Dedicated to the Memory of my father
He kept the faith against all odds
As Told By David Friederich
My Grandfather Peter Friederich who was born in 1837, immigrated to the United States from the Lorraine District of France in the 1840s with his Father, Nicholas and Mother, Anna. They came to the Port of New Orleans, and by flatboats up the Mississippi River to St Louis, Mo. They landed on the Illinois side of the river and traveled to Mascoutah, where the first Friederich's had arrived in September 1843. Nicholas bought land near Mascoutah in St Clair County, IL.
My Grandfather Married Margaret Grimmer, who was of French and German ancestry. My Father Joe Friederich born on June 16th. 1879 was their 12th child. Margaret died in 1885 when my Father was 6 yrs. old. My Grandfather married again about a year later to Mary Albers.
Grandfather was a very strict man and worked his sons hard. He would sit up on a hill under a shade tree with a long brass spyglass and watch to make sure they were working in the fields. It was said that he could see the expression on your face a mile away.
My Father and I were at the old homestead in the summer kitchen where they cooked and ate their meals in the summertime away from the main house, and in the wintertime it was used when they butchered hogs, to process the meat and make sausages. My Father pointed out a dark streak across the sheeting up above the rafters that had been made many years before when my Uncle Pete had disagreed with his stepmother over something, and she had swung a blood sausage, wrapping it around his neck.
When the children reached 21 years of age my Grandfather would give them their portion of their inheritance from the Grimmers estate. It consisted of of their mothers share of the estate of her parents, the Grimmers.$1000.00 each. Note... When the Grimmers passed away, Peter sued their estate for Margaret's share of the estate for her children.. He won the case and I was told that there was always bad feelings between the families after that.
"The Frenchman" was the name used by my Grandfather Peter. Jean Grimmer did not like his Son in Law. I guess the feeling was mutual.
They were not allowed to leave home until they were 21 yrs. old. Dad had seen each of his older brothers leave and their Father had withheld part of their money for keeping it for a period of years.
When it was time for my Father to leave home on June 16, 1900, he went to his Father for his money, and my Grandfather was going to take even more of his inheritance because he had taken care of his money for more years than the others. My Father refused to take the reduced amount and left, walking off down the road. Shortly after, his younger half brother caught up with him and asked him to return, that his Father would give him the full amount.
My Father and one of his brothers, homesteaded in the Dakotas right after 1900. They lasted one winter and gave it up. They almost froze to death in the soddy they had built for shelter. He didn't talk a lot about it.
He then worked at the Planters Hotel on the Riverfront as a bellboy during the World's Fair in St Louis in 1904. It was the finest Hotel in St Louis. All the riverboat Captains stayed there when they brought passengers or cargo up the river. The Governor of Missouri had pardoned Frank James, and he worked as a doorman to draw people into the American Theatre where they had shows, like Buffalo Bill Cody with his Wild West Show. He would ride out on the stage on his horse shooting his guns, chasing Indians off the other side of the stage. He worked there until 1906.
In 1906 he went to Oklahoma and bought 80 acres of land. He had heard a lot about it during the World Fair. It was six years after he moved there that it became a state. At that time it was still Indian territory, and his farm was next to the Cherokee Strip near Muskogee in eastern Oklahoma.
He used to tell us of times when he'd go down to the watering hole on his farm and find a horse thief hanged from a large tree close by. A lot of Outlaws hid out in the cherokee strip and in Belle Star Canyon near his farm. This happened on more than one occasion. Horses were a matter of life and death many times in those days.
One day he said that some men had a poker game going under that tree and one man accused another of cheating and they chased each other around that big tree shooting until each had wounded the other before they stopped.
The farm that Dad owned was near the Cherokee strip. Many times at night this one Indian Chief would drink too much moonshine and his pony would bring him into Dad's yard. He would go out and help the Chief down from his horse and get him into the house and into the corner of his kitchen and cover him with a blanket. The Chief would wake up in the morning and say nothing, just go out and get his pony and go on his way. Dad said that maybe his pony always brought him there because of the way he always fed him after putting the Chief to bed.
Dad told the story about a group of men who were sitting around a table in a cabin playing cards when a large blacksnake fell in the center of the table. They just about tore the place apart getting out of there. The snake had been up in the rafters catching mice when it fell off.
