Tag Archives: immigrants

Johann Wiese and a DNA Connection

Johann Wiese of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany was sixty-five years old and a widower when he boarded the Borussia in Hamburg on 31 October 1868.1 He traveled with Caroline Wiese, twenty, as well as with a young man whom Caroline would marry within months of their arrival in America.2 All named Wendisch Baggendorf, a landed estate located near the town of Grimmen in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, as their place of origin.3

Interestingly, one day later, several other Wieses departed from Hamburg: Carl Wiese, twenty-three, with his wife, both also of Wendisch Baggendorf, and Joachim Wiese, twenty-seven, with his wife and child.4 They resided in Barkow, an estate located near modern-day Klevenow, which is only a few miles from Wendisch Baggendorf.5 Both Carl and Joachim and their families traveled aboard the Electric, which, like the Borussia, was bound for New York.6

“Kirche in Kirche Baggendorf,” 2009, Kirche Baggendorf (near Wendisch Baggendorf), Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany; Wikimedia Commons, copyright Klugschnacker.

I might not have noted the connection between the Wieses who left Hamburg for New York one day apart if it were not for spotting several interesting member matches within the AncestryDNA results for my grandmother, the great-granddaughter of Joachim Wiese. Each of these matches named Caroline Wiese as a direct ancestor, which led me to the ship manifest that revealed that Caroline had traveled with a Johann Wiese of an appropriate age to be her father; appropriate, too, that a father would accompany his yet-unmarried daughter overseas.

Caroline, as stated, married shortly after her arrival in America; she and Gustav Beth were wed on 10 January 1869 in Dundee, Kane County, Illinois.7 Carl and Joachim Wiese, on the other hand, both settled in Chicago’s 15th Ward with their families.8 While Johann Wiese has not been located in the 1870 or 1880 censuses, and does not appear in the households of Caroline, Carl, or Joachim, it is possible he was simply not counted in the census if, for example, he was en route to the home of another child and was missed by the census enumerator, or if a neighbor provided information about the family to the census enumerator and failed to mention him.

Cook County, Illinois, death certificate no. 28339, John Wiese; Cook County Clerk, Chicago.

Ultimately, it appears Johann Wiese spent the final fifteen years of his life in Illinois, although thus far little is known about how he spent those years.9 Similarly, little is known about his life in Pomerania; records note only that he was a laborer, and as serfdom was abolished in the area in 1820, he was perhaps contracted to work on an estate in Wendisch Baggendorf or the vicinity.10

According to his death record, he died on 02 August 1883 at 144 Newton Street in Chicago at the age of eighty.11 His death was attributed to old age.12 Intriguingly, Carl Wiese resided at this address, further strengthening the potential of a connection beyond their shared Wendisch Baggendorf origins and their emigration one day apart.13 It seems logical to assume that Johann Wiese might have been cared for in his last days by his son.

Johann Wiese is buried in Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery; today, while the location of his grave has been identified, it is unmarked.14

Copyright © 2017 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.
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The Nelson Family at Home

The leaves had already fallen from the trees surrounding the modest two-story farmhouse belonging to Fred and Christina (Schmidt) Nelson when this photograph was taken in late 1904.1 Situated near the scenic bluffs along the Missouri River west of Yankton, Yankton County, South Dakota, the house was said to have had a creek running through the corner of the kitchen as a source of fresh water.2 Its simple, symmetric design featured a center door and four front windows on its clapboard walls, with a chimney appearing above the gable roof on one side. The house was likely painted white with a trim of a different color around the windows and door. Many trees surrounded the house, which was situated on an incline; the remote, wooded landscape seems to lend truth to family lore of the children fearing howling wolves (or coyotes?) as they walked to and from the nearest country school.3

Fred and Christina (Schmidt) Nelson and Family, Yankton County, South Dakota, 1904; digital image 2017, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2017.

