Dale’s great-great-grandfather Joseph Rademacher (born 1843 in Olpe) came to America in 1878 with his wife, mother-in-law and three children. But his younger brother Frank had emigrated to America 10 years earlier.
Growing up in Germany, Joseph had four older sisters in addition to his little brother Franz (known as Frank in America). Their father, a master shoemaker, died when Joseph was only three years old. As children, Joseph and Franz had to go to work in one of the foundries in Olpe. It was grueling work. One of Joseph’s jobs was to hold a large mold while a huge hammer slammed into the mold to help form the steel. The family recalls that throughout his life, Joseph’s hands shook due to the hard work he endured in the foundry during his childhood.
The family story is that Franz left for America in 1868 as he was about to be drafted into Kaiser Wilhelm’s army. Franz had the benefit of some amount of education before he left Germany. It’s said that he was a trained draftsman, skills he would put to use later in his life.
Somehow, he ended up in Crete, Nebraska. He was one of the very first German Catholic settlers in the area, so we don’t believe he had any previous connection there. He started a business as a cabinetmaker and as his skills were so often called upon for making caskets, he expanded his business to include undertaking. Later, he co-founded a successful furniture store in Crete. When Frank first arrived in Crete, the nearest Catholic Church was in Lincoln, a distance of about 30 miles. Many times, Frank would walk to Lincoln to attend Mass and take care of other business. Often, Frank would host visiting priests and Mass would be celebrated at his furniture store.
He married a woman of Czech descent and they had seven children. In 1894, he finished building his new home at the top of the highest hill in Crete. Today, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the “Rademacher House”. Download this document from the National Park Service for more detail about Frank and his house.
Frank’s family became notable members of the original St. James Church and later the Sacred Heart Church in Crete. Two of his daughters, Agnes and Gertrude, were especially involved in the music of the church as vocal soloist and organist, respectively. Frank’s son Gerard inherited the furniture store and continued its operation until he retired.
Neither the furniture store nor the funeral home remain under Rademacher ownership today, nor does the famous Rademacher house. The three of Frank’s children who stayed in Crete never married, but I believe there descendants of Frank Rademacher living near York, Nebraska.
We visited the Rademacher House in 1991. I wrote about it in a previous version of this blog (still archived in this newer version).