Elizabeth Enenbach Biography
Written by Frank P Mies and read at the home of Charles B. Mies, Sept. 25, 1915.
In my sketch today, I am to tell you the story, not of a woman who achieved renown and fame from the world's standpoint, but the simple story of a dutiful wife, and a loving and blessed mother. It is the story of our own mother, and consequently the theme of the sweetest story of all literature.
Those of us who knew her in life and loved her, gather here today to pay our tribute of reverence to her memory and at this sacred gathering to tell what she has done, and to recall the motives that inspired her life. Her life story is the enumeration of simple duties well done. And as there is in simplicity that grandeur which can only be enhanced by the touch of the divine, so there was in her life those indefinable simplicity and true genuineness that made her a lovable and beautiful personage.
She was born April 26, 1847, at Rutt, near Cologne in the province of Prussia, Germany, of humble and industrious German parentage. Her residence there however was of such short duration that the oath of allegiance to the Vaterland was not asked or administered. For it was shortly after the birth of this child, that the family decided they would cast their fortunes in the new world. We can consequently picture in our imagination the period of preparation for the long journey across the seas, and on the appointed day the breaking of the old home ties. One can well appreciate that this migration was no small undertaking. Travel accommodation at that time was not nearly so well perfected as at the present time, and further, this father and mother also had the cares of seven children none of whom was fully capable of caring for himself and especially one of those as I have indicated was a tiny infant.
Fortunately, the journey was accomplished without mishaps, and the small group finally landed near what is now Mendota, Illinois. The arrival was possibly greeted by some of their pioneer friends who had made the journey previous to their own, and who probably were the inducing cause of their leaving the old home. However, we find them safely landed in the new world of opportunity. On every side there are boundless visions. Illimitable prairies stretch out before there gaze on every hand. It now becomes a question of adjusting them selves upon a piece of prairie land and began building the a home. Logs must be cut out and gathered together. Perhaps the purchase of a team of oxen, and a few of the more simple and primitive farm implements constituted the means of building a home and engaging in agricultural pursuits. Possibly later a cow was added to their possessions. That the family succeeded and prospered is evidenced by the fact thet they soon established themselves as one of the successful pioneer families.
After having fairly well established him self in agricultural pursuit, Jacob Enenbach, also conceived the idea of establishing a small general utility store, and thus also serving his friends and neighbors. It has been said that this store constituted the beginning of what is now the enterprising city of Mendota, Illinois. Success seemed to crown his efforts, and the group was succeeding nicely. It was destined, however, that about this time sorrow should enter their home. In the early [eighteen] fifties, when the dread disease Cholera was sweeping the land, the father contracted the contagion, was sick for a short period and died [in 1856]. With the flitting away of his life there seemed to go hope, and ambition. There had been taken from them their mainstay and support.
But those were days that demanded strength and courage. There was not time long to bemoan their fate. The wife and mother, inured to hardship and difficulty comprehending the necessity and difficulty of the situation, stepped into the breech, and undertook the burden of becoming both father and mother. As difficulties and perplexities sometimes bring out in character what otherwise may lay dormant, so it was with this woman. Difficulties and obstacles were overcome which would have overwhelmed the most stout-hearted.
The life and story of our little girl could not be complete without a portrayal of the character of this woman who assumed this new role. Fortunately, some of you today that are her grandchildren, can distinctly remember her, and can recall some of her occasional visits to our household. Although she was at the time last indicated a woman well advanced into years, she retained to a remarkable degree both vigor of body and strength of mind. In my own case, some of my earliest recollections are associated with this grandmother. I can still see her foot-racing with her fleet-footed grandchildren, and leaving them far in the rear. Again, I can distinctly see the picture of a zealous youth hastily crawling under and through fences to escape what he considered to be an irate and aggrieved ancestor. Wisdom had taught this youngster. that simple running would not suffice, and thot the projecting himself through small crevices in fences was far more dependable than speed.
It as this woman of courage and fortitude who at the trying time, had assumed the head of the household. That she performed her task well, any of her friends and neighbors will attest. The grandchildren were taught industry and obedience. It was she who bore the brunt of protecting the household. The incident related, that when in the early days marauders prowled around under cover of darkness, nothing daunted she would go out unarmed, into the night to meet whom she might. On one particular occasion, a disturbance was heard among the chickens; she went quietly out, slipped upon an intruder, grabbed him by the collar and was undertaking to call him to account for his misdeeds, when he escaped by slipping out of his coat, leaving it behind as a trophy to his captor. Again, in the early days, when range grass was largely a matter of proximity to one's home, one of the neighbors thinking he could take advantage of a woman, notified her of his decision to cut certain grass land lying close adjacent to her home. No sooner had he informed her of his intention, when to his astonishment he found it necessary to give his attention to a bruised and painful ear, and he received the full assurance that further chastisement would be forthcoming if he insisted on carrying out his threat. Needless to say that he did not cut grass in the proximity of her home. Many other incidences could be related telling of her fortitude and courage. The little girl of our sketch, inherited many of these sterner qualities of her maternal ancestor, tempered however with the more subdued qualities of her father. From early youth she was quiet, dignified, and reserved. The early pioneer life, although it had its hardships, also afforded its pleasures. The wholesome food, pure air and exercise was fruitful in its effects upon the development of this little girl. From the babe in swaddling clothes that had crossed the ocean, she had grown into a fun-loving, healthy child.