Fred and Christina, both of whom immigrated from Denmark as children, married in 1890.4 Fred, at left, was forty years old in late 1904; he wears a loose-fitting sack suit and hat and sports a mustache.5 At center stands son Ole, ten, beside Christina, thirty-five.6 She holds baby Mary, who was born in February of that year.7 While Ole is clearly dressed for the outdoors in a coat and cap, Christina, like her daughters, wears no jacket or shawl. Her simple buttoned bodice and unadorned skirt appear comfortable for a nursing mother as well as household duties.

The open door behind Christina suggests that perhaps she and the girls had just stepped outside for the photograph. In a cluster at right stand Anna, thirteen; Helena, nearly or barely four; Louise, five; Julia, twelve; and Andrea, nearly eight.8 All of the girls wear their hair neatly parted and plaited down the back; it was said that the sisters would line up each morning, oldest to youngest, to braid each other’s hair.9 They wear dresses that, with the exception of the youngest’s, fall below the knees, and all wear dark stockings. Their dresses have high necks and full bishop sleeves; a few additional details can be distinguished, such as the plaid fabric of Andrea’s dress and the belt at Anna’s waist.10

The occasion for this photograph is not known, although perhaps it was taken by an itinerant photographer who made stops at rural homes throughout the Midwest. Unlike formal studio portraits of the era, this photograph is as much about the place as the people, allowing a glimpse into the lives of the Nelson family that would otherwise be missed.

Copyright © 2017 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.
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From Germany to Chicago’s Old Town

Clara (Bach) Marbach was born in Luxembourg near the border of the district of Bitburg-Prüm, Rhineland-Pfalz, Germany, the daughter of Johannes and Anna Maria (Thiel) Bach.1 She married Mathias Marbach in June of 1835,2 and the couple had six known children in the decade that followed: Anna,3 Catharina,4 Elisabetha (I),5 Elisabetha (II),6 Adamus,7 and Elisabetha (III).8 The family is believed to have resided in the village of Prümzurlay, known for its castle ruins upon sandstone bluffs that overlook its scenic valley.

Photograph of Prümzurlay, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany, as viewed from Prümerburg, 2009; privately held by Melanie Frick, 2017.

Following the death of her husband, Clara left Germany for America in the company of two of her daughters, Elisabetha (I) and Elisabetha (III), along with their husbands and children.9 A third daughter, Anna, would emigrate twenty years later.10 Clara traveled aboard the Holland and arrived in New York in June of 1871, thirty-four years after she had married.11 She and her daughters made their way to Chicago where they settled near St. Michael’s Catholic Church, located in what is today the heart of Chicago’s Old Town.

Sadly, within days of their arrival, Clara’s six-month-old grandson succumbed to pneumonia.12 It was a difficult year; the Great Chicago Fire tore through the city in October of 1871, a horrifying disaster that would almost certainly have left Clara and her daughters homeless alongside an estimated 90,000 of the city’s inhabitants,13 and another grandson passed away at twenty-one months the following June amidst a scourge of cholera upon their neighborhood.14 The years to come were difficult as well, as Clara saw numerous grandchildren born and die, including one who succumbed to smallpox in an outbreak that devastated their community.15

The family’s neighborhood was known in the nineteenth century as the “Cabbage Patch” due to the large number of German immigrants who had farmed there in Chicago’s earliest years.16 When Chicago burned, St. Michael’s Catholic Church, the cornerstone of this German American community, was one of only a handful of buildings in the city to survive, although it was badly damaged and had to be reconstructed.17 Perhaps Clara was among the parishioners who attempted to bury some of the church’s valuables in the church yard as the fire approached, and she and her daughters, son-in-laws, and grandchildren may have huddled in an open field or at Lincoln Park on the shores of Lake Michigan as the fire roared through the area.18

At the time of the 1880 U.S. census, nine years after her arrival, Clara lived at the home of her daughter Elisabetha (III), who, at thirty-five, had been twice widowed and once abandoned, a state that earned her the designation of “grass widow” by the census enumerator.19 Elisabetha supported herself and her stepchildren by sewing, while Clara, by then in her mid-seventies, kept house.20 Their neighborhood had been entirely rebuilt following the Great Chicago Fire, thanks to a flood of donations, including building materials, from relief societies.21

Cook County, Illinois, death certificate no. 66546, Clara Marbach; Cook County Clerk, Chicago.

