Historical Details

Germann Family

Courtesy of Our Heritage: Niobrarans and Neighbors, 02/22/2022

Gottfried Germann Family, by Pete and Mary Germann

Gottfried Germann, son of Peter and Marie Brenneman Germann, was born near Frutigen, Switzerland in 1879. When  he was nine years old, his parents died of influenza and he and his brothers, John and Rudy, lived with their uncle, Sam, who owned a hotel and mortuary. Due to hard work and especially carrying large amounts of milk down from the mountains for the hotel, Gottfried's back and shoulder were crippled. As an adult, he owned a saddle and harness shop in Frutigen and later a grocery store. His wife, Elise Klopfer was born and raised in the French part of Switzerland. Her father had died when she was about nine years old and at an early age she became employed for 15 years in Paris, France in wealthy homes as a cook and children's nurse.

In August, 1910, when their daughter Marguerite was a year old, they sailed to America on the ship "Potsdam". Marguerite was very ill on the trip and for some time after arriving. They stayed in Fairbury, Ill. for about a year with relatives and came to Wyoming in 1911. Gottfried came to Node a short time before his family and walked to the Fred Bruegger and Fred Von Kennel home, where he stayed while he built a shack to live in. Before his family came, he had built a home for them. His homestead was five miles northeast of Node (which was later the 1/2 section east of the Bruegger home).

Gottfried's older brother John and Mrs. Germann's sister Aline and brother Fred Klopfer had preceded them to Wyoming. John worked for Sam Knori 12 miles north of Harrison, Neb., and had homesteaded 1-1/2 miles south of where Gottfried homesteaded. Sam Knori had been a friend in Switzerland and one time when John  had caught a ride to Van Tassell to come home, he walked and carried a 48 pound sack of flour home -- a distance of nine miles. He built a log house and later a frame house which he sold to his brother Gottfried and moved to Orchards, Wash. about fall 1918.

One fall, Gottfried worked in Lusk with other neighbors on the water line from the Water Hill to the town.

Of course the Germann's were close friends of the Swiss neighbors, Will Speerly, the Fred Brueggers, the Dryers and the Klopfers. Marie Roesti Speerly, who had homesteaded near before she was married, and Martha Bruegger, who had come to Node as a 19-year-old bride from Switzerland, welcomed the company of their native country people. Other homesteaders that they neighbored with were the Wises, Charles Lunds, Herbert Lacys, George Hecklebecks, Charley Heckerts, Al Witts, Bill Bronkhorsts and Sam Coffees.

In 1914, Pete was born and when he was eight years old learned to play the violin from Ed Thompson. Later he had many good times making music with Joe and Earl Laughtrey (bachelor brothers who lived about three miles east of the Germanns) and in the home for dancers and other social functions. 

One time before they had a car, Pete and his Dad went to Sam Knori's with a team and wagon (about 35 miles) and bought their first bunch of sheep. Johnny Anderson and Manny Knori trailed them home. The trip took five days.

Pete also remembers well when money was very scarce and they bought a large grinder from Otis Bump to grind their own grain, not only for the livestock but for cornmeal and flour. It was hooked to a gasoline motor and after the grain was washed and dried, ground inside a grainery. It was very coarse (more like cracked wheat) so one time Fred Bruegger and Pete's Dad drove to Chadron, Neb. with a trailer of wheat to be ground into flour. Later the mill there burned down. For many years they had their own ground grain but after they owned a tractor, the grinder was driven by it.

Gottfried Germann spoke Swiss German and his wife Elise, spoke French; the children were taught both languages. When Marguerite went to school, she learned English and taught her brother Pete before he went to school. They started to a school situated between the Wise home and theirs. Later they went to the Sunnyside school three miles east. Many years their teacher was a welcome "board and roomer" in the Germann home.

Two churches were built in Node in 1914 and the Germanns attended the Lutheran church, but conditions for the homesteaders made these occasions pretty rare. Reverend Lymer was the minister there.

