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A look into the ‘Russian Swamp Family’ that once lived in NCMC’s natural area

PETOSKEY — Along considered one of the winding paths in the North Central Michigan College natural area is a plot of land that was once residence to the pioneering Siebert household.

On April 26, two North Central college students gave a presentation about the household and their historical past.

Phoenix Backus and Anna Ruhling labored with NCMC professor Kerri Finlayson to analysis the Siebert household.

While fallen tree branches, uneven terrain and some seen pits are all that stays from the household’s homestead, signage offering details about the Siebert household is at the web site. However, Backus stated some info is inaccurate and must be up to date.

The Siebert family tree.The Siebert family tree.

The Siebert household tree.

Signage related to the Siebert family is placed around the area off the trail on the North Central Michigan College property.Signage related to the Siebert family is placed around the area off the trail on the North Central Michigan College property.

Signage associated to the Siebert household is positioned round the area off the path on the North Central Michigan College property.

The analysis challenge first kicked off after NCMC President David Roland Finley approached Finlayson to see if she had any college students who would have an interest in working to replace signage in the area.

After their time at NCMC, each Backus and Ruhling are planning to go to Grand Valley State University to check anthropology, so Finlayson tapped each college students to work on the challenge.

The Siebert household fled the Prussian navy

A Mennonite household, the Sieberts had a strict perception in pacifism. They fled Prussia in the 1870s to flee conscription in the navy. They first traveled to Kansas, the place household patriarch Abraham Siebert was sworn in as a citizen in Barton County, Kansas in February of 1875, in keeping with paperwork compiled by the analysis crew.

By 1878, the household moved north and east, touchdown in Petoskey to work in lumber.

About two years after their transfer, Petoskey had a diphtheria outbreak that lasted from 1880-1882, Backus stated. Abraham and Eva Siebert’s son, Tobias, grew to become contaminated with diphtheria when he was 12 and by no means made a full restoration. He was left mentally handicapped for the remainder of his life and was by no means in a position to go away the residence, however was nonetheless in a position to contribute to bodily labor.

All that remains of the former Siebert home is some rocky foundation and uneven terrain.All that remains of the former Siebert home is some rocky foundation and uneven terrain.

All that stays of the former Siebert residence is a few rocky basis and uneven terrain.

The Sieberts have been outcasts in Petoskey

Known as the “Russian Swamp Family” in Petoskey, the Sieberts have been outcasts in the area. Though they have been really German, the household spoke Russian and German, however weren’t anticipated to have spoken English very properly, Backus stated throughout the presentation.

This contributed to their isolation. In 1884 an officer confirmed as much as the household’s residence and stated any youngsters beneath the age of 17 have been required to start out attending faculty, so three Siebert youngsters — John, Helena and Mary — have been anticipated to enroll.

A sign in the NCMC Natural Area features a photo of some of the Sieberts and information regarding them fleeing Prussia.A sign in the NCMC Natural Area features a photo of some of the Sieberts and information regarding them fleeing Prussia.

A signal in the NCMC Natural Area includes a picture of a few of the Sieberts and data concerning them fleeing Prussia.

Helena, 10, and Mary, 8, began first grade collectively in 1884.

Jacob, aged 19, didn’t must attend, and neither did Tobias, 16, resulting from his psychological incapacity. Martha, 2 at the time, didn’t begin faculty till just a few years later, and Harold, who died at 6 months previous, and Nicodemus, who was born the 12 months the legislation handed, additionally didn’t attend faculty.

Backus stated Mennonite households in this period despatched their daughters to high school for an schooling, whereas the sons stayed residence to assist with bodily labor, making it troublesome to seek out data of any of the boys attending faculty. Martha ended up being the solely youngster in the household to proceed her schooling, and finally earned a bachelor’s diploma.

Throughout the area, signs are placed including information about the Siebert family. The family once had a homestead in what is now the North Central Michigan College Natural Area.Throughout the area, signs are placed including information about the Siebert family. The family once had a homestead in what is now the North Central Michigan College Natural Area.

Throughout the area, indicators are positioned together with details about the Siebert household. The household once had a homestead in what’s now the North Central Michigan College Natural Area.

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What occurred to Jacob and Nicodemus Siebert?

Jacob Siebert, the eldest youngster, was despatched to the Traverse City State Hospital, a psychiatric hospital, by his father in 1889. He was launched between then and 1900.

Abraham despatched him to the hospital as a result of he was “indignant and insane,” although it is unknown what really occurred to result in the institutionalization.

However, in 1908, studies stated Nicodemus and Jacob each died after drowning in the Great Lakes whereas serving to with transport lumber on open water. Backus stated this will’t be true, as a result of Jacob was put again into the state psychiatric hospital in 1900 earlier than his dying in 1908.

His physique was by no means claimed, which led Backus and Ruhling to imagine Jacob might have been disowned or shunned from the household. Due to HIPAA, although it was not a legislation at the time, entry to Jacob’s medical data have been denied.

The researchers additionally spoke to Abraham and Eva’s great-granddaughter, Gloria, and he or she was denied entry to the medical info as properly regardless of being a relative.

Jacob was not the solely Siebert who was positioned in a psychological hospital. Helena was additionally despatched to 1 in Kansas. However, she was despatched there at age 66, so theories of why she might have been despatched embrace the chance that she developed Alzheimer’s. Backus and Ruhling additionally theorized that as a result of she was an single spinster, Helena might have been a lesbian, which was thought of a psychological sickness at the time, although they assume an Alzheimer’s prognosis is extra probably.

Knowing Jacob didn’t die by drowning calls into query the declare that Nicodemus did. His disappearance is the biggest thriller for the household, with descendants to today saying they want they knew what occurred.

Two different relations disappeared, too. John and his spouse, Lena, vanished in 1906 after going to South Dakota for a late honeymoon. Two years prior, the couple had a stillborn youngster.

John Siebert and his wife, Lena, photographed before their 1906 disappearance.John Siebert and his wife, Lena, photographed before their 1906 disappearance.

John Siebert and his spouse, Lena, photographed earlier than their 1906 disappearance.

(From left) Phoenix Backus, Kerri Finlayson and Anna Ruhling pose for a photo following a research presentation on April 26.(From left) Phoenix Backus, Kerri Finlayson and Anna Ruhling pose for a photo following a research presentation on April 26.

(From left) Phoenix Backus, Kerri Finlayson and Anna Ruhling pose for a photograph following a analysis presentation on April 26.

Leaving their mark on NCMC

The two college students at the moment are working to replace and proper indicators. Much of their info got here from a ebook known as “Memories of the Sieberts,” which was written by Bertha Vogt Ratzlaff, Abraham and Eva’s granddaughter. They stated the ebook does embrace some inaccuracies.

Finlayson stated getting the probability to work with college students outdoors of the classroom has given them a uncommon alternative to realize some entry to a extra in-depth, nuanced stage of analysis.

“It’s rare at a community college level to actually have opportunities to get students involved in research,” she stated. “It’s not that it’s unheard of, but it’s a fairly rare thing.”

For Backus, it was an important chance to get some validation, allowing them to know this is something they’d like to study in the future.

“It really solidified that this is what I want to do,” Backus said.

Ruhling added that the project confirmed the same thing for her, and let her know she likes the idea of working with artifacts and digging on historical sites.

“I had a blast doing this. I mean, we haven’t even gotten our associate’s yet — and we’re working on an archeological-related project,” Ruhling said.

— Contact reporter Karly Graham at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @KarlyGrahamJRN.

This article initially appeared on The Petoskey News-Review: A look into the Siebert family’s history at NCMC

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