I never write my 52 Ancestor stories from the road, but this is an exception because of the incredible series of events that happened over the past couple days. So, be warned, nothing you are seeing is “cleaned up,”
My Jewish friend, Moishe, shared with me the Yiddish phrase, “bashert” – destined to be. I’ll let you decide.
I’ll just simply say that once again, I had to call my husband and begin the conversation with, “Well, you’re never going to believe this…”
I swear, I think our ancestors reach out and help us from time to time – that is, when they aren’t stubbornly hiding😊
One key to accurately remembering people, places and events is to record things when they happen. We all think we are going to remember, but we don’t. Consider this my “journal” and you’re coming along on my great adventure!
The Best Laid Plans
This week marks the 13th anniversary of mother’s passing over.
Mom and I set out on ancestor search adventures from time to time. I did the genealogy and research part, but we traveled together to discover our ancestral locations. What fun we had, and how I miss her.
My plan this week was to visit Warsaw, Indiana to obtain deeds, wills and court information for Hiram B. Ferverda (1854-1925) my great-grandfather – mother’s grandfather – who died when she was a toddler. She knew of him, but doesn’t remember him, although she knew her grandmother who lived another 14 years well. How I wish I could ask mother to show me exactly where they lived, but alas, I can’t so I went searching through genealogical means.
I thought that finding mother’s grandmother’s house, where she played as a child, was fitting on the day of that 13th anniversary. Not only would it honor mother, it might take some of the sting out of the day, and I would wind up in the cemetery where Mom is buried at days end, sharing my discoveries with her. Who knows, maybe she would even answer a few questions!
But that wasn’t at all what happened – and I’m blaming mother. It was her influence, pure and simple!
Warsaw – Finding My Way
My goal was to determine which lot in the very small town of Leesburg, Indiana that Hiram owned and drive by. Does the house still remain today?
Seems pretty simple – right?
While I was in Warsaw, the Kosciusko County seat, I also wanted to obtain Hiram’s will and take a look in the court indexes.
That sounds a lot easier than it turned out to be – not the least of which was because the several hours drive was undertaken in the midst of spring rains that had lasted for days. Everything was entirely sodden and the sky hadn’t seen any color other than grey for days.
The good news was that I managed to arrive at the Kosciusko County courthouse before noon. The bad news was that while the deed was easy to obtain and the recorder’s staff was quite helpful, the clerk’s office wasn’t nearly as accommodating. When I told them I needed copies of 3 wills, they informed me that they normally didn’t “just stop work to take care of people.” I explained my situation and asked what my options were, given that a preliminary call hadn’t been helpful either and I drove from out of state.
The person stated that she was leaving for the day and I could look in the will index myself. Hurray! That’s what I wanted to do in the first place. However, after that, I didn’t feel I should press my luck and ask for court records too. Besides that, time was running short and I still wanted to drive to Leesburg as well as on to Elkhart County before ending the day at Mom’s grave.
Suffice it to say that on my way out the door, I asked the Kosciusko County surveyor, who had been extremely helpful by plotting the lots in Leesburg for me, if he happened to know which road on the neighboring Elkhart County Union Township plat map abutted Kosciusko County. Hiram Ferverda grew up on his father’s farm in Union Township and I was having trouble correlating the old plat map with the current roads.
Roads change names from county to county, the old names aren’t the current names and new roads are constructed, which makes everything more confusing.
The surveyor was kind enough to tell me the names of the Kosciusko County roads I’d need to turn onto in order to be on the right road when I crossed the county line into Elkhart County.
My chicken scratches and the surveyor’s directions to the intersection of sections 35 and 36 in Union Township, Elkhart County from Kosciusko County. I hand drew State Road 6, in red, built since this 1929 plat map and cutting across section 35 where I believed Bauke’s land was located.
Union Township, Elkhart County
After locating Hiram’s land in Leesburg, I was planning to drive by what I believed to have been the land of Hiram’s father, Bauke Hendrik Ferwerda, known as Baker here in the US. Both Hiram and Bauke were immigrants from the Netherlands and settled in Elkhart County in 1868. Bauke proceeded to both farm and teach.
