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John L and Elizabeth Rempel Harms

This information comes from a rough draft in possession of John H Harms, which was written (unknown date) by a daughter [must be Florence Harms Entz as she is the only daughter older than the Martha mentioned in the story] of Henry R and Margaret Thiessen Harms and who is a granddaughter of John L. Harms (1867-1924) and Elizabeth Rempel Harms (1870-1934). A few grammar and spelling changes have been made.  Kathy Penner Sperling edited and retyped this story on 1/11/2006.

Story of John L and Elizabeth Rempel Harms

By Florence Harms Entz

Valley Grove Livestock Farm

     Come join me for a visit to a very special farm in Jefferson County, Nebraska. The people who lived here were my own, and very dear grandparents, John L. and Elizabeth Harms.

     They were part of a group of German speaking Mennonites who immigrated from Russia in 1878 and settled north west of the little hamlet of Jansen. It was in this little town where they went to do some of their "trading"--eggs and cream--for coffee, flour, and salt. Their little clapboard meetinghouse was located on the west edge of Jansen with the cemetery located across the road and just a little to the west.

     This small group of farmer named their little settlement "Heubodeh" [referring to the grassy meadows in the valley) or bottomlands. Another group of Mennonites settled northeast of Jansen, and they named their settlement "Rosenort" (perhaps Rosegarden.") Both of these groups were friendly, many of them relatives, and all attended the same church. Those in Grandfather's neighborhood, however, had Fairbury, Nebraska as their mailing address, instead of Jansen.

The first house our grandparents occupied, was a house built in the manner of the buildings used by their ancestors, before they emigrated from the cold regions of Russia. This was a dual-purpose structure, a house with the addition of a barn for the livestock. These Mennonite folk built their houses of sod for warmth and economy, or perhaps of wood in regions where trees were plentiful.

     It was in one of these housebarns [also] that my own Dad was born. He used to raise some eyebrows when he volunteered the information to people not familiar with this type of living quarters, that he had been born in a barn.

The next family home was a frame building on a little knoll not far from the first home. This home was later the place where my parents set up housekeeping, and still later, his younger brother and his bride lived there.

Grandfather was a hard worker, a quiet, friendly, and a helpful neighbor. He was also a very meticulous manager.

     He became well known for his purebred livestock, and the care of his animals. His Red-polled milking shorthorns were not only fed and watered, but also well groomed. There was the huge Percheron Draft horse--beautiful matched teams. The hogs were the Poland China Breed, and, as the rest of the animals, were pedigree stock. There was one animal that had neither 'blue blood" nor papers, and that was the old Billy goat, I never gave it much thought that Grandpa had no nannies to milk, and why have a goat? Years later, I asked my Aunt Marie about it. She gave me that strange look; reserved for those who should know better that ask such a question. Guess everybody should know that a Billy was to keep the hogs from getting cholera. Well, I never had the nerve to ask anybody how that worked. Perhaps someday I'll find out.

     Oh, there was that big, gentle, white and black dog they called Nig. He was everybody's friend and always following some member of the family around. About the only time he wasn't on the move was when he curled up in the corner for a nap, and the one time he sat on the porch to pose for a picture with my little sister Martha.

     Perhaps Grandpa was best known for his Silver laced Wyandotte poultry. One of those regal looking roosters was pictured on his calling cards, giving pertinent information concerning the farm, its location, and the name of the owner.

All of this work on the big farm could not have been accomplished without the consistent; faithful help of the five sons, who in their turn learned to shoulder their part of the work. Each was given his job, and prompt, careful attention to their duties was expected. No, Grandpa was not a harsh ruler, by any means, but by lovingly and firm instruction and hard work the farm prospered.

It seems that Grandpa was always on the look out for projects that would help to provide for the large family. So he had his own sorghum mill. This involved raising the sugar cane as well as harvesting it. The cane was cut using house power. The process I cannot explain, except that it involved not only all of the immediate family who were able to help but some of the relatives were enlisted. The cut cane was put into the press which I concluded from the picture went round and round in circles squeezing out the juice. As the juice dripped into the containers it was pored into long pans to cook slowly, so as not to burn it and was stirred consistently in the process. Someone needed to be right there to keep the fir going enough wood to keep the syrup gently bubbling, but not too much so that it would scorch. Little one were allowed, in restricted areas, to watch. Just to be there to inhale that delicious aroma and perhaps to be permitted to get a section of the sugar cane to extract some of its juices from the piece in you hand--just the thought of it makes my mouth water and brings back memories of the large sweet sorghum cookies that later were baked in Grandma's kitchen.

        When the syrup was ready, Aunt Lena Rempel ladled it into waiting gallon pails, for future use on cornbread, in cookies, and surely it had many other uses. Our grandparents' generosity would certainly make some available to others.

Other farmers who raised cane brought their crop to Valley Grove Stock Farm to be processed for their own use, since sugar, as we use was not routinely available in the store at that time.

