Consanguinity: (kŏn'săng-gwĭn'ĭtē) , relationship by blood, whether linear or collateral.

Primarily concentrating on my Browning family from Harrison County, Ohio (and their subsequent move to Crawford County, Illinois) but I've got Plymell, Crago, Eagleton, Garrard, McConnell, Nichols, Swan, Nevitt, Huls, Markee, Depperman, Papstein/Popstein and Hamilton in there too. And that's just the beginning......

Friday, August 24, 2012

Grandma Minnie in Stories and Pictures

My great grandmother Minnie (Minna Anna Louise (Papstein) Depperman, 1888-1985) has always been something of an enigma to me.  She was in her 80's when I was born and I was only 15 when she passed away at the age of 98.  She lived all of her life in northern Illinois (with the exception of her birth in Germany -- she was 1 year old when she arrived in the US) and I lived only my first seven years in northern Illinois before moving to southern Illinois for four years and then on to Texas.  After the age of 11 I only saw my Grandma Minnie twice more before her death.  We never did get a chance to sit down and have any sort of meaningful conversation.  I wish we had. The stories she could have told me!

Grandma Minnie, her famous "upstairs" (to the right) and homey kitchen
I knew that she'd raised my mother after my mother's parents divorced, and that my mother thought of her more as a mother than as a grandmother. My own personal memories of her are few, honestly; I only clearly remember her spending time with me one on one once (though I'm sure there were plenty more times that I don't recall.)  I remember sitting on Grandma Minnie's lap and she would hand me her Vick's Inhaler, letting me sniff it to my heart's content!  Otherwise I remember playing at her house quite a bit but I'm sure I spent much more time in her basement and on her front porch than I did with her.  She was probably busy cooking and conversing with the other adults.  I remember she forbade me to go upstairs so of course the banishment made me ache to sneak up and see what all the fuss was about!  I do recall sneaking up one day and seeing a row of bedrooms and not much else, all perfectly straight and neat and clean, like they weren't even lived in! -- before I was too scared to stay any longer and snuck back down.

I most remember thrilling to her dark, dank basement, so unlike the basements that I was used to in the metropolitan Chicago area I grew up in.  She would let me play down there because it was basically an empty room with a lot of space to run circles in (which I did!)  I clearly remember climbing down the stairs and seeing an old 1930's washing machine in the right corner of the basement near the cistern and, above that, a picture of a young boy in an ornate oval frame.  When I asked who it was I remember Grandma Minnie saying it was a "picture of my boy that died."  The boy was Alvin Friedrich Depperman, who was born around 1909 and died about 1912.  I was fascinated by the picture.  The little boy's eyes followed me wherever I went but I wasn't frightened of it.  I often stopped playing long enough to look at it longingly.  I wanted to touch it, but it was too high...and I knew better.  My mother always told me that in Grandma Minnie's house I was not to touch anything and to make sure that everything I got out was put back exactly as I found it.

Often when the family would get together I would stand in the front room looking at a picture that was always near the German bible that Grandma Minnie had on her end table.  It was of a handsome calvaryman standing in front of a row of Lipizzaner stallions.  Grandma Minnie told me that the man was her father when he was training those stallions for the Kaiser.  I didn't know who the Kaiser was -- the only Kaiser I ever knew was a Roll, ha! -- but of course now I know that it was Kaiser Wilhelm I, the King of Prussia from 1861 to 1888.  My g-g-grandfather August Karl Papstein wa in the cavalry in the early to mid-1880's and must've been a skilled trainer if he was chosen to work with the prized Lipizzaners (see more about these beautiful horses here)!  Unfortunately all these pictures -- the oval frame of Alvin, the handsome man in the cavalry uniform -- and the Bible, are all lost to us now.  Likely they were sold in a sale my Grandma Minnie's family had when she had to go into a nursing home so they could pay for her care.  Grrr!

It's been very interesting to me to look at pictures of Grandma Minnie.  The pictures I have of her are for the most part taken long after she raised her children and became a grandmother.  Recently a cousin sent me a picture of my Grandma Minnie taken when she was only 10-12 years old.  I love it! I post it here.  It was likely taken about 1900.  Minnie (the eldest girl) is posing with her parents, August Karl Papstein (1864-1946) and his wife Anna Marie Louise Koehn (1868-1952), her brother Otto and little sister Clara.  Goodness but when my younger brother was a boy, he sure did look like Otto in this picture!

Tragedy was just around the corner for the family, however.  August and Anna had already lost two infants before this picture was taken.  Otto never did get a chance to grow up -- he was born in September of 1891 but died between 1900-1910 and was buried in an unmarked plot next to his parents in the Peotone (Will Co. IL) Cemetery.  Clara was born in December of 1896, married Earl Laroche around 1918, and died in 1920.  She too was buried in the Peotone Cemetery.  August and Anna would go on to have three more children before 1910 (Louis b. 1901, Elsie b. 1905 and Frank b. 1909.) Then there was a lapse -- Anna was 44 upon Frank's birth -- and then perhaps....just PERHAPS....another came along. 
Grandma Minnie in 1918

I say perhaps because I have heard two distinct stories about this last child's parentage in my family.  A boy named Edwin Papstein was born on 10 Oct 1915.  Edwin was developmentally impaired (perhaps Down's, though the nature of his developmental issues has not been passed down.) As to whose son he was?  Well, if he was Anna's she was 48 when  he was born.  That's not beyond the realm of possibility, but it is a stretch one would think?  Anyway, the other story was that Edwin was Clara's son, born out of wedlock to Clara and an unknown man.  Clara would have been 18 if this is true.  As it is, I cannot locate Edwin or Clara on the 1920 census.  Clara was to die in 1920 and if Edwin was hers, it is not surprising that her parents took him in to raise him.  Edwin is, perhaps tellingly, NOT in the household of August and Anna in 1920 although their other children are.  This isn't definitive, however; they could have placed him in some sort of facility because in 1930 Edwin is found in the Illinois Institute for Feeble Minded Children in Lincoln in Logan Co., IL.  This place was also called variously the "Lincoln State School and Colony," the "Lincoln Developmental Center" and the "Lincoln State School."  In 1940 Edwin is living with August and Anna and is listed as their "son," though a biographical paper written by my grandma Minnie on the occasion of August and Anna's 50th wedding anniversary in 1937 did not mention Edwin at all.  So....until I can order Edwin's death certificate (he died in 1983 and is buried in the Peotone Cemetery) I am simply theorizing here.  It's fun to do that though!

My grandma Minnie married Franz Herman Depperman in 1904 and they had seven children.  Franz died in 1955 and Grandma Minnie went on and lived by herself until her death in 1985.   This last picture was taken on their 50th wedding anniversary in 1954.  It is Grandma Minnie and Grandpa Franz and their children (from left to right) Frederick Walter Depperman, Herman August Albert Depperman, Anna Henrietta Bertha (Depperman) Schannon Onkin, Alfred Eric Depperman, and Franklin Louis Depperman (my grandfather.)

Grandma Minnie was a fiesty and opinionated woman and the stories my mother tells me keeps her alive.  I sure hope that the recent finds I've made on this side of the family will shed some more light on her ancestors.  These Germans (Prussians) have been too long in the dark for me!


  1. Patti, waiting for you to shine the light on your Prussians --- an interesting family.

  2. Enjoyed your story about Grandma Minnie and loved all your pictures, It is so nice to have photos of your ancestors. I'll be reading more. Nice blog.