Note: "Family Roots" � a history of Theodore and Anna Koch ** by Ila Schroeder While growing up during the 40's I was never really proud of my ancestry, in fact sometimes I was even embarrassed. I remember my mother talking to me in the K & K store in German and I would look around to see if anybody would be close around to hear us. It wasn't that I was ashamed of my parents, but at that time World War II was in progress and we would hear all of the horror stories of Hitler and the holocaust. Somehow I thought that because we were German, that we were also to blame, because all of our relatives were back in Germany. Today, I am very proud of my heritage and I am happy to tell about my roots. My parents were Theodore and Anna Meier Koch. My father, Ted or "Teddy" as he was called in America, was born in 1899 in Geseke, Westfalen, Germany. My mother was born in a neighboring town of Wewelsburg, named after a huge castle that stood on a hill in the midst of the little village. During their courtship, my father decided to go to America to join his brother, John and sister Jenny, who had already settled here. They had left the large Koch family in Geseke and followed two uncles. They were Joseph Bartscher who settled in the Salem, SD area and Henry Bartscher near Epiphany, SD. Ted had asked Anna to wait for him and in a short time after he had looked things over, he would return for her. This was in 1923, when he left, leaving his girlfriend behind. He knew that he wanted to farm so with the help of his uncles, brother and sister he ventured to the Epiphany area to till the soil, set up bachelor housekeeping and try to raise a crop. But it was more difficult than he had anticipated. "A short time" became a year and a year drug into years and still he was unable to accumulate together enough money to go back and retrieve the "girl of his dreams". Meanwhile back in Germany, Anna was receiving her education which consisted of working for a Baron and Baroness. Here she learned how to clean, cook, sew and all the fine arts of nobility. When all the promises of her boyfriend in America were becoming futile, she began courting other young men. I remember her asking us, "how would you have liked to have been born in Argentina?" One of those she was seeing had even asked her to marry and go to South America. I guess she said "no" because she still had hope that her true love would return. In the fall of 1928, Ted wrote to Anna and said, "I am coming to get you!" They were married on February 11, 1929 and set sail on their "honeymoon" for Epiphany, South Dakota in America. They left behind their parents, brothers, sisters, and all their relatives and friends in search of "Freedom" and "a better way of life." But it was not always "a better way of life." They left behind them all the modern facilities of running water and electricity. My mother was happy to be here and in November, she gave birth to their first child. My parents received much help from my Uncle John, his wife Lena and their seven children, who are Elizabeth (Kerkvliet), Jennie (Krier), Virgene (Herbst), Joe Koch all of Salem, Robert Koch of Sturgis, SD, and Lornie Koch of Colton, SD. Harry died in a drowning accident years ago. Aunt Jenny and her husband August Dold were expecting their first child. My mother was dealt her first blow in July, 1930 when, Jenny who had become like a sister to my mother, died in child birth along with her baby girl. Anna was devastated and wondered how she could get along without her 2ND best friend. A year or so following, August went to Germany and returned with his new bride Catherine. Their children were Angelita, JoAnn, Marguerita, August Jr., Mary and Agnes. Our families became very close and Christmas was always spent with them. Ted needed sons to help him on the farm and they were first blessed with 3 sons, Hubert & his wife Alice (Marshall) live on an acreage near Salem, SD. They have 8 children. Carl & wife Jeanette (Kass) reside in Salem, SD and are the parents of four. Tony & wife Marilyn (Hicks) of Pierre, SD have five children. Then it was time for Anna to have some help so God sent to them 3 daughters, Ila & husband John Schroeder who farm near Alexandria, SD. They have five children. Doris & husband Gene Cumbee, live in Salem, SD, with 4 children. And Mary Ann & husband Ken Cross, parents of four, reside in Sioux Falls, SD. It was during the time of the Dirty 30's. The Depression had a grip on the whole nation and the Koch household as well. Ted & Anna had made another move. This time to the Salem, SD area. I am sure there were many times when my mother wondered if she had made the right choice by coming to America. They could still correspond with their family in Germany. But then the letters quit coming and the news over the radio was not good. Now I often ponder on what my parents had experienced thinking of their loved ones back across the