Clara died five years later on 12 July 1885; she was reported to have reached the age of eighty-two and eleven months and her cause of death was attributed to heart failure after having been bedridden for the previous three months.22 Clara (Bach) Marbach was buried at St. Boniface Catholic Cemetery in Chicago’s North Side neighborhood.23 Today, her grave, which rests in the company of those of several of her children and grandchildren, is unmarked.24

Copyright © 2017 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.
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The Danish Pioneers

Erik and Inger Marie (Hansen) Bramsen were in their sixties when they left their native Denmark to settle with their adult children in Dakota Territory.1 They had married on 1 September 1832 at Skrydstrup Kirke in Skrydstrup, Gram, Haderslev, Denmark, when Erik was twenty-eight and Inger Marie twenty-four.2 It was four decades later when they bade a final farewell to their farm, Hørløkkegaard, and their homeland.3

Erik Bramsen (1803-188–), circa 1870-1880; digital image 2010, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2017.

Inger Marie (Hansen) Bramsen (1808-1885), circa 1870-1880; digital image 2010, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2017.

These undated photographs, circa 1870-1880, may have been taken before or after the couple made their ocean voyage; as I have not seen the originals, only photocopies, I am unsure of their format or any other identifying information. Erik wears an unbuttoned double-breasted wool overcoat; while seated, it reaches his knees. Little detail can be discerned about the shirt he wears underneath, which has no visible buttons, but his trousers are of a straight, loose cut. He is clean-shaven, his hair is trimmed and combed to the side, and his eyes appear light in color. Seated in a chair with an arched back, Erik rests his left arm on a small table covered with an embroidered cloth. Tassels from a curtain are visible in the background.

Inger Marie sits before the same background, with the chair situated to the right of the table instead of the left and her right elbow resting on the table. It seems possible that she has suffered a stroke, as her mouth appears uneven and one eye droops. A bonnet with a white frilled trim frames her face and ties below her chin with a large bow. Her dress has fitted sleeves with ruched cuffs, and the bodice is of a darker color than the full skirt. The fabric has a sheen to it, and, while simple, the dress appears well-made and carefully fitted. Several elements of her attire support a date sometime in the 1870s, including the frilled trim on her bonnet and its substantial bow.4

The couple arrived in New York aboard the Cimbria on 14 August 1872, within weeks of their fortieth wedding anniversary.5 They appear in the 1880 U.S. census for Yankton County, Dakota Territory,6 and both passed away in the years thereafter, Erik circa 1880 and Inger Marie in the spring of 1885 when she succumbed to tuberculosis.7 Erik and Inger Marie (Hansen) Bramsen are said to be buried in unmarked graves at Elm Grove Cemetery (formerly Maple Grove Cemetery) near Tabor, Yankton County, South Dakota, alongside many of their children and grandchildren who, like them, were pioneers.8

Copyright © 2017 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.
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A Baby Carriage in Dakota Territory

A new arrival in the family has meant that blogging my research findings has taken a backseat in recent months, but with babies on the mind, here is a peek at a sweet little one posed with his mother in the nineteenth century:

nielson_harry_andresen_hannah_1888

Hannah Marie (Andersen) Nielsen with Harry Niels Nielsen, Yankton, Dakota Territory, 1888-89; digital image 2014, privately held by [personal information withheld].

