The Sixth Child of Karl Altwasser and Anna Christine Frieske
Gottlieb Altwasser and Euphrosine Beier
These photographs were taken sometime in the 1920's.
A Page from the Family Bible
The Children of Gottlieb Altwasser and Euphrosine Beier
Herb Domes thought a few anecdotes about his grandparents would add some life and personality to their story. Here are several.
This is a story about Gottlieb, told by my father Archie Domes.
Apparently some time after Gottlieb came to Canada, he went to the local store to buy some gunpowder. This was in the days of muzzleloaders. Gottlieb said he wanted some "Schießpulver"(gunpowder, pronounced "SHEES PULFER"). The store keeper was bewildered so Gottlieb said, "DUMBKOPF!" and grabbed the straw broom and with the thumb and index finger made a circle over the end of the broom handle and proceeded to pour something in the circle. Then he turned the broom over and stuck the handle in the circle, raising and lowering it a few times. Withdrawing the broom from the circle, he placed the bristles to his shoulder and stuck the handle in the storekeepers face. Then there was a terrible "BOOM" and the bewildered storekeeper knew exactly what Gottlieb wanted. I forgot to ask my dad if grandpa got his "Schießpulver"
This story, also about Gottlieb, was told by my uncle William Domes who is my Dad's brother.
I had said that I was of the impression that Gottlieb was a very stern and straight-laced fellow according to the pictures I had seen. Uncle Bill said I had the wrong impression and told a story to illustrate Gottlieb's fondness for young children. Apparently he would throw a few pennies on the ground when nobody was looking, kick some dirt over them, then lead the youngsters to the spot and convince them that there may be buried treasure if they dug a little. They always found the treasure and became good friends to boot. No doubt he got much pleasure from their joy in finding the treasure
My next story is about my grandmother Euphrosine. it was told to me by oldest sister, Elsie, who heard it from our Dad.
Apparently my mother, Olga, had a lot of respect and admiration for her father, Gottlieb. After all he had been a teacher and preacher in the old country and tried to do likewise in Canada. But, my mother's admiration was not shared by her mother, Euphrosine. In fact the story goes that Euphrosine used to warn her daughter never to marry a teacher or a preacher for she would surely regret it. So when a young bachelor farmer came to call, Euphrosine was delighted. His name was Adolph (which Euphrosine had already chosen for one of her own children), but he was second cousin, which seemed to be a bonus in those days. So the moral of the story is : if you get a matchmaker working for you, finding a wife is a piece of cake.
Gottlieb Altwasser and Euphrosine Beier
Bits and pieces of this story were extracted from the book A Century of Domes History in Western Canada published by grandsons Art and Herb Domes in 1991 and from the independent research of Karl Lenz and great grandson Jack Milner.
Gottlieb was born on November 22, 1851 in Ladawy, in the Dabie area of Poland. He was the youngest son and sixth child and of Karl Altwasser and Anna Christine Friske. Gottlieb was married in 1872 at the age of 21 years, in the Lutheran Church in Dabie, Poland to Euphrosine Beier, age 21 years. Euphrosine was born April 16, 1850 in Pryzbylow, located south and east of Kolo, Poland. She was the daughter of Jacob Beier and Louise Stebner. At the time of their marriage, Gottlieb was living in Osiny, which is located northeast of Dabie and north of Grabov, and his occupation was listed as a teacher and cantor.
Cantor Historical Note
Cantor is a word borrowed from the Jewish vocabulary which describes a synagogue official who sings or chants liturgical music and leads the congregation in prayer. Most people in Volhynia lived in villages with each village having an appointed teacher and Lutheran lay preacher (Kantor in German). The religious context for the word Kantor was retained by the German Lutherans, but meant the lay preacher who was appointed to lead Sunday church services and perform church duties in the absence of an ordained pastor. He did not have the authority to marry couples, but could perform baptisms and funerals, teach the catechism and prepare the children for confirmation. Only the pastor could serve communion and perform marriages. In a letter to Jack Milner, Art Domes wrote that his grandfather Gottlieb was a church sexton with the authority to christen and bury church members. He was also a court interpreter.
