HISTORY OF LOUISE MARIE KOEBBEL PORTER
Contributor: finnsh Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
This history was told to her daughter, Elizabeth Porter Whittle. Remarks in parentheses are added by Mrs. Whittle.
My father was of German-Austrian origin. He was a very stern and domineering man. In our family his word was law. A Catholic himself, he insisted that we children be baptized and confirmed in the Catholic faith. One day, while breaking up coal for the fire, he was blinded in one eye with a piece of flying coal. I have no pictures of my father because he never would have a picture of himself taken.
My mother was of German-Polish origin. She belonged to the Lutheran Church. She secretly had two of my brothers re-baptized and re-confirmed in the Lutheran faith.
There were seven children in our family, four girls and three boys. Their names were: Annie, Minnie, Elizabeth, and Louise--myself, Ernest, John, and Charles. Elizabeth died of cancer when she was ten years old. John disappeared when he was only fourteen. We mourned him for dead. We decided that he must have been eaten by cannibals. (This fallacy was corrected by Will King, Minnie's son, when he was in Rexburg in 1961. He told us that John returned home and died of natural causes.)
I was my father's favorite. Whenever he went walking on
the beach, which was nearly every Sunday, I was his companion. I could always take a friend along. At that time it was stylish to wear bustles. We made ours with newspapers. We folded the newspapers over a string and tied the string around our waists under out petticoats. The newspapers made a delightful rustling sound when we walked. When I was young I was very slender and supple. I hadn't such great thick shoulders as you girls have. I was so limber I could sit flat on the floor with one leg stretched out in front of me and one leg straight out behind as you see performers do.
Whenever our family was at table and the chatter annoyed my father, he would ban all conversation except that spoken in the German language. This meant that Father and Mother and I were the only ones who could talk since we alone could speak in German. (This bit seemed to amuse my mother very much. It probably recalled some very amusing memories. I asked Mother why she had never taught us German. She replied that Dad made fun of anything German and would not permit it. She also said that her father disapproved of a show of affection and that explained why she did not show more open affection for us children.)
My father made us a good living. He had a business of his own in which he made barrels and baskets. We belonged to the middle or business class of people. Our home was well furnished. Our parlor was furnished with furniture upholstered in a horsehair material. There were several large, heavy hardwood chests of drawers in the bedrooms and in one of these were some beautiful and expensive dresses which we secretly admired and tried on. We dared not inquire to whom they belonged. No one ever wore them to our knowledge. Our bedding was different from that which we use today. My mother had soft thick feather ticks, twice as long as our beds. On these ticks she put fine linen slips, very much like our pillow cases, but much larger. At night when we went to bed we would line on one half of the tick, as on a mattress, and pull the other half over us as a cover. We didn't use quilts. Umm... Those ticks were soft and warm. All of my mother's household supplies were of linen. They were a part of her dowry when she married father.
Whenever my father bought oysters at the market, he would bring them home and instead of having them cooked at once, he would take them out into the garden, dig a hole, and bury them. After a length of time he would dig them up. This made them grow fat and very delicious We had many kinds of sea food because we lived near the sea. There were white eels, long snake-like creatures that were good, and people cooked and ate them. Even though they were cut into pieces, they would twitch in the pan while drying. When father killed a pig, he saved the blood and made blood sausage. He caught the blood in a container and kept it from coagulating by stirring and keeping it slightly warm. He rendered the lard and put the cracklings that were left into this blood. We never quit stirring until the sausage was done. It was a special treat. (Mother considered the blood sausage very delicious. Father did not like German blood sausage but enjoyed English blood pudding, kidneys, and tripe.)
We went to school the year 'round in Australia except for vacations. We had two weeks vacation at Easter and two weeks vacation at Christmas. At the age of fourteen I became an assistant teacher and at seventeen I became a full-fledged teacher. I shall never forget the examinations I took at the end of my schooling. The tests were administered by seven male examiners. They were oral tests. The men sat in a half circle facing me. First one and then another fired questions at me. Following the tests I became a teacher. (Mother was a remarkable speller. I never knew her to misspell a word, although we all referred to her when we needed help. She warned me that the spelling rules were most important. She wrote a beautiful hand in Spencerian style.)
