by Emmett R Smith
DURING The August, 1862, Dakota uprising, runs the family story, Wilhelmina Schippel hightailed it to safety in Fort Ridgeley, with her two little ones, three-year-old Henry and Albert, eight months’ old. Nowhere in Great-Aunty Leona’s story was there any mention of their father Anton Schippel. Leona (b 1901) was always at a loss, and it wasn’t until some years later, when I met her older sister sister Alma (b 1889), that I got the story–or, a story, at any rate:
‘You see, Buddy,’ Great-Aunt Alma began in a cozy voice, in her jam-packed little house at 817 S Front Street, in old Mankato one airless August afternoon in 1959 (like many of the old Germans she did not believe in open windows in a heat-wave–‘It keeps the house cool,’ she said), ‘in those times Swan Lake, up in Nicollet County, was just stiff with ducks. In the Fall of ’61 my Grandmother Wilhelmina was expecting [little Albert, in fact, born January, 1862–ERS], so she took fits for some fresh meat. It was in November and so she told off her old man and her brothers to go over East [from the Frohrip family-colony in Renville County–ERS] to Swan Lake and get her a feed of ducks!
‘The boys got to the lake in time to make a big fire and camp for the night. Anton woke up before the other fellows and decided to get down by the slough. It was already hard freezing and when he got down by the lake there must have been twenty thousand ducks already frozen, in the ice making up out from the shore. Gee he was excited!
‘He made his way quite a ways out on the ice among the ducks with his shotgun all cocked and ready to go off–when down he went on his butt. Bang! went the gun and them ducks all took off, just flapping their wings like anything….’
‘Well, they was mostly frozen in the new ice-sheet–and just like that Anton Schippel was airborne, right spang in the middle. All them Frohripp boys woke up just in time to see their brother-in-law flying away South.
‘And do you know nobody seen him until right in the middle of the Civil War when President Lincoln traded some prisoners with the Southerners. In the meanwhile he’d been all the way to Memphis and in Libby Prison–but he was a civilian, so them Southerners let him go.
‘He was sure embarrassed and all he ever said to us when I was a little girl was “I sure got a wet seat when the ducks landed me Down South and that ice all melted!” My Grandma Wilhelmina always told us it was just a lot of scribbing [old Minnesotan, for lying–ERS] and that we shouldn’t believe such stuff.
‘I’ll let you decide, Buddy–but just remember this, things was different in them old days!’
LATER, I asked Great-Aunty Leona about this stuff, but all she did was to mutter to herself, about old and foolish–in the manner of unmarried old sisters in those days fifty years ago, those two old ladies hated each other and pursued feuds and vendetta right beyond the grave, with complicated and insulting wills and estate-arrangements. So, I must let you reading this decide:
Only remember this, there was quite an hiatus, between the birth of Albert Schippel and my Great-Grandmother Mary Schippel Magly, in 1868 or so–so, maybe, it took Anton Schippel even more time to get back from Down South!
[Emmett R Smith all rights reserved 18 March 2006]