Despite the apparent obscurity of this World War I-era postcard, the charm of its rough sketch of doughboys at the front and the accompanying doggerel prompted me to buy it from eBay along with others more charming still–and of much more historical interest. However, I was even more enchanted by the cryptic message on the reverse:
“Dear Theo, I got the money you sanded me. Was all Right. I get examination and did pass. the eyes ant tooth was no good I got in Class V. Very truly your Erney Krongard.” The card, mailed from Stillwater, Minnesota, on April 19, 1918, was addressed to Mr. Theo Krongard in Flaxville, Montana.
I suppose I could have left my connections with the Krongard story at that. But I became curious to learn about this backward young man who was evidently turned down for the Army (even though he says he “did pass,” I believe he meant he “did not pass”). After all, he failed the tooth and eye tests, and I learned the rest from a brief Google search. According to the Selective Service Act passed May 18, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson was granted the power of conscription, and all men aged 21 to 30 were required to register for the draft. By mid-November, the system of five classifications was initiated; those in Class I were the first to be drafted, and lower classes were deferred. Draft registration cards for the period 1917-1918 include that of Erney Jesse Krongard, who was born January 24, 1896, in Washington County, Minnesota. He was of medium height and physical build, and he had dark blue eyes and brown hair (“not bald”). In 1942, at age 47, he also registered for the World War II draft. He [Erney Gene Krongard this time around] was still living in Lakeland, Washington County, Minnesota; he was 5’9″ tall and weighed 160 pounds, and he had gray hair and eyes and a ruddy complexion.
I was even more intrigued as I connected this information with the verse on the front of the postcard:
While duty calls you, my dear friend,
I want to just remind you,
My spirit’s with you to the end–
The girl you left behind you.
It seems pretty clear to me that this card was intended to be purchased by the girl left behind and mailed with a message of love and kisses to her soldier in the field. But, as we know, Erney didn’t even go to the war. And he mailed this card to Theo, whom I assumed was a male relative (and later learned was his brother). With that additionally poignant understanding, I had to search further.
My investigation had just begun, and its results were fruitful indeed–almost chillingly so. I signed up for a temporary membership to Ancestry.com, which gave me access to US census records. And, in addition to the information I sought about Erney Krongard, these records gave me even more insight into how thoroughly family records–names, spellings, birthplaces, and dates of birth–are at the mercy of census takers and their meticulous or sloppy record-keeping.
- The 1900 census includes the household of Christian Krougard (age 43, born in Germany) and Ida Krougard (age 30). They lived in Lakeland, Washington County, Minnesota (of which Stillwater, where Erney later visited the draft board, is the county seat) had six children: Pauline (13), Theodore (10), Eddie (9), Freddie (6), Ernie (4), and Elsie (1). I had to figure that little 4-year-old Ernie Krougard under any other name would still . . . be the Erney Jesse Krongard who registered for the draft in 1917 and who mailed his older a brother a postcard in April of the next year.
- There was a Minnesota state census in 1905, when Earny A. Krongard was 8.
- For the federal census of 1910, the head of the family was Ida Krongard (age 40, born in Indiana), who listed her children as Pauline (23), Theodore (20), Fred (16), Ernest (14), Elsie (10), Emma (8), and Minnie (6). Evidently, the children had lost a father and gained two sisters in the previous ten years. Theodore, a farm laborer and wage earner “working out,” was listed as able to read and write even though he did not attend school; he listed 0 as his “number weeks out of work.”
- By 1920, as we know from the postcard, Theodore (30) was living in Montana (Sheridan County). He was a single head of household, held a mortgage on a farm, and lived with his brother Edward D. Krongard (28). Once again, the indicated that he had not attended school, but was able to read and write.
- In the 1930 census, Erney J. Krongard, 34 and still single, was a wage-earning farm laborer still living with his mother (60) and two of his siblings Fred C. (35) and Emma M. (28). The deceased father’s birthplace was listed as Denmark. That same year, Theodore’s name was transcribed as “Lhesdore.” Still single at 40, he owned his farm in Montana (listed as Daniels County) and employed others, but he did not have a “radio set.” Father’s birthplace was listed as Germany, mother’s as Denmark.
- As recorded in the 1940 census, Ida Krongard (70), was still living in Lakeland, Washington County, Minnesota. Fred (45) is listed as head of household, Ida as mother, and Erney as brother.
- According to Minnesota Deaths and Burials, 1935-1990, Ernest J. Krongard died on April 16, 1947. He was married to Cinderella Pauley Krongard; his father was Christ Krongard, and his mother was Ida Krueger. Erney is buried in Saint Lucas Cemetery, West Lakeland Township, Washington County, Minnesota, along with his father, Christian, who died at 46 (January 18, 1858-February 26, 1904), his mother (1869-1942), and other family members. I don’t know what happened to Cinderella. One Cinderella A. Krongard married Albert J. Marty in September 1947, but there her trail goes cold. Theo, who last lived in New Richmond, St. Croix County, Wisconsin, lived until April 1978. At some point, he married Margaret Kraus and is buried with her in St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Cemetery, also in Washington County, Minnesota.
I feel that I became an honorary member of the Krongard family as I searched for their history. It started with eBay, then Google to Ancestry.com to BillionGraves.com and findagrave.com (and probably the sites I cannot even remember). Isn’t the Internet a wonderful treasure?