Memories of Florence Marske Zimmerman

Thank you so much to Patti for sharing these wonderful stories ----


by Florence Marske Zimmerman, February 1986

I was born on a farm out in Iowa many years ago in a little town called Charlotte in northeastern Iowa. I was still quite young when we moved near a small town of Andover. It had a small Post Office, grocery store and a once a day railroad which we could see from our farmhouse.

We lived about a mile south of this little town. We had no electricity so all the milking was done by hand. The milk was run through a separator. The cream was shipped to a creamery to Clinton nine miles south from the farm where we lived. The milk after separation from the cream was fed to the pigs mixed with the ground oats. This was called slop. l They were fed twice a day. It was mixed in a barrel then dipped in to the hogs trough, and the fight was on to get the most when it was poured in.

There were calves to feed, chickens, ducks and geese. We had a large apple orchard, grape vines and cherry trees, plum trees and pears, and many bee hives and lots of honey. We made our own butter, bread and wine, grape and cherry.

We lived near the Mississippi River so there was a lot of fishing done.

I was the youngest of six. I had four sisters, Martha, Lydia, Minnie and Elsie and one brother, Walter. We had around a mile to go to school. No school busses those days, and no snow plows, so when there was around four or five feet of snow in the road we had a ride to school in the sled pulled by horses. And when the snow was as high as the fence posts the horses and sled went right over the top of the fences. When it was thawing the roads were all water so there was nowhere to walk.

We never had time for any stopping along the road when school was out, we had to get home because there were a lot of chores to be done. We had a corn sheller that had to be turned by hand. The shelled corn was to feed the chickens, ducks and geese. Cows eat the corn cob and all. Horses eat the corn and leave the cob and the pigs too, so the corn cobs were gathered and used for a quick fire for making supper which was my job when coming home from school.

All the small potatoes were cooked with the skins on and had to be peeled and fried for supper, along with homemade sausage and boiled eggs.

We also had a big garden every summer and the vegetables and meat had to be canned for winter use.

Our water was pumped by a windmill. We had what was called a force pump. It forced the water into a big supply tank, so we had running water piped into the house.

We kept warm by burning coal in the heater in the winter time.

We had carpeting in the living room, and when it was time to do the cleaning, we would bring a lot of snow in and put it on the carpet in the cold room and swept it with the broom. The carpet was red, and it surely was pretty after cleaning it with the snow.

In the winter time we would always have a barrel of apples, and every Sunday afternoon we would make fudge. That was a real treat.

We had quite a big house, one bedroom, living room, dining room and kitchen down stairs, three bedrooms upstairs. And kerosene lamps for our light.

We had a telephone and we were always warned when the gypsies were coming, because they would steal. Then we had to run to the road at the end of the driveway and close and lock the gate. They traveled in covered wagons those days and would make camp at night.

I remember the time when a peddler came along when it was getting dark, with his one horse wagon. Then he asked my Dad if he could stay all night because it was getting too dark to see the road. So my Dad told him he would put him up for the night. He did not want to at first because he had to sleep in the extra bedroom upstairs where we were sleeping, and I know he was worried because I was scared too. I could hear my Dad praying. But morning came and he had breakfast and went on his way.

I don't remember what he was selling, mostly medicine I think. There were no veterinarians those days, so they always had liniment for everything.

My parents came over from Germany. My Mother's family name was Winter, Anna Winter. She came over here when she was four years old from near Berlin. My Father's name was Paul Marske. He came over when he was seventeen from Pomern. They were hard workers on the farm in Iowa. I still have the trunk my Dad brought over from Germany with him.


by Florence A. Zimmerman

We came up here to Wisconsin about 42 years ago, in 1943. Our oldest son Tom was five going on six, and our second son Robert was two years old. We took over the 120 acre farm where my husband's folks lived. Grandma Zimmerman died that fall, so that left Grandpa alone.

It was not too much change for me because I was brought up on a farm out in Iowa near a small town called Andover. There we had no electricity, and the washing was done by a hand powered wash machine and the clothes were dried by the sun and freezing method. We were happy even though it was a lot of hard work.

There was always plenty to eat. Cooking was done on a cook stove with corn cobs and coal to burn. It was also the way we kept warm.

There were six of us, five sisters and one brother. When we got out of hand our dad always reminded us that charity begins at home, so that was the way he kept peace in the family. I was quite young then and it took a few years until I learned what charity meant. I was the youngest of six.

