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Story of Karl Lechelt

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Surnames/tags: Lechelt Volhynia
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This is an excerpt from "The Descendants of Martin Lechelt". By Gordon William Zelt. circa 1995. This family history was not published and is in private collections. It was a meticulous study based on interviews with living descendants, published family histories and available documents. It was scanned and transformed into a WikiTree Space by Stuart McCormick, a second great grandson of Karl Lechelt.

Karl Lechelt, the second child of Martin Lechelt and Caroline Klatt, was born on January 31, 1851, in Michalow, Poland.

Karl was confirmed on April 6, 1864 in Wiskitke, Poland. He went to school and then on to some form of higher education in teaching and Lutheran theology to become a teacher. (In German, he was called a "lehrer".) Teachers in those days taught in segregated schools. They taught school, taught Christian education, baptized the young, buried the dead and conducted Sunday church services. The ministers usually visited the congregations only two to four times per year, at which time they would seal the confirmation and wedding vows.

Karl started teaching in 1868 when he was 17 years old for a congregation in Pelagiou, Poland. His congregation consisted of about six to eight families. Every woman in the congregation would give Karl a loaf of bread when they baked. He said that at Christmas time he had enough bread to feed himself and his cow. He taught in Pelagiou from 1868 to 1871.

Ministers had the authority to move or transfer teachers from one congregation to another. In 1871, the minister informed Karl that there was a larger congregation in Szczenscie, Poland that had no teacher and Karl was needed there. When Karl got there, he found the house he was to live in was very dirty. Karl was a very particular man who liked everything neat and tidy. He scrubbed the house down, but he could not get rid of a "certain barn smell". He even tried sprinkling rosewater around before the minister made his visit. The problem was ultimately resolved. The house he lived in had an attached cow barn with a basement. The teacher before him was a little on the lazy side so when he cleaned the barn he found it easier to open the door in the floor and push the manure into the "basement" rather than throw it out of the door. When Karl located the problem he cleaned out the basement and the smell disappeared. Karl taught in Szczenscie from 1871 to 1876.

On February 2, 1873 Karl was married to Erdmine Schneider in Radom, Poland, by Pastor Otto Wistenhube. Karl was 22 years old and was living in Szczenscie at the time.

They had the following children: Paulina (November 2, 1873) and Ottilia (1875).

Many of the German people of Karl's congregation moved from Poland to the province of Volhynia in Russia because land was cheaper and there was less religious and economic unrest. When they got there, they asked Karl to come and serve their congregation, which he did. In 1876, Karl and his family moved to Mariendorf, Volhynia, Russia.

In Mariendorf they had the following children: Carl C. (May 11, 1880), and Amalia (November 15, 1882).

Erdmine became sick and when she realized she was going to die, she asked Karl to marry her younger sister Amalia so her children would be lovingly cared for after her departure. Erdmine died from a heart attack on December 27, 1882 in Mariendorf, Russia.

Karl married Erdmine's sister, Amalia Schneider on March l, 1883 in Rozyszcze, Russia. Daughter Ottilia died in 1883 from appendicitis at the age of 8 and is buried in Russia. Karl and Amalia had the following children: Lydia (February 2,1884), Henry (~1886), Olga (May 11, 1888), Herman (1890), and Emil (~1893).

Henry died in 1887 when he was 1 year old and is buried in Russia.

Life in Russia had been changing over the previous few years. Much of the religious, economic and military freedoms they enjoyed were slowly eroding. One by one, the German families were picking up their belongings and heading for that "great free land" called Canada.

Karl's son-in-law Carl Huff and his wife Paulina (Lechelt) had moved to Canada in 1892 and lived on a homestead in the Heimtal (Rabbit Hill) area. They wrote Karl of the vast treed country with great opportunities. Karl began his preparations to leave Russia for Canada in 1894.

First, Karl and Amalia went back to Poland to say good-bye to Amalia's mother (Mrs. Schneider), her sister (Mrs. Fuhrman) and her brother (Gustav). The children stayed with their grandmother Mrs. Caroline (Klatt) Lechelt; Martin had died in about 1889. Karl and Amalia were away for about two weeks.

Next, Karl sold many of his belongings and collected the money he had out in loans to various people. As a result, he had a large sum of money. Because of the political unrest at the time, few people kept their savings in a bank. Instead, they would hide it somewhere. Karl kept his money in a "glass sealer" under a stone in front of the fire place. The fact that Karl had accumulated a large sum of money was unfortunately known by a number of people.

A couple of days before they left, a girl in another town died and her father came and asked Karl to bury her. Karl did not want to go but agreed, provided the man brought Karl back the same day. Normally Karl would stay overnight and come back the next day, but Karl wanted to get back home because he was worried about the money. That night after he got home, he heard someone trying to pry open the door with a bar (the robbers obviously thought he was away). Karl shouted at the robbers and told them to go away. Karl was one of a few people that had a permit to own a revolver and when the robbers heard he was home, they were afraid Karl would shoot them, so they left.

The evening before they left Mariendorf, Karl held a church service at which they prayed and sang songs.

The day to depart finally arrived. They loaded everyone and their belongings on two wagons. August Mittelstadt (Karl's brother-in-law) owned one of the wagons. The people that left with Karl were: Karl (age 33), Amalia (age 29), Carl C. (age 14), Amalia (age 12), Lydia (age 10), Olga (age 6), Herman (age 4), Emil (age 1).

They boarded the train at Vladimir, Russia for Hamburg, Germany. On the way they stopped in Berlin for a weekend and rented a room. On Sunday, Karl and Amalia wanted to go to church but they did not want to take the children, so they locked them in the hotel room so they would not run away.