Several years after he bought his farm in Oklahoma, several of his brothers wanted to homestead land that they had heard about in Colorado, and they convinced my Father to go with them. He rented his farm out to someone and they all left from eastern Oklahoma in covered wagons. In western Oklahoma, where it was very sandy, they had to change the wagon wheels to a wider wheel because of the ground.
One night on the trip bears came into the camp and got into their food and destroyed a lot of it before they could run them off. The horses all panicked and ran off, and they had quite a time rounding them up the next day.
They homesteaded at Lamar, Colorado, raising sugar beets and alfalfa, but it didn't last very long before one of his brother's children became ill with malaria, and another brother with consumption got very sick and wanted to go home to die. He returned to Illinois and died shortly after they carried him off the train at New Memphis Station.
The other brothers and their families returned to Illinois and Dad went back to his farm in Oklahoma. In his absence the renter had burned his barn in the process of making moonshine whiskey, and Dad said that you had to watch where you stepped your horse because there was so much buried mash around fermenting before it was ready too cook off.
After that he occasionally left his farm and livestock in the care of a friend , David Henderson, and worked in the wheat harvest in Kansas.
My cousin Elmer told me this story after my father's death: He went to stay with my Dad in 1910 and he took a phonograph with him. He only had one record. The words to the song were "Cigarettes, whiskey and wild, wild women, they'll drive you crazy, they'll drive you insane." After he had played that record over and over, day and night for a while, he said my Dad finally snatched it off the phonograph one evening and broke it over his knee.
Dad gave Elmer 10 acres to plant some cotton on to get a start. Then when he said he needed something to make some quick money on, Dad told him to plant some watermelons. He did, and when they were ripe Elmer loaded up a wagonload and drove into Eufaula 11 miles away. He set up in the street and sat in the hot sun all day and didn't sell a single one. Late that night he pulled into the farmyard and Dad came out and asked him how he had done. Elmer opened up the tailgate of the wagon and a bunch of the watermelons rolled out into the yard, breaking to pieces, and he started cussing. That was the wrong thing to do on my Dad's property. He would order anyone off his property if they did that. The next day he gave Elmer enough money for his cotton crop in the field and put him on a train back to his dad's farm in Illinois.
He was Catholic and many times a member of the KKK would threaten him as he rode on horseback to Church 11 miles into Eufuala, but he always wore a gun and knew how to use it. They were few in number at that time.
Women were scarce in Oklahoma in the early 1900s, and women from other parts of the country would write their name and address on things the farmers bought, like salt blocks for livestock. Dad had corresponded with several, and two times had made trips to see them, going one time to Detroit, Michigan and another time to the State of Maryland.
He liked to raise chickens and said that the lady from Maryland wanted to raise turkeys. They catch diseases from each other, so they decided they were not compatible either, and he again returned to his Oklahoma farm alone.
In 1914 he bought a salt block and discovered a woman's name and address on it. Her name was Maude Campbell, and she was a Telegrapher on the railroad at McAlister, Oklahoma. He wrote to her and soon they were getting together on Sundays. Later that year they decided to get married. A cousin of mine who had stayed for a time with my Dad in 1910 went for a visit there in later years, and a storekeeper there told him that Dad bought them identical saddle horses, and they would ride into town on them. "They were so much in love", was his comment. They had been married nine months when she went back alone to Chattanooga, Tennessee to visit her parents. Dad had a lot of livestock, and they both couldn't leave at the same time. While there she came down with pneumonia and died. Sadly, my Father traveled by train to Chattanooga to her funeral, and she is buried there. I remember there was a picture of her in an oval frame that hung on the wall in our livingroom.
He raised a lot of cotton and at harvest time a large family would come from near Ft. Smith, Arkansas, 80 miles to the east, and pick his cotton. One of the girls, Ola (more photos in the Photo Gallery), could pick 300 lbs. of cotton a day, and my Dad said he could only pick 100 on a good day. He started writing to her after they would go back to Arkansas.
In March of 1921 she was 17 and he was 41. He asked her Father for permission to marry her. Her father said yes and she did, too, so on May 5th, 1921 they were married at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Eufuala, OK.
My mother's parents were Irish and Choctaw Indian, and my Mother always said she was one quarter Choctaw. They were of the Methodist Faith.
