My Aunt Elsie Lembke (1902-1999) was a middle child of Fred and Bertha. Born at Polar in Langlade County, Wisconsin where Fred was in the logging industry. Three months after her birth, Bertha trekked the baby and two siblings, on the train to Dupont to be baptized. This railroad trip began a long life of ‘huck and puck’ wandering from place to place.
Fred and Bertha migrated south again to a log house in Big Falls, again Fred, with his team of horses chopping down trees in the woods. The daughters ventured on weekends, jumped on the caboose of the narrow gauge train to the camps where Fred was employed, to visit and take picnic lunches and clean clothing. In their spare time, they cleaned the West Hill School, scrubbing the hard wood floor with lye soap made from wood ashes. All the children attended the Big Falls School.
Bertha’s sister Ella Johnson and husband Ernest lived and farmed in Elderon. Elsie boarded with them for a year, when Ella had a set of twins, Richard and Annah in 1913. In her memoirs, Elsie remembered happy times with Aunt Ella. But Uncle Ernie got blood poisoning, was sick in bed, Elsie stayed, helped milk cows and harness horses until he died in 1920.
A precious life, memories we’ll keep,
Of times and places, laughter and tears.
Alfred Schmidt (1900-1978) from the Township of Fairbanks, Shawano County, Wisconsin was visiting his good friends, the Malueg Brothers of Dupont. Anton, Albert and John. Started wooing this pretty Elsie Lembke, escorted her to dances at Symco and the courtship turned into marriage in March 1922 which lasted for 56 years. Three children, Ronald, Genevie and Ivan followed, lived thither and yon, renting the Frank DeVaud Farm now owned by Lester Lambright. Elmer Byers and Elmer Schoneck also owned this parcel. Working in the forests near Tigerton for the Holm Brothers. Elsie had a baby at this time, Marvin who died of yellow jaundice.
Alfred wanted his own land. With the help of John and Millie Malueg in the Township of Ainsworth, Langlade County. Purchased four parcels of forty acres each for $600. mortgage. May 3, 1933. Huck and Puck they moved up north of Antigo, 65 miles away. How much easier it would have been to stay put in the secure atmosphere of Dupont, instead of moving north, far away from friends, relatives, church, school and a grocery store.
We were younger then, and we faced
The future with eager anticipation.
And even though with passing time,
We have found that life’s little problems,
As well as life’s joys are part of marriage.
We discovered a richer, fuller way of life.
In 1981 Elsie recorded her memoirs.: We were a true pioneer family moving north, huck and puck. Some of my inventory was a 50 pound wooden bucket of lard, ninety cents worth of sugar, 50 pounds, 100 pounds of flour, 30 dozen eggs, a variety of house plants, ferns, azaleas, geraniums, and a flock of chickens. Lived in a small logging shack for a few years, three small children and Al’s brother Ted. As Elsie would say ‘It wasn’t half bad’. Ted was a World War One veteran, wounded, never married, rolled and smoked his own cigarettes, and shuffled his feet. Plagued Elsie until the day he died. This was wild country, Indians, Kentucks, moonshiners. Mosquitoes, snakes, deer flies.
This land was logged off many years before, but there was a good second growth hardwood. Alfred constructed a log house. Measured 18×28 feet. Dug the basement with a slusher and team of horses. Railroad ties for the sill. Alfred and Elsie cut down logs, maple and hemlock, left the logs round. Cried TIMBER. Nice pantry, bedroom, kitchen and living room. Painted plastered walls. Bedrooms upstairs, and a trap door to the cellar. Seven people lived in that house, besides visiting relatives stopping in for overnight stays or longer and big meals. Alfred hunted, fished, lived on venison, rabbits and partridges.
Fordson tractor, a Minneapolis Moline with steel wheels. finally a Farmall. Many stumps. Alfred and Elsie worked in the woods together clearing land. ‘Don’t ride the saw or drag your feet’ Alfred would say. Skided logs with a team of horses, shifting with chains and cant hook. The hardwood tops made good firewood for the stove and heater. Alfred built his own saw rig with a tip table and chain brake, shaft and pully. Eight feet long, waist high.
Two more children arrived, Harold and Wilma. Alfred hiked Elsie to Dupont to birth the babies in the Zillmer house. Because there was no church, Ronald and Genevie lived with Zillmers for Confirmation classes at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, South Dupont. A mission church was established at Lily and Pearson. Alfred became involved in politics and was Town of Ainsworth treasurer for twenty two years.
Alfred built a small log barn. Bill Ziehm, horse trader from Marion transported a team of gray horses and six cows. He made two trips in his old Chevrolet truck. A milk man came every day and picked up the canned milk. During the depression, times were tough all over. Alfred cut marsh grass by the river with a sythe. Cradled the grain, Charley Ainsworth had a threshing machine. Stored the oats in the house.
Electricity came during World War Two on one of Franklin Roosevelt’s WPA programs. And a milking machine. Kept cutting logs and pulp for the paper mills.
In 1947 twenty year old Genevie was being courted by the milk man, Charles Rennpferd of Antigo and they wanted to be married. Alfred said it was time to build a new house. Bill Knaack of Marion, an iterate carpenter moved in, as engineer. He always kept a half-pint of whiskey in his back pocket. In September the house was completed, Chuck and Gen were married in the front parlor. And Elsie made a big chicken dinner for the relatives and friends. 50 years later they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and Elsie danced at the party.
Elsie was a happy person, whether at parties, weddings, a snort at the tavern. Always wore a dress, cotton stockings, a laced-up corset, full length apron trimmed with rick rack. Pictures show Elsie dressed like this whether entertaining relatives, working in the fields and/or woods or hand milking cows. Elsie had class and a regal dignity and bearing until the Good Lord called her home and she departed this life.
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