Bals, Balz & Baltz
The History of the Family of Henry & Elizabeth Bals of Nebraska
From information compiled and edited by Gene Bals ©2004
Who We Are:
As noted above, this is the "History of the Family of Henry & Elizabeth Bals of Nebraska". If visitors to this website came here looking for royal ancestors or a family coat of arms to put on their stationary, they will not find them Hopefully, what they will find on this website is what it means to be a Bals. The emphasis here is on the "History" of the family .and the region of Germany that nurtured them.
All of my research points to the family's origins as part of the ancient Saxon people that came to the low country of northern Germany from the north before the 6th Century AD. The Bals, Balz & Baltz name supports that assumption. Their language was the old Saxon "Low German", even to the time that Henry & Elizabeth came to Nebraska. They were farmers, herdsman, horseman, they established isolated farmsteads, their religion was rooted in the pagan traditions of northern Europe. They were the nemesis of Charlemagne, they were the only unconquered tribe of Germany. Only after years of warfare and the slaughter of thousands of Saxons, did they yield to Charlemagne and about 784 AD accepted Christianity. However, it is said that when the cold of winter caused Charlemagne's armies to retreat to France, the old pagan traditions resurfaced around the open fires in the traditional Lower Saxon BauernHauses.
So ....... if you are a Bals and you are assembling your plastic Christmas tree, stringing holly, or coloring eggs to assist the Easter Bunny, ....... stop for a minute....... look to the North........... and give a nod of recognition to your Saxon ancestors. Don't worry, Charlemagne is no where in sight, but we are still here!.
If you have a love for the details of history, you can read the terms of the Saxon Capitulary of 784 AD.
And if you really can not live without that coat of arms, the white horse was said to be the traditional symbol of the old Saxons. Go for it! You have as much right to it as anyone!
In the year 1889, Henry (Heinrich Anton) Bals immigrated to the United States, according to the 1900 Nebraska Census. This same census data tells us that his brother Ferdinand (Peter Ferdinand) had immigrated earlier in 1885.
Henry was 30 years old and unmarried when he immigrated. His brother Ferdinand was 29 and married with one daughter when he immigrated in 1885. They were the younger sons; their brother Joseph had inherited Lusebrink farm. Opportunities were limited in the small village of Schmerlecke. Purchasing land would have been very difficult. Probably the only other access to a farm would have been by marriage to the daughter of a farmer without a son, as the old system of passing the "hofe" to the eldest son was strictly followed in the region. This option was not available to them, as it seems both Henry and Ferdinand had made the decision to follow their heart, rather than their head. Henry had a commitment to Elizabeth Rickert, a girl working as a servant on Lusebrink, and Ferdinand was already married and had a child by Henrietta Kohler, who had also worked as a servant on Lusebrink, according to family tradition. Because of their ability to purchase land within a few years of coming to the United States, we can assume that they left Germany with some inheritance in hand.
Both brothers came from Lusebrink farm, near the village of Schmerlecke, Westphalia, Germany. .Lusebrink, also known as the little "Lohhof" had been the home of their ancestors since at least 1566 when tax records show a Baltz Thies paid 4 Guilders in tax on the land. Possibly a Baltz had lived there as early as 1250 when the Cloister Benninghausen acquired the land.. The first ancestor we have detailed information available on is Jürgen Baltz with the birth of his son in 1650. Following the various links on this website will lead to detailed information on the history of the family, the farm, and the surrounding region of Germany.
Also, please go to the site of Bettina Balz: http://www.balz.name/ . Bettima's great-grandfather was Theodor, brother of Henry & Ferdinand and also a younger son of the family.
The First Years in the United States:
It has not been determined exactly when Henry left Germany or the name of the ship that he had passage on. Family tradition is that they first attempted to purchase farm land in Ohio, but finding it too expensive, traveled on to Nebraska. Whatever their route, the first record we find of the brothers in the United States is the Nebraska State Gazetteer Farmers Directory for 1890-91 which lists Ferdinand at David City and Henry at Bellwood, both in Butler County. The Butler Co. School Census for 1890, dated June 21, 1890, lists a "Mr. Bals" paying school tax for one six year old female. He lived on a farm owned by a Geo. W. Nelson. We can be reasonably certain that this "Mr. Bals" was Ferdinand and the child would have been Bertha. This also suggests that Ferdinand was renting farm land just southwest of David City, Nebraska and Henry would also have been renting just to the north in the Bellwood precinct. Had they purchased land, their names would have appeared on the plat maps for Butler Co. for 1890, but this is not the case.