At the time that Bauke immigrated, he was married to his second wife, Minke Van der Kooi, known at Minnie. Names tended to be Anglicized, probably based on pronunciation.
Minke and Bauke had 2 daughters when they left the Netherlands, but only one would survive the passage. The youngest child, about a year old, learned to walk on the ship according to family stories passed through the generations.
Bauke had been married previously to Geertje Harmens de Jong who died in 1860. She and Bauke had 3 children, a daughter who died, Hiram whose Dutch name was Harmens Bauke and Henry, whose Dutch name was Hendrik.
Both boys, above, ages 14 and 11 in 1868 when they immigrated helped their father homestead.
The Ferwerda’s were a Dutch Mennonite family in the US who spoke neither English nor German. They settled among the German Brethren in Elkhart County along with some of the other Dutch families who sailed on the same ship. The Mennonite and Brethren religions are more similar than different and Bauke and family soon became Brethren – if not immediately.
I haven’t yet written Bauke’s story, and this is certainly a part of the larger picture, but this adventure is deserving of its own individual article because it’s just so doggone amazing!
Horses and Buggies
After a few wrong turns, I found myself on the back roads of Kosciusko County. Turning north onto Kosciusko County road 300 West, I quickly found myself crossing over the county line where I was on Elkhart County Road 15, not to be confused with Indiana State Route 15 which runs parallel about 2 or 3 miles east.
I told you it was confusing!
It’s no wonder I couldn’t put these pieces together from maps alone.
I pulled to the side of the road to photograph two beautiful horses in a green field. Emphasis on green. In Michigan it is still very cold and nothing is green. Indiana is about 3 weeks ahead of Michigan.
While I was trying to encourage the horses to meander closer to the fence for a better picture, an Amish horse-drawn buggy passed me.
How many people in a Jeep can say they’ve been passed by an Amish buggy?
This land is very hilly, and the last thing I wanted to do was spook the horse, so I stayed quite a ways back until after we finished in the hilly section, including the railroad tracks which parallel the county line a few feet away.
The children in the back of the buggy were packed in snugly and coyly waved.
After we crossed the bridge spanning Turkey Creek, the buggy moved to the right and I very slowly passed on the left where the bridge widened.
I drove on past, looking for the first road, which I thought was the road on the north side of Bauke’s land. Google maps wouldn’t let me “drive” down that road, because it was dirt, but it looked from the aerial to have an older house that might, just might, be Bauke’s original home. I wanted to take a look.
On the plat map, you can see that the land was owned by William O. Ferverda, Bauke’s son, in 1929. Bauke had died in 1911.
In section 35, there’s a divit with an arrow that looks like it was owned by someone else.
It had begun to rain again, as I turned down the road.
Not to be deterred, I found the house that looked to be older, but of course I had no way of knowing if that house was Bauke’s old home. It was located where it could be the divit.
I continued driving down the road, when I became a bit hesitant. The road was dirt and it was VERY muddy.
So muddy, in fact, that I was seriously concerned about becoming stuck. Looking down the road, I realized that there was too much water, and although the road wasn’t entirely flooded, it was certainly uncomfortably water-logged. Jeep or not, stuck is stuck.
Not only that, but I didn’t have enough room to turn around and I could feel the road “squishing” under my tires.
Nope, no turning around. I needed to back straight out of there, very slowly. One false move and I’d be there until the road hardened enough that a tractor could get to me. Translate – days.
I began backing, fully intending to turn into the driveway of the house I had passed near the corner.
I backed for nearly half a mile.
Looking in the rear-view mirror – I saw it. That same buggy.
I slowed once again and was going to tell them that the road was unpassable, when they turned into the farmhouse where I was going to turn around.
I still needed to turn around.
I pulled into their driveway when I decided that I’d have to overcome my shyness and pull on up to the barn and ask if they knew any of the Ferverda family. That old plat map was from 90 years ago, so I was sure the land was sold out of the family generations before, but perhaps they knew some local history. Maybe they knew if it was the Fervida farm at one time. Memories in farm country are long and farmers tend to know the history of their land – but almost 100 years might be hoping for too much.