When Marguerite was 11 years old, she went to Iowa for a year to live with some Apostolic Church members, the Noah Shrocks. She went to high school in Harrison, Neb., where she could find a place to work for her board and room. After she finished her freshman year, her father had pneumonia and because he was so weak for many months, she stayed home the next year to help with the work. They were milking nine cows and had sheep at that time. She went back to school the next year and was able to take the three years' work in two and graduated with her class in 1928. Pete remembers well some of the trips to bring her home, or vice-versa, in their first Model T Ford. The roads were dirt and later gravel and one time a number of people and themselves got stuck in  a draw in the loose sand.

After normal training, Marguerite taught for 10 years at Kirtley, the Coffee school, the Bruegger school, the Paulson school and at Van Tassell. She married Al Fietz and three girls were born to them ---Alberta, Janice and Edith. In about 1948, she started teaching again and taught in Lusk, Moore Springs and Shawnee.

Marguerite remembers of coming to Node several days after the cyclone of 1915 and seeing the wreckage it had left. The Olson home west of the present school house had been destroyed, the section house along with others. the Gimmel boy had been killed and another child of theirs crippled..

When Pete was bout 8 or 9 years old, Chris Christianson (who lived about 5 miles north of Germann's) threshed around the community with a threshing machine run with a steam tractor, This involved 6 to 10 neighbors getting together to help each other haul in the bundles of grain and furnish 2 or 3 wagons to load and unload the grain and other work. Al Witt also threshed in the neighborhood with a gas tractor. Years later this work appealed to Pete and he bought a machine and for some time threshed in the area. After her married Mary Grant of Jireh, he farmed on shares, but in 1952 moved to Node where they had the post office and store. He drove the mail to Chadron part of the time, drove the school bus quite a few years and later supplemented the family income with a repair and radiator shop. Two boys and 2 girls were born to the Pete Germanns --Clark, Claudia, John and Georgia.

The Klopfers were brother and sisters of Mrs. Elise Germann. Fred had homesteaded about 3 miles south of Van Tassell in 1910 on what is now the Lawrence Adams home. He had been a gardener in Switzerland. He and his wife, Lydia  had one daughter, Ida. Aline Klopfer had come to America at the age of 7 after her father had died, to live with an uncle and aunt in Fairbury, Ill. She returned to Switzerland for a visit when she was 19. In about 1911, upon the doctor's advice, she came to Wyoming and homesteaded about a mile south of Node. Her sister Bertha came in 1913. Sometime after 1916, Fred Klopfer, upon the death of his wife came with his daughter, Ida, to live with his sisters. After the death of their mother in Switzerland, their stepfather, John Studer and an aunt Louise Honegger also made their home with them. In 1919 Fred's daughter Ida, was thrown from a horse and died three days later. After this they took homeless boys into their home. Eddie Wiles and Benny Saunders lived with them the longest.

Bertha Klopfer had homesteaded in 1917 on Muskrat Canyon in the Rawhide Buttes and they trailed their sheep there in the spring and back to Node in the fall. This trip took 3 days and often Marguerite and Pete Germann helped them. In about 1934 she sold the homestead to John Agnew.

Aline worked for Mr. DeHoff at the grocery store in Node and she told of one time when some of the cowboys who worked at the Tom Bell ranch planned to come about mail time to "shoot up the store" and tie Mr. DeHoff up. Instead they found him waiting for the train in front of the the store with the mail bags and his 6-shooter and they they left.

Many good times were had in the Klopfer home, especially with Ed Thompson, then a bachelor and the wit of the neighborhood. He had formerly worked in a candy factory in San Francisco during the earthquake there before coming to south of Node to ranch (the Jimmy Shane home).

Aline and Bertha Klopfer were kind and delightful women with their Swiss background. They were known for their welcoming everyone into their home and their faith and loyalty to Apostolic Church in Illinois.

The Klopfers are buried in the Node Cemetery and the Germann's at Lusk.

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Germann, Mary (05/16/1923 - 12/30/1998) View Record
Obituary Germann, Gottfried (05/22/1879 - 01/28/1959) View Record
Obituary Germann, Elise (06/27/1871 - 02/02/1947) View Record
Obituary Germann, Peter (08/21/1914 - 08/09/2000) View Record