Pictured is Hannah Marie (Andersen) Nielsen, wife of Ole Nielsen of Yankton, Yankton County, South Dakota, with her infant son Harry Niels Nielsen.1 Harry was to be the couple’s only surviving child; a daughter died in infancy.2 He was born 25 May 1888 in the town of Yankton,3 only a few months after the infamous Children’s Blizzard; his parents, both Danish immigrants, had married in 1880.4 At the time of Harry’s birth, Ole managed a dray line in Yankton, transporting heavy loads in a specially built wagon.5 Later, he would take up farming east of the nearby community of Mission Hill.6

In this photograph, Hannah, forty years of age, wears a dress with a full skirt, fitted sleeves, and a bodice fastened with no less than a dozen buttons.7 A brooch is pinned at her high collar and a flat-brimmed hat atop her head is adorned with feathers, adding an elegant statement to her otherwise relatively simple attire. What appears to be a strip of fabric is wrapped around the palm of her visible hand.

Harry, who looks to be less than a year old, dating this picture to South Dakota’s pre-statehood days of 1888-89, is dressed in a light-colored gown and a snug bonnet. He looks directly at the camera and a belt around his middle secures him to the seat of a baby carriage. The slatted basket is long enough that a smaller baby could lay flat until, like Harry, sitting upright against the fringed backboard would be possible.

I love that a baby carriage is featured here, unlike in any of the other nineteenth century baby photographs in my collection. However, I do have to wonder how practical it would have been at this time and place. While a bustling prairie town in its own right, Yankton was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a particularly urban environment, where a baby carriage might have proven more useful. Was it a prop at the Janousek studio, then, or did it belong to the Nielson familyperhaps a special luxury for a woman who had waited out eight years of marriage for a healthy child?

Whatever the case, this is a charming look at a proud mother and her well-behaved infant striking an elegant pose on the frontier. And, I have to say, the picturesque baby carriages of the nineteenth century were certainly more worthy of studio portraits than those of today!

Copyright © 2017 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.
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A Visit to an Alsatian Village

I can never forget the moment when I knocked at the door of a home in a small French village, a copy of my family tree chart in my hands as I stammered the phrase, “Bonjour. L’histoire de ma famille! to the startled teenage girl who answered. Thankfully, before long, with our fathers by our side—her father just so happened to be the mayor of Sondersdorf, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France—we managed to reach a mutual understanding of the fact that my father and I had ancestral roots in this village and would love to take a peek at the old records.

Sondersdorf_2006_02

Sondersdorf, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France photograph, 2006; privately held by Melanie Frick, 2016.

This was ten years ago, when I first traveled to Europe. Along with a few days spent in Paris and the ancestral village of my mother’s German grandfather, we also paid a visit to the charming Alsace region of northeastern France where my father’s great-great-grandfather had lived and served in the Franco-Prussian War.

Joseph Lutz, the son of Francois Joseph Lutz and Switzerland-native Marguerite Meister, was born 31 May 1844 in Sondersdorf, Haut Rhin, Alsace, France.1 In his mid-twenties when the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 broke out, family lore states that Joseph served and was injured.2 Following the war and its German victory, the residents of the newly annexed region of Alsace were informed that they could remain French citizens by removing to France by the fall of 1872, or they could stay in their homes and default to German citizenship.3 Joseph’s parents, who were over seventy by this time, apparently opted to stay in Sondersdorf; a move to French territory may well have proven to have been a great hardship, no matter if they would have preferred to remain French.4 In any case, it was said that Joseph did not wish to live under German rule.5 Thus, at the age of twenty-eight, he left Sondersdorf for America, where he settled in Faribault County, Minnesota, near other relatives.6

Sondersdorf_Cemetery_2006

Sondersdorf, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France photograph, 2006; privately held by Melanie Frick, 2016.

