Conrad Romeiser, like all the old pioneers of Cloud county, has made interesting history. He landed in Solomon City, March 3, 1869. He was born in Hessen, Nassau, Germany, in 1846, and has inherited the thrift of his nation. His father, Nicholas Romeiser, served twelve years in the service of his native country, entering the army when but seventeen years of age, and remaining until discharged on account of disability. He then followed farming and later engaged in the butcher and meat market business. He died August 20, 1866. Mr. Romeiser's mother died when he was an infant, leaving himself and brother, Peter M., who has risen from obscurity to prominence as a citizen and enterprising man of Belleville, Illinois, where he is a wholesale and retail merchant, doing an extensive business. Their father by a previous marriage had two children and by a third, five children.
Mr. Romeiser was educated in the schools of his fatherland and just prior to attaining his majority set sail for America. His destination was St. Louis, where his brother had preceded him. He arrived in Chicago with one dollar and a ticket to St. Louis, and borrowed one dollar from a stranger he had traveled with. He had served an apprenticeship as butcher in Germany, but not speaking English it was difficult to secure work at his trade, and he resorted to the country, where he became a farm hand near Waterloo, Illinois, and where he earned his first salary on Americal soil. He shook with ague for many months, was bitterly discouraged and would have returned to his native land could he have paid his passage.
In 1869 he and his brother came to Kansas. They had heard many fabulous stories of the homestead lands and through correspondence with the Studt brothers and a friend they were induced to try their fortunes in the "New West." They selected claims in the Solomon Valley, returned to Solomon City, walked from there to Junction City, filed on their claims and walked back to their new lands feeling like kings and princes.
As soon as spring opened Mr. Romeiser walked to Junction City, where the Missouri, Kansas, & Texas railroad was in course of construction and found work, remaining until the railroad was finished within three miles of Emporia. He owed his brother one hundred and twenty-five dollars, and much of his wages went to meet this obligation. In the winter of 1869-70 he lived with the Studt brothers, - Phillip and Jacob, - who were "baching" in the dugout on their claim. Mr. Romeiser says, "he had no place to lay his head and they took him in for God's sake." The following spring he again went to Junction City, where he worked at all sorts of jobs - on the streets', made bologna and was a general "roustabout."
In the summer of 1870 the country was rapidly filling up with settlers and he built a dugout on his claim. He would return occasionally and build a big fire so that the emigrants and neighbors could see the spiral smoke curling upward from his chimney and know that "Cooney" was home and would not jump his claim. In 1870 he hired Mr. Misell and Mr. Grittmann to break some prairie land. At that time these men were not as expert with the plow as they became later in life, and, with their oxen as animal power, made very crooked rows. This same Grittmann walked and carried a gallon bucket of lard all the way from Junction City to his claim on the Solomon. He was slightly weary, perhaps, but as he thought of the delicious gravy they could make, it became a precious burden and comparatively light. Mr. Romeiser paid four dollars per acre for the turning of his sod. The next year he traded and succeeded in getting more done. For five years he did not have a horse or animal of any description and operated his farm by working for his neighbors, and in return getting their horses or oxen with which to till his ground.
Five years from the time he homesteaded he bought at forced sale an old mare, so balky at times she would not pull "the hat off his head." For this, his first article of stock, he paid sixty-six dollars and fifty cents. Charles Horn loaned him part of the money for his investment, which after all proved a good one, she being an excellent brood mare and from her he raised fine colts. In 1874 Mr. Romeiser began to prosper. He traded around and got two ponies, took a trip, and was flourishing when the grasshoppers and drouth overtook the country. But the grasshopper year proved the "fattest" for him as he left his homestead that winter, went to Marysville, where he had friends, and secured a place to work where he could get all he wanted to eat and drink, returning to his claim in the spring with his face as round and slick as an onion.
On account of the grasshoppers and drouth he sold to Allen Teasley seventy-five dollars worth of hogs and donated some poultry for good measure. In the meantime Mr. Teasley died and Mr. Romeiser was sorely distressed, thinking the deceased might not have made provision for the payment of this bill or it might not be understood by the wife and sons. But upon inquiry he found the good wife had saved the money for him. With this he bought plows and other things needed on the farm.
He now began to add other land to his homestead, in the meantime borrowing four hundred dollars for one year, paying fifteen per cent interest. He engaged in stock raising and has made his money in feeding and shipping hogs and cattle. He now owns three hundred and twenty acres of fine land, and in 1894 built a commodious house of six rooms and two wide halls. He has a large bank barn 36x80, one of the finest in the county. he lived in a dugout for about eight years and in 1882, built a small stone house over the cellar which was then considered a pretentious home. His first dugout was on the bank of the creek. During a wet season he was drowned out. It had been raining several days, but he did not anticipate an overflow and was sleeping soundly. He was awakened by D.W. Teasley shaking the door of his hut and hallooing. He inquired the meaning of their excitement and as he looked about, saw the dugout was flooded with water several feet deep, his trunk and "baching" utensils floating around the room, and the creek, a roaring, booming river. Mr. Romeiser at once repaired to the little hog pen, kicked the boards loose and let the hogs out. The struggling and half drowned swine were sticking their noses upon one another's back to keep from drowning.
Mr. Romeiser was married in 1878 to Caroline Gnatkowsky, a native of Germany, who came with her parents to America in 1871 and settled in New Baltimore. In 1877 they came to Kansas and took up a homestead on the divide, where her mother died in 1895, and her father in 1898. Mr. and Mrs. Romeiser have a family of six children, viz: Herman, a farmer; Henry, with his father on the farm; and four exceedingly bright little girls, Margaret, Mary, Louise and Lenore.
Now while looking over his little home Mr. Romeiser can have some satisfaction in recalling the hardships endured while procuring it.
Transcribed from E.F. Hollibaugh's Biographical history of Cloud County, Kansas biographies of representative citizens. Illustrated with portraits of prominent people, cuts of homes, stock, etc. [n.p., 1903] 919p. illus., ports. 28 cm.
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