F. AUGUST PRAEGER. While experience in abundant measure is likely to come to those who rove and wander, the more substantial successes of life are awarded to those who work and wait. The working and waiting game has been the policy of F. August Praeger, one of the oldest settlers of Barton County, and a man whose life and experience are an intimate part of Logan Township.
Mr. Praeger was born ten German miles west of Berlin in the Province of Brandenburg October 3, 1849. The town of the family home was Plaue on the Havel. For a number of generations the Praegers had been art gardeners. That was the occupation of his great-great-great-grandfather, Johann Simon Praeger, of Altmark, who was born September 3, 1649, and died June 18, 1732, and also of the three following generations. C. Ludwig, father of F. August, married Julia Falkenhagen, whose father was a glove maker. Ludwig and Julia Praeger brought six children with them to the United States, sailing from Hamburg on the Germania and landing at Castle Garden about May 1, 1868. They went on to Chicago, where August when a boy worked a year at common labor. He next hired out as a farm hand. He had been reared in his father's lock shop and had no knowledge of farming, though he soon became proficient at it. The second year he was away from Chicago his parents rented land in Jo Daviess County, Illinois, and his parents spent the rest of their days there and are buried at the Village of Massbach in that county.
August Praeger continued to live in Jo Daviess County, Illinois, until he came to Kansas, being then twenty-five years of age and only recently married. On May 24, 1874, he married Miss Barbara Dittmar, a native of Bavaria, who came to the United States with her parents when two years old. Her father, George Dittmar, became a farmer in Jo Daviess County, Illinois, and is buried there. Two of his sons, Ehrhardt and Adam, were Union soldiers, and both at first declined pensions when Congress passed the law covering their cases. George, the oldest son of George Dittmar, and Albert, the youngest, both live in Jo Daviess County. Mrs. Praeger, the only daughter, was born March 16, 1850.
In May, 1874, Mr. and Mrs. Praeger started from Jo Daviess County, Illinois, making the trip overland, crossing the Mississippi River at Savannah and the Missouri at St. Joseph. They were twenty-seven days in reaching Barton County. Mr. Praeger had very little cash capital, and his chief asset was his team.
Barton County at that time had little land available for entry. Mr. Praeger preempted one eighty and homesteaded the other eighty in the northwest quarter of section 2, township 18, range 11. As a temporary shelter he took the bows and cover off his wagon, placing it upon the ground, and then bought a cook stove and brought $90 worth of lumber from Ellinwood with which to build a house. His wife helped him in all the carpentry work and in many other details of pioneer home making. Their first house was 12 by 14 feet, with one door and two windows. Building paper was used to finish it inside, and the construction process was a brief one. Mr. Praeger was living in this abode when the first grasshoppers came July 27, 1874. He witnessed the performance of this pest on the scant crops of his neighbors. The month of August came before he was able to break sod, there having been a drought and the ground being too hard to plow. When the rain came it soaked the sod thoroughly and he broke out three acres and planted it in rye in November. He harvested his first Kansas crop in 1875. Mr. Praeger recalls visitations of the grasshoppers for three successive years, coming in first from the north, then from the south, and then from a different direction in spring. However, he did not regard the grasshoppers so destructive to his crops and property as the Texas cattle then grazing in large herds over this region. The quarantine line against them had not yet been established, so the settlers took the matter of their removal in their own hands, armed themselves with pistols and other firearms, and drove the owner and his cattle out of the country.
As the capital which he brought with him to Kansas was soon gone, Mr. Praeger simply had to make his land support him. He managed to pay out his preemption at Larned, having just enough cash left to ride back to Ellinwood and leaving his hotel bill unpaid. He walked home from Ellinwood. At the end of five years the best he could say was that he had lived, had gathered about him fowls, a few cattle and other stock, and had some definite improvements on his farm. He bought one cow in the spring of 1875 and from her his cattle industry sprang. It would be interesting to know just the number of cattle sold from the Praeger farm as a result of that one cow.
His little home was enlarged in 1879 and again in 1883, after which followed a long interval of years until 1909, when his present eleven-room modern home was built. This has a basement, a modern heating apparatus, and all the sanitary arrangements and conveniences. Mr. Praeger was his own architect, and the cost of the house and its facilities was one of the results of his many years of cropmaking. Few homes are so conveniently equipped for pleasurable housekeeping and domestic satisfaction as this one.
Mr. Praeger learned to love Kansas in spite of its drawbacks and hindrances, and he began buying land even before he could pay for it. His first mortgage was given for his first additional quarter section of land. About that time his wife died, and as his chief helpmate and adviser her death was the most serious discouragement he has ever had. He finally got a good crop and secured the land that he felt was lost, and the half section he now owns satisfies his ambition for real estate. With the loss of his wife he had everything to do in the house as well as out of doors. He washed and "loused" the children, "cooties" then being common in Kansas. He remained both father and mother to his children afterwards.
In the matter of schools he helped organize school district No. 23, where a frame house 18 by 24 was built. For many years he has served as a board member and is the present school clerk. He has been twice trustee of Logan Township. Mr. Praeger is a republican and was reared as a Lutheran and is a member of the Claflin congregation of that church.
His good wife, Mrs. Praeger, died September 12, 1884, about ten years after they had come to Kansas. She was the mother of five children: Otto, who died unmarried in 1903, at the age of twenty-seven; Miss Anna, who is still in her father's home; Agnes, a teacher at LaCrosse, Kansas; Emma, who died as the wife of Louis Schmidt, leaving one daughter, Emma; and Herman, who was three months old when his mother died.
Herman Praeger was born June 13, 1884, was educated in the local schools and graduated in agriculture from the Kansas Agricultural College at Manhattan, class of 1908. He is the practical and scientific manager of the Praeger farm. Herman married Gertrude Edna Grizzell, graduate of Domestic Science, class 1908, in the Kansas Agricultural College. She was born January 7, 1886, a daughter of E. H. Grizzell. The children of Herman and wife are Walter, Ralph and Kenneth.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
Tom & Carolyn Ward
Home Page for Kansas
Search all of Blue Skyways
The KSGenWeb Project