Our Families' Beginning

Just before the American Civil War, economic and social unrest in Germany brought many of her people to this continent.  Among this surge of immigrants was Heinrich Bernhard Rudolph Liepe, who must have been in his middle twenties, for the records show his birth date to be February 28, 1827.  As so many others had done, he came alone in order to get situated before sending for his bride-to-be.

We have no way of knowing how long "Grandpa" Liepe was in America on his own.  We can only speculate on how anxiously he awaited for the coming of Antonia Marie Caroline Johanne Schmiediegan, for her voyage across the Atlantic was of six weeks duration.  She was a young woman in her early twenties, having been born in Berlin December 7, 1833.  Love carried people on long, perilous journeys in those days.  They were married in new York on August 24, 1856.

Apparently "Grandpa" and "Grandma" did not remain in New York long for their son, William was born in New Orleans on September 28, 1857.  The motives must have been big ones to induce a young couple, newly wed in a strange land, to make so long a journey.

There is little knowledge of how the Liepes fared in New Orleans but it could not have been too disagreeable for they remained there several years.  The second child, Sophie, later to become Mrs. Wm. Schaab, was born there on January 1, 1860.  Some time after this, a fever epidemic broke out.  The limited medical knowledge of this period made it difficult to cope with this malady in a hot, humid climate.  Thus "Grandpa" and "Grandma" decided to move to a colder region, Chicago.  If they had remained, we would all be Confederates!

 Why Chicago?  Grandpa's brother, William, for whom his elder son was named, lived in Chicago at the time.  William Liepe wrote to his brother, suggesting that he and Grandma come there.  Also, it was perhaps most accessible, since this was the era or river transportation and the Mississippi served as a direct route.  Who knows, Mark Twain, author of Tom Sawyer, may have been their pilot!.  The third child of the Liepes, Antonia, to become Mrs. Herman Henschel, was born in the windy city August 9, 1862.

There is little record of how the Liepes fared economically, but "Grandpa" undoubtedly worked his trade, which was shoemaking.  German artisans were world-famous for the fine quality of their workmanship and "Grandpa" Liepe was no exception.  In this period most shoes, boots of leather, and ballroom slippers were hand made, often to fit the individual like tailoring a suit.  A good cobbler commanded a high wage as well as the respect of the entire community.

The Liepes had barely settled down in Chicago when the urge to move again overtook them.  From the fever swamp of hot New Orleans they had tried the windy blasts of zero winters in the North; now they decided to try an intermediate climate.

In all probability it was from their German newspaper in Chicago that "Grandpa" and "Grandma" read about the Deutsche Verein in Egg Harbor City.  The soil in the vicinity of Egg Harbor was reputed to be quite suitable for the raising of wine and other grapes.  The culture of this fruit the Liepes knew something about.

The purchase of Farm No. 1085, Cologne Avenue, Hamilton Township, Atlantic County by the Liepes took place during the Civil War, for a child named Harry was born there on January 7, 1865.  He died four years later and was the first of the Liepes to be buried in the Egg Harbor Cemetery.

We have often read about the pioneers of long ago, how they opened new ground, established farms out of wilderness and lived in the crudest of houses.  All of this seems so remote to us, like a story.  Yet that is exactly what the elders experienced during those early years on Farm 1085.

The first buildings, a house and barn, were built of logs.  They were roasting hot in summer, cold and drafty in winter.  The children slept in the loft upstairs.  To reach it they had to go outside and up a ladder on the side of the dwelling.

Two more children were born to the Liepes at the old farm.  Bertha, who became Mrs. Albert Grunow, arrived on November 14, 1867 and George on July 25, 1875.

"Grandpa" and "Grandma" Liepe, with the help of their older son Will and later by son George when he became of age, planted their grapes and other crops.  By hard work and careful economy they improved their farm.  Their income was supplemented by Grandpa's skill as a cobbler.  Shoes of various types were made complete from the raw materials.  They were sold in Egg Harbor and even in Philadelphia, the older girls taking them in a basket on the train, as they could go for half fare.

A new barn was built in 1879 to replace the old log structure.  It was done frontier style by raising a bee, accompanied by appropriate celebration.  This building was not only used to house the live stock, but for neighborhood events as well.  Here the folks gathered for singing and dancing and merrymaking that often continued far into the evening.  Commercial entertainment was unknown in rural communities then so all put their talents together and amused themselves.  This tended to make the people more sociable than the were at later periods when the theater and other forms of entertainment drew them apart.  Yes, the old barn saw many jolly parties in its day.  It finally went down with the hurricane of 1944.

A new house was built in 1884.  It was a big improvement over the original and is the one displayed on the centennial tour of the old farm.

A the years went by, other lands were bought.  Elder son Will, who married Nanni Mittelsdorfer, took over the homestead.  Younger son George married Susan Dotts, who is the only survivor of that generation.  They spent their early years on the property now known as The Conifers Nursery, near the old homestead.  Since then the sons of Will and George have added to their original farm many times.

Eldest daughter, Sophie and her husband, William Schaab, acquired the farm just across Cologne Avenue from :over home."  Their sons and family still reside there and their grandchildren all live within the area, adding their efforts to the community.

Antonia and her husband, Herman Henschel, bought a farm in Pomona which the family worked for many years.  They finally sold out and moved to Egg Harbor.  many of their children and families still live in the area and have served in many fields of endeavor.

Albert and Bertha Grunow also acquired a farm in Pomona where the raised their family.  Two of their grandsons still operate a farm there, trading as Grunow Brothers.

So the family of Henry and Antonia Liepe, now too numerous to mention individually, lives on!  The many marriages throughout the years have added their contributions to it.  many of the family have remained in Atlantic County, virtually becoming part of the soil.  Others have taken with them elsewhere the family qualities of honesty and industry which make then an asset wherever they go.

by Eugene V Young (1910-2001), grandson of Sophie Liepe Schaab, great grandson of Henry and Antonia Liepe.  This story was written shortly before the 1963 family reunion or centennial of the Liepes in New Jersey.

Liepe Family History