The Frick Family of Rohrbach, Heidelberg, Germany

Although it is believed that our particular Frick family originated in Switzerland, they were present in Rohrbach, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, at least as early as 1699. It was then and there that Johann Georg Frick, allegedly a native of Switzerland, was said to have married Anna Margaretha Nachbauer, and it was there that he died in 1712 at the age of thirty-six. Rohrbach is a district of the renowned city of Heidelberg, situated on the Neckar River in southwestern Germany. Heidelberg today is home to Heidelberg University, which was established in the fourteenth century, as well as the ruins of the thirteenth-century Heidelberg Castle.

View of Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, 2019; privately held by Melanie Frick, 2021.

While there is a region in northwestern Switzerland known as Fricktal (“Frick Valley”), it is yet unknown where exactly in Switzerland Johann Georg Frick and his predecessors may have lived. The seventeenth century was a tumultuous time in early modern Europe, and Switzerland saw great religious upheaval; it can be considered whether this might have inspired the Frick family to relocate. Heidelberg also faced turmoil at this time, and was in ruins by 1693 due to French invasions. In the years thereafter, grappling with severe winters as well as warfare, thousands of Protestants living in the German Palatinate would flee, settling elsewhere in Europe and in the “New World” colonies. The Fricks, however, stayed.

Melanchthonkirche, Rohrbach, Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, 2019; privately held by Melanie Frick, 2021.

The most recent member of our Frick family to live out his life in Rohrbach was Ludwig Frick. Ludwig was born in Rohrbach on 12 November 1883, the son of Martin Frick (1857-1935), who worked as a civil servant for the railroad, and Katharina Feigenbutz (1863-1918). Ludwig was the eldest of eight children; his seven younger siblings included Joseph (1885), Katharina (1886), Johann (1889), Christina (1891), Johann (1894), Susanna (1895), and Peter (1899). Ultimately, however, only Katharina and Susanna would live to adulthood alongside Ludwig.

Ludwig Frick with wife Anna Katharina (Schilling) Frick, center, and daughters Elsa and Marta, likely pictured in Rohrbach, Heidelberg, Germany, circa 1940; privately held by [personal information withheld], 2021.

Ludwig Frick and Anna Katharina Schilling married in nearby Münzesheim, Anna’s hometown, on 09 January 1908, and settled in Rohrbach. Ludwig worked as a locksmith, and he and Anna had seven children together: Wilfried (1908), Elsa Elisabeth (1909), Otto Jacob (1911), Elsa (1912), Erne Elisabeth (1914), Marta (1916), and Wilhelm (1919). Both Elsa Elisabeth and Erne Elisabeth died as infants.

Anna Katharina (Schilling) Frick with her son Wilfried Frick (right) and an infant, likely her son Otto Jacob Frick, Rohrbach, Heidelberg, Germany, circa 1911; privately held by [personal information withheld], 2021.

Few details are known about Ludwig beyond his occupation and the fact that he played piano. It is believed that he and his wife, like generations of his family before him, attended the Melanchthon Church; city directories indicate that they lived for many years on Max-Joseph-Strasse in Rohrbach, in a corner house bordered by a narrow garden. Ludwig died at the age of seventy-four on 28 December 1957; Anna survived him by a number of years, and is remembered as a kindly woman who made lamb-shaped cakes for her grandchildren.


Copyright © 2021 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.


SOURCES

“Baden and Hesse Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1502-1985,” index, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 May 2021), marriage of Ludwig Frick and Anna Kathar. Schilling, 1908, Münzesheim.

“Baden, Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1502-1985,” index, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 May 2021), burial of Ludwig Frick, 1957, Rohrbach.

“Baden, Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1502-1985,” index, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 May 2021), marriage of Martin Frick and Kath. Elisabetha Feigenbutz, 1883, Rohrbach.

“Germany and Surrounding Areas, Address Books, 1815-1974,” index and images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 May 2021), Ludwig Frick, 1927, Rohrbach.

“Germany and Surrounding Areas, Address Books, 1815-1974,” index and images, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 May 2021), Ludwig Frick, 1940, Rohrbach.

“Germany, Select Marriages, 1558-1929,” index, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 30 May 2021), marriage of Johannes Schilling and Elisabetha Christina Kaiser, 1873, Münzesheim.

Grandchild of Ludwig and Anna Katharina [Schilling] Frick, conversation with the author, 2019; notes in author’s files.

Norbert Emmerich, “Johann Georg Frick,” Schweizer Einwanderer in Heidelberg und Umgebung [Swiss Immigrants in Heidelberg and the Surrounding Area] (https://sehum.dynv6.net/201405/11/ofb3k10314.html : accessed 30 May 2021).

Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org), “Heidelberg,” rev. 14:53, 19 May 2021.

Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org), “Reformation in Switzerland,” rev. 21:01, 26 May 2021.

An Iowa National Guardsman

Henry Joseph Adam of Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa, was twenty-six years old when he enlisted in the Iowa National Guard in December 1907. He enlisted for a term of three years with Company L of the 56th Infantry, and received an honorable discharge when his term was complete. His character was noted to be “excellent” and his service “honest and faithful.”

Iowa National Guard Certificate for Henry Joseph Adam, Sioux City, Iowa, 1911; digital image 2021, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2021.