ocean while a war was waging. Some of my cousins here had been sent over there to fight against each other and they could do nothing about it. As the "war clouds" lifted, I remember my parents weeping as the mail resumed and they started receiving white letters edged in black. They were the death notices of those who had passed away. Now we knew why our Grandmother Koch said to our parents, on their departure from Germany in 1929, "It is like burying our children alive." And they too knew that they would never see each other again. It was so very much different then. Now we are only nine or so hours apart, then it was weeks. While growing up I was jealous of other girls and boys because they had grandparents, aunts and uncles. We only had one. I guess that is why we latched on to anyone who could speak German. We were like adopted by our Great Uncles and their families because we were always included in their family gatherings. Uncle Joe and Uncle Henry Bartscher were strong, courageous men with true pioneer blood and spirit. It was as tho our Grandmother (Bartscher) Koch in Germany had entrusted us to them. The War had ended and things were getting back to normal. Our father, Ted went out on a limb and purchased his first piece of property. A farm with a 1/2 section of land southeast of Salem for $10,000. With 3 teenage sons to help do the work, everything should go well. But it didn't. In the Spring of 1946, our daddy became sick while putting in the crop. He suffered from terrific headaches, no doctors had the answer. On August 23rd he died of a brain tumor. With 6 children ranging from 5-17, Anna was left to go on alone. She was determined to better herself in learning the English language and to drive a car. With the help of our Great Uncle Joe Bartscher, she became knowledgeable about the farming business and so she and the boys "took over the farm." In the Fall of 1949 she decided to return to her homeland, Germany, for her first visit. We thought that she would return happy and content after seeing all the remaining family, relatives and friends. But instead she slipped into a deep depression. Seeing all the ruins and hearing all the horror stories were too much for her. Hitler had taken over her little village of Wewelsburg, set up secret offices in the castle and even erected a crematorium there. Her brother had suffered the loss of an eye while digging trenches for the dead under the Nazi regime. The castle was then bombed by Allied Forces and the townspeople set free. Our poor mother suffered greatly for this experience with nightmares for a long time. But bounce back she did with even more vigor than before. After that she made many return trips to Germany and each time she could see their progress. Had our parents not made that brave decision to come to America when they did, then I too would have been a war survivor, or maybe even a casualty. Anna Koch did a wonderful job bringing her children to adulthood, always with a deep-rooted faith in God. In 1960, a bachelor, a short robust Englishman, who had admired here for all her strength and courage asked her to marry him. He wanted to provide for her and she would no longer have to clean people's homes to make a living. She became Mrs. Jim Middleton but not for long. He died very suddenly in April 1966 of a heart attack while dancing, which had always been his favorite pastime. Once again her life was marred by tragedy. Her health began to fail in her late 70's and she spent the remainder of her life in a nursing home in Salem, SD. Anna Koch Middleton died March 18, 1985. Was she happy that she came to America? You bet she was! Her respect for our flag was greater than most all of us have. She always treasured the memory of seeing for the first time the Statue of Liberty. She would go to the schools and speak to students about Americanism and what it meant to be a citizen of the United States of America. Her language would be broken and sometimes difficult to understand but she was never too embarrassed to stand up for and defend our country. We have been fortunate enough that all of the children of the late John & Ted Koch have been able to visit and meet all of our many relatives in Germany and they have been able to do the same. Today, our entire family is proud to have our parents, Theodore F. Koch and Anna C. Meier Koch's names engraved on the Immigrant Wall of Fame at Ellis Island in New York Harbor near the Statue of Liberty. Today I am so happy to pass on this legacy to my family and their families for generations to come. My husband John Schroeder and I were blessed with 5 children, Bernie, Deb Bender, Steve, Brenda Steilen and Sandra Scheuren. I hope for them to remember Grandma not only for the lemon drops, being Santa on Christmas Eve, but also for her courage and stamina which was reflected throughout her life.
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