Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Suitor

Minnie's parents were not too happy when a German immigrant named William began to come around to court her. After all, he was fifteen years her senior. Will had arrived in the United States as a teenager during the last decade of the 19th century. He and his elder sister Louisa had left their native village of Denz after an influenza epidemic that had left them orphans. The teenagers had other relatives who had already emigrated to the Mohawk Valley and hoped to meet up with them.

The story goes that Louisa's only pair of shoes was stolen on the trip across the Atlantic Ocean, and so she first set foot on American soil in her bedroom slippers. Knowing only a few words of English  --  "apple pie" was one phrase that enabled them to enjoy this treat on their trip upstate  --  the pair somehow found their siblings near Fort Plain and settled into their new lives.

William learned a skilled trade; carving wooden furniture for a local company, he soon became a gifted cabinetmaker.

Despite the initial reticence of Minnie's parents, the courtship progressed to its natural conclusion: The couple were married in a simple ceremony in Minnie's parents' home on February 28, 1912  --  100 years ago this week. Evidence of Will's artistry soon began to fill the family home: carved chair-, lamp-, and table legs, bookends, intricately inlaid checkerboards and trays with Masonic emblems.

Photo of Grandpa Will with carved vase

Later, when Will had to seek employment farther afield (at General Electric in Schenectady, 50 miles from home), he would send weekly postcards home to his loving wife and lively children. Minnie sometimes complained that every week she would set strict behavioral expectations for the children, but that Dad would spoil them when he came home on the weekend.

Minnie and Will were married for 37 years, until Will's death in the fall of 1949.

Will with carving tools and carved bookends

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