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Nantt, John Sr. & Dorothea (Krainenbring)

Family history & Photographs courtesy of Patricia (Nantt) Close


John Nantt Sr. was born Sept. 10, 1857, in Borodino, Bessarabia, South Russia. John was the son of Konrad and Karolina Rader Nantt. Konrad his father was born Sept. 16, 1832 in Borodino, Bessarabia, South Russia. Karolina, his mother was born Nov. 20, 1836 in Trautino, Bessarabia, South Russia. John’s grandparents, Johann and Heinrika Mann Nantt, were both born in 1802 in Germany, and both died in Russia at an old age after bringing up their family.

John had seven sisters, all of whom were born in Trautino. His sister Justina, was older than John, and he had six sisters that were younger. They were: Karolina, Regina, Katherina, Fredarika, Christina and Lousia.

John, being the only son, helped his parents at home until the age of 24, when he married Carolina Hirchkorn in 1881. They were living in Rumania at this time. Their oldest son, Konrad, was born April 7, 1882, but died that same year. The second son, Ludwig, was born Aug. 21, 1883. Ludwig was a small child when his Mother became ill and died, leaving John with a young son to raise.

About three years later John remarried, but we have no name recorded of his second wife. She died during the diphtheria epidemic. John also was very sick at this time with a high fever, he craved for something sour to drink, so he drank a couple glasses of sour milk that was setting in the kitchen.  The fever left and he recovered from his illness. God spared his life so that Ludwig, a small boy at that time, had his Father to raise and take care of him.

On Sept. 28, 1892 John got married to my grandmother, Dorothea Krainenbring, in Romania. Before her marriage Dorothea worked at a home as a housekeeper for a couple that owned a large factory in Tarutino. They made lace curtains, bedspreads, yarn rugs, etc., to use in a home.

Dorothea Krainenbring was born on Sept. 18, 1868 at Borodino, Bessarabia. South Russia. She was the daughter of Christian Sr. and Julia Demke. Her Father Christian was born in 1840 and her Mother Julia was born in 1843, both were born in Borodino, and both died at an old age in Russia.

Dorothea was the oldest in the family. She had three younger sister’s:  Elizabeth, Rosie, and Minnie, and one brother, Christian Jr.

John’s father, Konrad Nantt, passed away in Russia before John & Dorothea came to America in 1894. John’s Mother Carolina came along with John & Dorothea and their two children, Ludwig 13 and Rosie. Rosie was one year old at the time. She was born in 1893. Both the children were born in Rumania. 

For a short time John farmed in Pierre, South Dakota, but then the family homesteaded in Stark County, North Dakota. Their farm was nine miles south of Antelope, and seventeen miles southwest of Hebron, ND, very near the Heart River.

Just like all the other early pioneers, John & Dorothea’s first living quarters were in a large dug-out. This was their home for the next 6 years until 1900 when John could afford to build a sod and stone house. Later they added more buildings to the dug-out for their livestock, all in one long unit, with wall divisions between to separate the livestock and the living quarters. After they moved into the sod house the dug-out was used for a cold storage unit for milk, cream, butter and vegetables for summer and winter use.

Fred was the first child that was born in North Dakota. He was born in 1897, and two years later Lydia was born. The weather was very cold and it was snowing when Dorothea went into labor with Lydia.  John went to the neighbors for help with the birth, but by the time he got home Lydia had already made her safe arrival into her new world.

One year later, by 1900, when their son Emil was born, John had already finished building the stone and sod house. At that time some of John’s sisters that stayed in Russia became ill. His Mother Carolina decided to go back to Russia. She stayed there and lived to be 90 years old.

In 1903 a happy occasion took place in the Nantt family when Bernard and Reinhold, the identical twin boys were born. As they grew up they had fun keeping people guessing as to their identities. Their teachers and neighbors had quite a time telling them apart. Even the family got confused at times, mainly because both were pranksters and pretended to be the other one.

Two years later John Jr. was born. John was very good at music and any instrument he got a hold of he managed to learn to play. He played for a lot of country dances in the Hebron area. He played the Button Accordion, Violin, Harmonica and the Jewish Harp and other instruments.

In Dec. of 1908 the youngest son, Carl, was born. After the rest of the brothers and sisters married and moved away he stayed on the farm with his parents. Uncle Carl never married. When he left the farm for the last time, in 1969, he moved into Hebron and bought a small house. He raised wonderful vegetable gardens which were written up in the Hebron Herald as the best gardens in town.

