ROSSMANN FAMILY HISTORY
BY RON ROSSMANN
I am glad to provide a few facts about my family. We were part of the Walnut community from 1874 until my father and mother died in 2000 and 2001.
Jim Hansen will present two letters that were written by my great-grandfather, Christian Rossmann, and two of his brothers about their trip to America and their initial experiences after stopping near Davenport in 1866.
The letters were found when the German Rossmanns returned from an outing one day to find their house had been burglarized. The desk that held these letters had been upset and in putting things away the letters were discovered. They had possibly fallen under a desk drawer and only appeared as a result of this criminal act. That led to sending a letter to the post office in Walnut, Iowa inquiring if any Rossmanns were still in this area.
Christian, born in Grimsnis, Germany on March 11, 1847, was one of seven children born to my great-great-grandfather, Hans and his wife Margaretha Kruse. We know four of the siblings emigrated and three stayed in Germany. Nothing is known about a sister who also emigrated.
We know that life was simple and difficult during this period in Schleswig-Holstein. A plaque near Christian’s birthplace announced the repeal of the laws creating serfdom in 1799. Hans was born in 1801 so his father was likely a serf in this rural area. Hans and family left the area near a village that no longer exists in about 1850 and moved to a village named Fockbek. I have enclosed a picture taken of his house as two Rossmann cousins and I visited Germany in 2000, saw the house and visited two ladies who are our cousins. Their grandmother and our great-grandfather were siblings. We have maintained contact with the surviving sister, Maria Hansen, her niece and great-niece.
The political environment in Schleswig-Holstein was heated as Denmark and Germany continued to feud over which ruled this territory that sits between the two countries. The limited economic prospect and risk of being conscripted into an army to fight in this dispute probably helped many young people make the decision to leave for America. Christian was 19 years old when he left for America—never to return.
Many Germans had already come to America to engage in agriculture and were helpful to the young people who followed them. The three Rossmann boys, Christian, Heinrich and Peter, settled for some time near Davenport, and then moved west to West Liberty– probably through the generosity of other German families who employed them. The picture of the three young men was taken by a photographer in West Liberty. Our family believes the middle man is Christian.
The boys then split up with one going to Lone Tree, Iowa, one to Texas and Christian to Walnut, where he bought the 160-acre farm 1 mile south and 0.6 mile east of Walnut in 1874 for $12 an acre. It took him eight years to acquire funds to make this purchase. The original house on the property existed when I was young. It was long, narrow and consisted of three rooms. The northern room was for ice and storage, the center was the kitchen and the southern room was living quarters, including a loft. I can only imagine how cold it was during the dead of winter! The old house is visible in the picture of the farm, just to the right of the larger frame house. All the buildings have been demolished over time.
Christian Adolph Rossmann married Augustine Caroline Nissen on February 28, 1877. Fourteen children were born to them: Meta, Henry, Anna, Edward, Clara, Leona, George, Walter, Arthur, Evelyn, and Leonard, plus three who died in infancy, Amanda, Caroline, and Julius.
Christian purchased the house at 201 Country Street now owned by Rick and Gwen Blum. They moved into this home in Walnut on March 1, 1910. Christian appeared prosperous for his time and was involved in several organizations, including the original German Lutheran Church. He was also active in a German club that likely disbanded due to anti-German sentiments at the outbreak of WWI. Augustine died on April 17, 1926 and Christian died on March 10, 1932, only 2 hours before his 85th birthday.
My grandfather Henry was born on June 13, 1880 and married Alvena Marie Reimer on December 23, 1903. Grandfather Henry, the eldest son, bought the farm in 1917. By this time, a bigger house had been built and my grandparents raised eight children in it (see farm photo). The children were Lawrence (married Virginia Shahan), Evalena, Wilbert (married Claire Mickel), Everett (married Beverly Layton), Rondo (married Donna Goodner Muller), Ronald, Lavina (married Donald Kinder), and Phyllis (married Vern Shires). Phyllis Shires lives in Lincoln and is the youngest and only remaining of my dad’s siblings.
My father, Rondo, was a twin and his brother, Ronald, died on January 27, 1942 at age 17 of a seizure (probably epilepsy). My parents, Rondo and Donna Rossmann, moved to the farm after they were married on March 6, 1949 and I was born a year later. My two sisters, Ann Hansen of Atlantic and Kay Hamilton of Crescent, continue to own the farm that was purchased by Christian in 1874.
Henry moved to Walnut and bought the house at 409 Antique City Drive, now occupied by Rick and Petra Heiny and family. My grandmother had died on December 10, 1945 and my aunt Evalena provided care for him. They lived in the house until my grandfather Henry died on August 25, 1971 and my aunt Evalena died in 1972. The house was rented for several years before being purchased by my parents, where they lived until their deaths.
There were ten cousins born in my generation of Rossmanns. Two young Rossmann boys are in the fifth generation since Christian emigrated, but the link to both Walnut and agriculture ended for us. I am humbled by the courage and dedication that the young people who emigrated, both women and men, must have had to seek a life in America. Perhaps there is a little of that character remaining, as one of the younger generation of Rossmann boys is a Jesuit priest, teaching English in the African country of Tanzania.