I married your father when I was seventeen. My father did not approve of my friendship with Dad and when I left home and married him I lost contact with my family. I never saw them again.
We were very poor because he had no training in a specific field of endeavor. He had attended private schools but had no practical training. In England the oldest son inherited the family property. The younger sons either married money or went out to make a living for themselves. Your father worked at prospecting but had no luck. People in Australia called the mines "the diggings". He worked at any odd job he could get and was often out of work. At one of these times when Arthur was only nine years old he ran all the way home to tell me his dad had a job at three dollars a day. When he reached home he was so out of breath the poor kid could not speak for some time.
At intervals we received sums of money from England from your dad's people. Sometimes the sums were sizeable amounts but they didn't last long because your father was very generous and also very sympathetic. He could not enjoy his good fortune while his friends and neighbors were in want so he shared with other people until the money dwindled and was gone.
There were other young Englishmen who had journeyed to Australia to make their fortunes prospecting for gold. They were sons of English gentlemen, and were poorly prepared to fend for themselves. Many of them suffered sever privations. Instead of money, their families sent them gifts. The gifts they received were expensive but of little use to them because they were luxuries they could get along without. One poor fellow received a fine Bible lettered in genuine gold leaf. The poor soul couldn't eat that.
I was poorly prepared to perform household tasks. I shall always remember the first bread we made, your dad and I. Dad made me a little wooden trough to mix it in. We brought home a sack of flour and together we made our first batch of bread. When we wee finished we had used up nearly a whole sack of flour. (As Mother talked, one could read in her expression, mixed emotions, probably aroused by memories too poignant to discuss with us, "I've learned my lessons the hard way," she once confided. when I was very little she warned me not to marry a poor man.)
After we moved to New Zealand, we lived in a most miserable house. It was a one-room shack, so dilapidated it had to be shored up with poles so it would not topple over in a storm. It had a thatched roof but no floor. There was a wide, shallow creed (Ashburton River) nearby. Its bed was covered with flat stones. The children brought us a great many of those stones and I paved part of the floor with them. I was terrified whenever there was a storm. The house swayed so in the wind I was afraid it would collapse and injure us. Whenever there was a storm I would take the children to a neighbor's until the storm spent itself.
I was never comfortable with your Uncle Clem Porter, Dad's brother. He was a fastidious man and critical, always making remarks about people's appearance. He talked about women with "dishwater hands" and broken fingernails. He remarked that some people used their fingernails for potscrapers. I felt that he meant me so I tried to keep my hands out of sight when he was around.
Clem's wife, Mariah, had two children, both girls, Fannie and Emily. It was years after she and Clem were married before they had any children. After they were born, Mariah had spells of mental illness at which times it was unsafe for her to administer to the needs of her family. At those times she had to be confined in a mental institution. Before her condition was deemed serious enough for her to be confined, Clem would ask me to stay with her during the day while he was away at work. He would home the sharp knives in the weeds in the yard before he left for work, but as soon as he was gone Mariah would march out and bring them back in and slam them back into the drawer from which Clem had taken them, muttering to herself as she did so.
One day I took some apples with me for the kiddies to munch on. Mariah took them one by one and angrily flung them through the open transom. Some of them hit the casing but she would fiercely recover them and continued until they were all gone. The door was wide open but she threw them all through the open transom above the door. The poor kids stood around pie-eyed while the show was going on. I was more frightened than amused.
On one occasion she pointed through the window at some fleecy clouds and asked me if I could see the pretty kittens at play. Another time Fannie brought her doll to me to be mended. One of its arms was torn off. I got the needle and thread and repaired the damage, but before the child could enjoy the doll, Mariah snatched it from her ands and set it on the hot of the stove, before the glowing grate, and we sat in stunned silence while it slowly burned. Poor Fannie didn't even dare to cry. At those times I became so nervous and distraught that your father forbade my visits while Mariah was mentally ill.
