1849 - 1923 (73 years)
||2-5. The Wolves Had Four Legs|
An account of the experiences of Heinrich Benjestorf and his travels with his family from Perham, Minnesota, to Fenwood, Saskatchewan, by the daughter of Mina “Minnie” Benjestorf. With a post script by Violette Lustig.
"It is an honor, indeed, to write this paper about my pioneering grandparents, my mother’s father and mother. My grandfather, Henry Benjestorf, and his cousin, Chris, left their fatherland (Germany) to make a new life for themselves in St. Louis, Mo. Armed with two words of English, and a trade -- grandfather a shoemaker, and Chris a brewer. They obtained work in a short time. Two years later grandfather met and married his one and only sweetheart, Matilda. Life was not easy in those first years and smallpox took its toll from grandfather’s health."
||BENJESTORF, Heinrich Christian |
||16 Dec 1849
||Osterwald, Kingdom of Hannover
||16 Jun 1923
||Colton, California, USA
||Roddy-Benjestorf Family Tree
||23 Jun 2014 |
||BENJESTORF, Johann Heinrich Friedrich, b. 15 Nov 1810, Osterwald, Electorate of Hannover , d. 12 Mar 1883, Osterwald, German Empire (Age 72 years) |
||DEEKE, Luise Cathrine Dorothee Hanne, b. 12 Oct 1819, Lutter, Kingdom of Hannover , d. 21 Nov 1887, Osterwald OE, German Empire (Age 68 years) |
||Osterwald, Kingdom of Hannover ?
||Group Sheet | Family Chart
||GELLENBECK, Mathilde Catharina, b. 20 Feb 1857, Mentrup, Kingdom of Hannover , d. 23 Feb 1935, Long Beach, Los Angeles, California, USA (Age 78 years)  |
||15 Sep 1874
|| St. Louis, Missouri
| ||1. BENJESTORF, Matilda "Tillie", b. 21 Sep 1875, St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri , d. 8 Jul 1956, at/near Spokane, Washington (Age 80 years)|
| ||2. BENJESTORF, Henry, b. 3 Oct 1877, St Louis, St. Louis, Missouri, USA , d. 21 Jun 1917, Long Beach, California, USA (Age 39 years)|
| ||3. BENJESTORF, Mina "Minnie", b. 12 Nov 1879, St. Louis,St Louis, Missouri , d. 11 Nov 1966, Minneapolis, Hennipenn, Minnesota (Age 86 years)|
| ||4. BENJESTORF, Emma, b. 14 Oct 1883, Perham, Otter Tail, Minnesota , d. 28 Sep 1967, Taft, California (Age 83 years)|
| ||5. BENJESTORF, Alexander, b. 16 Dec 1885, Otter Tail County, Minnesota, USA , d. 5 Jul 1963, Norwalk, California (Age 77 years)|
| ||6. BENJESTORF, Oscar, b. 27 Oct 1887, Pine lake Twnshp, Otter Tail, Minnesota , d. 18 Oct 1957, Saskatoon, Sasktchawan (19480) (Age 69 years)|
| ||7. BENJESTORF, Hugo Chris, b. 4 Aug 1889, Pine Lake Tnshp, Otter Tail Cty, Minnesota, USA , d. 31 Jul 1963, San Bernardino , California, USA (Age 73 years)|
| ||8. BENJESTORF, Edward, b. 18 Sep 1891, Otter Tail County, Minnesota, USA , d. 2 Oct 1963, Rialto, California, USA (Age 72 years)|
| ||9. BENJESTORF, Walter James, b. 8 Jun 1893, Otter Tail County, Minnesota (?) , d. 20 Dec 1981, Santa Cruz, California (Age 88 years)|
| ||10. BENJESTORF, Albert Thomas, b. 23 Mar 1895, Otter Tail County, Minnesota , d. 6 Feb 1984, Bellflower, California (Age 88 years)|
| ||11. BENJESTORF, Helma, b. 3 Apr 1897, New York Mills, Otter Tail Cnty (?), Minn. , d. 27 Nov 1991, Daly City, California (Age 94 years)|
||23 Jun 2014 |
||Group Sheet | Family Chart
(Info from Heinrich Schneehage letter, et al.) (also some information from LDS Pedigree Resource File [CD #40 PIN #877861][scratch paper notes from LaVere Benjestorf][Osterwald (or Hannover-Kirchr>
ode ?) Kirchbuch] [Baptismal Records, St. Mary of Victories Catholic Church]
Heinrich was born in the Kingdom of Hannover (probably in Osterwald since his father was born & died in Osterwald, and his mother died there) on 16 December 1849.