They boarded the ship "Europa" in Hamburg. The ship stopped in France to pick up passengers. A family with three children boarded, but their cabin was not ready for them, so they had to sleep under a stairway the first night. Next morning after the family had moved into their cabin, Lydia found a small parcel under the stairway. She gave it to her father who opened it and found $300 in it. Karl returned the money to the family.

The boat trip from France to Halifax took 10 days. From Halifax they took the train to Winnipeg. They were met in Winnipeg by the Wedmans and John and Gustav Hirsekorn.

Karl bought a binder, a plough and many other supplies and loaded these and their other belongings into a railway car and headed west. Karl got a special rate of $50 per car from Winnipeg to Leduc. They took the train to Calgary and then on to Leduc. John Hirsekorn and family accompanied them.

When they got to Leduc, Karl, Carl C. and John Hirsekorn decided to walk to Carl Huff's to tell them they had arrived. Lydia and Amalia went with them while the rest waited at the station. They knew Carl Huff lived in Heimtal but they didn't know that it was about 14 miles from Leduc. When they had walked about 6 miles Lydia and Amalia got tired, so they stopped at a farm and asked them if they could leave the girls with them until they got back. The family took them in and fed them and put them up for the night. Karl and the rest continued on to Huff's.

The next day they arrived with wagons to pick up the girls and the rest of their belongings and family in Leduc. They all stayed at Carl Huff's until Karl Lechelt got his own land and house.

Karl wanted to homestead but all the homesteads in Heimtal were taken so he took a homestead about 4 miles north and I mile west of Nisku. His neighbours at that time were the Kriegers, Ratkes and the Klapsteins.

The homestead had a shack on it with a sod roof. The family lived in it until they built a log house. They lived there for about two years. While they lived in this house the following children were born: Otto (September 20,1895), and Ottilia (~1896)

The homestead land was very "low-lying". In the spring it stayed wet for a very long time and in the fall it froze early. Karl, therefore, decided to move. He took over a homestead from some Metis who were not meeting their commitment. The new homestead was the SW 1/4, Section 36, TP 50, RGE 25, W 4 (The quarter section immediately north of what later was Ferdinand Lechelt's quarter). Karl took the log house on the original homestead apart and rebuilt it on the new homestead in 1896. On Easter Saturday, their neighbour Mr. Dreger came over to tell Karl that he was going to burn some brush. Karl and Carl C. were at the old homestead putting in the crop. Amalia told Mr. Dreger that she thought it would be alright because Karl had ploughed all around the house for protection against prairie fires. Shortly after Mr. Dreger started burning his brush, a strong wind came up from the northwest and the fire jumped the ploughed strip and headed straight for Karl's house. Amalia told Lydia to take the children to the railway track where they would be safe. She then cut two cows loose that were tied to the fence.

The fire destroyed the house and all their belongings plus a load of hay and a pile of shingles that Karl was going to put on the house. (Karl's first bible with all the records of his children's births was destroyed in the fire.) Amalia went to the old homestead and gave Karl the bad news. Karl took the news very hard and soon after had a nervous breakdown and was confined to his bed for a long period of time. The neighbours helped build a log shack which they lived in for about two years. The summer after the house burned down, young Amalia and Lydia grubbed out trees while Carl C. broke about 10 acres of land. They planted barley the following spring and got a bumper crop. They cut the barley with the mower and then threshed the barley by hand. They piled the cut grain on a small pile and let the horses stomp on it until the barley kernels came out of the husks. Then they raked off the straw and separated the barley from the chaff with a hand operated fanning mill. They sold the barley to the brewery in Strathcona who paid the top price. This was the first money they made from their farming in Canada.

Karl recovered and the neighbours helped him build a new house about a quarter of a mile south of the old house. The house had two rooms, shingles on the roof and a wooden floor.

In 1900, Karl had a "big" house built by Gustav Winkelman. His second house was moved to Wilhelm Lechelt's farm, (later on to be William Lechelt Jr.'s farm). He also bought the quarter section of land immediately west of the second homestead from the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, (S.E. 1 4, Section 35, TP 50, RGE 25, W4). They had their next child: Martha (December 29,1901).

1902 was a bad year for Karl and Amalia as they lost two of their children. Emil died on June 19 at the age of 9. Ottilia died on June 22 at the age of 6. Both died of diphtheria.

They had their last child: Adolph (February 6,1905).

They moved into a smaller house across the road (beside the house that Adolph Lechelt later lived in) and Herman moved into the "big" house. A number of years later, Herman moved to Hay Lakes and the house was sold to Herman Schneider who tore it down and built a barn out of the logs.

Karl Lechelt was a spiritual leader in the community and it was because of his leadership that St. Paul's Lutheran Church at Ellerslie and St. Peter's Lutheran Church at Nisku were founded. Karl preached many services at Ellerslie and in his home until a church was built at Nisku. The property for the former St. Peter's Lutheran and cemetery at Nisku were donated by Karl.

Karl loved politics and was a very strong Liberal all his life. He spoke publicly on behalf of the Liberal Party. His feelings towards the Liberal party were so strong that when he heard Gus Winkleman voted Conservative in one election, he did not speak to him for a year.

When Karl arrived in Canada, he could not speak a word of English but he picked it up quickly and soon was very fluent in the language. He did, however, enjoy reading his native language and he held a subscription to a German newspaper which was printed in Lincoln, Nebraska. This paper came to Leduc daily, but it was always a week old. It was Adolph's job to get the paper for his father.

Another tragedy occurred when Otto died on August 15, 1915. He was injured while clearing land and died of a bowel infection.

Karl Lechelt died on April 9, 1921 and is buried in the cemetery he donated to the Lutheran Church. His wife Amalia died on Oct. 27, 1957 and is buried beside Karl.

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