As a young woman I went to Chicago. There I attended Moler School of Cosmetology. My oldest sister, Martha lived there with her husband Elmer Zimmerman. It was through them that I met my husband, Ervin, Elmer's younger brother.

When Grandma Zimmerman suffered a heart attack, we decided to go up to visit her and Grandpa in Wisconsin. Ervin had decided he wanted to farm a portion of the family farm next to his folks'. However, Grandma's death prompted Grandpa to ask Ervin to take over the entire farm, which we did.

Wisconsin is a beautiful state and what I liked the most was the evergreen trees and the woods. The stones and rocks were especially interesting to me, so I turned out to be a rock collector. There were so many pretty ones.

It all started when our Minister's little boy came over to me at a church picnic. I was watching a ball game and he was picking up stones. He said he had a stone collection, so whenever I went somewhere after that I found some pretty stones and added them to his collection and also to mine.

When we took over the farm there was electricity but no running water in the house. The pump was on the porch just outside the kitchen door. The pail of water we brought in did not last long, especially when it came to making dinner.

Every time Grandpa came in to wait for his dinner he would want a drink of water and the pail would be empty. There was no time for me to go out to fill it, so he went out and got it. It looked like it was planned that way, but with three grown ups and three children to take care of, there was not much time left over. Our daughter, Charlene, was born after we were here about three years.

When the children were growing up there was a lot of baking and cooking to do. Seven or eight cakes a week was the usual, along with all the bread baking. As they grew up, there was a lot of help too. It was their job keeping the wood box filled and the dishes done.

Burning wood was all new to me. We had woods in Iowa, but no one ever made any wood to burn as they do in Wisconsin.

One thing I could not get used to was no fences around the farm. The fields were right to the road, and if your cattle got out from the pasture they had freedom to roam. If they got out at night, they could not be found.

We had chickens, cows and some pigs to take care of, horses for the farm work and the first years we had to milk the cows by hand. There were always milk cans to wash too.

The children went to the old Brickyard School, a one room building. they had well over a mile to walk to get to school. It wasn't until they were in high school that there were buses.

Daylight saving time was the hardest time for the boys. when they left home for school in the morning it was still dark when they walked up the first hill. After that I could not see them because they walked up the side road to their Uncle Art's home, and from there sometimes they got a ride when he hauled milk to the cheese factory. He took them to school from there.

I still remember how the snow was piled up high along the side of the road. In Iowa we had a lot of snow too, and no snow plows at that time, so we had a ride to school with the horses and bobsled. Here in Merrill we were able to travel with our Ford pick-up truck, as the roads were plowed.

A farm is a good place for children to grow up on. When they came home from school they had chores to do, then it was supper time. The rest of the evening they were busy with their hobbies. The boys both kept busy with miniature trains and they still have their train tables. I never had to worry where they were in the evening, they were always at home, busy.

Now, after all these years I have thirteen grandchildren including twin grandsons going on two, and one great grandson. Can't tell one twin from the other--their Grandpa would have really been confused, but also very proud of Michael and Matthew.

Time has sure gone by and there have been a lot of changes through the years. My husband died of a sudden heart attack about six years ago. I still live on the corner of the farm where we built a new house among the beautiful evergreen trees I love so much. Now I can look out my windows at the woods. I watch the squirrels and birds as they feed on the things I've put out for them, as I remember years gone by and moving to Wisconsin.

Florence A. Zimmerman February 28, 1985


by Florence Marske Zimmerman, March 1986

I grew up on a farm out in Charlotte, Iowa. We lived there until fall of 1927. My brother died in the spring of that year, in March.

The farm work was too much for my Dad, so he sold the farm. We moved to Andover, Iowa, a town of around 200 people. I never liked the city so I was sorry that the farm had to be sold. I was seventeen that summer.

I went to Chicago to study beauty culture. I worked there a few years, and then came up here to Wisconsin. I met my husband, Ervin Zimmerman at his brother's house in Chicago. His brother, Elmer, was married to my sister, Martha.

We took over the parent's farm in Pine River Township near Merrill, Wisconsin. Ervin's mother (Ida Krakow Zimmerman) died and his Dad (Ferdinand) was alone, so we moved in and ran the farm.

We had electricity, but no running water, so there was a lot of hard work to be done. Milking was done by hand, and we had horses for the farm work. It took a few years before things got easier.

