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Wilhelm Lechelt Story

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Date: 2020 [unknown]
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Surname/tag: Lechelt
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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 in 2020 by Stuart McCormick, a second great grandson of Wilhelm's brother Karl Lechelt.

The original text has not been changed. Minor formatting changes, especially to tables, were necessary to accommodate the html coding. Hyperlinks to people and things at WikiTree have been added. If you notice any deviations from the original manuscript, please notify the profile manager.

Wilhelm Lechelt

Wilhelm Lechelt was the fifth child of Martin Lechelt and Caroline Klatt. He was born on March 24, 1862 in either Michalow (near Warsaw) or in Radom, Poland. (His older brother Karl was born in Michalow in 1851 and his youngest sister Maryanna was born in Radom in 1871.)

Wilhelm moved with his parents from Poland to Mariendorf, Volhynia, Russia about 1878. He then moved to Miroslawow, Volhynia, Russia, (about 20 miles from Vladimir) but it is not known whether this was before or after he married Caroline Werner in about 1884.

They had the following children in Miroslawow:

Amalia (Molly) July 29 1885, Lydia March 16 1887, Carl W. (Charlie) February 6 1889, William Jr. (Bill) October 18 1892, Emilie (Emily) September 9 1895, Rudolph (Ralph) September 29 1897, Olga January 18 1899.

Wilhelm was a cabinet maker by trade and ran a cabinet making school. His nephew Johann Mittelstadt (son of Karoline Lechelt and August Mittelstadt Sr.) went to his cabinet making school for 3 years.

Wilhelm's brother Karl had moved his family to Canada (Nisku, Alberta) in 1894 and wrote back to Wilhelm and Jacob telling them of the opportunities in the new country. Karl's descriptions of life in Canada convinced them to also move their families to the new land and so the preparations began. Wilhelm built numerous wooden trunks in which to place their belongings. Some of these still exist today. The original plan was that both families were going to move together but unfortunately Jacob had to postpone his departure for three weeks because their youngest son Edward, born on March 23, 1900, became ill. Another complication arose. Jacob's eldest son William J. who was 19 years old was drafted or was about to be drafted into the Russian army. It is believed that Jacob was going to smuggle William J. out of the country with him to avoid the draft. After discussions with Wilhelm, the following plan developed.

William had purchased passage for himself, his wife and their seven children (9 tickets): Wilhelm 38, Caroline 38, Amalia 14, Lydia 13, Carl W. 11, William 7, Emilie 4, Rudolph 2, Olga 17 months.

In order to take another child with them, they declared Olga as an infant under one year (children under one year did not require a ticket) and then changed the names of the children somewhat.

The following is a comparison of the information on the ship's passenger list and what actually happened (see copy of passenger list).

PASSENGER LIST Wilhelm Lezebet 39 vs Wilhelm Lechelt 38, Karolina 40 vs Karoline 38, Karol 17 vs William J. 19, Amalie 14 vs Amalia 14, Lidia 11 vs Lydia 13, Wilhelm 10 vs Carl W. 11, Rudolph 7 vs William 7, Emalie 4 vs Emilie 4, Herman 2 vs Rudolph 2, Olga Infant vs Olga 17 months.

The above account is substantiated by the fact that it is known that William J. Lechelt came with Wilhelm Lechelt; moreover, his name does not appear on the ship passenger list. (Neither was his name on the passenger list of the ship that Jacob sailed on.)

In June 1900, Wilhelm and his "extended" family, the August Lachman family (August was Wilhelm's brother-in-law) plus a man by the name of Gustav Korranty (last name taken from the ship's passenger list but could be spelled incorrectly) left Miroslawow, Volhynia for Canada.

All their belongings and families were loaded onto horse drawn wagons and were transported about 20 miles to Vladimir, Russia. Here they took the train for Liebau, Estonia on the Baltic Sea. In Liebau they boarded a ship and travelled to London, England. In London, they transferred to the train for the trip to Liverpool. On June 14, 1900, they left Liverpool England on the S.S. Tunisian bound for Canada. They arrived in Quebec City, Quebec on June 23rd.

Once in Canada, it was back on the train for the long ride to Leduc, Alberta via Winnipeg and Calgary. They arrived in Leduc at 6:00 A.M. Sunday, July l, 1900. Karl Lechelt knew that Wilhelm was coming as Wilhelm had written him but he did not know the exact date of arrival. (In those days you could send a letter from Nisku, Alberta to Miroslawow, Russia for about two cents.)