In December 1917, ten years after he had first enlisted with the Iowa National Guard, Henry enlisted once again, this time with Company D of the 4th Infantry. The United States had entered the “Great War” in April of that year, and by June the first draft registration was underway. Henry, now thirty-six, was not included in this first draft (which was limited to men between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-one), but perhaps he saw the writing on the wall and considered that service with the National Guard might put him in a better position than if he were to wait to be eventually drafted. In July 1918, he was appointed corporal, but soon thereafter his trajectory was altered.

Henry Joseph Adam, Sioux City, Iowa, ca. 1918; digital image 2010, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2021.

Henry, a carpenter, relocated to Portsmouth, Virginia, where he became an employee of the George Leary Construction Company at the Norfolk Navy Yard. He commenced work on 01 September 1918, and on 12 September, when the third draft registration, for men between the ages of eighteen and forty-five, was initiated, he dutifully completed his registration. He was called home to Iowa in late September when, tragically, his five-year-old son succumbed to extensive burns received when he fell into a fire. It could not have been easy for Henry to bid farewell to his wife and surviving son, who was ten years old, to return to the shipyards once again.

In late October, Henry became an employee of the United States government, assisting in the construction of a power plant at the Norfolk Navy Yard. It was on these grounds, as a skilled laborer in a necessary industrial occupation, that he completed a questionnaire claiming deferred classification of military duties. His work entailed building concrete forms; he stated that he had four years of specific experience, and six years of additional general experience. His daily wages amounted to eight dollars and twenty-five cents, and he was the sole supporter of his wife and child.

The questionnaire was signed and dated on 05 November 1918—less than one week before armistice would occur, marking the conclusion of the war on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Perhaps Henry’s questionnaire was never even submitted, or was returned to him in short order, which might explain how it ended up among other assorted family papers and survived for more than a century.

I have no record of when Henry’s employment at the Norfolk Navy Yard nor his service with the Iowa National Guard formally concluded. However, Henry would continue to apply his carpentry skills in the service of the government periodically throughout the rest of his life. During the Great Depression, he found employment with the Works Progress Administration, and during World War II, he was employed at a United States Air Force base near Sioux City before temporarily relocating to Portland, Oregon, where he once again became an essential worker in the shipyards.


Copyright © 2021 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.


SOURCES

Iowa National Guard Certificate, Henry Joseph Adam, Sioux City, Iowa, 06 January 1911; Adam Family; privately held by Melanie Frick, 2021.

Military Deferment Questionnaire, Form 1001, Office of the Provost Marshall General, for Henry Joseph Adam, Portsmouth, Virginia, 05 November 1918; Adam Family; privately held by Melanie Frick, 2021.

“World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 25 April 2021), card for Henry Joseph Adam, Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa; citing World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, National Archives microfilm publication M1509; imaged from Family History Library film roll 1,643,352.

“Henry J. Adam” in Lasher, Louis G., Report of the Adjutant General of Iowa: For the Biennial Period Ended June 30, 1920 (Des Moines: The State of Iowa, 1920), 125; from “U.S., Adjutant General Military Records, 1631-1976,” Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 25 April 2021).

The 1926 Chicoine Family Reunion

A century ago, numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the French Canadian blacksmith Leon Chicoine and his wife Marie Vary were in the habit of gathering annually for an extended family reunion at Riverside Park in Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa.

In the summer of 1925, the Sioux City Journal printed the following:

200 ATTEND FAMILY PICNIC AT RIVERSIDE

More than 200 members of the Chicoine family, residing in Sioux City and surrounding territory, held their annual picnic at Riverside park Sunday. Several hundred of the family, which is one of the pioneer families of this part of the country, are located in northwestern Iowa, southeastern South Dakota and northeastern Nebraska.

The majority of those who attended the picnic were from Sioux City, Jefferson, S.D., Elk Point, S.D., and Salix, Ia. The oldest member of the family present was Mrs. Philip Bernard, Sioux City, 70 years old, and the youngest was Rose Chicoine, 6-month-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Fedora Chicoine, of Jefferson. A basket dinner and a program of games and sports occupied the afternoon and evening.

The following year, a large group photograph—or rather several photographs pieced together—was taken at the family gathering, and featured just shy of one hundred and fifty individuals. The photograph is labeled Griebel Photo along with a street address; according to the 1926 Sioux City Directory, a Henry Griebel was indeed at that address, but his home and studio were elsewhere in 1925. Thus, the 1926 date provided for this photograph seems plausible—and the decade itself is undeniable when taking into account that the women almost uniformly have their hair bobbed! Riverside Park, the location of the reunion, was a popular summer gathering place along the Sioux River, offering swimming, boating, and other recreational activities. 1926 marked the final year that Riverside Park would host the popular Interstate Fair, and an amusement park would open there the following year.

Chicoine Family Reunion, Riverside Park, Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa, 1926; digital image 2021, courtesy of Jeanette Borich; privately held by Ken Chicoine, 2021.

