Barton, John Rector, 1897- / Rural artists of Wisconsin
Frances Burt: Albany. New generation a'coming, pp. 31-35 ff.
The echoes from her ancestral past sound like a histori- cal romance. When her paternal grandfather, Fred Rie- mer, was a child in Germany, he played and wrestled with "young Kaiser Bill" while his father served as coachman and guard for old Kaiser Wilhelm I. The boy grew up in Berlin and left there only because he was being impressed into military service. He escaped to America by way of Russia and Spain, landed in Chi- cago with fifty cents, and wound up doing farm work in Green County, Wisconsin. After securing his own farm in the new country, he sent back for the woman of his choice. The story goes that, although she was a castle kitchen maid, she herself could claim high-born lineage. It is evident that Mrs. Burt approves more of the pa- ternal branch of her family after it joins the democratic stream on this side of the Atlantic, and she applauds the fact that there is nothing feudal in the maternal family history. As far back as she can trace, stands solid American stock. In fact, these ancestors were among the very early settlers of Wisconsin. Her mother's paternal grandfather, Baird, came from Pennsylvania in 1832 and courted a girl from a large family which had also migrated from Pennsylvania. They were the first cou- ple to be married in their part of Green County. They bought a farm, which remained in the Baird family for one hundred and two years, and had ten children, all of whom lived to bear progeny. These in turn built many of the first homes and churches and were buried in the oldest cemeteries of the county. It was only an occasional ancestor who strayed from the beaten path of settling and farming. Once one of them sold his farm and stock and left for California in the gold rush, but he returned penniless to the ancestral fold. Most of them were proud of their long and stable American tradition. Mrs. Burt's mother has in her possession a linen homespun sampler, a Baird heirloom, embroi- dered with the alphabet, the name of Hannah, and the date, 1776. Born and raised on a two-hundred-and-seventy-acre farm in the rich loam area of the Jordan Prairie in Green County, Frances Burt has tied up her family feeling with this section. She knows, however, that the average Wisconsinite associates the Swiss with her county, and she is the first to recognize the part they have played in developing it. Three of her sisters have married Swiss boys, one of whose ancestors founded the famous Swiss colony of New Glarus. In her eyes, the Swiss are "good, industrious people" who have made Swiss cheese into the gold of Green County. At the same time she does not want the earlier con- tribution of her own pioneering stock to be neglected. As she says, "the volumes of history buried under cha- lets, beer, yodelling, and Alpine costumes prove that Schmids, Ledermans, and Feldts were not the true founders of Green County, but that such names as Daw- son, Turner, Briggs, and Baird, laid the groundwork." Yet, because she is a very modern young woman, Mrs. Burt does not devote too much attention to her ancestry. 32
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