Sunday Stories: Seifer family history

It all sounds so cut and dried in the obituaries:

Fred George Seifer was born October 21, 1875 at Wurttemberg, Germany. He came to America and settled at Eustis, Nebraska, then moved to Grant in 1908. He died February 19, 1959.
He was united in marriage to Emma Frieda Wieland on June 11, 1911. In March of 1920 he settled with his family on a ranch north of Sutherland where he resided until moving into Sutherland a few years ago.
Mr. Seifer has been a member of Grace Lutheran Church since October 19, 1930.
He is survived by his wife; five daughers: Mrs. Esther (Albert) Bosch, Farnam, Nebraska; Mrs. Helene (Harry) Hokensen, Seattle, Washington; Mrs. Agnes (Edgar “Bob”) King, Farnam, Nebraska; Mrs. Martha (Clarence) King, Show Low, Arizona; and Mrs. Alice (Charles) Morgan, Sutherland, and two sons, Fred (Ione) Seifer and Paul (Irene) Seifer, both of Sutherland. He is also survived by 13 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren.

Emma F. Seifer, 89, a long-time Sutherland resident died Sunday (January 1, 1984) at an Ogallala hospital.
She was born July 21, 1894, to Gottfried and Anna (Sitz) Wieland at Elwood.
In 1909, she moved with her family to a farm in the grant area. On June 11, 1911, she was married to George F. Seifer in Grant. After their marriage they farmed near Grant until 1920 when they moved to a ranch north of Sutherland. In 1949, they moved into Sutherland where she remained the rest of her life.
She is survived by her children (see above); 20 grandchildren, 34 great-grandchildren, 6 great-great grandchildren.

Did you read those dates right?

Fred born in 1875, Emma born in 1894, married in 1911? That made Grandpa 36 and Grandma 17 when they married.

There isn’t much left of the narrative of their lives. The family history book that has been prepared by a cousin has many of the birth and death records, but little else. On March 8, 1983, less than a year before her death, she was given the book “A Gift of Memories from Grandma.” Her memories of her childhood and married life hadn’t softened with the years.

What was the best birthday you ever had? “Can’t remember that I ever had a good birthday. Just worked all the time."

Grandma, can you remember your favorite birthday present? "Didn’t ever get a birthday present."

How did your parents punish you? "They spanked me. They both were strict."

What was the naughtiest thing you ever did? "I had to work all the time and didn't have time to be naughty."

What were your favorite games and toys? "Didn’t have any and didn’t play any games."

What did you usually do on Christmas? "It was just another day."

Could it really have been that bleak? Possibly. However, her memories might have been clouded with age. Earlier, she had given an oral history to another cousin where she describes a less harsh childhood. She mentions for entertainment going to picture shows, how she and her brother Johnnie would climb in trees to get away from a horned steer and that the church they attended had programs every Friday night, complete with pie and box supper. They went fishing in the summer and for Christmas they went to a Christmas program.

Back row L-R: Agnes, Emma holding Paul, Esther and Fred
Front row L-R: Martha, Fred and Alice in front
Her most complete answer is recorded as this: “The night they loaded the railroad car to move to Grant it rained. We loaded in Eustis. Horses, machinery, household goods all in one car. The car was divided in half. Parents, John, Fred, Walter, Emma, Martha, Anna, Clara, Carrie and Lizzie all went in the passenger car. Unloaded in Grant. Moved to home south of Grant. Traded off place in Grant then moved to Venango and parents stayed there til they died.”

Here is her answer to the question “What was your first answer to your proposal?” I didn't really care to get married yet then but the way my father were I just wanted to get away from home.

Did you have a honeymoon? Where did you go? "No Honeymoon. We just went over where Grandpa lived and started up and went to work."

Family lore holds that Grandpa paid Great-Grandpa Weiland a team of horses and a wagon for the privilege of marrying his 17-year-old daughter.

I imagine she simply escaped one tyrant for another. Four children were born on the homestead south of Grant. They moved to the homestead north of Sutherland in 1920 where three more children were born. Grandpa may have made it to town periodically for supplies and to sell the commodities produced on the land, but for Grandma it was much more infrequent. When she needed a new dress or something for the house, he brought home for her whatever he decided to buy.

Grandpa had been gone for a couple of years before I was born and to my kid-memory, my grandma was always an old woman. At times during the summer I would stay with her in town for a few days, but as a kid from the “hills”, it was all pretty overwhelming. My greatest memory of her is that she was always baking something and had a huge garden every summer.

Note: We received word the last week of December that my aunt, Helen Hokenson of Washington State passed away.


  1. It seems to me that when it comes to many biographies of the era, especially in the west, there isn't a lot of material between the age of seven and death.

    Maybe high school graduation, (maybe not) marriage date, birth of children - that's about it.

    The rest can pretty much be summed up in one word - work!

    Thanks for the post.

  2. I agree... they took their work very seriously. But, hopefully, though it wasn't recorded, they had their moments of joy, love, laughter and sweet memories.


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