September 2, 2016

Aunt Kate's Story

Aunt Kate and Albert Elling


Kate and William (Dutch Bill) Tietje
As a child, I have to admit that I was a bit intimidated by Aunt Kate. Aunt Kate Spoering Tietje was the older sister of our grandmother Ida Elling...older by five years. Both sisters were married to our grandfather, Albert Elling. I remember Aunt Kate, his second wife, much better that my grandmother, just because I was so young when Grandma Elling died. Aunt Kate seemed a bit stern to me as a child and her thick German accent was sometimes difficult to understand. But she was generous with us and I'm sure a good companion to my grandfather.

Katharina Anna Spoering was born near Hamler, Ohio on 17 December 1885, the daughter of Hermann Heinrich and Katharina Maria Floke Spoering. Her parents immigrated from Germany with their three young daughters, Sophia - 3, Mary -4 and Annie - 9 months, arriving in New York on March 6, 1882. Later eight other children would be born in Ohio, with Kate being the fifth of the eleven children. Kate was baptized in Hope Lutheran Church on January 10, 1886 and confirmed in March 1899. Her connection with this church would last a lifetime to her funeral and burial.

In 1911, she married William Tietje, known locally as "Dutch Bill." Bill had come to America to avoid the draft in Germany, it was said, arriving here in 1909. In the 1910 census, he is found boarding with the Frank Nickels family of Richfield Township in Henry County. He was 26 years old and employed at farming. He married Kate at...you guessed it...Hope Lutheran Church near Hamler. For twenty-five years, Kate and Bill engaged in farming near Holgate.

They had no biological children, but by the 1920 census, they had taken in a young seven year old boy named William (Wilhelm) Meyer. He is listed as a Boarder in the census, naturalized in 1913 which is probably when his parents immigrated. There were several Meyer families living near the Tietjes, but the reason for his staying with them is lost to history. They raised "Willie" as their own son and by the 1930 census in Pleasant Township, the boy is listed with them as William J. Tietje, adopted son, 17 years old. As the family story goes, Willie enrolled at the International Business College in Fort Wayne and there suffered an attack of appendictis. He returned home to convalesce and apparently, there were tensions in the family over something. When he recovered, he left the home and never contacted Bill and Kate again.

Dutch Bill died on January 16, 1954 and was buried in the cemetery at Hope Lutheran. On June 18, 1955, Kate married Albert Elling, a widower since August 1951 when Kate's sister, Ida, passed away. At the time of their marriage, Kate was 70 years old and Albert was 67. They lived in Hamler for several years and then moved to a house on Park Street in Napoleon. For the last few years of her life, Kate was virtually housebound and died in December 1968 at the age of 82 years.

Her funeral sermon (thankfully saved by Aunt Alma!) notes that "the departed sister...(was) an especially pleasant, devoted and dedicated worker for her Lord at Hope Church, at home and in the Ladies organization of the church." At the time of her death, she had 32 step-grandchildren, of which I was one, and 5 step- great-grandchildren.

Two of the oldest photos above were scanned from color copies, so the clarity is not the best, but if you enlarge by clicking on the photos, you will be amazed at the detail of Aunt Kate's dresses - especially her wedding gown. The photo with Grandpa Elling was taken on their wedding day, I believe, at their home in Hamler. I vaguely remember being there on that day - or maybe it's my imagination! Anyway, I would be very interested to know who is in the photo hanging on the wall behind Grandpa Elling.

Originally posted on December 5, 2008







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