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Antonie Theresa Emilie Valeska Ploeger 29/5
(27 Jun 1822 – 04 Nov 1896)
Often, when we are asked to tell a story of our ancestors, we focus on someone famous or of historical note. But it is the ordinary women like Antonie Theresa Emilie Valeska Ploeger Potthoff Schumann, living quietly in the background, who weave the fabric of family and society together. They are the unsung heroines, the keepers of hearth and home, and the preservers of traditions, customs and values that maintain a family’s identity.
Born in Paderborn, Germany, she was the fifth child of Ottilie Adolphine Charlotte Sack and Friedrich Ploeger. By all accounts she enjoyed a happy childhood and was eventually married in 1848 to Carl Friedrich August Heinrich Potthoff. But tragedy struck when he died less than two months after their daughter Ottilie Adolphine Wilhelmine was born on 8 Aug 1849.
We will never know exactly what motivated Emilie to immigrate to Texas in 1852. While she had brothers and sisters who had gone to the new country before her, she also had family still in Germany. Regardless of the reasons, she set sail with her young daughter to start a new life. On the same ship, a young jeweler and watchmaker, Bruno Willibald Heinrich Schumann, took note of the attractive child Ottilie. Through her, he made the acquaintance of her mother. Was it love? Was it mutual respect and practical necessity? We do not know. But the couple made the decision to share the pioneer life together. They were married 4 Jan 1853.
Although he was a jeweler and watchmaker in Germany, Bruno set up as a farmer in Round Top, Texas. Emilie took up the numerous tasks of a farmer’s wife. Not much is known of their lives during this time, other than that a daughter Ellen Marie Adolphine Schumann was born to the couple on 3 May, 1856.
Hopefully, political unrest or outright warfare was not a motivating factor for these immigrants, for they would soon be swept up in the misery and hardship of the American Civil War. While Bruno was a non-combatant, he did take a job in an Austin munitions factory, leaving Emilie to carry on with two young children. Here she showed the quiet heroism of many women throughout time – working as a seamstress to keep her children fed and clothed, at great personal sacrifice to herself. This was a trade that carried its own problems during the war, as the Union blockade of southern ports created a scarcity not only of cloth but also of needles and pins. By the end of the war, she was down to one needle for her sewing machine. She could not let her daughters help with the sewing for if the precious needle broke, their livelihood would be threatened. When Bruno was able to come home with his earnings, the parents buried their money at night out of sight of the children. That way there was no chance that a misspoken word by a trusting child could lead to the family being robbed of its financial hope for the future.
Through careful management and great sacrifice, the Schumanns saved enough money during the war years to buy property in Austin. Bruno built the family home and set up a jewelry shop to ply his chosen trade. Emilie did not fight a famous battle; she did not write a book or build a monument. But through her perseverance she created a comfortable home filled with music and literature, with a strong legacy of cherished traditions from the homeland, from which she launched her daughters into successful lives in this new land.
This photo was taken in late Octoberber or November, 1873. Antonie Theresa Emilie Valeska (nee Ploeger) Potthoff Schumann is pictured with here with her two daughters and her first grandchild, Elfriede Jessen. Elfrieda was born in the Schumann’s home in Austin on 8 Sept 1873. Her mother, Ottilie Adolphine Wilhelmine Potthoff Jessen is seated on the right. Ottile had married Adalbert Constantine Jessen 19 Jun 1872. The young woman standing is Emilie’s second daughter, Ellen Marie Adolphine Schumann Reichman. Ellen was newly married to Johan Frederick “Fritz” Reichmann, the couple having married 21 Jun 1873.
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| Date: Sat August 25, 2012
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Registered: December 2008
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