Saturday–the big day for family get-together with the descendants of the Pietz family that emigrated from Prussia in 1870. In the morning, we set up our bicycle and rode the Jackson Loop trail, riding down to Ashley Park from our B&B, then anti-clockwise on the loop that took us west up onto the prairie, where we fought stiff headwinds before turning on the old US 16 back toward town, a steep, fast downhill. Back in town, the trail circled around the old football field, through the space where the power plant used to be. When we first moved back to town in 1949, my dad was a boiler engineer at the power plant, which had been converted from water power to gas. A few years ago, the dam was removed, and replaced with a series of weirs to keep the river at nearly the old pool level. The old “Bayou” above the Ashley Street bridge was lower, but still a pond connected to the river, now part of the park and trail that loops around the three bridges that connect the town’s two halves.
In the afternoon, the Pietz’s began to gather at Ashley Park, mostly descendants of Daniel and Ernst; most of the Ernst clan were from nearby, but the larger group of us descended from Daniel (he and Minnie had five sons) came from all over Minnesota, and some from Wisconsin, Iowa, Idaho, Oregon, California, and Washington.
For the record, my lineage is Daniel (Minnie Megdanz) -> Adolph (Laura Rix) -> Ella (Grant Goplen) -> Hilda (Donald Parkins). My closest cousins present were: from Ella and Grant -> Floyd, Monette and Mary; from Ella and William Strube -> Norman, Cathy; and from great-uncle Alfred (Clara Anderson) -> Vivian, Marilyn.
By all accounts, the gathering was a success. Several of the family had compiled extensive genealogy records and there were several photo collections dating back to the 19th century.
Despite many of us travelling hundreds or thousands of miles to the event, there was plenty of food at the traditional mid-western potluck (derived from the Salish Potlatch, gatherings where successful tribesmen shared their good fortune). As a vegetarian, I am always astounded by the clever ways in which Midwesterners hide meat in what look to be vegetable dishes, but we had brought hummus, cheese, and nuts, so I didn’t starve or have to subsist on sweet desserts.
We found we had distant relatives (3rd cousins) in Washington and Idaho, and 4th cousins in Lakefield, near Jackson. The Pietz name was still common, passed down through sons. The youngest present carrying the Pietz name were under 10. Most of us were of retirement age, the younger generations not yet able or willing to devote vacation time and travel to seek out obscure family connections. The Internet brought us together, ultimately, but face-to-face contact with distant family brings out the inherited family traits and mannerisms that we miss in photos and dry genealogical postings.
We spent some time getting to know other folks, but were eager to reconnect with closer relatives, with whom we make frequent contact through Facebook and email. However, we have a Sunday brunch planned for the descendants of Adolph, so will have more time for that, later.