Augusta Leubecher's Diary
Written from 1880 to 1925
Background about Augusta Leubecher
George Leubecher (1836-1921) arrived in the United States in 1880 from Germany with three German dollars and a few articles of clothing. It took three years working first on a farm near Pittsburgh, then in the coal mines, to earn and save enough money to send for his wife, Augusta (1849-1925), and three daughters, Ida, Bertha, and Kate, from Germany. It took another eight months in Pittsburgh to save enough for the family to move to Sioux Falls in Dakota Territory. Unable to find housing, the family took up residence in a leaky roofed carpenter's shop where they moved the bed almost nightly in order to keep dry. Soon they were able to buy a one-room shanty for 12 dollars near what is now Morrell Meat Packing Plant. It was here that Helen (Gussie) and the only son, Herman, were born. For the sum of $1600 George and Augusta bought 80 acres from the Whipple homestead in Lincoln County (in the southeast quarter of Section 7 and northeast quarter of Section 18) Springdale Township in 1889, and moved here with their five children. The land has been in the Leubecher family continuously since that time (home site in Section 7). Here they did extensive market gardening and peddled vegetables, meat, eggs, butter, sauerkraut, horseradish, and anything else they might have. Augusta called on hotels, restaurants, and also homes. George and Augusta were devout Lutherans and belonged to the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls. Their five children were as follows: Ida (Mrs. Max Miller); Kate (Mrs. Will Buswell), Toppenish, Wash.; Helen or Gussie (Mrs. Norman Bates and after his death, Mrs. Hansell Thompson), Stanwood, Wash.; Bertha (Mrs. John Holmes), Oklahoma City; and Herman, who married Iva Peterson and remained on the "home place" as a farmer. Augusta's daughter, Ida, was killed by lightning at the age of 38, when she and her family were living in Springdale Township.
Background about Augusta's Diary
Augusta Leubecher's diary was originally handwritten in German. Its entries were a combination of accounting records, crop yields, and family history. In April 1956, a family member prepared a typewritten transcription of Augusta's diary, translating the entries for years 1894 to 1909 into English. Later, a handwritten translation into English was done by another family member, covering the 1880 entry and the years 1909 to 1925. It appears that several additions and corrections were done by these family members as they worked on Augusta's diary. I have added a few comments in brackets within Augusta's diary.
Augusta Leubecher's Diary
1880: In 12 June my husband came to New York. His whole possessions consisted of 3 German dollars. He got a place on a farm, where he got $12 a month. I and my 3 daughters had to stay here [in Tann]. Every week I brought farmer butter and eggs and walked to Fulda and sold them. And I walked every week to Fulda-21 miles there and 21 miles back. I carried from 40 to 80 pounds on my back. There was no railroad. That's the way I made my living for myself and my children.
Three happy years. Every week, summer and winter, I went to the farmers and helped with a flail to thresh grain from morning until 1 a.m. When it became daylight, we went in the field, took my 3 children along, to help the farmers with the work. My husband was 6 weeks gone then I got a letter in German from America. Then it didn't last very long so he sent us $10. Three years after, the 12th of June, we four went to New York.
So we had to lay in New York for a while, from Sunday noon to Monday nite and it cost 40 marks. As we came to Pittsburg there was my husband. He didn't know Katie. The other two he knew. Katie was 3 years old when he left and 6 years old when he saw her now. So we lived in Pittsburg 8 months. Ida said to me, "See his crooked shoes." Then my husband went to Dakota, and we stayed. In 4 weeks we followed. In Sioux Falls, we couldn't get any house. We had to live in an old carpenter shop. Every nite it rained on our heads and every nite we had to dry our beds. Then we bought an old house below the Penitentiary, but further we had our own home. It cost us $12.00. It was only 1 room. My husband built on a shed. Then, on July 21st, a storm came up and blew the shed in the river. There we lived 1 year. My husband worked in the Penitentiary and I did washing.