Upon arriving at school age she was sent to a public school, and had the advantages during this period common to the lot of most children of pioneer families. Being quite apt in her studies, she learned quite proficiently the rudiment of reading, writing and arithmetic, and, on the whole, had perhaps somewhat more of an education than was acquired by most of her companions similarly situated.
The next stage of development in which we meet our little girl, she has left school, and has passed out of girlhood into young womanhood. As the rose-bud springs from a mere promise of a blossom into a beautiful flower almost overnight, so almost imperceptibly, this little girl passes over the threshold girlhood to young womanhood. As a young woman she possessed not only that beauty of feature that is attractive but that beauty of character that is the crown and adornment of a beautiful life. Her vivacity, her grace, and gentle demeanor made her a general favorite among her friends. These were also attributes that she possessed throughout life and made he a welcome guest wherever she went. In later years, after I grew to young manhood and to mental discernment, I often tried to form mental images of my mother as a young lady; and often now as I see a young woman with pink cheeks all aglow with health, modest in her demeanor, sunny in her disposition, I think I can see the image of my mother as a young woman.
But as beauty and grace have their charms, so also they have their attendant difficulties. Others besides the members of her own family are aware of her existence. She is beginning to suffer the snares and smiles of mankind. Boetner's John, Phillip Heiman, and Boechel's John and others find it quite necessary to be frequent callers at her mother's household, ostensibly to pay their friendly respects to the brothers of the family. It was also at that period, that it began to dawn on another young man, that he too had relatively important business to be transacted with the brothers, but thot as a matter of fact that he too would not be unmindful of traveling down life's journey accompanied by this beautiful and charming personage. For years past, he had be a welcome guest at the family fireside, for they had known his family across the seas. This young man was about ten years the girl's senior. He knew of the experiences of the world, and had trained himself in the affairs of men. He had traveled widely and in that early day had an experience not common to the lot of many men; he had circumnavigated the globe. He had also for three years served in the army of the country which he loved. This young man stood in marked contrast to the other young men who saw fit to press their attentions upon the young lady. His ideas and thoughts were not merely the petty affairs of neighborhood gossip, but his thoughts and plans were of the future. Although he was a welcome guest at at the girl's household he was not so cordially received by the young men of the neighborhood. He showed no disposition to enter into their pastimes and pleasures; as a matter of self protection, these young men sough to discredit him in the eyes of the lady of their admiration. he, however, with his superior knowledge of worldly affairs was able to take care of himself and usually escaped without harm or injury by thwarting their plans or purposes.
It was at this critical stage that the young lady of our sketch showed her good judgment . She demonstrated by her choice of attention that she placed a far greater store in the welfare of her future, than the fleeting pleasures of the present. Although the young man whose attention she saw fit to receive, did not fit into the circle of her acquaintances and no doubt she was many times made uncomfortable by the ridicule and jibes of her other admirers, but this young woman by her conduct proved in life's affairs that she preferred to trust her future into the hands of a pilot with a goal, than with a pilot who was willing to put in ay every shallow harbor.
It was therefore in this way that the unromantic friendship of a family acquaintance finally ripened into the friendship of an ardent and abiding love.
It was at about this stage of our story that the Union Pacific Railroad was being built. The young man above referred to as the lover, went to Omaha so seek employment and to take part in the projecting of that great enterprise. In that undertaking skilled and trustworthy men were in demand. The young man who in his own country had completed a three years apprenticeship as a cabinetmaker found no difficulty in securing employment as a carpenter. Later as it was ascertained he was trustworthy and could manage men he was put in charge of the tank builders on the Eastern Division, or that part of the road to extend from Omaha to Ogden City, Utah. You may of course imagine, that the young lady left behind was also intently following the building of the railroad. The messages of communication from the young man were probably infrequent, and perhaps not lengthy - infrequent perhaps because of the many inconveniences attending correspondence under the circumstances and brief because of the obstacles to be mastered in the writing of the messages. The young lady love could not read German and the young man could not write English. But as love brooks all obstacles, so it did in this case. The young man able to speak English, now sets himself assiduously to work to learn to write in English. In that out of the way place he must become his own schoolmaster. He there fore writes his letters, first in German, and then by the use of a Webster's Unabridged Dictionary he translates them into English. Later, this dictionary was prized by the purchaser as one of the household keepsakes. I can imagine that as time went on this young lady perceived an improvement in the form of the letters, but thot the messages contained in all related to the same subject matter, that is - that the young man was lonesome, and that distance contrary to the usual adage, did not lend enchantment. So let us not be surprised when we learn that the young lady arrayed in her best, possibly ginghams, went to Omaha to meet the man of her choice. The journey to Omaha was not as easily accomplished as in the present, but suffice it to say that she reached Omaha in safety. At her destination there were no jostling crowds through which she had to work her way, nor was it difficult to discover, in the crowd the individual who with anxious eyes awaited her arrival. Omaha then consisted of but a few scattered houses. She was met by her lover and taken to the home of some of his friends. A simple wedding ceremony was determined upon, and after the young visitor had been made comfortable in the presence of a few of his friends and acquaintances Joseph Mies and Elizabeth Enenbach were on February 4th, 1867 joined in marriage. [He was 33, she was 19].
