Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Soldier’s Orphans

When Union soldier John Fenton was laid to rest in the summer of 1862, one of hundreds of thousands of soldiers to succumb to infectious disease during the Civil War, he left four orphaned children: Sarah Alice, eighteen; Harriet, seventeen; John Albert, fourteen; and George W., ten.

The Fenton family had emigrated from England to America circa 1848-49, and had settled first in Ohio. That is where John’s wife, Ann (Bowskill) Fenton, died at some point between 1852-59. John and his children then moved to an area known as Buckeye Prairie near Pana, Christian County, Illinois, and in 1861, at the age of forty-six, John volunteered for Company M of the 3rd Illinois U.S. Cavalry. His children were thus left without a parent to look after them—first temporarily, and then permanently.

“Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas March 8th 1862,” Prints & Photographs Online Catalog, Prints & Photographs Reading Room, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/90709337 : accessed 25 July 2022). John Fenton of Company M of the 3rd Illinois U.S. Cavalry saw action at the Battle of Pea Ridge.

What became of the children? There is some indication that they may have resided with the family of James and Eliza Tylar during John’s absence at war; one daughter was a domestic in their household as of 1860, and at the time of John’s death in 1862, a hospital steward wrote a letter expressing John’s desire that his children give his best wishes “to Mr. Tylar and others that I have forgotten their names.” It seems perhaps more likely, however, that the children may have been hired out to different households when John enlisted, and it is unknown how their living situations may have changed when word was received of his death.

Sarah Alice Fenton, who was known as Sallie, married in 1863 to Frederick Augustus Stockbridge, a widowed farmer fifteen years her senior. Together they had six children: Clara Violet, Nellie Jane, Elva Cecelia, Chester Foote, Emily Grace, and Frederick Fenton Stockbridge. Sarah’s eldest daughter, Clara, became the wife of Baptist minister Reverend Henry Stills Black, and with him traveled west. While in northern Idaho’s Silver Valley, Clara became acquainted with a photographer who was in need of an assistant, and she recommended her younger sister, Nellie, for the job. Nellie ultimately spent the next six decades as a photographer in Wallace, Idaho, with her work—now held by the University of Idaho, and also on display at the Barnard-Stockbridge Museum—providing a rich historical record of the area. Sarah did not settle in Idaho herself, nor did she follow her daughter Elva to Oklahoma, her daughter Emily to Oregon, or her son Chester to eastern Washington; she remained in Pana for most of her adult life. Eventually, however, some years after she was widowed, she moved to western Washington state to live with her youngest son, Frederick, and she died in Tacoma in 1927 at the age of eighty-three.

Harriet Fenton, or Hattie, as she was called, never married. She lived out her life in Pana, where she spent some time supporting herself as a domestic servant and as a dressmaker before moving in with her sister’s family. By 1887, she was known to be suffering from breast cancer, and in 1893, at the age of forty-eight, she passed away as a result of what the local newspaper called “petrifying cancer.” Newspapers far and wide printed this fact, stating briefly and without further detail, “A large portion of her body was completely petrified.”

John Albert Fenton followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Union army in 1864 at the age of sixteen—although he claimed to be eighteen. He served in Company H of the 61st Illinois Infantry, survived the war, and in 1874, married Ella Elvira Cogan in Parke County, Indiana. They had four children, two of whom survived to adulthood: Harry Cogan and Anna A. Fenton. Harry, notably, graduated from Wabash College and became a reporter, working for the Indianapolis News as well as the Associated Press in Washington, D.C. He then served as secretary to Indiana Governor Warren T. McCray and became further involved in Indiana politics, eventually serving on the state’s alcoholic beverages commission. Anna married in and lived out her life in Indiana. As for John himself, he worked for many years as a teamster and then as a foreman at a Crawfordsville, Indiana brick factory before his death in 1919 at the age of seventy-one.

George W. Fenton, the youngest of the four, left Illinois in 1871 at the age of nineteen, having likely spent most of his teenage years as a farm laborer. In the company of two other ambitious young men, he made his way to Saline County, Kansas, where he settled in 1872. The following year, he married sixteen-year-old Sarah Ellen Hall, and they had three daughters: Minnie Belle, Alpha, and Anna Leota Fenton. All three went on to marry and have children of their own, ultimately settling in Minnesota, Colorado, and Iowa, respectively. George, however, faced an untimely end when he was accidentally shot and killed by his brother-in-law in 1880 at the age of twenty-eight.

