Anna Mathilde's Journey

Randy Leonard

Anna_mathildes_sampler_1Anna Mathilde Webendorfer created her sampler consisting of letters and numbers out of the fine cloth. She did her detailed cross stitch embroidery work in the small town of Zeulenroda located in the kingdom of Saxony.

The date embroidered on the sampler reads February 18, 1849, 10 days before Anna Mathilde’s 13th birthday.

She was widowed at 32 and thereby left alone to raise three small children. For reasons that are lost to history, she headed out of Saxony and made her way to Oregon in 1881.

Anna Mathilde’s journey occurred before the advent of Lufthansa Airlines. She sailed across the unforgiving Atlantic Ocean in a ship and then trekked by land across the entire continental United States to make her way to Oregon with her three young children in tow, including my great grandfather, Rudolph Funke.

Anyone entering my home will first see Anna Mathilde’s sampler prominently displayed in our entryway. It is one of my most treasured possessions.

Anna Mathilde was all but lost to the ages. Having only her name, a little over a year ago I decided I would find out more about her. I combed public records searching for any evidence of where she lived, where she died and where she is buried.

Being compulsive/obsessive can have its benefits. I found Anna Mathilde buried in an abandoned cemetery in the hills above Florence, Oregon. There she will lie for eternity next to one of her sons, Alfred.

We all arrived in Oregon in similar ways. Maybe not as pioneering as Anna Mathilde, but certainly driven by the same spirit of adventure, determination and, most of all, integrity.

Oregon is different because we as a people are different. As in Darwin’s survival of the fittest theory, those of us who are here, by and large, arrived because of some unique characteristics either of our own or of our ancestors before us. We respect hard work and creativity. We reject extremes on either end of the spectrum. We don’t like “big brother” breathing down our neck, yet we believe there is a role our government must play to help our children and less fortunate citizens.

My blogging pal, Jack Bogdanski, wrote about his reaction to Tuesday’s election here. I believe he hit a nerve that many of us can relate to. But it just feels too moribund given where we are now from where Anna Mathilde started nearly 125 years ago in Oregon.

I have never been described as “rosy”, but I do feel a certain optimism. As I wrote here, I do think Oregon showed it will not go along with the national swing to the religious right that the majority of the United States seems eager to embrace.

Although I am deeply disappointed in the vote on Measures 36 and 37 I am not convinced those votes reflect how people truly feel on equal rights for all and property regulation. Rather, I believe the voters reacted to how we as elected officials have displayed less than stellar or strategic thinking on these issues, notwithstanding the honorable motivations that drove many of our most controversial decisions.

I for one am proud to be living in this little corner of the universe that we call Portland, Oregon. We did vote no on discriminating against our gay brothers and sisters. We did vote for John Kerry in overwhelming numbers. We did vote for smart and progressive people to represent us at all levels of government.

My wife and I this week agreed we want to see more of the back roads of Oregon. We are going to buy a small trailer to tow behind my beloved Jeep Wrangler, top down, wind in our hair (well, ok, Julie's hair) traveling from remote hot springs to remote hot springs throughout our state. We want to get more in touch with the place Anna Mathilde risked her all to find.

Jack, I would strongly urge you to think of doing the same. Within Oregon’s boundaries, we have great people and great earth to ground ourselves in. It is here, in our own land, that I believe we can find our peace.

It is not lost on me that none of this would be possible for me and mine without Anna Mathilde Webendorfer waking up one day long ago with a dream. Because of that dream, Anna Mathilde determined she would make her way half way across the world to a place called Oregon.

Alred_left_and_annas_graves_1Thank you Anna Mathilde for being so brave.

Thank you Anna Mathilde for defying the odds as a young widow and journeying into what certainly must have been a terrifying unknown to give your sons and your descendants a better life.

And thank you Anna Mathilde for picking Oregon from all of the places in the world you could have journeyed to.

  • jim (unverified)

    A previous post asked for the return of Bill Clinton, "to speak, to remind us who we are, to talk us off the ledge." Randy's gentle, powerful story of Anna Mathilde reminds us that much closer to home we can look amongst ourselves for support, encourgement and inspiration. Thanks, Randy.

  • Mike Gushard (unverified)

    Thank You Randy!

    I'm intensely proud of my city and my state and though 36 and 37 don't fall in line with Oregon's progressive heritage I have faith that clearer heads will prevail and they will either be modified or done away with completely.

    It is political figures like you that give me the hope to believe in my home.

    and it's looking like 36's passing might end up being moot:

    The idea of Civil Unions seems to even have Republican support.

    I feel sorry for the new oregon Republicans, after having so many great figures, Hatfield, McCall etc, they deserve better than the likes of Kevin Mannix.

  • (Show?)

    Enjoy the back roads, Randy and Julie.

    Part of me wants to add, "Get a good look around. With Measure 37 in place, it won't look half as good the next time you go."

    But I've spread enough gloom for one week.

  • pat hayes (unverified)

    Hi Folks...

    At the risk of being labeled a reactionary curmudgeon I'd like to get a better sense of your rationale. Frankly we've plenty of city folks hauling their trailers through the dust and dirt bypassing the local folk and communities and heading "from hot spring to hot spring". That travel plan will put you in touch with the spectacular scenery and natural resources, park rangers and recreationists from every part of the US, but precious little interaction with rural Oregon.

    If you're looking for a way to connect with the rural interior I'd suggest you call a county Farm Bureau or Extension office and see if you can stay on a working ranch for some time, visit the remnants of a independent mill or elevator and talk to the owners and managers. We tend to be the folks who've suffered the immediate consequences of economic dislocation. We don't formulate policy and run PACs and use the circumstances to elect opportunists and carpetbaggers. We simply attempt to survive, provide for our families, schools and communities.

    Frankly, despite the many attempts by those interested primarily in the acquisition and maintenance of power to suggest otherwise, we have far more in common with the average urban dweller than we have in opposition. Decisions are made for us, not by us; capital speaks louder than community; division is an easier strategy than inclusion.

    Please come, we'd love to visit.

    PS. Jack...I believe that it is urban and suburban Oregon that will be most impacted by Measure 37. Why...significantly more profit per square foot of developable space.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

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    Thanks, Randy, for sharing your immigrant story. Our family cherishes ours, too, which I will relate here briefly.

    Sarah Young was a... young... Irish girl with 17 cents in her pocket and a steerage ticket to Ellis Island, America. She got here, worked hard, brought the rest of her family over from Balladehobb, Ireland, and ended up with a cosmetics empire in NYC, exemplary standing here briefly. My own mother is named after her, and her picture with my then 3-year-old mother is framed and kept always close.

  • (Show?)

    I meant to write, "exemplary standing among her fellow Irish immigrants."

    Oh, how I long for editing...

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