War, Starvation, and Smallpox Decimate the Rode Family

By – Don Taylor 

I have many interesting stories in my family tree, but never have I found a story as heartbreaking, or as compelling, as the story I found regarding my friend’s family.  It is the kind of story that I would expect to see on Who Do You Think You Are, or some other television program. As I unraveled and confirmed the story facts of my friend’s ancestors and their lives, I was mesmerized as I read of the tragedy and inspired by the survival of these Rode (pronounced row-dee) ancestors.

Biography – Adolph Rode (1876-1954)

Adolph Rode was born 28 September 1876 in Poland.  At an early age, his family moved to the Ukraine where he grew up.

In 1902, he married Louise Rode.  Louise had the same surname as Adolph. However, there was no known relationship between the two.

Life as a farmer Ukraine was hard, but okay, and the young family prospered. They began having children. First Rudolph in 1903, Reinhold in 1905, and Leonard in 1906. Another boy was born about 1908, a girl about 1910, then another boy in 1911. Knowing the unrest in the Ukraine and sensing that a great conflict should soon envelop Russia and all of Europe. Because the turmoil in the Ukraine, Adolph decided to seek his fortune in America and save his family from the ravages of war. In 1913, Adolph left his wife and six small children in the Ukraine with the intention of obtaining employment in the United States and sending money back to them for them to join him a year or two.  Adolph arrived in New York on 25 April 1913. Adolph then made his way and settled in Nebraska and set himself to work on getting his family to join him.

Discover you family history through historical newspapers at Newspapers.com Then, before Adolph could send for his wife and children, the Imperial Russian Army invaded the Ukraine on 18 August 1914.  The Army pillaged the Ukraine as it prepared to invade Austria to crush the Austrian-Hungary Army. Adolph’s greatest worries came to fruition. War came to the Ukraine, and he hadn’t been able to get his wife and children to the safety of America before the war had come. He wasn’t quick enough to earn the money necessary to send for his family.  He frantically tried to contact his wife and children but couldn’t. Finally, he received word that the Russians destroyed his farmstead in the Ukraine, and his entire family was dead.

Even after the war ended on 11 November 1918, Adolph’s reasons for living, having a reunion with his family, were gone. The 1920 Census shows Adolph as a hired hand living with the Fred Settje family in Dimick, Stanton County, Nebraska. To his credit, he hadn’t given up all hope as he identified himself as married, and not widowed, in the census.

The years passed, then in 1922, nine years after he left the Ukraine, another Ukrainian contacted him and told him that his wife was alive. His wife had lost his address during the war and finally contacted this compatriot.

Photo of starving children, Ukraine, 1922 - [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Children affected by famine in
Ukraine – 1922

In a flurry of letters, Adolph learned that his homestead in the Ukraine had, in fact, been pillaged and destroyed. He family became refugees and moved between various countries during the nine years.  One of his four sons had died of starvation. His only daughter had died of smallpox.  But, Louisa and four of his children were still alive. He quickly sent money for his two oldest boys, Rudolph and Reinhold, to come to the States. They would be able to earn more money in the United States than they would in Europe.  Bringing the rest of the family to America was paramount. On 26 September 1922, the two boys arrived in New York and made their way to Nebraska as quickly as possible.

It took nearly a year for the three to earn enough money to bring Louisa and the two younger boys, Leonard and Otto, to America. But on 4 August 1923, Louisa and family arrived in New York.  Within days they were reunited with Adolph in Nebraska.

In December 1926, Adolph and Louisa welcomed another daughter into the family. Margaret would be their last child.

The 1930 Census indicates Adolph and Louisa were renting a farm in Slough, Pierce County, Nebraska. Adolph could not speak English in 1930 but could read and speak German. Living with him were his wife, son Rudolph, and daughter, little three-year-old Margaret.

In 1935, Adolph was living in rural Pierce County, Nebraska. And by 1940, they had moved to Willow Township, Antelope County, Nebraska where Adolph, Louise, and daughter Margaret lived next door to his son Reinhold and Reinhold’s family of wife and four children. Sometime between 1930 and 1940 Adolph and Louise became U.S. citizens.

Marker – Adolph & Louise Rode
Courtesy: Find-a-Grave

Adolph died on 6 March 1954 and is buried at Zion Cemetery in Norfolk, Madison County, Nebraska. His wife Louisa died within the year on 1 February 1955 and is buried with Adolph.

Further Actions: 
• Order copies of the Alien Case Files from the National Archives.

List of Greats
1. Aldolph Rode

Sources:

1920 Census; Adolph Rode; Dimick, Stanton, Nebraska; ED 204, Sheet 8B, Line 65; Family Search.

1930 Census; Adolph Rohde (Rode) – Slough, Pierce Nebraska, Sheet 4A, Line 12; Family Search.

1940 Census; Adolph Rode – Willow Twp, Antelope, Nebraska – ED 2-32, Sheet 4A, family 63; Family Search.

Find A Grave; Adolph Rode – #57149363; Findagrave.com

The Lincoln Star (Lincoln, Nebraska); 1941-01-05 – Page 29; Nebraska and Nebraskans; Holiday Story; Neligh News – Adolph Rode; Newspapers.Com

New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957; Rudolph and Rheihold Rode – SS Caronia 1922; Ancestry.Com

U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995; 1922 City Directory, Norfolk, Nebraska – Adolph Rode – Farmer, Madison, Madison, Nebraska; Ancestry.Com

newspapers.com newspapers.com
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One Response to War, Starvation, and Smallpox Decimate the Rode Family

  1. That is such a sad but incredible story. It definitely belongs on a genealogy show.

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