Ramaker Trails

The following Ramaker Tales were written by Aloise Ramaker after listening for so many years to Hattie, Sam and Fred as they relived the past when they got together. The Tales were provided by John Koops.

In the long ago and far away --1887 I think---Stephen Ramaker left Bentheim Germany and came to the United States. He was in his 30s. There were other fellows too. They left Germany rather than go into the army. There was George Vos, a Mr. Snider and a half brother Stephen Ramaker. Stephen, the father of Fred was probably Stephen Dirk. His mother married a Ramaker who also had children.

The two Stephens and the rest came to Kansas. They homesteaded and later bought the home place--320--acres and paid $1.00 down. The family was raised on this place and lived there till all were married and gone. George never married, but stayed with his mother till they retired and moved to Downs.

Father Stephen wrote back to Germany to another half-brother, Hank. He was called Big Hank. As there were two Hanks also. Stephen asked him to come to America and to bring Grace Kuipers along as he wanted to marry her. Grace was only 18 years old. She never saw any of her family again. She came with Hank also John Ramaker and John Naber, a friend and neighbor. Grace worked for George Vos's family till she and Stephen were married. The other Stephen went to Prairie View and married Lena Decker. They moved to Iowa and made money. The Iowa Ramakers were considered the rich relation by the Kansas Ramakers.

John Naber worked as a farm hand and lived in a dugout just west of Stephen and Grace. The home place was located in Osborne county. The North East corner joining Smith County on the North, Jewel County on the East, Mitchell County on the North East. Cawker City Rural Route was their mailing address. They lived closer to Downs.

The Ramakers were farmers and they raised many crops. Wheat went to the mill for flour. Feed was grown to feed the animals. Chickens were raised for food and eggs They butchered cows and pigs for meat. They had their own milk, vegetables and fruit. If they didn't have fruit trees, the neighbors probably did. Gardens provided the only vegetables. All you bought at the store was sugar, matches, salt and tobacco. This they paid for by selling cream and eggs. You went to the store to do your trading.

Stephen bought 160 acres to the west of their neighbor Pete Debey. He paid $1,750 for it. This was In 1918 and war time. He borrowed the money from Uncle John Ramaker. John had married Hattie Deters. They had no children, so weren't so poor.

Later, when the war prices were off, the farm wasn't worth much, so they couldn't pay. They wanted to give the land to Uncle John, but he wouldn't take it. Twelve children were born to Stephen and Grace. One died at birth and one In early Infancy. Ten grew up, Sue, George, Gertie and Hattie the twins, Sarah, Henry, Sinnie, Herman, Sam and Fred. In Dutch--they were Gerit, Susan, Swantjie, Hendrika, Gertruda, Hendrik, Harm, Gezenia, Hermina, Samuel, and Fredrick

George served in the first world war. Nick and Harm Kuicken, Nick Stegink and Harm Kuiken were his friends who went at the same time. George got the flu and never went across. Hank was never strong. He had pneumonia and they removed one lung. J.O. Hodgson was their doctor.

The first house was by the county road but later moved down the hill South. They added on to it then. It had a screened in porch around the East and South sides of the house. There was a kitchen, dining room, parlor, two bedrooms downstairs and three bedrooms upstairs. The parlor had a piano and the top was full of all of the family pictures. There was a cellar under the house that was damp and cool. Mostly there was water on the floor. Some food was stored there. Some people stored potatoes in their cellars all winter Some people had caves that were good for storing vegetables, and for security from tornadoes. The canned, I mean home canned foods, were usually in the cellar. It was also the home of lizards and bugs. There was a cistern on the porch that furnished water for the house. This was rain water that ran from the roof when it rained. It was soft water and tasted much different than well water. You learned to like cistern water and then you didn't like well water. If you didn't have a cistern you hauled your water from the well that was usually a good walk from the house. The wells were for the livestock and were usually near the barn. The cistern water was kinda strong tasting and, if it got low during dry times, it wasn't very sanitary. It often became stagnant, unless an obliging frog took up his abode there, then he kept the water stirred up. I remember drinking cistern water that had lots of little wigglers in it. I've often wondered since just what they were. The cistern would run dry sometimes when we had drouth. More buildings were built as time went on. There was a big barn with a hay loft. There was alfalfa and grass hay. Down stairs there were stalls for the horses and stanchions for the cows

