The German Foundation

Great-grandma Amelia Juhrend came to America around 1881, the time of the greatest migration of Germans to the States. She lost her first husband, Mr. Heinrichs, in 1891 and was left with three boys. She soon married Henry Juhrend and they had four children by 1903. Both of Amelia’s spouses are listed as day laborers.

People were leaving Germany because of untenable living conditions, lack of work, overwhelming government and religious restrictions, economic depression and political unrest. 7 million Germans emigrated to the U.S. during the last 20 years of 1800s. Germans comprised the majority of the population in the New World, settling in the midwest…which is where Amelia landed in Highland Park, Illinois. In 1920 Mr. Juhrend died leaving her with 7 children.

The 1920 census shows Amelia as head of household working as a laundress which probably means she took in laundry. She was 54 and had two adult sons living at home along with her only daughter, Louise who was recently widowed. Louise had two children who were temporarily in an orphanage. One of these was my dad, James McDearmid.

The census shows that she owned her home (mortgaged) and it was worth $8000 ($127,000 in today’s dollars) which would be a small ranch home in the Midwest. She often had borders and a son or two living with her. I imagine the boys made sure the house payments were taken care of.

Given all this I venture to say that Amelia was one tough, feisty broad! To me she was “Grandma Great”. I don’t remember hearing her talk a lot but the census says she spoke English and could read and write. At age 65 she was living with her youngest son, Herman and his wife Catherine. I remember going to their house in Lake Forest, IL and thinking they were a very well-to-do family. Herman owned a painting business and as I recall all of her sons were successfully employed family men who lived in the Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin area.

Grandma Great’s 80th Birthday. That’s me, front row right with braids.

I clearly remember Amelia’s 80th birthday…a huge family party with lots of aunts, uncles and cousins. The family loved good food and beer. Amelia lived to be 94 years old with her last years spent in a nursing home in Libertyville where family members went to visit. Many Sunday afternoons found my Dad visiting his Grandma Amelia.

Amelia with her great grandkids. I’m the big girl on the left.

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