A footnote from history by Stephanie Grace Whitson www.stephaniewhitson.com
The challenge of learning about the women who were an important part of the "supporting cast" of the Pony Express led me to nineteen-year-old Sophia Brockmeyer (pictured later in life at right),
a German immigrant who settled in Kansas with her family, married the neighbor (the only neighbor at the time) and joined her husband of only one year in establishing Hollenberg Station. Sophia's first home at this location was a one-room log cabin with a dirt floor. That one room served as kitchen, living room, bedroom, and store.
If I had to feed a family using only a box stove like the one pictured below, we'd all be in big trouble, but box stoves were a great improvement over fireplaces. They provided even heat and helped eliminate the threat of long skirts and petticoats catching fire from the open flames in a fireplace. The lack of an oven would have made fine wheat bread impossible, but Sophia could have prepared corn bread and soda bread in iron pans atop the stove. Fueled by the abundant firewood available nearby, this little stove would have kept the log cabin warm all through the long Kansas winters.
|A box stove|
Two years after settling into the log cabin, the Hollenbergs added a post and beam room to one side of the log cabin and a lean-to kitchen on the other. Imagine Sophia's joy at having a dedicated kitchen! Hopefully that included a bigger and better stove, too. A root cellar beneath the kitchen (see the trap door in the photo below) and more expansion continued until the station became what it is today, still located on its original site and cared for by the State of Kansas as a historic site.
|Hollenberg Station in the distance|
|Kitchen showing trap door|
The Hollenbergs would have worked long hours to keep their station running, with Sophia cooking, cleaning, gardening, and doing laundry while Gerat ran the store located just behind this
counter in the station's main room--and the tavern. Together--and with the help of Louisa, their niece and a young man Gerat helped immigrate from Germany--the Hollenbergs produced much of the food served at their station. Travelers in the late 1800s mentioned a large garden and even an orchard at Hollenberg. Every fall, meat was preserved by drying, smoking, or salting. Garden produce was dried and stored in the root cellar beneath the kitchen. Canning would have also been possible by the late 1800s.
After the telegraph put the Pony Express out of business, the Hollenbergs continued to operate their store, post office, and stage station until 1872, when they moved into Hanover, a town Gerat had helped lay out--a town named for his home in Germany. Gerat encouraged other Germans to immigrate to the area and began to deal in real estate. He also served three terms in the Kansas Territorial Legislature.
Sophia was widowed in 1874 when Gerat died on a trip to Germany. He was buried at sea. She remarried Judge William Kalhoefer in 1875. The couple had one son who died in infancy. Her tombstone is gray granite and it bears only the name Sophia Kalhoefer, her birth date, and her death date (1914--one year after my own mother was born). No one seeing Sophia's gravestone would imagine the history behind the name or that this woman was witness to the Oregon Trail and the Pony Express.
See more photos of Hollenberg Station and plan your visit at http://www.kansastravel.org/hollenbergstation.htm.
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Stephanie's new release, Messenger by Moonlight,
features young Annie Paxton who's been "hornswoggled" into working as a cook at a Pony Express Station near Fort Kearney, Nebraska. Sophia Hollenberg has a cameo appearance ... and even shares a recipe.
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