The Vietinghoffs in America - Page 2
As to how the family came to America, my grandfather told this story: When Kaiser Wilhelm came to power in Germany (Prussia), my great-grandfather refused to serve in the military. Coming from a family with a military background, my great-grandfather saw service to Wilhelm II as essentially becoming a mercenary. My grandfather said that he himself was named after King Leopold (whether the first or second is unclear.) If this story is true, that would place the emigration betwen 1888 and 1899, the year my grandfather was born. On my grandfather's baptismal certificate, it lists Frank A. Vietinghoff as father and Marie Meerts as mother. The cetificate was issued by the Church of the Epiphany in Chicago, dated April 15, 1906. My grandfather's name is entered as Leo Meertz Vietinghoff. The story as I heard it from my grandfather told that the original family name was "von Vietinghoff" which carried honor in Euope, but the "von" was dropped upon entering America. My grandfather had a sister, Julianna.
My grandfather's story went on to tell of how his father, a career military officer, refused an offer to teach fencing at West Point, still perceiving this as a mercenary position and therefore still unacceptable. Instead, Frank Vietinghoff became a butcher, a good profession in those days, but he had such aristocratic expectations that he would quit the jobs he got if he was offended in some way. My grandfather told that his father quit one job because the owner of the shop had asked him to sweep up the sawdust (a standard practice, as sawdust was used to capture the blood, and needed to be swept and replaced everyday.) My grandfather said that family fortunes were uncertain because of this attitude that his father held; he said they would never know if Dad still had a job from day to day. I never heard from my grandfather as to how Frank died, but many years later my mother said he had died on the streets of Chicago, and there was speculation that he passed out drunk walking home from a bar one night, and died frozen in the winter Chicago streets.
My grandmother was born Bernice Norma McCardle in 1906. Her mother was Carol McCardle. Her sister was Maude. According to my mother, Bernice's father had died recently in an accident on the railroad where he worked. My mother said that,soon after he died, Bernice and her twim brother Norman were born prematurely, and they were placed in shoeboxes at home near the fire to keep them warm. Only Bernice survived.
Another story from my mother tells that Bernice and her sister Maude worked for a time making matches to help the family. My mother suspects that Bernice met Leo when he was dating a friend of hers.
This may be a baby portrait of my grandfather Leo, which would date to 1899 though the early years of the Twentieth Century.
Bill, Richard and Joan Vietinghoff (my mother) - a portrait from 1935