NOTE: The following
is a biographical account by the grandson of Rosina (Prauner) Ketterman Lucht, written sometime before his passing in January of
first husband was Michael Ketterman, and their little girl was named Rosina
also. The child is listed on the 1870
Madison Co., Census enumerated on
Researched by: Anita (Boyer) Thompson, 2003
The Rosina Lucht Story
By Ernest Reeker
It was early spring in the year 1867.
A young couple trudged wearily westward
from the railhead at
They did not mind the miles or the
difficulties encountered in the slow march over the level
At Norfolk, or at the place which was later to be Norfolk, for in 1867 there was no human dwelling at the junction of the North Fork and Elkhorn rivers, the young couple shouldered their belongings and continued still farther westward, mile after mile, weary footstep after another, they moved toward journey’s end.
Finally they reached their
destination. It was a tract of land,
beautiful, rolling virgin prairie land, eight miles south and one mile west of
what is now
One can easily reconstruct the picture as
they stood upon a little knoll and looked proudly at the grassy acres, the
wooded slopes and the green ribbons of shrubbery which marked the winding
The sturdy German woman was born Rosina Prauner in Wurtenburg,
Though wearied from their long journey, Rosina and her husband had little time to rest. Now that they were in actual possession of their land, they were fired with fresh energy and ambition. They attacked their many tasks with a vigor which belied any physical fatigue. First they had to construct a home. Necessity forced them to build a sod dugout along the banks of the small stream which wound through their land. The industrious Rosina packed the earthen floor to oak-like hardness and smoothness. The sod walls bore small decorations which she fashioned. The tables, benches and other furniture were crudely fashioned, homemade and serviceable. A fireplace and a dutch oven completed the equipment. It was home for them, and a happy home.
Every moment of daylight and often far
into the moonlit nights, the young couple worked side by side, clearing a piece
of ground for a vegetable garden-and preparing the soil for planting of
wheat. The first twelve months passed
and a crop was harvested. They remarked
upon the progress they had made. The
fruits of their labors were plainly discernible. They had beat back still further the western
Suddenly, and without warning, tragedy stalked into the dugout home. The young husband became seriously ill and competent medical aid was miles away. Rosina, like other pioneer women, had a thorough knowledge of first aid treatment, but this was serious. A doctor was summoned and finally reached the little home, but during his examination of the sick man he shook his head negatively. The young immigrant husband had the dread fever of the plains, typhoid, and there was no hope. In a few short days Rosina was a widow.
No one would have censored the young widow
had she deserted her homestead and returned to some town or village to rear her
daughter. But Rosina
was made of sterner stuff. She faced a
task seemingly too great for any woman.
She had one-hundred sixty acres of land to cultivate – a dugout home in
the side of a creek bank – and a babe to care for. There were no white neighbors to whom to turn
to for aid. But she did not
hesitate. Her decision had been made years
Tirelessly she went to work. With such help as she could employ from time to time to do the more arduous tasks, she planted another crop. It was harvested and a dishonest laborer sold it and decamped with the money. She faced the winter with no money, no supplies, lacking even the bare necessities of life. Then came the most crucial period of her pioneer days. Rosina and her little daughter became seriously ill. Had it not been for the chance visit of a distant neighbor, this story could not have been written.
As was the fashion in pioneer days, neighbors cared for the sick woman and her child. Rosina recovered but the little girl could not withstand the ravages of the disease and passed away. It would seem that fate might have dealt more kindly with a courageous soul as Rosina, but fate seems to delight in trying the courage of the most intrepid. Even this great loss could not deter her. Doggedly she went to work again, trying to ease the sorrow that was hers.
During the two years since she and her husband had first looked upon the land which was to be their home, and which they had hoped would bring them happiness, Rosina had suffered only sorrow and disappointment.
She had kept in touch with her family in
She gave them
detailed instructions how to make the trip.
The Union Pacific railroad had been built and the center of immigrant
Day after day, as the twilight shadows were blanketing the land, Rosina and her big black dog climbed to the top of the highest hill. There she waited, typifying patient pioneer womanhood, scanning the level land for some signs of her brothers.
She often told how they made the journey and had been discouraged by the vast distance in this new land. They had traveled as far as she had told them. The landmarks had been identified, but they could not see the woman and black dog. They were almost ready to return but another high hill in the distance seemed to beckon them on, and there they found Rosina, just as she had promised, waiting for them.
With the coming of her brothers, life took on a more rosy hue. Here was the physical strength to cope with the many tasks she had of necessity been forced to leave undone. They were able to clear their own homesteads and help her in the cultivation of her land. Though they urged her to leave her dugout home, she steadily refused. Its memories of husband and daughter were too poignant for her to lightly leave. She was forced to repair or rebuild it on several occasions.
During these venturesome years other
immigrants had come into the
John Lucht owned
a homestead just a mile and a half south of the present site of
Side by side, she and John Lucht strove to wrest wealth and security from the
land. They battled grasshopper plagues,
drought, blizzard, financial panic and flood.
Sometimes they emerged victorious.
