The Blank Family
With some degree of accuracy we have completed as best we could, a brief history of the ìBlankî family who planted the roots to a large family tree in Franklin Township, Harrison County, Indiana. A lot of the information contained in this book has been borrowed from the ëZollmaní and ëGreení family history books.
Individual surnames originated for the purpose of more specific identification. The four primary sources for second names were: occupation, location, fatherís name or personal characteristics.
The surname Blank appears to be characteristic in origin and is believed to be associated with the French ìblancî, meaning white or fair.
However, we do know our great great grandparents came from Germany and we have a right to view their past with pride and admiration. When we stop to realize the difficulties and hardships they had to contend with, we must truly appreciate their determination to struggle forward in the hope of gaining countless freedoms.
Letís look back on United States history as to what was happening about the time our great great grandfather was born and up to the time of his immigration. The whole country was mostly agricultural. Eli Whitney had invented the cotton gin. More settlers were coming down the Ohio River from Pittsburg in bulletproof flatboats for protection from the Indians. James Madison presided as the 4th president of the United States. Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809. The U.S. Navy was organized. Frances Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled banner. Indiana became a state in 1816. The steamboat and steam locomotive made their appearance as well as McCormickís reaping machine. Lanesville surveyed by a Mr. Lane in 1817 and named after him, and Samuel Morse had invented the telegraph and sent his first message, ìWhat hath God wroughtî, over the line.
Back to our history, John Christian blank was born in Nassau, Germany, November 11, 1814. This is the date inscribed on his tombstone. According to his passport a copy of same appears in this book, he was a farmer, 5 foot 3 ½ inches tall, blonde hair and beard and blue eyes. His wife, Catherina Dorothea Zollmann was born November 1, 1807 in Nassau also. They lived at Mensfelden in the province of Nassau.
These Germans, our ancestors, emigrated just prior to the mass immigration of Germans to the United States beginning in 1840. They realized how bad things were going as Germany was constantly in a turmoil. About now the Congress of Vienna had restored rights and authority to ruling princes following Prussiaís defeat by Napoleon of France. Restored, we say, because several times in previous history, Germany was under prince-province rule. There were 39 provinces or states each with a prince as ruler. Nassau was one of these provinces. These princes were quick to show their authority and ruled like dictators. Academic freedom was restricted and farmers were once again considered lowly peasants. Religious freedom was also at stake. Roman Catholic princes allowed only Roman Catholic people to live in their provinces, so the Protestants had to move to find a province ruled by a Protestant prince. For doing this the people were compelled to pay a large fee for moving from one province to another. They felt they had to do this for their survival. Finally to avoid being harassed and humiliated, thousands of Germans packed their few simple possessions and together with their families moved to another country or boarded a ship and sailed to America. One wonders how they found out about the New World and its freedoms.
So leaving behind a sickening, disturbed homeland, the Blanks' along with Catherinaís older brother, Philip Zollmann, wife Mary Helfrich Zollmann and their three children, and a younger sister, Wilhelmina Zollmann Voelker and husband, Philip Voelker, left from the port of Breman in the summer of 1838. I wonder if they realized how dangerous this trip might be and how long they would be at sea. They certainly put their trust in their Almighty Creator to guide and keep them during this voyage.
According to history, steamboats were crossing the Atlantic in 1838 but these people chose a sailboat. What kind and how much food do you suppose they had to take along? I am sure their rations were very skimpy. This crossing tool two to three months as sometime the wind took them backwards instead of proceeding forward. During this journey, on July 22, mother Catherina gave birth to twins. One was stillborn, so guided by custom and circumstance, they dropped the baby overboard and was left to the fate of the sea. The second son, Philip William survived and was to become solely responsible for the Blank family name in Harrison County, Indiana.
The Zollmanns brought with them their three children, ages 8, 7, and 3. The Voelkers, as far as we know, arrived with no children, however five were born to them after they had settled.
Their ship docked at one of the eastern ports and without a doubt they praised and thanked God for.His protection thus far.
Like thousands of settlers before them and millions after, these families came westward. They followed rivers as a source for food and transportation. Taking the Ohio River, they worked their way as far as Louisville, Kentucky. Here all three families lived briefly. Since they were farmers at heart, they decided to find some land so they left Louisville, crossed the Ohio and came to Franklin Township, Harrison County, Indiana. Here they settled on adjacent farms. The land was mostly hidden by a thick growth of trees and underbrush. The Blanks purchased a tract of land approximately 4 mile south of Lanesville which is today the Wm. Nichols farm. Here alongside a creek they built their cabin and barn of logs and mud. Nearby was a spring which still runs today. The Zollmanns settled on a site due east and along side this same creek they built their cabin. A cave was discovered on this farm, most likely used by the Indians in prior years. This farm is now owned by Alvin Walther and family. The Voelkers settled over the hill to the west, perhaps a half mile. They too built their cabin near a spring. This farm is now owned by Mr. Althaus.
