As we saw in the previous post, the two Kreifels brothers and their families left Minnesota sometime in 1869. Their original intent was to move to Kansas, but they were unable to locate a German community there. Herman and his family chose to move to Nebraska City. Sebastian and his kids detoured to Oklahoma and then Broken Bow, Nebraska before finally settling down in the section of land just south of where Herman and his family had settled.
I found what may be Herman’s family in the 1870 census (page 23 of the Otoe Precinct). It appears as though the census taker listed the family under the head of household “Chris Harman” (instead of Herman Kreifels). Everything else about the family seems to line up – ages, genders and birthplaces all seem to match up pretty well.
Herman owns his own farm, listed at a value of $1500, so I presume he was able to sell his Minnesota farm in order to buy this one.
Sebastian does not appear, at least not that I could find. Perhaps his family was still struggling in Broken Bow or in Oklahoma at this time.
Sebastian’s life took a sad turn upon his eventual arrival in Nebraska. Another Kreifels cousin, Brenda Kreifels, uncovered this newspaper clipping from the Nebraska State Historical Society (unfortunately I do not have the exact date or name of the newspaper):
The text of the article is as follows:
Mr. Kreifel, a prominent German farmer living ten miles southwest of Nebraska City, committed suicide Monday by shooting himself with a revolver. No cause assigned for the deed.
As Brenda noted in a 1994 letter,
The information that Sebastian had committed suicide really startled me off my pins. Apparently no one in this branch of the family was aware of that. Thinking back over his history, I can sympathize with why he might have become so depressed. He was 31 when he came here, lived 5 years in Missouri, married, moved to Minnesota, was a successful farmer and 263 acres there, and had 5 children. After 14 seemingly peaceful years the poor man lost his wife, was chased out of Minnesota by the Indian uprisings, made a futile trip to Oklahoma to try to establish a homestead there, ended up in a sod house in Nebraska, and at the age of 56 with children ranging in age from 9 to 19 probably was completely overwhelmed at the prospect of starting all over again. Or, who knows, he might have found he had some incurable illness. At any rate it is a very sad bit of family history.
As I look through Sebastian’s life history, I see that throughout his life he seemed to have followed in his younger brother’s footsteps. It was Herman who first came to America, Sebastian followed later. It was Herman who first married a Blommer girl, Sebastian followed two years later. When the Kansas move didn’t pan out, it was Herman who gambled on Nebraska City and was able to settle onto a farm a short time later. Sebastian made what turned out to be the wrong choice and tried both Oklahoma and Broken Bow without success. Eventually he yet again followed his younger brother and settled near Nebraska City.
It’s also curious that Sebastian never remarried, as was the typical custom at the time. Life on the prairie as a single father must have been unimaginably difficult.
It is encouraging to know that Sebastian received a proper burial and tombstone in St. Benedict’s Cemetery in Nebraska City. It appears that the original tombstone is in poor condition and at some point, the family must have added the newer stone.