Leonhard Hauser and his wife Elise Hauser-Steinmann
immigrated from Switzerland to the US in 1882, the large
family (Elise Hauser-Steinmann gave birth to an incredible
number of 20 children!) settled in Greenwood where they
lived the lifes of farmers. They remained in Greenwood
until 1911, when they sold the farm to the Splitstoesser
family and moved to nearby Rockford.
Read Selma Hohenstein-Hauser's (youngest daughter of L. & E. Hauser-Steinmann, born 1895) memories (excerpt, dated 1982):
Hauser farm, ca. 1900
L. Hauser & E. Hauser-Steinmann, ca. 1910
This is what I remember hearing father and mother talk about long after they left Switzerland. I think the reason father left was he knew he couldn’t support his large family there. He was a farmer, but there the farms were all eight acre ones as there is very little farmland there. Father also worked in a cheese factory at times. Six weeks out of every year every male had to go to army school. I think father didn’t like that either as sometimes they would have to go just when they had their work at home. Anyway, in late fall he said goodbye to his brother and sister and parents and his own family as he didn’t want to take mother and seven children along when he had no idea where he was going but to North America USA. It took three weeks to get to New York on ship.
The worst thing was that he couldn’t speak one English word. Minnesota is where father wanted to go to; the Lord must have lead him. He came by train to Minneapolis and from there to Medicine Lake. Here he met a German man by the name of Clausman; and although the Swiss German is so different from high German, they could understand each other.
This Clausman also was a farmer, so he told father he could help him until he found a farm or at least a home for his family as winter wasn’t far away. Clausman also knew of a farm for sale and took father to see it. I don’t remember this man’s name, but he and father made a deal, but only if father would give him black on white that he could live in the house until spring. Now what could father do, he wanted the farm, and Clausman and he both saw it was good soil.
This farmer told him about his granary which was empty and could with some work be made warm enough to live in for a few month – the worst ones of the year. Clausman told him he would help him so father had the farm. Now he sent for mother and the family which would take three weeks like it did for him. He and Clausman would fix it airtight, and he still worked for Clausman too.
Our brave little mother with seven children: Adolf 17 and Elize 15 and there down to a two-month-old brother. She had two very large trunks all packed with clothes, blankets and a few dishes she wanted to bring. She often told us what a rough trip it was because she was in bed most of the time seasick. Also some of the children, even the little baby brother only a little over two months old, were seasick. Mother said she never prayed so hard as she did there since she did not want to see her baby to be let down into the ocean. That is what they did in those times if anyone died. The two older ones took care of all the rest; they did not get sick. Again I can see in Who’s care they all were.
Father was there to meet them when they arrived in New York. He was not at all too happy to take them to their new home. The little baby brother died the second day they were here while still at Clausman’s at Medicine Lake. He was buried in a cemetery near there at a little white church.
Father and Clausman did all they could to the granary, and that was to be their home until spring. There were two large rooms upstairs and two down and a little one they used for a kitchen. There were three windows – one up and two down. It was a home for at least four or five months, but mother and Lizzie (oldest daughter) soon made it look like a home. At least they were all together and had good health even though the boys had light snow on their beds some mornings. It was a good thing mother had a lot of wool blankets in her trunks.
Now I’ll go on from where I, the youngest Hauser, came along. I will start from where I was five years old, by now my two older brothers, Adolf and Fred, were married and had children of their own and my sister who came with mother had one boy and one girl older than myself. I was a young aunt! There were ten of us, and the house wasn’t large. It had two very large rooms upstairs and a small one and four downstairs, all but one very large. Not one of the boys were interested in farming, and it was such a good farm. It had only 60 acres, but it was good land, and father being a farmer from Switzerland made use of every foot. We were one happy Swiss family. On his 60 acres he always planted wheat, corn and oats, and still had pasture enough for 15 to 20 cows, besides all the meadow hay he needed. Mother had chickens and geese. Father started out with two horses and had these alone for many years before he got to young horses and they were not as trustworthy as Fan and Maud were, but faster. Father also bought a sorghum mill and cooked molasses which was as white as white almost as honey and delicious. That was a busy time of the year. The two boys, Ernest and Henry, had to help the horses which went round and round. Ernest fed the sorghum to the mill, and Henry carried the bundles to the press. People came from far and near and bought their sorghum, and that was a big help for this poor Hauser family. That was the time of year when the girls had to work like boys, Birdie, Lillie and even little me (I could pull weeds anyway).
We had good neighbors: all German to the north and Irish and English to the west and south and German again east.
Father had two very large gardens with vegetables of all kinds and a good apple orchard with three of the best kinds of apples – yellow greenings, Dutchess and transcendent crabs. Were they good! I can still taste them, and no one seems to know about these anymore when you ask at these apple places. We also had large yellow and blue plums and grapes.
Now what did these many poor Hauser kids eat. Well, I’ll tell you, we never went hungry. We had no basement like they do now. We had a large cellar for such a small house, but it was a good one. It had two rooms. One was only for potatoes and cabbage; the potatoes were good from fall until the new ones were harvested. The other side was for a barrel of sauerkraut, one or two barrels of apples, a barrel of dill pickles besides the stuff mother canned.
We had our own meat and lots of sausages. How did we keep it – buried
in the oat bin that was for the smoked meat and sausage. The neighbors
told us about that. In the winter we could keep it fresh in the smokehouse
when it was so cold. We had our own butter and milk, yes and cream until
the creamery opened up here in Rockford. All I can say, no bragging, is
that father and mother took care of their big family all by themselves, no
stamps or welfare in those days or social security either. He had to start
out with all old machinery, and if you don’t believe me, I wish there were
still some of the old neighbors there. They would tell you what a happy
bunch of kids we were.
What did we do for excitement? In the summer we helped with the work.
In the summer we helped with the work. Even I at six years had two jobs,
I had to do every day: fill a very big wood box and gather the eggs and
later I did what all farm girls did – to help with the work. We had a lot of
kids as neighbors. We would get together in the evening and play ball
or any game we could think of until it was time to go in and study our
lessons. We were so near to school. At nine it was bedtime, for me at
least. In the winter it was more fun with not much work. We had home
made sleds so we would slide downhill. I got the first new one. I also
was the only one who got a tricycle, and a big one too We would skate
on our ponds until late in the evening with the neighbor kids. We would
sing. Father loved to sing, but mother couldn’t. Lillie played the organ,
she was our alto too while Birdie and I sopranoed.
We had a merry-go-round and the boys made a saw buck teetertotter;
also our hayloft was the best place to have fun when the Minneapolis
nieces came to spend the summer We didn’t need a TV or radio cause
there were none, and now I sometimes wish it were still that way.
There were no more boys to help, and father’s health was getting worse.
We sold the dear little farm in 1911 and moved to Rockford. We had
another big yard and garden, but mother and I had to do most of it.
Father died in 1915. Mother and I kept the house for two years. In 1918
I got married. Mother sold the house and went to live with Birdie until she
died in 1928.