History’s Personal Moments

By Dr. Timothy Heinrichs

History involves great impersonal trends, but it is  also made up of deeply personal moments.

My great-grandparents, Jacob and Lydia Heinrichs, spent their parenting years as Baptist missionaries in South India. This was in the 1890s and early 1900s. Only rarely did they take a steamship to the United States, when they were on leave.  Yet they sent their children to live and attend school at a Baptist orphanage in Newark, New Jersey

Their children were Edgar, Waldo (my grandfather), Doris, Margaret, and Conrad. Sadly, in 1904 Doris passed away and was buried in Newark (which is by New York City). Then in 1910, when Edgar and Waldo were students at Denison College in Canton,  Ohio, Edgar was fatally injured in a football game. He, too, was buried in Newark. Separated by thousands of miles from this tragedy, the stricken parents  poured out their grief in letters and in a brief booklet entitled “A Student Volunteer Glorified.”

Seven years later, my grandfather was off to war. He was excited by the adventure. He was to embark in New York City with one of the very first American units to cross the “Pond.” HIs parents now lived in Chicago, so his mom was able to travel to New York City to see him off. The day before his departure, mother and son visited the cemetery in Newark. There she stood between the graves of her two departed children, accompanied by a son who was on his way to perhaps the most brutal war in history.  Grandpa’s diary doesn’t describe his mother’s feelings, but he seems to have put aside his excitement about the things of war. He wrote that he became “very tender” toward his mother at that point.

There was something heroic about Great-Grandma in that she gave in to neither despair nor self-pity.  She bravely assured her boy that he would return from war.

Last Updated December 8, 2014