Then we wanted to rent Dave Woehrle's [handwritten translation reads Dan Walsher's] garden land. I sat myself on the hill and prayed we could rent the land. We rented the land and built a house on our land with 4 rooms. Now it was no longer a shed. We now made a garden and I cooked for 2 years at our neighbors. I got $1.00 a day. We lived here 6 years, then we looked for something else.
1894: We had a crop failure and did not harvest anything. From 45 bushels of potatoes we got 5. We had made debts for we borrowed $50 from John for seed for the next year.
1895: The crops were better but the prices were so low that we could not make expenses and pay off what we had borrowed the year before.
1896: This year was better and we paid our debts and bought a new stove for $69.00. Then came the hog cholera and we lost 22 fat pigs.
1897: The garden was the best, but from wheat we threshed but 4 bushels from the acre. We got 182 bushels of flax from fifteen acres and were able to pay $300 on our land. We again lost from cholera 30 turkeys and 18 pigs.
1898: Was a pretty good year and we bought pigs. The harvest was average.
1899: The harvest was average, but we had lots of pigs so we were able to pay up the farm in full. Ida got married and it also cost us some.
1900: Herman was confirmed in year 1899. We sold $298 worth of pigs and had a mild winter. The 26th of March we had a bad blizzard so that for three days we hugged the stove. The children made a four yard high snow tower.
1901. Our dear Vera died. 23d of April at nine P.M. Mr. Miller died the 24th of April. The 26 of April we had a letter from Germany that my dear brother's wife had passed away.
1902: We built a new barn at a cost of $800. My brother, Herman [who lived in Germany], died the 6th of May.
1903: We enlarged our house at a cost of $800. From brother Herman we got a bequest of $714.
1904: We bought six acres of land with house and barn for $650.
1905: We received $350 for fifty feet of our lots which the railroad took. Then we had good years.
1906: I stopped going to town with vegetables every day for I was sick and our farm was paid for.
1907. Ida moved near us and we could visit on the phone every day.
1908: Come Gussie in the Savings Bank. She got $50 a month. Then in 1910, $65 a month; in 1911, $75 a month. Isn't that a great amount?
1909: The pleasure did not last long for two years later dear God came and took her from this world with a bolt of lightning on the 2nd of August at 8:30. She left three small children-Elsie 8, Clifford 6 and Hazel 4. We took them over. [Eventually, Elsie would go and stay with her Grandmother Miller in Parker.]
1909: Bertha & John looked to Oklahoma to try their luck and experimented. I worked 6 years for a farmer and every year I got $14 German dollars and then 3 years by a minister, $16, $18, $21. That was a great amount for 1 year.
1910: Kate (Oct. 22) married Will Buswell and went to [Toppenish,] Washington to live.
1910: We gave $200 to our church and they needed it.
1911: Was not a good year. It was too dry. We did make, thank God, some nice money. At Christmas time, we gave all 4 [children] a present of $100, so that everybody could buy something. Today is the 21 of February. Herman took the first load of hop to town. I was afraid for him because the road was so bad. Bertha and John started this week to build their house. We are having it better now.
We got $150 from Wall Lake from the 5 acres, and $100 from the house, $17 a month. We have $200 from Ruvalt at 6% interest, $1000 in savings bank at 4% interest; and $112 in the Anderen bank at 4% interest.
1912: We built a house on our lot for $900 and we got $12 a month rent. The farm was rented by Herman for one-half of the crop. He got the machinery and horses free. John Hommes is very sick and he has to have an operation. They also built themselves a new home.
1913: The harvest is good. We have no garden, because I am too old to work in the garden. There is no market for vegetables. Potatoes are 25 cents a bushel. This year we sold 70 bushels. Butter is now, in July, 30 cents a pound. Eggs are 18 cents a dozen. Temperature is now 100 in the shade and I have to lay a wet cloth on my head otherwise I can't stand it. Herman went to town with a load. He got 40 cents a bushel for oats. Our neighbor's cat ate 4 of our young chickens. That gave me a headache. Elsie is here on a visit. Gussie is still in the bank and it pleases her a great deal. Last year we had a lot of plums; this year none.
