Unrest in 20th century Russia brings Nedens family to Big Horn County
Thu, 08/10/2017 - 5:00am admin
Senior Center News
By Joni Schaff / Hardin Senior Center director
The “special mothers story” this month is from Betty Seder, Clara Eshleman and Dorothy Stenerson. They are three of the daughters of Marie (Nedens) Uffelman. This is what they have written about the life and times of Marie (Nedens) Uffelman and her family:
“This story is probably the same story that has been written many times in the history of our country, a story of great courage and adventure. So it was with Mom’s family.
“Mom’s parents were Gottifred (Fred) Nedens and Elisabeth (Janz) Nedens. Mom’s father was born Sept. 11, 1881 in Grandenuer, Russia and her mom was born Aug. 5, 1887 in Weim, Russia.
“Not a lot is known of their life in Russia, except that Gottifred served in the Russian Military as a blacksmith, a trade that would serve him well throughout his life.
“It was mostly the unrest in Russia that helped Gottifred on his decision to come to America. He and his young wife sold their land and took what possessions they could on the ship to begin their journey to America.
“Immigration regulations for coming to America from Russia were stricter than those coming from other areas of the world. A problem with Gottifred’s vision kept the young Nedens couple from coming directly to the United States. Instead, they landed in Buenos Aires, Argentina in South America in 1911. This is the beginning of Mom’s history.
“It was in Buenos Aires where our mother Marie was born on Sept. 11, 1911. During their stay in Argentina, Gottifred supported his young family by using his blacksmith training. Their dream of coming to America never faltered. In 1912, they finally made it to the United States.
“They lived for a time in Oklahoma and Kansas before they made their move to Montana. They were on the move again, living for a time in the areas of Huntley, Worden, Dunmore and Lodge Grass. In 1939, the family purchased their farm 20 miles south of Hardin where they raised their family until retiring in 1954.
“Marie attended the Lodge Grass School up to the eighth grade. There wasn’t a high school in the area at that time. She stayed home and helped with her younger siblings. Mom had nine brothers and sisters. Mom’s dad Gottifred began raising sugar beets in 1940 using mostly horses. Mom hoed and thinned in the sugar beet fields. The sugar beets were loaded on train cars and shipped to Sheridan, Wyo.
“Mom met Dad (Alex Uffelman) while living in Lodge Grass. After a short courtship, they married on Jan. 22, 1931. They were married in the Old German Church, which now stands at the Big Horn County Museum. Mrs. Hardt and Mrs. Gable prepared the German wedding meal and Ira Drake, local barber, provided the wedding dance music. They were close friends of Mom and Dad.
“Dad had a young son, Alex Jr., who was 1 ½ years of age at the time. Dad lost his first wife, Beulah Greenfield, when Alex was 6 months old, due to a kidney problem.
“Mom was 18 years old when she and Dad married. They lived in Garryowen. Mom learned to drive in 1933. She would load water from the river in cream cans and haul home. In 1933 and 1934, there were no crops due to grasshoppers and drought. They farmed in the Garryowen area for many years before moving to the family farm 17 miles south of Hardin. There were a total of eight girls and eight boys in the family.
“Mom made most of our clothes when we were very young. Our dresses and skirts were made mostly with flour sack material. We had to take turns going to town on Saturday evening to see a movie at the Harriet Theatre in Hardin. It cost 16 cents for a show ticket and 5 cents for popcorn.
“Times did get better. We no longer had to wear flour sack dresses. Mom was always trying to buy us girls matching dresses, which Esther (oldest sis) finally objected to.
“Before school started each fall, Mom would take us to Billings for our annual perm, or should I say “frizz job.” Mom and Dad thought we just had to have curly hair.
“Dad would take us to the St. Xavier rodeo each year. We saved pop bottles to sell for spending money. Along about that time, a new limousine-type car was purchased to make room for all of us. It had folding seats. It was also about that time we were still going to have to take turns for our trip to Yellowstone Park. One time, Dad had an insurance man come to the house. We all had some crazy nicknames and that’s what Dad gave to the insurance man. Mom had to then correct him with our real names.
