This branch of the Austrian Hesch family is descended from Johann Hesch and his wife Marya (Schlinz) Hesch, who came to America from Oberschlagles, Bohemia with three sons: Paul, Mathias, and Anton. +++Johann & Marya settled in Buffalo County, Wisconsin but moved to Pierz, Mn in about 1885. .+++Mathias settled in Waumandee, Wisconsin and moved to Pierz in 1911. +++Anton never married but farmed with his dad in Agram Township, where he died in 1911.+++And Paul, my great grandfather, settled five miles away, in Buckman, Minnesota. He died there in 1900.

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Year with no Summer

A recurring subject of discussion between Larry and me is the context of our ancestors' lives--what did they eat? Did they make their own clothes? What was their house like? Did they own their land? And, of course, bigger questions, like was there peace or war at the time? A Famine? An epidemic? Was there religious persecution or revolution? Our settled lives now, with enough food and warm houses makes it easy to imagine a pastoral existence in Bohemia, when, whew--it really wasn't that way at all.

Paul Hesch's father John was born in 1818 in southern Bohemia. He was the firstborn of Martin Hesch and Elizabeth Wolf. They had five more kids after John. But look at the context of John's early life, and theirs:

In 1815, a volcano (Tambora) erupted in Indonesia, the largest and most devastating since Pompey.  World weather was affected for years, beginning with the summer of 1816.
From a Wired article: 
Between the magma ejected from below and the pulverized mountaintop above, Tambora sent more than 36 cubic miles of pulverized rock into the atmosphere. The ash falling on islands nearby immediately suffocated crops. That alone probably killed 92,000 people. 
The cloud of ash that was fine and light enough to stay in the atmosphere circled the globe. Average temperatures dropped as much as 5 degrees Fahrenheit over the next year ... and beyond. Many Europeans and North Americans called 1816 the "year without a summer ." 
Snow fell in New England and Eastern Canada in June... Frost was recorded in each of the summer months. Drought struck in July and August, and the sunlight was weak. Crops were stunted or failed entirely. Much of what survived and looked near to harvest was killed off by a September frost. 
Europe was very cold and very rainy. Ash fell with snow. Rivers flooded. Britain, France, Switzerland and Germany lost harvests and suffered famine. The Napoleonic Wars had caused food shortages, and now there were riots and looting, then an epidemic. Some 200,000 people died in Eastern and Southern Europe from a combination of typhus and hunger. 
John Hesch's first memories were probably of cold and hunger, but what could the family do about it?  In 1830, there was revolution in France , Belgium, Portugal, Poland and Switzerland.  In 1835, Fr Pierz left for America, and by the 1848 revolutions, he was sending letters home extolling the virtues (and mosquito-lessness) of Minnesota.  It took till 1869 for the Hesch family to leave.  
I imagine John, Paul and Mathias's success here in Minnesota was partly based in an attitude of "it can't be worse than what we've been thru". 

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful and poignant post. I just read about that volcano but did not connect it to the ancestors. Wow, what they faced! Especially meaningful as you embark to visit the motherland. I know it will be rich and full of imagery, because of your great research. Bon voyage. I will call tomorrow. Love, Pfoofer