contents ©2016 by Harold Pfohl
Early Years Part 2 – Niemann Family– Marriage, Death, Civil War, Land in Northern Wisconsin and Finally to Missouri but with Joachim and Marie Separating
Johann I, Joachim and Marie Niemann had made their way across thousands of miles with five children in tow aged a few months to 10 years. They pioneered near Cedarburg in 1852. In 1865 Johann I died, and Joachim and Marie headed north to Marathon County to pioneer three more farms, leaving Johann II behind in Cedarburg. About 1889, Joachim headed nearly 800 miles to Lockwood, Missouri to pioneer one last farm with his youngest son, Herman. Marie stayed behind in Wisconsin with her children and grandchildren.
Pace and Scope of Change
What was happening in the Upper Midwest/Wisconsin at this time?
The pace and scope of change in the Old Northwest Territories and the West during the era 1830 – 1880 was unprecedented in history. Technological advance created the railroads and telegraph for rapid low cost transport of people and material, plus instant communication across vast distances. Half a continent of virgin land with unexploited resources was opened up for the infusion of capital, skilled engineers and managers, and sophisticated steam and water powered tools, plants and equipment.
After the Homestead Act of 1862, agricultural land was given by the government to anyone willing to undertake the arduous task of pioneering a farm. Many hundreds of thousands took advantage of this unheard of opportunity. “In the single decade (1870-1880) 190,080,000 acres, or a territory equal to the extent of Great Britain and France combined, were added to the cultivated area of the United States. Again, in the twenty-year period 1880-1900, there were added to the farm area over 305,000,000 acres. Such a development was made possible by the extension of the railroad system…” (Economic History of the US, E.L. Bogart, 1907)
History provides no comparable example of immense scope and profound magnitude of change. Joachim and Marie were avid, eager participants.
The Situation in Wisconsin
In Wisconsin in 1827 the Federal Government engaged in a war against the Winnebago tribe. Then, again, in 1832 the Government waged war against the Sauk Indians under Black Hawk. The Sauk population numbered only about 1,500 including the elderly and children. Contrast this with the data in the census table for Wisconsin from an 1853 Wisconsin Gazetteer. See: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/moa/afk4346.0001.001?view=toc
Presumably the population of 1,444 does not include Indians.
The Federal Government, capital, massive immigration, unexploited resources, opportunity to open virgin land, organizational and logistical capability – all of these considerations amounted to an overwhelmingly powerful colossus in close proximity to the Upper Midwest. The Indians tiny numbers and limited resources rendered their resistance not much more than an irritant in the way of what was considered to be “progress.”
Niemans built their farm and a fine pioneering home on Pigeon Creek at Pioneer Road. The photo in the header of this blog and below shows a home built in German rural architectural style. They built in accordance with their cultural style and what they knew how to build.
It is likely that Pigeon Creek was so named due to the abundance of Passenger Pigeons at the time of immigration and settlement. The numbers of these now extinct birds defy our comprehension; their population was so great that they darkened the sky when migrating. Southern Wisconsin was a favorite nesting ground. Niemanns would have seen them by the millions.
The photo was taken by Joachim and Marie’s grandson, Charlie Nieman, in the late 1890s. The home was replaced in 1885 by their son, Johann II, and his wife Sophie Fromm and subsequently used as a chicken coop downstairs and a granary upstairs. The photo shows Johann and Sophie’s youngest daughter, Alvina on the left and her older sister Augusta on the right.
Note the scythe hanging on the wall to the right of Augusta. As noted in the previous post the early years of initial settlement in the 1850s required heavy hand labor.
There the family expanded with:
- Joachim II (called Joe) in 1854, who died in 1864.
- Alvina, in 1861, and
- Herman, in 1864.
Niemann’s landholdings of 140 acres (Plat about 1870 – below) were beyond any dreams of what they might have acquired in Germany as youths.
Inventions were rapidly improving the productivity of farmers and by 1865 when Johann II took over the farm he likely had machinery that greatly assisted the process of plowing, seeding, harvesting and threshing. Great advances had been engineered and produced for mass agricultural usage in all aspects of farming.
The principal crop in the region in the early years was wheat. With the advent of railroads wheat could be readily transported to the East Coast and shipped elsewhere. In 1860 51.7 million bushels of wheat were exported; 1870 – 188 million bushels; 1880 – 551 million bushels. It was a booming market. Johann had an orchard as well.
The Homestead Act of 1862 – Unparalleled Opportunity – Joachim and Marie Head North
Up until the passage of the Homestead Act in 1862 immigrants and pioneers had to pay the Government for the land they acquired. By an act in April of 1820 “…sale for credit was abandoned and the price reduced to $1.25 an acre while the minimum tract to be sold to one individual was reduced to eighty acres.” (Economic History of the US, Bogart, 1907) That is likely the price that Joachim and Marie paid for their original holding.
Joachim and Marie had paid for their land, and then in 1862 Congress enacted the Homestead Act. This had to have provided visions for them of the acquisition of land beyond anything they even imagined when they settled in Cedarburg –now, free land – hundreds of acres of it. They were ambitious.
By 1865, the farm on Pioneer Road was well established. The Civil War was over, Joachim’s father Johann I died (age 73) and Joachim and Marie (now 47 and 43 years old) decided to head north to Hamburg, a township in Marathon County, near Wausau, to pioneer additional farms for their other children, leaving behind young (23) Johann II with a fine farm and orchard.