In 1866, when Heinrich was 17, the Prussian Army invaded the Kingdom of Hannover and sent their king, Georg V (the blind king) into exile.
With the encouragement of his father, Heinrich emigrated to America in 1869 [or possibly 1870 ( a letter from Heinrich to his sister states that he arrived in New York on 27 December, 1870)] at the age of 19 to avoid being drafted into the Prussian army. Family tradition has it that Heinrich and a cousin stowed away on a ship from Germany to the United States ( according to Lucille Benjestorf the cousinâ€˜s name was "Chris". Heinrich Schneehage recalls his name was BÃ¶fer), . Bremen was the closest port to Osterwald, and therefore the most likely port of departure. Chris BÃ¶fer was reported to Heinrich Schneehage by Alex Benjestorf to have last been thought to be living in Chicago. More recently discovered information suggests he was probably actually living in St. Louis, Missouri. [Another possibility has arisen about cousin Chris; In 1960 Olga "Violette" DeRosia, Mina Benjestorf's daughter, wrote an article about her grandparents. In it she identifies cousin Chris as the person who not only accompanied Heinrich from Hannover to the USA, but also as the Christian Benjestorf who accompanied him to Canada in April 1903 to start a new homestead].[however, LaVere Benjestorf has notes which state that Heinrich and Chris Benjestorf came to America seperately]
Heinrich had learned to be a shoemaker in Osterwald, and worked as a shoemaker in St. Louis, Missouri. He eventually owned his own shop and is said to have made Mathilde's wedding shoes for her.
In America Heinrich was called Henry. Henry met and married Matilda (Mathilde Gellenbeck) in the United States. They were married on 15 September, 1874, in St. Nicholas Catholic Church in St. Louis, Missouri. Wilhelm Boefer and Elisabetha Gellenbeck were witnesses to the marriage [Wilhelm Boefer was Christian BÃ¶ferâ€™s brother. Christian, in turn, may have been the "Cousin Chris" who stowed away with Heinrich. Elisabeth Gellenbeck may have been Mathildeâ€™s mother, or an older sister who had came to the US in 1869 or possibly her younger sister by the same name (?). All three had "Elisabeth" as a middle name]. Mathilde was 17 at the time. (The St Nicholas Catholic Church record book for 1874 shows Mathilde's name as "Mary Mathilde Gellenbeck". Perhaps Mathilde anglicized her name to "Mary" before settling on "Matilda" ?).
Henry was raised a Lutheran, but converted to Catholicism on 1 May, 1874 probably to enable him to marry Mathilde.
Henry and Matilda lived in the St. Louis area for at least 5 years, and possibly as many as 8 or 9 years. Their first three children were born while they were there: Matilda "Tillie" was born >
20 February, 1875; Henry in 1877; and Mina "Minnie" was born 12 November, 1879.
Heinrich is said to have had smallpox while in St. Louis. The family decided that city life was bad for the health of the family members and decided to take up farming.
In December 1882 the Benjestorf Family headed west (actually northwest), as many Americans were doing at that time. They may have stopped for a time near Grinnell, Iowa, but continued on to the town of Perham, Otter Tail County, Minnesota and may have actually lived in the town for a time. Their fourth child, Emma, was born in (or near) Perham, Minnesota on 14 October, >
1883. No later than July of 1885 they moved onto a piece of land in what became Pine Lake Township, Otter Tail County near Perham, Minnesota, and started the improvement procedure required to file a>
On the way to Perham they may have traveled west with a group of fellow Germans. That was the usual practice, and they all tended to settle in the same locale. A website run by Otter Tail Coun>
ty, It is more likely that they took a train since the railroad had recently been extendeed through Perham. Minnesota Genealogy lists Henry Benjestorf among approximately 79 original land owners in Pine Lake Township, Otter Tail County, Minnesota. It is interesting to note that in the 1905 State census over 20% of the population of the township had been born in Germany! Henry and his famil>
y homesteaded 120 acres in the South half of the SW quarter and the NE quarter of the SW quarter of Section 26 in Township 136N of range 38W of the 5th Principal Meridian in Minnesota. After "proving" the land and living on it for the required 5 years Henry received a patent (Original Title from the BLM) to the property on 3 July, 1890. Six of their remaining seven Children (Alex, Oscar, Hugo>
, Edward, Walter & Albert ) were all born on the Homestead in Otter Tail County where the family remained until April, 1903. On 3 April, 1897 their last child, a daughter, Helma, was born in New York Mills, Minnesota which is located on the east side of Otter Tail County, on the opposite side from Perham. Perhaps Matilda stayed with friends or relatives there to be closer to medical help if n>eeded for the birth [Matilda was 40 at the time].
