stern family
Photograph taken about 1912, during Herman's visit home.
rear row: brothers (l to r) Adolf, Moses,  Julius and Gustav
middle row: sisters Dora and Jettchen, parents Minna and Samuel
front row: Herman (left) and brother Salli.

The Stern family traced its history in Oberbrechen back to the 1600s. For the most part, the Sterns made their living from the land. Samuel Stern (who may well have written his first name as "Smuel") owned a small plot of land near the town of Oberbrechen. He made his living by what he could raise there -- which mostly went toward feeding his family -- and by selling the remnants of slaughtered cattle to a small paste factory in the area. Samuel and his wife, Mina Strauss Stern, raised eight children. The oldest, Moses, would inherit the farm. Moses's brother Adolph would become successful in the buying and trading of cattle and horses, while most of the other brothers also went into agriculture-related trades.

The youngest son of the family was Hermann, who was born in 1887. Hermann later remembered that the family diet consisted mostly potatoes and sauerkraut, with a bit of beef occasionally. Hermann went to work early on, doing odd jobs around Oberbrechen and helping his older brothers out when necessary. In 1901, he became the apprentice to a clothing merchant in Mainz, for which he received room and board, but no pay. He didn't much like the job or his boss, but the apprenticeship was a lucky break, nevertheless. Because in 1903, Morris G. Straus, a cousin from Mina's side of the family, came to visit from the United States. Straus had emigrated to the United States many years before and had opened a clothing store in Casselton, North Dakota. Straus had done well in Casselton, and was making plans to expand his business when he made his return visit to Germany in 1903. He met Hermann Stern and decided that here would be a trustworthy young man who could help him with his plans. He offered the young Stern a job and gave him the cost of a ship ticket to America.

Hermann Stern left Germany in September 1903, little knowing how vital his presence in North Dakota would later become to his family.

Sources: Heidi und Cornelius Bormann, Heimat an der Erft (ca. 1992); Interview with Edward Stern, 1994.
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