There is, fortunately, a key for this photograph, with many thanks to the late Maurice Chicoine. However, it is incomplete and not without error. If you recognize any kin in the photograph, please feel free to comment so that the key can be confirmed and/or updated accordingly. The names from the original key are transcribed below:

Photo 1 Top Row: Agnes Chicoine, Emma Chicoine, Pauline Lambert, Elsie Montagne, Carrie Chicoine, Odile Chicoine, Luella Limoges Chicoine, Delia Brault, Albina Chicoine, Louise Ryan Chicoine, Edna Quintal Chicoine, Mrs. Alphonse Chicoine, Mrs. Bob Wyant, Mrs. Quintal

Photo 1 Middle Row: Alphonse Chicoine, Alex Chicoine, Denis Chicoine, Edgar Chicoine, Edmond Chicoine, Odias Chicoine, Elmer Chicoine, Leo Chicoine, Conrad Chicoine, Emil Chicoine

Photo 1 Front Row: Orville Chicoine, Ferdinand Chicoine, Donald Chicoine, …?, Ilian Bertrand, Wallace Chicoine, Theresa Chicoine, Doris Chicoine, Bernice Chicoine, Veronica Chicoine, Madonna Chicoine, Marc Chicoine, Hubert Chicoine

Photo 2 Top Row: Ora Quintal, Ella Quintal, Rose Montague, Martin Chicoine, Cora Chicoine, Marty …?, Martin Quintal, Adrian Chicoine, Leander Bertrand, Mrs. J. B. Fountain, Ruth Chicoine?, Aloysius Bourassa, Esther Bourassa, Laura Montagne Chicoine, Orise Montagne, Rachel Chicoine Dougherty holding Richard, Dalma Beaubien Montagne

Photo 2 Middle Row: Eugene Chicoine, Philip Bernard, Joe Montagne, Bert Crevier and baby, Fedora Chicoine, Leonard Chicoine, J. B. Fountain, William Chicoine?, T. D. Dougherty and child, Art Chicoine, Louis Beaubien, Clarence Montagne

Photo 2 Front Row: Claire Montagne, Madonna Chicoine, Gabriel Sirois, Oswald Montagne and child, Lucille Crevier, Maurice Chicoine

Photo 3 Top Row: Priest from Salix, Wiska Derauleau, Viola Montagne, Rosella Montagne, …?, Mr. Adams, Mrs. Adams, Sophia Menard, Mrs. Eugene Bosse, Joe Chicoine, Mrs. Joe Chicoine, Obeline Chicoine Lambert, Corrine Chicoine, Mayme Chicoine, Gertie Crevier Chicoine, Leona Chicoine Crevier, Yvone Morin Chicoine, Beatrice Chicoine, Rose Langle Chicoine, Arsenia Allard Chicoine

Photo 3 Middle Row: Joe Gregoire, Sylvester Montagne, Laurence and child, …?, Ernest Menard, Maxine Chicoine, Charlotte Crevier, …?

Photo 4 Top Row: Simone Sirois, Bertha Sirois, Genevieve Sirois, Happy Jauron with child, Mrs. Jauron, Delphine Chicoine, Irene Trudeau, Marie Perrault Chicoine, Amanda Chicoine, Regina Benjamin Chicoine, Elise Chicoine Benjamin, Marcella Chicoine, Christina Chicoine Bourassa, Mrs. Alex Bourassa

Photo 4 Middle Row: Fabien Lambert, Raymond Chaussee, Joe Chicoine, Hermidas Chicoine, Gerome Gadbois and child, Alfred Chicoine, Isaac Benjamin, Alex Bourassa, John Bourassa, Gerard Chicoine

Photo 4 Front Row: …?, …?, Pauline Chicoine, Janette Chicoine, Loretta Chicoine, …?, Bourassa child, Roger Bourassa

Not named in the key are my great-great-grandparents, Henry Joseph Adam and his wife Melanie Veronica Lutz, immediately recognizable to me although I never met either one. Two individuals standing near them, recorded as “Mr. and Mrs. Adams,” are, I believe, Henry’s uncle and aunt, Peter Adam and his wife Elizabeth Courtmanche. Both Peter and Henry’s father Timothy Adam, who died several years before this photograph was taken, were sons of Timothée Adam and Marguerite Chicoine, Marguerite being a daughter of the aforementioned Leon Chicoine and Marie Vary.

I was introduced to this photograph upon meeting for the first time a distant cousin and fellow genealogist, Jeanette Borich, in 2019. We were stunned to find that my great-great-grandmother Melanie (Lutz) Adam was standing immediately to the right of her stylishly-dressed grandmother Viola (Beaubien) Montagne in this photograph, and like to think that they would be pleased that their descendants are in touch nearly a century later.

Copyright © 2021 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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A Canine in the Courtroom

As much as I love research in historic newspaper collections, it’s not often that I find an ancestor’s name attached to a truly colorful piece. There are the expected mentions at milestones and sometimes occasional notations of one’s comings and goings in small town social columns—but rarely has an ancestor sparked his or her own headline or been featured not just in the local news, but in the newspaper of the state’s capital.

In 1927, my nineteen-year-old great grandfather managed just that. Gerald Joseph Adam, the son of Henry Joseph Adam and Melanie Veronica Lutz, was born in Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa, in 1908. Nineteen years later, he became involved in a spirited disagreement regarding the ownership of a particular dog. When this dispute went to court, it caught the attention of a journalist who saw the humor in the situation, and thus half a page—including photographs and sketches—was allotted to the story in the Des Moines Register.

Gerald was a recent graduate of Sioux City’s Central High School and was employed as a doorman at the downtown Princess Theater. He was also the proud owner of a German Shepherd named Fraulein. However, when another Sioux City resident attempted to claim Fraulein as his own, Gerald wound up in court—with his mother and their family cat in tow—to settle his case. He ultimately emerged victorious, but the full story, which featured several unconventional attempts to demonstrate ownership of his dog, is transcribed below:

Spanked the Baby to Settle Court DisputeSpanked the Baby to Settle Court Dispute Sun, Nov 6, 1927 – Page 67 · The Des Moines Register (Des Moines, Iowa) · Newspapers.com

Spanked the Baby to Settle Court Dispute

“Boo-Hoo” Cried Baby Phyllis But Sioux City Justice Found Evidence Inconclusive.

