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Bob Lind column: Neighbors: No kidding! They had 21 children

You've got kids? One, a couple, three, maybe a few more? And you think you've got a handful? Then consider Frank and Monika Zander. They had 21. Yes, 21. All in 28 years. Wow. None were multiple births. They just kept coming, one by one, to that ...

You've got kids? One, a couple, three, maybe a few more? And you think you've got a handful?

Then consider Frank and Monika Zander.

They had 21. Yes, 21. All in 28 years. Wow.

None were multiple births. They just kept coming, one by one, to that farm northwest of Mandan, N.D., in the Crown Butte area.

The first was born in 1900. The 21st and last was Jerome, born in 1928.

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Jerome went on to have five (a mere five) children of his own: Jodi Carpenter and Tammy Tollefson, Fargo; Jeffrey Zander, Harwood, N.D.; Jerry, Seattle; and Curt, Cottage Grove, Minn.

They sent in this story of their grandparents and their battalion-sized family.

Frank, through hard work and good management, parlayed his original 160-acre homestead into property holdings totaling 5,600 acres by the time he retired in 1942.

In addition, he had other business interests. He opened a general store in Sweetbriar, assisted in organizing the Sweetbriar Farmers Elevator, was a director of the Sweetbriar Farmers State Bank and was one of the four original stockholders in the Purity Dairy Creamery in Mandan.

The dairy was something special; nobody else in Mandan made ice cream at the time.

Frank also was a member of the Crown Butte school board and was its president for several years.

Monika died in 1964; she and her husband had 64 years together. And what years they were.

Their farmhouse had five bedrooms: one for the parents, four for the kids, who had to sleep from three to six to a bed.

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Going to church each Sunday was a major undertaking. The parents would warm rugs and put them on the kids' feet to keep them warm as they rode in a haylined sleigh to Mass.

Meals were a logistical challenge.

The kids couldn't all fit around the table, so they ate in shifts. The younger children had to wait until the older ones were done; they'd stand behind the older siblings and hope they'd eat fast.

Poor Jerome said he always seemed to wind up behind the one who took seconds.

When the 21 kids grew up, some of them stayed in North Dakota, some went elsewhere. When their father died at age 98, 16 of them were still living. A picture of them was taken at their father's funeral.

Frank and Monika, were they alive today, would find they have 75 grandchildren, and their great-grandchildren would number in the hundreds -- the family has lost track of the exact number.

Jerome, of Fargo, celebrated his 75th birthday March 14. He is one of eight of the siblings still living.

It's from him that his children picked up the stories relayed to you here.

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"Sometimes when we were growing up in our family of five kids, we thought we had it tough," his daughter Tammy says, "but looking at our father's family, we think we had it pretty easy."

For sure. How'd you like to keep 21 kids in shoes? Fix meals for them? Get them ready day after day for school and church?

And how do you keep 21 brothers and sisters from clobbering each other? Call out the National Guard?

Another thing. This was in the days before disposable diapers. And automatic washing machines.

It's unlikely their mom had any trouble getting to sleep at night.

But in the big scheme of things, you feel that if they could do it all over again, Frank and Monika wouldn't change a thing ... except more diapers.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to (701) 241-5487; or e-mail rlind@forumcomm.com

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