Did the eleven far-flung grandchildren of John Fenton ever meet? It seems doubtful. The cousins were likely aware of each other, at least at one point; when John’s surviving children pursued a military pension in 1887, documentation was required regarding the names and ages of his children and, as George was deceased, the names and ages of George’s children as well. Within the pension file is a letter that Sarah’s teenage daughter Elva penned in response to a request for information, which noted, “Uncle George was born in Monroe Falls Ohio and died at in Saline Co. Kansas Oct. 10 1880. We have no record of his children’s age and the letter which had them in is lost. As near as we can remember Minnie will be 12 next June Alpha 10 next March and Leota 8 next Feb.” In the years to come, however, as the families of John’s children and grandchildren became even more geographically dispersed, further contact may well have ceased.

Copyright © 2022 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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Michael and Magdalena

Little is known about Michael Noehl and Magdalena Hoffman, a couple who spent their married life in the village of Holsthum, Eifelkreis Bitburg-Prüm, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Holsthum was described by one of their sons as “situated in a lovely valley of rich agricultural land, crowned with fruit trees, and further off, with magnificent forests, between nurseries and rose plantations.” Even now it remains a quaint, pastoral village.

Michael Noehl, one of at least eight children of Johannes Noehl and Elisabeth Gierens, was born in Niederstedem, Eifelkreis Bitburg-Prüm, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany on 22 June 1828. Nothing is known of his childhood, but as a young man, he entered the military. According to the memoirs of his son, Michael served as a Prussian soldier in Koblenz between the years 1847-1851; during the Baden Revolution in 1848, he stood sentry at the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress.

After his service, Michael married Magdalena Hoffman, who was born on 21 Jul 1833 in Holsthum, one of at least four children of Mathias Hoffman and Magdalena Ehr. Michael and Magdalena were married on 12 February 1857; Michael was twenty-eight and Magdalena twenty-three at the time of their marriage, which was recorded at Schankweiler. The Schankweiler Klaus is an eighteenth-century chapel and hermitage tucked into the forest approximately two miles from the village of Holsthum, and still stands today.

Schankweiler, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany photograph, 2009; privately held by Melanie Frick, 2013.

Together, the couple had seven sons: Mathias (1858), Michael (1860), Nikolaus (1864), Nikolaus (1866), Mathias (1868), Johann (1870), and Jakob (1873). Notably, despite name repetition among their sons, it is believed that all survived to adulthood. (This is not the first case of name repetition among children of this region that I have observed.)

Mathias Noehl (1868-1950), second from right, with brothers, perhaps Nikolaus, Johan, and Jakob Noehl, Holsthum, Germany, 1938; digital image 2009, privately held by Roland Noehl, Holsthum, Germany, 2009.

A great-grandson of Michael and Magdalena remembered being told that Michael was a forester, and Magdalena certainly had her hands full raising seven sons, but few details are known of their adult lives. One of their sons recalled completing school at the age of fourteen and going to work herding sheep to help his parents pay off a debt on their property; later this same son was apprenticed to a rose grower, so it may be assumed that their other sons were similarly established with apprenticeships.

Michael saw several of his siblings immigrate to America in the nineteenth century; his sister Susanna and his brothers Matthias and Johann all settled in Minnesota. Likewise, Magdalena saw a paternal aunt and a paternal uncle immigrate to Minnesota and Iowa. Later, Michael and Magdalena bade farewell to two of their own children who left their homeland to try their luck on American soil: Michael in 1881 and Mathias (1868) in 1886. From these two sons then came fifteen American grandchildren whom Michael and Magdalena never had the opportunity to meet.

Michael and Magdalena lived out their lives in Holsthum, surviving at least to their sixties, as it is known that their son Mathias came from America to visit in 1894 and found them in good health at that time. To the best of my knowledge, however, their graves, according to German custom, have long since been recycled and are no longer marked.

