Tag Archives: Germany

Hanneman Farm in the Library of Congress

Nestled within the two dozen photo collections in the Library of Congress American Memory project is an image of grain threshing on a Hanneman farm in central Nebraska in the opening years of the 20th century.

Work on the grain threshing stopped just long enough for the farm laborers to pose for a photograph taken by Solomon D. Butcher. The caption reads: “Threshing crew on farm of E.F. Hanneman, Watertown, Buffalo County, Nebraska.” The year was 1903. The image was submitted to the Library of Congress by the Nebraska State Historical Society. 

A cropped section of the Library of Congress photo. It might be Ernest Hanneman standing at center.
A cropped section of the Library of Congress photo. It might be Ernest Hanneman at center.

The glass-plate negative photo is interesting for several reasons. One is the hand-drawn accents, such as the smoke coming from the steam engine and the straw pouring from the chute of the thresher. In the age of Adobe Photoshop and digital photo manipulation, these details might cause a chuckle. The “smoke” hardly looks real. But these details are charming nonetheless, a look at how photographers created detail and motion in photographs of that era.

Another detail section of the Library of Congress image. Note the hand-drawn grain coming from the thresher chute.
Another detail section of the Library of Congress image. Note the hand-drawn grain coming from the thresher chute.

The photo is not only of a Hanneman family farm, but it also has ties to Wisconsin. The “E.F. Hanneman” mentioned in the caption refers to Edward F. Hanneman, who lived much of his life in Buffalo County, Nebraska. Edward was born in Wisconsin in October 1880, presumably in Columbia County north of Madison. His family lived there for a time before moving west to Nebraska.

Ernest and Maria Hanneman from FindAGrave.com (submitted by Charmaine Becker).
Ernest and Maria Hanneman photo  from FindAGrave.com (submitted by Charmaine Becker).

Edward’s father, Ernest Ludwig Friedrich Hanneman, was born in Pomerania in 1843. He came to America in 1861. Ernest’s parents, Dietrich and Maria Hanneman, settled in Columbia County, but had both died by 1880. Dietrich and Maria are buried in Hillside Cemetery in Columbus, Wis. By the time of the 1900 U.S. Census, the Ernest Hanneman family had settled in Amanda Township in Buffalo County, Nebraska.

We’ve noted on these pages before that Columbia County, Wisconsin, was one of the Wisconsin Hanneman enclaves in the late 1800s. There were others in Dane, Fond du Lac, Dodge, Marathon, Wood, Portage, Racine, Winnebago and Outagamie counties. My Hanneman line settled in Portage and Wood counties, starting in 1861. There could be a connection between the Dietrich Hanneman line and my line (Matthias Hanneman, 1794-1879). More research is needed.

Many, if not most, of the Hannemans who settled the U.S. Midwest in the 1800s came from the Duchy of Pomerania, a long-ago Baltic state which is now part of Poland and Germany. My family line goes back to at least 1550 in Kreis (county) Regenwalde, Pomerania. Some of the Marathon County Hannemans moved west and settled in Lake County, South Dakota. Some Hannemans who emigrated to Wisconsin later settled in Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska.

The American Memory project was one of the Library of Congress’ early efforts to digitize some 5 million images from its trove of priceless photographs. It invited submissions from libraries and historical societies around the nation. The Edward F. Hanneman farm photo was part of the collection “Prairie Settlement: Nebraska Photographs and Family Letters.”

©2016 The Hanneman Archive

Maj. Julius R. Hannemann: Washington’s Ceremonial Cannon Man

It would be easy to say that Julius Rudolph Hannemann lived his life with a boom. There were likely many in Washington, D.C. in the 1870s and 1880s who wished he hadn’t created so many of them. As president of the district artillery corps, Maj. Hannemann provided the ceremonial explosive huzzahs at civic events from decoration day to the inauguration of presidents.

Although Hannemann had a distinguished record of service with Union Army units during the Civil War, one senses just a bit of resentment at the noise created by his artillery men. Hannemann commanded the artillery for Decoration Day at Arlington National Cemetery one year. A local newspaper quipped, “All persons residing in the vicinity are advised to have their lives insured.” The article ran under the headline: “The Poisoned Major to the Front.” Another article said he “has broken millions of panes of glass, the peace of the capital, more often than can be computed, by firing cannon.”