BY WILLIS F. FORBES.

Sioux City, Ia., Nov. 4. – Old King Solomon of biblical fame undoubtedly was a wise old bird, but it is doubtful if ever in all his varied and colorful career he was called on to settle a more perplexing judicial problem than that which recently confronted Charles Lockie, a Sioux City justice of the peace.

Like that famous trial over which the biblical Solomon presided, the case which confronted this modern magistrate was one of disputed ownership. It had to do with a dog – and a beautiful dog it was – a fine, bright eyed, intelligent German police dog of undoubted aristocratic ancestry.

The contending claimants were Gerald Adam and C. C. Terrill, both well known and highly respected citizens with unimpeachable reputations for veracity.

Each claimed the dog and appeared in court, ably seconded by legal talent, ready and eager to produce conclusive evidence of their right to ownership.

Adam testified that he had purchased the dog from Miss Alice Spalding, well known Sioux City society woman, and that the dog later had disappeared. Miss Spalding took the stand and corroborated Adam’s story, positively identifying the animal as one she had sold to Adam.

Terrill, seconded by other witnesses, contended that the dog belonged to him. He said that the animal had been given to him when a pup and that he had raised it. F. Heitzman, who, Terrill said, had given him the dog, was present and substantiated this story. He also identified the dog.

Right at the beginning a dispute arose among the litigants as to the dog’s name. Adam said that its proper name was Fraulein, that being the name which appeared on its pedigree papers. Terrill said that the correct name was Lady, as that was what she had been christened when he first obtained her.

Unfortunately, the dog seemed to understand both German and English, as she responded to one name as readily as to the other.

For purposes of discussion in court the justice ruled that the dog would be known merely as Exhibit No. 2, and a tag bearing that inscription was attached to her collar.

Both sides of the case were prepared with ingenious plans to prove to the justice that the dog was theirs.

Mrs. Adam, the plaintiff’s mother, informed the court that she could prove it was her son’s dog by means of its fondness for cats. She said that Fraulein had always played with cats and she had brought with her the family cat to prove her contention.

The Terrill faction, however, strenuously objected to this test as being no test as all. They had brought with them another dog which they claimed was a full brother of Lady and they said that it wouldn’t chase the cat, either.

So, as the justice and the spectators breathlessly looked on, the cat was released in front of Lady’s alleged brother.

Apparently the brother dog was little interested in the fate of his sister for he had to be awakened from a sound sleep. He opened his eyes just in time to see Miss Kitty retire beneath the office safe.

The dog slowly got to his feet, ambled over to the safe and poked his nose under the strong box in the general vicinity of the cat.

Whether or not he and the pussy came to some sort of a whispered understanding during this process could not be ascertained, but when the cat finally was retrieved and held in front of the dog’s nose he merely sniffed and retired to his corner where he proceeded to go to sleep once more.

The male dog was much better behaved in the courtroom than was the female, who had to be taken out of the room so that the hearing could be conducted quietly. But, of course, he was only a disinterested spectator and she was Exhibit No. 2.

This test having failed, the Terrills presented a test which they said would prove conclusively they were the rightful owners.

They said that whenever anyone spanked a baby in Lady’s presence she would strenuously object. So they had brought 6-year-old Phyllis Theison, Terrill’s granddaughter, to court to prove the argument.

The second test was conducted rather informally in an adjoining room where Exhibit No. 2 had been taken in disgrace. It was carried out without the consent of the justice.

While the spanking process was going on the dog began to whine and jabber. If whining and jabbering could be construed as a protest against the spanking, then the dog protested. But it had been protesting so much during the whole trial that even this could hardly be taken as conclusive proof of identity.

Mrs. Adam further contended that Exhibit No. 2 was her son’s dog because it had a habit of sleeping on a davenport with its head on a pillow and because it would stand on its hind legs and drink out of the kitchen sink.

But unfortunately there was no inviting davenport nor kitchen sink included in the courtroom furniture, so these tests could not be carried out.

Somebody suggested that, inasmuch as Exhibit No. 2 and the male dog claimed to be her brother, resembled each other, a blood test might serve to settle the argument.

This was deemed inadvisable, however, and finally in desperation Justice Lockie asked if either side could produce identification marks to uphold their claim.

The Adam faction hailed this suggestion with delight. They pointed out that the registration papers which Miss Spalding had given them when she had sold Fraulein identified the animal by three little birthmarks on its neck.

The Terrill faction countered this argument by saying the marks were scars left by vaccination and they offered to produce the veterinarian who had done the vaccinating to prove it. So court was adjourned for the day so the Terrills could bring their witness to testify.

The next day Exhibit No. 2 came very near being held in contempt of court for she was late in arriving. The justice and witnesses gathered in court promptly at the designated hour, but Fraulein, or Lady, whichever you prefer to call her, failed to appear.

As it was necessary for the veterinarian to examine the disputed marks before he could testify, there was nothing to do but wait. It probably was the first time in the history of Woodbury county that a court waited for a dog.

But finally Exhibit No. 2 made her appearance and the veterinarian, after examining the spots, decided that they were birthmarks. He said he had vaccinated Terrill’s dog on her left hip.

So far as Terrill was concerned it was a “dawg-gone” case, for the learned justice decided that the dog was the rightful possession of the Adam family, the baby spanking and cat playing tests notwithstanding.