After a relatively short stay with their friends, together they betook themselves westward to unitedly undertake the tasks of the coming years. The husband and lover again assumed charge of the tank builders, and the young bride and wife undertook the cooking of the meals for his workmen, or an others that might see fit to patronize the boarding establishment. Needless to say that the place was in great popular favor as the men were only too glad to get well cooked meals, and also to feel that matters were more homelike, as it was a very uncommon occurrence to see a woman so far out from civilization.
Life for the two years that the young wife was upon the plains, held many strange and varied experiences. The men of the camp although outwardly rough were at heart, good natured and loyal. As they pushed their camp further and further westward, they were even to a greater degree invading the domains of unexplored nature. It was no uncommon sight to see large herds of Buffalo, or groups of Antelope within proximity of camp, also many of the other various species of wild animals. This was also the land of the Indians. Among these, certain of the tribes were friendly and often came to the tent to beg sugar or other sweet-meats. On the other hand, the visit from some of the Indians meant death, devastation, and destruction. The campers were constantly on the lookout for unfriendly visits from the Indians. But despite the best care, on numerous instances the Indians swooped down upon the camp under the cover of darkness and left behind them death, and may times carried off provisions, or drove away the mules, or horses. Finally as the East Division reached out to the west, and came nearer Ogden City, the work was carried on in the Mormon country. Many of the most interesting stories related by our mother in later years had reference to her experiences among the Mormons. One important event, during this period which was nearly overlooked, that is, by me, was the arrival to this happy couple of a little boy. To this boy Indians, Mormons, and Gentiles were alike acceptable. His evident keen appreciation of the Mormons must have led certain Mormons to believe that he would be glad to become one of their number, for they requested that the fond parents give over to them the rearing of the child that they might make of him a Mormon Bishop. Perhaps, it was a mistake that this was not done. At least I might add that this was many times the consensus of opinion of the later any younger members of the household.
After the completion of the two divisions, and the driving of the Golden spike at Ogden City, which symbolized the completion of the work and the uniting of the two lines, and the connecting of the East and the West, the husband and wife decided to turn their attention to agriculture. Acting upon this desire, a quarter section of land was purchased in the swampy prairies of Illinois, and which spot was destined to become the homestead and the principal seat of their labors and love. As Mr. Mies was unfamiliar with the use of tools and horses, the loving wife undertook the task of teaching him. Together they planned and planted. It was at this time, that there was planted the abundance of shrubbery and trees that later became the adornment and decoration of the homestead. Because of the unfamiliarity with farm life, it was after the first year decided that they would leave the farm and move to Mendota. This was done.
There they resided about four years. It was during this period that Mr. Mies visited his own home for the first time since his departure almost twenty years before.
At the close of these four years which were for the most part uneventful, we again find our family back upon the farm, where the balance of the years of both husband and wife were spent. And what shall we say of these years! From one standpoint, they were monotonous and dreary. There was the never ending toil constantly recurring and never ceasing, and necessarily incumbent in the rearing of eight children. Her ability to manage the household and care for these multifarious duties, can be explained only in one way - a mother's love. Sleepless nights and anxious vigils over the small cradle could be endured for the future's sake. For were not these little bairnies and the little lass going to grow up into strong men and women, and be a full reward for her love and devotion? Let us hope that in this our mother was not disappointed. As she watched her children grow into manhood and womanhood, let us believe that they were the sweetest years of her life. The seeds of patience and toil had been sown seed and the anxiously waited fruition and developments. How anxiously did she watch the developments of the various traits of character as they had manifested themselves in early infancy, take form and develop into the character of a well rounded individual.
And what shall we say of her life work. Perhaps no sentence can better symbolize her view of life work - "That her family was to be the crowning achievement of her life." For our part, how blessed are the memories of our mother. Each day of childhood is hallowed by the memories of her love and kindness. We would not wish our memories different of her if we could. Our only regret is that so early in life she was taken from us. But life and death are matters in the care and keeping of a great divine Providence.
In conclusion let us say. Blessed is the man who has had a good mother. Upon us Providence smiled benignly. We had a noble and good mother.
How can we best repay our gratitude and show our appreciation. Perhaps best of all by gatherings such as these, when we all again can be in the same household, and we again can show that same childish love and conduct ion our youth., And let us in the last and closing thought of our theme, believe that both our beloved father and mother have reached the blessed abode which is the joy of the angels, and that as the years go on, and we too are gathered to our reward, that there may be a happy welcome await us from those who have gone before.