On New Year’s Eve 1875, his corps fired a 37-volley salute to the new year in Judiciary Square. According to one news account, “the ammunition for this purpose having been furnished by the War Department.” On September 18, 1880, a platoon fired a 200-gun salute to commemorate the Republican victory in Maine, according to a front-page article in the The Evening Star. In 1879, President Rutherford B. Hayes approved Hannemann’s promotion from second lieutenant to captain. Hannemann was later promoted to major.

The Evening Critic carried the news on Page 1.
The Evening Critic carried the news of the major’s death  on Page 1.

Hannemann was struck with apoplexy (possibly a stroke) at the inauguration of President James A. Garfield in early March 1881. It was this condition that eventually took his life on the morning of January 28, 1885. He was just 43 years old. “His death had been expected for some time,” wrote the The Evening Critic. “A well-known and efficient militia officer and a prominent member of the G.A.R. passes to that bourne where military parades are unknown and the weary are at rest.”

Hannemann was born in Prussia in 1842 to a military family. Upon emigrating to the United States, he volunteered for duty in the Civil War on May 17, 1861. He served with the 39th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, known as the “Garibaldi Guard.” He started as a private, but by March 1865, he was a 2nd lieutenant with the 7th New York Infantry Regiment. In June of that year, he was named adjutant of the 7th.

We don’t know of any link between Julius Rudolph Hannemann and the Hanneman family that came from Pomerania to Wisconsin in the 1860s. The major seems to have come from an area in the  Kingdom of Saxony, south and west of Pomerania.

©2015 The Hanneman Archive

Frederick Krosch’s 1855 Declaration of Intent for Citizenship

Some of the earliest documentation of a Hanneman-Treutel relative in America — dated 1855 — has been discovered in the archives of the Walworth County, Wisconsin Circuit Court. John Frederick Krosch, just a year from stepping off the boat from Saxony, filed his declaration of intent to become a United States citizen on November 5, 1855 before the county court in Elkhorn, Wisconsin.

Krosch made the declaration on behalf of himself and his wife, Christiana. The declaration document says Krosch intended to become a U.S. citizen and that he “renounced forever all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty whatsoever, and particularly to William Frederick, King of Prussia.” The document was found in the court archives, held at the Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Johann Friedrich Krosch was born in 1799 in the Kingdom of Saxony, which today is part of Germany. In 1854, he brought his wife Christiana and children Charles, Augustus, Reinhold, Henrietta (grandmother of Ruby V. Treutel Hanneman) and Gustave to America.

Frederick Krosch's farm was in Section 23 on this 1870 Mukwonago-area map.
Frederick Krosch’s farm was in Section 23 on this 1870 Mukwonago-area map.

The Krosch family landed at New York on July 21, 1854 and headed for Milwaukee. The eldest boys established farms at Lake Beulah near East Troy in Walworth County. John Frederick Krosch may have initially lived in Walworth County to help his boys get their farms started, considering that he filed his citizenship declaration in Walworth County.

By 1860, the elder Krosch had his own farm near Mukwonago in nearby Waukesha County. The 1860 U.S. Census lists the youngest Krosch boys, Reinhold and Gustave, as laborers on their father’s 80-acre farm. Plat records from 1873 show the Krosch farm in Section 23 of the Town of Mukwonago, just a few miles from where his daughter Henrietta Treutel lived with her husband, Philipp Treutel.

Krosch farmed at Mukwonago for more than a decade. We don’t know much about his later years. He died on August 7, 1876 at age 77. He is buried among the settlers of Mukwonago at Oak Knoll Cemetery, a short distance from where his farm once stood.

The grave of Christiana (Schlagel) Krosch at Elmore, Minnesota.
The grave of Christiana (Schlagel) Krosch at Elmore, Minnesota.

His wife Christiana (Schlagel) Krosch moved to Elmore, Minnesota after being widowed. The 1880 U.S. Census lists her living on the farm of her son, William F. Krosch. She died on December 3, 1884. She is buried near three grandchildren at Dobson Schoolhouse Cemetery in Elmore.

FAMILY LINE: John Frederick Krosch >> Henrietta (Krosch) Treutel >> Walter Treutel >> Ruby (Treutel) Hanneman >> Donn, David and Lavonne Hanneman.