1914: May 3: Gussie has gone to Oklahoma. She is not well. She will stay there until she feels better. We are building a new home on the 5 acres. On 28th of Sept. we moved in. I would rather live on the East Side since was almost done with the fieldwork but it didn't seem so, because my husband wants to start once more with a garden.
Herman got married Sept. 15. Then he with his wife went to Oklahoma, near Bertha as a visit for 10 days. Today, the 25th they wanted to come again and bring Gussie with them. Then I was glad because that is all I still have.
Today I have a carpet in the bedroom and I made it clean and I helped Father set up the corn.
1915: Jan. 21: We bid $125, he wanted $300. We allowed ourselves to be sued. We are still angry. But he got only $93 and we had to pay the cost.
Gussie was in Rochester then they took out her tonsils but she is much better now because she had a nerve sickness. It cost her $50 and with the transportation it cost her $65. We got a new scheese [translation of this word not found] for $75 and 2 stoves for $65 in July. Herman came down with typhoid fever and Kate came and stayed with us 7 weeks and made us happy. Gussie can again work. Bertha did not come because Herman was so sick. She could have come better than Kate.
1917: In summer, Iva became sick. I and Gussie had a notion to go to Washington and so we couldn't go. We gave the money to Kate and she came. Also Bertha visited us this summer. They both didn't have too good a time on account of the sickness but we were very happy to have all of them together again. After Bertha was home 5 weeks, she wrote a letter that for 10 years she didn't want to visit again. That made us feel sad. Gussie makes me more responsibility because she isn't well. Yesterday evening she had a bad fall and she was unconscious at Brown's. I hope she would stop work for a half year and rest, but I can't bring her to this idea.
Now it is April and in June I will be at Kate's in Washington. This will be a hard journey for me but it must be done before another year comes. I would like to get out of here once more and would like to see what kind of home she has, and so I can't raise any chickens.
My children so far are all well that makes me feel good but that terrible war. The world that God has made is good but the people on it has spoiled it.
March: In 2 weeks with God willing I will be at Kate's. I feel sorry for my Gussie but would still like to go once to Kate's. I have today a quilt I made myself from nothing but pieces, but not quite finished, for Mrs. Ruvalt and gave Mrs. Hall that one. Shindler Ladies Aid: 2; 2 to Mrs. Pool; and 2 to Rohten Kreutz [translation reads Rauten Krite.] Mrs. Pool paid $7 for it. Gave Mrs. Geschenkt one for $7. I gave Mrs. Mintzloff seven pieces for $25. Ida: 4 pieces. Kate: 4 or 5 pieces. Bertha: 4 or 5. Herman: 2 old and a new one and a feather bed and 2 pillows. Everything else is for Gussie. Now I have in 1912 given everyone $100; in 1917, each one a present of $50, but Kate, I gave her $200 because she was longer at home and she helped me. In 1919, I have to Bertha, Kate, and Gussie given $500 as a gift and they were all very happy.
1921: On March 10, Father died and on the 1st of December we went to town on the 17 of Dec. I went to the hospital and in Jan. Gustaauch [translation reads Gustauf] came in to laugh and that was a hard time. April 1921, we both were well and then came Kate and Will. The girls have all 3 have been given $2000 and on Feb. 24, I gave each $600 in liberty bonds. My work was making quilts. I gave the children 3 to 4 or more and now I can hardly do any more. Gave Mrs. Hall one and Hattie Hale one for her wedding and Mrs. Hanna one for Ladies Aid. And Mrs. Echart for Ladies Aid and Mrs. Ruvalt and Mrs. Dalthorp one. 2 to Mrs. Verkaust in the hospital, 3 for $15. To Mrs. Kroll: 2 for $8; to Mrs. Mintzlauff sold 9; once, 4 for $20; once, 2 for $23; and once, 3 for $20.
In 1923 now I have still 18 pieces. Gave Mrs. Dalthorp one. Elsa: 1 and a coat.
In 1925, Bertha, Kate, and Gussie, I gave each $1000 as a gift. The house on the 5 acres cost $2000. Hazel, I gave 2 quilts.