Contents © 2016 by Harold Pfohl

For a guide to the Nieman and Lueder families see link: 1890s/1900 – GUIDE TO THE NIEMAN AND LUEDER FAMILIES


4th of July, 1899


Charlie Nieman went to festivities on the Milwaukee waterfront and to a large parade and lugged along his big view camera and tripod.

Interurb & train to MKE ca000039
Cedarburg depot – a short distance from Charlie Nieman’s farm

It was easy for Charlie to get downtown – 20 miles from his farm home.  He would have boarded the train in Cedarburg.  The terminal in Milwaukee was right on the lakefront which couldn’t have been more convenient.

Milwaukee 1898
Downtown Milwaukee – turn of the century


Milwaukee 1891 rumsey copy
Depot in Milwaukee – right on the lakefront – Lake Michigan

Source – David Rumsey Collection

Fig 55 cedarb exhib 02262013 1
Photo by Charlie Nieman at Juneau Park looking toward the lakefront depot

Two photos below by Charlie of the festivities – 1899

hp 4 2 13 ced exhib 04 copy 3 a

Given the large amount of bunting on display on the parade route this was very likely a fourth of July celebration.

Fig 54 eIMG0037

Then, as now, Milwaukee loved a good time. There is a familiar sense about the street scene, but the waterfront at Juneau Park has changed so radically as to be altogether strange.

Party Time

GERMAN copy.jpg

From an article in the Economist, May 3rd, 2016


Hmmmm…really?  Well, we do have the girl with the rolling pin on the right threatening guy beneath her.  That’s Charlie Nieman on the left with the big moustache and closed eyes.

hp 4 2 13 ced exhib 04 copy 4 a copy.jpg

I can’t speak for today’s Germans, but laughter is the thing that I remember most about my German-American aunts and uncles.  Many a meal around the farm table with relatives was punctuated with hilariouis family or neighbor tales and laughter.  My old Aunt Elda Lueder whose education stopped at the 8th grade, who never married, had a rather tough life, but was one of the funniest people I’ve ever known.

Harold Pfohl

* * * * **

The German-American community was gregarious, musical, fun loving, and resourceful.  Every community had its public park with bandstand in the center, and numerous people played a musical instrument of some sort.  It was common to gather together to make music.  Churches, schools, and taverns functioned as major social centers.

How can you meet, gather, party, have a few beers and not laugh?  The social circle was geographically small given the constraints of horse and buggy for travel.  Neighbors and extended family were frequently present.  They would stop by to borrow something that was needed in the household or on the farm, just to say hi and have dinner (the noon meal), or to party in the evenings.  A birthday resulted in a household full of neighbors and relatives, which was a very common, totally informal social event characterized by clouds of cigar and pipe smoke filling the rooms, sheepshead (card game) for pennies occupying a number of the men, a bit of beer, and plenty of coffee, coffee cake and more.

TV, radio, telephone, automobile, stereo, CD players, etc. were non-existent.

Flashlight Party – 1899

Young men and women partied harder than the older folks – and Charlie Nieman recorded the more memorable events.

Fig 050 eIMG0033 final sepia+7.jpg
“Flashlight Party” – 1899

Police at the party!!!  The balding man in the upper right is named Beckman.  He was also the town cop. Charlie Nieman is the man in the center right with the girl on his lap.

* * * * * *

It doesn’t seem that law and order were matters of great difficulty in 1890’s German-America. The partiers appear to be having a great time, and in the event of excessive drinking, the horse often knew the way home. Collisions at the speed of a walking horse seldom had nasty consequences. Few farmers could afford the luxury of a saddle or carriage horse so the plow horse did double duty pulling the buggy.


Fig 046 eIMG0030 work_edited-1.jpg
Officer Beckman, Charlie Nieman, and William Lueder – late 1890s

Friends. This trio has an air of fun and mischief. Beckman was the town cop, Charlie had a great sense of humor, and William loved a practical joke.

A creamery operated a quarter-mile from William’s farm at the northwest corner of Bridge St. and Granville Rd. Somehow he managed to place a 50-gallon drum over the creamery chimney without being seen. The next morning, the operator became monumentally frustrated when he found it impossible to light the fire in the creamery boiler.

