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Gustav Adolf Himmel Bio, notes and stories

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1. Gustav Himmel by Richard Himmel (Source is mostly Richard Himmel based on family lore and interviews with family members both here in the United States and with reconnected extended family members in Germany lost after WWII.)

Gustav Himmel was born Dec 9. 1885, 8:00 a.m. in Mannheim, Germany to Philipp and Barbara Himmel. The family, at the time of WWI, were ship's chandlers or outfitters and lived in Hanover on the Baltic Coast. He was enrolled on a University ship when he was fourteen, 1899, and studied on the ship as it sailed around the world stopping in various ports. This was not an uncommon arrangement for the education of middle-class young men at the time, especially those who had some connection to the maritime industry as his family had through their business. The University ships toured the world for 1 - 2 years at a time. He was near the end of his sojourn by the time he arrived in New York City, having sailed around the world prior to his arrival. His ship arrived in New York City in 1901 where Gustav "jumped ship" at age 16. He decided to jump ship because of the political climate back in Germany at the time and because, when he returned to Germany he would be conscripted into the military for mandatory service when he arrived home. This was because upon the completion of the University ship's voyage, Gus would have completed all his education and that, coupled with his age, required him to go into military service at the time. Gus did not want to do this, so he jumped ship in New York City. He found work in a store in New York City owned by another expatriate German. Apparently, the man worked Gus long hours and paid him very little, often refusing to pay him what he had earned. During this time Gus made the acquaintance of a local man from the German community who was very well regarded by the community. When the man found out how Gus was being treated, he "persuaded" the store owner to pay Gus what he was owed. There were no further issues. By this time Gus was becoming sufficiently proficient in English that he was, for all practical purposes, bi-lingual. The railroads at the time were still expanding westward and were needing men to work. Gus signed on and was soon working in a supervisory position, in part because of his language skills. Presumably, that is how he came cross country to Oregon, working on the railroad. Does anyone have any information or stories about Gus' time as he worked his way west? How long did it take? Did he work his way out on a succession of jobs or did he come directly? When the ship returned to Germany, Gus' family went down to meet him and when they found that he had not returned, Gus' father Philip, disowned him then and there. This was considered a significant blight upon the family name and Philip said that Gus' name was never to be mentioned in his house again. This was most likely in 1901 or 1902. Gus never spoke with his father again and he never went back to Germany, although it is said that after Glen, his first son was born, he was seriously thinking about returning, possibly to claim any inheritance. His father had died by that time. Why he did not follow through on this plan is not known. Possibilities include: the political situation on the continent, finding out that he would be having a second child (Loren), information that he would not be welcome..................?????????? Gus was able to keep in touch with the family indirectly over the years, however. One of his sisters, don't know which one, became pregnant out of wedlock and was sequestered in the home during her pregnancy. This was another blot on the family name. In those days, such things weren't acceptable. Anyway, she and Gus did correspond with one another during this time, being, essentially, both outcasts from family or at least from their father's favor. I don't know how long this correspondence continued. After WWI, the family’s chandlery business was ruined and they moved south to the area around Mainz. Gus met Grace Helen Ryan in Myrtle Creek, Oregon and married her there. He was working for the railroad at the time and apparently he met her at the train depot in Myrtle Creek, Oregon. They were married on May 28, 1910, in Myrtle Creek. They subsequently lived in Myrtle Creek, Springfield, Oregon and then Silverton, Oregon. They had four children, Glenn, Loren, Irma and Phil. A story is told of how, at the outbreak of WWI, a group (mob) from town came out to their home and demanded any weapons that Gus "the German" might own. He turned over his rifle to them. What became of it, or if anyone ever apologized later is not known. However, after the crowd left, Gus told Grace that German (Deutsche) would never be spoken in their home again. He was an American to the core, and that is why none of his children knew how to speak German -- a classic immigrant story. It is not true that Gus spoke 3-4 languages as I had believed. He spoke German and English only and he learned English after he arrived here. Gus was working in the sawmill in Silverton when he died in August of 1933, in Silverton, OR. He was 57 years old. (note: records show that Gus actually died Sept 7, 1933 at age 47 in Silverton, OR.)

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