Monthly Archives: June 2017

Robert Erwin Clifford – (1858-1891)

Robert Erwin Clifford (called by my grandmother “Robert Clifford Jr.”, but I’m not sure “Jr.” is really warranted because I think his middle name was different than his father’s) was the brother of my great-great-grandmother Anna Clifford.  He was born 11 Mar 1858 in Alburg, Grand Isle, Vermont to Robert Clifford and Agnes McWhirter, both of whom were Irish immigrants. Robert was in the 1860 and 1870 Census reports for Alberg, Vermont with his family, then sort of fell off the face of the planet.  My grandmother had noted in her genealogical records “Robert left home and was never heard from again”. So I went looking for him.

The first thing I found was a very small news item in the “Winooski Wavelets” section of the March 4, 1891 “Argus and Patriot” in Vermont. It said:

Robert Clifford, a station agent at Eastman, P.Q., a former very popular townsman, died last week. Lizzie and Nellie Clifford, his sisters, went to attend the funeral.

So this explained why he had “vanished”. He had moved out of the country to Quebec, Canada. It also showed that at least two members of his immediate family knew of his death, even if my line of his family didn’t seem to know he had died.

I found a photo of his gravesite on His gravestone is in the South Stukely Cemetery, South Stukely, Quebec, Canada. Plot: Range 9 Lot 3 No 2.  It says he died on 23 Feb 1891 at the age of 32.  One source of confusion could have been that his father, Robert Clifford, died 14 Mar 1891, and the son (also Robert Clifford) died 23 Feb 1891, less than three weeks apart. Perhaps the news of the “Death of Robert Clifford” got conflated in my part of the family.

Robert had married Jennie Adeline Dingman on 24 May 1886 at the Stuckley-Sud Anglican Church near Eastman, Quebec, Canada.  Jennie Adeline was born 24 May, 1865 to Alvin Dingman and Harriet Melinda Horner, and had three brothers: Hubert, James, and Frank Dingman.


Clifford/Dingman Marriage 1886.

Robert and Jennie had had three children, and I was able to find baptism records for all three of them:

Jennie Francis “Francis” Clifford (28 Jul 1887 – 1942)
Harry Gordon Clifford (b 26 Nov 1888 – 1963)
Inez Winifred Clifford (b 17 Oct 1890 – 1955)

In several of the records that mention him, Robert was listed as a “Station Agent”, which is someone who worked to handle freight stock, handle the track switches, sell tickets, and perhaps might have done accounting or operated the telegraph.

This photo shows the Eastman train station where he worked from at least 1886 to his death in 1891.  The photo was taken about 1905:

In February of 1891, Robert was killed in an accident at the train station where he worked.  He was on top of a train car that derailed due to ice buildup. The train slid down an embankment and he was crushed in the ensuing crash.


Waterloo Advertiser, Waterloo, Quebec. 1891-02-27, p2. Courtesy of Serge Wagner.

His burial record doesn’t give much more information, except that his wife was one of the witnesses at the funeral:


Jennie and the kids are shown in the 1901 Census for Eastman, where she is listed as a widow.  Her father and brother are listed nearby.  She is also in the 1911 Census with all three kids.  Harry is listed as a “stationary engineer in saw mill”, Frances is listed as a “sales lady in retail grocery store”, and Inez is listed as working as a “domestic (servant) for a private family”.  Their mother has her occupation listed as “none”.

Jennie died in Eastman on 14 Jan 1914 at the age of 48, and was buried next to her husband.


Jennie Dingman Clifford Burial, 1914

A little bit about Robert and Jennie’s children:

Jennie Frances Clifford is in the 1891, 1901, and 1911 Census records for Eastman.  There is a record of her going to visit her Aunt Margaret Clifford in Winooski, Vermont from 1917 where she is listed as living at Notre-Dame-de-Graces, outside Montréal with her brother Harry.  She is in the 1921 Census for Saint-Jean-sur-Richlieu where she is listed as “single”, so I don’t believe she ever married.  There are indications she died in 1942 in Hemmingford, Canada, but so far I haven’t found documents that show this.

