Haven’t been blogging much because I’ve been working to complete my family history in time for our 86th annual reunion, set for Aug. 11. Got it all done, got copies printed out, and am all ready to go.
The history concerns my mother’s mother’s family, the Lantzes.
Family tradition has it that our branch’s first immigrant to North America was an irascible fellow—like many of my relatives—who got angry with his relatives in Germany, and walked away from his plow, leaving it and the oxen pulling it standing in the field.
He took passage aboard the good ship Phoenix from Rotterdam, Capt. John Spurrier in command. Sailing by way of Plymouth, England, he arrived in Philadelphia on Nov. 2, 1752.
What he did when he first arrived, no one seems to know. He next shows up a few years later in Maj. James Burd’s company of Pennsylvania foot during the French and Indian War. Baltzer was a mason as well as a farmer, and his skill with stonework probably came in handy as Maj. Burd’s company worked on fortifications to protect the Pennsylvania frontier, including Fort August as well as Fort Ligonier.
After the war, Baltzer settled in Lancaster County, where he became a well-known mason and a relatively prosperous property owner.
Fast forward nearly a century to 1850, when Baltzer’s great-grandson, John Lantz, and his wife, Anna Maria “Mary” Schutt, make the decision to up stakes and move west to the Illinois prairies. Joining John and Mary were John’s mother, Catharine Shelly Lantz; John’s brother, Daniel; and the brothers’ three sisters, Elizabeth, Catherine, and Susan.
The family settled in Wheatland Township, Will County near the borders with DuPage and Kendall counties.
There, the Lantzes prospered, buying prairie land at the government price of $1.25 (in gold) per acre, and farming it. But the lure of western migration was pretty strong, and after the Civil War most of John and Mary’s children and their spouses decided to move west to Kansas. Only two of their children stayed in Illinois, their daughter Susan, who married Civil War vet John Stoner; and my great-grandfather, John Peter “Pete” Lantz, who married Amelia Minnich.
After John and Mary decided to move west to live with their children on the Kansas plains near Abilene, John Peter and Amelia worked the home farm until they decided to retire from farming. In 1908, they built a new home—now the Matile Manse—on a substantial parcel of land situated between Amelia’s parents’ house and that of one of her sisters. They moved in on Oct. 2.
By that time, they’d turned over much of the Lantz farmland to their sons. And soon after, their daughter, Mabel, my grandmother, married William Holzhueter, a city kid from Aurora who had a good job in the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad’s Aurora shops. But it was all good because my grandfather’s family spoke German at home—they’d only been in the U.S. since the 1880s—but so did my grandmother’s family, and they’d been in North America since before the French and Indian War. Germans don’t like change much.
John Peter and Amelia, in their 60s when they moved to their new house in town, probably figured they’d live another decade or so. As it turned out, they lived in their new home for some 45 years, celebrating their 73rd wedding anniversary right here in our house.
There are a lot of descendants of the Lantzes who moved here to Illinois in 1850, and then on to Kansas a couple decades later. Our family puts me in mind of the Mcilaneys, boyhood friends of Elwood P. Doud, best friend of Harvey, a six-foot tall rabbit-shaped pooka. As Elwood noted of the Mcilaneys, “There were a lot of them; and they circulated!”
Every year somewhere between 50 and 100 of us from all points of the compass get together to eat fried chicken, and some of the best dishes to pass and desserts you’ve ever seen, on the second Sunday in August, just like we’ve been doing since the deision was made by majority vote in 1939.
If you happen to be related, be sure to stop by. We’re a fun group.