In 1872 Euphrosine was living with her parents in the nearby village of Smardzew. The newly married couple lived in Osin in the Kalish area of Poland and it was there that their first two children, Mathilde and Michael were born.
Sometime after September 20, 1874 and before May 18, 1875 the family moved from Poland to the province of Volhynia, Russia. Euphrosine had given birth to son Michael in Poland in 1874 and was Godmother at the 1875 baptism of her nephew Adolf Altwasser in Shitomir Parish. We know they were settled in Johannisdorf by 1877 where two children, Adolf and Florentine were born. The St. Petersburg Archive extractions show a first recorded birth at Johannisdorf on May 11, 1865 and a last recorded birth at Johannisdorf on August 15, 1881. These dates suggest that the village may have had another name or did not exist prior to 1865. However, for sixteen years the German "Johannisdorf" was a community and it is believed that the name was changed to Janowka.
Kolonie Janiewka - Janiewka - Ludwipol - Johannisdorf - Kamionka
Two Volhynian genealogists, Jerry Frank and Howard Krushel, have this to say on the subject. "According to a list in Wandering Volhynians, December 1990, Johannisdorf is also known as Zanowka and is located in the district of Ludwigpol, east of Rowno. Look at the Stumpp map in Wandering Volhynians, September 1990. On the left side , go up the 27 degree line until it crosses the Slutch River. Right at that point, on the south side of the river is Ludwigpol. I have not been able to find a village called Zanowka on any map nor any list for Volhynia. However, there is a road from Ludwigpol that heads NW along the SW bank of the Slutsch River. A short 4-km up along that road is the village of Janowka and a further 2-km along is the village of Kolonie Janowka. In my opinion Zanowka is wrong and the place is probably Janowka or Kolonie Janowka"
After Florentine's birth in 1880 and before 1884, the family moved from Johannisdorf to Kamenka (Kamionka) where son August was born. The last move in Volhynia was to Minjatin where the rest of the children: Julianne, Karl, Friederich and Olga were born. The family names listed above were taken from information contained in the family bible and from actual church records in Dabie, Poland and in Volhynia, Russia. Based on the information available, it seems that two of the children, namely Mathilde and Adolph, died at a young age,
The first of Gottlieb's children to emigrate from Russia to Canada was his daughter Florentine. She arrived in Halifax Nova Scotia aboard the SS Cambroman with her husband Ferdinand Greger on April 9, 1900 and lived for a while in Rosenfeld, Manitoba. Florentine and Ferdinand subsequently moved to the United States and finally settled in Portland, Oregon. The next immediate family member to emigrate from Russia was Gottlieb's son August, who arrived in Yellow Grass, Saskatchewan in about 1902. Three years later on August 12, 1905, Gottlieb and his wife landed in the port of Quebec with their youngest children, Julianna, Carl, Friederich and Olga. They were passengers aboard the SS Dominion which had departed Liverpool, England on August 3. Their destination was Yellow Grass, Saskatchewan.
The SS Dominion
Sailed from Liverpool, England to Quebec
Some notable passengers on this voyage.
The amount shown on the left side of the image was filled in by Canadian Immigration officials and indicates how much money the family had with them when the ship landed in Quebec City. Also, notice on the right side, there is a stamp saying "N.A.T.C. Bonus (Allowed)". It was a payment to the North Atlantic Trading Company for each agriculturalist it directed to Canada. Gottlieb's occupation was listed as a Farmer, Euphrosine as a Farm Wife, with Julianne and Carl listed as Farm Laborers. Friedrich and Olga were too young to be classified with an agricultural occupation, but as children of agriculturists, the bonus was allowed.
When Gottlieb emigrated in 1905, the Russian government had been continually changing land laws, especially in the province of Volhynia. These laws, in various ways, attempted to limit the purchase of property by German-Russians. The anarchistic Bolshevik movement was also gaining momentum and creating further unrest throughout the country. The seeds of revolution had been planted years before during the Decembrist rebellion of 1825 and were now growing intensely. (Historians have noted that the Decembrist Uprising greatly influenced the development of revolutionary movements in Russia.) Russia had also initiated the ill fated Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05 which required more conscripts into the army to become occupation troops and sustain the military action. These conditions probably helped Gottlieb decide that it was time to leave. Apparently they just walked away from a nice farm with orchards to get away from that troubled part of Russia. His reasons for leaving were not clearly explained nor openly discussed with anyone after his arrival in Canada.
