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At Wilmont park, a family reunites

Members of the Sieve family gathered for a family reunion in Wilmont

WILMONT — “Sieve, party of 200+?” might have been the host’s query had the Sieve family reunion sought seats at an area restaurant.

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But on a breezy July Saturday at Wilmont’s Hilltop Park, local farmer Gary Sieve decided instead to grill up dozens of burgers and brats — for roughly 200 members of his extended family.

“We’ve had a number of Sieve reunions over the years, but this is the first time we included all the descendants of the five Sieve brothers,” explained Sieve, who masterminded the over-sized family gathering with his three sisters, JoAnn Johanning, Carol Rupp and Barb Estrem.

Sieve and his sisters are the children of the late Al and Iva Sieve, and the grandchildren of August Sieve, whom Sieve says was “a pillar of the community” in Wilmont after settling in the area in 1896.

“My grandfather [August] and four of his brothers came to the United States from the Oldenburg area of Germany in the late 1800s.

“August’s brother, Clemmens, also settled in the Wilmont area, while George lived near Heron Lake,” Sieve continued. “Henry and Gottfried lived in Arcadia, Iowa, and Henry was the first of them to come to the United States.”

According to the genealogy research Sieve has pursued, August Sieve was 20 when he arrived by ship at Baltimore, Md., on March 17, 1891. He first joined his brother Henry at Arcadia, Iowa, but after working on a farm there and then renting a farm near Halbur, Iowa, for a few years, August bought 80 acres of land in Larkin Township.

“He and my grandmother, Caroline, were married in Iowa and had nine children,” shared Sieve. “My father, Al, was right in the middle of the nine, with four siblings above and four below.”

Once in Wilmont, August Sieve helped found Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church and the Wilmont elevator.

“They were devout German Catholics,” confirmed Sieve.

About six months ago, Sieve and his sisters started planning a summer family reunion, using to hunt for potential unknown relatives.

“I connected with cousins I’d never even heard of before,” said Sieve.

So with the July 27 date set, Sieve soon learned that other Sieves planned to trek to Wilmont — from towns such as Midlothian and San Antonio, Texas, Valley Falls, Kan., Willard, Mo., Carroll, Iowa, and San Jose, Calif.

“Plus, all the folks from Minnesota,” said Sieve. “There’s quite a bunch of Sieves in this area.

“We stirred up enough interest to get the turnout, and I’m a little enthused by the enthusiasm people are showing,” Sieve continued. “Some people would rather go have a root canal than attend a family reunion.”

On Saturday, a happy group of Sieves — including Sieve’s wife, Joyce, and their own four children, Lori, Lisa, Brad and Joe — relished their familial connections and celebrated their German heritage while reconnecting with some familiar faces and meeting other relatives for the first time.

Don Sieve of San Antonio was among the first-timers.

“I’ve been to the Twin Cities before, but this is my first Sieve reunion and my first visit to this part of the state,” he revealed.

Don Sieve, now retired from his work as a project manager in the technology services area of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, grew up in Valley Falls with 10 siblings, all of whom were the grandchildren of Gottfried Sieve. He attended the reunion with five of his siblings.

“We learned about the reunion from our Uncle Lawrence Sieve of Kansas City, who received the information from Gary,” detailed Don Sieve. “I’m involved in genealogy quite a bit, and I’m looking for how the families all fit together from our grandparents.”

At one point, Don Sieve found a photo online of the ship Gottfried sailed on from Bremen, Germany, to Baltimore — the SF Hermann.

“I have some documents that trace the Sieve family tree going back to the 14th century,” he added.

One interesting element Don Sieve discovered is that the Kansas-based Sieves pronounce their last name “C-V,” while the Minnesota contingent stuck with the one syllable “Sieve.”

“We’re here to hear a lot of stories and share,” confirmed Don Sieve. “I want to see some of the family gravestones in surrounding cemeteries, see Gary’s place, and possibly find where Gottfried lived before he went down to Kansas.

“We heard he didn’t care for the winters up here.”

That seasonal preference may not be limited to the Sieve family, however large a group was assembled for their joyous get-together.

“We’re just enjoying getting acquainted with some cousins we’d never met,” said Don Sieve. “This seems like a true feeling of reunion and a celebration of our roots.”