In the Winter the cows were milked in the barn, and in the corral in the summer. The hay crop was stored in the loft. It protected the hay and was handy to feed that way. The hay that couldn't be up there was stacked in the field. The hay was hauled in on hay racks and hoisted up in the barn with a big hay fork on a pulley. The women usually walked the horse that pulled the fork up while one man filled the fork and the other forked it in place in the loft. Grandma did this with one child hinging on her skirts and pregnant with another I liked farming but vowed I'd never be a farmers wife. A woman's lot on the farm was hard. They washed clothes and ironed without electricity, no running water, no conveniences, hot in summer cold, in winter. They baked and cooked on the cook stove. The men put up wood in the winter or whenever they had time. Cobs were used to start the fire. The cobs came from the corn sheller or the hop pen when the pigs ate corn. There was a lot of timber in the creek. All the farming was done with horses or mules. There was a chicken house, corn crib, garage, milk house, where the milk was separated from the cream, You used the cream for butter and household use. There was whipped cream and ice cream that took a lot of doing, and cream on cereal. The skim milk went to the baby calves, pigs and chickens. The remainder of the cream was taken to the grocery store and was traded for groceries. The eggs were also taken to the local store. Dispatch had a grocery store where you could take your cream and eggs. Uncle Garrett and Aunt Anne on Granny Vande Reit's side of the family were the store keepers for a number of years. Martin Bykstra and his family were there for years also. The grocery store was a hang out for the kids on catechism nights and church gatherings This was part of the entertainment for kids and, grown ups alike.

There was a pole tax on all males . They could work this out on the roads. Roads needed a lot of work, as they were dirt roads and when it rained you struggled through and made deep tracks that had to be leveled out as soon as it dried enough to run a harrow or a drag over them. They would call it dragging the road. Grandpa got hurt when running a fresno. The evener broke and he was pulled into the handle. It hit him in the stomach. He was never well after that. Some of the family said he had an aneurysm. He died at 61. He had euremic poisoning

George was then the head of the house. Fred was 9 years old. George never married. He was very near it once. He courted a widow of his friend who died young and left a couple of children. Her name was Treva Koonish. George felt obliged to care for his mother and Treva didn't feel that she could live that way. George and Grandma moved to Downs. They went to the Congregational Church. After Grandma died, George lived alone. He had problems with circulation. He had a blood clot in his leg which gave him drop foot. Soon the foot died. He went to Grand Island, Nebraska to the Veterans Hospital. There they finally amputated his leg. After that he was able to come home for awhile. The strain on the good foot caused trouble. The good leg was not good. It had been injured in a terrible farm accident. He was alone in the field disking with the tractor when he reached back to release the disk to turn the corner and lost his balance. The tractor disk went round and round. George lay helpless as he had been run over with one leg by the disk wheel. A neighbor saw him as he drove by on the road. They took him by ambulance to Beloit Hospital. They fixed him up with a plate in his leg. This leg was shorter than the other and never strong. So this leg was finally amputated too. This one was amputated clear to the hip. George suffered much. His sister Hattie moved into the house and got George home. She cared for him and ruined her own health lifting far beyond her strength.

Sue married John Keoteeuw. He was from Denver and they farmed In Kansas., John never felt well and they were so poor. They had Leonard, Stanley, Marie, Irene, and Elinor. In the 30s they moved to Denver and John ran a printing press in Frank and Hatties basement when they lived on Williams Street.. Gertie married John Dengerink. They farmed near Dentonia. There was a grocery store, a church, and a school and an old house that was empty at that time. This was after the kids were grown. Gretta taught school at that time. They had Harold, Sylvester, Evelyn, and Gretta. Henry and Mildred Vande Riet became very evangelistic and started a community church there. Henry preached. He became a fanatic. I think they still have church there. Gertie and John moved to Downs and that is where John died of heart trouble.

Hattie married Frank Keoteeuw, John's brother, and lived in Denver. Frank put up his printing press in the basement of his house and worked some with John, but he had his own job with Dixon Paper Company.

Sarah married George Nyhoff from Prairie View. They farmed there. Later they bought the hardware store in Dispatch till the kids were grown and then moved to Downs where George was custodian of the schools and sometimes ran the school bus. They had Ivan, Lloyd, Vernon, Merle and Larry.
I forgot Hattie's family. They had Kathleen and Virginia.

Hank married Sue Egink from Vona, Colorado. They farmed on the Pete Debey place next to the Ramaker's home. They also farmed other farms close by. Hank was never very well. They went to California for a period of time and finally settled on a little farm or acreage North of Downs High School. They had two girls, Gloria and Shirley. Hank died at 57 of Cancer and Sue lived after that a while. She became prematurely Senile at the age of 54 and spent her last days at Bethesda. They never found out what her problem was. Years later they found a cure. It was like a water heat, but then they couldn't help her. Shirley gave up her job with the telephone company and took care of Sue till they brought her to Bethesda,

Herman married Bertha Koops, Egbert's daughter, of Dispatch. They farmed the Pete Debey place just West of Grandma Ramaker for awhile then moved to Downs and had a gas station and delivery services to the farmers. Then Herman went to auctioneers school and he and Bill Getty bought the Downs sale Barn from Roy Brakey where he did very well and was there till he died at the age of 63. Bill sold out to Lawrence Reinert and they worked together until Herman died. Bertha finally sold her share to Lawrence.They had two girls Ivalee and Joanne.