©2015 The Hanneman Archive

Eye on the Past: 6 Hanneman Siblings

It is the only known photograph showing six of the seven children of Christian and Amanda Hanneman, pioneers of Portage and Wood counties in Wisconsin. The undated photo was probably taken around 1915 at a family event. Left to right are:

  • William Friedrich Johann Hanneman (1856-1939)
  • Bertha Auguste Ernestine (Hanneman) Bartelt (1860-1945)
  • Albert Friedrich O. Hanneman (1863-1932)
  • Herman Charles Hanneman (1864-1945)
  • Carl Friedrich Christian Hanneman (“Chas,” 1866-1932)
  • Ernestine Wilhelmine Caroline (Hanneman) Timm (1870-1930)

The sibling not pictured is August Friedrich Ferdinand Hanneman (1858-1902).

Along with their parents, this group came to America in late November 1882 aboard the SS Katie. They were the last of the Matthias Hannemann family to come to America from the Baltic Duchy of Pomerania (now part of Poland and Germany). The Hannemann clan (the name was eventually shortened to Hanneman) settled in and around the hamlet of Kellner in central Wisconsin.

Family Line: Matthias Hannemann >> Carl Frederick Christian Hannemann >> Carl Henry Frank Hanneman >> David D., Donn and Lavonne Hanneman.

©2014 The Hanneman Archive

The Treutel Family: From Königstadten to Wisconsin

They were craftsmen — blacksmiths, tailors, chandlers, carpenters — the clan of Treutels who came to Wisconsin from the Darmstadt area of Germany starting in 1849. The Johann Adam Treutel family left the village of Konigstadten between 1849 and 1854 and headed for America. They were part of a huge wave of German emigrants that changed the face of Wisconsin and the United States.

The Wisconsin branch of the Treutel family tree is from Konigstadten, a village just northwest of the city of Darmstadt. From this “king’s village” came Johann Adam Treutel and his wife, Elizabetha Katharina (Geier) Treutel. According to the Hessisches Staatsarchiv in Darmstadt, Adam, Katharina and at least some of their children left for America in July 1854. The emigration index simply lists that the eldest Treutel traveled “with his family.”

Their son John Treutel had already been in Wisconsin for some two years when they departed Germany. We believe the 1854 traveling party included at least three other Treutel children: Philipp Treutel, 21; Sebastian Treutel, 19; and Henry J. Treutel, 13. Their destination was Milwaukee. In May 1849, the eldest Treutel child, Adam, left for America, living in New York for a time before moving to Milwaukee.

The red stars show locations where members of the Treutel family operated blacksmith and chandler shops in Milwaukee. At right is the Milwaukee River.
The red stars show locations where members of the Treutel family operated blacksmith and chandler shops in Milwaukee. At right is the Milwaukee River.

The Treutel family ran a tallow chandler shop near downtown Milwaukee. The shop sold soap and candles made from animal fat and other ingredients. At various times in the 1860s and 1870s, Adam Jr. worked as a railroad man, a tallow chandler and a tailor. The Treutels, some of whom lived in Milwaukee’s Second Ward, had good Darmstadt neighbors, including master brewers Joseph Schlitz and Phillip Best. When their father Johann Adam died in Milwaukee in 1859, some of the Treutel sons took up residence with other German families in Milwaukee.

Although his primary residence was in Mukwonago in Waukesha County, Philipp Treutel is listed in the 1863 Milwaukee city directory as having a blacksmith shop at the southwest corner of Fifth and Prairie in downtown Milwaukee. He is listed in the 1867 directory as living at 517 Cherry St., next door to his younger brother, Henry. So it appears Philipp moved between Milwaukee and Waukesha counties, probably based on availability of work.

The tombstone of Katharina (Geier) Treutel sits in the shadow of the monument to her son, John, at Union Cemetery in West Bend, Wis.
The tombstone of Katharina (Geier) Treutel sits in the shadow of the monument to her son, John, at Union Cemetery in West Bend, Wis.

