Each fall, we press Perry Farm apples in the Seidel family cider press, a “Buckeye” that Keith’s great-grandfather, Franz Seidel, bought about 1875.
Franz had travelled to the U.S. from Saxony after the Civil War. On board the clipper ship, he met a man who persuaded him to go to a Wisconsin dairy farm. But he hated the work. A weaver by trade, Franz headed south to the cotton mills in St. Louis. When he’d saved enough money, he went back home to find a wife.
Fortunately for Keith, his great-grandfather was not lucky in love, and he returned to America a second time, travelling by steamship to a mill in Clinton, Massachusetts. It was here he met his future wife, Anna, a young woman who worked at a nearby loom.
Life in the cotton mill was hazardous and unhealthy. After Franz and Anna lost their first-born child, Henry, to what the coroner identified as “bowel disease,” they began saving money to buy a farm in a German community in the Midwest. The down-payment on forty acres was about $150 then; stock, farm implements, and other necessities would cost them $1200 more.* Given that on average, mill workers earned about $2 per week in 1870, achieving their dream was no small feat!
On their forty acres in Marshall, Illinois, Franz and Anna grew fruits and vegetables which they “trucked” to town. They also pressed grapes and apples into wine they sold in a restaurant in their home. Their son Alfred met and married Golda, a girl from a neighboring farm. Golda and Alfred’s daughter, Mildred, met Keith’s father at the Terre Haute clinic where she worked as a nurse.
Nearly 150 years after Franz’s clipper ship voyage, we use his press to make cider from the Mutsu and Gala apples Keith’s father planted at the Perry Farm two generations ago. Family and friends gather to help pour the apples into the mill, grind them, press them, fill the jugs, carry away the mash, and of course, sample the cider, which always tastes even better than the apples themselves.
Our lives are the result of a complex series of coincidences. But on cider pressing day, we think of great-grandfather Franz, who made choices that seem designed to bring us together to enjoy this pure, sweet, simple drink.
* For more details, see The German-Americans: An Ethnic Experience: http://maxkade.iupui.edu/adams/chap4.html