We have two sons and a daughter and it was quite a few years before they were old enough to help. Tom, the oldest one, joined the National Guard after high school graduation and Robert, the second one, joined the Air Force after graduation, and Charlene worked in the office and store at a local hardware store for two years.

There was a lot of work the first years. There were chickens to take care of, pigs, cows, and sheep. Water had to be carried into the house and heated on the stove for washing. There were no clothes dryers those days, so clothes had to be dried outside, or by the stove in the wintertime. The cooking had to be done on the wood stove.

Grandpa spent most of his days working in the woods making wood for the kitchen stove and furnace. In Iowa we used a lot of coal for cooking and for heat. We burned coal at the farm here too for heat. We had a furnace in the basement but there was only one register in the floor, so it was hard to get the whole house warm.

Winter time was the hardest time of the year, especially when the children had to go to school, they had two miles to walk and the snow was quite deep sometimes. But there were snowplows. When we were growing up there were no snowplows, and the farmers were just starting to use tractors for their fieldwork, that was in Iowa. When we were on the farm here in Wisconsin there were horses and a tractor for the fieldwork.

Mealtime was a time that had to be on time. Breakfast after the milking was done, dinner at twelve and supper at five. Grandpa was always on time. He did not like to wait, and I think I learned something from that to always be on time, I don't like to keep anyone waiting.

Grandpa didn't like the sheets or blankets and quilts tucked in at the foot of his bed. He showed me how he wanted his bed made, both sides folded in and the end folded under to form a pocket for the feet. All the quilts were wool, and we still use our wool quilts in winter. This was all home grown wool. Sheep were raised on the farm.

On December 14, 1950 Grandpa died. The house felt pretty empty without him.

In 1966 we retired from farming. Ervin worked in the woods then and worked as a pulp cutter for Owens-Illinois Paper Mill out of Tomahawk.

We stayed on the farm until 1977 when we decided to build a new house on the corner of the land east of the original farm buildings. We moved into our new home in February of 1977.

Tom and his wife Sharon, moved onto the farm with their three children, Lorena, Kirby and Kathy.

Charlene married Jim Dolezal in 1964, and were blessed with seven sons and a daughter. Francis was the oldest, then Edward, Lynn, Carl, Donald, John, Richard, and Steve. They live near Antigo.

On January 30th, 1979 Ervin had a fatal heart attack. Tragedy followed a year later on March first when Kirby was killed in a car accident.

But there were blessings too. Lorena and her husband Mike gave me my first great grandchild, Shawn, August 11, 1979. And Bob and his wife Patti gave me twin grandsons, Michael and Matthew. So my life has been full.

Footnote: Shawn died June 29, 1989, after being struck by a car in front of his grandparent's farmhouse. Florence passed away on October 14, 1996 in Antigo, Wisconsin where she had lived her final years near her daughter. After hearing her talk about her life in both Iowa and Wisconsin, I encouraged Florence to write stories of her life to be shared with her grandchildren and great grandchildren and helped her put them together, for submission to "Yarns of Yesteryear", a publication here in Wisconsin. Though they were never chosen for publication, I believe she would have felt honored to share them now.

OBITUARY: FOTO NEWS Merrill, Wisconsin 23 Oct. 1996

Florence A. Zimmerman, 86, of Antigo, died Monday, October 14, 1996 at Langlade Memorial Hospital.

Born July 28, 1910, in Iowa, Florence was the daughter of the late Paul and Anna Winter Marske. She married Ervin Zimmerman on November 10, 1937. He died in January of 1979.

Florence was raised in Iowa, and was also a resident of Chicago before she and her husband moved to Merrill in 1943. She helped her husband on their farm for 20 years, and moved to Antigo in 1991.

Survivors include a daughter, Charlene (Wenzel) Dolezal, Antigo; two sons: Thomas W. Zimmerman and Robert Zimmerman, both of Merrill; also a sister, Minnie Gruber, Clinton, IA. Further survivors include 12 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Florence was preceded in death by a grandson; a great-grandson; one brother and three sisters.

Services were held Friday, October 18, 1996 at Bradley Funeral Home, Antigo. Donald Roth officiated with burial in Merrill Memorial Park Cemetery.

I am compiling the family history of the above mentioned families. Anyone who can provide further information, please contact Patti Laessig at