Often they were beaten but never disheartened. They had to sit impotently by and watch as
hordes of grasshoppers destroyed a splendid wheat and corn crop. On another occasion they had to race to
higher ground as a sudden flood tore down
It is regrettable that the life story of Rosina Lucht could not have been obtained from her first hand. Her adventures put to shame many of the deeds of imaginary heroes conceived by fictious writers.
It is a notable fact that the first frame dwelling
It is characteristic of our forbearers
that they should turn to religion during those perilous times. It is well known that they were a deeply
reverent people. They realized that only
with the aid of a Supreme Being could they hold to their courses in carving a
civilization from the wilderness of
Rosina Lucht often held small gatherings breathless as she calmly
related some of the many adventures which befell her. Her remembrance of the Indian tribes which
When she and her first husband lived in the creek bank dugout, Indian warriors often visited them. Never did they offer her violence. Quietly, stolidly, they squat on their heels and watch as she prepared a meal or baked some bread. Silently they would extend their hands for a sample when the finished product was ready for the table. Then, with a grunt of appreciation, they would rise and stalk away. She said that many times, in spite of their silence and their insatiable appetites, she appreciated their company. She never refused to share her food with them.
The trading post for the
“These Indians, so often called fierce and cruel, were just like little children”, Rosina related. “They would bicker and quarrel among themselves over some trinket I had given to one. They would complain to me. I knew they were just like children and I treated them that way. They never bothered me, and goodness knows, if they had been as bad as others said they were, I would have been scalped a dozen times.”
This constant begging and expectation of gifts by the Indians who had visited her regularly and accepted her gifts of food and trinkets ceased suddenly, but the visits continued. However, they would no longer ask for nor accept anything from her. One day she asked one of the Indian visitors why. With pantomime and stumbling words he explained that she was alone now, her husband had gone to the Happy Hunting Grounds and they knew she would have difficulty in caring for herself and her daughter without giving gifts to them.
Many times a choice bit of venison, some wild ducks or prairie chickens which the Indians had killed in their hunts were brought to the dugout home to help restock the larder of the lone widow.
Once when asked about the abundance of
game in the
“Oh yes,” she often said, “I’ve seen the sky darkened with great flocks of wild geese and ducks. Millions of them and so unafraid, man was a strange creature to them and because of this, the slaughter by the white man was terrible. The civilized white man has only himself to blame for the dearth of wild life. The Indian killed, but just enough for their needs – never more.
Great herds of buffalo ranged this territory. Not a few hundred, but literally thousands of them. Sometimes the level land in the bottom of some valley seemed to change color from the bright green of the grass to a dark brown as the grazing buffalo moved slowly along. Many of these herds were regular in their migration to the northeastern part of the State until the land was well settled and many landmarks have their names based upon the herds that passed this way.
I’ve seen many herds of deer and antelope but these more timid animals went westward as the settlers came. I had one strange experience with deer. One morning I went into the clearing near the dugout and found a deer lying down with its shoulder badly torn and bleeding. Apparently it had been wounded by some hunter. It struggled to rise as I drew near but was too weak. I did what I could for it, bathed the terrible wound, brought water for it to drink and carried some grass for it to nibble on. Gradually it became accustomed to me. I fed it tiny bits of bread and a little sugar. A few days and it was strong enough to move around but it would not leave the neighborhood. Daily it would come to the clearing to make its presence known. I’d leave the dugout and it would come up to me, nuzzle my hand and follow me around like a dog. I’d always give it some little tidbit. I grew to expect the visits. They stopped suddenly and I wondered why. The answer was not long in coming. A neighbor brought me a shoulder of venison and from his description of the ease with which he had killed the deer, I knew my pet would not return.”
the development of
Few realized that much of her activity was carried on in spite of almost unendurable physical pain. During the perilous years following the death of her first husband she was forced to work in all kinds of weather. Often drenched to the skin by cold winds and snow, she had to return to the damp dugout and steam dry before a roasting blaze. She became afflicted with rheumatism and suffered untold agonies. Had she been permitted to rest, obtain proper medication and treatment, she might have suffered no lasting effects. Denied this, she had to let the affliction wear away. It left her slightly stooped, but with the coming of years her aging body became more and more stooped, until those who did not know her might have thought her deformed. Yet this physical suffering was never permitted to detract from her kindly interest and understanding of those with lesser troubles to bear.
The original home of John and Rosina Lucht is the site of the
Four daughters came to the Lucht home to replace the babe who perished in the dugout
home. Rosina Lucht made certain that her daughters were never to undergo
the hardships she had suffered. Today
these four daughters are well known residents of
The son completed the family circle. John Lucht, who too
learned loyalty and industry at his mother’s knee, is a rancher in
Were one to attempt to recount the many
unusual adventures which befell Rosina Lucht in her half century and more of life in Madison County
it would require great volume. She lived
a long useful life. It came to a
peaceful end on
The committee has been proud to present
this story written by Mr. Ernest Reeker and dedicated
to his grandmother, Mrs. Lucht. Mr. Reeker died a
number of years ago, and since he wrote the article,