Copyright © 2021 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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Identifying “Mother” in a Vintage Photograph

When making an attempt to identify the subject of an old family photograph such as this one, the provenance of the photograph is of the utmost importance.

This photograph was part of a collection of family photographs once held by Cecilia Marie Christensen Petersen (1900-1993). Cecilia Marie, who was called Marie, was the biological daughter of Christen Christensen and Cæcilie Marie Jensen of Denmark. Cæcilie sadly died within days of her daughter’s birth. Marie was thus raised by her paternal aunt, Kristine Marie Christensen, and Kristine’s husband, Jens Christian Petersen. When Marie was five years old, she emigrated from Denmark to America with her adoptive parents; her biological father remained in Denmark.

Unidentified photograph, circa 1905, Vestervig, Thisted, Denmark; digital image 2016, privately held by Nicole Kilanowski, 2016.

Pictured in the photograph is an older woman, rather heavyset, in a loose-fitting dark dress. The dress has a horizontal gathered seam across the bodice, and a flounce over the shoulders. It hangs loosely with what looks to be an asymmetrical gathered seam across her hips. A brooch is fastened at her throat and a ring is on the fourth finger of her right hand; in Denmark, among other countries, this is the customary placement of a wedding ring. The woman’s face is lined and her hair appears gray. She stands looking down at a small dog who is perched atop a table, and holds the dog steady with both hands. The dog itself could be a terrier of some kind; it is possible that it is a Danish-Swedish Farmdog, a breed known for its rat-catching abilities as well as its mild and friendly demeanor as a house dog.

This is not the most straightforward photograph to date, particularly as older women may not have worn the latest fashions. However, an approximate date after 1900 seems reasonable; for one thing, by that point, I suspect that photographs—even in a small village in Denmark—would not have been so unusual or costly that it would have been unthinkable to be photographed with a pet.

Reverse of unidentified photograph, circa 1905, Vestervig, Thisted, Denmark; digital image 2016, privately held by Nicole Kilanowski, 2016.

The reverse side of this photograph has a handwritten note that, translated from its original Danish, reads: “Vestervig. Karbol’s greetings. Mother.” Vestervig is a village in northern Denmark. One can assume that Karbol is the dog and that “Mother” is the woman pictured. One might also assume that the recipient of this message was not currently in Vestervig. Perhaps Karbol was a beloved family pet and “Mother” wished to send a whimsical greeting to one of her offspring away from home.

Although this photograph was in Marie’s possession, the woman pictured here appears far too old to be Marie’s mother—either biological or adoptive—based on the assumption that this photograph was taken around the time of Marie’s birth at the turn of the last century. However, it is possible that she was one of Marie’s grandmothers: her biological maternal grandmother, her biological paternal grandmother/adoptive maternal grandmother, or her adoptive paternal grandmother, all of whom were living at the time of the 1901 Danish Census.

  • Marie’s biological maternal grandmother, Marie Andresen (1835-1912), was a resident of Vamstrup Parish, Ribe, Denmark. This was a distance of more than one hundred miles from Vestervig, the place name written on the back of the photograph.
  • Marie’s biological paternal grandmother/adoptive maternal grandmother, Ane Nielsen (1844-1905), was a resident of Vestervig Parish, Thisted, Denmark.
  • Marie’s adoptive paternal grandmother, Maren Knudsen (1838-1923), was a resident of Hurup Parish, Thisted, Denmark, a distance of about five miles from Vestervig, as of 1901, but by 1906 was a resident of Vestervig.

It would seem that only Marie’s biological maternal grandmother, Marie Andreasen, can be ruled out with any confidence, as she lived a long distance from Vestervig. Marie’s biological paternal grandmother/adoptive maternal grandmother, Ane Nielsen, and her adoptive paternal grandmother, Maren Knudsen, are both strong contenders as both were residents of Vestervig in the early 1900s.

Ane Nielsen was the youngest of Marie’s grandmothers and was sixty years old when she died in early 1905. Although the woman in this photograph looks to me as though she could be older than sixty—or even seventy—it also seems reasonable to consider that a hardworking farmwife and mother of eleven children might well look older than one might expect a woman of the same age to look today. If this is indeed Ane, then, to whom might she have directed this photograph and the accompanying message? One possibility is that she might have mailed it to her daughter Kristine, Marie’s adoptive mother/paternal aunt. Although Kristine did not venture to America until after Ane’s death, she had moved from Vestervig to Copenhagen with her husband and child in 1902. Copenhagen being a significant distance from Vestervig, mother and daughter certainly must have corresponded, and if they happened to have shared a fondness for the family dog, Ane might well have sent this photograph and note simply to bring a smile—perhaps intending that it amuse her young granddaughter as well.

Maren Knudsen, however, is also a plausible potential subject of this photograph. She was sixty-seven years old in 1905, the year that her son, Jens Christian, her daughter-in-law, and their adopted daughter Marie immigrated to America. She lived until 1923, so would have had many years during which she could have corresponded with her son and at some point passed this photograph on to him.

Can this, then, be identified as a photograph of either Ane Nielsen (1844-1905) or of Maren Knudsen (1838-1923), both of Vestervig, Denmark? It seems likely that it is a photograph of one of the two women, but unless another photograph of either Ane or Maren turns up for comparison—or a more conclusively identified copy of this same photograph—it is impossible to be absolutely certain. A handwriting comparison could also be conducted thanks to the inscription on the back of the photograph. In either case, the bond between this woman and her dog is certainly charming to behold and the photograph was surely treasured by whomever received it.

