The Greatest Story Ever Told & The Andreas and Marie Juba W.P.A.

The greatest story ever told has got to be history. The ultimate story of life, history shows us humanity in all its varied and wondrous aspects, no matter how seamy or glorious. History has something to say to everyone. It provides entertainment and education for people of all ages, races and sexes and is available in a variety of formats.

Of the many and diverse sources of history available at the Morrison County Historical Society (MCHS), one of the most fascinating to me is the oral histories that were recorded in the 1930s and 40s as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). These stories are valuable not only for the historical information they contain, they are also highly entertaining pieces of literature covering everything from immigration to childbirth to war. Taken as a whole, they provide a broad documentary of rural and urban life in the United States during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a sort of national “self- portrait.”

Established in 1935 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal Administration, the WPA was one of several work programs set up to provide jobs for the unemployed during what is commonly referred to as the Great Depression. The purpose of the work programs was to provide meaningful employment on projects designed for the public good. This goal was certainly reached with the WPA histories!

The WPA histories recorded in Morrison County share stories with us from the lives of early settlers and Civil War veterans, housewives and farmers, and prominent businessman and, yes, businesswomen. These stories reveal more than the essential facts and dates, they succeed in capturing the flavor and life of the county. It is fun to read the histories and look for words whose meanings have changed over the last sixty to seventy-five years. References to “The World War” are fascinating when you realize that they refer to what we now know as World War I and that World War II had not yet taken place.

Below are excerpts from one of the over one thousand WPA histories related to Morrison County. Written in 1937 by Andrew Juba, the story relates the life of Andrew’s parents, Andreas and Marie Juba. This biography provides a good example of the extent and breadth of subjects covered in the WPA histories. Topics range from information on family, education, and occupation to modes of transportation, social and religious affiliations, and, of course, the local environment.

Ann Marie Johnson
Copyright 2002, Morrison County Historical Society


Andreas & Marie Juba W.P.A.

Andreas Juba was born November 30, 1864, at Gros-Kottorsch, Oberschlesien, Germany. He received a grade school education and later served a number of years in the German military conscript training. He also learned the trade of bricklayer and mason. He came to the United States in 1887, working chiefly on farms and at masonry. Upon reaching Minnesota, he selected it as the state in which to stay.

Marie Jonientz was born April 27, 1865, at Schalkowitz, Oberschlesien, Germany. She attended grade school, and became acquainted with Andreas Juba when they were still of school age. After he left Germany, they corresponded regularly with each other.

Early in October 1889 the Jonientz family sailed from Bremen, Germany. Nine days later the steamship, as fast as any at that time, reached port at New York. From New York the family traveled on train by way of Chicago to St. Paul, then to Royalton. A team of horses with a wagon, sent by Andreas Juba to meet them, took them from Royalton to Elmdale.

In November 1889 Maria Jonientz became the wife of Andreas Juba, the marriage taking place at North Prairie. They secured one hundred and twenty acres of land, one forty acre tract and kitty-corner southwestward across the road another tract of eighty acres, located in Swan River township, two and one half miles north by road from Elmdale and five miles south from Sobieski, although in those years the little settlement at Sobieski was simply known as Swan River.

The country about was still sparsely settled and the few roads existent were rough and invariably narrow, no more than wagon passages. The settlers nearabout (sic), who came here to make their homes, were mostly Polish and Scandinavians. Andreas and Maria Juba were of German-Polish lineage.

From all sides the presence of wild animal, insect and wild bird life was prevalent. There were a good number of deer in the region, and it was not unusual to glimpse a wolf or hear some of them howl at night, or to even discover a bear, as happened, encroaching upon the pigsty. Small game was especially abundant, particularly white rabbits, grouse, pigeons in droves, and ducks. Andreas Juba sometimes shot small game for food, catching rabbits too in snares that he set; and if he wanted to kill a deer, he found that within easy reach. His gun was a muzzle-loader. Snakes were very common; the meadow was the habitat of numerous ones of sundry sizes, others were met with in the woods. Several of them, on separate occasions, crawled into the house where they were killed by Mrs. Juba. Once, upon returning from cow milking, she found a snake coiled in a chair by the baby-crib in which a baby slept.

Andreas Juba gradually removed some of the timber and underbrush. He grubbed, blasted stumps with powder, dragged off the stumps with the oxen and massed them in a huge heap which afterwards, when dried, burned to ashes. He tilled the soil on the cleared land and planted limited crops. Most of the necessary implements he used were slow and rudimental. His plow was of heavy wooden design except for the iron share, he sowed grain by hand. When time came, he cut grain with a cradle and tied bundles with handfuls of twisted stalks of the grain. He mowed grass with only a scythe and gathered the hay by means of a hand-rake, stacking hay for winter by the barn.

