Fred and Matilda (Hammond) Thoma, or Fritz and Tillie as they were known in their community, spent their childhoods and the entirety of their married lives in the same rural county in northeastern Iowa. Fred Thoma was born to Bavarians Wilhelm Heinrich and Anna Margaretha (Poesch) Thoma on 4 December 1857 in Garnavillo, Clayton County, Iowa.1 Matilda Hammond was born to Hiram H. and Eva Margaret (Stoehr) Hammond on 4 May 1859 in Volga, Clayton County, Iowa.2 While Matilda’s father was a native of Ohio and an early settler in Iowa, her mother hailed from the same Bavarian village of Weißenstadt as Matilda’s in-laws.3
It seems likely that the couple crossed paths as children, although they lived in separate communities; the Weißenstadt immigrants were surely a close-knit bunch. Fred and Matilda married on 29 December 1879 at the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Clayton Center.4 The next year found them living in Garnavillo, where Fred was a clerk in his late father’s country store.5 That autumn, the couple became parents to the first of their eventual five children: George Hiram, Leonard Christopher Julius, Ludelia Maria, Roselyn Anna, and Norma Evaline.6 All but Norma survived to adulthood; sadly, she died in a diphtheria outbreak when she was ten years old.7
What few details are known of Fred and Matilda’s lives come from recollections of their granddaughters.8 The first thirty years of their marriage were spent in the town of Garnavillo, where Fred later had a restaurant and then worked as a laborer.9 Matilda was said to have been a midwife who delivered many children in Clayton County, although such skills were not recorded in the census. Fred allegedly had a fondness for drink, so when Matilda received an inheritance, she bought a farm away from town – and the saloons.10 The empty nesters enjoyed life in the countryside for the next fifteen years until Fred’s death in Clayton on 10 January 1925.11
As a widow, Matilda spent time in the homes of her daughter and granddaughter. In 1930, she experienced a different climate in Houston, Texas; by 1940, she had returned to the Midwest and resided in Wisconsin.12 It was there in Bridgeport, Crawford County, Wisconsin that she died on 21 August 1947 when she was approaching ninety years of age. She is buried beside her husband at the Garnavillo Community Cemetery.13
Copyright © 2015 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.