Sinnie married Renzo Koops and they were farmers too. Renzo was a brother to Herman's wife Bertha. They built a house and lived on the place North of Dispatch where Wayne Millers are living now. Later, when Renzo's father died they farmed the land. Later his mother Anna moved to Downs and Renzo moved his family to the home place, till they moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan to be with their boys in Calvin College. Gerald, the oldest decided to be a farmer, so he stayed and farmed.

Sam married Grace Remick, of Downs and moved to Denver later. He worked at Sales Service Station for a while and then got a job as salesman for a Bakers Supply Co. He changed to Rust Bakers Supply later. He traveled a great deal of the time.They had two boys Stephen Dirk and Jan Edward. Grace died of a heart attack at the age of 58. A few years later Sam married Marie.

Fred married Aloise Vande Riet and they were going to farm and live North of Downs. Fred sewed wheat but the drought had started already. The winds blew and the dust flew. Crops blew out of the ground. No food for the animals. The farmers gathered Russian thistles and poured sorghum they had over them and fed the cattle what they had. The farmers made sorghum out of cane. Some farmers did. Joe Koops had a sorghum mill. It was the best tasting sorghum in the country. This was the beginning of the depression. They spent their honeymoon in Denver with Alta and Chuck Birza, who were married the year before. This was the time of the dust storms. Fred had a farm rented in Kansas, but they never went back. Uncle Ben Borger worked at Montgomery Wards and got Fred started working there to take the place of people on vacation. The cattle were starving at home. The government bought them for $1.00 a piece and destroyed them. The trees died and the dust drifted high as the fence posts. Some people died of dust pneumonia. Sometimes the dust would settle without wind. Mostly it blew and the air was full of electricity. If you were out doing chores, you might not get back to the house. You could wonder around and get lst like a dark night. Some farmers left to try their fortunes elsewhere. People with furniture and carpets covered everything and hung sheets in the windows. During one storm there was a program in the country school house. They were stranded there for some time. When they got home, everything was under drifts of dust. Fred was laid off for awhile. The wages were 10 dollars a week. He worked one half day for Brookridge Dairy when Wards called him back. Brookridge paid him 25 cents for his mornings work. He worked for Wards for 15 years. Managed the Farm store a few years and got fired. It was for violating Company procedure, but really it was politics. His boss really wanted the job because it paid more in commission. It was Easter time and the assistant manager, Bud Brecht, wanted some flowers to put on his sisters grave over the weekend at Brush Colorado. They had already put the money away for the weekend so he took the flowers and shrubs anyhow to be paid on Monday. The store cop was watching the back of the store from the other building with binoculars. He saw this hasty deal and Monday morning was there to confront them. They were both fired. He had been watching someone else, who he suspected, and happened to see them. Fred got a lawyer to clear his name and went to work at the Sears Farm Store. He really wanted to be an auctioneer and finally got in with J.I. Hawley on North Federal. He learned to auction by himself. Hawley used him but he bought the Gooch Feed Business from Hawley and worked up a good business still trying to get in the auction business. J.I. Hawley left his sale barn go and sold the land. Fred kept the feed business and auctioned for Clarence Penrod in his barn a few blocks South of Hawleys. He wanted to lease it and got Al Kats interested in going in with him. Al was looking for something for his son Gail and decided to go along with Fred. The feed business went down fast. Glen Kool ran it for him, but It was small stuff to Glen who had bigger ideas than a small feed business. he went into the hay business. He made good money.

"Little" Steven Ramaker was one of the Ramakers who emigrated to America from Alte Piccardie, Germany. The family records stated that Steven was born a "Dirk" and his father died and his mother married H. J. Ramaker. Steven's name was then changed to Ramaker. The story went on to say that H. J. Ramaker already had children by a previous marriage and he already had a son named Steven; so, they called his biological son "Big" Steven and his adopted son "Little" Steven.

Genealogical Research Associates, Inc. Of salt Lake City, Utah was given a contract to try to find out the names of "Little" Steven Ramakers Parents.

The GRA report was received in January 1999, and what a surprise. The Dirk story was not true. "Little" Steven was the second son of Hindrik Jan Ramaker and Zwenne Koel. Hindrik Jan Ramaker married Zwenne when he was 19 years of age and she was just turning 35. Hindrik Jan Ramaker and Zwenne Koel had three sons and then she died and Hindrik Jan Ramaker married Fenne Lefers and had nine children with Fenne Lefers.

The report shows that "Little" Steven was older than his half-brother who was called "Big" Steven.

The first son of "Little" Steven Ramaker and his wife Geeze (Grace) Küpers was named Steven Dirk, but this child died in infancy.