11 March 2014

Following up on the Boiling Blood Letter

This is something of a followup post to the "Boiling Blood in the Prairie Farmer." If you're a reader who is after some genealogy methodology advice, source suggestions, research hints, or Standards waxings, consider moving on...this isn't really one of those posts.

Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery, Harmony Township, Hancock County,
 Illinois, tombstones of Tena and Fred Ufkes-
central part of cemetery--west of Ufkes brothers' stone.
 Picture taken by Michael John Neill, December 2013
I thought quite a bit before posting the letter my Great-granddad Fred Ufkes had published in the Prairie Farmer in 1944. It wasn't a simple factual letter about the goings on during the war or the price of grain, which is what I had really expected. The letter was filled with the emotion and frustration of a father with two sons in a war on another continent. My families are not ones that leave behind troves of letters and other documents that provide a glimpse into their political and personal views. The letter in the Prairie Farmer is one of the few letters I have written by any ancestor.
Fred Ufkes, about 1920
original in collection
of Michael John Neill

Ufkes would have been fifty-one at the time he wrote the letter. Three of his five children were still in Illinois. His oldest son was married with a three-year old daughter. The two younger children (a son and a daughter) were still living at home. Times were still not easy-the Great Depression was not yet over and Ufkes still had a mortgage on his farm.

The telephone workers strike of 1944 was what precipitated Ufkes' letter to the Prairie Farmer. It is not known if he wrote similar letters to local papers. What is clear is that he thought war time was not an ideal time for workers to strike. Despite his frustration, his letter ends on the hope that the situation that precipitated the strike can be solved. It is clear how he felt about those who told their members to strike during war time and he even goes so far as to compare the telephone workers' wages with that of soldiers serving in the war.

Two of Ufkes' sons were serving in World War II at the time. Both would have been in their early twenties. Communication during the war was limited and there's no doubt that the family was concerned about the welfare of their two sons. Fortunately both sons returned home from the war, attended college under the GI Bill, married, and raised families.

Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery, Harmony Township, Hancock County, Illinois,
 tombstones of Ufkes brothers LeRoy, Alvin, and Herbert.
These graves are in the "back" of the cemetery, along the east side.
Picture taken by Michael John Neill, December 2013.
[Date of birth for living individuals have been removed.
That is the only modification made to this image]
Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery, Harmony Township, Hancock County, Illinois, tombstones of
 John H. and Dorothy Ufkes-- directly north of Fred and Tena Ufkes stone.
 Picture taken by Michael John Neill, December 2013.
During an earlier war, times were different and German families were reticent. In fact, Ufkes' father was asked in 1915 about his opinion on President Wilson and he did not have anything to say. Times were different in 1915 than they were in 1944.

Family tradition has it that during the World War I era, there was an altercation at the nearby Lutheran Church involving the minister and group opposed to the congregation's use of German in church services and during Sunday School. Family story is that one of the non-Germans spoke up in their defense and diffused the situation. Fred and his wife, Tena, would have been a young couple at this time with only one child. The rest of their children were born after World War I was over.

By the time of the next world war, times had changed. The Ufkes family was not the only one from their German Lutheran congregation to send sons to fight in the war. They were fortunate in that their sons came home. Not every family was so lucky.

Today Fred and Tena Ufkes and their four sons rest in the Illinois prairie at the Lutheran cemetery a few miles from their home. The oldest son John, his wife, and their two infant children are buried in the same lot as their parents. The sons who were in the service, Alvin and LeRoy, are buried along with their younger brother, Herb, east of the other family members.

Like most of their generation, my two uncles who were in the war rarely discussed it. The statement was made once that they were simply glad to be home and I imagine that they were.