Copyright © 2021 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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Tombstone Tuesday: Wilhelm Heinrich Thoma (1827-1876)

Wilhelm Heinrich Thoma was born on 16 December 1827 in the village of Weißenstadt, located in what is now Upper Franconia, Bavaria, Germany, the son of Paulus and Elisabeth (Schmidt) Thoma. At the age of twenty-four, Wilhelm, along with his parents and six siblings, immigrated to America. Traveling aboard the Uhland, the family left Bremen bound for New Orleans, where they arrived in June 1852.

New Orleans was not to be their final destination; the family traveled up the Mississippi River until reaching northeastern Iowa, where they soon settled in the village of Garnavillo in Clayton County. A biography within The History of Clayton County, Iowa notes, “Upon coming to the United States, William Thoma proved himself an ambitious young man whose courage and determination were shown in definite action.”

On 28 May 1857, when Wilhelm, also known as William, was twenty-nine years old, he married eighteen-year-old Anna Margaretha Poesch, a fellow immigrant who also hailed from Weißenstadt. The couple had eleven known children: Frederick (1857-1925), Anna Katharina (1859-1919), John Lorenz (1861-1886), Anna Rosina (1862-1934), Margaretha B. (1864-1902), John Wilhelm (1866-1890), John Paulus (1868-1911), Anna Paulina (1869-1950), Maria Magdelena (1872-1954), John Christopher (1874-1934), and John Charles Thoma (1875-1932).

Find A Grave, Inc., Find A Grave, digital image (www.findagrave.com : accessed 25 July 2020), photograph, Wilhelm H. Thoma (1827-1876), Memorial No. 146616631, Garnavillo Community Cemetery, Garnavillo, Clayton County, Iowa; photograph by Ken Johnson, 2016.

Wilhelm first entered the mercantile business while in his twenties, shortly after arriving in Iowa. In 1859, he established his own general store in Garnavillo, offering groceries and dry goods, which he operated until the time of his death. It was said at that time that “in his personal and business relations with the people he was the ‘soul of honor,’ a good, honest, straight forward man.”

Wilhelm was active in his community throughout his adulthood; his obituary noted, “In public matters Mr. Thoma has taken a lively interest, and exhibited a degree of earnest zeal in the advancement of his fellow countrymen, enjoying their confidence and support. He has held minor offices of trust, discharging the duties thereof satisfactory to the people.” One incident of note is that during the grasshopper plague of 1874, following an appeal from Kossuth County, Iowa, Wilhelm’s name was included among a list of individuals “designated to receive contributions for the grasshopper sufferers.” Furthermore, William was a member of the county Board of Supervisors at the time of his death, an office he was said to have held in “a most excellent and upright” manner.

Wilhelm Heinrich Thoma died in Garnavillo on 27 July 1876; he was forty-eight years old. Lengthy obituaries in multiple local newspapers did not share the cause of his death, but lauded his talents, one noting that he had “been counted among Clayton County’s best and most public spirited citizens,” and that “his own village loses a citizen whom it was equally a pleasure and honor to name as a friend.” Another commented upon his wealth and prominence, and called him “a man universally honored and beloved where known.” Wilhelm was buried at the Garnavillo City Cemetery in Garnavillo, Clayton County, Iowa.

Copyright © 2020 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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Feeding the Black Hills Gold Rush

“In the early 1880 days of the Gold Rush in the Black Hills Fred [Nielsen] and his brother-in-law Christian Callesen bought eggs in the Yankton area, packed them in cases, placed the egg cases in a wagon box surrounded by oats, hauled them to the Hills and sold them at a good price to the hungry miners.” This bit of family lore was recorded by Nielsen descendent Harold Jorgensen and printed in Yankton County History roughly one hundred years after the fact.

The Black Hills Gold Rush began in 1874, the same year that a then ten-year-old Fred Nielsen set sail from Denmark to America with his parents and five siblings, his two oldest brothers having ventured to the Midwest the year prior. The family settled on one hundred and sixty acres of farmland in what is now Yankton County, South Dakota.

Fred turned sixteen in 1880, the same year that Christian “Chris” Callesen, at the age of twenty-five, married Fred’s nineteen-year-old sister Karen Kirstine “Stena” Nielsen. The Black Hills Gold Rush, its epicenter in Deadwood, had peaked in the late 1870s, and the surge of those panning for gold waned considerably by 1880 due in part to a smallpox outbreak and a destructive fire. Apparently, however, there was still enough activity—and “hungry miners,” as the story goes—to make it worthwhile for two young men to drive a wagon nearly 400 miles from Yankton to Deadwood on what may have been more than one occasion.

Charcoal drawing based on photograph of Fred Nielsen (1864-1918), Deadwood, Dakota Territory, ca. 1888-1890, artist unknown, drawing date unknown; digital image 2010, privately held by B.A., 2020.

Indeed, there is evidence that Fred was in Deadwood at least twice, if not more often. He was photographed there on two occasions, the first time circa 1884-86 and the second several years later. Local histories indicate that Christian and his wife homesteaded near St. Onge, a stone’s throw from Deadwood, in 1884. Perhaps Fred spent time in the area with his sister and brother-in-law, as St. Onge hosted a sizable Danish community. In 1889, the Little Dane Church, which still stands today, was built on the southeast corner of Christian’s land.