Usually each family had their own cemetery plot. The Blanks and Voelkers must have shared the same one because the stones of John Christian and Catherina Blank, are standing, not by their grave site, but near a fence on the Voelker (Althaus) farm. In the springtime one can find grape hyacinths and daffodils adding color to this small, almost forgotten about, cemetery where our forebearers ere laid to rest.
Whether these families ever resumed contact through correspondence with the families they left behind is doubtful because as with most such emigrants, ties were forever broken by time and distance.
We are reasonably sure these couple's were Lutherans in Germany since they almost immediately helped organize the German Lutheran Christian Church about 2 mile away. Several years later in 1846, they changed the name to St Johns Lutheran Church. The Blanks, Zollmanns, Voelkers, Zabels, Reinhardts, Menges, Hussangs, and Woertzs were charter members of the church. We might mention that there are
40 Blanks' on St Johns membership role today.
The land had to be cleared before any plowing could be done. When ground was broken in the spring a wooden plow was pulled by mules or horses and worked up with a wooden harrow. The corn was planted and harvested by hand, pulling each ear from the stalk. It was rarely sold as it was needed to feed the animals during the winter.
Since the town of Lanesville was already established, there was available a salt mill, blacksmith shop, cooperage, general store, carpenters, flour and sawmill and an undertaker. There were no paved roads, just dirt and mud. Trips to Lanesville were made only when absolutely necessary. Grain, corn and wheat, was taken to the mill where it was ground between two stones into corn meal and flour, sacked up, and brought home again to make corn bread and pies.
The shucks from the corn were used for shucksacks, these were their mattresses. Every morning these sacks had to be shaken up so that the next night the bed would be fluffy again. Featherbeds, made from the feathers plucked from the geese, were used in abundance, mainly to keep warm for you see the houses were not air-tight. I have heard Grandpa say that on a very cold morning the covers were frozen stiff from the moisture from their breath, also you might wake up to snow on your bed. Nor was the house snake and rodent proof because cracks were too numerous to keep them out.
Our great grandfather, Philip, built a bigger log house at approximately the same place as the first log cabin. The family continued to live here until the year our dad, Henry, was born. They changed farms with Wm. Ott, which today is the Wilbur Gleitz farm. The old house stood until about 50 years ago. All that remains are the large rock that was used for the foundation.
There were no highways or expressways as we have today. In 1851-53 a plank road was built from Corydon to New Albany, so Lanesville became an important stagecoach stop, since this was about halfway, the driver could water and feed his horses here. The passengers would have to walk, go on horseback or hitch a wagon ride to meet the stagecoach.
Telephones and electricity were unheard of, so news didnít spread very fast. However sooner than we think, Thomas Edison, ìthe wizardî of the electrical world invented the electric light bulb and the phonograph, and Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. These luxuries had not reached this area yet.
A treat for young and old was the visit from pack peddlers. They walked from the stage stop with huge bundles on their backs. Upon entering the home, he would open the bundle containing clothing, material, buttons, needles, spices, handkerchiefs, maybe a doll, a ball, or other items too numerous to mention. In exchange for his wares he would take any excess eggs or butter back to Louisville and resell them to grocery stores. Eggs sold for 10 cents a dozen and butter 12 cents a pound.
Since there were no refrigerators, the milk, cheese, eggs and butter were kept in the cellar or in the spring house. Ice was taken from the ponds in the wintertime and packed in sawdust so that come summertime they enjoyed homemade ice cream. Nearly every Sunday, after attending church, families and friends gathered together for a big noon meal. The children played games and the grownups relaxed from their weekday chores. Entertainment for the young adults were corn shuckings, apple peelings, buggy and surry rides, quilting bees for the ladies, and in later years the big swing in Redicksí woods.
The children in the family were each assigned chores to do; feed the animals, gather the eggs, pick berries, carry in wood for the cookstove, etc. I am sure they did their chores as directed or they were taken to the woodshed for a paddling. Evenings were usually spent around the kitchen table with only a kerosene light to read by. Singing was a popular passtime and later card games were enjoyed by relatives. The kitchen was usually the only room where the stove was kept going, so they sat here to keep reasonably warm. Bedtime came early for the children as they had to rise early and walk to school, rain or shine. They walked the dirt road or walked along the fence rows when it was muddy. Usually the first one to arrive at school had to start fire in the stove and turns were taken to clean the school after classes were over.
