My great grandfather, Servatzius May, was born August 3, 1878 in Kottenheim, Germany. His parents were Mathias and Katherina (nee Küveler) May of Kottenheim. Servatzius was their youngest child. Katherina was 45 years old when she had Servatzius.
Servatzius had two older sisters: Barbara and Anna. He had two older brothers: Johann and Michael.
Life in Kottenheim
When Servatzius was 11, his mother died. A year after her death, his sister Anna married Lorenz “Laurence” Krausert and immigrated to America settling in Ashton, Iowa.
The next year, his father, Mathias died. A year after his death, his brother John marries Anna Maria Schmitt. The May children had lost both of their parents within a two year time period and life as Millers in Kottenheim, Germany was growing increasingly difficult. At this point, all of the remaining children of Mathias and Katherina, (except Barbara who married Johann Berg on October 25, 1883 and had already started a family) decide to immigrate to America.
Immigrating to America
On October 18, 1893, Servatius May, along with his older brothers, Michael and Johann, and Johann’s wife Anna, all boarded the SS Pennsylvania in Antwerp, Belgium and headed for America. Servatius was 15 years old. The brothers were destined for Ashton to meet up with their sister Maria and her husband Lorenz Krausert. The family maintains that the ship met with some rough seas and that Servatius was nearly swept off the ship by a wave were it not for his brothers who grabbed hold of his ankles.
Servatius would make his home as a farmer in Osceola Co., Iowa. He fell in love with a local girl from one of the main homesteading families in the county. He and Mary Johannes were married February 10, 1904. Of the three brothers, Servatzius was the only one to stay in Iowa.
Mike May moved to South Dakota after marrying Anna Spieler in 1900. His farm is still ran by his descendants in 2013.
Johann “John” May immigrated with his family to Canada some time between 1910 and 1912.
This is the only photo I have of the three brothers.
John, Serv, and Mike May
They grew glorious mustaches!
Servatzius May Illness
When he was 55, Servatzius became ill and went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester for treatment. While there, he wrote to his brother Mike in South Dakota:
May 30, 1934
Dear Brother and family,
I want to let you know that they sent me to here to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. I have stomach problems for a tumor. It is the size of a fist. To be an operation friday. Not to give up hope. We want to hope. The weather is stormy. Hoping for better weather soon. They say they couldn’t work for two days, but that is Minnesota. They have more storms in May. Yesterday the Heifer came in and did good. I need another pencil as this one broke as it would do in school.
Now I will end this letter and send greetings to family.
Two days after this letter, Servatzius had a surgery to remove his appendix.
Days later, Servatzius’s daughter, Elizabeth, wrote another letter to Mike in South Dakota:
Dear Uncle Mike and Family,
Dad had his operation Friday. They just took out his appendix. The appendix were infected and this caused an obstruction of the stomach. They opened his stomach but found everything OK. He had quite a lot of pain the first days but he is feeling fine now. He is awful restless. We surely are glad it turned out the way it did, because, he himself, thought it was cancer and the doctor told me before the operation he wa afraid cancer was started. We surely are glad it turned out to be what it was. He surely is lonesome. I’ve been here all the time with him and go up whenever there are visiting hours and he said I should come up otherwise too. He said, “they’ll kick you out if they don’t want you here“. The folks are driving up today or tomorrow to visit him.
It surely was dry in Iowa this spring. We didn’t have a single rain. I believe that maybe we finally got rain these last days there. I suppose it has been dry there too.
Did you know Grandpa Arning? He is Ben Arning’s Dad. He had dropsy and died suddenly with a heart attack.
I surely was glad my school was out when we found Dad had to have an operation. Mother wanted to come but Dad thought she shouldn’t. He said he would be alright if she would just come to visit him. I’m surely glad she didn’t because I believe it would have gotten the best of her. A person surely doesn’t know what a person goes through with an operation. It just about go the best of me and I always thought I could stand a lot. Mother is better off to see him as he is now since he isn’t so sick, because she worries enough the way it is.
Huns, I mean, John, is home now. We were milking 20 cows and it was too much for them alone. They are all just coming in so we’ve been getting a lot of milk. The cream check when we left was $44 from two weeks and the butter was off that.
It would be nice if you could write a letter to Dad while he is here. It’ll be about two weeks yet. He won’t be in the hospital all that time though. He will be in till about Wednesday or Thursday – June 13 or 14, and then he’ll have to stay in town 3 or 4 days they said. If you write send the letter to this address and he’ll surely get it:
1004 West Center St.
He wrote that letter (the letter shared above) the day when he had to go to the hospital. I didn’t send it till I found how things would be going. I’m surely glad to let you know that he is looking good and he says he is feeling good, too.
I must close now.
Serve’s operation was a success. But while recuperating in the hospital, he developed pneumonia. Twelve days after his surgery, he died from pneumonia on June 13, 1934.