In a photo taken about 1893, my great grandmother, Aloisia Knaus Schupfer, holds her son Otto's hand. My grandpa, Herman C. Schupfer, sits on my great-grandfather Mathias Schupfer's lap. Matthias would desert the family, leaving Aloisia alone to raise her family in the New World.
I spent all day today writing up the story of my great-grandmother. With the help of my mother, Beverly, and the memoirs of my late grandpa, Herman C. Schupfer, I put together a tribute to Aloisia Knaus Schupfer, who started life as a semmerin, living high in the Austrian Alps each summer with only the cows for company, and who ended her life as a pioneer farm wife, abandoned by an alcoholic husband, raising three brilliant young kids and making friends with the Nez Perce Indians in Idaho.Aloisia began her life as a semmerin, a person who goes up into the mountains with the cattle and takes care of them during the summer. She lived each summer at the Riesachsee, in the rugged Alps of Austrian Steiermark, and carried the family's beehive on her back up and down each year. This is a similar summer hut on the Riesachsee.
In the 1880s, Aloisia, an old maid in her thirties, agreed to marry fellow Austrian Mathias Schupfer and accompany him back to his homestead in northern Idaho. Above is their homestead in 1907. The family homestead is still there, but derelict and empty, above Juliaetta, Idaho.
On the homestead, Aloisia feeds chickens around 1900.
Aloisia traded with the Nez Perce Indians regularly. She liked them, enjoyed their visits, and said they were honest and good. Here is a Nez Perce family who lived just down the valley at Spalding, Idaho.
Aloisia Schupfer passed away in 1937 and is buried in Juliaetta, Idaho. But her memory lives on. An old maid, she married my great-grandfather who had already homesteaded 160 acres in northern Idaho in the 1870s, and followed him to America. What courage that must have taken! In 1910, my great-grandfather left to see the World's Fair in Portland and never came back, ending up in San Francisco, where his skill as a carpenter assured him of work rebuilding a city devastated by the recent earthquake. He left behind a farm, three children, and his wife, who instead of giving up, redoubled her efforts and raised three children alone. In addition to the other early settlers in the area, she befriended and traded with many of the Nez Perce Indians, and her tolerance of those different from herself was handed down to future generations.
Aloisa Schupfer with my mom, Beverly Schupfer, in Kendrick Idaho, around 1932. My mom loved visiting her Grandmother, a kind woman who spoke limited English with a thick German accent and always told her when she left to "be a goot geerl".
Aloisia never spoke more than a smattering of English, but she was a rock, and upon her a family was built. She instilled her strong Christian faith in her children, and many years later, her son, my grandpa, instilled it in me. What greater gift is there than salvation?
In a week when I am saluting strong women, I cannot leave out my own great-grandma, one of the greatest women, next to my own mom, in my life.