It was a treat to see Sondersdorf, although it was not quite the rugged and rocky village that my father had long envisioned. Although in a mountainous area with the snow-capped Alps within view, Sondersdorf boasted a tidy village situated among rolling green fields. We enjoyed exploring a beautiful old cemetery, where the Lutz surname was prominent, and paid a visit to the village church. If I recall correctly, it was a local who called down an inquisitive greeting from a shutter-framed window who directed us to the mayor’s home for our genealogical questions. After becoming acquainted with the mayor and his daughter in a mix of broken English, French, and German, we made plans to meet the next day to see the old vital records held in the local school building.

Ferrette_2006

Ferrette, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France photograph, 2006; privately held by Melanie Frick, 2016.

We were treated equally well by the people of Ferrette, a larger village nearby, where we stayed the night. Hearty Alsatian meals and investigating the crumbling castle ruins on its picturesque hillside kept us well entertained until it was time to return to Sondersdorf. There, we met again with the mayor, who allowed us to page through the centuries-old record books, brown ink faded on the pages. Although we didn’t conduct in-depth research, not wanting to take advantage of the mayor’s time, it was incredible to see so many family names recorded in their original form. Upon our departure, the mayor kindly presented me with a book about the history of the churches of the region, in which he inscribed the date and the place—much as Joseph Lutz had inscribed his prayerbook upon his departure from Sondersdorf, long ago.

Copyright © 2016 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.
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The Search for Y-DNA for Hiram H. Hammond

For years, about all I’ve known about the parents of Hiram H. Hammond has boiled down to the origins that were reported in four census records over a span of twenty-five years:

SOURCE FATHER MOTHER
1870 U.S. Federal Census1 Foreign Foreign
1880 U.S. Federal Census2 England Scotland
1885 Iowa State Census3 Native Native
1895 Iowa State Census4 Native Native

While Hiram, an Iowa farmer, was consistent in declaring that he was born circa 1813 in Ohio, he was apparently less certain about the origins of his parents. Or was he? Hiram may not have spoken for himself when the census enumerator came to the door; responses could have been given by his wife or another member of his household if he was not available. It’s also possible that some information might have been added by the enumerator after the fact, based on memory alone. Given that Hiram lived among many immigrants, his wife included, his parentage may have been presumed to be foreign as well.

In any case, this lack of consistency leaves me with questions today. Who am I looking for? Were Hiram’s father and mother born in England and Scotland, respectively? Or were they native-born with English and Scottish ancestral origins? If that’s the case, it would not be the first time that one of my ancestors took the question of nationality a little too far.

Now, however, I’m a bit closer to solving the mystery of Hiram’s parentage, thanks to a little something called Y-DNA. The Y chromosome, as explained by Family Tree DNA, “is passed almost unchanged from father to son,” so it can be useful in determining the origins of a surname and to make connections with cousins who share the same chromosome.5 In Hiram’s case, I hoped this would prove to be very useful.

Hiram is my fourth great grandfather; as I am descended from his daughter, thus immediately breaking the chain of father-to-son Y-DNA, I began tracing the descendants of his son with the hope of finding a living male relative who would be eligible to take a Y-DNA test. After reaching out to a distant Hammond-by-marriage in Iowa and an apparent game of hot potato with my letter of inquiry, I finally made contact with a Hammond-by-blood in Arkansas. Bingo! It was time to pull out the genetic guns, so to speak, and test this (wonderful! willing!) cousin’s Y-DNA.

There’s not much to be too excited about right now – as of yet, there are no matches on the 67-marker test – but there is always the chance that someone who shares Hiram’s Y-DNA will choose to test with Family Tree DNA in the future and in doing so establish a long-lost genetic connection. I’m prepared to monitor this account – and the Hammond DNA Project – for years, if that’s what it takes! A more pro-active approach, however, would be to find a living male descendant of another Hammond line that I suspect could be connected to Hiram.

“Old Log Cabin,” Jackson County, Iowa, 2010; digital image courtesy of user dadmw1, Panoramio, Google Maps. This cabin is situated approximately one mile south of the land purchased by Hiram H. Hammond in 1848.