I kept the children at my home while she was ion the asylum. Sometimes Clem would take me with him when he went to visit Mariah at the asylum. One day we arrived just as the inmates were released for exercise in the yard. They came out like a group of noisy children, shouting and laughing. Some were rolling and tumbling on the grass. When asked their names, they were sure to be famous people like Lincoln and Napolean. An attendant examined us carefully to make sure we carried no harmful gifts with us for the inmates. Previously Clem had taken Mariah a needle and some thread she had requested him to bring. After he was gone she tried to swallow the needle. As soon as we were alone with Mariah she began to coax Clem to take her home. She insisted she was perfectly well. Her pleadings led to tears and recriminations and we were obliged to take leave of her.
I cared for her children just as I cared for my own little brood while she was away. Emily was afflicted with asthma and required special care. The night air seemed to aggravate her condition so I insisted that she remain indoors when it grew cool and damp in the evening. This seemed to be helpful.
When Arthur was small he became very nervous and began to stutter. To mend this habit I would insist that he sit quietly until he was sure of what he wanted to say before he began to talk. He outgrew the difficulty in time.
Tom was the most stubborn young one I had. When only a baby, if I tried to dose him with something he didn't like, he would clamp his teeth together and resist me, yelling the while. He especially hated castor oil. Sometimes I tried getting my finger between his jaws before he saw the medicine, but he nearly bit my finger off. I was never sure he got enough of the medicine to do him any good.
I had some very nice dresses when I was young. In those days it took a great many yards of material to make a single dress. One day, after receiving money from England, your father came home with twenty-five yards of sky blue silk to make me a dress. I couldn't wear so bright a color so I used the material for coats and dresses for Flo. The poor kid had nothing but sky blue until the material was all gone.
Flo was a puny, miserable baby. She had something ailing her stomach. Some of your father's people had gastric trouble. I had to raise her mostly on tea. I didn't think I would succeed in raising her for quite some time.
My children were average when it came to getting into mischief. Once or twice they had very narrow escapes. Tom fell backwards into a tub of water. He spanned the tub and the back of his head rested on the rim of the opposite side of the tub. He couldn't yell because the tap above his head was leaking into his mouth enough to keep him swallowing. Fred climbed into a tree one day. He slipped and fell and was hanging by the head. He had been caught between the forks of a limb. He was there for sometime before I rescued him. On another occasion, Fred put a whole apple into his mouth at one time. I had a dickens of a time getting it out. None of them ever lost a limb. Arthur was riding on a horse with a harness on it. He fell from the horse and became entangled in the harness. The horse stepped on his hand. That is why one of his fingers was lost to him. It's a wonder he wasn't killed.
One day while I was weeding my flower garden, I discovered that one bush close to the house was a hiding place for crusts of bread. When I interrogated the children it turned out that Miss Flory was the greatest contributor. The bush was full. It must have served as a hiding place for a long time.
The last gift of money your father received from home was about one thousand pounds. This was nearly five thousand dollars in American money. We decided to migrate to this country. He wanted to come here so we could be married in the L.D.S. Temple. Frank was the baby at that time. George was not born until about six weeks after we reached this country. George was the first native-born American in this family. Arthur, Flo, Fred, Tom, and Frank were born in New Zealand. We brought Mr. and Mrs. Larson to America with us. Mrs. Larsen had five children too, and also expected another in about six weeks. Besides the Larsens we brought Peter and Charlie Olason, two teen-age lads, home with us. Peter and Charlie were orphans, (their mother was dead), and they continued to make their home with us even after we reached America. We were very fond of them and they were like sons to us. They found work herding sheep. They used to glean the bits of wool from the fences left there by the sheep when they rubbed against them. I washed and cleaned and carded the wool and made quilts for them and us too. They gave me half of the wool for cleaning it. Peter Olason fell from a loaded lumber wagon and broke his neck.
Your father made boxes out of lumber made from eucalyptus trees and in them we packed our belongings. The only piece of furniture I was allowed to bring with us was my old sewing machine. The trip across the ocean was a long, miserable one. Frank was very sick. He had the bloody flux, a disease of the bowels which we call dysentery in this country. He was so sick I began to believe he would never make it. He became so thin and weak he was unable to walk so he crawled when he moved about. We had one terrible storm during the passage over. The waves were higher than the ship. When they broke on the decks every loose thing on deck was washed overboard. (She told Becky she had to brace herself to keep from being thrown from her bunk.)
