Miriam Hartig feels that the following quote from "Fiddler on the Roof" relates to her family history. "Sunrise, sunset, swiftly fly the years —One season following another laden with happiness — and tears."
She has albums filled with photos, a wall of hand and footprints of 23 great-grandchildren, another wall of wedding photos of family members, and a written record of her grandparent's immigration to America.
Where did this family come from?
In the 1860s Miriam's father's family — strong Germans and very religious Mennonites lived in Russia. Six children, four boys and two girls, were born in Russia. (Miriam's father Frank was born later in Hillsboro, Kan.)
Men in the extended family refused to bear arms. The Queen of Russia promised them that if they went to the Balkan area near the Black Sea and raised wheat for the Russian government, they would not be required to bear arms. They grew a special kind of red wheat with a very hard kernel. According to records, that wheat is still being propagated.
When the Queen died, her successor son did not honor that agreement. The town where they lived was raided. Residents were told they must bear arms or leave. Five of the older men in the family left for America on the S.S. City of Brooklyn, spending 12 miserable days in the hold of the ship while crossing the Atlantic Ocean, arriving at Ellis Island in 1874.
They traveled, by train, to Hillsboro, Kan. On arrival they saw miles and miles of level land and were certain that this was where God wanted them to live.
Four of the men stayed to lay groundwork for the community while one returned to Russia for other family members. Each family homesteaded 40 acres. They built a large central building so everyone would have a warm dry place to stay while they built their own homes, helping each other. They worked the land together, sharing machinery. They planted the land with wheat seed brought from Russia. Other immigrants did the same and made Kansas the wheat state of the nation. Their land produced far more than any of them imagined.
Even then, there wasn't enough work to keep everyone busy. Miriam's father's family, along with seven other families, moved to Joes in eastern Colorado, traveling by covered wagon.
They erected sod houses, later making adobe blocks to build more durable larger homes. Families set up a good sized community on Highway 36 in Yuma County. To this day there is a beautiful white church there, many of Miriam's relatives are in the cemetery there.
Grandfather died soon after they arrived in Joes (possibly during a flu epidemic) leaving Grandma with 13 children. The older kids were teenagers. Four of the boys got jobs working on large cattle ranches. Two of the girls found their way to Denver, worked their way through two years of college to become teachers. One girl worked at a hospital while learning to be a nurse. They sent money home to care for their mother and the rest of the family.
"Aunt Marie saved her money," Miriam said, "and returned home with two horses and a beautiful red wagon. That was the only thing of any value at that sod house, two horses and a bright red wagon."
The church was what bound the families together — their religion and camaraderie, helping each other, sharing what they had, sustaining each and everyone through the hardships in their lives.
Miriam's parents met when her father stopped to buy a calf. They were married in 1914. Miriam, one of five children, was born in 1919 while her family was living in Vona, west of Burlington. She met Irvin Hartig while he was in the U.S. Air Force and she was working and going to school and were married in 1945. They had three children; each of them had three children, with Miriam presently great-grandmother to 23. She has created wall plaques of both a hand and a foot of each of the 23.
Anyone can make these plaques as a visual family record. "It's a very simple process," Miriam said. "Once started as a family record, you have to be consistent and stay on the job and get the plaques done while each child is very young."
Sculpey, the brand name for a polymer molding compound, is available in most craft stores. The product is available in pink or white.
Work with a piece of Sculpey at least the size of a tennis ball. It must be kneaded until very pliable, warm and soft. Work it into a perfect ball, with no cracks. Lay it on a piece of foil on a smooth surface. Pat it out until flat, like a pancake, larger than the child's hand or foot. Prepare two slabs — one for a hand — one for a foot for each set desired.
Experience has shown that the next process is easier if the small child is asleep on his tummy lying across the arm of an assistant. Press the child's hand or foot gently but firmly into the Sculpey, paying attention to get good impressions of each finger and toe. If not satisfied, repeat the process.
While the material is still soft, make two holes using a nail or other tool
near the top of the plaque (for hanging). Write or print the child's name on the front. Additional information (last name, birth date) can be added if space allows otherwise add it to the back. Place plaques on a cookie sheet and put into a conventional oven. Baking directions are included with the Sculpey. When cool, paint as desired. Tie a ribbon through the two holes for hanging and you are done!blog comments powered by Disqus