CHARLES AUGUST CARSH FAMILY
CHARLES AUGUST CARSH, SR., was born on 2 February 1832, near Breslau, Silesia, Germany; he died on 4 April 1930, at Humboldt, Richardson Co., Nebraska. Charles married TABITHA ANN JAMES on 22 October 1865, St. Joseph, Buchanan County, Missouri. She was born 9 November 1843, in White County, Tennessee, a daughter of John L. and Cynthia (Whitley) James; she died on 4 July 1894, in Richardson County, Nebraska.
In 1925, on the occasion of his 93rd birthday, a dinner was given in honor of Charles Carsch at the house of his son John, east of Humboldt, Nebraska. The Humboldt paper printed an account of the affair, which gave a brief history of Mr. Carsch:
Mr. Carsch has attained to the ripe old age of 93 years, coming to America from his birthplace near Breslau, Germany when a young man, and is the father of 3 generations, having 46 direct descendants. He first located in Minnesota and a few years later came to Nebraska, settling on a farm near Verdon. Here he resided for a few years when he moved to a farm near this city and in the years that followed through the medium of hard work, privation, and the exercise of good judgement he acquired a total of 480 acres of choice Richardson Co. land. In common with the youth of his day he listened to the call to arms and is now one of the few remaining Civil War veterans. The infirmities of old age now confine Mr. Carsch to the house . . . .
Five years later, Charles Carsch died at the age of 98 and an obituary was published in The Humboldt Standard:
Charles August Carsch, son of William Frederick Carsch, was born February 2, 1832, seven miles east of the city of Breslau, in the province of Silesia, Germany, and when a boy of about eleven years the dreadful Asiatic Cholera raged in Europe and visited the home town and he was bereft of both father and mother. The family was in good standing socially. There were three sons and one daughter in the family and one of the sons became vice-president of a Hamburg Steamship company. Later one of the brothers came to America and settled in the state of Minnesota. In the year 1862, at the age of about thirteen years, Charles Carsch came to America settling at Green Bay, Wisconsin. When the Civil War began he enlisted and entered the Transport and Supply service of the government, going up and down the Mississippi. After the war ended he came westward and entered Nebraska and soon he became the owner of a fine farm two miles southeast of Verdon, Nebraska. In 1865 he was united in marriage to miss Tabitha James from te state of Tennessee, whom he had met during his wanderings up and down the Mississippi. There being no railroads in those days, Mr. Carsch brought his bride to Nebraska by steamboat and finally to the new home at Verdon. Later they came to Humboldt, where they acquired three quarter-sections of fine fertile land. In the course of years nine children came to bless the home: Charles A. Carsch, Humboldt; John Carsch, who died in 1928; William of Lincoln; Mary, now Mrs. Stratton, Golden City, Mo.; Maggie, now Mrs. Hyde, Kansas; Cynthia Thompson, Humboldt; Joe Carsch, Auburn; Robert Carsch and Mrs. Alma Nelson of Humboldt.
Mr. Carsch united with the Lutheran Church while they resided in Verdon and after coming to Humboldt he placed his membership with the German Methodist Church, and we can bear testimony that as long as he was able he was a loyal member of the church. The last few years of his life he was feeble and helpless, but received the most tender care from Mrs. Thompson and other members of the family. On April 4, 1930, soon after the evening shadows had crept over the earth, he was summoned to meet his Creator, at the ripe old age of 98 years, 2 months and 9 days.
The general outlines of this account are no doubt correct, although some of the details may be questioned. Aside from the kind of reporter's error that gives the age of a 30-year-old man as "13" in 1862, it was of necessity based on statements made by Charles Carsch's children, who may not have been fully conversant with the details of their father's early career. The youngest child, Alma, was the informant for the death certificate filed with the state and she gave her father's parents as John Carsh and Mary Glathar.
The suggestion that Charles Carsch was in military service during the Civil War probably overstates the case, although the true story is at least as interesting. One summer day in the early 20s, Robert Carsh and his two sons, Ernie and Eddie, were at John Carsh's, where Grandad Carsh lived, to help with the farm work. Eddie was old enough to help with the work and normally had to, but this particular day Grandad Carsh was feeling sick and had almost fainted. Eddie's father told him to stay with Grandad and they sat under a tree together, while the others worked. Grandad got to feeling better and ended up talking all afternoon, which is how Eddie learned something of his life. In 1979, Ed told my father and I the stories Grandad Carsh had told him that day.
Grandad Carsh received an eighth grade education in the village in which he was raised near Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland). Breslau lies on the Oder River and when Grandad was 14 (or 16) he left home and went to Stettin, the harbor city at the mouth of the Oder. There he worked at the harbor until he was 28. In order to avoid being drafted into the Army for two years, Grandad then decided to go to New York. He planned eventually to go on to Australia. He had some relatives in New York to whom he had written and they had agreed to hire him. He worked for them about two weeks, but they refused to pay him and proposed to give him stock in their company instead. So he quit and went to Green Bay, Wisconsin.