My earliest records of Hiram H. Hammond come from his years in Jackson County, Iowa, where he acquired land in 1848. According to an 1852 Iowa census, Hiram was neighbor to an Andrew Hammond,6 and although Hiram moved away shortly thereafter,7 in 1854, Andrew remained in Jackson County with a new neighbor, Philow Hammond.8 I suspect that these Hammond men may have been sons of War of 1812 veteran Jonathan Hammond, who lived in Ohio, Hiram’s stated place of birth, during the appropriate period of time. Several of Jonathan’s other known sons include Orin Hammond, Reuben Hammond, and Lemuel Brooks Hammond, and intriguingly, a nephew also bears the somewhat distinctive name Hiram H. Hammond.9 However, more research is necessary to prove the relationships among the members of this particular Hammond family and to determine whether Hiram himself could feasibly be a relative.

If such a connection still seems plausible, or if another potential connection is found elsewhere on the paper trail, well, then it will be time to trace another line of male descendants for a willing Y-DNA test participant! 

Copyright © 2016 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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Tombstone Tuesday: Fred and Emma (Stübe) Wiese

Fred and Emma (Stübe) Wiese were German immigrants who lived out their adult lives in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. Although both were born in the late 1860s in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, an area of present-day Germany located along the Baltic Sea, they left their homeland as infants. Fred – or Fritz – was the son of Joachim and Sophia (Cammin) Wiese and is believed to have been born near Wendisch-Baggendorf;1 Emma was the daughter of Ernst and Friederike (Wagner) Stübe and was born in Friedrichshof in Ritteramt Gnoien.2 These rural communities were not far in terms of distance, but separated by the Trebel River, the Wieses were residents of Pomerania and the Stübes were residents of Mecklenburg.

Both Fred and Emma arrived in America before 1870.3 While the Wiese family settled immediately in Chicago,4 Emma spent her childhood in rural Huntley, McHenry County, Illinois before moving to the city after her father’s death.5 It’s possible that Fred and Emma crossed paths as early as 1880; by that time, Emma’s presumed uncle, Carl Stübe, lived in the same building as Fred’s presumed uncle, Carl Wiese.6 They may also have become acquainted as members of the Missouri Synod First Bethlehem Lutheran Church of Chicago, located in a neighborhood that saw much of its growth in the years following the Great Chicago Fire.7

It was there that the couple married on 19 February 1887.8 They would have five children together, the first born that summer: George Charles Wilhelm Wiese (1887-1975), Lillie Johanna Josephine Wiese (1889-1897), Rosa Minna Emma Bertha Wiese (1892-1918), Oliver William Charles Wiese (1896-1969), and Leonard John Christian Wiese (1900-1947). The early years of their marriage were spent in Chicago’s Fourteenth Ward, near their parish in Wicker Park.9 Tragedy touched their lives when their oldest daughter succumbed to cerebral meningitis at the age of eight;10 a few years prior, weeks before the opening of the Chicago World’s Fair, Emma had tended to her sixteen-year-old sister as she died of the same illness.11

Grave_Wiese_Fred_Elmwood_Cemetery.jpg

Grave of Fred Wiese (1866-1914), Elmwood Cemetery, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois; 2006, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2015. 

In 1902, seeking a fresh start, the family moved west from Wicker Park to a large home in the Montclare neighborhood. Their two-story Victorian home, which still stands today, was located on a corner lot and undoubtedly provided more space for the couple and their four surviving children.12 Fred supported his family as a cigar maker until his death from cirrhosis of the liver on 14 October 1914 when he was forty-eight years old. He was buried at Chicago’s Elmwood Cemetery.13

Grave_Wiese_Emma_Elmwood_Cemetery.jpg

Grave of Emma Wiese (1867-1937), Elmwood Cemetery, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois; 2006, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2015.