In April,1903 Henry moved most of his large family to start a new homestead near the village of Fenwood, Saskatchewan, Canada. He probably heard that Canada had opened up some land for homesteading and saw an opportunity to sell his property in Minnesota, and get another 160 acres "free".
In addition to the younger children [Alex, Oscar, Hugo, Edward, Walter, Albert & Helma], Heinrich and Matilda were accompanied in their move to Canada by "Minnie" and her husband, William Lustig and son Albert. They had been living in Spokane, Washington, but apparently joined the Benjestorf's in Minnesota prior to their departure for Canada. Emma and her husband Frank Morgenroth & son Clarence who had been living in Perham, also accompanied them.
In addition to Heinrich's immediate family and in-laws, he was also accompanied by his cousin, Christian Benjestorf with his wife and 6 children. Christian had been living in Grinnelle, Iowa prior to this time, but had moved to the Perham area sometime previously.
Heinrich's eldest son, Henry and his wife Louisa, & "Tillie" and her husband, Carl Balzer were the only members of the family that remained in the United States.
Yorktown, Saskatchewan was apparently the official port of entry for homesteaders coming from the USA. When the 23 members of the Heinrich Benjestorf group arrived at Yorktown, there was, literally, no room at the inn. The town was completely full, including the immigration hall. Not only were there numerous would be homesteaders, but this was the year that a fanatical religious sect, the Dukhobors, were searching for Christ, believing his second coming would be in 1903. It was also one of the rainiest springs on record.
The Benjestorf's ended up some 40 miles or so west of Yorktown, near Fenwood. In the Yorkton area they were helped by a good freind, Barney Griffith (whom they apparently knew in Perham), who "...opened his home, granaries, sod roofed sheds, and lean-tos..." to provide shelter and food for the Benjestorf's and their livestock.
Heinrich became a Canadian citizen on 30 June, 1906, probably a prerequisite for receiving patent to his homestead. He retained his US citizenship.
In 1907 Henry received patent to the SW quarter of Section 24 in Township 24, Range 8, W2. It is interesting to note that a cousin, Christian Benjestorf and his family moved from Grinnell, Iowa and started homesteading the North West quarter of the same section in 1903, and also received patent to his homestead in 1907.
About 1915 Henry decided to get out of the farming business (He would have been 66 in 1920. His cousin, Christian, died in 1917, as did his son, Henry). During this time frame he and most of his sons moved to southern California. According to Clayton Bamping, he left Matilda, who was ill at the time, on the ranch while he checked out California, then sent for her and they settled in Long Beach, California, buying a house at 822 Sunrise Blvd.
Henry & Mathilde were living in Long Beach, California, according to Mom (Lucille D. Benjestorf), but he was in East Colton being cared for by Aunt May (Kathleen May (England) Benjestorf) when he died. [Death Certificate shows "Chronic Interstitial Nefihritis" complicated by Chronic Artereo-sclerosis]. He was reported to have been very demanding during his 2 month long illness. (according to >
Lucille Benjestorf). He died 16 Jun 1923 in Colton, California. He was 74 I/2 years old.
Henry was cremated on 19 June, 1923, at Mt. View Cemetery in San Bernardino, California. Presumably Matilda kept his ashes until her death on 23 February, 1935. His "..ashes.." are said to be > interred with the body of Matilda in Sunnyside Mausoleum, Long Beach, California (according to Helma Benjestorfâ€™s notes in Matildaâ€™s bible; also an obituary of Mathilde)[ Sunnyside Mausoleum is now >
operated by Forest Lawn. Mathilde is interred in a mausoleum (Crypt 0105-tier J) in Forest Lawn Memorial Park & Mortuary located at 1500 E. San Antonio Drive, Long Beach, California] [source: , Long Beach Library records ; courtesy of Kathleen (Roddy) Minniti].
[letter to sister, Dorothea Schneehage]
Heinrich stated in a letter to his sister [probably written ca 1901] that he had arrived at the Port of New York on 27 December 1870.
In December 1915 he stated on a border crossing questionaire that he had arrived aboard the "Hull" in December 1870. I have so far been unable to identify "The Hull" although their was a Norwegian shipping line from Hull.
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