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By Olga Elizabeth Johanna Lueke Wagner Smothers
Submitted by Marva Boehm Mason:
"My grandmother wrote [this] at my request before she died. She grew up in Moulton on a farm on the south side of town." - Marva Boehm Mason
I was born February 1, 1902 in Moulton, Texas to Fritz Lueke and Emma Niemeyer Lueke. My brother, Arthur, was born July 15, 1904, and Lille (Mrs. R. J. Etlinger) was born December 2, 1906. We had a brother (George) and sister (Ella) who died before I was born.

Dennis Wagner, my second grandson (born in 1956) was born on George's (my oldest brother) birthday, February 22.

I was baptized in Zion Lutheran Church in Moulton by Pastor G. Rapp and confirmed April 16, 1916 by Rev. H. A. Heineke. I went to Sam & Will Moore Institute in Moulton through the seventh grade. My piano teacher, Miss Adele Cordes, was blind and she taught me piano for seven months. I did not even learn all the basics but my folks thought I could play America and the money was scarce so I had to quit.

The first cassette tape recording I made and gave to my grandchildren was titled Grandchildren are God's Greatest Gift to a Grandmother Growing Old. This story I started to write in September 1984, and the title of this tape is Writing My Own Grandmother Story for My Grandchildren and Great-Grandchildren.
Fritz and Emma Lueke & family
Fritz and Emma Lueke and family
School Days

I started school when I was seven years old. My first teacher's name was Miss Tillie Guenther. There was no kindergarten. We did not have friends because we did not get to go places. We did go to Sunday school and Church and once a year to a feast called May Fest. My Daddy gave me 50 cents to spend on anything I wanted. Of course that was ice cream and soda. Soda water was 10 cents a bottle and 5 cents for a big ice cream cone. By the time we went home, I always had 10 or 15 cents left which I gave back to my Daddy.

Once a year, at Easter time, I got a new dress and a pair of shoes. Sometimes, if we were lucky, some aunt would give my mother a piece of material and she would make me a new dress and most of the time that material was a feed sack that chicken feed came in. As I got a little older, I got to visit my grandma and grandpa in Shiner during summer vacation. That was really something. I rode a passenger train from Moulton to Shiner and I thought that was the greatest thing on earth. Grandma and Grandpa (Dietrich John and Elizabeth Lange) Niemeyer were so wonderful to me and my cousin Hattie Anna Marie Niemeyer Pietsch. We always went there together. We had to go to bed before it got dark and they had nothing but candles to give us light. They were afraid we might not be careful and start a fire. They had a music box that played about eight or ten times. They brought that one from Germany when they came to America. I fail heir to that and now it is at my son's (Ben Wagner) house in Schulenburg and he is finding someone to fix it. After my death, it goes to him.

Cousin Hattie and I helped Grandma Niemeyer and when we did get to play, we took corn cobs, painted faces on them for dolls and also made clothes for them. After a few years, we got China dolls, which were cloth bodies, legs, arms, with china hands, head and feet. I always had dresses, coats and hats for them that I made myself. We never had a tricycle or skates. We had chores to do after school, like bringing in clothes from the line, that Mama had washed, fold them and put them up, feed chickens, gather eggs, and bring in wood. We had to cook on a wood stove so when the wood pile was nearly gone, Papa ordered a big load of wood. The man just dumped it and Arthur (brother) and I had to stack it real neat. We did not have grass in the yard so every Saturday we had to rake, sweet the yard so it looked nice for Sunday. We had friends we would visit on Sunday and then they returned the visit. We always had a big lunch on Sunday. I made my first bread and cake when I was 10 years old. Mama did not like to cook so I fail heir to that early in life. I remember as if it were today. I had three girls over on Saturday evening so I decided to make molasses candy. I did not have a recipe but I made some. It did not turn out like candy, it was just a sticky mess but we ate it with a spoon. I told the girls, "do not eat too much, we might get sick", but you know what happened? After we went to play, Arthur cleaned up on it. You guess it! He got loose bowels and messed in his britches. After the girls went home, I heard Arthur crying and calling me. I started to look for him and found him behind the house standing in a corner. Man, I had fast thinking to do before Mama came home. So, you know what I figured out, so I did not have to get my hands dirty, I took the water hose, made Arthur stand with his legs apart and I squirted water on him till he got clean. Then I took his clothes, hung them on a picket fence and washed them with the hose. I must have been nine or ten and Arthur was six or seven years old. When Mama came home, I got a licking for making candy and Arthur got a licking for messing up his clothes. Those were the days.

