on God's great work
Oh, I'm leaving now and won't be back, won't you come with me this day,
Oh, I hope I see before I die, The Land at Eden's Gate.
Oh, The Land at Eden's Gate.
May the children of your children, see the wild, rare primrose grow
Hear the gentle rain a-falling down, among these ancient groves
Oh, may angels watch it evermore, and protect its perfect state,
Oh, I pray they see before they die, The Land at Eden's Gate
I pray they see before they die, The Land at Eden's Gate.
Above left: Cooking brats (as in bratwurst) on the prairie in southern Minnesota, just as my German ancestors
had probably done a hundred years earlier.
Above center: The Cottonwood County Courthouse in Windom, Minnesota. My great-grandfather, Henry C. Reinhard
(Henry Jr. – see portrait above) and my great-grandmother, Petrina, were married here in 1890.
Above right: I spent two days in the Cottonwood County Historical Society and learned that Henry's father, Henry Sr., had
homesteaded here in the 1870s after emigrating from Germany. Bethene and Erma, shown here, were a great help.
Above left: After studying plat maps from the 1890s, I learned where Henry's farm was, so I drove out to it.
The barn had the date "1893" painted on it, so I knew Henry Sr. had built it, since he lived here from 1879 until 1910, the year he died.
Above right: The inside of Henry's barn. I was so thrilled to find this barn that I had goosebumps.
Above left: The farmland on the right was where my great-grandmother, Petrina Blege (see portrait above), had lived with her
parents in the late 1800s. Many farm roads in the Midwest are laid out in a grid pattern and are spaced exactly one mile apart.
There aren't many landmarks around, so to navigate you need to watch your odometer.
Above right: After walking through the Westbrook Cemetery, I found the gravestone (in dark gray) of Henry Reinhard Sr.
and his wife, Carolina, who both died around 1910. As I learned, Henry and Carolina were from Hanover, Germany and emigrated to America in 1873
with seven children, including Henry Jr. (see portrait above).