The grandparents always had a few milk cows, a few pigs and some laying hens which they had as their main source of income.  Uncle Carl also raised rabbits, which was their main source for meat.

Grandmother always had a big garden, being so close to the river they had the water to water the plants even during the dry season of the year. Most of the garden was a melon patch and when we happened to be their when the melons were ripe we had a real melon feast. Later they would make pickled melons in big fifty gallon vinegar barrels and sauerkraut in smaller, 25 gallon barrels. Some years these were their main vegetables for their winter meals as they had no way to can or freeze the vegetables. They did store some onions and potatoes in the cold storage rooms.

In the early pioneer days the people had to use big iron pot-bellied stoves and cooking stoves to keep their houses warm in the winter. Of course the cook stove was used all year round, even in the hot summer months for cooking their meals. Some people used wood for their stoves and some had coal available, as was the case with my grandparents. They had a large hill on their land which had a vein of coal in it. In the fall they would go and get some of this coal and haul it home with a horse and wagon.

Grandpa Nantt was a handy man in many ways. We are not sure what his main trade was before he came to America. He was a stone mason, a carpenter, a blacksmith and a farmer. He knew all these trades as a pioneer. He made all the furniture for their 3 bedroom home. He built the beds, clothes cupboards, a storage trunk, small & large tables, rocking chair, other chairs, wash stand and a small cupboard for kettles. That was all the furniture they owned.           

The only store-bought item that Grandmother owned was a Montgomery Ward treadle sewing machine that they purchased in 1900. The girls, Lydia and Aunt Rosie, sewed a lot of clothes with it while they were still home. They even sewed their wedding dresses, and dresses for Grandma.

Grandpa Nantt was in fairly good health up into his eighties and he always managed to do his share of the work on the farm, up to the time when he had his stroke in 1943. He died a few days later at the age of 86. His funeral was held in a little country church the family attended, called the Zoar Congregational Church, 15 miles SW of Hebron. The church is located north of the Heart River Bridge, on a hill on the west side of the road. He is buried at the Zoar Cemetery. 

In 1946 Grandma, who had been ill but by this time was feeling better, decided to go to California with her daughter Rosie who was living in Chico. Rosie and her husband had come to ND for a visit and Grandma went back with them. She passed away in 1951 at the age of 83, and is buried at the Artois, California cemetery beside her son Reinhold.

Reinhold was the twin brother to Bernard. He had gone to California in the early 1930’s to find a job. He found work with the rice farmers, but the wet conditions with that kind of work didn’t agree with him and he developed T.B. He never recovered and passed away in 1941.

All of the sons and daughters of John and Dorothea have now passed on. Emil passed away at Bison, ND, in 1928, due to a truck accident. John Jr. passed away in Hebron, ND, in 1961 at the age of 56. Ludwig, the oldest son, passed away in Elgin, ND, in 1962, at the age of 79. Rosie passed away in Chico, CA in 1969, at the age of 76. Bernard passed away in Missoula, MT in 1970, at the age of 67. Fred passed away in Las Plumas, CA in 1971, at the age of 74. Lydia passed away in Elgin, ND, in 1986, at the age of 87. Uncle Carl was the last to go. He passed away in Dickinson, ND, in 1998, he was almost 90 years old. 

50th Anniversary of John and Dorothea (Kranenbring) Nantt in 1942, at their farm in Antelope, North Dakota.
The family picture: Carl, John, Bernard, Louie and Lydia Nantt Rosin, standing behind their parents.
The sod house the Nantt family lived in near the Heart River, Antelope, North Dakota.
Bernard, John and Carl Nantt at their carpenter shop in Hebron, North Dakota 1944.
This home was built near the sod house by the oldest Nantt son, Louie.
Patricia Nantt
Class picture of the 1st through 4th grades at the North Lemmon grade school, about 5 miles north of Lemmon, South Dakota. Patricia Nantt is in the front row on the left and my sister, Dorothy Nantt, is in the back row on the left. She was in the fourth grade and I was in the first, but we were all in one class. The schoool had three rooms, the middle room had a pot-bellied stove and we all hung our snowsuits, etc. in there. (I still remember the smell of that room.) It had a stage and we plays and pie-socials, etc. in that room. The 1st through 4th grade made up one class and the 5th through the 8th made up another class in the third room. Photo courtesy of Patricia (Nantt) Close.
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