Approaching the buggy, I realized that the oldest person was a female, perhaps in her 30s, so I wasn’t very hopeful. She was understandably reserved, but after petting her dog, chatting for a few minutes, showing her the plat map with the Ferverda name and asking if a specific plat across the road from William Ferverda’s land was her land – she acknowledged that it was and told me that yes, she did know some Ferverdas and I might want to stop at the house across the road.
The House Across the Road
When you’re on a corner, the house across the road can be multiple houses. There were 2 within view. Both houses in question were newer, so I was fairly sure that neither was the house I was looking for. I was disappointed, but given that the road was flooded, I had no other options. I pulled slowly down the road, hoping someone might be outside – but it was raining so that was unlikely.
As I approached the first, smaller house, with grain bins and barns behind the home, I noticed a large rock out front.
Then, I saw it. My brain didn’t believe what my eyes were registering.
I sure am glad I didn’t just drive on. Between the horse, buggy, corner, rain and mud, I had never looked at the rock. Yes, I had drive by it before but since the house was modern, I hadn’t paid much attention.
I pulled into the driveway, just as a pickup was pulling out of the driveway on the other side of the house. I frantically waived for him to stop.
The man pulled down to my driveway and I asked if he was a Ferverda. “No,” he said, “I work for Scott Fervida and he’s home with a sick child.” I asked if this was still the Ferverda farm and he confirmed that it was – then told me to go on over to the house across the road where Scott lived.
I was extremely hesitant to just walk up to someone’s door and knock. They are going to be justifiably suspicious and I’m actually rather shy. Plus – farm dogs can be pretty intimidating.
The man in the truck did me the favor of calling Scot and warning him, then offered to take my photo with the Fervida farm stone.
I summoned my courage and walked up to Scott’s door. He graciously asked me inside. The nice young man in the truck had told him that I was “related somehow.” I had the plat map in hand and explained that my mother was a Ferverda and that Hiram had been Bauke’s son.
Scott said that he had the immigration papers of Bauke in his office. By this time, he could have been Jeffrey Dahmer because I would follow him willingly to my death to see Bauke’s naturalization papers – with the original seal no less!!!
Scott’s lovely wife and children were home too, and we all began chattering and talking like magpies.
Scott mentioned that their fireplace mantle, above, and one beam, above the window, below, was from Bauke’s old barn. Those logs were hand stripped of bark with an adze.
A few minutes later, Scott mentioned that his parents lived just down the road on the next farm. His wife called them, and they arrived in short order.
How exciting, an impromptu family reunion!
Scott went to the safe and retrieved a file folder of goodies. We looked through the old envelopes and papers, most of which were from the late 19-teens, the 1920s and later.
Scott is the 5th generation Ferwerda, then spelled Ferverda, now Fervida, to own this land.
Ferwerda, Ferverda or Fervida?
The answer is yes, all 3. In the Netherlands and in Bauke’s naturalization papers, the name is spelled Ferwerda. In short order, here, the w became a v. On the 1929 plat map, William’s name is spelled Ferverda. In a 1940 newspaper article, it’s Fervida.
In the cemetery, Bauke’s name is spelled Fervida, as is William’s. I suspect Bauke’s stone was set later, not when he died in 1911.
By the time Hiram was found in the records, his surname was spelled Ferverda.
So yes, all 3 and now the descendants of the two sons of Bauke spell their surnames Ferverda (through Hiram) and Fervida (through William.)
Scott’s father, Don, told me that Bauke’s original house was a small cabin. Most early cabins were about 10X12 or maybe 12X16 – amazingly small for a family – but what every family began with.
By at least 1920, a new house had been built, and probably long before.
I mention this because in the 1910 census, Bauke is living with son William and family who is listed as the head of household, beside Cletus Miller, as shown on the 1929 plat map. It’s likely that the new house is shown in this photo above, with the old cabin right next door to the right.
Don showed me where the old house stood, not terribly far from the Fervida rock, and then he pointed out where the cornerstones for the original cabin had remained, long after the cabin was gone.
Eventually, the cornerstones had to go when a new grain silo needed to be installed where the cabin once stood.
