In recent posts on this topic, we have learned how the Kreifels brothers and their families traveled with their father-in-law Mathias Blommer from Missouri to Minnesota in 1855. They lived in Minnesota for about 15 years. They acquired land (some of it purchased, some of it homesteaded) and were caught up at least to some degree in the Indian uprisings of 1862. By the late 1860’s, they had had enough. Enough of what I’m not entirely sure – the cold winters were said to be a factor. Their father-in-law Mathias seems to have been a larger-than-life character. Were they wanting to be independent of his influence and control? Sebastian’s wife died in 1864 leaving with him to raise his five children alone. Perhaps Minnesota held too many sad memories for him.
Records about exactly when and why they left Minnesota are a little sparse but we can glean a few details from a couple of different sources.
From the Kreifels Family Book:
- Records from Minnesota state that Peter Blommer (brother-in-law to Herman and Sebastian) was appointed Power of Attorney in 1869 for land that the two brothers owned. I assume this means that they left Minnesota in 1869 and would later ask Peter to sell their land on their behalf. (There may be more records about all of this – something to add to the to-do list!)
- However, Sebastian’s youngest daughter Anna told of leaving Minnesota in 1868.
- Sebastian’s descendants related the following story:
Sebastian and his family of five chidlren traveled by covered wagon with two cows and two horses and all their possessions. Someone painted Sebastian a glorious picture of Oklahoma. He discovered very red soil and so very dray, no grass to graze for his horses and cattle. He thought the famnily would starve so they traveled by covered wagon to Broken Bow, Nebraska to establish their new home. While there a few days, a severe hail storm riddled their canvas-covered wagon, killed a horse and a cow. Sebastian and family limped along with a cow and a horse and battered wagon. Sebastian moved his family to Paul, Nebraska.
- Sebastian’s son Peter said that the family camped in the area of the present Wyuka Cemetery in Lincoln (presumably on their way from Broken Bow to Paul).
From the Mathias Blommer letter of July 20, 1871:
First, I want to tell you the reason why I and my three sons left Minnesota and traveled here to the State of Nebraska [note: Mathias is talking about why his letter is posted from Nebraska]. My two sons-in-law, Sebastian and Herman Kreifels, who lived with us in Minnesota, sold their farms two years ago because it was always so cold there. And they firmly decided to travel to the southern area of the State of Kansas.
A German, who formerly lived here in Minnesota in our neighborhood, had written back to us that they should sell out, leave Minnesota and come there. They had good level land there, and also three Priests were there. He was living in a little town and that land there could be had for $5.00 per acre. Now about 40 miles from him there were still millions of acres of land for Homesteading, where each person, free of charge, could get 160 acres. Within two years, in the month of July, they began their travel. Each one took two wagons and each one took six horses with them for the travel. Through the state of Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri and to Kansas they followed the land maps that they had with them. After a long laborious travel, they finally arrived in Southern Kansas, rejoicing that they were in good health, and that they were about to shake the hand of their old German acquaintance. But their friend was no longer there. The following day, they went to the Priests to question them on the subject of their settling there. Then they found out that not one of the Priests could understand a single word of German. They were all Irish. They continued the conversation with them in English.
Here it became very doubtful for them with these two families who had fourteen children with them, and no one in the group that could speak correct English. After that, they asked the Priests if it would be unsafe for them to settle down there. Then the Priests questioned whether it was even safe for them to settle there because of the Indians, of which thousands are still homing there. And because of that, the Priests told them, they could not promise them safe settling since for fourteen days the Indians in that locality had already been doing the war dance. When, or if, they and the Government in a short time do not reach a settlement, then perhaps they will not be able to hold them back from overrunning the white settlers and robbing and murdering them.
The area there was all beautiful level land, very little wood, and mostly all prairie. There was also enough coal in the surrounding areas to keep them warm. All the people that were in that area had become somewhat brown from sunburn. At that it seems that almost the whole settlement there was made up of the dregs and scum of mankind.
After three days of delay, they themselves decided to turn their wagons around again and to travel to the State of Nebraska were they, with much exhaustion and without trouble, arrived cheerfully in Nebraska City.
Three and one-half months they had been travelling, somewhat like the Israelites in the desert. We had already sixteen years before traveled for about seven weeks from Missouri to Minnesota. This journey the two sons-in-law had already made with us. They now live about eight miles from Nebraska City, which has a population of about 8- to 10,000 people. It is now, I believe, about 18 to 20 years since it has been established. Now that land here is pretty expensive. They have here 160 acres of prairie land for which they had to pay $1,600 upon which no work had been done, and also without a stick of wood or brush growing on it. But it’s very good rich land upon which all field crops grow, especially very beautiful barley. However, it is not as level as it is in Minnesota. They call this land here rolling prairie land. There still lies here millions of acres of prairie land, some valleys and brush land the same as how the Creator created it.
So here is what I make of all of this:
- Sebastian and his family may have left Minnesota as early as 1868 with the intention of settling in Oklahoma. Only Mathias states that his sons-in-law Herman and Sebastian journeyed together from Minnesota to Nebraska; Sebastian’s children did not recall it this way.
- However, it’s possible that the two families did travel together in 1869 as far as Kansas. When that didn’t pan out, maybe Sebastian headed for Oklahoma while Herman headed for Nebraska.
- Multiple sources (including an Otoe County biography) state that Herman arrived in Otoe County in 1869.
- Sebastian probably arrived in Otoe County after Herman and his family did.
Eventually, both brothers settled in the Rock Creek precinct of Otoe County, Nebraska.