     Grandpa had a bout with rheumatic fever earlier in life, though just when in not clear. Was this why he learned to delegate responsibility? And was this why his stallion 'Pride of the West" was hitched to the 2 wheeled cart as he was coming toward the syrup mill to check on the progress of the work the day the picture was made? How many question come to my mind things that seem so important, but there is nobody to answer them or explain.

Grandma was a great flower lover, her yard was covered with many different kinds of them. She had trained the girls well, so they did a good job on their own, thus relieving her of much of the hard work. Large beds of petunias pervaded the yard with their fragrance; four o'clock in many colors added their beauty and perfume. By the time their blossoms opened in the afternoon the grandchildren were ready with their foxtail grass to walk down the long row of four-o'clocks and start stringing the flowers. There were zinnias, phlox in several colors, but the real showplace was the big canna bed right in the middle of the big circle drive in front of the remodeled 2-story house.

     Grandma's kitchen always had some goodies cooking or baking. It took a lot of food to take care of "the home folks" so you can just imagine what it was like when the Kansas Children and their family came to visit.

(Of all the great things that can be said about our dear grandparents is the fact that they were Christians.) But the greatest legacy our grandparents left us was their godly life-style. Church services were faithfully attended, and to them it was a privilege. Grandpa's big Buick touring car with its square brass carbide lights near each side of the windshield, and the brass radiator shell, was sitting at the door ready for its passengers to alight for the drive to the little white clapboard church, is firmly imbedded in my memory.

     Regular reading of the Scriptures, and prayers, and singing of the great hymns of faith like "My hope is built on Nothing less than Jesus' Blood and Righteousness" were a part of daily living.

     Today, Grandpa and Grandma are enjoying the glories of Heaven. A number of the uncles and aunts, as well as my dear parents, my Dad , Henry -the oldest son in the family), have joined the saints who are viewing the face of the Savior. Those who are still living are all believers and serving the Lord with the special talents God has entrusted to them.

     Now that you have been introduced to my grandparents, let's proceed to the places that were home to the Henry R Harms family.    page 2

Son PRH Horses son Peter R Harms and work horses


Obit of Elizabeth Harms Rempel

Taken from www.radiocarbon.pa.qub.ac.uk/~ron/ged/D0006/I160.html but no longer available.

  It pleased our Heavenly Father to call our dear Mother to her Home above on November 1, 1934 at 1:40 p.m. at the age of 64 years, 3 months, 20 days. She was born in Mariawohl, South Russia, July 12, 1870. At the age of 5 years, she with her parents, immigrated to America, making their home at Fairbury, NE. In her 18th year she accepted Christ as her personal Savior, was baptized on confession of her Faith and taken into the Mennonite church. Later in 1905, our parents joined the Ebenezer church.

     On September 23, 1888 she was united in marriage to our father, John L. Harms, who preceded her in death on November 25, 1924. To this union were born 14 children, two of which preceded her in death, namely Anna in 1900 at the age of 11 months and 11 days; and Elizabeth, Mrs. Dave Thiessen in 1920 at the age of 27 years. She leaves to mourn her loss 5 sons, Henry Harms, Meade; John Harms, Dalhart, TX; Pete Harms, Kanorado; Isaac Harms, Meade; and Jonas Harms of Culbertson, NE. Seven daughters, Mrs. Isaac T. Brandt; Miss Margaret, Mrs. Henry E. Loewen, Mrs. Pete Cornelsen, Marie, Hilda, and Alma all of Meade. Four sons-in-law, 4 daughters-in-law; 26 grandchildren, 6 deceased; 2 sisters, Mrs. John M. Classen and Mrs. G. J. Classen; 3 brothers, Mr. A. F. Rempel and Mr. H. F. Rempel of Jansen, NE, and Mr. P. F. Rempel, Meade, and many friends.

     Since the death of her daughter, Mrs. Dave Thiessen, 2 grandchildren, Pete Thiessen, 6 years and Harvey Thiessen, 1 year, 7 months, made their home with her.

     In 1932 she with 5 children and grandson Harvey Thiessen, moved to Meade, KS. Since then she has been in poor health, failing gradually. The Doctors diagnosed her case as cancer and complications. She was bedfast since the 12th of July, 1934. The last 2 months suffering intense pain. 

     She had a great longing to go Home and often prayed that the Lord would relieve her of her suffering. She was a devoted, praying mother and will be missed by all, but we all hope to meet her in the Great Beyond.

