This page was last updated 26 June 2011 -- rak.

Reserved for his photo

image caption

My grandfather, John Henry Kraus was born 16 September 1877 in a sod house in Canada, Gale Township, Marion County, Kansas, to Maria Katharina (Dahlinger) and David Kraus. My older relatives always told me that great grandmother had been pregnant with granddad on the boat crossing the Atlantic -- which would been extremely uncomfortable for her!

However, their ship docked in New York on 31 July 1876, so either the story is not true, or granddad was a very, very late baby!

Canada, Kansas was then a thriving and rapidly growing small town. However, when my brother John and I were there about 1995 it appeared to have a population maybe as large as 15 with no visible commercial activity.

I don't know if anyone assisted great grandmother Mary with the delivery, but if so, my guess is that it was the midwife Sara Block Eitzen (1840-1917), a Mennonite midwife who herself had also come to Marion County (probably Liberty Township and just a few miles from Canada) in 1876. She is said to have delivered over 1800 babies during her medical "ministry" [see Solomon L. Loewen, "Medical and Dental Services in Early Mennonite Communities", AHSGR Journal 7.3, pp.15-20 (it has her picture)]. Most of the folks on the ship on which David and Mary crossed the Atlantic were Mennonites.

I don't know if great-granddad built the sod house himself or been able to move into one which had recently been vacated by some family which had moved on to better housing. On the high plains you needed shelter in a hurry. The winds made tents pretty useless but there was plenty of sod -- so you started digging, chopped a few saplings near a creek for roof "timbers", and in a couple of days you could have a passable shelter for your family. The people you arrived with probably helped you in this construction and you in turn helped them. Solomon Otto describes the sod house built by his dad in South Dakota in 1895 in the AHSGR Journal, volume 7.1, p.41. It had two small rooms -- a kitchen and a bedroom. The style was probably fairly common on the high plains in those days.

So granddad and his siblings grew up farmers on the high plains of America.

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