Amacher Virtual Family Reunion - John Amacher and Carrie Kenzig

John Amacher and Carrie Kenzig

by Harold C. Amacher

This section was written by my father. I owe much to my father, who spent many hours researching our family through telephone calls, interviews, and sorting through records. He even went to the National Archives in Washington, DC to collect some of the priceless information that I have to share today.

My father wrote this introduction to his book:
"This is not a family history, primarily because nothing really historical ever happened to my family.

The reader will do best in regard to this scrapbook of notes plus hints on how to conduct genealogical research where there really is nothing to research.

On the whole, these were very poor people about whom I write. Those who crossed the ocean arrived without a penny. They and their descendants waged the economic struggle all of their lives. They had little time or energy left to leave behind writings or heirlooms.

My name is Harold Amacher. I was born September 7, 1923. I began this notebook in July 1979 and got started on the typing in July 1984."
According to Gottschald's Deutsche Namenkunde, the surname Amacher was local in origin and meant "dweller on the farm."

John Amacher was born July 3, 1856 in Fraubrunner, Switzerland, a small town about ten miles north of Berne. John's parents were Melchior Amacher and Elizabeth Mueller, but I have never found out if he had any brothers or sisters.

John left Fraubrunner and emigrated to this country on January 10, 1881. He arrived in the port of New York on the Steamer France out of Havre, France on February 11. He came to Cleveland and soon had a job peddling beer for the Kaenzig Brewery, owned and operated by his future in-laws, Christian and Elizabeth Kaenzig.

We often think of the immigrant experience as peering through the mist to see the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. However, as National Park Service Statue Of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island site explains, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886.

By the time the Statue first lifted her lamp welcoming immigrants, John Amacher had been in the United States for five years and his in-laws, the Kenzigs had been in America for thirty-two years.

There is some rumor in the family that John Amacher was a deserter from the Swiss army and had changed his name when he came to America. Two of John's grandsons, Bob Huebner and Richard Amacher confirm that they heard this rumor. Bob Huebner wrote this
Yes, my mother [Jennie Amacher Huebner] often said that her father [John Amacher] was a deserter from the Swiss army. The rest of the story is, and seems factual today. (All Swiss men did and do today) Swiss men serve in the Army for a short period and then are released with their file, bayonet and a bandoleer of cartridges for service in the home guard. This is particularly useful in the mountains and boarder areas. It is barren and treacherous [area] that a few armed men could slow down a number of advancing people. I was in the Swiss Alps in 1951 and again in 1968 and viewed the countryside with honor. Since they live at homes on their farms while protecting the boarders, it is serving two purposes. I always viewed grandfather Amacher's action as just leaving his home and traveled to the promised land where the streets were paved in gold. It never seemed rational that he defected while in the brief training session.

I am still proud to be 1/4 or 1/8 Swiss.
John and Carrie had six children: Lawrence born October 23, 1883, Arthur born in 1887, Jennie born on August 15, 1885, Adeline born on September 21 1888, a weak girl who lived only 11 days and died on September 14, 1893 and finally Harold.

The family always rented so they moved frequently. Lawrence was born on Carroll St. near W. 25th just north of Lorain, Arthur and Jennie were born in Rockport, a township of Cuyahoga County which straddles the Rocky River.

The Amacher FamilyI have no pictures labeled John Amacher, but I believe this shows him and his family. Clockwise from top left are Carrie sitting in her chair, next her husband, John Amacher, then Harold, and Lawrence. Addie is next wearing the necktie, then Jennie and finally Arthur.

Harold was born March 1, 1898 at 55 Amesbury. When the street names were changed in 1905, Amesbury became E. 94th St. The street near Wade Park on today's map is not the same one.

Soon after Harold was born, the family moved to 1595 (old) Cedar where my grandfather had a milk business. Still later, they moved to 2344 Coventry Road while John and his son Arthur operated a rented farm in the vicinity.

My father's early years were quite happy. With two older sisters to pamper him, Muggins, as he was called, became a spoiled brat. He was fond of telling me later how he would hang around and tease his sister Jennie and her beau, Robert Huebner until finally Bob would give him a dime to go away. One time Muggins kicked down a kitchen door because he was locked out. Carrie was always sickly. As she grew weaker, Jennie ran the household with the help of a young housekeeper only a few years older than herself. Her name was Fannie Emerick, a widow with a daughter five years younger than Harold. Relations must have been severely strained. Lawrence left home in 1907 and went to live in St. Louis. He got married there and lived there the rest of his life, returning to Cleveland only for brief visits when there was a death in the family.

Understandably, my father hated Fannie and her daughter Helen. Evidently little Helen was a match for him and when the teasing started, she gave him tit for tat, with Fannie taking her daughter's side at every exchange.

Carrie died of tuberculosis on the first day of May 1909. She was only forty nine and Harold became an orphan at eleven.

Family tensions increased. Jennie went to live with the Huebners. She must have felt that her younger brother was being ill-treated because she went to Probate Court in September to seek guardianship for him. She withdrew her petition a few days later, possibly because of objections from Bob.

After Jennie and Bob were married on October 25, 1909, they continued to live with his mother on Fallindale Avenue on Cleveland's West Side. Harold and Addie went to live with their brother Lawrence in St. Louis.

On September 8, 1909, John had made application at Probate Court to become an American citizen, only 12 days ahead of Jennie's application for Harold's guardianship. It is hard to believe that these two applications in the same court were not somehow related.

John's application contains a wealth of information. Not only does it give his physical description at age 53; 5' 8", ruddy complexion, but also his birthplace, the exact date of his arrival in New York and the name of the ship he came on.

With this new information, I was able to go back to the National Archives in Washington and immediately locate him in the passenger lists they have on file there. As it turned out, on an earlier search I had bypassed his name from among several other John Amachers who had arrived from Switzerland in the nineteenth century. Our John had left from the French port of Havre and had come over on a French ship called "La France" so when his name was spelled "Jean", I had missed it.

I found Jennie's application for guardianship in the Probate Court files. John's citizenship application was found in the County Archives on Franklin Blvd.

I was surprised when I learned that John married Fannie on Feb. 1, 1910. Earlier, when my search had just started, I had found Fannie's name on John's death certificate, but at the time I thought that it was just "Carrie" in poor handwriting.

On the application for their wedding license, John grave his age as 53, which agrees with other information, but Fannie claimed she was 23. The birthdate given by her mother on the 1900 census shows she was really 26.

This license application is of further interest because it is the only record I ever found that gives the names of John's father and mother. If my own father ever knew the names of his grandparents, he couldn't remember them when he was asked to provide information for John's death certificate twenty years later.

Except for a couple of entries in the City Directory, I don't know how or where John spent these last twenty years. He visited my father once when I was five years old, but I don't remember anything about him except that I hid from him. I was a little bit afraid of him because he was dressed all in black.

Gertrude, Art's daughter, tells me that John lived with her family for while when she was a child. She recalls that they called him "Gubka" and that her brothers liked to tease him when he had trouble eating peas with a knife.

Her other recollections were that he wore a funny skull-cap, was smelly, and that her father didn't like him. At this time John was dependent upon Art for his support. When I asked about it, Gertrude didn't think John had any type of foreign accent.

My mother doesn't have much to add about John except that he once had a job as a watchman and lived in a shack on Warrensville Road.

John died on March 22, 1930. He is buried in an unmarked grave in Ridge Road Cemetery, almost six miles from Woodland Cemetery where Carrie lies in her parent's burial plot.

I don't know what ever happened to Fannie, although I made considerable research into her family tree trying to learn.


Copyright 2000 Nancy McAdams
April 11, 2000

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