Before My Time is about the ancestry and extended family of my four grandparents: John Samuel Krentz (Indiana/North Dakota), Margreta Tjode Hedwig (Gertie) Buss (North Dakota), Rosmer Pettis Kerr (Pennsylvania/Michigan), and Evelyn Elvina Hauer (Michigan), and other topics in genealogy and family history.

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Friday, January 30, 2015

Did you hear about Hank's car?

I've been working on a topical index for my current book project. Car stuff was newsworthy enough to make the local stringer's gossip column a century ago, and more than a dozen news bits in News: A Krentz & Buss Family Album are listed under the CARS topic. I got a little curious about this one from 1929:

"Hank Buss was at the county capital last Thursday having some garage work done on his Blitzen Benz."

What the heck is a Blitzen Benz?, I wondered, so of course I Googled it, thinking a picture might be a helpful addition to the book. After all, I'm from the Motor City, and if that was a car, it was news to me and maybe also to anyone else who might read the book.

I did find some pictures--kind of a funny-looking car it was, and probably not the most practical vehicle for a small farm town in North Dakota. I clicked on the Blitzen Benz Wikipedia article about it, which was unusually short. There were only six of them made, it said, and one of the references cited below the article called it "the fastest car in the world."

Really? And Hank Buss had one in rural North Dakota? Was this Hank guy rich and eccentric? He was my second cousin, twice removed... how come I'd never heard of him? More information, please!

Next I found a video on YouTube--eight minutes long, it was--in which it took two guys that entire length of time to get their Blitzen Benz started. It was a long process involving a lot of cranking and choking. For a minute there, I imagined Cousin Hank going out to crank up the Benz on some January North Dakota morning, Mrs. Cousin Hank coming with him in her chenille bathrobe and rubber boots because it takes two to get it going, and in my mind, she wasn't at all happy with the Blitzen Benz.

Well, dear reader, I am nothing if not a quick study, and I am so, so proud to say it only took me two or three more Google-clicks to get the joke! This interesting history of the Blitzen Benz brought me up to speed, so to speak, with the Sheldon Progress readers of 1929, and also jiggled Cousin Hank back into his more appropriate socio-economic niche. And it was good to imagine Mrs. Cousin Hank* staying in bed for another forty winks instead of cranking and choking in the sub-zero prairie windchill.

As for me, I was glad to find a shorter and more informative video to bring you up to speed in case anyone ever asks you about the Blitzen Benz.


*In fact, I don't think there was a Mrs. Cousin Hank until 1939, although that chenille bathrobe was pretty vivid in my mind.

Update: I've just reread the Blitzen Benz history with a little more attention to the fine points. It seems there actually were two of the six cars which, at some point, escaped the ongoing surveillance of the historians and disappeared into the public void (the part with money to burn) during the 1910s. That being the case, I must admit to the possibility that one of them, by 1929, could certainly have been lying low in a barn in Venlo, North Dakota, escaping the notice of the big boys, but not the watchful eye of the local Progress stringer. Still, at 10 gallons/mile, Cousin Hank would have had to humongify his tank to get around Ransom County. You suppose that's what he went to the garage for?


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Our Family in Books: A Bibliography

  • My Ancestors in Books (a library of resources and notes pertaining to Reverend Samuel Stone, Major General Robert Sedgwick, Elder John Crandall, and other early Americans in the forest where my family tree was grown)
  • The Zahnisers: A History of the Family in America by Kate M. Zahniser and Charles Reed Zahniser (Mercer, Pa. 1906)
  • History of St. James Lutheran Church [full title: A little of this and a little of that in the 141 year (1861-2002) History of St. James Lutheran Church, Reynolds Indiana] by Harold B. Dodge, published at Reynolds, Indiana, 2002; 170 pages.
  • Lisbon, North Dakota 1880-2005 Quasuicentennial, published at Lisbon, North Dakota in 2005; 391 pages.
  • The Paschen and Redd Families of Cass County, Indiana by Alfred Paschen, c. 2005 (Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, MD); 322 pages.
  • Sheldon Community History: Sheldon Centennial 1881-1981, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 1981; 376 pages.
  • Sheldon, North Dakota 1881-2006 - 125th Anniversary: The Queen of the Prairie, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 2006; 498 pages.
  • A Standard History of White County, Indiana, written under the supervision of W.H. Hamelle, c. 1915 (The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York).
  • The Roots of Coventry, Connecticut by Betty Brook Messier and Janet Sutherland Aronson, c. 1987 (Coventry 275th Anniversary Committee, Coventry, CT); 206 pages.
  • "Elder John Crandall of Rhode Island and His Descendants" by John Cortland Crandall; New Woodstock, New York, 1949; 797 pages.
  • "The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island." Nellie (Willard) Johnson, Pd.B.: H & L Creations, LLC.

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