By Frederick C. Jennings

Written about 1928


Frederick C. Jennings made a trip to Germany in 1928 to the place of his birth, from which place his mother brought him to the U.S.A. in 1881 at the age of six years. An effort was made at the time of the trip to trace the Jennings family but only for about one hundred years could this be done.


In a small hamlet (dorf) Augustendorf, (Kreis) (County) Bremervörde, Hanover, Germany [about 35 miles west of Hamburg], the Janning family lived as small farmers on the moor Land.


The little dorf celebrated its one-hundredth anniversary in June 1928, just a few weeks before I landed in the country, in true Nether Saxon style. Speech making, recounting the dorf’s history, dancing and plenty of liquid refreshments furnished the entertainment of the day.


The first known architecture as human dwellings in as far as this section of the country was concerned was achieved by planting trees on the end tying the tops together forming a steep roof without sidewalls. Such was the dwelling of Peter and Adelheid Janning in Augustendorf. The “edifice” was built near the south end of the old dam, there is no evidence now of the old dam site but it was near the public school of today.


The dorf boasted of 335 inhabitance at the beginning of the world war, lost 32 killed in action of the best and most promising young men.


Not until after the world war was a road built into the dorf (brick pavement). This must be taken up and re-laid every few years owing to the saging of the brick. The underlying strata beneath the road is peat, which is spongy and affords a poor foundation for a smooth surfaced road.


Before building this road, commerce was carried on by boat in the canal. The main commerce out of the dorf is peat for fuel. During the world war its citizens were quite prosperous as they enjoyed a good market but owing to the inflation of the currency after the war, their savings were wiped out.


In the early days horses and cattle were unknown in the dorf. It is said the first cow was planked into town.


Just why any person should choose such a place to locate is hard to understand unless it was to escape the overlords and horrors of almost continuous warfare and they, like the “Bog Irish”, escaped into the quagmire and bogs for safety.


As I view it the future holds but little good for the inhabitants of this dorf.


Peter Janning, was born about 1834, place of birth unknown, and died in Brilitt in 1877 [ed: This is probably the town named Brillit about 4 miles WNW of Augustendorf.] He was buried in the cemetery at the place with a Juniper tree standing at the head of the grave as its only marking.


Adelheid Appeln was born in Germany Nov. 4, 1834, and died in Milton, Wisconsin, May 12, 1918. [ed: There is a town named Appeln about 7 miles NW of Augustendorf.]


From this union four children were born. A daughter and three sons. Anna, John, Henry, and Frederick. Anna the oldest of the children was married in Germany to a Tonges [Tonjes] in Frelsdorf. Although from small beginning the Tonges’ became fairly well-to-do in spite of their lot as peasant farmers.


The three sons and mother emigrated to America at different times, the father having died when the youngest son Frederick was an infant. John came to the United States in 1877 [ed: Other evidence suggests he came to America in 1875], Henry a year or two later [1878], then finally Mother and the youngest son in 1881.


The writer remembers this trip although a small boy of six. Being told of the assassination of President Garfield, while enroute made a deep and profound impression on my mind. Both mother and I deplored such a dastardly act to assassinate such a good and great man. We landed in the port of Baltimore after fourteen days at sea on the good ship Braunsweig. We boarded an emigrant train to Chicago via the Baltimore and Ohio R.R. arriving safely in Janesville, Wisconsin, our final destination.


After working on a farm by the month for a number of years, John the eldest son, engaged in farming for himself and by his frugality and good planning together with the help of a good wife became a very successful farmer.


They had a family of eight children, five living, three having died in infancy. The living are:

            Emma Jennings Searl [Serl]

            Mary Jennings Dickoff

            Paul Jennings

            Louisa Jennings

            George Jennings


All married and have children with the exception of Emma and Louisa.


Henry Jennings the second son of Adelheid Appeln and Peter Janning after having come to America worked on a farm by the month. Seven or Eight years later he engaged in farming for himself and finally entered the creamery business but owing to ill health which prevented him giving the business his personal attention he sold the business and moved to Rock Rapids, Iowa, where he died leaving the greatest heritage, right principals, a warm and kindly spirit to his children who have stood the “test” and are holding positions of trust in the communities in which they live. To Henry and Augusta, his wife, four children were born who are now living, others having died in infancy:


            Arthur Jennings

Harold Jennings

            Dewey Jennings

            Inez Jennings


It should be noted the name changed from Janning to Jennings, however the name Jennings is corrupt. The correct pronunciation in German is as though spelled J-o-h-n-i-n-g. However in America Janning was commonly pronounced with a long “A”, therefore the letter “E” was substituted for the letter “A”, the suffix letter “S” was also assumed, hence the name Jennings. Jennings is the name used by all three branches of the original progenitors in this country, namely, John, Henry, and Frederick.


I, Frederick, attended public school until twelve years of age, then Mother sent me to Lutheran porochial school in Fort Atkinson. I was confirmed in the faith of my parents at about thirteen and a half years of age. Owing to my penmanship I secured a position as office boy. My duties were to direct the mail, copy letters for future reference in impression copy books, pay the freight bills, get the mail and make myself useful around the office. This experience gave me the knowledge of business which proved valuable in later years.


For about thirty years I followed the creamery business mostly in the State of Wisconsin. Six years I was located in Newville, Wisconsin operating the then Riverside creamery, three years in George, Iowa, and also Rock Rapids, Iowa, two years in Astabula County, Ohio, the balance of the time in Milton, Wisconsin operating a line of creameries and cheese factories in southern Wisconsin under a co-partnership of Jennings and Jahnke.


F.C. Jennings and Marth Ann Borst were married October 11, 1894. The children born to this union were:


            Grace Estella                Born     Nov. 21, 1895

            Esther Adelaidde                     Oct. 22, 1902

            Ruth Marie                              Jan. 30, 1905

            Frederick Borst                       Nov.  6, 1909

            Vernon Lee                             Dec. 19, 1913

            Margaret Ione                         Sept. 5, 1915


[Hand-written at the bottom of this page is the following, apparently writen by Esther:

Two years in Astabula County, Ohio - preceeded the 6 years in Newville Wis.  Only Grace lived in Astabula, Ruth and I were born in Newville, Wis.]


[A table on a separate page adds a list of Anna Janning Tonges’ children: Alena Hillmann, Henry, John, Dedrich, Christoffer, Fred.]




as seen by



From tallow candle, oil lamp, to electric light.

From lumber wagon to carriage and automobile.

From walking to riding bicycles.

From harvesting grain with sickle and scythe to the machine grain binder.

From the sound of the human voice heard within its own limitations to its reproduction on records and heard around the world by radio.

From poverty to plenty.

From an average standard of living to the highest standard in the world.

From riding in automobiles to flying in aeroplanes.

From tintypes, photography to television.

From farming by man power in Europe to tractor machine power in America.

From business depression to an era of prosperity the world has never seen before and MAY NOT SEE AGAIN.


(Notations from the pen of F. C. JENNINGS shortly after his return from Europe in 1928.)