Emma remained in their home for more than two decades, crocheting “fancywork” as a modest means of support. She kept chickens, a garden, and was by all accounts a formidable housekeeper who used a rod to smooth the bed coverings to ensure that no wrinkles remained. In her later years, she had a German Shepherd, Sally, and her home was the gathering place for the weekly Saturday meal that she prepared for her children and their families. While her grandchildren considered her to be strict, she was also kind, offering them dimes for the movies and pennies for the organ grinder’s monkey.14 After Emma’s death from a stroke at the age of seventy on 6 November 1937, she, too, was buried at Elmwood Cemetery.15

Copyright © 2015 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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Wedding Wednesday: Puffed Sleeves

On a late September day in 1896, Elizabeth Hoffman of North Washington, Chickasaw County, Iowa affixed a gauzy, floor-length veil to her hair. It may have been crowned with flowers, although the faded photograph does not make this clear. Flowers or foliage of some kind – perhaps even autumn leaves? – were indeed attached to the front of her dress, although she wore no white gown. Her best dress was likely black or another dark color and fashionably made with a gathered bodice, narrow waist, and sleeves generously puffed to the elbow. (Anne Shirley would have been envious.)

Elizabeth’s attire is evidence that, at this time, even recent immigrants living in rural areas of the United States were aware of the latest fashion trends. Corsets were not worn by all women in the 1890s, and Elizabeth, already slim, was not dramatically corseted if she was at all.1 The gathered bodice was of a style worn throughout the decade, and while the care of these full leg o’ mutton sleeves was time-consuming, they were at the height of popularity in the middle of the decade.2

MathiasElizabethWedding

Mathias Noehl and Elizabeth Hoffman, wedding, North Washington, Iowa, 1896; digital image 2001, original held by J.H., 2015.

At the age of twenty-seven – her birthday had been just the week before – Elizabeth was to marry a fellow immigrant, Mathias Noehl.3 As it so happened, he hailed from the village of Holsthum, Bitburg-Prum, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany, which neighbored her own home village of Prümzurlay.4 By all accounts, however, their first meeting took place in northeastern Iowa, where Mathias encountered Elizabeth, whom he called Lizzie, at the Immaculate Conception Church in North Washington. She lived there as the housekeeper of Father Probst and the Sisters of Charity.5 The couple was married there on 22 September 1896 and may have celebrated with Elizabeth’s mother and siblings, who had also made Chickasaw County their home.6

A copy of Mathias and Elizabeth’s wedding portrait was shared with me by a relative; I suspect the original is a cabinet card photograph, popular at the turn of the century. I can’t make out much of the setting (is it grass or a rug at their feet?), but Mathias sits in a wicker chair while Elizabeth stands to the side, her right hand on his shoulder. In her left hand is clutched a small book, perhaps a prayerbook. As was typical of the time, neither of the newlyweds smile, and their faces are so faded in the copy that it’s difficult to see the direction of their gazes. Mathias has short hair; in his memoirs, he wrote that that, upon meeting Elizabeth, his blond hair was “unkempt like dried up flowers of the cemetery,” so a haircut may have been in order!7 He has a tidy mustache and wears a wool suit and white shirt. At twenty-eight, having recovered from an earlier heartbreak during his first years in America, he was prepared to settle down and start a family.8 Mathias and Elizabeth would go on to raise nine children on their farm.

This wedding portrait is one of several photographs that I have in my digital collection of the family of Mathias and Elizabeth (Hoffman) Noehl, both immigrants who came to Iowa from Germany in the late nineteenth century. For more photographs of the family of Mathias Noehl (1868-1950) and Elizabeth Hoffman (1869-1957), check out my new Noehl Family Album

Copyright © 2015 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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Tombstone Tuesday: Timothy and Odile (Millette) Adam

Timothy and Odile (Millette) Adam experienced nearly forty years of marriage together that were anything but ordinary.

