An enlarged picture of a white bearded, keen eyed man in his seventies, an old sword,
a heavy old-fashioned watch, these make up a few personal things remaining to be
linked with stories told to us by the children of a man whose life has probably
never been recorded.
Unfortunately little is known of his childhood other than he was born April 9, 1840
near Wiston-Salem, North Carolina, and was christened William Henry Crouse. His
parents were farmers of German extraction who workrd hard to reap a crop from thin
soil and aquire land to give to their four sons. A compulsory education law has
not reached the southern states and only the prosperous plantation owners could
afford tutors for their children; land was the most practical substitute for an
education. Although he often had the occasion to regret his inability to read and
write, his excellent memory and keen observation served him well.
Early he started to work in the fields and probably like all boys, he built castles
in the air. As he grew older, they became less fantastic and more realistic - culminating
in the desire to own a farm of his own. We can only guess at what went on in the
mind of the boy, but we do know whatever hopes he may have had were shattered just
after his twenty-first birthday, when the Confederates fired upon Fort Sumpter.
On September 20, 1861, he enlisted in the Confederate Army. He was soon championing
the cause of the South because it was the natuaral thing to do, but actually doubting
whether the slave issue was the real cause of the war.
Although the family owned no slaves, they were neighbors of Mr. Hickerson, a well-to-do
slave owner; whose treatment of his slaves was above reproach. In fact, their satisfaction
and devotion were proved when the majority of them refused to take advantage of
their liberty when the slaves were freed.
Whatever the cause, the war had started and he was a soldier in Company F, 37th
North Caralina Volunteers, Hill's Brigade, Lee's Division, Jackson's Corps. It was
not for him to solve riddles but tofight. A scar on his chin and another on his
right wrist testified that he fulfilled his duty. He was at the capture of Harper's
Ferry and fought in the battle of Fredricksburg. He was camped with Stonewall Jackson's
men when that great general accidentally met his death at the hands of his own soldiers,
and was on guard duty outside the dying msn's tent.
In 1863, the enemy armies - the Confederates under Lee, and the Federals under Meade
- met at Gettysberg where a three-day battle was fought. Meade's army was victorious,
and Lee was forced to retreat. Among the wounded was a tall, broad shouldered youth
with a bleeding and useless right arm. A bullet had entered the inside of his wrist
and had gone in several inches up on the other side. He was identified as Henry
Crouse, better known to his comrades as Hank.
He was told that his arm would have to be amputated. The youth said nothing, but
at first chance, sneaked away and started following the retreating army. He helped
care for the wounded men and boys in his own camp; he had seen others leave without
an arm or leg. He could face the enemy fire, but not the surgeon's knife. It was
not just the pain of the operation, although that was terrible, it was the thought
of going away as those others had gone.
Vainly, he, as well as others, tried to keep up with the retreating army, but soon
they were forced to drop behind where they were picked up by the enemy supply wagons.
Even though they were actually prisoners of war and were allowed to accompany the
wagons on their slow ride to camp. From there they were taken to the prisoner camp
at Chesapeake Bay. Some divine providence must have watched over the tall youth;
although his right hand and arm were horribly infected and the medical care was
crude, he did not lose the arm.
During the three day's battle at Gettysberg and the long days of marching to the
prison, there was onr thought, which came often to plague him. Would he ever see
his brother Schubel? The two brothers had enlisted together, but the younger boy
had fallen sick with the army fever several days before the last battle. It was
with the greatest difficulty that he kept in the line of march even though Hank
had carried his knap sac and gun for him. However, when they were ordered to advance
in battle Schubel was forced to lag behind, and the two parted, each believing he
would never see the other again. It seemed a certainty when Hank was taken prisoner;
for he knew he would have to stay there until the war was over; and only God knew
when that would be.
Almost sick with pain and worry, he entered the prison. As they passed through sleeping
quarters, they caught glimpses of wounded men lying on make shift cots. Suddenly
Hank was stopped by a cry of surprise, "Why Hank is that you?" He turned in the
direction of the voice. A boy, his face white and drawn, had pulled himself on his
elbow. It was Schubel. By some miracle he had been picked up and brought to the
camp. So far the two brothers had shared the same experiences-first as soldiers
and then as prisoners of war-but they were not together long. An exchange of prisoners
was made and Schubel, who had fully recovered, was one of those chosen to go. hank
could not go because his hand was not entirely healed. Once more they said goodbye,
and not until the war was over did Hank learn that Schubel, then a Lietenant, was
with General Lee when he surrendered at Appomattox Court House.
