A Letter from Germany

Editor's Note: This is an ongoing series which runs each Thursday morning titled the Richland Chronicles, by author Paul Lintern. It is set in the 1800s and tells the story of Richland County through the eyes of young people. The books are available from Lintern for $25 a set, tax and shipping included. Each book is about 120 pages written for intermediate readers (4th grade) with local illustrations. Volume I is Amelia Changes Her Tune. Volume II is Isaac and Wolf Paw Find Their Home. Volume III is Autumn Keeps Her Secret. Volume IV is Mr. Gamble Starts a School. Volume V is Jacob Blows his Horn. Volume VI is Cassie Fights the WarVolume VII is Emilene Adopts Her Family. Volume VIII is David Dances the Bases.

Dear Winny, you silly ninny!

“I can’t believe she wrote a letter to her goat,” Grace said.

Cassie laughed. “Yes, you can. That old goat is her best friend.”

Aunt Emmy wrote a letter from Germany! Natalie thought as she walked into the kitchen one sunny May morning after finishing her chores in the barn, including feeding and cleaning up after that “old goat.” I hope this finds you well fed and well-behaved with your Aunt Cassie and Uncle Marty. I trust your accommodations are satisfactory, as the family has a long history of hospitality at your location.

“The Inn has been gone for a dozen years, and was out of commission for a dozen before that, but this place is still known at the Oakland Inn,” Cassie said.

“I wasn’t here but a couple of times before the fire,” Grace said, “but I remember it like it was yesterday, and I remember feeling so sad for you and Marty.”

“It was a horrible day. All our family and friends had just helped us remodel the Inn and to move in. We each blamed ourselves for building a fire in the fireplace without thinking to check the flue. The moment I woke up and smelled the smoke, I was sick; I knew, Marty knew, and there was nothing we could do but grab what we could and run out.”

“Was that a better house than this, Mother?”

Natalie had been listening in.

“Oh, hello, Natty. I didn’t see you there. No, that is the amazing thing. Your father was sad and upset for a few days, then his face became firm and he put his shoulders back and built this home, on the opposite side of the barn from where the Inn had been. This is much, much nicer than that moldy old log inn was,” she smiled.

“We moved forward, because that is the only way we can go. And moving forward included your arrival two years later. You are even better than a house!

“But shouldn’t there be a couple of kid goats with you?”

The boys!

Natalie looked around, her brother John and little cousin Isaac were nowhere to be found.

“They were right behind me,” Natalie said, and she turned to step out the door. She saw two little bodies throwing sticks at the old oak tree nearby. She smiled.

“Squirrels,” John said. “We’re getting squirrels.”

It’s always squirrels. Is that the only things boys do?

“Don’t go any further than the tree,” she said, and turned to stand in the doorway, where she could watch the boys and listen to Mother.

My trip to Germany has been a wonderful adventure so far. I had never been on a ship before, and being in the middle of the ocean for so many days has been as strange as anything I can imagine, but how nice it was to land in Belgium as we did and to take a train through the countryside to Cologne, and then on to Wuppertal (remember to pronounce the W like a V.), where I met my father’s brothers, Gerhard and Wilhelm Meyer! It was a tearful meeting, made difficult by my inability to understand much of what they were saying, even though I have been practicing a long time, as you know.

“I know I wasn’t any help in her learning German,” Cassie said.

“Me, neither,” Grace laughed. “Glad she had Mr. Heineman to help her.”

“Doesn’t anyone know English there?” Natalie asked.

“Some, but not everyone, and definitely not her German uncles,” Cassie said.

Emilene was Cassie and Grace’s sister, adopted by Cassie’s parents during the War between the States, as a 10-year-old, because Emilene’s father had died as a Union soldier, and then her mother died of illness a year later, leaving her orphaned.

Several years ago, Emilene became aware of her father’s brothers and had been preparing for this trip ever since.

“How long will she be gone?” Natalie asked.

“She thinks a couple of months,” Cassie said.

“Longer, if her German improves,” Grace smiled.

“Must be odd to go looking for your ancestral roots like that,” Cassie said.

“Tell me about it,” Grace said. “I wouldn’t know where to look.”

Grace had been born into slavery, and was rescued from a farm in Mississippi along with her brother, David, and parents, in 1863. Her parents died before they could make it to Ohio, and after being passed around to several families, they found themselves on the Zimmerman doorsteps, adopted by Autumn and Levi Zimmerman, Cassie’s parents.

“I would like to know who my family is, but I don’t know when it would be safe to go back and look for them, or even to know who I am looking for.

“And then, where am I going to go, to Africa? That’s a big place.”

“Does that mean you aren’t really my aunt?” Natalie asked.

“No sweetie, you’re stuck with me,” Grace smiled.

“Uncle David, too. You have a big collection of relatives to look after you.”

“And no doubt a big collection of relatives you will look after, including two little boys that have drifted back toward the woods,” Mother said.

Ugh, I need to tie them to the hitching post, Natalie thought.

“Come back here, you two, before I let the bears take you to live with them.”

This part of Germany is not much different than Ohio, except for the language. People are eager to meet me, and they ask all sorts of questions, they are interested in everything about Mansfield. (Did you know there is a Mansfeld in Germany?) I do the best I can in answering, and it certainly helps when someone can interpret for me.

I miss you all, and hope this finds you enjoying a nice meal under the old oak tree at the Inn. (I wrote that for Mama’s sake.) I mean, at your home!

With love to my family.

Emilene.

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