Harry Clifford became an engineer, and I was able to find him in the 1921 Census living with his sister Francis in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Québec, Canada, which is just outside Montréal. He was married to Margaret Estella “Maggie” Marshall, and had two children, Robert Marshall Clifford (b 4 Sept 1915) and Dorothy Evelyn Clifford (b 7 Feb 1919 – 9 Jul 1955). Dorothy married Douglas Humphries Pimlott, and they had at least two sons, Peter Clifford Pimlott (1948-2010), and Mark Pimlott (who was born 13 Jun 1950 in my home town of Madison, Wisconsin, USA).  Harry died in Ormstown, Québec in 1963.  Most members of my Cairns family line were from Ormstown… just an odd coincidence.

Inez Winifred Clifford married George James Brown (1891-1979) at Saint-Jean-sur-Richlieu on 14 Oct 1920.  I have not found any children so far for them.  She died in 1955 in Hemmingford, and is buried there.

The Prielipp Family and the Prussian Explusion

In the Summer of 2013, I managed to track down a living descendant of Otto Prielipp, whom my great-grandfather had helped come to America. I had a suspicion at the time that his family and mine were related, a suspicion I have since been able to confirm. In fact, it is quite likely that the Prielipps are the reason that my great-great-grandfather Wilhelm Schmidt decided to come to America.

This living descendant, Donald Otto Prielipp (1929-2015), was my 3rd cousin twice removed.  His great-grandmother, Hanna Auguste Friedricke “Friedricke” Winkelmann (b 1839) was the sister of my 3x-great-grandmother Wilhelmine Winkelmann. She married Wilhelm Friedrich Julius Prielipp in the town of Karolina, Kris Czarnikau, Posen, Prussia on 14 Feb 1864. The couple had at least seven children in Karolina, Gornitz, and Stieglitz (all of which were very near each other). Whereas my branch of the family came to America in 1885 and 1892 and was thus spared the fury of the Red Army at the end of WWII and the subsequent Prussian Explusion (1945-1947), Donald’s family was not so fortunate. Here are his recollections of his family and their story, with additional details added from my research, as he related them to me during our phone conversation.

“My grandfather was Franz Wilhelm Hermann Prielipp, but he went by Hermann.  He was born in the town of Karolina, Kreis Czarnikau, Posen, Prussia on 31 Mar 1865 to Wilhelm Friedrich Julius Prielipp and Hanna Auguste Friedricke “Friedricke” Winkelmann.  Hermann’s wife was Emma Therese Osten, who was born in the town of Putzig, Kreis Czarnikau, Posen Prussia on 10 Jul 1866 to Carl Wilhelm Osten and his wife Henriette Quast.  Hermann and Emma were married on 29 Sept 1890 in the town of Grünfier, Kreis Carnikau, Posen, Prussia where Hermann was listed as an “eigenthümer”, or owner of a small farm.

Hermann was, indeed, a farmer in Gornitz and he owned about 10 acres of land between the small towns of Gornitz and Ascherbude. His father Wilhelm Friedrich Julius Prielipp had owned the land before him, and had built a house, a granary, a barn, and a storage barn on the property.  About 1/3 of the land was Scotch Pine, and they used it for firewood and lumber. Another acre of the land was the farm complex itself with the house and barns and so on. The rest of the land was in wheat, barley, and rye. Hermann worked the farm until he died.  He died in his field of a heart attack before World War 2.  Note: Hermann Prielipp died in Gornitz 25 Mar 1929, per his death record.

My father, Otto Karl Prielipp was born on the farm in Gornitz on 26 Jul 1904.  He had an older brother, Emil W Prielipp (b 26 Feb 1903), a younger brother, Walter Karl Prielipp (b 10 Jul 1907), and at least two other brothers, (Carl and Adolf), and a sister (Ida Hulda Prielipp, b 12 Sept 1899).  My father came to America in 1922 when he was 17 year old aboard the “SS Mount Carroll”.  Your great-great-grandfather Wilhelm Schmidt had arranged a job for him working in the paper mill in Rothschild, Wisconsin in the “beater room” with your great-grandfather Edwin Schmidt.  He married my mother, Lillian Mable Pfleiger, in Rothschild, Wisconsin on 5 May 1828, and we lived in Rothschild for many years.

After WWI the province of Posen where the Prielipps lived was given back to the Poles, but the Germans were not displaced and there were no problems with harassment or anything at all. Then when Germany began its rise to power in the 1930’s my dad’s mother wrote to him to ask him to come back to Gornitz. She said that there were lots of jobs and that the conditions were very good. My father Otto said, “no way”. He could see which way the political winds were blowing and wasn’t about to go back there.