Copyright © 2022 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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An Old Settler of Illinois

When Mary (Hall) Rhine, the wife of William Rhine, both of Washington County, Illinois, died on 20 May 1898 at the age of eighty-nine, she was the mother of fourteen, grandmother of thirty-one, great-grandmother of thirty-nine, and great-great-grandmother of four children. 

Mary is presumed to be the daughter of Isaac Hall (1776-1852) and sister of Jonathan, Isaac, and Elithan Hall, all of whom ultimately settled in Washington County, Illinois. Her identity—both as a Hall and as a member of this particular Hall family—remains unconfirmed, but there are compelling connections.

Mary was said to have been born in Montgomery County, Tennessee, in 1809, and married William Rhine circa 1825 in what is now Saline County, Illinois, where they spent the first years of their married life. Her presumed eldest brother, Jonathan, owned a neighboring parcel of land, and another neighbor, James Hampton, husband of Mary Elizabeth Hall, was believed to be kin. In 1832, William Rhine served with James Hampton’s Company in the Black Hawk War, enlisting in Gallatin County—as did Jonathan Hall, Mary’s presumed brother.

In the 1840s, William and Mary acquired land in what was known as Three Mile Prairie in Washington County. The first parcel purchased was located catercorner from land owned by Isaac Hall (whether this was Mary’s presumed father or brother is unknown) and the additional parcels that they purchased in the years to come were all located within the vicinity of land owned by Mary’s presumed brothers Jonathan, Isaac, and Elithan Hall. Worth note is that in 1868, following Elithan’s death, William Rhine received approximately ten dollars owed to him from his estate. Indeed, the Hall brothers, like Mary, all lived out the rest of their lives in Washington County, and she was not the only one to live to an advanced age; Isaac, too, lived well into his eighties and was said to have enjoyed long walks even in his later years. 

Rhine_Mary_Hall

Mary (Hall) Rhine, Washington County, Illinois, circa 1860; courtesy of the Nashville (Illinois) Public Library.

Even if it turns out that Mary was not a member of this Hall family, her obituary relates experiences that may have been common among southern Illinois settlers of the 1810s:

“Mrs. Rhine was one of our county’s and state’s oldest settlers, having come to the state with her parents, who settled in Salene [sic] county before Illinois was admitted to statehood. The relating of her experiences during the early days in this state would make interesting pages of history. She had seen the great state of Illinois in its natural and undeveloped state. She had witnessed the scalping of her playmates and neighbors by the unruly Indians when the settlers were compelled to live in forts as a protection against the Red Men.”

Mary and her family, of course, were among those whose westward movements displaced and antagonized local Indigenous communities. If she was indeed a daughter of Isaac Hall, it is estimated that she and her family remained in Tennessee at least until 1813, when Mary’s presumed brother Elithan was said to have been born there, and arrived in Illinois at some point before it achieved statehood in 1818. 

A number of Mary’s descendants appear as autosomal DNA matches to descendants of her presumed brothers Jonathan, Isaac, and Elithan Hall, lending further credibility to their connection. However, additional research is necessary to confirm their relationship and formally add to the Hall family story.

Copyright © 2021 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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Old-Fashioned Fun in 1921

On 09 November 1921, a taffy pulling party was held in a small Nebraska town. The Decatur Herald reported, “A number of young folks were present and [a] real jovial evening was spent” at the home of Mr. and Mrs. George Thoma. Hosting this event, I suspect, was their eldest daughter, fourteen-year-old Fern Thoma, who was in ninth grade at the local school. Taffy pulls became popular in the nineteenth century and involved boiling up a sugary mixture that was then pulled, folded, and pulled again by teams of individuals with well-buttered hands, the end result being a quantity of candy to share and eat. As a social event, taffy pulls were particularly popular among mixed groups of young women and young men.

Fern, the daughter of a local merchant, was by all accounts a social girl; the newspaper shared several accounts of her activities as a young teenager before her family left Decatur in March 1922. During her eighth grade year, in February 1921, the Decatur Herald had noted, “Fern Thoma, Ina Lambert, Maxine Choyce, Elizabeth Akins, Gladys Gilson and Eleanor Darling gave a party at the home of Fern Thoma on Friday night. There were 28 boys and girls present, and the evening was spent in games.” Perhaps this party included Fern’s entire class; while only seventeen youth are pictured in her ninth grade class photograph, her eighth grade class may have been larger. As an eighth-grader, as shared in the Decatur Herald, Fern also participated in a Junior Audubon Society with the role of reporter.