The residential part of the improved farm had a small orchard on each side of the short roadway leading into the yard. These orchards consisted of plum and cherry trees, a few apple trees, some currant bushes and several gooseberry shrubs. One of the orchards, connecting with the house, contained a row of rhubarb and several spreading clumps of horseradish, while the other included a flower garden. The flower garden came to have tall hollyhocks, sunflowers and golden glows, small beds of phlox, iris, roses, peonies, dahlias and tiger lilies; squat arrayals of pansies, jumbled tiers of nasturtiums, and a knoll of white-striped ornamental grass. Both of the orchards were enclosed with picket fences, of which portions were sometimes festooned with star-cucumber vines.

In the forestland and groves that remained there were white and red oaks, elms, basswoods, maples, ironwoods, ash trees and poplars, some tamarack and a scattering of birches. A variety of wild fruits grew haphazardly here and there — strawberries, raspberries, plums, June berries, chokecherries, black haws, black currants, red and yellow haws of several kinds of hawthorn, smooth and prickly gooseberries, both common and beaked hazelnuts.

As yet the original luxuriant growth upon the land was not extensively destroyed. At spring the wild blossoming fruit trees decorated woods and roadsides with lovely splashes of soft whiteness, and with the sweet smell of the blossoms on the wind. Then, from spring on to a stretch of autumn, the unplowed earth on the farm turned fragrant with intermingling plant life and was tinctured with flowers, and all the farm stirred with the sighs and sound of wild creatures.

The boys of the family often angled with home-made fish-hooks improvised out of wire, bobbers cut of good-sized old corks, and poles cut out of brushwood. Wadded bits of fresh bread made competent bait, as well as the legs of frogs that were easily captured. By using a net, fashioned of gunny-sacks, the boys caught some of the suckers.

The conveyances that served the farm during the years were the lumber wagon, the tow horse, double- seated spring buggy, the seats of which were movable or removable, and the one-horse top-buggy. Of these, the sturdy lumber wagon functioned most actively, for it was put to use not only with the wagonbox and high spring seat but also with the hayrack and at times, for rougher all-around service, with planks laid on the bolsters. Winter, when the snow came, brought out the bobsled, the light-two-bob sleigh and the cutter, and, of course, the tinklin bells that went with the cutter when the horse was harnessed.

Andreas and Maria Juba sold butter, eggs and cream in Royalton, Little Falls, and Elmdale, and poultry, pigs and cattle at the former two, and purchased groceries and clothing at all these places. Some of the clothing was bought from itinerant peddlers who stopped at the farm and bargained to sell the merchandise they displayed. To the mill established at Two Rivers, a short distance above North Prairie — about five miles closer than old Spunk Brook — Andreas Juba brought wheat and other grains and received flour and ground feed in return.

When the first few chain-drive automobiles made their appearance, one of them chugging noisily by once in a great rare while, the farmer children ran out to the road and farmers paused in their work to watch the novel moving horseless sight. Driving along the road, in those days, it was no fun meeting an automobile. It used to be a rather precarious encounter, for you had your hands full controlling, as best you could, the frightened horses as they shied and balked nervously. The likelihood of sudden damage happening was ever present at those jerky moments. One day, near the bridge over the creek, a terrified team of horses snapped a buggy pole in two. On another occasion, farther up the road, a horse that became panicky, cracked the shafts of a top-buggy, tore several straps of the harness and tried a runaway. Occurrences of this kind faced the farmers. Sometimes another person, who was along with the driver, got out and handled the horses by their bits. Later on, when automobiles were more frequent and horses less scared, and farm folks no longer hurried nor stopped to gaze in curious wonder at a passing automobile, then farmers and horses took part in pulling out automobiles that now and then got stuck in the mire of the road.

As yet the automobile was a new-fangled vehicle that farmers did not have. Farmers took pride in owning fine horses and fine buggies.

Andreas and Maria Juba were Catholics who, when they first settled upon the farm, attended church at the hamlet of Elmdale. They walked two and one-half miles because that was faster than by plodding along with the oxen. After drenching rainfalls, they had to skirt wet places and pools in the roadway, jumping over some, at the same time dodging branches that impeded the offcourse here and there. People, quite customarily, came to church barefooted, carrying the wooden-soled shoes which they put on their feet before they entered the church. After services, they took the shoes off outside and carried them again as they went home. Later on, because of the irregularity of the church services at Elmdale, Mr. and Mrs. Juba became members of the Catholic church in Swan River at the site of what is now Sobieski; this was when they already had horses.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Juba were naturalized as Mr. Juba completed citizenship papers in September 1920. Voting, until the Swan River townhall was built, was done in a schoolhouse.

Nine children, in all, five girls and four boys were born, on the farm, to Andreas and Maria Juba. Frances, the first died in infancy; then followed the births of Mary, Elsie, Martha, Peter, Andrew, Anthony, Sophie, and the last, Raymond, died at the age of nine months.

Andreas Juba died April 11, 1916. Mrs. Maria Juba’s death came on November 21, 1936.

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