Another thing we might mention, there were no fences to keep the cows in, they grazed at will. How they ever knew what direction to hunt them is amazing.
To help sustain their families through the long hard winters, the ladies took wool, spun yarn, and knitted stockings, caps and mittens, made quilts and comforters. Also, they dried apples, peaches and pears, made apple butter, peach butter, and molasses. They buried vegetables in the ground and covered them with straw. When the temperature went down below freezing the families got together and killed hogs for their meat and lard. If the farmers had more hogs than they needed they didnít haul them to market, they drove them on foot to the stockyards in Louisville, getting about 2 ½ cents per pound. They had to get an early start to get there in a day. They spent the night there and came back the next day.
Every pioneer home had an abundant supply of apple cider and brandy in the cellar. Vinegar, too was made from the apples gathered.
Since mail service was soon brought to the rural areas, guess what wishbook was available to shop from? Right! The Sears and Roebuck Catalogue. The first edition came out around 1891. Many hours were spent by young and old looking this book over from front to cover. They sold everything needed at the homestead, groceries, wearing apparel, furniture, horse drawn implements, etc. Most of us know what happened to the outdated catalog. The children cut out paper dolls, then it was taken to the little house behind the big house for future use.
By the way, we must not forget another big invention in 1893, Henry Ford completed his horseless carriage. Some years passed before this carriage was seen in the community.
We might mention here that in pioneer days the wheat was harvested with a sickle and a cradle, not a baby bed, but a wooden tool shaped like a scythe with additional wooden prongs to catch the stalks as they cut them. It was taken to the barn to dry, after which time the straw and grain were separated by flailing or tramping on. Later the horse drawn reaper was introduced to the area, followed by the threshing machine. The threshing machine was pulled and run by a steam engine. For days water had to be hauled to the barn in readiness for the big day. The ladies too, worked several days getting the meals ready for the hungry crew. Neighbors and relatives, young and old, came to help or look on so there were a lot of mouths to feed. The men like to sample the ìcellar waterî, sometimes they got more than samples and got pretty gay. The threshing usually took more than a day, so the hired hands spent the night in the barn. I bet they slept a lot! When the crew left, the driver of the steam engine sounded his whistle to let the next farmer know he was on his way to his farm. Remember the huge straw stacks! The children liked to play in and on them, but Dad didnít think much of the idea of scattering the straw, so their play was limited or pay the consequences. The combine was then introduced and today we have diesel powered reapers with air conditioners, stereo music, etc. What would our great great grandparents think of this?
Although their simple life was untouched by such ìunheard ofsî as poisonous herbicides and insecticides, polluted air and water, costly gasoline, and nuclear power plants, there was one (bug) which affects us today, taxes. One tax we would say the property tax, was left over from the middle ages. Property taxes often ran as high as $35.00 per year. This was partially determined by the amount of meat in the smokehouse and lard on hand, since these items also were assessed.
For medicine they used tea, peppermint tea, and wild herbs. The best menu or remedy for a stomach ache was bread and milk soup with a raw egg in it. None of the family ever visited a doctor unless the illness or accident was extremely severe. Ordinary cuts from axes and other farm accidents were treated by applying a poultice or ìtying the wound up tightî to stop the bleeding. Whenever anyone had an earache, the mother would blow smoke into the ear, but a toothache had no quick remedy, so a person simply had to ìlet it hurt.î
And with this we bring to an end our little history. We hope yhou have enjoyed looking back over these 170 plus years, how our forefathers survived with so little worldly goods. Let us not forget that they put their trust in God, so we too, their descendants, should ask Him to guide and sustain us.
We are grateful to those who took time to review and return our questionnaires and to those who supplied pictures. Most entries are complete, but a few are not. We hope that our research on the past and present families will give some insight to whoever bears the BLANK name today and to future generations who might bear it.
At the printing of this book, there are 77 living Blanks, most of which are residing in this county (Harrison). There are 260 blood relatives born in the United States from the one man born on the Atlantic Ocean in 1838. These people are listed in capital letters on the family directory pages. A total of 380 kinfolk are in the alphabetical listings. A little further research tells us that we have cousins scattered across the United States. Those states include: Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. There is also a family living in Belgium.
We enjoyed sharing our efforts with you and ask that you cherish, use, and add to, the information we took time to record.
Clarice, Claudine and Christine Blank
April 1, 1981
The original of this document is located in the Corydon Public Library, Corydon, IN.
This is also available on microfilm at the Mormon Library in Salt Lake: Film #1412126, item 4.