Fern Thoma (1907-2006), front center, with ninth grade class, Decatur, Nebraska, October 1921; digital image 2010, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2021.

Outside of school, Fern, along with several of her aforementioned girlfriends, were piano students of local teacher Mrs. E. A. Sears. In April 1919, when Fern was in sixth grade, the Decatur Herald shared: “The younger pupils of Mrs. E. A. Sears will give a program at the home of Mrs. E. A. Hanson’s on Tuesday evening, April 22nd, at 8 o’clock, for the benefit of the organ fund of the Episcopal Church. Everyone cordially invited to attend, and bring a silver offering. Those taking part in the program, are the Misses Maxine Choyce, Rachael Hanson, Ina Lambert, Helen Farrens, Edith Skalovsky, Agnes Busse, Eleanor Darling, Fern Thoma, and Evelyn French; Masters Albert Bysse and Gerald Eagleton. Come and hear the ‘Bell Symphony’ and see the ‘Fairy Queen.'” Later that year, Fern was one of two girls who performed “beautiful solos” at a Decoration Day event.

As a ninth grader, Fern played the Valse-Arabesque by Theodore Lack at a musical program for the “older students” of Mrs. E. A. Sears, which, again, included a number of her girlfriends. It is not known if Fern continued with her musical instruction after her family left Decatur for another small Nebraska town; in any case, while she was not known to be musical as an adult, playing popular songs on the piano would have been a lively way for her to entertain friends as a teenager—when her hands were not covered in sticky taffy, of course!

Copyright © 2021 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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An Iowa Ancestor Without a Church

Churches can be excellent sources of ancestral records, but determining an ancestor’s religious affiliation is not always straightforward—and, in some cases, an ancestor may not have been affiliated with a church all.

In the 1895 Iowa census, it was recorded that Hiram Hammond, an eighty-two year old retired farmer residing in Allamakee County, had no “religious belief.” This initially surprised me—wouldn’t it have been terribly unusual, even shameful, to openly declare a lack of religious belief at this time, particularly in a small Midwestern town? A quick scan of the neighbors recorded on the same page of the census, however, suggests that this may not have been the case. Out of thirty-one individuals recorded on a single page of this particular census, four others were noted to have no religious belief while one other was left blank. Those who did claim religious belief were either Lutheran, Methodist Episcopalian, or Congregational.

Hiram’s wife Eva Margaretha (née Stoehr) was recorded in the same census as being affiliated with the Lutheran church. As she was a German immigrant, this was not unexpected; decades earlier, she and Hiram had been married by a Lutheran minister. However, three of the couple’s four surviving adult children also appeared in the 1895 Iowa census, in separate households, and their affiliations differed from one another: their eldest son John was, like his father, recorded with no religious belief, while their daughter Mathilda was Lutheran and their daughter Louisa was Congregational. All three of their children’s spouses were Lutheran.

Marriage of Hiram Hammend [Hammond] and Margaretha Stoehr, 02 December 1854, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Garnavillo, Clayton County, Iowa; digitized photocopy courtesy of Ken Johnson, 2018.

Twenty years later—nineteen years after Hiram’s death, and nine years after Eva Margaretha’s—the same three adult children appeared in the 1915 Iowa census. This time, the space for John’s church affiliation was left blank, Mathilda was recorded as having no church affiliation, and Louisa was now Lutheran. It seems that Hiram’s apparent lack of interest in religion may have been shared by at least two of his children, if not three; son George lived out of state and was again not included in the Iowa census, so his affiliation is unknown.

Much of Hiram’s early life remains a mystery, and it is unknown whether he may have been affiliated with a church during the first thirty-odd years of his life before he wound up in Iowa Territory in 1845. After his death in 1896, the local newspaper printed an obituary that made no mention of any church affiliation, past or present, nor even a passing reference to Christianity in general. It did note positively Hiram’s success as a farmer and called him “a kindly neighbor and friend,” which leads me to believe that he was well-regarded in his community in any case. Hiram spent more than fifty years in northeastern Iowa, and his life as a farmer and father seems to have been a quiet one. It is believed that he was illiterate—his will was signed with a mark—and his name did not appear in local politics nor in a contemporary collection of local biographies.