Were Fred and Christian still making a profit selling eggs and other farm products well into the 1880s, or did Fred find other reasons to make repeated visits to Deadwood? If he was not there on business, Deadwood would at the very least have provided a dramatic change of scenery for a young farmer from a quieter corner of Dakota Territory.

Fred married neighbor Christine Schmidt, a fellow Danish immigrant, in 1890, and it is unknown whether he ever traveled to Deadwood after their marriage. He did travel as far as Colorado with his brother-in-law in 1911, and family lore states that at some point he acquired land near Phillip, South Dakota. Bureau of Land Management records show that a Fred Nielsen purchased one hundred and sixty acres of land in Stanley County, not far from Phillip, in 1910, but further research is necessary to determine whether this was the same Fred Nielsen and, if so, why he might have purchased land there.

Several of Fred’s siblings made return visits to Denmark as adults, but as for Fred, he seems to have been drawn instead to the west.

Copyright © 2020 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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Hezekiah Stilley in the First Census of the United States

Just three of my sixty-four fourth great-grandparents were born in America.

Of those three, only two have ancestral lines that have so far been traced—hesitantly—as far back as 1790.

And only one of those two lines has been found to have been documented in the 1790 United States Federal Census, the first census of the United States.

That line begins with homesteader Nancy Stilley, who is believed to have been the daughter of Jordan Stilley, who in turn is believed to have been the son of Hezekiah Stilley.

Hezekiah Stilley, whose name was also spelled Ezekiah, was born circa 1760, and is believed to have married Sarah Davis circa 1784 in Hyde County, North Carolina. In January 1786, he appeared in a North Carolina census as head of a household in Hyde County that included one white male between the ages of twenty-one and sixty, and two white females of any age. That same year, his name appeared on a land grant that was entered for fifty acres of land in what was then Hyde County, located on the west side of the Pungo River. (The portion of Hyde County located west of the Pungo River has since been annexed to Beaufort County.) The land grant was issued in November 1789.

The 1790 United States Federal Census, which was recorded during George Washington’s presidency, was the first of its kind. According to the United States Census Bureau:

“Under the general direction of Thomas Jefferson, the Secretary of State, marshals took the census in the original 13 States, plus the districts of Kentucky, Maine, and Vermont, and the Southwest Territory (Tennessee). Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson expressed skepticism over the final count, expecting a number that exceeded the 3.9 million inhabitants counted in the census.”

One can hardly help imagining the roadblocks and grueling conditions that the intrepid census enumerators must have encountered in their attempts to make record of each and every American. There were almost certainly individuals who simply did not want to be found, and others who may have been suspicious as to the motives of the government in recording their names and the numbers of their households. There were undoubtedly difficulties in reaching the inhabitants of far-flung communities, particularly on the frontier, but elsewhere as well. The Pungo River, for example, upon with Hezekiah Stilley dwelled, had its source in the Great Dismal Swamp, and according to a 1775 map was in fact on the fringes of what was then called the “Great Alligator Dismal Swamp”—surely not an easy place to traverse. It seems that a dramatic undercount in the nation’s first census was all but guaranteed.

In Hyde County, North Carolina, however, the 1790 United States Federal Census did include the household of one “Ezekiel Stilley.” If it can be assumed that the formal handwritten census schedule was based off of notes taken by the census enumerator as he visited each household, it can easily be surmised that the name Ezekiah could have been erroneously transcribed as Ezekiel. Both Hezekiah’s land grant and the fact that the names of many neighbors are consistent with the North Carolina census recorded in 1786 suggest that Ezekiah and Ezekiel were one and the same person.

In this household lived one adult male over the age of sixteen, three males under the age of sixteen, and two females of any age. This suggests a family unit consisting of Hezekiah, Sarah, three sons, and a daughter, although it is possible that other individuals, related or not, could have made up their household. No other free persons or enslaved people were present.

Hezekiah Stilley was recorded in a federal census for the last time in 1800. At that time, by then perhaps about forty years of age, he was still a resident of Hyde County, and his household now numbered eight individuals. Shortly thereafter, he and his family would leave North Carolina for good.

In 1807, Hezekiah submitted a squatter’s petition for three hundred and twenty acres of land in what is present-day Cave-in-Rock Township, Hardin County, Illinois, located near the Ohio River on the border with Kentucky. Notably, his name was absent from an 1812 petition that bore the names of several members of his extended family who had settled in Illinois as well. It has been assumed that he died in Illinois Territory prior to this date, far from the Carolina coastal region where he had spent most of his married life.

Copyright © 2020 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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The Olsens in the Old Country

Niels Olsen and Juliane Sophie Hennike spent the first twenty-two years of their married life in their native Denmark before venturing together to America.

They had married on 30 July 1852 in Haraldsted, Soro, Denmark. A nineteenth-century stereoscope image of what appears to be the church at Haraldsted was handed down through descendants of their second son, along with a stereoscope image that preserves the view of the village itself.

Haraldsted, Soro, Denmark, 1800s; digital image 2019, privately held by Stevan Worley.

The couple resided in Osted, ten miles or so northeast of Haraldsted, in the early years of their marriage; this is where their sons Ole and Johan Henrik were born and baptized in 1853 and 1855. Niels, Juliane, and Ole appeared in the 1855 census here with two servants in their household, prior to the birth of Johan Henrik. Niels was a farmer.