Since no one was at the station to meet them, someone had to go and inform Karl Lechelt that they had arrived. Rather than walk, William J. Lechelt and Gustav Korranty decided to take the train that went to Edmonton. There was one problem, however, the train did not make any stops between Leduc and Edmonton; so they had to jump off the moving train when it passed Karl's farm. They did not know exactly where Karl Lechelt lived so they guessed where they should jump off. As it turned out, they had jumped off by the farm that Wilhelm bought a short time later. They started walking down the road and met a bearded man in old, dirty clothes. They asked him where Karl Lechelt lived. He said, "I will show you. By the way, my name is Karl Lechelt."

The three of them went back to Karl's to get horses and wagons to transport the new arrivals and their belongings from Leduc to Karl's place. Karl had started building his "big" house and although it was not complete, they were able to live in it.

Wilhelm and his family stayed with Karl until Wilhelm found some land. He purchased a proven homestead for $500 (NW 1/4, Section 24, TP 50, RGE 25, W4) from a Mr. MacDonald. The farm had a house and barn on it and had been the stopping place for overland freighters before the railroad was built from Calgary to Edmonton. Later, he moved Karl Lechelt's second house (the first burned down) to the homestead.

The land was cleared primarily by hand. Trees were chopped down or grubbed out with a hoe and then pulled over with the horses so the roots would come out easier. The land was then broken with a breaking plow, followed by the tedious job of picking and burning roots. Wilhelm was a good cabinet maker but a poor farmer.

As the children got older, Amalia married and moved to California; Lydia got married and moved to Oregon; Carl W. went farming near Hay Lakes; William Jr. went to Vancouver and worked for a draying company, (hauling freight from Vancouver to New Westminster); and, Ralph became a teacher. This left Emilie to run the farm. She could handle the horses and could operate all the farm machinery including the plow and the binder.

In 1904, Wilhelm gave a corner of his quarter to Great West School District No. 486 for a school yard, and the Great West School was built.

There was a small lake (slough) on Wilhelm's property near the house. In the summer Wilhelm kept a little green boat there for boat rides. Some of the school children would visit at lunch time for a quick paddle around the lake. In the winter, the children would clear off the snow and skate on the lake.

In 1919, Wilhelm purchased the "Nisku Quarter", (SE 1/4, Section 26, TP 50, RGE 25, W 4M) because it had lots of wild hay on it whereas the original homestead was very heavily wooded with poplar trees.

Soon after William Jr.'s marriage to Emillie Winkelman on January 7, 1920, Wilhelm built a house on the Nisku Quarter and moved there so William Jr. could take over the original homestead.

Wilhelm never farmed the Nisku Quarter but he did raise cows, chickens and pigs to supply farm produce. There was a large shed on the side of the barn that served as his carpenter shop where he continued his trade as a cabinet maker. In this shed, he built many medicine chests, wash stands, coffins, and furniture for the people in the area.

After the death of their daughter-in-law (Carl's wife Augusta Poncilious) in 1922, Wilhelm and Caroline "adopted" Carl's son Alfred (age 6) who stayed with them until Wilhelm's death in 1938.

In 1924, Wilhelm built the store in Nisku. He rented it to Charlie Long who gave up grain buying to operate the store. In 1926, his daughter Emilie and her husband, Adolf Zelt, took over the store and operated it until 1945. The store burnt down in May, 1965.

Also in 1924, there was a near tragedy when William Jr., Emillie, Wilhelm, Caroline and Alfred were returning from a mid-week Lenten service. The road crossed the train track near the church at an angle and as William drove across the tracks, the front wheels caught in the snow and the car drove on to the tracks. A train was coming from the north so everyone except William Jr. jumped out of the car while he backed it off the tracks. All were relieved to see the car off the tracks and thought William Jr. would wait until the train passed before he drove across. To their horror, William Jr. drove the car right in front of the train which missed him by only a few feet.

Caroline (Werner) Lechelt died from palsy in her home on February 20, 1934 at the age of 72. She is buried in the St. Peter's Lutheran Church cemetery in Nisku, Alberta.

Wilhelm married Caroline's sister Lydia (Werner) Lachman, the widow of August Lachman on July 29, 1934. At the time, Wilhelm was 72 years old and Lydia was 63.

Wilhelm died on March 27, 1938 at the age of 76 in an Edmonton hospital from a ruptured appendix. He is buried beside Caroline in the St. Peter's Lutheran Church cemetery in Nisku, Alberta.



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