Another item in Scott’s office was a framed aerial photo of the property that included the original barn, now torn down.
There’s a lot of glare on the glass from the window, but you can see the barn.
We know that the barn immediately in front of the original barn is 40X80 because of this article detailing the barn raising in 1920.
I laughed at the mention of how many automobiles were there. Apparently the horse and buggy had been replaced in the Brethren families, but most women never drove.
The barn wall of the original barn was incorporated into the “new” barn as a cost savings measure. Farmers were always frugal.
I grew up on a farm and love barns. Don took me inside the barn and showed me the original studs remaining and how they “shored up” old wall and retrussed it to be part of the new wall.
You can see that the studs have been reused as there are notches for connecting beams no longer present.
Pinch me, here I was standing in Bauke’s barn.
A day ago, I didn’t even know it existed.
Surreal doesn’t even begin to touch this.
Don grew up on this farm, helping his father, Eldon, who was William’s son. William didn’t pass away until 1960, so Don knew him well.
This early International Harvester tractor looked much like the one I learned to drive.
Of course, now its dwarfed by contemporary monstrous tractors and modern equipment.
I tool this photo for the rock, but it shows the current “new” barn and other out-buildings in relation to the grain silo with the conical shaped bottom, to the right behind the tree and barn.
William Fervida and Family
Unfortunately, we don’t have a photo of Bauke, although Don is checking with his sister to be sure.
We do have a lovely photo of William and family.
Thank goodness someone wrote on the back!
When the Fervida family had to tear William’s house down, they salvaged the remaining original furniture.
Scott was kind enough to show me both pieces, lovingly integrated into his home.
Here, Scott and Don stand beside Bauke’s cupboard. My mother called these pieces “Hoosier cupboards.” One of the reasons I think Bauke built the larger house before his death, as opposed to William later, is because a piece of furniture this size would take a disproportionate part of a log cabin. It simply wouldn’t fit.
Scott said that this piece, and the one below were both refinished by an Amish craftsman because they were literally black with age and wear.
This dresser lives in the spare bedroom. That’s me, very happily taking the picture and framed in the mirror, like a mirror into the past. That was Scott’s lovely daughter’s suggestion! I told her she needs to study genetics😊
Notice the candlestands beside the mirrors.
The corners of the drawers are beautifully dovetailed.
Saved the Best for Last
After returning downstairs, I mentioned my Mom’s Bible in the context of my article last week. Scott said, “well, maybe you’d like to see this,” walked into his office again, and pulled this off of his shelf.
“What’s this?”, I asked.
Don told me that before his grandfather, William, died, William told him to be sure this Bible didn’t leave the family.
The Bible always sat on the dresser in William’s house, in the center. That’s the same dresser with me in the mirror.
This beautiful Bible is worn.
The first thing Scott’s mother and I did was to look for names, births, deaths and marriages. Not one thing was recorded.
On the front page, we noted that the Bible was published by Mennonite Publishing Company.
It’s interesting because the oral family history on my side stated that the brother, William, who lived near Nappanee was Mennonite. However, Don indicated that the family was always Brethren to the best of his knowledge.
Clearly, William felt this was a heirloom when he passed away.
The Mennonite Publishing Company published from 1875-1908 but of course this doesn’t necessarily mean that’s when the Ferverda family obtained the Bible.
There was no copyright, per se, but we did find that this had been registered in the Library of Congress in 1884 which at that time seemed to function in essentially the same way. It’s likely that this Bible was purchased originally sometime after 1884 and before 1908, meaning before Bauke’s death.
Unfortunately, there were no dates recorded in the Bible, but a lot of political newspaper clippings from later years.
That was torture!
These large “Big Bibles” or “Great Bibles” as they were called weren’t carried to church, but were used in home readings and study.
Judging from the wear on the cover, this Bible was well-used. It’s in amazingly good condition given that it’s someplace between 110 and 135 years old.
We know unquestionably that it was Williams. Was it Bauke’s?
As the afternoon turned into early evening, I realized I really needed to get on the road as I had miles to go before reaching my destination for the evening. Furthermore, I was probably standing between these people and their dinner.