The family relocated to the Orslevvester district five miles southwest of Haraldsted, near the village of Gyrstinge, within a year or two. Here their children Karen Sophia Dorthea, Karen Kirstine, Sesilie Johanne, Frederik, Anders Christian, Jens Christian, and Anders Julius were born and baptized between the years 1857 and 1871.

Haraldsted, Soro, Denmark, 1800s; digital image 2019, privately held by Stevan Worley.

The 1860 and 1870 Danish census records raise questions about the family’s living situation. In 1860, Niels and Juliane, by then the parents of three children, lived only with their youngest child at the time, daughter Karen Sophie Dorthea, age three. Where were their sons Ole and Johan Henrik? Ole, age seven, lived in Osted with his maternal grandmother. Johan Henrik’s location is less clear, but a census index indicates that a “Jens” Nielsen, age four, born in Osted, was a “foster child” in Jyrstup, located roughly between Osted and Orslevvester.

Although it seems odd that the Ole and Johan would not have lived in their parents’ household, it should be noted that Juliane was in the late stages of pregnancy in early 1860. One could speculate that she might have been unwell and therefore her older children were placed with relatives or friends for a temporary period.

There was no census in 1865 to give an idea of the family’s household structure, but in 1870, Niels and Juliane continued to reside in Orslevvester with five of their seven surviving children: Johan Henrik, Karen Kristine, Sesilie Johanne, Frederick, and Jens Christian.

Olsen Family Home, Soro, Denmark, 1800s; digital image 2019, privately held by Stevan Worley.

Their oldest son Ole, sixteen, and oldest daughter Karen Sophie Dorthea, twelve, resided in a household in Haraldsted where they were recorded as foster children. Three servants, ages sixteen, eighteen, and twenty also resided in the household, so it is notable that their statuses differed from those of Ole and Dorthea; however, the sixteen-year-old servant was female, and one possible theory is that males might not have been considered to be grown men and therefore actual servants until an older age. It seems plausible that the brother and sister may have worked in exchange for room and board, if not yet for a wage; whether they had left their family home for work experience or due to space constraints or poverty is unknown.

In any case, a nineteenth-century stereoscope image of what is believed to have been the family home, presumably in Orslevvester, has also been preserved by descendants. It appears to be an example of a u-shaped housebarn, a practical structure that connects the barn and the house and allows for protection from the elements in a cold climate.

In 1873, sons Ole and Johan Henrik immigrated to America, and in 1874, Niels, Juliane, and their six younger children, namely Karen Sophie Dorthea, Karen Kristine, Sesilie Johanne, Frederick, Jens Christian, and Anders Julius, followed. Their youngest child, Helena, would be born in Dakota Territory in 1875.

Family lore indicates that Niels purchased his farm near present-day Yankton, South Dakota for five hundred dollars; perhaps the sale of the family home in Denmark allowed him to make this cash purchase of good farmland at a time when many other immigrants opted to homestead for a nominal filing fee.

Niels and Juliane made a comfortable life for themselves and their children in America—and it can easily be imagined that they may have gathered around a stereoscope from time to time to view these very images and reminisce about their old home in Denmark.

Copyright © 2020 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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A German American Family in Chicago

Several years after German immigrants Fred and Emma (Stube) Wiese of Chicago, Cook County, Illinois posed for a photograph together in their garden, they were photographed outdoors once again, this time with their children.

Fred and Emma (Stube) Wiese with children, from left, Leonard, Rose, George, and Oliver, circa 1904, Chicago, Illinois; digital image circa 2000, provenance of the original unknown.

Their youngest son, Leonard, seated at left, provides the biggest clue in dating this photograph, as his age is the easiest to pinpoint: assuming that he was, perhaps, three years old here, it can be dated circa 1904.1 George, standing between his parents, would have turned seventeen that year, Rose would have turned twelve, and Oliver, seated at right, would have turned eight.2 Sadly, Fred and Emma’s oldest daughter, Lillie, had died of meningitis as an eight year old in 1897.3

The Wiese family is pictured outside what may have been their own Victorian-style home at 2502 North Neva Avenue in Chicago’s Montcalm neighborhood.4 Only one of the six looks directly at the camera. Perhaps a second photographer was off to the side, where the other five members of the family directed their attention. This image is a scan of an original of an undetermined medium; it is rather heavily damaged with wrinkles, scuffs, and blotches.

Fred, who was a cigar maker by trade, sports a full mustache and wears a dark suit and tie.5 He is in his late thirties here.6 Emma, also in her late thirties, wears a white collared shirtwaist with a brooch at her throat, paired with a walking skirt in a darker color.7 A belt with a decorative clasp can be seen at her waist. A skilled seamstress, Emma was especially known for crocheting elegant garters, a talent she used to help support her family in her later years.8 It can well be imagined that she had a hand in making sure that she, her husband, and their children were well-dressed.

George wears a suit and tie much like his father’s; his fair-haired younger brothers sport rather voluminous white shirts and dark pants. Rose’s hair is pulled back into a braid and set off with a large bow; her simple shirtwaist and skirt, which falls mid-calf, are accessorized with a belt tied at her waist, a corsage, and a string of beads at her neck. These beads resemble pearls, although her mother was also known to make fragrant, darker-colored beads out of crushed rose petals which she would then alternate with pearl beads to create a necklace.9

This is the only known photograph of Fred and Emma (Stube) Wiese with their children. Despite the beating that the original print appears to have taken, it remains a special memento of a day in the life of this German American family in Chicago.

Copyright © 2019 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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