My family has very few things that one would call an heirloom, which is defined as “a family possession handed down from generation to generation.” Since all lines of my family immigrated three generations ago, they brought very little with them from the old country. All of my lines settled in Wisconsin. My immediate family was one of the few to move away. A few of my cousins have some of these treasures. My mother, as an only child, received the bulk of those things called heirlooms from her parents, Ed and Ella Rachow. Grandpa Ed had almost nothing from his family. His father (and my great grandfather) William came from an unknown part of Germany as a young bachelor and his mother, Minnie worked as a young woman in her father’s tailor shop. I don’t know if some of things we have are from her family. Grandma Ella had many items from her parents, George and Mary (Neuman) Wolf. The Wolfs and the Neumanns immigrated to the US in the 1870s. The Wolfs from Holnstein, Bavaria in Germany and the Neumanns from Berlin, Germany.
The family had porcelain china that was made in the mid 1800s in Bavaria. They also had many pieces of crystal including vases, candy dishes and salt cellars. These items have been divided between my sister and me … rather amicably I might add. They are beautiful pieces and a true pleasure to have, look at and use. I always think of my grandma Ella when I use them. They are precious from many perspectives.
While I use and enjoy these items, there is one set of things that I feel the most emotionally connected to perhaps because of my own life experiences. The items are a couple photographs, several postcards. two silver spoons, and an envelope with the words “Goldfield Postcards” written upon it in my mother’s handwriting.
In 1907, my grandfather was working for Appleton Granite & Marble Works. I should mention that his future father-in-law owned the company. They made headstones. Grandpa Ed was sent out West to search for sources of stone. In the course of his travels, he ended up in Goldfield, Nevada. Now, I have spent lots of time in Goldfield; first, as I traveled back and forth to attend college in Reno at the University of Nevada and then, secondly, when I worked for the Nevada Department of Education, I traveled all over the state with my professional responsibilities that included providing support to the school district in Goldfield. Now, perhaps, I should first describe Goldfield.
Goldfield is nestled in the central mountains of Nevada at 5690 feet elevation. At its peak in 1906, it had a population of 20,000 people. Its current population is 268. It has the feel of a ghost town. Few buildings have survived after a fire destroyed much of it in 1923 but several buildings did including the hotel, the school house and a few others. One of those that did is an old saloon with cribs out back. Cribs refer to the very small rooms that the brothel girls lived and worked in. I have eaten at that saloon in the 1990s, although I don’t know if it is still in operation. I might add that the saloon looks and feels like is it over 100 years old. I should also mention that Wyatt Earp came to Goldfield in 1904 with his brother Virgil, got pneumonia and died there six months later. He is buried in the Goldfield pioneer cemetery. I have seen his grave.
So, back to Grandpa Ed. He journeyed there by stage coach from Reno back in 1907 looking for stone that might work for their headstones. I believe his search was not successful. What they were primarily mining back in that first decade of 1900 was gold not granite or stones. While grandpa was there, he did a little shopping (the postcards and the silver spoons) and had his photo taken. They are precious memories to me of a trip taken over a hundred years ago. And when I traveled the same route as grandpa many, many times have felt that I was walking in his footsteps almost a century later. It is a sweet connection. It is a precious memory.