Scott’s wife asked me if I would join them for dinner, but I felt I had already intruded enough. I had literally been there for hours.
I declined, mentioning that I wanted to visit my grandparent’s graves in Silver Lake yet that day, winding up in Peru an hour and a half further south near where Mom was buried, preferably before nightfall.
As Scott’s parents exited through the garage, I left with them, saying my goodbyes. Don asked me once more if I wouldn’t join them in town, Nappanee, for dinner. I really, really wanted to, but I needed to visit Mom’s grave yet and had planned to be another 90 minutes south before morning when I would drive on to St. Louis. It was already going to be a long day. If I stayed for dinner, I wouldn’t make it any further south. And I wouldn’t see Mom on the 13th anniversary of her passing.
What to do?
Don’s wife suggested a couple hotels in Nappanee, and I decided to call my husband and see if he could book me in someplace. While that was taking place, I would indeed join Don and his wife for dinner. Fingers crossed.
As we drove the few miles into town, the rain became torrential, meaning that we were soaked to the skin in the 10 feet from the vehicles to the door of the restaurant. I was VERY glad I had opted not to drive further and very much enjoyed visiting with my Fervida cousins.
As our meal was delivered to our table, Don said grace, a practice long lost in most places, but not in the Fervida family in Indiana. I added my own special thank you for finding my Fervida family, thanks to a buggy and a flooded road.
I so enjoyed absorbing everything Don had to say. I wish I had more time to spend.
I spent the night in the “red hotel” as the locals call it, just down the road from this round Amish barn on Amish Acres. I grew up with round barns nearby and hadn’t seen one in years.
As I tucked myself in for the evening, in a room with quilts and handmade curtains, the rain poured relentlessly. I looked outside to see torrents of water running and inches everyplace. There was too much rain and no place for it to go.
The morning light would reveal floods, including flash floods that washed across roads, stripping the fertile topsoil in the fields away. These are the days that try farmers’ souls. I wondered if Bauke saw floods like this.
My morning began with water in the lower level of the hotel. Fortunately, my room was on the second floor.
The rains had lulled, at least momentarily, but every time I woke up during the night, the rain was still pounding on the roof.
The sun tried to peek through the clouds, but soon gave up and retreated.
The first thing I needed to do was find a grocery store or someplace to purchase a bouquet of flowers to divide between the graves of my grandparents, my Mom and step-father and my two step-siblings. All stores in Amish country have special areas for parking horses and buggies.
I realized that in my excitement the previous day that I had forgotten to ask Scott if I could have a rock for my garden from Bauke’s farm. I often collect a rock to take home, something permanent and tangible from the land that once belonged to my ancestors. I particularly like rocks plowed from their fields, and no farmer ever says, “No, I want all those rocks to hit with the plow.”
Scott indicated that he wasn’t home, but that he’d call Don and see if he was available. I told Scott I could easily find a rock along the edge of a field, I just needed permission, not assistance.
As I drove down State Road 6, I looked to the right to see Bauke’s land entirely covered with water. Turkey Creek had not only overflowed its banks, it had over-washed the road and covered the fields. You can see the grain silos in the distance in the location of Bauke’s original home.
I was sick at heart for Don and Scott, because as a farm girl, I knew exactly what this meant.
I went the “long way round,” avoiding the floodwaters and pulled into the driveway of the barn.
I saw a rock that someone had thrown out of the field and that was waiting for me to rescue it, sitting patiently in the roots of a nearby tree.
As I carried the rock to the car, Don pulled in the driveway too. I quickly explained that Scott had given permission for me to rock shop, and I explained to Don that I add ancestor rocks to my garden as a way of bringing a little bit of them home with me. As it turned out, Scott had called Don and Don had found me a wonderful rock, in addition to the one I picked up.
As we talked, I mentioned that I’d like to pick up a couple small stones to take to my grandfather’s grave and my mom’s. He offered to help, and we drove across the road to a culvert where Don had installed catch basins the year before.
The road was full of corn cobs, meaning that during the night, the water had over-washed the road, taking with it soil and anything else it could carry away as it raced towards Turkey Creek. Not just flash flood warnings, but flash floods indeed.
