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Author: Subject: Urban - Lehman, A Personal Recollection by Pat Larsen
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[*] posted on 11-18-2016 at 04:24 PM
Urban - Lehman, A Personal Recollection by Pat Larsen

Andreas Johann (Andrew John) Urban and Maria Magdalena Lehman (Lena)

A Personal Recollection

Andrew Urban was born 15 June 1861 in Serbin, Texas. His parents were Michael Urban and Johanna Christiana (born Schneider) Wuensche who were original Wendish immigrants aboard the Ben Nevis. Andrew married Maria Magdalena Lehman 26 April 1883 at Serbin, Texas. She was born 17 October 1864 in Serbin, Texas and baptized at home 3 November 1864. Her parents were Johann Carl August Lehman and Maria Jannasch who also arrived in Texas in 1854 aboard the Ben Nevis. At the time of her birth her father was listed as farming on Yegua Creek (near Giddings).

In 1886 the Andrew Urban family removed to Thorndale, Texas in the company of Lena’s parents and several of her siblings. Andrew was a cabinetmaker by trade and a master builder. He designed and constructed the pulpit for St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Thorndale and made large cedar chests for each of his children. He operated a planing mill, and the establishment of the Urban Funeral Home may have evolved from constructing coffins. A lake on his property became the source of the town’s water supply and he was noted as proprietor (with his wife’s brother John) of the Thorndale Water Works. Andrew had an eye removed in San Antonio though I do not know why. My father recalls that Andrew stayed with his cousin, Peter Urban, while there. Lena, my great-grandmother, showed me his glass eye replacement which was kept in a cupboard in her pantry after his death. The pantry was a cold room where her root vegetables were stored.

Lena always kept a large vegetable garden and loved flowers. Several generations of her progeny recall carrying numerous pot plants inside when frost was expected. The yard around the house was fenced by hedges, which she kept trimmed. Around the house she had a magnificent wisteria vine and a row of violets bordered the house near the front porch. Two pomegranate trees bore fruit and an enormous mulberry tree shaded the house near a belowground cistern, which held rainwater from the gutters. This was the source of drinking water and was pulled up by lowering a bucket. Drinking water was kept available in the summer kitchen on a washstand and everyone took his drink using the same dipper. Clothes washing was done on top of the large cistern using a corrugated scrub board, bar soap, and elbow grease. Indoor bathroom facilities could be used in the funeral home next door, but there was a relief station in the barnyard with holes of three sizes-one small enough for young children.

Quilting was a social pastime and Andrew had installed ceiling hooks from which to suspend the frame around which the ladies sat doing their needlework while visiting. I claimed two of Lena’s quilts though the cloth was rotten and unsuitable for use by the time they came to me. Nonetheless when my granddaughter could not sleep I would retrieve one of Granny’s “magic” quilts for a cover to assure sweet dreams. Lena also kept chickens. A family story has her doing a barnyard dance and using a barnyard expletive when a chicken got caught up under her long dress. When I knew her she was in her 70s. I recall her appearance in house-dress and rundown slippers going about her chores. In the afternoon she took the German Bible to the rocker made for her by Andrew (now in the possession of great-grandson, Scott Urban) and read as she listened to her radio soap operas. She would take down the topknot of her long gray hair and brush it, saving the fallen hair in a flower vase from the funeral home. That vase is in my possession. Her manner was always serene and kindly.

Lena was also regularly called on to assist in the delivery of her neighbors’ children. Her obituary notes that she often stayed with the new mother for a week after the birth. She also kept available medicines such as Heil Oel, Alpen Krauter, and Hein Fong for common complaints. Thorndale children through my generation (I am seventy) were familiar with these remedies. It was not unusual for her to be awakened by a neighbor seeking relief. She ordered these in quantity and kept them under her bed; and, if she was paid, it was not more than the cost to her. Medicine was truly primitive at this time and a medical doctor did not have much more to offer than these tried and true medicines.

Lena cooked on a wood stove and baking day required a good supply of small wood. My grandmother Helen, who lived with her mother in Lena’s last years, chopped the kindling. I would ride the wheelbarrow down to the woodpile and ride back atop the split wood for the stove. One baking day my cousin, Doyle Urban, and I were sent across the highway to bring some fresh hot bread to Mrs. Kurio and return with Mrs. Kurio’s cooked cheese which was called Koch Kase-that is how it sounded. In the winter the cook stove also served for heating. I recall, in particular, Aunt Mary Wuensche, Aunt Ilda Lehman, and my Granny (Lena) Lehman visiting in that rather small and warm room. Having a captive audience I proceeded to stand on a chair and deliver a sermon. They made me think I was wonderful and no doubt instilled in me a lot of confidence, as I am still comfortable speaking before a group. I was the youngest child in the family at the time so likely received more attention than would have been mine otherwise.

Andrew died 7 May 1927 which was seven years before my birth. Though I could not know my great-grandfather except through others it was always clear to me that he was a respected man and revered by his family. The cause of his death was listed as Angina Pectoris with arteriosclerosis as a contributing factor. His son, John, was the undertaker of record, and he was buried in St. Paul’s Lutheran Church Cemetery in Thorndale 10 May 1927.

Lena died 28 January 1946 of a lingering battle with liver cancer possibly due to untreated gall bladder disease. She was buried in St. Paul’s Lutheran Church Cemetery in Thorndale. Her gentle and uncomplaining character remained true through months of misery. Her obituary in the Thorndale Champion of 7 February 1946 pays tribute to her exemplary life as a mother and notes her role as midwife to many of her neighbors’ children.

I have shared these memories with you because you may know Andrew and Lena only as names. If these pages are being read by someone my age or older I hope you will take the time to draw on your memories of your beloved grandparents and great-grandparents and give your children the only experience they can have of knowing them. It is a gift of your legacy.

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Junior Posting Wend

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[*] posted on 2-5-2017 at 10:01 AM

At the time I wrote this piece (2004) I did not know how Andrew Urban came to lose his eye. When his grandson, A.J. Lehman, died in 2006 his obituary included the information that Andrew's eye had been pierced by a metal shard while working on the roof of the St. Paul Lutheran Church in Thorndale. Andrew had built the church in 1900; and, as A.J. was born in 1918, the incident would have been a repair to the roof at some later date. A.J., as a child, often accompanied his grandfather to his work and recalled watching as Andrew worked on the altar screen to accommodate the Klagstad painting of the Ascension. Glenda Merz of Thorndale is A.J.'s daughter and shared the above information.
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Dan Bednarski
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[*] posted on 6-22-2017 at 11:58 AM

Beautifully written, Thorndale Wend. Thank you for all that you have been doing to record and promote our family histories. It is one of the most valuable activities we can engage in, to record and make available our history. And to bring it "alive" with the descriptive stories is fantastic! I wish more would take the time...
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