Seeing world through grandmother's eyes

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By The Staff

After I reached my early 20s and opted for contact lenses, I realized that not only had I inherited by father’s big toe, I also had his eyes.

The reason I hadn’t noticed before was because my eyes had been hidden behind thick black-framed glasses since the sixth grade. In those days, almost all light-haired and fair-skinned kids were fitted with those black frames. One style for girls came with tiny rhinestones in the corner.

One day I was presented with a copy of my grandmother Anna Yund Torbeck’s engagement photo, and realized that my dad had his mother’s eyes…which meant so did I.

Anna Maria Magdalena Yund was 23 years old when she posed for the photograph accompanying this story. This was a special picture, for in a few short weeks she would marry Henry Herman Torbeck, a farmer and carpenter, and begin a new life as a married woman.

Their wedding, held Feb. 12, 1903, in St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church, was fairly large by 1903 standards, with the couple having four attendants.

I’m not positive, but I think banns would have been posted for three weeks preceding the nuptials. This was an announcement made during Sunday church services on three successive Sundays about the upcoming marriage. If no one protested, the wedding would proceed. The church elders took over in the event of a dispute.

As a wedding gift, Anna’s father, Jacob Yund, gave his daughter her birthplace one-mile south of St. Paul. In 1903 the renter was my great-grandfather, Charles Moeller, and this family was forced to move.

A funny side note is that my maternal grandmother, Edna Moeller Rebbe, who entered the world in 1900, was born in the house given to Anna by her father. My father, Edmund, was also born in the house – probably in the same room as his mother and future mother-in-law.

By the time Anna saw the first light of day, Sept. 27, 1879, her mother, Wilhelmina Kariline Hohlt Yund, had already lost one baby and would lose four more infants to mosquito-borne diseases. Six children of their 11 children lived to adulthood: Charles, Anna, Edward, Jacob, Minnie and Albert Yund.

Census reports for the year 1880 show that Jacob hired a neighbor girl, 16-year-old Catherine Storck, to help his wife with 3-year-old Charles and 9-month-old Anna, while John Lotz was hired as a farmhand.

Anna did not live a wealthy family lifestyle, although her father, Jacob, was one of St. Paul’s two merchants At the time of his death in 1918, he was termed the "richest man in Wilberton Township."

Jacob was supervisor of Wilberton Township in 1909, elder of his church and a member of the parochial school board. The Yund children all attended St. Paul Lutheran parochial school at St. Paul, with the youngest son, Albert, being a student at Bundy School.

One day when Anna was about 12 years old, she attended school wearing a new dress. She was excited because, not only was the dress new to her, it had pockets – a new fashion trend from the big city.

The St. Paul teacher upbraided Anna for putting on airs by wearing a dress with pockets. It was only when she explained that the dress was a hand-me-down from cousins in St. Clair County that he relented.

The days of my grandmother were the days of shirtwaists and long skirts. Once a girl reached adulthood, her hairstyle changed. No longer long flowing tresses, the more sedate bun established her place in society.

Anna never learned to drive a car, but could handle a team of horses. She preserved the family’s food, including meat. Her orchard provided fruit and the grape arbor juice for jelly and wine.

Henry and Anna Torbeck were parents of seven children: Benjamin, married Bertha Quandt; Frieda; Renatus; Harold; Meta, married John Frierdich; Albert, married Rena Henrichsmeyer; and Edmund, who married my mother, Cora Rebbe.

Grandmother Anna died in 1938 of dropsy, when my father, Edmund, was 17 years old. Dad did not talk about his mother. I knew that after she died, he and brother, Albert, the two youngest sons, would have baking competitions to see who could make the lightest biscuits.

The world through my grandmother’s eyes was a vastly different one from today. The fabric of Anna Maria Magdalena’s life was woven around her church and family. Living within a mile of her parents, brothers and sister her entire life, she was supported and loved. That’s all that really matters, anyway.