he had time to read them, Max Reising would have enjoyed the adventures
of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. As a child, however, he may not have
taken the time. His passion was fishing; when he wasn't doing his
chores, he was on the banks of the Boyer River fishing - barefoot.
He was born on October 25, 1881. His parents, Michael Reising and
Rosina Elsaesser-Geir, were both immigrants from Bavaria. The family
farm was located on the ridge that separated the two great rivers
of America. Rain falling on their land flowed either into the East
Boyer then west into the Missouri, or east toward the Mississippi;
not to meet again until the two mighty currents joined north of
St. Louis, Missouri. Actually river is a rather pretentious title
for the tiny creek which ran across the Reising farm.
Many years after he had grown to manhood, he would
take his children fishing at the point where the river emptied into
Black Hawk Lake. On those days he would again be barefoot; just
as he was when he ran to this spot as a child. In fact, Max spent
the greater portion of his days barefoot. His daughter, Rosina Reising
O'Tool says that he was barefoot practically everyday except Sunday.
This was confirmed by Lenus Schulte, who as an adolescent, marveled
at the adult, and barefoot, Max Reising. When neighbors would gather
to thrash, bale hay or perform some other community activity Max
was always as shoeless as the farm boys who came to help.
Young Max mainly found friends in the neighborhood.
County kids of the last decade of the Nineteenth Century knew few
friends, other than those who lived in the vicinity of their farm.
Clara Boes lived nearby and was one of Max's childhood friends.
Thirteen months older than Max, Clara was the daughter of Gerhard
Boes and Anna Nieland; born on September 14, 1880. Both the Boes
and Nieland families had many relatives in the area. Clara was raised
among a large extended family. As a young woman, she worked several
years as a housekeeper for family members.
On the day that Max and Clara married in Mt. Carmel
Church, November 17, 1903, they received the title to their first
piece of land. It was the custom of early settlers to help set their
children up with a small farm. At their wedding reception, Max found
his plate turned upside down and underneath lay the title to eighty
acres of land in Viola Township, Sac County. Max and Clara prospered.
Over the years, Max was able to buy, sell, and trade several farms
in the Wheatland, Viola and Kneist Townships. In 1909, the couple
bought 160 acres. One-mile east and a mile and a half north of Breda,
they built the home where they lived and raised their family. They
had eleven children: Amelia, Andrew, Gregory, Zeno, Lawrence, Alvin,
Michael, Conrad (AKA Connie), Rosina, Leona and Bernice.
Max and Clara raised their family thorough a world
war, a farming crisis and a national depression. The era was one
of great changes. Americans ere becoming more mobile with the arrival
of the automobile. The next generation was becoming more worldly
as radio, movies, and telephones invaded the German-American community
of Northern Carroll/Southern Sac Counties. The Charleston was the
rage; stock and commodities speculation was a temptation; and Prohibition
was the widely ignored national law. This generation of parents
faced unique challenges.
Rosina remembers her father as a stern man with a
good sense of humor and a well-developed sense of justice. He allowed
his children freedom, but was not hesitant to impart on them a sense
of values and ethics. When the children disobeyed, he could be a
strict disciplinarian. His sense of justice, on at least one occasion,
was thwarted as the following story illustrates:
One evening, Greg and Andrew refused to stop rough
housing in the double bed they shared. Max ascended the stairs with
a belt, flailing at the boy lying on the side of the bed nearest
the door. When he returned to hush the two, minutes later, he slapped
in the dark at the boy lying on the other side of the bed. He did
not know that between his trips upstairs, Andrew had convinced Greg,
the recipient of the first beating that they should trade places
- putting Greg in the position to receive Max's wrath a second time.
Max and Clara suffered the loss of one child in October
of 1945. Their son, Alvin, who was married and had three children,
died of complications from surgery for gallstones and a bleeding
ulcer. His wife, Theresa, was pregnant with their fourth child.
Max was always prepared to adjust to changing times.
He had bought two cars before some of his neighbors had bought their
first. He began using tractors while many still depended on actual
horsepower. Electricity, phones and indoor plumbing were all welcome
in his home before they became standard for his neighbors.
Although Max understood the usefulness of modern inventions,
he was not a blind disciple to fads and change. Before he died on
May 17, 1952, of heart failure, he required that his family promise
not to have an impersonal funeral, held in some public funeral home.
This practice he felt was disrespectful He was among the last to
have his wake and viewing held in the family's home. For two days,
Max's body lay in his bedroom, attended by family prior to burial.
Clara died a decade later on July 15, 1963. Her will
was simple but ripe for a long legal battle. It was the practice
of Max and Clara to lend money to their children as they needed
it. Clara's final testament asked that any outstanding debts be
settled out of the estate. Records of these debts were never witnessed
and a good lawyer could have received a sizable portion of the relatively
large estate if any of the surviving children and grandchildren
had contested it. Respectful of her wishes, no one did.
to find out how to get a copy of The
Reising-O'Tool Family: A History and Genealogy
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