On Halloween, William played on the profound superstition of a neighbor named Mitchell, who was happily sitting in front of his fireplace, when, thanks to William, a goose came down the chimney and erupted into the room. Mitchell flew out the door frightened out of his wits.

William also enjoyed deflating a braggart. He had a neighbor who incessantly prattled about the superiority of one of his fruit trees, how much better it was than anything that anyone else had. On a night when the fruit had ripened to perfection, William and an accomplice who was equally offended by the bragging spread blankets under the tree, shook off all of the fruit, and carted it away. William mellowed as the years passed and he is remembered as “an awfully nice man.”

Charlie loved to laugh.  Typical of Charlie’s dry humor was his observation on humanity: “There are all kinds of people in the world but none that are completely round.”

Family Get-Together to Celebrate a Wedding in 1901

Ten Fromm family members travel by a carriage to Cedarburg to visit sister Sophie, her husband, Johann Nieman and family for a wedding –likely Sophie and Johann’s youngest daughter, Alvina, to Albert Pipkorn  in 1901.


Fromm’s at the William Fromm home on Glacier Drive NW of West Bend.  Judging from the hats and dresses, this may well have been a photo from the same trip to Cedarburg as the following two images.  This was probably taken at the outset of the trip.  It is unlikely that they would have had the energy for this to have been taken at the end of a daylong tiresome, dirty, cramped return journey of ten people in that buggy.


Source – David Rumsey Collection

The Fromm homestead on Glacier Drive northwest of West Bend was about 22 miles by road from the Nieman home. That was a long, long journey behind a walking team of horses in a crowded carriage. Such a trip would have been made very infrequently – perhaps once a year or less.  In time consumed, it would be comparable to a 300-400 mile journey by car today.

Fig 047 0eIMG0031 Rhoda Scan 02262013 2 copy_edited-2Trousers don’t seem to have ever been pressed.  Photo at the Nieman farm on Pioneer Rd.

Fig 048 hp 3 25 ced exhib 7 copy 4b2_edited-2-1

Augusta is pouring a drink for her Uncle William Fromm.  Aunt Anna is holding the baby and Grandmother Johanna Fromm is in the carriage with another little one. Judging from the heavy clothing it must have been a spring or autumn day and the formality of the clothes is appropriate for the wedding they attended.


Playing “Sweethearts True.”  Paulina Mintzlaff playing the piano at the Mintzlaff home – mid to late 1890s.

Fig 053eIMG0036 final sepia+6

What a typical scene! Times and environments change but human nature alters little, even though people adapt outwardly to cope with their surroundings. Photos of loved ones surround the piano, music enriches the life, and love and romance are a central theme (strong magnification of original photo shows that the sheet music on the piano is “Sweethearts True”).

Fig 052 eIMG0035 final sepia+6
Music circle at Nieman’s home, summer 1901

Seated L-R: Otto Lueder, Alvina Nieman, and Albert Pipkorn – Alvina and Albert were married in 1901.

* * * * * *

A concertina, a violin, plenty of sheet music, and numerous voices constitute this musical group.  The pale foreheads and sunburnt cheeks of the young men are indications of the long hours of fieldwork that farming demanded in the summer.  This was surely a very welcome, hard-earned party bringing relief from labor and great enjoyment.  Judging from the party photos in this post, it is likely that the quality of the music was enhanced (or degraded!) by liquid refreshment.

Family Visit and a Death by Drowning

cedar hamburg rumsey 1897

Source – David Rumsey Collection

Family visits between Cedarburg and Hamburg were a major affair.  The distance was considerable, and likely the train fare was a serious financial consideration.

Fig 049 eIMG0032 final sepia+7
Herman Roehl, Jr., and his wife visit his Nieman first cousins in Cedarburg – late 1890s.