When he first came to Wisconsin, Grandad worked cutting pulpwood, but the pay wasn't very high. Mildred Herr says that her "Grandpa said that someone took him to Wisconsin to cut big trees down. They didn't have any warm buildings to sleep in, and they only got a cup of soup cooked in an iron kettle outside. He said if you couldn't eat hot enough to burn your tongue, you could starve. Grandpa Carsh was a small man so cutting large trees down was quite hard for him. He was paid $1.00 wages per week. He saved up his dollars to get enough to travel to the Mississippi river where he heard he could get a job working on a boat."
To return to Ed Carsh's story, one night Grandad was at the harbor in Green Bay when a man came along looking to hire men to load grain. The pay was $40 a month plus board. The men standing around laughed at him and made jokes about how he wanted to work them to death. Apparently loading grain was considered very hard work and few men were interested in it. Grandad Carsh knew what it was like, however, because he had done it in Germany all the years he worked at the harbor. Grandad waited until the man got around the corner and then he circled around the other way and stopped him out of sight of the others. He said "I can do that work, you know I did it in Germany for 14 years" and the man said "Well, you're hired then."
Grandad worked for a while around Green Bay, but then started working for a German guy who owned a boat that carried cargos between New Orleans and Sioux City. The Civil War was in progress, but neither of them were citizens yet and the owner hired five Irishmen who also weren't citizens and had no obligation to serve in the Army. They managed to trade on the river despite the war, hauling wheat south and sugar and cotton to the North. [Once Grandad saw a soldier's corpse floating in the river.]
Grandad had an advantage on the Irishmen in lifting the sacks of grain. He was strong, with a thick chest, but was only about 5 feet, 5 inches tall, while the Irishmen were taller. The grain sacks weighed a hundred pounds or more and were long and thin. Grandad could catch them on his shoulder and walk off the boat with them without ever having to lift them up in the air. At night the Irishmen would be "plumb flat, just couldn't hardly go, and he felt pretty good yet."
There were Indians at Sioux City. The Indians would butcher a buffalo and put several pounds up on a sharp stick. They would carry it around all day intending to have it for supper. But in the meantime flies would almost cover the meat until you couldn't see it. [Another Indian tried to sell Grandad a buffalo robe and it looked like a nice big fur robe, but when he looked closely it was full of beetles.]
One Saturday night when he was working on the boat Grandad got all dressed up to go to town. It had sleeted and the boat was icy. They had a girl on the boat to do the cooking and she went to get a bucket of water to wash dishes or do something with. When she dipped down to put the bucket in the water her foot slipped on the ice and she fell in. Grandad was a strong swimmer and the other men urged him to dive in and save her, so he jumped in the water. The current was strong, however, and he had a hard time swimming with his overcoat on. He didn't want to lose it because it was a brand new overcoat, but he had to take it off and let it go. He couldn't save the girl and he ended up going quite a ways down the river. Just as he was getting out, his heel caught on his overcoat, which had followed him down the river. So he didn't lose his overcoat after all and when he got back to the boat each of the men gave him $5 or so for trying to save the girl.
Ed said that the Irishmen drank up all their money, but that Grandad saved his. He made $80 a month on the river boat and he worked on it for about three years.
Edna Carsh Chastain wrote me in 1970, when her father Bill Carsh was still alive, about Grandpa Carsh:
Charles lost his parents while he was still young. They died in Germany with the cholera. Charles stayed with a family there after his parents died and the man worked on boats. That is the way Charles got started working on boats. He worked there for quite some time and they got used to seeing him around the boats. They even gave him his meals. One day one of the boats was leaving for the United States. They were so used to seing him on the boat that he got all the way over here without any questions.
See Bruce Catton's Grant Moves South (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1960), pp. 347-51, for mention of this illicit trade that the government never succeeded in suppressing.
Mildred Herr tells a similar story, that she also heard directly from her grandfather, with whom her parents lived for a while after their marriage. She says that the accident happened on the boat crossing the ocean and that there was a woman working her passage and that of her 8 year old daughter by cooking and washing dishes. "One cold night when the little girl brought up the dish pan of water to throw over board she slipped, and fell over board. Grandpa Carsh was on deck and saw what happened, so even with a heavy overcoat on he jumped over board to try to save the child. He couldn't find her in the dark water, but he almost drowned with the heavy overcoat on. He almost froze after he fought to get back on the ship. He suffered rheumatism all his life."
1. Charles August Carsh, Jr., b. 26 Aug 1866; m. Ida Mary FOWLER 1891
2. John Howard Carsh, b. 4 Nov 1868; m. Lucinda Ellen REVELLE 1899
3. William Henry Carsh, 1 Mar 1871; m. Minnie Louise THOMPSON 1891
4. Mary Angeline Carsh, b. Mar 1872; m. Walter E. STRATTON 1895
5. Margaret Lou Carsh, b. Jun 1875; m. Charles A. HYDE
6. Cynthia Ann Carsh, b. 6 Jun 1879; m. Henry Ellis THOMPSON 1903
7. Joseph A. Carsh, b. 7 Sep 1882; m. Blanche HOWELL 1912
8. Robert Frank Carsh, b. 29 Jan 1884; m. Augusta Rosina PLAYER 1905
9. Alma Ida Carsh, b. 8 May 1888;
m1 Meredith DAVENPORT 1908; m2 Milton CLARK; m3 Elmer NELSON 1925