Got California Milk? – Part 2

I’ve decided to go ahead and publish the second installment of the Stueve saga today.  However, first I should say a little bit about pronunciation.  Around these here parts, Stueve has always been and continues to be pronounced as Steeve.  There are other places, such as where this Stueve family eventually located, that now pronounce the name as Stoo-Vee.  I can tell you this.  You are not going to get the folks in Perry County, Missouri to change how they pronounce any name, much less this one.

The year was 1936.  This was the year that the first of the Stueve children left Perry County.  Elmer, the oldest of the Stueve children, was 22 years old when he moved with several of his buddies to St. Louis, Missouri to work at the Pevely Dairy.  I wish that I knew who his buddies were that accompanied him, but I don’t.  I do know that some of the surnames that had boys about the same age as Elmer in Frohna were Kassel, Winter, Wills, Palisch, Mueller, Bremer, Schmidt, Schilling, Weinhold, Mangels, Popp, and Burroughs.  Here is a photo of the Pevely headquarters in St. Louis at that time.


By Poroubalous (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the contributing factors to cause boys to leave home to find work was the Great Depression, which had its beginning with the stock market crash in 1929, but had impact on the U.S. economy throughout the 1930’s  By this time, the Stueves had 9 or 10 children living in their farmhouse.  A few of the older boys had been “let out” to be farmhands for others around Frohna.  It must have been very hard for Henry and Ella to support such a large family during such trying economic times.

1936 was a brutal year in St. Louis and the Midwest.  During that summer, there were 479 deaths in St. Louis which were attributed to the heat they experienced.


Elmer and his friends left St. Louis to do harvest work in Kansas and Nebraska.  By 1930, there were already several Stueves living in Sylvan Grove, Kansas.  I do not know how closely related they were to Elmer, but I suppose it is possible that these young men may have headed out to Sylvan Grove to look for harvesting work.  (The Stueves moving to Kansas will likely be the topic of a future blog.  Those Stueves changed the spelling of their name to Stuive.)

Many boys during those times would head to the Midwest to “follow the harvest”.  This practice was probably coming close to its end because large harvesting equipment was becoming used much more widely.  But here’s where another factor came into the picture.  The decade of the 1930’s was the time of the Dust Bowl in the Midwest.  The year 1936 was one of the worst years.  Not only was it brutally hot, but there was not much precipitation.


I am sure it was not a good year for harvests.  These young men proceeded farther west and found work with the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC).  They picked apples in Utah, and then later in the state of Washington.  There I’m sure they found the climate to be much more pleasant.

These young men then headed south from Washington and found themselves in El Monte, California, which was located just east of Los Angeles.  Their first jobs there were picking oranges and olives.  Although these boys traveled a different route, their story is reminiscent of the story told in The Grapes of Wrath.

Their journey came to an end as they went to work doing more what they had grown up doing.  They went to work for the Foothill Dairy.

Foothill Dairy – photo from Azusa City Library

So now we have Elmer Stueve in California milking cows.  There is more to come, but you’re going to have to wait.




2 thoughts on “Got California Milk? – Part 2

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s