In the spring of 1891 Henry returned to Germany to marry Elizabeth Rickert (Rickert-Berkemeier in Germany). Elizabeth was from the village of Herringhausen. Her parents were Caspar Theodor Hacke aka. Rickert of Herringhausen and Elisabeth Kuplerschmidt of Erwitte. They were married on March 19, 1891 in St Clemens Parish Church at Hellinghausen, Germany. The portrait made at the Smith Studio in Crete, Nebraska appears to be a wedding portrait and was probably made shortly after their return from Germany. From information supplied by Delmer, a grandson who lived with Henry & Elizabeth for some time following the death of his father, Elizabeth agreed to marry Henry if she could return to Germany at least one time. He kept his promise and they returned in 1894 with sons Theodore and Henry. On their return they brought Elizabeth's sister Lena with them. She was 20 years old at the time. Lena had an artificial leg as a result of falling into a threshing machine in the old Rickert-Bermemeier family barn-house in Herringhausen. Lena was known in the family as "Tanta Lena" or "Aunt Lee". The name appearing on her tombstone in the Catholic cemetery in Crete is Carolyn Rickert. According to Rickert family genealogy from Herringhausen, her full name was Caroline Maria Antonette Rickert. Both Elizabeth and Lena received an inheritance equivalent to approximately $900.00 from their eldest brother Heinrich upon leaving Germany.
Henry left Bellwood and purchased 80 acres on Section 24 in Dorchester Precinct, Saline County on March 2, 1891. The farm was purchased from Henry & Lucy Ann Enfield for the sum of $3,000, with Henry assuming a mortgage of $1,000 against the land. The deed was recorded on March 10, 1891 with the Saline Co. Register of Deeds
If Henry signed the deed on March 2nd, he must have left for Germany immediately to be there for a wedding on March 19th.
The Saline County Census Data for 1900 provides considerable information, although portions are very difficult to read. It tells us that Henry was still on the farm on the East 1/2, NE 1/4, Section 24, Dorchester Precinct and there were five children; Theodore, Henry, Elizabeth (Ella), Augusta (Gus), and Matilda (Tillie) by this time. It also tells us that Ferdinand has moved to the Crete vicinity as he appears on the census in the Crete Precinct on Section 32, southwest of Crete, with seven children; Bertha, Anna, Clements, Joseph, Fritz, William, and Theodore.
On March 31, 1905, a deed recorded with the Saline Co. Register of Deeds tells us that Henry & Elizabeth sold the 80 acres on Section 24, Dorchester Precinct, to Henry Wild for the sum of $5,100. On April 7, 1905 a deed is recorded for 120 acres on Section 21, Crete Precinct, purchased from William Fuhrer by Henry Bals for the sum of $8,100.
The next piece of documentation is a Crete Precinct Plat Map & Farmer's Directory , undated but likely to be from 1918. It shows Henry now on the 120 acre farm in Crete Precinct, Section 21; the farm just northwest of Crete above Tuxedo Park. All the children were living at home except for Ella. The plat map shows the farm on Section 32 is still owned by Ferdinand, but the Directory show his son Clements and wife Josephine living on the land. From this it is assumed that Ferdinand had made the move to the Pierce, Nebraska vicinity by this time.
On February 28, 1922, Henry & Elizaeth sold the 120 acres on Section 21, Crete Precinct, to John L. Jorgenson of Seward Co. for $21,000.
The Move to Loup City:
A deed recorded in Sherman County tells us that on February 20, 1922 Henry Bals purchased 400 acres of Section 1, Logan Precinct, and 160 acres on Section 6 from Mike J. Chmelka for $42,000 including a mortgage of $25,000 at 6% interest. Henry would have been 62 years old at the time. It is of some interest that Mike J. Chmelka was a resident of Butler County where Henry & Ferdinand first farmed upon their arrival from Germany.
From information supplied by their grandson Delmer; Henry & Elizabeth moved to this 560 acre farm north of Loup City in 1922. The children Herbert, Alfred, Carl, and Thelma moved with them. Herb may have already been in Loup City. Herb was16 and had gone there to farm for Ella, whose husband John Patz died of appendicitis in 1921. Delmer lived with Henry & Elizabeth for a year and a half after his father died and again for a year after graduation. His notes are the only first hand recorded information we have available of their personalities, their life & times. See the page for the Memories of Delmer Patz.
On May 19, 1933 in the middle of the depression and drought, at 73 years of age, Henry's farming career ended with a Sheriff's sale on Section 1, Logan Twp., Sherman County, Nebraska.
Elizabeth died on April 14, 1948 and Henry died on January 26, 1949.in Loup City. They are buried in Sacred Heart Cemetery at Crete, Nebraska, four miles from where they began their married life.
Notes to Bals, Balz & Baltz Visitors to this Website:
This website is definitely intended to be a work in progress. Anyone having information on the family that they wish to have added to the website, corrections to any information appearing on the site, or any other comments are asked to email email@example.com or click on Webmaster at the bottom of the page. . As much as possible, information on living family members has been limited for privacy and security.
This website started in a cow barn in Nebraska under light from kerosene lanterns; asking Dad who we were, where did we come from? This computer is a long way from that cow barn, but the questions are still there and still the same. This website is only the beginning of the search for the answers. The field is unlimited for future generations to research
Even without all the answers, I grew up with the sense that being a Bals was somehow special. The answers I have found only reinforced that sense. I firmly believe that:
We must know who we were, to know who we are, to know where we are going.
This website was created by Gene Bals on September 13, 2004.