Our 19th Century German Immigrants

On 12 December 1900, my great-grandfather, John Russell Lowell, married Freda Marie Wilhelmine Volsch, a young woman who had immigrated to the U.S. in 1886 from Germany. On 27 November 1925, my grandfather, George John Lowell, married Hazel Louise Miller, whose father, Max Miller, immigrated to the U.S. in 1884 with his mother, sister, and brother, joining his father, Adolph Miller, who had arrived in 1881. Max's future wife, Ida Leubecher, my Grandma Lowell's mother, immigrated to the U.S. in 1883, along with her mother, two sisters, and her mother's sister, joining her father who had immigrated a few years earlier.

Thus, my family of English and Scottish heritage, having remained predominantly English for almost 250 years in the U.S., was altered ethnically quite significantly by the inclusion of these three German families: the Volsches, the Millers, and the Leubechers.

I have not yet done in-depth genealogical research in German sources or in Germany for these three families. Up until the early 1990s, my family did not know the exact locations in Germany where these three families lived. Through serendipitous means, I was able to determine the geographic location where the Volschs and Leubechers lived in Germany.

I was fortunate to inherit the trunk that my great-grandmother, Freda Volsch, used when she traveled to America in 1884. I've always admired it and enjoy showing friends the inside of the trunk with its Victorian paper coverings. One day in 1994, while opening the trunk, an old folded piece of paper fell out from somewhere, having been lodged in its resting place for over a hundred years. I had never found it during all of the previous times I had opened the trunk. It was an old church document, complete with wax seal, that indicated the formal name and baptism date of my great-grandmother's brother, Ludwig Heinrich Theodor Volsch. From this church document, I determined the geographic location of the Volsch family in Germany: Karenz, Mecklenburg-Vorpom.

My Great-Great-Grandma Leubecher maintained a diary for many years. In that diary, she stated that she would walk to Fulda, Germany, to sell various farm produce. I searched for "Fulda" and "Leubecher" on the Internet and discovered an email address for a lawyer who lived in Fulda whose last name was Leubecher. On a whim, I emailed him in 2001. We exchanged emails and he eventually secured for me copies of the birth certificates for two of my great-great-grandmother's daughters. Through this exchange, I discovered the geographic location for the Leubecher family in Germany: Tann, Hessen, Germany.

I have not yet found the exact geographic location in Germany where the Miller family lived. Family legend has it that the Millers knew the Leubechers when both families lived in Germany.

An interesting connection occurred between the Lowells and the Millers before the actual marriage of my Grandpa Lowell to my grandmother, who was a Miller. The Lowell homestead out in the country was eventually sold. My great-great-grandfather had already purchased a farm across the country road for one of my great-uncles and another farm for my great-grandfather's sister. My great-great-grandfather had also acquired other property up the road that my grandfather eventually inherited and farmed, along with my father. The Lowell homestead was then sold again, and the family that purchased this farm was Max Miller, the father of my future Grandma Lowell. So, as a child, when visiting family in the country, we would drive down a country road and on the left side of the road would be my Great-Uncle Jack Lowell's farm, across on the right side of the road would be my Great-Uncle Cliff Miller's farm, then as you drove further you would encounter the farm of my Grandpa Lowell's cousin, Flora Luker, and then after making a right hand turn onto the next country road and the next left turn, you would come to the land that my Grandpa Lowell owned and farmed with my father, while I was growing up.

Tragedy struck two of my German families. On 24 April 1901, my great-great-grandfather, Adolph Miller, was killed while blasting out stones in one of his fields, using dynamite. One of the charges of dynamite didn't explode promptly, so my great-great- grandfather walked back to the rock to replace the fuse, when the dynamite exploded, blowing him into the air. Newspaper articles from the 1900s were written much more graphically than what we expect to encounter today. The local newspaper wrote: "The unfortunate man's left hand was blown off nearly to the elbow, his right hand blown off, both eyes blown out and a section of his skull; several pieces of rock were imbedded in his brain, one piece as large as a walnut. The unfortunate man died ten hours after the accident."

Ida Leubecher Miller
My great-grandmother
On 2 August 1909, my great-grandmother, Ida Leubecher, (my Grandma Lowell's mother) was struck by lightning and killed in her home. As my grandmother described it: "All three of us kids were in one bed upstairs in the one bedroom and Dad and Mom slept in the other bed. It was a slanting roof and there was a window under there and the glass had been knocked out of it and Dad had gone up to put a board or something in that [window]. When he came up to do that, Mother came and brought the light up and she set it on the dresser and she turned to leave and when she turned it was when the lightning struck. She was killed instantly. Dad always said that he had his pipe in his mouth and it was blown out and the top of his hair never came back." My Grandma Lowell was four years old when her mother was killed.

To this day, I am still afraid of lightning and thunderstorms.


Gerald Lowell

18 October 2008