Flora Elizabeth Woll Bockwitz

by

Theresa Rabe

 

One of the best lady sharp shooters, Flora Elizabeth Woll Bockwitz pioneered in Kittson County. She could match skills with anyone. She could shoot a cigarette out of her husband's mouth. This trick challenged and excited everyone.

Flora acquired this unusual skill at the age of 15. In her childhood days, such things weren't done by girls. However, this didn't bother Flora. She learned how to shoot and ride horseback better than most boys. She used the shotgun and rifle. Every time her pa went out hunting, she was right behind him.

Even after marriage she kept up this hobby. She and her husband represented some of the leading manufacturers of shotguns and rifle ammuntion.

The couple made runs on the Mississippi River steamboats and made showings of their great rifle and shotgun skills. One of the ammuntion companies they traveled for was the Peter's Company.

She could shoot a hundred clay pigeons without missing a shot. She used a .22 calibre rifle in this trick. She could also shoot the tiny briquettes, as they were thrown up in the air.

The neighbors still can see her coming out of her kitchen door and shooting a chicken running across the yard at full speed. She then picked the chicken up and took it in the house and plucked and cleaned it. Then, when the men came for supper they had fresh fried chicken.

When she and her husband were not putting on shows. She was a typical mother and house wife, for she did have one son to raise.

She and her husband farmed some 3,500 acres of land. Flora had the responsibility of keeping the men well fed and the house in running order. She had to gather the eggs, take care of the cream separator twice a day, make meals three times a day for about 20 men, and keep the house and the bunkhouse clean. Flora always had a woman to help her and two at harvest time. Harvest time meant at least a dozen extra men. This put more work on Flora but she didn't mind. She kept a smile through thick or thin.

Her married life began when she married Frederick Bockwitz in Chicago, Illinois on July 6, 1908. They farmed in San Jose, Illinois until they moved to St. Vincent township where they bought some land. While still in Illinois, they were blessed with the birth of one son, Virgil Bookwitz. The move to Kittson County involved a deal of effort.

They packed all their household goods and farm machinery in two railroad box cars. They also had one stock car for their livestock. They had sheep and horses. The family also came by train. The head of the family rode in the immigration car which was required. The rest of the family rode in a different part of the train.

After several years on their farm in St. Vincent township they purchased the old James J. Hill farm and 3,500 acres of the best farm land. It was located directly across the depot from the village of Humboldt. At present there are only four buildings left of this James J. Hill farm.

The house they moved into was an old boarding house which had been used to board railroad workers. While they lived in this house, Flora collected some of the rarest antiques. Some of these are priceless today. She put all the love and care she could into this huge house and made it likable and very homey. With such a large house and so much work on the farm to do, she was always kept very busy.

Then in February of 1957, death hit the family, Flora became a widow. Her son then assumed the full reponsibility of the farm work. However, she maintained this residence in Humboldt, Minn. until her death on July 26, 1969.

Flora was raised and educated in San Jose, Illinois. Her family history dates way back to Abraham Lincoln. She often recalled her Grandmother Neikirk telling about Abe Lincoln visting their store. This tall lean looking man came into the store before he caught the train to Springfield. He often sat by the pot belly stove and spun yarns with the local farmers. Sometimes he become so absorbed in his tales that he missed his train completely and had to take another one. This store now is in the possesion of the United States government and restored to its original state. It is also a tourist attraction for the many people who come into San Jose.

Since she was the oldest of four childern, she had to help her mother a great deal with house work and look after the smaller childern. She didn't mind this too much but she would rather have been out shooting or horse back riding.

She was a young lady who just loved basket socials. At these events the girls fixed up a basket. They often took a shoe box and trimmed it with colored tissue paper, fancy ribbons and paper flowers. Then a boy would buy the basket at an auction sale and become her date for the evening. But a girl ususally told her favorite boyfriend which one was hers.

San Jose is quite a town for it was once the main center of four different railways. Many tourist file into this town to see the store where Abe Lincoln sat around a pot belly stove and spun yarns. Also they come to see the antique shop her brother owns. It is filled with many antiques that were once in Flora's house.

Flora was an active member of the Methodist church and a member of the Royal Neighbors and Eastern Star for over 50 years.

Her neighbors always showed her the deepest respect. She was a very charming and active woman. She always had a word to say to everyone she met. Even after her death, people remember her as a very great lady.

Bibliography

Bockwitz, Virgil: Interview; January, 1970