Katharina Geier Treutel was born on July 24, 1800 in Hesse-Darmstadt, the daughter of Nicolaus and Elizabetha Geier. She married Johann Adam Treutel sometime around or just after 1820. She died on April 26, 1886 in the Town of Addison, Washington County, Wis., and is buried at Union Cemetery in West Bend. The cause of death was listed as marasmus senilis, which basically means old age. She had eight children, five of whom (along with 42 grandchildren) survived her. Her tombstone reads:

Hier Ruht in Gott (Here Rests in God)

Katharina

Gattin von (Wife of)

A. Treutel

Philipp Treutel settled in Mukwonago in Waukesha County, where he married Henrietta Krosch and fathered seven children, including Walter Treutel (father of Ruby Treutel Hanneman). He was a blacksmith, and probably learned the trade from his father. After Philipp’s death in 1891, Henrietta moved the Treutel family to Vesper in Wood County, Wisconsin.

Henry J. Treutel enlisted in the 26th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment during the Civil War, and fought at the Battle of Gettysburg. Sebastian also joined the 26th Wisconsin, but was given a disability discharge in August 1863, possibly from wounds during the war. We don’t believe Philipp or John Treutel were called into service.

Henry, Sebastian and John Treutel eventually settled in the Town of Addison, Washington County. John was a carpenter. The 1870 U.S. Census for the Town of Addison shows a Jacob Treutel, 31, living at the John Treutel homestead. It is possible that Jacob, who would have been born about 1839, was a younger brother. Sebastian was also a carpenter, but he later worked hauling the U.S. Mail in Washington County. Henry operated a blacksmith shop, a store, a saloon and a cheese factory near the village of Aurora. He later moved to Wausau.

Based on all of the evidence we’ve gathered, it appears the Johann Adam Treutel family included Adam (1822), John (1831), Philipp and deceased twin brother (1833), Sebastian (1835) and Henry (1841). Other possible children are Peter and Jacob, but more research is needed to establish their lineage.

Family Line: Johann Adam Treutel >> Philipp Treutel >> Walter Treutel >> Ruby Treutel Hanneman >> Donn, David and Lavonne Hanneman.

Monument of Philipp Treutel, grandfather of Ruby (Treutel) Hanneman, at North Prairie Cemetery in Waukesha County, Wis.
Monument of Philipp Treutel, grandfather of Ruby (Treutel) Hanneman, at North Prairie Cemetery in Waukesha County, Wis. Philipp died in 1891.

Emigration Records Found for Matthias Hannemann

For years, family genealogists have searched in vain for the emigration records of Matthias Hannemann, the earliest known ancestor of the Hanneman family of central Wisconsin. Over the years, the registers of hundreds of immigrant ships were searched, covering tens of thousands of names belonging to people who came through ports in New York, Baltimore and New Orleans. But no Matthias.

All of that changed several nights ago. During a routine search of newly transcribed records from the Port of Hamburg, Germany, I found Matthias’ name. He and his second wife, Caroline, traveled with their son, William, daughter Justina Louisa Henrietta Saeger and her family. They were among 474 passengers aboard the SS Hyram when it sailed from Hamburg on April 19, 1866. Matthias is listed on the register as a schwiegervater, or father-in-law, referring to his son-in-law, John Saeger.Hyram Ship Register

It was a long journey aboard the segelschiff, or sailing ship. The ship docked at Grosse Isle near Québec on the St. Lawrence Seaway on June 4, 1866. Grosse Isle served as a quarantine station for ships destined for the Port of Québec in Canada, to prevent the spread of disease. Grosse Isle was the site of tragedy in 1847, when more than 5,000 Irish immigrants escaping the famine in their homeland died from typhus and other diseases upon reaching Canada. A large Irish cemetery and two monuments bear witness to those sad days.

Eight passengers on the Hyram died during the journey in 1866. Two children were born onboard ship. Once the 10 members of the Hannemann and Saeger families disembarked, they likely continued traveling by boat along the St. Lawrence River, across Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. From Detroit, they might have traveled by rail to Chicago and then Milwaukee on their way to tiny Kellner, Wis.

The Hyram’s ship registry is among the earliest documentary evidence of the Hannemann family’s exodus from Pomerania to Wisconsin. We know at least two of Matthias’ other children arrived in America in 1861, but their travel records have not been found. The earliest emigration record from this family is that of Michael Friedrich Ferdinand Hannemann, who arrived aboard the ship John Bertram in May 1863 with his wife, Wilhelmina and infant son, August.

Matthias’ emigration record is the most significant find since we discovered his long-lost grave site in Portage County in 2009.

