1941: while Errol Flynn plays Custer on screen, an ordinary citizen of Michigan remembers Custer
CUSTER IN MEMORIES
source: Monroe Library
These are the days of Custer reminiscences in Monroe, awakened by the General George Armstrong Custer picture "They Died with Their Boots On" which closes a week's run at the Monroe Theatre today. Among those whose memories carry back to the post Civil War days in the city are Mr. and Mrs. Conrad F. Schrauder who live quietly at 706 West Front St. as they await July 22 and the seventieth anniversary of their marriage.
Mr. Schrauder, who was 93 years old last October, saw the Custer motion picture Wednesday afternoon accompanied by his son Edward "Mike" Schrauder. He like the picture, like the riding of the Indians and the cavalrymen of the Seventh Regiment, and marveled at the ability of the motion picture industry to re-stage so realistically those battle scenes. But he doesn't often go to the theater and he decided to see the Custer picture suddenly. Ordinarily pictures upset him too much.
Mrs. Schrauder didn't get to see the picture, She will be 91 years old on July 16 and since her ninetieth year has had difficulty in seeing although all other faculties are normal. Both Mr. and Mrs. Schrauder recall vividly and without difficulty the Monroe of the time of the Custers and the Bacons.
"One of my first recollections of General Custer", Mr. Schrauder said, "was of him riding through the streets with his yellow hair flying. I remember him one time Custer and two of his buddies decided they wanted a drink and rode their horses right into the saloon and up to the bar. The general always seemed to have a good time when he came to Monroe."
"Custer was a great hunter and killed plenty of buffalo" Mr. Schrauder recalls.
Mr. Schrauder's father was a butcher, one of a group of German citizens coming to Monroe at about the same time. Mr. Schrauder was 3 years old at the time the family came to America from Europe. Mrs. Schrauder, also born in Germany, came to America when she was 2 years old. She was the daughter of George Blitz, a contractor whose specialty was the making of frames for ornate church windows.
Custer knew Mr. Schrauder principally as "Coon" Schrauder, a nickname given him as a boy and derived from his given name Conrad. Custer sold quantities of dried meat to the Schrauder packing plant. Mr. Schrauder recalls the time General Custer sent him a large St. Bernard dog of the type which Custer had acquired to chase deer. The dog was quite valuable but Mr. Schrauder said he had little use for it and sought to have Custer take it back which he finally did.
The general and Libby Bacon had already married when Lena Bitz secured a job in the Custer family as a house maid at a salary of $1.50 to $2 a week. She worked for the Custers for three or four years, the Custer family then living in the Bacon house which stood on the site of the present post office. The General and his wife used to come to Monroe for visits often, she recalls, generally staying a week or so at a time. Only two of Emmanuel Custer's children were at home during the period she worked for the Custer family. They were Boston, the youngest, and Maggie, next to the youngest. Maggie graduated from Boyd Seminary during that period.
On one of his visits to Monroe General Custer purchased a farm for his brother. Nevin Custer who came up from Ohio to live on the place which comprised 80 acres and is the present Custer farm on the North Custer road as Mrs. Schrauder recalls it. She quit working for the Custers about the time of her marriage and saw them only infrequently afterwards.
When the general left for the west he sought to have Mrs. Schrauder accompany them, as their house maid, but she declined. Going with the General were Tom Custer, a colonel; Boston Custer, Tommy Reed of the family Custer visited in Monroe, and Lieutenant James Calhoun, who had married Maggie Custer.
"The Custers were all nice people," Mrs. Schrauder said. "They were always nice to me. My father was sick for a long time when I was a young girl and we had quite a hard time of it. Later he got better and oftentimes had four or five carpenters working for him."
"I don't think I'd have cared to see the picture, anyway," Mrs. Schrauder said, "but I'm glad he (Mr. Schrauder) liked it. I once was a moving picture of the Custer battle at the Reaper - and I got so wrapped up in it that I couldn't get to sleep until 3 a.m. So I don't think I would have gone even if I could see it."