Since we’re so close to Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d look at a marriage event for this first post. It may not be the most romantic choice, seeing as it ended in divorce, but they were together long enough (at least 17 years) to have 5 children. A quick bit of background: Albert & Ida are my great-great grandparents, through their daughter Lillian Strege Baker, whom we knew better as our great-grandma O’ma.
Albert was born in 1875 in the Watertown area, the son of German immigrants Carl Strege and Emilie Borchardt. In the 1900 census, he is still living with his parents and 3 of his 12 siblings (sadly, 4 have passed away), and working as a farm laborer.
Ida Schliewe was born in 1881, in the small town of Emmet (just six miles north of Watertown). She was the second of six children. Her father was a German-born farmer, but her mother was Wisconsin born and had family in nearby Hustisford and Iron Ridge.
Albert and Ida were married on February 18, 1903, and their first child Theodore followed quickly (in October of that same year). They settled in Hustisford near their families, where Albert rented a home while continued work as a farm laborer. Several younger siblings of Albert and Ida lived with them during these years, a common practice in large families in those days.
In 1905 their next child, my great-grandmother Lillie arrived, and sometime before 1910 they moved to Watertown to another rental home. Albert was now working as an operator in a cutlery factory. A little research shows that a brand new factory was built in Watertown in 1906 for the Washington Cutlery Co., which manufactured cutlery and tools under the brand name Village Blacksmith. It is very possible that Albert moved the family to town for better work.
Two more daughters were born during this time period: Doris in 1911 and Josie in 1913. And sometime before 1920, Albert moved his young family to Milwaukee, where he found work as a laborer in the mills. Family legend as told by his granddaughter says that he was injured badly in a wagon accident while working, and that was what forced the move.
There are some rapid changes to the family in the early part of the Roaring Twenties. At just 15 years of age, their daughter Lillie met and married a Turkish immigrant ten years her senior who had just arrived in town from Utah, where he was working as a miner. According to family stories, Edris rented a room in the same house where Albert and Ida were living. Lillie’s sister Doris then married a friend of her new brother-in-law, an Albanian man named Charlie Abbadin who came to America with Edris.
I have to imagine there was some surprise when Ellsworth, the fifth child of Albert and Ida, was born in 1922 – a full year after their first grandchild was born! Apparently his unusual name came from his godfather, Ellsworth Cisceneli, an Italian fruit stand owner in Milwaukee. In fact, their son Theodore is listed as a laborer in a fruit market in the next census. But it was sometime in these next few years that the marriage dissolved, and by 1930 Albert and Ida are living in separate residences. Ida continues to live with her two sons, while it appears Albert is living in a boardinghouse and working as a blacksmith in a lumber mill.
It’s a little bittersweet to follow this family’s path. I have to imagine that, as a young couple leaving their rural family farms and beginning a new life in the city, they had high hopes for a better future together. But I would like to think that there were some happy times together, and certainly their marriage was the beginning of many future generations that have come to make their own way in the world. Sadly, I don’t have any photographs of Albert and Ida but I would like to share a few of their children and grandchildren to finish out this post.
From left to right: Bill Graf (Doris Strege’s husband), Theodore and Ellsworth, and Edris Baker (Lillie Strege’s husband)
From left to right: Josie and Doris, Viola (Ellsworth Strege’s wife) holding Marsha, Lillie and her daughter Kay.
Ellsworth and his niece Kay, who was actually a year older than her uncle.