The Homestead Act was a powerful incentive. In Hamburg they pioneered farms for:
- Alvina who married Fritz (Fred) Fromm,
- Maria (who married a man named Helmke) and
- Dorothea (who married Herman Roehl Sr. and later a man named Beckman when Roehl died)
Homestead Act – 1862: “the passage of the Homestead Act in 1862 made easy and profitable the acquisition of a farm home, especially for those with little capital. The fundamental principle of the act was the grant of a free homestead not exceeding 160 acres to the actual settler; after five years residence the title passed, without charge, to the “homesteader” as a result of this law thousands of people took up the free land of the middle West, over 65 million acres being given away to individuals during the 20 year period 1860 to 1880. The settlement of the public domain was further stimulated by… Making it easy for ex-soldiers of the Union armies to acquire title to government land, and by the rising tide of immigration. So rapid was the settlement of free land by 1880 the “front tier” had entirely disappeared and there was practically continuous settlement from ocean to ocean.… It was copied from no other nation system. It was originally and distinctly American, and remains a monument to its originators.” (Bogart, 1907)
Niemans Move to Hamburg – The Condition of the Hamburg/Marathon County Region:
Source – Johnson’s Atlas – David Rumsey Collection
In the 1865 map above, compare the extent of settlement in the southern half of the State with the virtually vacant north. Joachim and Marie were very much ahead of the curve in moving to this region, and surely had their choice of land.
Even though the region was thinly settled sawmills were beginning work and logging was commencing at an amazing rate – note the amount of lumber manufactured in 1850 – a mere 14 years after conclusion of the Indian wars – astonishing:
Source – Wisconsin Gazetteer 1853 (note – errata sheet to the above notes 200,000,000 feet of lumber, not 400,000,000).
Railroads had not yet entered much of that region, but logging and lumbering had become a widespread enterprise. Sawmills were water or steam powered, and there were a multitude of small operators in small communities. For example:
Source- Wisconsin Gazetteer – 1853
In 1850 Wausau had a population of 300 with no less than nine sawmills!
Source – Wisconsin Gazetteer – 1853
The photo above was taken by Charlie Nieman in the vicinity of Hermansville/Powers Michigan, at the border with Wisconsin. Late 1890s/early 1900. This ravaging of a great resource was of concern to some early environmentalists but they were ignored.
Commerce, Industry and Services in Small Settlements
Settlements were small but as was the case in 1852 in Cedarburg, they provided with a wide range of services, e.g., Stevens Point, population 500 in 1850 below. Nieman’s were not long without necessities:
Source – Wisconsin Gazetteer 1853
Expansion of Railroads
Railroads were expanding as fast as roadbeds could be prepared, rail laid, and equipment purchased. Huge amounts of land were granted to the railroads to incentivize their development. Marathon County was not served for a long time.
Source – David Rumsey Collection
The round red circles are Federal land offices. The broad red swath paralleling the proposed rail routes is the right of way land grants to the railroads providing incentives to build.
Studying the above, there is no proposed rail to the Wausau-Hamburg region in 1866. That would come later.
The Family in Hamburg, Wisconsin
This photo was taken a few years after their move to Hamburg – north central Wisconsin near Merrill and Wausau.
Apparently in constructing an expanded home a portion of the old home on the right was incorporated into the expanded home – see below and the note on the photo. This likely took place after Joachim had departed for Missouri. The photo is thought to be by Charlie Nieman in the 1890s.
Nieman home, expanded from the old home.
Joachim’s Last Gasp – One Final Pioneering Effort – to Lockwood, Missouri
Their youngest son, Herman, married in Dec. 1887. Joachim got the itch for yet more land and joined Herman to pioneer a farm in Lockwood, Missouri, apparently sometime in 1889. He was 71 years old and ready to once again stake out a homestead, help to clear the land, prepare a farm and build yet another home.
Marie at 67 years of age had finally had enough and decided to stay with her children and grandchildren in Hamburg. (It makes one wonder if she told Joachim to go pound sand if he didn’t like it. Maybe some fairly intense exchanges!) Joachim couldn’t resist and left her behind for yet more adventure with son Herman and his new wife, Helen Juedes.
Marie had likely experienced enough homesickness and longing for her German family in her lifetime. Marie’s parents lived long after she and Joachim left Spornitz, Germany: her father died 27 years later (1879) at age 85, and mother died 18 years (1870), at 72. Marie’s maternal grandmother, Catharina Maria (nee Poel) lived until the age of 90 in 1856.
One can sympathize with her decision late in life to stay settled and enjoy a less strenuous existence in her old age. She had enough of leaving loved ones behind and had no intention of doing so again, e.g., her daughter, Alvina Nieman Fromm (Fred Fromm) and three of her Fromm grandchildren in Hamburg, below:
Joachim, Herman, and Helen headed out – opportunity, and adventure. (Maybe they were also tired of the bleak winters in North Central Wisconsin, albeit the Plains can be a bit unpleasant in the winter?)
Source: David Rumsey Collection
A great distance separated the couple who had been through so much together.
Marie visited her family in Lockwood. Helen and Herman are on the left (Herman with an early push lawn mower), their son on the right with Marie and Joachim in the background.
Joachim’s last farm home, pioneered near Lockwood, Missouri. Photo taken in the early part of the 20th Century
In spite of all they endured, a remarkably arduous, strenuous life, they seem to have aged well. Photos from their later years (click on the image to enlarge):
After the most extraordinary adventures and achievements together, their remains rest nearly 800 miles apart. (click on image to enlarge)
Footnote: Note: Only five birth dates of Joachim’s children are certain to this writer, having been obtained from tombstones, obituaries, or Cedarburg church records: Johann II, Feb. 12, 1842; Marie, March 16, 1844; Dorothea, February 13, 1847; Carl, April 20, 1852; and Herman, April 19, 1864.
Next – Early Years Part 3 – Lüders Family – Expansion, Multiple Deaths, a Community Leader, an Old Maid and a Shotgun Wedding