Mother worked in the fields with him until they were expecting a child, and she had to stay home. Her oldest sister come from Arkansas to stay with her. Her sister, Rosie, told me one time that she remembered them pulling the bed out into the middle of the room when it was time for Hazel to be born. Joe was so nervous, he just kept walking 'round and 'round the bed. He had his horse saddled and hitched to a post outside. When she told him it was time he quickly went out, jumped on his horse, and they heard him gallop away. He had to ride 11 miles into Eufala to get the doctor. In August, 1922, my sister, Hazel, was born. Shortly after my Mother's sister had to return to her own home in Arkansas.
After WW I, the KKK became so strong that they marched in the streets of Washington, D.C. They had gained a lot of members in rural Oklahoma, too. They confronted my Father and ordered him to leave their part of the country. He was told that he couldn't stay at home and protect his family and work in the fields, too. Three things were against him: He had a German name, was Catholic, and had married a young woman. One night several dozen of them, covered with bedsheets with eyeholes cut in them and carrying shotguns, surrounded their little house out in the country. They staked a large cross in their front yard covered with rags, poured gasoline on it and set it on fire. They gave him and my Mother a choice. They could leave or they would burn them there. My Father agreed to leave as soon as the ground was frozen, so he could travel.
He bought a 1915 Model T, 4 Door, Touring car from a man for $19.00 and a mule. It had carbide lights, a top, and Isinglass curtains to close it in. The man agreed to teach him to drive it. He brought the car to him and had a jug of homemade whiskey. And as my Dad guided it down the roads with many wagon ruts in it, he would take a drink and reach over and slap the throttle down. He learned the basics of driving it anyway.
When the ground was frozen in December of 1922 and my sister was 4 months old, they set out to return to Illinois. They had loaded everything they could into and onto the car, and he took promissory notes from some people and left the rest behind. With either mud roads or frozen ground much of the way, the 450 mile trip took 3 weeks.
Arriving at New Memphis Station, his oldest brother, Charles, wanted to retire from farming, so he sold my Mother and Dad his 100 acre farm. Another brother loaned my Dad the $5000.00 to buy it. They had everything they ever wanted in Oklahoma and were very happy there. Now they had to start all over again.
A Happy Family
In 1924 my brother, Harold, was born and two years later I was born, followed by my brother, Alfred in 1929. I remember when my youngest brother was born 65 years ago, Dec. 30, 1929. The evening before, Uncle Emil came, brought Aunt Rosina, and took Hazel, Harold and I home with him. My cousin, Alice, had an oil lamp in one hand and me on her other arm. She tried to put me to bed, but I wouldn't let her take my shoes off, and I cried all night. I have witnesses that remember that, too. The next morning Uncle Emil took us home in his box wagon. I remember walking in and standing beside the bed, seeing Alfred laying in the bed next to Mother. I was 3 1/2 years old. Mother was a big fan of Al Smith, the candidate for President at that time, so she named him Alfred Emanuel.
Mother made most of our clothes. Dad bought her a Singer sewing machine right after they were married and it was one of the items they brought with them from Oklahoma. She quickly learned how to take a garment apart and make her own patterns. You couldn't tell the difference between our shirts and the ones for sale in the store. She also learned how to make quilts, and she and our other local neighbors spent a lot of time together sewing on quilts stretched in a frame, and just talking and visiting while they did it.
My Dad showed her how to cook some things they way he liked them and she quickly started making up recipes of her own. My sister recalls that most of her recipes were lost with her because she didn't write them down, and so she was never able to duplicate most of them. And she has been cooking since mother died -- when my sister was 13. Mother was able to put together a meal very quickly -- just like she did most things. (Like the 300 lbs. of cotton she would pick in a day.)
We were a happy family. I remember my Mother dancing in the rain under a downspout after a long draught. I recall vividly one morning that we were all sitting at the table waiting for Dad to come into the house for breakfast. He came in, and when he sat down we were all watching as he took a spoonful of his oatmeal and put it in his mouth. He had a shocked expression on his face. He had remarked several times "not enough salt in this oatmeal", so Mom had loaded it with salt and told us about it. She had moved around behind him and was hugging his neck, and we were all laughing -- and then he was laughing with us. Those were very happy times.
Please see the Photo Gallery