|Grandma Minnie, her famous "upstairs" (to the right) and homey kitchen|
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!
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!
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!