At the end of WWII, the Red Army began to sweep through the Eastern Prussian provinces, pushing out the retreating Germans.  The troops had been encouraged to rape, pillage, murder, and destroy everything they could, and this extended to the German-speaking people living in those provinces.   The Russians came through Gornitz and killed almost all the male Germans.  My uncle Adolph was the eldest brother of the family and would have inherited the family farm from Hermann. The Russians tore the house apart and ripped the beds to shreds looking for money, and then they beat Adolph to death with their guns.

Adolph’s mother (Emma Therese Osten Prielipp) was ejected from the house in the middle of winter and they found her frozen to death on the side of the road.  This would have been around January, 1945.  Note: Emma Osten died in Gornitz on 18 Oct 1944 of old age, per her death record.  The Red Army was not near Gornitz at that time, so she could not have been the one killed as described.  Perhaps another woman in the family had her story conflated with Emma’s?

There was a Radtke family in the town, and Otto’s sister Ida Hulda Prielipp (b 12 Sept 1899) was married to Hermann Adolf Radtke. They had a daughter named Hilda Radtke.  I was friends with that family and every other year for 20 years either my family would go to Germany and visit them or the Radtkes would come to the US to visit us in Easton, Wisconsin.

Mr. Radtke was a principal, or superintendent of the school. He got in touch with Hilda, and then when the Prielipps went to Germany one year, they packed up and drove to Poland from the town of Volmersted where Hilda lived (probably Wolmirstedt, Börde, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany).  They showed us around their area and we got to know their family very well. Four years later when we went back to Germany, we all went first to Volmerstead, and from there to Gornitz. We spent a week in Gornitz about 1980. It was an interesting linguistic exercise. Our guide was a Hungarian man, who knew German. Fritz knew German and English. We only knew English. Every conversation was three or four languages translated back and forth. That’s how we learned the history of our grandparents and uncles. There was nothing left of Gornitz when we went there. Some private residences remained that were occupied by Polish people.

With the guide who knew Polish and Hungarian and German we could visit with those people and they were very hospitable. With the people from the Radtke family, we all spent 2-3 hours with them and they were very agreeable, and we could ask any questions about our family’s stay in Gornitz.

Then we went to the farm where my father Otto grew up on, where his father Hermann had farmed. Hermann’s father Wilhelm Prielipp had lived on the farm after the first World War, and he was badly crippled from a fall off a ladder off one of the buildings, so he looked like a question mark, all hunched over. He couldn’t work, but he could shuffle around. He lived in the grainary. They had built him a kind of an apartment in there. He and his wife lived in it. When Hermann’s father was young he went to Russia and worked in logging, and did river drives.  Eventually he took over the farm in Gornitz.

Hermann had an older brother named Adolph. There was also a brother Carl and one other brother. One of those brothers was killed in WWI.  Then there was Emil and Otto, and a younger son named Walter.  Walter fought in the german army, was captured by the French, and in a French prisoner of war camp when the allies came through France at the end of WWII.  Emil and Otto brought Walter to the United States and he lived with Otto’s family for a period of time and looked for work and finally found work in Milwaukee, so he went to Milwaukee and worked in a leather tanning factory and was married and has since died. He never had any children.

Emil had three kids. His son Robert was a mathematician and taught at a college in Wisconsin. He had no children. Second son was named Ronald. He was also a mathematician who taught at University of Kansas in Salinas. He still lives there.  He married a woman named Beth, and they have no children. Ronald’s legs don’t work, so he’s in a wheelchair. He lives in a full-care facility. Beth is trying to sell the house. She plans to join him at the facility. Their third son was Walter. He went west and worked for Boeing in Seattle.  He was married with no children, and his wife is a union activist, she’s involved in politics in Washington. Walter died in 2009.

In terms of my immediate family, my brother Russell Prielipp is retired. He and his wife Bonnie have no children. They live in NJ and are doing relatively well. Our sister Marian Prielipp Doddington works for a design firm in Washington DC.”

Donald mentioned that he had an article on the death of his grandfather Hermann Prielipp. It’s in German and gives the date of his death. He was going to try to find it for me, but he passed away before that happened. He also mentioned that he helped build the home of my mother’s first cousin Gloria Johnson on Grand Avenue in Wausau, Wisconsin. This home was right next door to my great-grandparents’ house (Edwin Schmidt and Olga Hanson).


Donald Prielipp

Donald passed away on 23 Feb 2015 in Redding, California.  He was 85 years old.