H. T. Ė WONíT YOU PLEASE TELL US WHO YOU ARE?
Often I want to shout, "Will the real Frommís please stand up and while you are up, say a minimum of five words about yourself. Please donít play hide and seek. Raise your hands and let others see you for who you were/are and while weíre at it, how about being accountable for whoever you were or are?" Silence will only continue to harm us.
The Fromm family I belong to started with the birth of Georg Melchoir Frommís birth on March 13, 1720/21 in Meinengen, Germany. Georg was a bit of a rebel but nothing truly alarming.
What I do find perplexing is that itís relatively easy to trace the Fromm family and stories of their daily lives, beginning with Georg while he was in Germany in the early 1700ís, yet thereís no record of the arrival of Henry Tecomas Fromm into Kansas 5 generations later. The Georg Melchoir Fromm family history then comes to an abrupt stop.
The few items we know for sure from this point on are limited:
|Henry Tecomas Fromm
(Jan 29, 1860 Ė
Dec 27,1947) was born in Cummingsville, Ohio, and was the 5th
of 6 children born to Johann Fromm (Oct 5, 1818 Ė March 1, 1893) and
Henrietta Albrecht (Feb 14, 1819-Nov 21, 1878).
Henry had an additional younger half-brother and half-sister from his fatherís previous marriage.
The extended family Henry left behind in Ohio was successful, educated, and socialites of the community.
Today, September 27, 2002, I know of no male descendants of Georg Melchoir Fromm living in Kansas. We have, however, moved into the 9th generation.
The Fromm family is extremely private and isolated. Iíve had to conduct hundreds of interviews to gain knowledge about my own family. I recognize that some stories may be questionable. Iíve also checked facts with other family members, as well as respected constituents of the community.
My research started about 3 years ago when I decided I wanted to know what actually happened to my Aunt Hallie Fromm. I had been told she was shot and killed on Jan. 7, 1924 in her home, north of Cambridge. All that was ever said within the family about Hallie was said when we decorated her grave on Memorial Day each year. Our mother, Juanita Wanda Fromm-Lawrence would simply say, "Hallie was killed by her boyfriend", and we knew by the tone of Motherís voice, the subject was closed. I never saw a picture of Hallie or heard a single story before I started my own research.
When I became a professional writer, I decided a fiction book based on the facts of Hallieís story would make a good "read" Ė my obsession started and wouldnít let up. Suddenly questions were spinning so fast and answers didnít exist for any of the hundreds of questions. I realized I didnít know the Fromm side of my family and I learned that what remained of the Fromm family, had no intentions of saying anything that might help me know more about the mystery of Hallie.
At this point I ventured into the community and step by step Iíve been able to find what I believe to be some realistic answers to my questions. Other statements I will make are known true facts. I knew my mother, my Aunt Gladys, and my Grandmother Olevia Fromm well. I truly believe Iíve been able to separate the truth from the fantasy.
HENRY FROMMíS ARRIVAL IN KANSAS
The questions seem overwhelming when I ask when and why Henry Fromm left his family of origin. Iíve analyzed numerous theories along various time lines in relation to the maturing of Henryís siblings that remained in Chillicothe, Ohio. With the exception of Kossuth Fromm, Henryís brother born immediately before Henry, all of the Fromm children became highly successful, professional individuals. It is reported that Kossuth was an alcoholic and broke his neck when he fell down some steps, possibly while intoxicated.
The only verified fact about Henry leaving Ohio is that once he left Ohio, he never used his complete name (Henry Tecomas Fromm) again. He was always known as H. T. and on every legal document and signature located, including his last will and testament, he used only his initials, never Henry.
It is still a mystery why Henry left Ohio or when. Certain assumptions can be made about Henryís travels to Kansas because of what we know about his birth family. The following are simply theories of this author regarding the reasons and the time-frame that H. T. Fromm left Ohio and settled in Kansas: (1) H. T. was an adventurous young man and didnít want to stay in Ohio and live within the German community of Chillicothe. He wanted to break free of the oppressive family expectations. He wanted, like many others of his generation, to move West into new frontiers. (2) We know H. T. utilized unconventional business practices in his acquisition of phenomenal real estate holdings. These actions would have been impossible in Ohio for two reasons Ė 1) the land simply wasnít available and 2) more importantly, the Fromms would not have allowed any allusions to or gossip about "shady" business dealings connected to their family.
