It Takes a Matriarch: 780 Family Letters from 1852 to 1888 Including Civil War, Farming in Illinois, Life in St. Louis, Life in Sacramento, Life in the Theater, Wagon Making in Davenport, and the Lost Family Fortune
It Takes A Matriarch is the second of four books about the extended Reiss and Basler families who settled on a small farm in St. Clair County, Illinois in 1834 and 1839, respectively. It includes 780 letters saved by first generation Margaret Basler Reiss Ebert from 1852 to 1888. Some letters were phonetic English but most had to be translated from “old” German. Authors were Margaret’s siblings, their spouses, her children, their spouses, her grandchildren, and two friends. They mention serving in the Civil War, personal challenges, life in St. Louis and Sacramento and Davenport, and the lost family fortune. One author was friends with John Wilkes Booth who shot President Lincoln.
Quilter, Granger, Grandma, Matriarch was the first of these four books. It is the daily diary of third generation Katie Reiss covering 1949 through 1953. It was published first to give the reader a feel for life on the Reiss Family Farm in the German heritage of southern Illinois. Katie and husband George Reiss doubled the original Reiss/Basler farm to its current 360 acres. Relatives gather for a reunion in June 2009 to celebrate 175 years of the ongoing existence of the Reiss Family Farm.
The Reiss Dairy will be the third book. It is a history of the Reiss Dairy in Sikeston, Missouri which was founded in 1935 by third generation John Reiss. It is famous for milk bottles featuring poems created by Sikeston citizens to promote Reiss Dairy products. The best of these bottles sell on eBay for over $200.
Family, Farming, and Freedom will be the fourth book. It is 55 years of professional and personal writings by fourth generation Irv Reiss from 1949 to 2004. His favorite subjects were family fun and travel, restoring strip mined coal lands to productive farming, and promoting individual freedoms and responsibilities. He was my dad.