On June 25, 1906, the Canadian Census has the family living on 25-10-17-W2 in the Yellow Grass area. He owned 4 horses, 3 milk cows, 6 other horned or meat cattle, and 8 hogs or pigs. The enumerator was Thomas Murray.
In 1907, less than a mile north of the present village of Verwood, Gottlieb took up a homestead on the SW-4-7-27 W2 and in 1908, a pre-emption on the SE-5-7-27 W2.
There weren't many trees in southern Saskatchewan so people settling there usually built sod houses by ploughing up strips of virgin prairie grass, stacking them up to make walls and then top that off with a wooden roof. More permanent dwellings would be constructed later. Thus, in the summer of 1907 the Altwassers built their new sod home using a slightly modified method of construction. Their house was built from lumber and insulated on the outside with sod cut from the prairie with a single furrow plough. The sod was then hauled to the site with a stoneboat. Gottlieb was crippled with rheumatism by then so his youngest daughter Olga did much of the work. That summer Olga's older siblings were out working, so her parents depended on her for a lot of the work that had to be done.
The Altwasser sod home was built where two early trails met. One trail came from Winnipeg and the other trail led to the northeast and on to Lebret in the Quappelle Valley. At that time, a short distance to the southeast, was a hill covered with Indian tent rings. There was also a fire guard ploughed immediately to the south of the homestead. That first summer the Altwassers took advantage of the newly ploughed furrows of the fire guard to plant potatoes for the coming winter. The potatoes were plentiful, large and good to eat, but they grew extremely flat due to the weight of the overturned sod above them and the firmness of the soil below them. However, to the early prairie families, the purpose of the fire guard was far more important than just growing potatoes. One of the interesting stories told was of a huge prairie fire that started east of Swift Current and swept the country south of Moose Jaw. Any family that didn't have a good fire guard lost everything. Without cover the snakes tried hard to get into the sod house.
The 1909 Prairie Fire
One afternoon in the late summer of 1909, everyone experienced an ominous feeling that something terrible was going to happen. The cattle had stopped grazing and looking off to the west they started lowing softly. As the day wore on the sun seemed to shine through a smoky haze and the worst fears were confirmed, a prairie fire loomed on the horizon.
With a frantic frenzy the cattle and horses were driven inside the fireguard that they had plowed. The fireguard protected the winter's supply of hay, the stable and corrals, the sod shack, and anything of value.
Just at dark the fire arrived, snapping and crackling and leaping high in the air, fed by the last summers dry but thick grass. Huddled in the sod shack, my mother and my grand parents breathlessly watched the wall of flame sweep by, hacking and coughing in the smoke laden air. As soon as they could they looked out anxiously to see if the flames had jumped the fire guard, but thankfully it had not and for the time being they were safe.
Just over the hill to the south was the boundary of the Bonneau Ranch. The fire had jumped the ranch fireguard and was threatening to destroy thousands of acres of winter grazing. Frantic cowboys were desperately trying to contain the blaze with little success. In desperation they would shoot a horse, split the carcass lengthwise with an axe and tie a lariat on each leg . With a mounted cowboy on each side, they would drag the fresh carcass down the line of flames and wipe it out. It worked where the grass was not too tall. They were only partly succesful and the losses were great.
Some homesteaders, who had been careless about their fire guards, lost everything that would burn, their winter feed supply being the most critical and of course any livestock caught in the path of the flames.
How did the fire start? Somebody near Swift Current, a settlement over 100 miles to the west, had been careless and the accidental fire headed east out of control. The flames were fanned by a hot dry wind and a heavy growth of grass that was instant fuel to the leaping, racing, flames. By the time it reached my grandparents homestead, the leading wall of flame was 75 miles long from north to south.
The next morning the day dawned clear and bright. The whole landscape looked like a black blanket had fallen over the land, broken only by the odd bleached buffalo skull. Small wisps of smoke still drifted downwind from the smoldering piles of horse and cattle dung. Dust devils chased each other across this black land and the soot fuelled the towering wind tunnels. For once there were no mosquitoes, but snakes and lizards, now without cover, crawled every where, desperately trying to avoid the hot sun and driving the housewives crazy as they slithered under the ill fitting doors and headed under the kitchen table or the bed.