©2013 The Hanneman Archive

Ostermann Family Traced to St. Bernhard, Thuringia

The Ostermann family of Wood and Portage counties is one of the Hanneman-related lines still shrouded in some mystery. But we’re getting a much clearer picture thanks to research by an Ostermann descendant from Madison.

The Ostermann family is related to the Hannemans primarily through Rosine Bertha Henrietta (Osterman) Hanneman, the mother of Carl Henry Frank Hanneman (1901-1982). She was the daughter of John Christian Ostermann (1844-1887).

According to new research done by Chris Bartosh of Madison, the Ostermann family originated in St. Bernhard, a small rural village in the German state of Thuringia. Thuringia is known as the “green heart of Germany” for its heavy forests. St. Bernhard, with a current population of 275, is about 75 miles northeast of Frankfurt, Germany.

Like the Hannemann family in the village of Zeitlitz in Pomerania, the Ostermanns were long established in St. Bernhard and surrounding villages. The patriarch of the Wisconsin family was Johann George Ostermann (1817-1894), the father of John Ostermann. The church register has listings for his father, Johann Martin Ostermann (1766-1844) and mentions his grandfather, Nikolaus Ostermann.

The Ostermanns had lived in Beinerstadt, a village less than a mile north of St. Bernhard. Johann Martin and his father Nikolaus were both born in Beinerstadt.

Johann George Ostermann’s occupation in St. Bernhard is listed in the church register as a “webermeister,” or the foreman in weaver’s shop.

George Ostermann, his wife Dorothea Frederica, and their four children applied for permission to emigrate to America in February 1852. On June 4, 1852, the family arrived in New York City aboard the brig Charles and Edward. The journey took 44 days from Bremen to New York. From there they headed west for Wisconsin.

The 1855 Wisconsin state census lists the George Ostermann family as living in the Town of Norway, Racine County. They lived in the Village of Wind Lake until 1858. By 1860, the family had moved, settling in the Town of Linwood, Portage County.

As a result of this new research, we have more surnames to add to the family database, including Popp, Schad and Zehner. Like the Hanneman family, the Ostermanns eventually dropped the second “n” from their last name.

Hannemann, Geh Du Voran! That (in)famous German Saying

Hannemann, geh Du voran! Type that German phrase into any search engine and it will return a mass of entries that make reference to this old saying. One of the more recognizable sayings among German-speaking Europeans uses the Hannemann surname. Pretty exciting, huh?

Not so fast.

As it turns out, the phrase isn’t exactly a compliment. This particular Hannemann, and the other men in the folklore story, are looked at with derision, although perhaps with a bit of envy.

To understand this infamous Hannemann reference, you have to look back a few centuries at an old folk tale about seven Swabian soldiers (die sieben Schwaben). Versions of this tale are said to date to the early 16th century. The Brothers Grimm published their own version in the 1800s.

The lightly armed sieben Schwaben set out into the world and encountered dangers along the way. At one point, they came across what they feared was a hideous beast (but in reality was just a common rabbit). Not wanting to face the menacing animal, one Swabian after the other insisted that the soldier Hannemann step forth to the head of the line.

Hannemann, geh Du voran! Du hast die gröβten Stiefel an, Daβ Dich das Tier nicht beiβen kann. “Hannemann, go forward! You have the biggest boots on, so the animal won’t bite you!” Here the Swabians are showing their inherent cowardice in the face of imagined danger.

In the folk-tale version penned by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, the sieben Schwaben venture into the world armed with a single spear to protect them. The bravest man was said to be in front. Hearing a beetle or hornet fly by his head, the now-frightened leader jumps a nearby fence. He lands on the teeth of a rake, and the handle smacks him in the head. “I surrender! I surrender!” he shouts.

The bumbling Swabians eventually drowned in the Mosel River, thinking it was shallow enough to wade across. The leader called to a man on the other side of the river, asking how to get across the mossy river. Not understanding their dialect, the man answered back, “Wat? Wat?” The first Swabian thought he heard the man say, “wade!” So in he went, and drowned.

The others heard the same instructions: “Wat, wat, wat.” So in they went, to the same fate. What they actually heard was a frog across the river, croaking: “wat, wat!” Poor Swabians. It is reminiscent of the antics of Fatty Arbuckle and the Keystone Kops from those famous silent films.

