Sunday, September 18, 2011

Robert Was a Quiet Man, Rarely Angry or Excited

Robert DeLang (1857-1931)

A son of immigrants Leberecht Delang and Bitha Nickle.

He was my father’s grandfather.

Robert DeLang, at age 18

Robert DeLang, family man, farmer and shopkeeper

Robert Delang was the son of Leberecht Delang and Bitha Nickle, immigrants from Prussia in 1856. They settled in Lee County, Iowa, near the town of Denmark which is where Robert was born on 30 July 1857, just a few months after their arrival in this country.

Robert was only 12 or 13 when his mother died, sometime in 1870. His older siblings, Mary and Karl were able to get along on their own. But Robert and his almost 2-year-old sister both needed a family to care for them. Lena was reared by a family named Goody. I found her with them in a census in which the census-taker spelled her surname DAY LONG which is the way my grandfather always pronounced it. Robert went to live with friends of his father, Gottfried and Auguste Altmann, who owned a farm close to the Melcher Pottery where his own father worked as a potter.

In the summer of 1872, Robert worked with Gottfried Altmann to build a new house on the Altmann  farm-place, located in Henry County, Iowa, close to the DesMoines County line. The house had four rooms downstairs and two large rooms upstairs, with the house’s second floor extending over a porch that went along the entire east end of the house, eight feet wide.  A huge ban was probably built about the same time, and over time, still more farm buildings were constructed. All the lumber and stone for the buildings came from the farm, hand cut and hauled and assembled by a crew of men who had learned building skills by trial and error or observing older workers. From these men, Robert learned about construction along with farm operations and put those skills to work for the rest of his life.

At the age of 14 or 15, Robert started to work at Melcher’s Pottery Shop and was employed there six years, walking the two miles from home daily.   Part of the time, he drove the Melcher delivery wagon, taking pottery to market, often into Burlington, then buying supplies and returning home--a full day.  One winter day on the homeward trip as dusk came early, he was attacked by wolves.  They could smell the fresh meat he had purchased.  He fought them off, tossing them various things from the wagon, finally his jacket and at last the meat.  He had forced the horses to go at a fast trot, trying to outdistance them and was nearly home with nothing left for the wolves.  His dog heard him coming and came out barking and scared off the wolves. Gottfried was skilled in older farming methods—mowing hay with a scythe, cradling wheat and oats. Much later, after Robert became his son-in-law and farmed with him on increased acreage, Robert persuaded Gottfried to try some of the newer inventions.

Robert DeLang and Paulena Altman were married March 5, 1879. They were nearly the same age, both born in 1857, he on July 30, and she on October 24, and they had lived in the same house from the time they were 12 years old. All their children were born in the house Gottfried and Robert built.

Robert DeLang Family, 1891
The two older children are Laura and Ernest; the baby is Louis.

               Below is a listing of all the children born to Robert and Pauline:

             Laura Augusta, Feb. 1, 1880 - Aug. 21, 1918.

             Ernest Gottfried Leberecht, Jan. 21, 1882 - Dec. 27, 1967.

             Henriette, Dec. 10, 1885 - Sept. 5, 1886.

             Mildred Augusta, Dec. 4, 1887 - Dec. 17, 1887.

             Louis LeRoy, Sept. 5, 1890 - Feb. 11, 1963.

             Myrtle Rose, Nov. 8, 1897 -  Jan.  5, 1990

             Marion Julius, June 4, 1899 - July 10, 1844.

Robert DeLang Family, 1902
Louis is in the back. Myrtle and Julius are in front.

In 1903, Robert DeLang and the family moved to nearby Lowell, where they operated a general store in the east part of the village for about three years.  He bought a house with a couple of acres on the west edge of the village. The house had three rooms in a row, and each one had a front door. He added to the house for a total of nine rooms. The east room of the original three was Grandpa Gottfried Altman’s room; it had both a front and a back door.

Robert’s wife Pauline died in Lowell on 18 February 1908 after having measles. Gottfried Altman died less than a year later, on January 20, 1909. Two years after Pauline’s death, Robert married Sue Gill, 12 April, 1910. She had kept house for the family part of the time after Pauline DeLang’s death. Born in 1870, she was almost 40, had never been married. She was a good cook, a neat housekeeper, and was kind to the step children she had acquired.  

Robert, called Bob by his Lowell neighbors, had a small farm operation at his Lowell home. He had a barn in which to keep his horse, King, a few pigs and one or two cows. He had a chicken yard and a big garden, bordered by grapes trained on a trellis.

From 1903 until 1916, Robert rented the farm to s series of renters. Then in 1916, his son Louis moved back from living in Arkansas to farm it. Robert would often go out from Lowell to help out. He would drive out to the farm every day in the busy season, always arriving at 9:00 A.M. and leaving for home at 4:00 P.M., knowing almost exactly what time it was, day or night, without looking at a clock, never carrying a watch. He was always punctual, wanted his meals on time, and always got up at 5:30 A.M., summer or winter, without an alarm clock.

On his 60thbirthday, Robert’s children gave him a Morris chair, a forerunner of today’s recliner, which he greatly enjoyed in his quiet way. Aunt Ruth told us that Grandpa DeLang was temperate in all ways, his only vice being smoking one cigar a week on Sunday afternoon while sitting in that chair.

Robert DeLang died 13 Apr 1931 in Lowell, Henry County, Iowa, and his widow Sue remained in the house there. I remember going with my dad frequently to visit “Grandma Sue,” and among my possessions is a small celluloid doll which she gave to me, which I promptly named Sue. The doll’s dress was a brilliant pink fabric to match the pink bow in her hair.

--genieBev (genealogy Beverly)
For ideas about how to do Family History, visit:


  1. Welcome to the GeneaBloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill ;-)
    Author of "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories" and family saga novels:
    "Back to the Homeplace" and "The Homeplace Revisited"

  2. Bev, I love the way you've done this, and the photos are great. I can relate to your comment 'census-taker spelled her surname DAY LONG which is the way my grandfather always pronounced it.' When I am doing family history talks I always tell my audience, 'If you can't find the name in an index, say it out loud, get other people to say it out loud, and consider regional accents'.

  3. Great family picture. Very nice.
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)