Hiram’s funeral service, held at home, was led by Reverend Bargelt of the Methodist Episcopalian Church of Postville; this was the small town in which Hiram had retired several years prior. Perhaps Hiram did attend services at this church prior to his death—or what was perhaps more likely was that the reverend was a family friend simply performing a favor and following local custom. In contrast, his wife’s funeral services in 1906 were led by Reverend Puhl of the St. Paul Lutheran Church of Postville; Eva Margaretha’s affiliation with the Lutheran church had apparently remained constant throughout her adult life. If Hiram had not, perhaps, remained loyal to a hypothetical church of his boyhood, which lacked a presence in northeastern Iowa, then it seems plausible that he truly was a nineteenth-century “religious none.”

Copyright © 2021 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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A Silesian Family in Minnesota

Johann and Maria (Kulot) Cichos and their children were not alone in leaving their home village of what is now Nowa Wieś Książęca, Poland, located in a region known as Lower Silesia, to settle in a small farming community in south-central Minnesota. Many of their neighbors had made and would make the same journey, all playing their parts in a story of chain-migration repeated across other Silesian communities and terminating in Minnesota’s Faribault and Blue Earth counties, where farmland was both more plentiful and more arable than in the old country.

Nowa Wieś Książęca (formerly Fürstlich Neudorf) is located approximately forty-five miles east of Wrocław (formerly Breslau), the historical capital of Silesia and Lower Silesia. The older population is said to speak a Lower Silesian dialect to this day, and the nineteenth-century Church of the Holy Trinity still stands near the center of the village. However, it was in the neighboring village of Trębaczów (formerly Trembatschau), at the eighteenth-century Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, that Johann Cichos and Maria Kulot were married on 20 January 1852. They had five children in Nowa Wieś Książęca: Elizabeth, Hedwig, Johanna, Franz, and an unnamed son, their first child, who was stillborn. It seems that only Hedwig and Franz were living at the time that the Cichos family emigrated from Poland.

Johann and daughter Hedwig, who was then eighteen years old, left Poland first. In November 1873, they traveled together from Bremen to New York aboard the Hansa. Six months later, Maria and nine-year-old son Franz followed; they were in the company of numerous others from their home village who were also bound for Minnesota. They departed from Hamburg, rather than Bremen, and arrived in New York aboard the aptly-named Silesia in May 1874.

Little is known about the lives of Johann and Maria in America. No oral history nor photographs remain. They settled in Minnesota Lake, Faribault County, Minnesota in 1874, and census records indicate that they were farmers. Their daughter Hedwig married in Minnesota Lake in 1875; between her first and second marriages, she had ten children, nine surviving, all of whom would have had the opportunity to know their grandparents. Sadly, however, Johann and Maria’s son Franz died in 1881 at the age of eighteen after contracting spinal meningitis.

IMG-8340

Declaration of Intention of Johann Cichos, 19 May 1890. Faribault County, Minnesota, District Court, Naturalization Records, John Cichos, naturalized 13 July 1897; Iron Range Research Center, Chisholm, Minnesota.

At the time of the 1900 census, a teenage granddaughter resided with Johann and Maria; both were by then seventy years of age. It was noted in the census that Maria could not speak English, a fact that is not altogether unsurprising. Although she had at that point lived in America for more than twenty-five years, as Minnesota Lake had a strong Polish presence, there would not have been a shortage of opportunities to hear and speak her native language or languages, which very likely included German as well. Johann, however, did speak at least some English, and had in fact received American citizenship, renouncing the Emperor of Prussia, in 1897.

Maria died in 1902 and Johann in 1907, both in Minnesota Lake, the only home they had known in America. At the time of Johann’s death, he owned forty acres of farmland, valued at that time at about $2,000; his daughter Hedwig was his sole heir. Both Johann and Maria (Kulot) Cichos were buried at St. John the Baptist Catholic Cemetery in Minnesota Lake.

Copyright © 2021 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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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.

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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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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