We landed on the wharf and sat among our bundles just like any other immigrants. Dad had only $12 in his pockets when he landed. He left us on the docks while he went in search of lodgings. When he returned he brought with him a whole bunch of bananas for which he had paid only 12 cents. More than we could eat!
Dad arranged for lodging for us in a tenement house in San Francisco. It was a place where one or two dark, poorly ventilated rooms sufficed to house a family. There was a long hall common to all who lived in the house and into which everyone disposed of garbage. It was a dark, filthy, ill-smelling place, and I was glad when we left there.
After a week in San Francisco we went by train to Brigham City, Utah. Soon afterward George was born. I had no place to go at that time so a friend we had known in New Zealand--a Mormon Missionary--cleared a place in the storeroom of his furniture store, set up a bed for me, and there George was born.
From Brigham City we moved to Willard, a small village in Box Elder County, Utah. While there I raised chickens to get the money to take us to Logan where we were married in the L.D.S. Temple. We rode to Logan in an old fashioned lumber wagon with two spring seats. The people we went with were funny old "codgers". They believed in "letting wind go from where 'ere you be" and after each report they would repeat the line by way of excuse.
Some of the English expressions I used when we were new in this country had very different implications in the American vernacular and had to be discontinued. Some of the women of my acquaintance explained the American usage and I was genuinely shocked though I had blundered innocently.
Louise Marie (Koebbel) Porter, Wife Of Arthur Porter, Sr.
Contributor: finnsh Created: 1 year ago Updated: 1 year ago
Excerpt from "History of the Arthur Porter Family" pp 17-19
(Includes an Account of her Parents and Family.)
Louise Marie Koebbel was born at Richmond, Victoria, Australia 3 July 1857. Her father was Johann Francis Koebbel, born at Pritzlitz, near Vienna, Austria, 17 March 1816, and her mother was Johanna Louisa Petschack, born 2 February 1832 at Pommerzig near Frankfort on the Oder, Prussia, Germany. Several generations of her direct ancestors, (of Polish descent) had been born in this same Parish. She and an older brother, named Johann Gottfried Petchack, born at Pommerzig 4 October 1829, both migrated to Australia to better their situation. They were gardners or farmers by occupation and their native home was in an area that was liable to change in government due to frequent warfare, between Germany and Poland and Austria. German was their native tongue.
In Australia, Johann Gottfried Petschack finally settled in New South Wales where many of his descendants live today. Grandmother Johanna Louisa Petschack evidently found employment in Victoria probably in or near Melbourne. In due course she met and married grandfather Johann Francis Koebbel, 20 September 1854 and they settled at Richmond, Victoria. Here the first eight of their nine children were born. They then moved to Lilydale, Victoria, which continued to be their home for the remainder of their lives and both are buried there.
The names of their children are Francis Johann, Louise Marie (subject of this sketch) Annie Catherina, Minnie, John Francis, Susannah Amelia, Charles Edward, Elizabeth Susannah, and Ernest William Koebbel. Of these Francis Johann died in infancy; the next three daughters, Louise, Annie and Minnie, were the only ones who married and had families; the three sons grew to maturity but did not marry, so the surname Koebbel ended in this family with their deaths; the other two girls died before maturity, unmarried. The family think that one son, Charles, may have gone into the Northern Australia bush and been killed and eaten by cannibals. Johann Francis Koebbel was a widower when he married grandmother. So far, all efforts to learn the name of his first wife or of any children have failed. They were dead at the time of his second marriage.