In later years I was able to get my fill of fighting prairie fires. We lived just west of a long valley with cropland between us and the valley hills where the cattle grazed. The railroad followed the valley, but just about opposite our place the train started to make its steep climb out of the valley. The old coal burning steam locomotives had to work very hard dragging the long train of heavily laden grain cars up the steep incline. As a result they would spit red hot coals out of the smokestack and into the grass starting a prairie fire. The engineer on the slow moving train could usually look back and see what had happened. He would notify the next station agent who would call telephone central, who would put out a general ring and in a matter of minutes the neighbors and ourselves headed for the fire with buckets, barrels of water and wet gunny sacks. Always we would return, fire-blackened and weary, but we won - we had the telephone to help us get the jump on the fire.
The Tired Homesteaders
Altwasser Homesteaded Land - Township 7, Range 27, W2
Land grant records show that in addition to Gottlieb's holdings, son Carl was granted the SW-3-7-27-W2 and SE-4-7-27-W2, son August was granted the NW-4-7-27-W2 and son Frederich was granted the NW-14-7-27-W2 (not shown). Daughter Olga married Archie Domes whose homestead was immediately north of the Altwasser land. If you have been to Verwood, highway #13, which runs east and west through southern Saskatchewan, divides township 7 north of the highway from township 6 south of the highway. These homesteads are less than a mile north of the present village of Verwood.
He resided continuously with his wife and 3 children on the homestead from
The size of the house was 14 x 20 feet, made of lumber with a value of $150.00.
Take note: near the bottom left side of the page
Gottlieb conducted Sunday worship services between the visits of the ordained travelling pastor who came to the Verwood area about once a month. Grandson Herb Domes graphically described Gottlieb's work in the old country as that of a "preacher teacher". In the absence of a regular pastor, it was an activity Gottlieb continued in Canada. A larger house was built later to accommodate this activity.
Grandson Art Domes recalls: We don't know when the house was built. My memory tells me it was about 20' X 32' in size, there was a kitchen on the west end about 10'X 20', and there were two bedrooms on the east end, each 8'X10' in size, the center part was 14'X 20'. This center part would have been used by Gottlieb for Sunday worship services. The building was painted white. The crops planted back then were wheat and oats. They raised vegetables, chickens, pigs, dual-purpose cattle for milk and meat. Water was a problem and had to be hauled out of the coulee to the west with a stone boat and horses."
In 1912 daughter Olga married Archie Domes. Her parents seemed to depend on her a lot and it is not known who did the work on the farm until Gottlieb died on May 3, 1923. It is reasonable to assume that son-in-law Archie and son Karl assumed that responsibility. Both Archie and Karl were on farms adjacent to Gottlieb's homestead. Bill Domes, Archie's brother, rented the Gottlieb farm in 1926 as the estate hadn't been settled and wouldn't be until 1949. After Gottlieb's death, Euphrosine lived with son Karl for a short time, then lived with daughter Olga for several years in declining health before her death at Weyburn in 1929.
May 3, 1923 - March 23, 1929
Verwood Cemetery, July 1, 2007.
Gottlieb's Memorial Card
Euphrosine's Memorial Card
Saskatchewan Agriculture and Food introduced the Century Family Farm Award Program in 1981 to honour Saskatchewan's farm families and their role in the development of the province. To qualify, members of the same family must have farmed the land continuously for 100 years or more, live in Saskatchewan, and continue to operate the farm.
The Domes Family Farm, numbering about 2000 acres, contains three homesteads established by family members in 1907. All three could have qualified for Century Farm status, but the bureaucrats stipulated that only one Century Farm designation could be awarded per family by the Saskatchewan Government. Herb Domes decided to honour his grandfather by organizing a "Jamboree at the Junction" to celebrate this Century Farm Award during the 2007 Canada Day weekend. Local residents and direct descendents of Gottlieb Altwasser and his wife Euphrosine attended.
® Canada Copyright Registration No. 490341
to William J. Milner, March 8, 2001.