2nd obituary:
          ELIZABETH REMPEL HARMS
It pleased our Heavenly Father to take our loving Mother, Elizabeth Harms, born Rempel, to be with Him. She was born the 12th of July 1870 in the Village of Mariawahl, South Russia. In the year of 1874 she with her parents immigrated to America and established their home close to Fairbury, Nebraska. In the year of 1888 she accepted Christ as her Savior and was baptized the 13th of May by Altester A. L. Friesen. The latter part of 1905 her parents joined the Ebenezer Church. The 23rd of September, 1888, she was married to Johann L. Harms. This marriage was blessed with 14 children, of whom two preceded her in death. Anna died at 11 months and 11 days and Elizabeth, Mrs. David Thieszen the 15th of October 1920 at the age of 27 years. Our dear father, Johann L. Harms, preceded her in death the 25th of November 1924. She leaves to mourn her passing five sons, Heinrich R. Harms, Meade, Kansas; Johann R. Harms, Dalhart, Texas; Peter R. Harms, Kanorada, Kansas; Isaak Harms, Meade, Kansas; Jonas Harms, Culbertson, Nebraska; seven daughters, Kathrina - Mrs. Isaak T. Brandt, Meade, Kansas; Agannta, Mrs. Heinrich E. Loewen, Meade, Kansas; Lena, Mrs. Peter Kornelsen, Meade, Kansas; Margareta; Maria; Hulda and Alma, Meade, Kansas; four sons in law; four daughters in law; and 26 grandchildren. Preceding her in death were six grandchildren, one step grandchild, two sisters, and three brothers. Her many friends and loved ones mourn her death but with a joyful hope. As a widow she lived 10 years minus 24 days. Two grandchildren were raised by her when their mother died. Namely, Peter Thiessen who was six years old, and Harvey Thiessen who was one year and seven months old In the year of 1932 she, with her five children moved to Meade, Kansas. From then on our loving Mother suffered from complications from the flu. She sought the help of doctors but in spite of it all, her health began to fail and she became weaker until she became bedfast the 12th of July 1934. She suffered much the last two months.

The doctors were treating her for five different symptoms or diseases but the worse of these was cancer. On September 2nd she had an unusual experience - she experienced a particular godly peace. The Lord showed her a vision of her heavenly home and she desired to die. She often said, "Why can't I go home today". We believe this was a preparation by God to ease her intense suffering. She struggled with severe pain.  During such times it was often her wish to sing in which she took part in as much as was possible. She was patient and placed herself in God's will for her life and remained conscious and aware until the last ten days. For four days she lay quietly and unmoving and did not speak. Often she would pray for a gentle death which we believe the Lord gave her on November 1st. She reached the age of 64 years and 3 months and 20 days. All the children except two were privileged to be with near her bedside at her death. All were able to be with their mother during her illness and took part in taking care of her which we count as a privilege to have been able to do. We children all ask that you would remember us with your intercessions.

The Children and Grandchildren

ELIZABETH REMPEL HARMS

It pleased our loving heavenly Father to take our dear Mother, Elizabeth Rempel Harms, on November 1st at 1:49 p.m. to her heavenly home after severe suffering. She has been bedfast since July and has suffered intensely from cancer and bleichsucht*. *(A form of anemia). She had an intense longing to die and go to be with Christ. Shortly before her passing the question was asked, "Will the Lord soon come and get you?" She lifted up her hands and prayed, "Come, Lord Jesus." The Lord heard her prayers and steadfast belief and we shall see her again with her Lord.

The funeral was Sunday, the 4th in the Brethern Bethaus (Prayer House), where a large group of people took part in the service. Brother B. D. Kroeker, Janzen, Nebraska; J. E. Wiens and J. J. Gerbrandt from here opened up God's Word. Brother J. Enns, Garden City read a portion of scripture and prayed at the service at the gravesite.
We have excellent weather for this time of year for which we are very happy. Also that the cattle can graze on the wheat fields. The relatives who traveled to Canada have returned and are all back with us after a safe trip.
By H. R. Harms 
Translated by Adeline Friesen, Mt. Lake, MN May 2003

Anna Thiessen Harms Story

Paxton M B Church where Peter and Anna Harms attended

Johann and Elizabeth Harms 2nd picture

The Thiessens and Harms came from Prussia to Russia and then to Jefferson County; Club Creek

and the villages of Jansen and Fairbury, Nebraska: Many also moved to Meade, Kansas around 1906.

Settlement of the Krimmer Mennonite Brethren at Gnadenau, Marion County, Kansas including information on Jansen, Ne and other settlements.

Jefferson County Cemetery and Churches

Jefferson County

EMB Cemetery of Meade, Kansas where Elizabeth Rempel Harms was buried. 

Mennonites in Meade

Here are some related websites:

Information on Russia [More Harms history and Russian information by Ken Ratzlaff]

A Family's Mennonite History  (including related Harms) by Ken Ratzlaff

Map of Meade Farms in 1947

Gardner School 1909 Jefferson County, Nebraska

"Journey of the Friesen Family"  Related Family and History

Articles on Mennonites

Especially Dutch German thru Russia - Mennonite History

Mennonite Genealogy Resources

My Mennonite Cooking

Evangelical beliefs & theology: pdf file

Back to the Bible



If you have and corrections, additions, or suggestions for the genealogy, web pages, or other information OR are a long lost relative  I'd love to hear from you! 

Kathy Penner Sperling


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