By Gary Herrity
Special to the Herald
In the early part of our country’s history, the east coast was settled by British, Dutch and other immigrants. By the mid-19th Century, it was the Irish, Scandinavians and Germans’ turn to come in large numbers. Europe was crowded, its forests depleted, fishing had become sparse, and land was almost impossible to attain. The Determans came in large numbers and helped to populate America’s Hampshire Township of Clinton County.
Five men — “Dict,” Clem, Henry, Herman, and “B.H.” came, along with other brothers and sisters. The first two were instrumental in creating lasting farms. Henry, born in 1802, was a strong handsome man, a talented leader-type, who lived a long life.
He was known as “Butcher Henry” because he was very adept at slaughtering livestock. His other skill seems totally at odds with the first. He was a popular midwife. Have you ever known two more widely divergent professions joined together in one man?
Herman Determan was perhaps the first brother to come to America. He would sell his original homestead on 190th Street to Clemens. That pioneer farm was later sold to Frank Krogman and to his son, Frank, and then to Arnold “Butch” Krogmann and, now, Greg and Jamie Burken live there. The main house and “Dict’s” home on 180th Street were built about the same time in 1856.
We mentioned primogeniture in the last article — the giving of land to the oldest male offspring. Why did they do that in Europe? Well, partly because it often took families hundreds of years to rise to the point where they had land of their own and a name to be proud of. So, they devised this way to preserve their family’s place in society.
We even see how they sometimes went to great pains to keep it so. The original Claseman family had a farm of some standing in Brumsel, Germany. But the senior Claseman had no heirs or brothers. He died, and his widow wanted the name to be extended. She looked around and sought out her best hired-hand, Bruns, who’d expressed a strong desire to one day own land. She struck a deal with him, that if he changed his name to “Claseman,” she would deed the farm to him when she died — and all this was done.
In the settlement, “B.H.” had five children; one was “Sneador Joe” (see last week’s picture), who had been trained in Germany to be a tailor. He was working on the “Dict” Determan farm in 1860 when Dict got sick. Before he died, “Dict” made his wife promise she’d marry “Sneador Joe” to keep the farm in the family. And they did, despite a seven-year age difference.
Most accounts of the families over 160 years are warm, German-American stories, and are rural in nature. But one episode mentioned was sinister and is a mystery to this day.
Back in 1899, young Frank Claseman, 23, had moved away from the settlement, but then returned some time later. He was viewed as rather an “outsider,” but must have insulted someone at a dance, for he turned up badly beaten and died soon after of pneumonia. The case was never solved, and his death certificate simply stated he died of “typhoid fever”…showing that no family can escape having its difficulties.
There are still two structures left from the olden days. Greg and Jamie Burken live in a gorgeous old brick house on 190th Street, which they keep up nicely near the Ray Krogman farm and the similar era home of “Dict” Determan, now owned and lived in by Joe Claseman and his wife, Gail. All of these people are Determan descendants.
Clemens and Maria Theresa Sanders married in Europe in 1841 and had 12 children together. They came to America in 1845 and she died in 1860. Clemens then married her niece by the same name — who was 22, and he 45. They had 10 more children, and he died in 1881.
The main group that came to the Lyons-Clinton area in the 20th Century came through Sugar Creek area. (It seems there’s a propensity for Determans to sire males, and this was a big factor in the family’s thriving over the decades.) Clem’s son, Joseph, moved there and married Catherine Borman.
Another interesting story was that of a friend of Dict’s who came to America with him, one Frederich Seimon, who married a sister, Caroline Determan, and produced several children.
In 1851, he got the “wanderlust” and went off to California to search for gold. How he got there before railroads, we don’t know. At any rate, he was never heard from again and, finally, was declared legally dead. His widow married a Mannemann. (The Determan genealogy contains 35 pages — over three times an average family’s number.) Their arc of influence was long and broad.
One of the families marrying into the clan was the Clasemans. Anton Claseman married a Determan (see last week’s picture); his son, Ben, fought in WWI and came back to the area and bought the Dict Determan farm in 1927, and he fought hard not to lose it in the Depression. Now, it has passed onto Joe Claseman.
The importance of the “Determan story” is that it illustrates the contributions of rural families and how they developed over the decades and where their travels took them — geographically, socially, religiously, and vocationally — and their transformation into citizens of America.