“Christmas time was a special time for Mom. She always decorated the house and had Christmas gifts for everyone: kids, grandkids, daughters-in-law and sons-in-law. She never left anyone out. If someone was forgotten, by accident, she would simply go to her closet and get out a gift from her stash that she always kept for emergencies. At that time, there were 40 grandkids. Mom also made quilts for all the 16 kids, all hand-quilted.
“Mom had several hobbies. She collected old dolls. Most were in tough shape with broken arms, missing body parts, etc. She would repair them, and make new clothes and new hair. One time, she saw an old doll on the roadside and stopped to pick it up. I think most of her dolls were from garage sales.
“She also had an enormous collection of salt and pepper shakers – hundreds of them.
“Dad passed away in 1982. Sometime later, Mom took a trip to Egypt. Our sister Kathryn was living there, and persuaded Mom to come for a visit. She was not easily persuaded. That was Mom’s first plane trip and she was quite reluctant. Mom told us of her boat trip down the Nile River, touring Jerusalem and Bethlehem. She also toured parts of Germany before her return home. While she was in Egypt, she had her picture taken riding a camel, which she had made into Christmas cards for everyone.
“Her next trip was to visit our sister Carol in Las Vegas. Mom thoroughly enjoyed the casinos and she did leave some of her money in the slot machines.
“We were kept busy on the family farm, but we did manage to get into trouble now and then.
“We played baseball in the pasture, rode horses and learned to drive when Mom and Dad weren’t home. Mom’s apron was used to wipe away tears, carry vegetables from the garden, shoo the chickens, tighten lids on jars during canning season, remove kettles from the stove and gather eggs.
“She spent many hours sitting with her needles making things for all of us that money could never buy. She taught us to share in the work each day and that Sunday was a holy day. Mom made sure we attended church and Sunday school. Our theme was “Make Sunday School a Sunday Rule.” The Christmas Eve children’s program at church was always special to Mom. At Christmastime each year, we all got new dresses for the program. One of the fondest memories I have is after Sunday dinner when we (the girls) would go into the living room, and gather around the piano and sing hymns for Mom and Dad.
“Mom had her first heart attack in 1990. Much of her time after that was spent at Heritage Acres.
“In July of this year, 2017, we had a family reunion with 160 in attendance. There were the 16 kids, 43 grandkids, 64 great grandkids, 25 great-great grandkids, and 1 great-great-great grandchild.
“We had a full life, enriched by our Christian upbringing. Thanks to Mom and Dad, we all have been richly blessed.”
Activities coming up at the Hardin Senior Center include the seniors meeting at 11 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 11 and this month’s birthday dinner on Wednesday, Aug. 16. Join us for the picnic at the museum on Friday, Aug. 18 at noon. Please bring a side dish.
A fundraiser for the Senior Citizens Association is sealed bids for a barbecue grill. This grill is like new and comes with a cover, two tanks and the grilling tools. The drawing will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 16 at the birthday dinner. A minimum $100 bid has been placed for it. It has been stored inside. Stop in at the Senior Center at 317 N. Custer to see it.
Our phone number is (406) 665-2581.
Hardin Senior Center menu:
Thursday, Aug. 10 – pork chops, potatoes, gravy, vegetables, dessert
Friday, Aug. 11 – hot turkey sandwich, potatoes, vegetables, dessert
Monday, Aug. 14 – tacos, rice, beans, salsa, chips, dessert
Tuesday, Aug. 15 – pasta salad, sandwich, dessert
Wednesday, Aug. 16 – ham dinner, potatoes, salads, cake, ice cream
Thursday, Aug. 17 – French toast, sausage, fruit
Lodge Grass Senior Center menu:
Friday, Aug. 11 – spaghetti, corn, salad, garlic bread, apple crisp
Monday, Aug. 14 – goulash, biscuit, fruit salad, pudding
Tuesday, Aug. 15 – chicken noodle soup, roll, fruit salad, cookie
Wednesday, Aug. 16 – birthday dinner (roast beef)