Grandfather was a cooper (barrel maker) by trade. He was a thrifty man and provided a good home and comforts for his family. He is reputed to have been a rather stern man and his word was law for his family. For instance, if chatter at the table became annoying to him he would order all conversation to be in German. This would reduce it to conversation by the parents and Louise, as she was the only one of the children who had learned to speak German fluently. Louise being the oldest seemed to be a favorite with her father. She tells of walks with him on the beach on Sundays which was one of the pleasures of her youth that she remembers. She was allowed to bring a friend with her occasionally. She said her father was opposed to any show of affection or obvious emotionalism. She was deeply impressed by this trait and cited this as the reason for her own apparent lack of affection, or for her seeming reserve toward her children, whom she dearly loved and would make any sacrifice for their welfare. In times of sickness she was especially solicitous and indulgent. She was a strong healthy woman and reared all her twelve children to maturity. Indeed all still survive but one (Thomas) who died the 14 December 1959, age 77 years 11 months. The youngest is now 65 and the oldest is 90 years old.
In religion Louise's parents were divided. Her father was a Catholic and was insistent that the children should be baptized in the Catholic church. Her mother was a Lutheran and was just as insistent that they should be baptized as Lutherans. They compromised by agreeing that the girls should be baptized Lutherans and the boys Catholics.
In education the parents saw to it that every child received a good high school education. Louise was so capable a student that at the age of fourteen she was made an assistant teacher. In her 17th year, following a severe oral test before a group of seven examiners she was employed as a regular teacher. She was an excellent penman, wrote a bold Spencerian style and was known all her life for accuracy in spelling. (Her penmanship closely resembles the bold spencerian handwriting acquired by the late President Heber J. Grant, who tells that he was able to set "copy" for his classmates.)
On January 4, 1875 Louise terminated her career as a school teacher and married a young Englishman named Arthur Porter who worked in that area, and who had courted her. Her parents did not approve of her choice of a husband so the couple left at once for New Zealand. Louise never again saw her native land nor any of her family. There was a mutual agreement between her and her husband that neither one of them would visit their native homes until they had sufficient means to visit both her home in Australia and his in England, which of course did not occur.
Arthur Porter had no trade or profession and as a result was dependant for a living on working at common labor. He was frequently out of employment, and when employed the wages were small. The ten years the couple lived in New Zealand was during the "17 year depression" in that country. The number of migrants from England and elsewhere was so heavy the young country could not absorb them satisfactorily and there was much poverty and severe hardship.
Arthur Porter and family moved from place to place in search of employment. No two of the five children born to them in New Zealand were born in the same town. He was a generous man. His wife tells that when he received money from his well-to-do parents in England he would share it with some of his friends as he could not bear to enjoy a measure of good fortune while they were in a worse plight than he and his family. So his money was soon gone and they were in straitened circumstances again.
Arthur Porter always expected to receive a large inheritance when the family estate was settled. When that took place he received approximately $1500.00. With this he and Louise decided to emigrate to America. However, they decided to share this with a family of special friends, the Ola Larsen family, who also wanted to come to America. Arriving at Brigham City, Utah, the Porter family had $1.50 in cash, all that was left of his inheritance, and no furniture except Louise's old Singer sewing machine; also the five children born in New Zealand.
Louise tells of some of her experiences in married life. Cooking was a problem as she had done little of that while at home. The first fowl she roasted she neglected to first remove the entrails. The first time she and her husband tried to make bread they used almost a sack of flour, and still got very poor results. She later became a good cook. They one time moved to Alford Forest, a small settlement where her husband and a man named Clark took a contract to split rails. Housing was scarce so they took up residence in an abondoned one room shack, about 16 feet wide by 30 long. There were holes in the thatched roof, dirt floors, no windows, and it was generally dilapidated. As the walls were made of boards and slabs, standing upright, when the wind blew the house swayed. She was afraid the house would collapse so would take the children to the neighbors to sleep. Her husband carried poles from the forest a quarter mile distant and firmed the house with three props on each side, repaired the roof and fire place. Louise divided the house into two rooms with burlap sacking, laid a floor in the living room with stones the children carried from the nearby shallow bed of the Ashburton river, made windows of oiled paper, and made candles of mutton tallow for lights. The family lived in this house for six or eight months when a better house about two rods from the forest became available to them. This house had floors, 3 or 4 rooms, windows, etc. and they lived here in comparative comfort. Her husband had meanwhile become so proficient at splitting rails that on one notable day he earned 12 shillings (about $3.00) Franklin, her fifth child was born at this house.