We know for a fact that H.T. Fromm was in Kansas by March 16, 1894. The original marriage certificate authenticates this fact.
Based on the family history of H. T. Fromm, he left with a reasonable amount of money for a young man "of excellent German ancestry" to establish himself in the western territories.
We also know H.T.ís brothers selected professional careers and his sisters married professional men. H.T. was the only true non-professional of Johann Frommís children, with the exception of Kossuth, mentioned previously. Henry was a blacksmith by trade.
Working as a blacksmith would have made it possible for H.T. to earn additional money fixing wagon wheels, axles, etc. during his trip from Ohio to Kansas. H.T.ís business practices of the future indicate that he didnít "lend a hand" for free. He may have traded for another service or he was paid but I believe it is more than fair to suggest H.T. did not perform services he was not adequately paid for.
It further complicates the issue of when H.T. arrived in Kansas if you consider the Ohio census and his date of marriage. H.T. is included in the 1870 census and again in the 1880 census. However, H.T. may have only been counted in the Ohio census of 1880 because he was part of the Fromm family in 1970. We certainly know the census was not accurate.
H.T. may have arrived in Cambridge, Kansas on the train and brought money with him to establish a different life in a new place. His blacksmith tools would have been few.
It is indeed safe to say H.T. arrived in Kansas between 1880 and 1884. However, my research and numerous narratives regarding H.T. have led me to estimate that he arrived in Kansas earlier, about 1878.
Why Kansas and why Cambridge Ė I donít believe H.T. would have made the trip by horse and buggy Ė which was probably too slow by "H.T. standards". He was a young man on the move, with places to go and dreams coming alive in his head.
Weíll never know why Cambridge, Kansas above any other location. The first train didnít arrive in Cambridge until Feb. 1881, so perhaps he rode the train as far as it went in 1878, then bought a horse and buggy and kept going until "it just felt right". Perhaps H.T. bought the minimum grubstake and continued West until he found a place that felt like home when he stood on the earth.
If H.T. really only rode the train as far as the track was laid and not all the way to Cambridge in 1981 Ė the very place that felt like home for the first time in the young life of H.T. Fromm might have been what came to be in his vision Ė Frommtown, KS, or it may have been further northeast of Frommtown?
We know by examining early pictures of the family home at Frommtown, that the house was not new but it exceeded housing standards for the early prairie days. We also know the home did not serve as a part of Frommtown but was a private home for H.T.ís family.
In Frommtown, H.T. wouldnít be just one of Johann Fromms family as in Chillicothe, Ohio. All of a sudden, in his own town, he became his own man with the inherent business sense to know he would be a success.
H.T. quickly recognized the need for a blacksmith shop at his newly purchased location. The acreage he first acquired consisted of 160 acres. It is believed, as mentioned previously, the house was already in existence. His blacksmith shop was a success. Farmers did not have to take the valuable time to travel to Cambridge for repairs and the sharpening of plow shears and H.T. was young and strong.
He was also shrewd and quickly recognized other needs he could provide for the community, and make a substantial profit, and expand his property holdings.
At Frommtown, H.T. added a general store, feed store, creamery, ice house, and kept a carload of coal that he brought in from Cambridge. The original road to Frommtown from Cambridge followed Grouse Creek. This site can now be found at the intersection of 42nd and 285th Road, Windsor Township, Cowley County, KS.
H.T. honed his business skills as he continued to build Frommtown. Eventually the town consisted of 8 homes in addition to the businesses he owned and operated.
H.T. became more and more powerful and his land holdings spread across Cowley County. With the first purchase of land he immediately mortgaged it and purchased another piece of land and then mortgaged it and so on and so on. If the land had a second mortgage on it, H.T. would only purchase the land if the lender of the second mortgage was a private individual and then he wouldnít pay the second mortgage, as there was no law at that time which would enforce the collection process. This way he could often purchase a valuable piece of property for very little money. H.T. built his real estate empire on this principle into the depression era.
H.T. also was a successful "lender of money". Family members have told me the stories and acquaintances concur that H. T. would loan money to anyone for anything. H.T. used his business of loaning cash to people into an element of power on his part and fear on the part of the individuals he loaned the money to. The quote Iíve heard most often probably describes my Great Grandfatherís money lending practice in a way that truly puts it in the proper perspective, "H. T. would loan 50 cents on a dirty handkerchief and make money on the deal".