Saturday, September 17, 2016

The French Connection – Rose Loescher’s Letter to Alsace France

As I have written about in previous posts (see below for links), my great great grandfather Francois (Frank) Loescher was born in Alsace France on 2 Oct 1848. (1). He came to the Peoria, Illinois area about 1871 where he began to work in various breweries, distilleries and saloons.  In the spring of 1886 after marrying Rose Nufer and having their first three children, Frank moved his family to Kickapoo, Illinois which is about 15 miles away.

There his family grew and eventually there were 8 children, a family home, several small businesses and no doubt a very busy life.  Frank passed away on 1 May 1902 after a fall down the stairs at his home leaving his young family heart broken and devastated. (2)  After his death, Rose was able to keep up all of the family businesses (including the saloon!).  She earned a reputation around the area as being a formidable woman who did not tolerate any monkey business from her children, grandchildren and the patrons in her saloon.

She must have learned about her husband’s family in Alsace over their twenty two years of marriage together.  There must have been letters back and forth between the Loeschers of Kickapoo and Frank’s family in Reichstett, France.  But what about after his passing?  Did the communication between the families continue? 

As always…there is a story about this!

Back in the fall of 1980 a letter arrived at the post office in Edwards, Illinois. (Edwards is the post office for Kickapoo which is unincorporated.)  It was addressed to the descendants of Rose Loescher, Edwards, Illinois and it was from Strasbourg France.  By 1980 Rose had been dead for 42 years.  Rural areas being what they are and everybody knowing most everybody else, the Edwards post office employees were able to identify a surviving daughter of Rose that still lived in Kickapoo.  The letter was delivered along with all of the rest of the mail of the day. 

That’s right…a letter from France with a minimal address and to the name of a woman deceased for 42 years found its way to a small rural post office and then to the daughter of the addressee.  Amazing.  What excitement there was as news of this traveled around the family and the town.

But, in opening up the letter it was all in French so that would have been the first issue to be confronted.  I do not know if a translation was included in the letter or if my cousins had to get it translated first.  Once they had a translation they read a letter of introduction from a Loescher cousin from Alsace who had come across a letter from Rose Loescher to Joseph Hoeschstetter.  It was dated February 1921.  Joseph was the deceased grandfather of this new French cousin and would have been the nephew of Rose’s deceased husband Frank.  Evidently, this letter was in response to one that Joseph had sent Rose after World War I had ended and mail service resumed across the Atlantic and Western Europe.

Our French cousin wanted to find out if she still had any Loescher cousins and to let them know about this letter that she had found.  (I am withholding her name to protect her privacy as she is still living).  What an amazing find!  First by our French cousin to find the letter in her father’s papers but also to have it shared it back to the US family and then for it to find its way to the right family.

The letter from Rose to her Loescher nephew is in German.  But I do not know if Rose wrote it herself in her own hand.  I also do not know who did the translation and which side of the ocean it was done.  Rose was born in Peoria, Illinois and was first generation with parents from Bavaria.  Was her knowledge of the Germany language strong enough to write this?  I do not know. 

The letter from Rose to Joseph is a small window into the world of my great great grandmother in the early 1920’s rural Midwest.  She comments on the state of life in the US and the start of Prohibition and the impact of this on her saloon.  She indicates that she was concerned about Joseph and his family and hoped they had come through the war ok.  We also get information about the new church in Kickapoo.  She is referring to the current St Mary’s Church that was built in the early 1920’s.  Also Rose makes reference to the Lawrence Lescher family from Colchester, Illinois.  See my previous post about this likely connection to other Loescher family.

Of course all of this brings on more questions.  Did Joseph write back?  Were there any other exchange of letters between Rose and her deceased husband’s family?  What about the Colchester cousins?  Did they exchange letters?  We may not ever know the answers to these questions. 

So what about the French cousin from Strasbourg France that sent this extraordinary letter back in 1980?  She and her family still live in the suburbs of Strasbourg.  She has remained in touch with descendants of Francois and Rose Nufer Loescher in the United States.  In fact, two years ago on a trip to Germany and France that my family and I took we were able to get together and share a meal with her and her husband in Strasbourg.  It was a wonderful experience that none of us will ever forget.  A short time after we returned home from this trip she sent me the civil birth registration for my great great grandfather.  I was very touched and so excited that she would take the time and effort to get this for me.

My family’s French Connection.  It started with my great great grandfather coming to Peoria, Illinois.  It continued with letters his widow exchanged with his family over in Alsace.  It continues on today with the descendants  of Francois and Rose and Joseph.

If any other Loescher family can shed more light on this story I would be excited to hear about that!

Transcription of Translation - Letter from Rose Loescher to Joseph Hoeschstetter – (3)

My Dear Joseph,
I received your letter with joy. I often thought about
you during the war, and I am glad that you came through it
alive. Also I am happy to hear that your Grandmother is still
My children are all married and are blessed with children
of their own. I am a grandmother of 26 little ones which bring
me lots of joy.
I am sorry about the loss of your parents, as well as the
loss of your brothers and other relatives during the war. You
probably had to go through a lot during this terrible war.
Hope it was the last one, but it does not look like that.
Your cousin Lorenz Loescher lives in Colchester Illinois,
he has a big family with 7 children, he is a gardner.
What disturbs me the most i9 your wifes accident.
In America things are not any better. Thank God I am
healthy and have enough for myself. The business is closed
since we can't sell alcohol anymore. All we can drink is water.
What comes next? Thats how you get fat. The American freedom
is gone. In this respect you are better off in the old country.
Thank God, the Elsasser are glad to be reunited with France.
Our Pastor is an Elsasser too, he was born in Rosheim.
We have built a new church and just finished it a month
ago. It is a beutiful building, it only cost about 250,000Marks.
I am sending you and your entire family and Werner and Ann
my best wishes. I will be very happy to hear from you again.
Good health and hope for the best.
Your loving Aunt,

Rose Loescher

Figure 1 - Loescher-Hoeschstetter Letter - Page 1 of 2

Figure 2 - Loescher-Hoeschstetter Letter - Page 2 of 2

Figure 3 - Translation of Rose Loescher Letter to Joseph Hoeschstetter

Links to related posts -

(1)  Copy of Civil birth registration for “Loescher, Francois” from the Counsel General of Bas-Rhin.  This was obtained by a French cousin for the author in 2014.
(2) Peoria County, Illinois, death certificate no. not given (1 May 1902), Frank Loescher, Peoria County Clerk, Peoria.
(3) Rose Loescher, Kickapoo, Illinois to Joseph Hoechstetter, letter, Rose Loescher, Kickapoo, Illinois, to Joseph Hoechstetter, letter, 25 Feb 1921, first correspondence to her husband's family following World War I; Loescher Family files, Strasbourg France.

Copyright ©2016 – Diane Minor – All Rights Reserved.