Friday, May 23, 2014

52 Ancestors #21: Wonder Woman

Ancestor Name: Wilhelmina (Schalin) Lange

We read so much today about super Moms and wonder women who do it all -- work, raise children, and put meals on the table. I'd like to introduce an original of the species on the 120th anniversary of her birth.

Wilhelmina (Schalin) Lange was my maternal grandmother. She raised all her nine children to adulthood and each one thought they were her favorite. She was an amazing woman. In the late 1990s Lucille (Fillenberg) Effa contacted my father through a genealogy forum. She was writing a book on my grandmother's Schalin family and wondered if my mother would contribute an article about her mother. So on the 120th anniversary of my grandmother's birth, I thought I would let my Mom tell the story of her beloved mother's life. This excerpt is from Our Schalin Family: 1770-2003, by Lucille Fillenberg Effa, published in 2003 by Northstar Direct Printers, Nanaimo, British Columbia.

by Dorothy (Lange) Jennings:

Wilhelmina "Minnie" Schalin, daughter of Wilhelm and Auguste (Fabriske) Schalin, was born in the Fredericksheim district east of Leduc, in the year following the Schalin family's arrival in Canada. She was their second daughter to be named Wilhelmine and was only three years old when her mother died. A year later her father remarried.

Minnie had a very unpleasant childhood and when her father found out how she was being treated he would take her with him when he went out into the fields to work. When she was about nine, her father found another family to keep her where she helped out with farm chores. When older she helped in homes when a baby was born. At one time she worked in hotel kitchen and for a time was employed by Lord and Lady Davis in Edmonton, Alberta.

Wilhelmina Schalin when employed by Lord Davis

Minnie met Gustav Lange while living in Edmonton. When he moved to Winnipeg, Gustav sent her train fare to come there to be married and the of 9 April 1915 was chosen.

Gustav was born to August and Karoline (Ludwig) Lange, in Rozhishche, near the city of Lutzk, in Volhynia. He moved to Germany in 1906 where he worked for a short time before leaving for Canada. He sailed from Liverpool, England, on 12 August 1911 onboard the S/S Teutonic and arrived at the port of Quebec on the 20th.

Wilhelmina (Schalin) Lange on her wedding day

Their first daughter, Ruth, was born in February of 1916. The family left Winnipeg, crossing through Detroit on 30 December 1916 to live in Peck, Michigan. Two sons, Walter and Arnold, were born there while the family worked as share croppers on a sugar beet farm. Another move was made to Cheltenham, Maryland in November 1919 when Gustav saw an advertisement for a farm for sale in Maryland. They left by train when Arnold was only three weeks old. Before leaving for Maryland, the baby had to have an operation to correct a harelip, necessitating a stop in Buffalo, New York, to have the stitches removed by another doctor.

Ruth Hedwig Lange, Wilhelmina's oldest child; photograph taken in Detroit, Michigan

They bought the farm in Maryland where six more children were born to them. They worked hard cutting pulpwood to pay for the farm and build a new home. They raised tobacco for one year (a big money crop in Maryland) but because of religious beliefs did not pursue that further. Instead, they later started a poultry business and also kept horses, cows and pigs. Gustav began an egg route in Washington, DC, delivering eggs to some of the U.S. Senators in the Senate Office Building.

Tribute to Gustav and Wilhelmina (Schalin) Lange, carved in a tree by their son, Arthur James Lange

Minnie's life was busy and she worked hard raising nine children and working side-by-side with Gustav on the farm. They had no electricity or running water. Although there was always a lot of work to be done, she found time to play with her children: tag, hide and seek, and ball games, even putting boxing gloves on to box with Alfred! She had gift of story telling. When she worked with the children cutting and husking corn, fixing the road, hoeing the garden, planting potatoes, bringing in the hay, feeding chickens, or whatever, she would tell them a story and magically the work was done.

Wilhelmina (Schalin) Lange in her beloved rock garden; how she had time for it no one knows

Meal times were the best part of the day, although presenting a real challenge for her. She relied on the big garden and fruit trees to put a meal on the table. These were noisy, but cheerful times.

In many ways she was a perfectionist. For example, if the girls didn't hang the clothes on the line according to size and color she would make them go back out and change it. She was a good seamstress and could do delicate handwork. It was amazing to see those big hands, which wielded an axe to cut firewood doing the finest handwork with a little needle.

Wilhelmina (Schalin) Lange doing fine embroidery

Minnie took every opportunity to instill good work ethics and Christian ideals in her children. She provided them with many happy childhood memories and all of her children feel truly blessed to have had her for a mother.

She predeceased her husband by three years, passing away 27 November 1960 in Clinton, Maryland. Gustav Lange died on 23 December 1963 in Arlington, Virginia. Both are buried in Waldorf, Maryland.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge.

Wilhelmina "Minnie" Schalin was born on 23 May 1894 near Leduc, Alberta, North-West Territories, Canada, to Wilhelm and Auguste (Fabriske) Schalin. She was their seventh child and the first to be born in Canada. She married Gustav Lange on 9 April 1915 at Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. On 30 December 1916 they immigrated to Peck, Sanilac, Michigan. They lived there for three years before moving to Cheltenham, Prince George's, Maryland. They had nine children. Wilhelmina died on 27 November 1960 at Clinton, Prince George's, Maryland. She is buried next to her husband in Trinity Memorial Gardens at Waldorf, Charles, Maryland.


  1. We really don't know what hard work is do we?! What a person and example she was! How wonderful that she inspired love and devotion and industriousness! Very interesting! Thanks for sharing, Helen

  2. What a wonder woman indeed!!!

  3. Grandma was indeed a very special person. She made each of her children and grandchildren feel like they were her very special person. I remember my Mom and her siblings squabbling about who Grandma loved best at a funeral. It was sort of surreal to hear people in their 50s and 60s talking like children!