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Franzman Family History

On January 6, 1866, John Franzman was born to Georg Philipp and Christina (Krater) Franzman in Dobrzany, Austria, a village near Lemberg. While he was just a small child, his father was lost in a forest during a heavy snowstorm and froze to death. A few years later, his mother also passed away, leaving John an orphan. The government then took over and provided him with a home and schooling.

John Franzman was an exceptional student. He learned several different languages while in school. He had a knack for wood working and drawing, and it wasn't long before he learned the art of carving and cabinet-making. While serving in the army, his superior officers had him devote much of his time to making fancy furniture - such as bedroom furniture, dining room sets, fancy tables - for their homes. They appreciated his work. He made his own designs and drawings and did the work by hand carving. He had learned the secret of wood finishing, which put a permanent shine on the wood and retained a satiny finish for years. He was in his glory doing this work.

He was also in his glory when he told stories. It was now time to start looking for a wife and a home, and here is a little story that one of John's daughters now tells, which was one of John's favorites. It was about the meeting of his beautiful wife.

"Father was concerned about finding a good wife. So one Sunday, while attending church, a very beautiful young woman came in and sat down next to an old crippled woman. Being impressed by this, he decided that he must meet this young woman and soon came the opportunity. Her name was Katherina Schick, and since John was such a handsome and charming young soldier, she said she was happy and pleased to date him. They were soon engaged and later married. They decided to come to America, the land about which they had heard and read so much."

John set out by himself at first. He came over as far as Canada, and after he had earned enough money, sent back to the old country for his new bride. They lived in Canada for several years. They even had their first child there. Unfortunately, he died in infancy. He was christened Gustaf.

John Franzman had a very hard time finding work here in the new country. Since the people were living on farms here and finding the going hard, there was not much demand for his line of work. Beds were being made of metal, and people could not afford to buy fancy furniture, so he looked for work on farms. The fact that he had done no farm work previously, and language, both presented many problems. He often told this little story:

He was told by friends never say 'No, I can't do that job', but always be willing to try anything. A farm widow asked for a gardener, so he immediately posed as such. He was to set out a quarter acre of onions. He didn't know how to do this, but he was afraid to say anything. So he went to work and set out all the onions. When the lady appeared, she was shocked. 'You have the roots up!' she screamed. He then shame-facedly explained the situation and reset all the onions.

He next ventured into the Dakota harvest fields and came in contact with the German farmers. It was here where he gradually learned the English language. Here he also learned the art of farming, and made life-long friends. Katherina was a great pastry maker and cook, so while John was in the fields, she helped out in the farm kitchen. While living in the area around Crystal, North Dakota, two children were born to them. The oldest, a son born June 11, 1894, was named Alfred. The next, a daughter, was born in 1896, and was named Wilhelmina Francis (Minnie).

John and Katherina were anxious to own a home of their own. About this time, area in northern Minnesota was opened and advertised - 'Free land of 160 acres'. If one lived on it for five years, he could then obtain homestead rights. Thus they ventured into this new pioneer country.. The year was 1898.

On arrival in the new area, a choice, wodded area of 160 acres, which had rich soil, was chosen. It was a beautiful piece of land, but needed much work. The nearest station, named Liner, was located seven miles to the northwest. Their homestead was in an area made up of mostly bachelors, all homesteaders themselves at the time. The first year they made their home with one of those bachelors whose name was Henry Butat. On December 26, 1897, that first winter, the next child was born, a daughter named Ida. A midwife from many miles away came and delivered the child.

The following spring, they began to build their own house. With the help of some of hte neighboring bachelors, trees had to be cut down, peeled, and put together with a sod roof and plastered walls with clay and straw mixed together. Three dollars was the entire cost of the house in which they lived for three years. There was a wide shelf on one wall, and when the heavy rain storms came and the roof leaked, Katherina set her three children under the shelf and put felt hats on their heads. This way the rain dripped off and the children didn't get wet.

Many a story could be told of the struggle and hardships of these early days. The ground had to be cleared for gardens and fields. All grubbing was done by hand, brush burned, and rocks hauled away. There were no roads, only wagon trails from one homestead to another. The family lived mostly on wild game, such as prairie chickens, rabbits, and deer and bear. Sometimes moose or deer would walk right through the yard. Wolves would howl all night. There were wild berries galore, so they were picked for eating and canning. Katherina would churn butter and then walk to Liner to trade if tor groceries.

As time passed, more families moved in with children of school age. Families like the John Pfeifer's, with ten children. After a while the town of Grygla was built, which was only about three miles away from John's farm. Soon, a school was organized. The neighbors all went together and built a school house and named it 'Greenwood' school. The first teacher was a man by the name of Paul Spink, and he taught children from the ages of 8 to 20 and over.

In the year 1902, another child was born, a son this time, again delivered by a midwife. The scandinavian neighbors pleaded with John and Katherina to call him 'Ole', but Katherina said, "No, we will call him John, Jr.".

In those early years, people had to haul their grain 40 miles during the winter months and then exchange the farm products for such things as flour, sugar, fruit, and cereals. It usually took four days to make the round trip by team. First, oxen were used for this journey, then horses. This was a long, hard job, but many new friends were made in the process. While John was hone, the chores had to be done by the wife and the oldest children.

As more people came in, the ways and means of doing the farming improved. New roads were being built, land was being dredged so water could drain off. John Franzman took an active part in the improving and maintaining the area in which he lived. He read up on tame grass such as alfalfa and clover. He specialized in purebred shorthorn cattle. He served on the town board. And for the people who were too poor to buy caskets for their young ones who had passed aswy, John built beautiful little coffins for them.

In the year 1907, the youngest child was born, a daughter named Alice Bertha, a child with beautiful curly hair.

These early days were happy days. Every so often, a group of neighbors would gather for a social time. They came by team and stayed overnight. This was the time John Franzman was the center of attention. His great talent of telling stories had the friends sometimes rolling in the aisles and then in an instant would have them wiping away the tears. He was a great conversationalist, a wonderful storyteller, and a lover of music. He wrote several beautiful poems in German about his homeland.

As the years passed, he became conccerned about the education of his family and giving them the right kind of religious training. The oldest daughter studied music on the new organ he bought for them, and the other girls took courses in sewing. The boys took short courses in agriculture school. Ida, the second oldest daughter, went to high school at Thief River Falls and later teachers college.

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