Timothy, baptized in St. Pie, Quebec on 8 August 1846, the son of Timothée Adam and Marguerite Chicoine, crossed into America with his family as a teenager.1 They settled near the textile mills of Indian Orchard, Hampden County, Massachusetts, which is where Timothy married at the age of twenty-one on 22 September 1867 to Odile Millette.2 Odile had been born in the French Canadian community of Rouse’s Point, Clinton County, New York on 11 July 1847, the daughter of Maurice Millet and Isabelle Quemeneur dit Laflamme.3 She, too, had relocated to Massachusetts as a teenager, where she also found work in the mills.

The couple was said to have had ten children together, eight of whom have been identified: Timothy Maurice, Alexander Amadée Edmond (known as Edward), Joseph Frederick (known as Alfred), Marie Julie Malvina, Albina Lena, Henry Joseph, Martin Theodore, and Permelia Marie.4 Only five of these children are known to have survived to adulthood; at least one succumbed to scarlet fever as a toddler.5

In 1883, the family made the decision to move west.6 I have to wonder if this move was spurred by the deaths of at least two of their own young children circa 1880, as well as by the deaths of Timothy’s younger brother and sister who died within a week of each other in February of 1883: one of pneumonia at twenty and the other of tuberculosis at twenty-four.7 In fact, tuberculosis had caused the death of Timothy’s mother just five years before.8 Perhaps the idea of fresh air and the countryside appealed to the couple as they must have feared for the health of their children.

Timothy and Odile first joined French Canadian relations in southeastern South Dakota, where a son was born to them in the summer of 1885.9 In December of the following year, Timothy claimed a homestead a short distance away near Moville, Woodbury County, Iowa.10 The family would remain here for a number of years; by 1900, they had relocated to a dairy farm closer to Sioux City.11

The coming years were unexpectedly tumultuous for Timothy and Odile. First, in 1900, their twenty-nine-year-old son Edward, who had been out of touch for nearly a decade, returned home and began harassing his parents and younger siblings. Timothy went to court in order to obtain a restraining order against him.12 Then, over the next several years, Timothy and Odile may have suffered marital discord. Timothy was not recorded in the 1903 Sioux City Directory; he appeared again in the same household as his wife the following year.13 In 1905 he was again absent, and it was at this time that Odile implored the enumerator of the 1905 Iowa State Census to bring her any word of her two eldest sons, Edward and Fred, who had traveled west and had not been heard from in several years.14 It was also in 1905 that Odile recorded her will, leaving her real estate to her three youngest children: Henry, Theodore, and Permelia. No mention was made of her absent sons – or her husband.15

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Grave of Odile Milliette Adam (1847-1906) and Timothy Adam (1840-1919), St. Joseph Cemetery, Elk Point, Union County, South Dakota; 2014, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2015. Note: Timothy’s date of birth on his gravestone is incorrect. He was born in 1846.

In 1906, the final year of Odile’s life, she operated a boarding house at 508 Perry in Sioux City.16 Notably, Timothy resided not at home, but at the Washington House Hotel.17 It does seem possible, however, that the couple reconciled whatever differences they may have had by the time of fifty-nine-year-old Odile’s death from hepatitis on 16 December 1906 in Elk Point, Union County, South Dakota.18 Notably, when the 1907 Sioux City Directory was printed at some point in late 1906, likely shortly before her death, both Odile and Timothy were named as residents of 508 Perry.19

Timothy, a carpenter again as he had been in his younger years, remained in the house with his children for only a short time before resettling in nearby Jefferson, Union County, South Dakota. He remained here for the next decade; as of 1910, he operated a billiard hall in this small, largely French Canadian community.20

By 1917, Timothy, now seventy, had returned to Sioux City where he lived with his married daughter.21 He died there on 22 February 1919 at the age of seventy-two, his cause of death recorded as senility.22 Timothy Adam was buried beside his wife, Odile Millette, at St. Joseph Cemetery in Elk Point, Union County, South Dakota, his name squeezed as though an afterthought at the base of her gravestone.

Copyright © 2015 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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