Arthur (brother) and Lillie (sister) always ran out of money before it was time to go home. Guess I always was tight, and as the kids always accused me of squeezing a nickel so hard the buffalo fell off.
Moulton, TX - Fritz and Emma Lueke 's home
Fritz and Emma Lueke's home south of Moulton

The first house that I remember that we lived in was a two-story house. It had a long stairway and steps. Did we ever have fun sliding down the banister! We kept them polished for sure. We had just painted floors, no carpets like today, not even a scatter rug because that was only for the rich people, and although we had plenty to eat and wear, we never had anything to waste or get extras. We had no electric lights. We used oil lamps to study by. Those lamps would smoke so bad the chimney would be black, so they had to be washed every day. Later my Daddy bought a lamp called an Aladdin Lamp. That was wonderful and gave real good light. The first few years I remember we had to set the iron on the wood stove to get hot so we could iron our clothes. Before we started to iron, we had to go cut off some cedar leaves, run the hot iron over that to make the iron get real smooth and not stick. We usually had two flat irons (that is what they were called) on the stove to get hot while we used the third iron. We had no silverware. I do not know how to describe them to you, other than they looked like tin and had to be scrubbed after every meal. The handles were black wood, forks had three prongs. We had no water pipes in the kitchen so every time we needed water we took our bucket to a well in the yard and pumped water. We kept one bucket full in the kitchen and one bucket which hung from the ceiling on the porch which had a long handled dipper in it and we all drank from the same dipper. How things have changed! Now, we use a clean glass ever time we drink. We had chickens, cows, and hogs. We always had good jersey milk cows and morning and night, she gave a big bucket full of milk. Milking was done by hand. Daddy or Mama did that until I was 12 years old, then I started. It was not so bad in the summer time, but oh when it was so cold and ice on the ground, it was horrible. Sometimes our hands got so cold, we could hardly finish. But, finish we did. In those days, we had a milk and cream separator. You would pour the milk in the container on top of a machine, and then start turning a handle. The milk would run from one part and cream from another. When we had enough cream, we would put it in a churn and make butter. We sold the butter we did not need for 35 cents a pound.

We had no refrigerator, only a wooden icebox. Daddy would bring ice when needed. A block of ice weighed 50 pounds. That would last almost a week. Of course, we could not chip ice to make Kool-aid or other drinks. We had a soda water factory at that time and we were allowed a few bottles of sodas. Our choices were lemon, cream soda, Big Red or orange. Mama did let us put a few bottles around the block of ice, but with three kids, you know how much soda water we got.

As I said before, we raised hogs, so when the first cold norther blew in, it was hog killing time. A neighbor and wife would help us and then we'd help them. We made our own sausage, bacon and ham. My job was, when Daddy had cut the bacon in big slabs, was to put ice cream salt all over it. Then, in the little house in the yard, which we called a smoke house, the ham and bacon was laid on a table. After the sausage was stuffed in a casing (intestines), they were hung on a round stick, like a broom handle and hung across the length of the house. Then an old pot or bucket was filled with wood chips and a fire was started on the outside until the flame burnt low and started a smoke. Then it was set in the middle of the smoke house. We kids had to check on the smoke bucket every once in a while and put on a few wood chips. Then, if the flame got too high, we would throw a little sand on it. It usually took a week before the meat was ready to eat. A hog has a lot of fat, so that is all cut up into small pieces. A fire is build under the old iron kettle and the fat pieces are cooked almost all day till all the flat is out of the pieces. Then the pieces are as small as a dime, real crisp and brown. A large white cloth is hung in a crock pot so the fat can be strained. The little pieces are called chitlins. They are used in cornbread and boy that was good eats: a mess of turnip greens and chitlin cornbread. As the chilins got old and could not be used for cooking, Mama would put them in the old kettle, put some water and several cans of lye in it, build a fire, and that cooked for a day. Then the lye dissolved the chitlins and after it stood in the kettle a few days, Mama would take a saw and cut it up into about 6 x 5 inches and that was soap we used in washing.

