Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Jacob Imfang, Prussian Soldier

One of my mother's uncles was Jacob Imfang. He immigrated to America arriving at Castle Gardens, New York, in Oct 1905 on the S.S. Finland. He came to Braddock, as suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and there, met Anna Austel. The Austel family had immigrated to Braddock from Canton Thurgau, Switzerland, about two years before Jacob arrived on the scene. Jacob and Anna were married at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Braddock in Oct 1909. They had three daughters: Margaret Ann, Martha Ann, and Elizabeth "Betty".

Several years ago, I tracked down Jacob and Anna's daughter, Martha, who was living in northern Pittsburgh. Martha's father, Jacob, was a professional carpenter and furniture maker; his cabinets were sold in Pittsburgh's well-known Department store, Joseph Horne Company. As Martha invited me into her house to see some of the fine furniture her father had made, I noticed a handsome portrait of Jacob in Military Uniform (see the first image below). I knew he was originally from Germany and I presumed he had served in the Prussian Military. Martha showed me a smaller, black and white, cabinet card of the same image. On the reverse, someone had written what looked like Jacob's regiment including a few numbers and symbols that I couldn't decipher. However, I wrote the information down in my journal like a good family historian. More recently, a friend referred me to a web site that had information on Prussian Regiments, and fortunately, I was able to identify Jacob's regiment. (Thank you, Jon von Briesen). Jacob served in:

"Grenadier Regiment Graf Kleist von Nollendorf, Nr. 6 (1. Westpreu├čisches)", and probably in the 10th Division. "Graf" is a title meaning count. How Jacob got from the Frankfurt area where he was born to being recruited in a Prussian regiment in Posen is still a mystery.

IMAGE: Jacob Imfang in Prussian military uniform. He is wearing his "Dunkelblau" (dark blue) tunic. On the side table, lies his Picklehaub (spiked helmet) with black-colored, parade plume made of horse hair. The epaulets on shoulder, the color and design of piping, the design of buttons and medallion on helmet, all identify Jacob's unit in the military. Darn, if I knew all that BEFORE I took the picture, it sure would have helped. Sorry about the reflection on the convex glass which covered the framed portrait.

Martha also showed me a newsclipping featuring Jacob and titled, "Native of Germany celebrates his 90th [birthday]. I folded the clipping to fit into the image below. The article did not mention Jacob's Prussian service, but it did tell about his interests in dancing and a men's singing group called a "Mannechor" in German, and his hobby working with wood. Also, it told about an incident in Jacob's childhood when he attended his neighborhood school with former President, Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1890s. Apparently, Roosevelt's parents thought it would be healthy for their son, who was afflicted with Polio, to spend several summers in Bad Nauheim, a health resort famous for its baths (Die Bad). I was wondering how I could confirm this family tradition- but see "References" below.

(click image to enlarge)

Sometimes we forget to realize that millions of German immigrants who came to America in the late 19th century, including my own ancestors, had to turn around in a generation or two and do battle with their former countrymen during two world wars. That is truely ironic.


Names of Prussian Regiments

Franklin D. Roosevelts summer visits to Bad Nauheim (in German)


Carole said...

Carole said...

Bob, I stumbled on your blog when I goggled Grenadier-Regiment Graf Kleist von Nollendorf (1. Westpreu├čisches) Nr.6 Posen. I have a picture (found in my mother's box of unmarked photos) of a young man in uniform. After asking around, a knowledgeable person told me that the photo belonged to someone in the above brigade. He dated the photo between 1900 and 1913. I am trying to figure out who the photo might be - do you know of any lists of soldiers who served in that regiment? I do not have any ancestors that I am aware of from Posen either. I would love to chat with you - I can even share my photo if you are interested. It has a photographer's name on the back - that too has been a dead end. Thanks, Carole Townsend PS: I used to live in Charlotte and Mathews NC! Small world!