For decades, the records of St. John Lutheran Cemetery in Kellner, Wis., did not include a location for the grave of one of the church’s old settlers, Matthias Hannemann. His funeral and burial in May 1879 were recorded in the church register, but with no indication of burial location.
This more than century old mystery has been solved, however, and we now know where this early Hanneman forebear is laid to rest. As part of a research project for a forthcoming Hanneman history book, we found the grave location at the cemetery just southeast of Wisconsin Rapids.
Matthias Hannemann (1794-1879) is the earliest known ancestor of the Hanneman families of Wood and Portage counties of Wisconsin. He was the great-grandfather of Carl F. Hanneman of Mauston, Wis. Matthias came to America before June 1870 from Meesow, county Regenwalde, Pomerania, to settle with his children in north central Wisconsin.
During a site visit to St. John cemetery in July 2009, we determined that the earliest burials at the cemetery were physically arranged by date of death. Based on that, we determined Matthias would have been buried between August and Augusta Knoll (April 1878) and Carl Schmidt (October 1878). There was an unmarked grave in this spot, with a small portion of headstone poking above the grass.
We pulled back the overgrown grass and weeds and a light layer of sand to reveal a 1 foot square remnant of headstone. Some hints of lettering were visible on the badly weathered and corroded stone face. We photographed the stone and applied a variety of filters and effects to the photo file, but could not make out a name.
We asked Sue Alft, head of the St. John Cemetery committee, to visit the site. She agreed that the plot was the burial place of Matthias and his second wife, Caroline (Steffen) Hannemann. Coincidentally, Alft is descended from Matthias Hannemann through his daughter, Friedericke (Hannemann) Kruger (1825-1918).
William and Crystal Krosch faced unthinkable tragedy during their first years in Wisconsin. The joy at the birth of their daughter Ida Clara Krosch in February 1858 turned to dread and sadness just a few years later. Sick with diphtheria, little Ida died two days after Christmas 1861 at the family home in the town of Eagle in Waukesha County, Wisconsin.
Ida Krosch was laid to rest at Oak Grove Cemetery about a mile south of the village of Eagle. A 2-acre parcel carved out of the Kettle Moraine Forest, the cemetery was a scenic, peaceful place that no doubt brought some comfort to the family during visits to the little girl’s resting place. What shock they would feel if they witnessed what would become of the little country cemetery long after the family had moved to Minnesota.
What was going on in the world in December 1861? “It looks now as if we are to have good sleighing for Christmas, as several inches of snow fell during Sunday last,” wrote the Waukesha Freeman on Dec. 24, 1861. The newspapers were promoting a Waukesha visit by Gen. Tom Thumb, “America’s Man in Miniature” made famous by P.T. Barnum. And many local men were leaving their businesses to join Wisconsin troops in the Civil War.
The burial records of Oak Grove Cemetery are testament to the hardships of pioneer life in rural Waukesha County. It was common for families to lose young children to diseases such as diphtheria or typhoid fever. Ironically, an article run in the Waukesha Freeman the week Ida died wrongly predicted that diphtheria would be fatal in just one of 100 cases. Diphtheria would become the No. 1 killer of children in America during the coming decades.
The cemetery is replete with stories of the sadness of youth lost. James Lowry died at age 5 in 1858. Ada Severance died at age 4 in 1855. Arden Baldwin died at age 3 just months before Ida Krosch. Oscar Jaycox was just 1 when he died in 1858. Arthur Bigelow was 2 when he died in 1855. Orlando Cook was a mere 8 months old when he died in 1852.
Peter Grems, reported to be the first veterinarian in the Wisconsin Territory, is buried here. Charles Kilts, a bugler for Company K of the 1st Wisconsin Volunteers in the Civil War, is buried here, too. He died in September 1862.
No doubt the graves of these folks were tended to with care for many decades, but Oak Grove Cemetery has now become a sad monument of neglect and abandonment.Monuments have been toppled. Headstones lie in pieces. Many headstones are leaning badly. Grave sites are covered in thicket. Some have been swallowed by the encroaching forest. The wrought iron fence that separates the cemetery from nearby Highway 67 is rusty and listing. No doubt the families of these souls would be heartsick to see the state of this burial ground.
Ironically, Oak Grove Cemetery is just across the road from Old World Wisconsin, the world’s largest museum on the history of rural life. Old World Wisconsin is run by the Wisconsin Historical Society. Maybe if they included their neighboring cemetery on their tours this hallowed ground would not be in such deplorable shape.
For the most part, burials stopped at Oak Grove in 1967, 125 years after the cemetery was founded. We did find one interment at Oak Grove in 2007. Since the cemetery association that cared for the land disbanded long ago, upkeep of the cemetery falls to the local government. It appears the grass gets mowed, but that is no doubt where the maintenance stops.
Under Wisconsin law, circuit courts can compel local municipalities to care for abandoned cemeteries, or even order the reinterment of the deceased in new cemeteries. Given that Oak Grove is a pioneer cemetery with the remains of the founding families of Eagle, as well as many Civil War veterans, it is very sad that more pride is not taken in preserving it.
Little Ida Clara Krosch’s tombstone can no longer be found at Oak Grove Cemetery. Maybe that’s just as well. Her parents and their descendants would no doubt hang their heads in sadness and shame to see what became of little Oak Grove Cemetery.
FAMILY LINE: John Frederick Krosch >> William F. Krosch >> Ida C. Krosch
When 16-year-old Henrietta Krosch embarked on a long ship journey from Jessnitz Germany to America, she could not have known that her memory would echo in family history for more than 150 years. When she and her family stepped off the ship Bertha in New York in July 1854, they were headed for Waukesha County, Wisconsin. She would meet a young blacksmith named Philipp Treutel, get married and become mother to many generations. And now we discover her photograph is still a part of living history.
Henrietta’s great-grandson, David D. Hanneman, was a pack rat. Over many decades during his 74 years, David (my Dad) tucked away countless family items, from scraps of letters to an extensive collection of old photographs. After his death in April 2007, the photograph shown above was found in his collection. Mounted on photo board with a black oval matte, the photo has the following written on the back:
“Henrietta Krosch Treutel. Married to Philipp Treutel. Parents of Lena Treutel Moody (Wm); Lisetta Treutel (Winfield); Henry Treutel (married to Josephine Garlack); Charles (Mary Miller); Oscar; Emma Treutel Carlin (Orville); Walter Treutel (Mary Helen Ladick).
The photograph likely dates to between 1901 and 1908. The Treutels moved to Wood County in 1901 and Henrietta died in 1908. The photographer’s imprint on the photo is from Nekoosa in southern Wood County.
Family Line: John Frederick Krosch >> Henrietta (Krosch) Treutel >> Walter Treutel >> Ruby (Treutel) Hanneman >> David D., Donn and Lavonne Hanneman