About Sophie

Sophie-Hungary

Sophie was born Josefia Elisabetha Mayer in 1877 in Heufeld (Torontal) Banat to Michael Mayer and Theresia Schwartz.

Heufeld is located in what is now Serbia near the border of Romania. The Banat is a part of the Pannonian Basin bordered by the River Danube to the south, the River Tisa to the west, the River Mureș to the north, and the Southern Carpathian Mountains to the east. Its historical capital was Timișoara, now in Timiș County in Romania.  Learn more about Banat at Wikipedia

Farmers and artisans were recruited from Swabia, Alsace, Bavaria and Austria. Arriving 1750-1800, they cleared the marshes near the Danube and Tisa rivers, helped build roads and canals, and re-established farming. In the 19th century this area changed hands (Austria, Serbia, Hungary) a few times, but the towns remained basically the same.

Our ancestors were known as Donauschwabens – colonists who came down the Danube to settle the Banat.

In 1899 Sophie married Frank Birg, an apprentice shoemaker from Marienfeld, Banat. They had three children (John, Frank – died as a baby- and Michael) before immigrating to Detroit. Frank came to Detroit in 1907 and Sophie and the children followed in 1908. In Detroit they had two more children, Mary and Joseph.  Frank worked as a shoemaker in the Pingree Shoe Factory and sang at the Carpathia Club in men’s German-Hungarian singing group.

Sophie and Frank split their time between Detroit and Bad Ax. Unfortunately, Frank suffered from TB and died in 1921.

In 1922, Sophie married George Greer, a farmer and WWI veteran originally from New York. They spent time between Kalamazoo and Detroit before leaving in 1925 for Wyoming. Mary stayed in Detroit while Joseph traveled with them, working at a horse ranch. By 1930 Sophie, George and Joseph had returned and brought with them their love of horses. Their marriage did not survive and by 1940 Sophie was living with her daughter, Mary and husband Laurence Moquin.

How Sophie and Rudolph Harter met is not known to me. Rudolph was born in Tschakowa (Timis) Banat but was living in Heufeld when he met his first wife, Elisabeth Licht (Mollydorf). Rudolph and Elisabeth were marred in 1901 in Mollydorf and had one child in the Banat before immigrating first to Ohio where their second child was born and then to Detroit where three more children were born. Elisabeth died before 1940.

Sophie and Rudolph may have know each other from the old country – or they may have met in Detroit. Detroit was home to many Banaters.

Sophie and Rudolph were married in 1941 (Sandusky) and  lived at “the farm” until their deaths in the 1950’s. According to stories share with me they were happy and established “the farm” as we know it.

BIRG-Frank
Frank Birg
Sophie's mother, Theresia Schwartz
Sophie’s mother, Theresia Schwartz
Kate, Mary, Sophie
Kate, Mary, Sophie
Sophie and Rudolph
Sophie and Rudolph

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