Even today, the old Swabian saying is used routinely in Germany: “Hannemann, you go ahead!” The implication is, “I don’t want to rush into something dangerous. Hannemann, you do it!” “Don’t stick your neck out! Let Hannemann take the brunt of the trouble!”

Why have Germans poked fun at the Swabians for so long? It could be envy. Swabia is a region in southwest Germany near Switzerland and France. The Swabians have been described as strong and warlike, with a history of fighting with their neighbors. For generations they have been panned by other Germans as simpletons, cowards, stingy or prudish. These depictions may actually be the begrudging acknowledgment by neighbors that the Swabians are actually resourceful, clever and hard-working.

We need to point out that this region of Germany is not near the Baltic Duchy of Pomerania, where our Hannemann ancestors came from in the mid-1800s. So the soldier Hannemann of the sieben Schwaben was likely not related to our ancestor Matthias Hannemann, an infantry soldier in a Pomeranian regiment of the Prussian army.

But we should not be so quick to disown our Swabian cousin. For if you believe the explanations for the cheap shots aimed at Swabian Germans, this soldier Hannemann might have been a courageous and industrious fellow. Maybe some envious numskull decided to pen a derisive story about him. A bit of revenge, perhaps?

Let’s think about rewriting the old saying. Instead of “Hannemann, you get in front,” maybe it should read: “Everybody step back. Hannemann has it covered.”

Frederick Krosch Water Bottle Dates to the Mid-1800s

Like most hard-working farmers of his day, Frederick Krosch spent a lot of time toiling in the fields. First in Germany and then on an 80-acre farm north of the village of Mukwonago in Waukesha County, Wisconsin.

It’s amazing to realize that the water bottle he carried with him into the fields has survived to this day, more than 130 years after his death. The glass bottle, embossed with lettering that reads “Dr. Cummins Vegetine,” has been in the possession of Bonnie (Treutel) Young, the elder Krosch’s great-great granddaughter.

Bonnie has had the bottle on display at her home, but only recently removed a handwritten note that had been placed inside in 1944.The note reads: “This is the bottle in which our grandfather Krosch, ‘mother’s father,’ used to take drinking water to the fields with him. It’s perhaps near 100 years old.”

The note was written by Emma (Treutel) Carlin (1877-1962), Frederick Krosch’s granddaughter, who no doubt inherited it from her mother, Henrietta (Krosch) Treutel (1839-1908).

As documented in a previous article,the Krosch family came to America inJuly 1854 and settled into farming in Waukesha County. Frederick Krosch farmed 80 acres of land that is now home to a bank and a Culver’s restaurant. The Krosch farm was adjacent to land owned by Judge Martin Field, for whom Field Park in Mukwonago is named. Krosch’s farmland was valued at $1,500,according to the 1870 U.S. Census.

Krosch continued his farming as his daughter Henrietta marriedblacksmith Philipp Treutel and started her own family. The elder Krosch died Aug. 7, 1876. He is buried at Oak Knoll Cemetery in Mukwonago.Krosch Water Bottle Note

As for the original contents of that bottle, Vegetine was sold for years as a “blood purifier.” It laid claim to curing and preventing maladies from pimples to cancer and neuralgia to “female weakness,” gout and sciatica. Vegetine was made from bark, roots and herbs.

Given Vegetine’s wild curative claims, perhaps Frederick Krosch figured out he was better off sticking to water.

FAMILY LINE: John Frederick Krosch (1799-1876) >> Henrietta (Krosch) Treutel >> Walter Treutel >> Ruby V. (Treutel) Hanneman >> Donn, David and Lavonne Hanneman.

Cemetery Neglect: Sad Resting Place for Little Ida Krosch

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 arch over entrance to Oak Grove Cemetery, Eagle, Wisconsin.
The arch over entrance to Oak Grove Cemetery, Eagle, Wisconsin.


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.

‘Gone but not forgotten?’
‘Gone but not forgotten?’

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.

Broken tombstone of Eliza Mead, who died in 1870
Broken tombstone of Eliza Mead, who died in 1870.

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.

Graves of Mary and William Reeves, d. 1856 and 1857.
Willie Larue Snover, who died at age 8 in 1869.

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

Grave of Martha Lowry,  who died in 1873.
Grave of Martha Lowry, who died in 1873.