Don helped me select and clean the mud off the rocks to take to the cemeteries.
As we drove back to my vehicle, I noticed yet another rock, about half the size of a small car. We opined that this one was a bit too large for the Jeep. What a beautiful stone that Bauke didn’t even know he had. Don found it plowing and decided it was too beautiful to bury. I wondered what kind of stone it was, and Don replied that it was “just a stone of some kind,” an answer very similar to one my beloved step-father gave my kids decades ago when asked the same question about one of his field rocks.
I asked Don if I could take his picture in front of the Fervida Farm rock that he and his wife had engraved for Scott’s birthday. The farm equipment in the background is just so appropos. Wouldn’t Bauke be amazed at the changes in farming since he plowed this ground, probably using a mule and standing on the plow.
I thanked Don again, for everything, but in particular for being such a wonderful steward of our ancestor’s farm. I’m so glad that Scott loves it as much as Don.
Turkey Creek snakes its way through Bauke’s farm, swollen and flooded.
No driving down the road today.
Skeletal irrigation equipment looks strangely out of place.
As I drove away, I turned back one last time to take a final, lingering look and say goodbye.
I crossed the bridge where less than a day earlier, I had passed that Amish buggy.
Today, on my way out, I was stopping at the church that had once been Turkey Creek Brethren Church. Don said that to the best of his knowledge, the Ferverda family had always been Brethren in the US. Bauke and family were members of Turkey Creek Church.
I asked why they were buried at Union Center Church cemetery if they had attended Turkey Creek, and Don said that there was no cemetery at Turkey Creek – even though it was an older church. All Brethren were buried at Union Center. I never thought of that.
Turkey Creek Church
Turkey Creek Brethren church ceased operation in 2012 and the building has since been purchased by another congregation.
The church remains the same, with the original structure incorporated into the current building.
The old trees were probably here when Hiram drove his horse and buggy up this same pathway to the church.
A sign commemorates the original church.
I pulled into the parking lot to take a closer look. I was hoping to see some part that I could identify of the original building, but no dice.
Even the cross is much more contemporary that it appears from a distance.
As I walked towards the rear of the church, I realized something very important.
That grain elevator in the distance is Bauke’s land, a mile away.
You can see the church on the 1929 plat map, at left. I’ve marked it as well as the location of the barns and grain bins today with red arrows. A section is a mile wide.
The flooded fields between the church and the grain silos are Bauke’s. It’s no wonder that Bauke and family attended Turkey Creek Church – it was literally right next door, within sight. The next generations of Ferverda/Fervida men would also attend Turkey Creek Church. Understanding the history of Turkey Creek Church and Union Center explained why the Fervidas were members in one place and buried in another. Previously, I had presumed membership at Union Center because that’s where they were buried.
My Grandfather, Pawpaw
Leaving Turkey Creek church behind, I headed for Silver Lake, 45 minutes away where John Ferverda, my grandfather, Bauke’s grandson is buried.
I arranged the flowers in a milk jug I had brought along for the occasion, placing the rocks lovingly at John’s end of the stone. The larger rock from Bauke’s farm and the smaller one from Hiram’s. John grew up on Hiram’s farm, of course, but he assuredly visited his grandfather. Bauke didn’t pass away until John was 29 years old. John probably played in Bauke’s fields and along the banks of Turkey Creek.
My next stop was the cemetery in Galveston, Indiana where Mom is buried. I feel like I’ve traveled the Ferverda Cemetery trail these past few days.
Mom’s married surname at her death was Long, but my brother and I had her birth surname inscribed on the front as well, along with his and mine on the back. Once a genealogist, always a genealogist.
I placed the stone from Hiram’s farm where Mom’s father grew up beside the stone from Bauke’s farm – the one Don had so graciously washed for the journey.
I wonder how long those stones, a small piece of her ancestor’s lives, will remain. I hope that they will survive to greet a future generation who will stand where I stood and wonder why someone placed those stones on Mom’s grave.
One might say that Mom wanted these stones. She certainly sent me on quite the round -about adventure on the way to visit her grave – and it made me a day late.
What an incredible gift.