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Denton Community
Historical Society

Tales & Trails
January 2008

John Jacob Faig

By Violet Faig Peterson
John Jacob Faig


We all can tell a story of an ancestor whose life has had some interesting events. This story is of my paternal grandfather, John Jacob Faig, (usually called Jake) who seems to me to have had such a life. His name is not in books but mostly in our memories. Jake was born in a small town, Huelben, Germany, which is south of Stuttgart, Germany to Gottlieb and Susannah Faig on January 24, 1840. We do not know much of Jakeís childhood but do know he liked to draw. The family has a number of his drawings. These were of various scenes in Germany and schools.

Jake's father, Gottlieb, shoed horses and welded wagon wheels in Germany for the army. He did not like the military situation and decided to come to America in 1852 with his wife, son and daughter.

The family left from Hamburg, Germany on a sail boat. We do know they had a trunk which a granddaughter now has in her home. There was also a yellow cream pitcher with a dark blue strip around the middle. Also a hammer. Dad said the rhubarb in his garden came from stock brought over from Germany. The ship was to land in New York but the wind kept blowing them out to sea. So they had to sail to New Orleans and entered the United States from there. From there the family seemed to follow the Mississippi River and settled around Iowa City, Iowa.

One thing we know of Jake while he was in Iowa City is that he drove a stagecoach with his future brother-in-law, Abram Houser. Jakeís father became a drunkard, (my Dadís term). Because he took all the familyís earnings to support his habit, Jake decided to look into homesteading in Nebraska. He came to Nebraska in the fall of 1868 and looked over the situation. He was told not to choose level land but to homestead rolling hills where the water would run off. He did this and overlooked some very choice land southwest of Lincoln.

Jake came to Nebraska in the spring of 1869 to homestead 80 acres. His mother came in the fall of 1869 to homestead an adjoining 80 acres. They built the homestead buildings on the property lines where the two properties joined. We have copies of the homestead papers.

The first years in Nebraska when food was scare they ate rabbits and grouse. In the summer they ate fish from a nearby creek. The method for getting fish was to shoot beneath the fish in the water and cause the air sac of the fish to break. Then the fish were taken from the water with a net.

Jake was a hard working man. The first winter in Nebraska he spent most of the time working at a quarry that furnished rock for the State Penitentiary. The next year the job was given to the penitentiary inmates. The quarry was located where the Lincoln Memorial Park is today. The next year he worked at a quarry near Roca. He walked to work but it is said he ran instead of walking. He followed railroad tracks.

Another walking story is that when his daughter, Sophie, was ill he walked to Lincoln to get medicine for her. When he got back home he found the medicine was in a lump. They did not know how much to give Sophie so Jake walked back to Lincoln and found the right dosage. Sophie died of a ruptured appendix.

When Jake started farming he had a horse and an ox. They did not work well as a team as the ox was slow and the horse wanted to go faster. The first taxes on the farm were paid in 1872.

The 1885 Nebraska census said he was living alone. He could not read or write, probably English. He had sold $600.00 of produce. He owned 5 horses not mules. He was interested in raising fruit. He was also good at pruning fruit trees. They tell that he made apple cider. Pieces of the cider press were still around in the 1 920s.

Jake said he wanted a German girl for a wife. He waited until he was 52 years old before he married. He met a 29 year old German lady at a Sunday School convention near Kramer. She had just come from Germany a year before. They were married February 19, 1891. They seemed to have had a good marriage. They had 2 children.

It seems as if the family was originally of the German Lutheran faith. In Muscatine, Iowa he may have joined the Methodist Church. In Nebraska he joined and faithfully attended the Centerville Church. This church was located two and three quarter miles east of the farm.

Jake lived on his homestead until the age of 83. He died in St. Elizabeth Hospital in Lincoln on August 11, 1923. He is buried in the Centerville Cemetery. An interesting life of a pioneer.