I want to go back just a bit. My Daddy had a meat market in Moulton and whenever it was hog killing season, about three weeks before, whenever he butchered a cow, he would bring the intestines home and I had to prepare them. The first thing I did was run water through the intestines to clean them. Then, Papa had made a scraper out of wood that looked a piece of wood about four inches long, one inch wide, with a round cut out at one end. You see, the intestines had fat down the middle. You take one end of the intestines, hold it against the cut out and pull till you get to the end, which goes into a bucket of water. Next, the gut is turned inside out, scraped several times until nothing remained but the outer skin. Then, you cut them into long lengths about 18-20 inches or longer, depending on how big a sausage ring you want to make. Then you tied one end with twine and blow them up like a balloon. Next, you tie the other end, then tie it to the clothesline and wrap it around till the end of the line. They had to dry all day and when they were dry, they were as clear as glass. Then they were kept in a container till we made sausage, but before we could stuff meat into them, they had to be put in water again to soften and were cut to the size you wanted the sausage to be. Then, as I stated before, they were put in the smoke house to be cured or as we say today, "processed". In order to have enough sausage all season, we had to pack them into the lard to keep them from spoiling or getting rancid. To make knockwurst (hard sausage), we had to leave them in the smoke house and smoke them for two or three weeks. What a change. Now we go to a market and get all kinds of sausage without doing one bit of work.

Before we had a cream separator, we would keep the milk in the icebox for a day. The cream would rise to the top. We would take it out of the box, set it on the table, and the milk would turn to clabber, then we could take a spoon and roll the cream to the side of the bowl, put it in another bowl and set back in the icebox until we had enough to make about one or two pounds of butter. That was made in a crock about 24 inches high and 8-10 inches wide. The handle was made of wood with a cross bar and that was put in the churn to the bottom. Then, a lid with a hole in it for the handle to go through was put on top and you were ready to stomp the cream up and down until you had butter. We kids had to take turns and did we hate to sit there that long. But, so it was. Now, you may wonder what happed to all the clabber that we took the cream off. Some we used to make good old cooked cheese, cheese pie, and the rest was given to chickens and hogs. We drank the buttermilk and had buttermilk soup once or twice a week. I still like buttermilk soup but none of my kids would try it. In fact, if I wanted peace and quiet at mealtime, all I had to do was make buttermilk soup. My kids never were fussy about food but no way would they eat it. I am talking about after I was married and tried that on them.

We cooked on a wood stove so wood had to be brought in to fill the wood box. This was also used to heat part of the house in winter. In the living room was a heater to heat the rest of the house. We had to heat water to take baths. We had a cistern house in the yard. That is a house that holds a large tank into which the water is pumped from the well which had a windmill on top that when the wind was blowing we had to turn it on to keep the tank full in case of fire. In this cistern house, we had a bathtub and had water piped into it but had to heat water in the house, carry it out to the tub. Believe me, there was no way like a relaxing warm bubble bath. We put just enough water in to wet our bottom and that was a must for Saturday night before dark. The folks would not let us use a lamp for fear of fire.

I got my first bicycle when I was 13 years old. I think I only got it so I could get home from school at noon to warm the dinner so we could all eat and so I could get back to school in time. The table was left until I got home from school and cleaned up. Then, I got my lessons, practiced my piano lessons. By that time, it was time to get the chores done.
TX Lavaca County 1920s map
Lavaca County 1920s Map showing Moulton, Shiner & Schulenburg
Courtesy Texas General Land Office

Olga Elizabeth Johanna Lueke married Benjamin Howard Wagner, Sr. (born 4 March 1904, Mouton, Texas-died 11 August 1937, Galveston, Texas) and they had one daughter, Ethel Virginia Wagner Boehm (born 23 November 1922, Lavaca County, Texas) and two sons, Shelton Howard Wagner, Sr.. (born 20 January, 1924, Lavaca County TX) and Benjamin Howard Wagner, Jr. (born 4 November 1926, Lavaca County, Texas). After Ben's death in 1937, Olga married Frank Smothers n the 1940's. Olga died on 24 July 1991 and is buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Yoakum, Texas.

Olga's parents were Fritz and Emma Niemeyer Lueke. Olga's maternal grandparents were Dietrich John and Elizabeth Lange Niemeyer.

Pictures provided by Marva Boehm Mason, Houston, Texas.

A computer printout of Dietrich John Niemeyer's descendants is provided by Angelina Genzer Kretzschmar, San Antonio, Texas. UPDATED 7 APRIL 2011 AND COPY TO MARVA.
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