In March 1865, he was released from prison and like thousands of others, Confederates,
he returned home to find the country devastated. The farms were in hopeless condition;
the horses and cows taken by the armies; prices began to drop; and money became
worthless. An unpromising future of rebuilding and reorganizing lay before them,
a hopeless task, which would take years to complete. Hank was twent-five and no
longer a youth; the war had seen to that. His parents were getting old and there
were younger brothers and sisters to be cared for. Many had gone to the new states
in the west to find new homes and fertile fields; perhaps, he too could make a new
In the spring of 1869, a covered wagon left Surrey County to follow the trail west
as hundreds of others were doing. The wagon drawn by a team of horses, was to be
home and shelter for seven people for several months. Hank, encouraged by letters
from his uncles who had gone several years earlier to Iowa, had sold his one hundren
acres of land for one hundred dollars and made plans to leave North Carolina. His
parents and a brother and a sister were going with Hank and his young wife and baby
boy. In March 1868, he had married Louise Smith, a pretty, black eyed girl and a
year later their first child, whom they christened John was born.
With only the hope of something better in the new country to keep up their courage,
the women gathered up their kettles, dishes, andhome spun quilts, taking only the
most practical and necessary things with them.
Late that spring, they crossed the Mississippi River into Iowa. When they reached
Hamilton County, the travelers were so tired from the long, hard journey that even
a little hut looked welcoming. Their first home was near Bell's Saw Mill.
Those first years must have been hard. Hank worked at anything he could get and
Louise made good use of the wild fowl and berries of the prairie. One winter he
would cut wood, at another he herded cattle for Aaron Blackshear, whose large herds
grazed on the prairie where east Fort Dodge is now located. All the while he was
looking for a piece of land to farm, and he first broke sod near Homer and started
The years passed quickly, and little sister and twin brothers came to keep John
company. In the meantime, the grandparents had returned to North Carolina. It was
easy for the young people to be settled in a new country and be satisfied, but the
old folks had too many ties holding them to the old home.
Hank and Louise did not give up their struggle with the prairie and the elements.
When another child made its advent into the crowed two-room cabin, they did not
complain but redoubled their efforts to care for the growing family. They moved
their few possessions from one rented farm to another, always hoping that someday
they would have a farm of their own.
The patience and perseverance or the man must have been superb, for he was forty-nine
years old when he finally brought a two hundred acre farm near Evanston. Twenty
yaers of hard work and meager living went into the price of the land.
The new house, well built and roomy, was a godsend to Louise who had a difficult
time raising her large family - there were now seven boys and five girls - in one
and two room cabins. As for Hank, he and the oldest boys had to build a barn, which
was to remain standing for nearly fifty years afterwards as a mute proof of their
In the years that followed. the man improved the farm, adding new buildings, planting
fruit and shade trees, building fences. He became a respected member of the community,
and his willingness to help others became well known. It was he who cared for the
sick and laid out the dead. Any stranger who stopped by was welcome at his already
crowed table, for two more boys and a girl had taken their places there. By this
time the oldest had either married or were working away from home.
Tall and erect, a great stock of brown hair combed back from his high foreheaad,
neatly clipped beard adding to his proud bearing, he was still an admiraable figure
in his sixties. And it was not until then that he realized his boyhood dream. He
had a new house built - a large white house set between two great orchards. it was
not just another fine house; it was the symbol of all that he had worked for. It
did not matter that nearly all the children were grown up and in homes of their
own; their wouldn't be any too much room when they came home to visit and brought
Soon only the youngest of this family of fifteen was left. Three at the table -
it was quite different from the eight or ten who had sat there for so many years.
His last, a boy of nineteen, would soon be leaving too. It didn't seem so long ago
that he was only nineteen. It was so easy, to relive those other days in the old
home in the South. He was content, as content as any man could be: he was at peace
with God and man.
For the beginning of the story, of the Kraus family in America, continue to the page
with information on Melchior Kraus