Thursday, September 14, 2006
German immigrants who came to Holly Springs
For some reason before the War Between the States, many German immigrants came to Holly Springs.
Herman Snyder, a German immigrant, arrived here by mistake and stayed the rest of his life. He opened a bakery shop in the location on the east side of the Square where court is now held Before that, the location was the home of Hensley’s Electric Shop and before that Calame’s Jewelry Store for a number of years. He knew no English and the officials sent him here instead of Hot Springs, Arkansas, where he had family.
Holly Springs was alternately in the hands of Federals. Confederate soldiers were captured and place under guard on the courthouse yard. Provisions were delayed for some reason and by the end of the second day’s fast, the prisoners were loud in their protests, “Feed us, feed us, we are starving!” Herman Snyder, not yet naturalized, stood the sight of hunger as long as he could, then he dashed to his shop and baked all the bread his oven would hold.
He filled his wagon with the bread and drove up to the court yard and began throwing the loaves to the ravenous boys. A sentinel challenged him. “Who told you to feed these soldiers?” Snyder triumphantly answered, “I feed me when I please — I don’t belong to this government.” His knowledge of international law may have been faulty but he was allowed to feed the prisoners, nevertheless.
Snyder became very prosperous after the War and there was a rumor that he picked up sheets of uncut U.S. money the morning after Van Dorn’s Raid. If he did, he had the good judgment to hold on to the money and turn it loose gradually.
Another German family that came before the War was named Knable. They built the jug factory where local people were employed for decades. During the War Mr. Knable could not side with the Confederacy as he was proud of being an American citizen and as soon as he got here, he was asked to give up his citizenship to side with the Confederacy. He could not and he never did.
The Knables were kin to Albert Herr, who was the eighth son of the King of Germany. Albert realized that he would never be king as the throne was selected from the oldest son down to the youngest. The German map was different at the time and consisted of many small countries and I don’t know which province would have been Albert Herr’s. So he migrated to the United States and to Holly Springs. When he arrived, he changed his name to Herr, as in German that means “Mister” and he was giving up this royal status. Albert Herr became town mayor.
He also became owner of the jug factory with his relatives, the Knables. He married their daughter and lived in the house at the corner of College and Chesterman and his name is on the front step. His daughter was Eva Knott who told me all the stories.
She said that in 1915 her father got sick with pneumonia. It was in the wintertime and a fire was going in the fireplace. He asked Eva to call Harris Gholson and have him bring the contents of his safety deposit box. When he had the papers in his hand, he got up and staggered across the room and flung his royal papers into the fire. Eva cried, “Papa, why did you do that?” He replied, “I didn’t want anybody in the family trying to use the papers to go back and take up what I gave away!”
A royal welcome was being given the Democratic Club at the depot in 1876. A cannon that had been filched from the Berglund foundry north of Salem Bridge was fired by a hot iron rod, and just as Albert Herr was about to touch it off, Bose Job snatched it from him and fired the cannon. Bose’s leg was shot off and Albert was knocked silly for some time. Bose wore a peg leg the rest of his life.
A World War I cannon was on the square for many years until we needed metal in early 1942 for the World War II effort. The war effort needed steel and our cannon was given for that purpose but I wish it were still there.
Do you remember Cecelia Knott who used to teach dancing lessons? She was Albert Herr’s granddaughter who married Clyde Woodward. They had one son who was born in 1948, who was his grandfather made over.
Being very brilliant, he was able to speak seven languages. He and his wife worked in China for a while but his restless spirit took over. They came home and he left his wife with Cecelia and went on an adventure to South America and was never heard from again. Sad.
There was a German immigrant named G.A. Palm, who came here when he was 14. Later on in 1872 he built the Wynne House at the corner of Randolph and Roberts. After living here for 25 years, he returned to visit his family he left behind in Germany. When he got ready to come back to Holly Springs, the German government wouldn’t let him leave saying he left Germany before serving in the armed services and they wanted him in the army. It took a Mississippi Senator’s help with Washington strings to get him back to Mississippi.
A German priest, who was an immigrant, became a teacher here. He thought he could correct the students here like he did in Germany and when he tried to administer the punishment of boxing their ears, the students retaliated by throwing bricks at him.
During World War I, every German here in town was suspected of being spies, some even jailed. One was Mr. Badow, who looked the part of a treacherous Hun. He married Miss Pearl Strickland, Major Strickland’s daughter. She owned the “Hanging Woods” at the end of Van Dorn Avenue across from the Depot. She sold it to finance their honeymoon to go back to Germany as he said he had a great fortune waiting for him there. However, it never materialized and they came back poorer than before.
Most of the Germans seemed very talented. Adam Preher was a German who worked for Mr. Lowry and Mr. Bradberry at the marble yard, carving tombstones. His carved masterpieces consist of climbing roses, lilies and artful leaves, and are exquisite. They are all mounted on chunks of granite.
His own tombstone is elaborate, but his poor wife was like the shoemaker’s wife who had no shoes. Mrs. Preher has no tombstone.
He made our cemetery special with his outstanding sculptures, although he forgot to sign most of them. But they all have the same touch.
Mr. Preher lived at the corner of Randolph and Salem. After he died in 1933, someone else moved into his house and discovered he had a yard full of discarded marble from the tombstones that had been carved.
Mr. Preher had colorful relatives who were in the circus. They would come visit from time to time.
Hans Wittjen was another German immigrant who came to town. He married one of the Hudson girls from Hudsonville and they had a home there. He was a true artisan and could carve fantastic works of art. He bought a building on the Square, which he renovated into a beautiful apartment upstairs, with chalet windows overlooking the Square.
The Rittlemyer brothers moved to Holly Springs before the Civil War and were carpenters of renown. They built the spiral staircases, with seemingly no supports, around town and of course, they could build anything.
But they put their special touch and signature on whatever they built.
P.S. In last week’s column my granddaughter, Emily was ten months old and could walk everywhere, so I tied her to a bush on top of the mountain to be sure she didn’t fall off.
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