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1 1 1 Near the young Ahr River, near the source, in the village of Freilingen, Maria Giefer was born on the fourth day of August in 1897. Freilingen, near Blankenheim, belonged to the district of Schleiden, the“poorhouse of Prussia.”The village is situated on a rise with a view all around of the forests and peaceful valleys of the Eifel mountain range with its extinct ­ volcanoes the Hohe Acht, the Nürburg, the Aremberg, and the ­ Michelsberg. The house she was born in is made from solid stone taken from the ­ Freilingen Castle just across the road. The castle, an impressive structure with two corner towers, had been torn down around 1830. Maria’s parents kept a black trunk with iron fittings in their bedroom, on which was written in block letters, HUBERT GIEFER FREILINGEN KR. SCHLEIDEN REG. AACHEN RHEINLAND PREUSSEN-STEINBÜCHEL & BRO. INSURANCE LAND LOAN STEAMSHIP LINE AGENTS WICHITA KANSAS In 1893, when the best wine of the century was ripening on the banks of the Moselle River, the Eifel was suffering famine due to a drought and a bad harvest. Hubert Giefer, Maria’s father, decided to leave impoverished Freilingen for America to become a rich farmer. He worked as a farm­ laborer in the endless wheat fields of Kansas and Michigan. For three summers , he saw only yellow stalks reaching to all horizons. Hubert earned money and saved it so he could progress in the new land. He saw where his future lay. But he could not forget Elisabeth, his sweetheart back home in the Eifel. So he returned to take her with him back to America. But Elisabeth’s parents would not allow their daughter to move to a strange land. So far away from the village—somewhere beyond a vast ocean! Hubert had to make a choice: Elisabeth or America, and he ­decided Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 1 4/26/2017 12:17:32 PM 2  Maria Wallisfurth to stay. He married Elisabeth and they lived on his mother’s farm. Elisabeth soon bore two daughters, Maria and Gertrud. He never forgot his dream of a wheat farm of his own in America. It only slumbered. Hubert found it hard to stay in Freilingen. It was a place where time stood still. For centuries, the people in Freilingen and in the higher lying village of Lommersdorf had lived as diggers, coal miners, charcoal burners, or carters. The high-grade iron ore from Lommersdorf was transported by horse-drawn carts to the small steel mills in Ahrhütte, Stahlhütte, and Antweiler, where it was processed into iron bars and then sent to the arms factories in Brabant in the Netherlands and Liège in Belgium. In the forests , the charcoal burners produced charcoal for the smelting furnaces. Their kilns were ever smoking. The people in both villages did only a little farming on the side, but by 1880 the coal pit and steel mills closed down, and poverty and need settled in. Hubert Giefer saw the narrow fields, the small gardens, and all around the forests, marshland, and moor. If he had to stay in Freilingen, he at least wanted to get out of poverty! He calculated, he planned. He also acted. Soon people were saying, By the time Hubert Giefer gets up, he has already made money. Maria’s parents—Hubert and Elisabeth (née Luppertz) Giefer. Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 2 4/26/2017 12:17:32 PM ...


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Subject Headings

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