Herman was the son of Dorothy (Dora), Johann Niemann’s younger sister.   His first cousin, Johann’s daughter, Alvina, is kneeling on the grass.  Roehls lived in the Hamburg area of Marathon County where the immigrant Joachim Niemann’s prodigious efforts succeeded in pioneering farms for his children Maria, Carl, Alvina (aunt to the Alvina in this picture), and Dora.  Dora grew up on the Cedarburg farm, arriving there in 1852 as a five year old pioneer, and leaving in 1865 when she was eighteen.

* * * * * *

The journey from Hamburg to Cedarburg would have been most extraordinary for her son, Herman.  The distance was great and the trip was almost certainly accomplished by train.  Perhaps Herman wanted to touch his roots – to see where Grandfather (Joachim) had first established himself in America, to indulge in personal nostalgia, and to see his Uncle Johann, Tante Sophie, and his cousins.  Herman drowned in the Wisconsin River in 1913 attempting to save the lives of others from an overturned boat.

herman roehl jr. tombstone_2 copyCharlie and Minnie Nieman and their children visit cousin Herman’s grave in northern Wisconsin – sometime in the 1920s.  Herman’s widow kneels by the grave.


At Ferdinand Mintzlaff home for son John’s 21st birthday, 1896.  Neighbor to Niemans & Lueders and a cousin of the Lueders, future brother-in-law of Charlie Nieman.

Fig 051 Mintzlaffs - John Mintzlaff 21st B'day 1896

L-R, front: Martha Lueders on Willie Mueller’s lap, “Old Man” Ferdinand Mintzlaff on the floor, Augusta Nieman on William Lueder’s lap, back row: John Mintzlaff, Minnie Mintzlaff, Otto Lueders, Mrs. Wilhelmina Mintzlaff.

The Mintzlaffs and the Lueders were cousins and neighbors, and both families were very good friends with and married into the Nieman family. Martha Lueders and Willie Mueller married, Augusta Nieman and William Lueder married, and Minnie Mintzlaff married Charlie Nieman who probably took the photo. Mrs. Mintzlaff was one of Johann and Minna Lüders ‘ daughters and a first cousin to William, Otto, and Martha Lueder in the photo.

* * * * * *

Those pictured in the image are mostly extended family and neighbors.  This was the social circle dictated by practical considerations of travel.

Nieman Pioneers Travel a Great Distance in their Old Age

lockwood hamburgRR david rumsey 1901

Source – David Rumsey Collection

Joachim and Marie Niemann, the prolific immigrant pioneers of multiple farms, traveled from Hamburg, Wisconsin to visit their son, Herman and his wife Helena in Lockwood, Missouri.  This was likely in the 1890s.

Fig 005 b scan0003_edited-4
Joachim and Marie Nieman visit son Herman, his wife Helena and their children in Lockwood, Missouri

Fig 005 b scan0003 J&M

Enlargement of the previous picture.  Marie on the left and Joachim on the right.  One of Herman’s and Helena’s children in front.

It was most curious that the elderly couple separated in their late old age.  Joachim wanted to be with Herman and family, and Marie wanted to be with their children in Hamburg.  After such a dramatic lifetime together, and such extraordinary striving which met with success, they lived and died hundreds of miles apart at the end.  Maybe Joachim was tired of the Northern Wisconsin winters and wanted a climate that was at least somewhat milder.

High Spirits and a Raucous Party

hp 4 2 13 ced exhib 04 copy 4 a

High spirits and perhaps a bit much beer.  Note the rolling pin being wielded on the right.  This photo is the only one of Charlie Nieman’s that is not well exposed.  Charlie is the gent with the moustache on the lower left.  Perhaps by the time this was taken, Charlie was in advanced party mode, and less adept than usual.




  1. Wow! I’m amazed at the number of photos you have of the time, and their quality.
    I agree with your statements about laughter. I have a letter Esther wrote about how my Dad would entertain us at the dinner table and we laughed till our sides ached.
    It also never ceases to amaze me how much they got done when one thinks of the physical labor it took to accomplish it, for example, lugging along the heavy camera and tripod.


    1. Great Uncle Charlie was a phenomenal photographer given his hard work on the farm and the time dairy farming and orchard work take. The quality and number of his images is proof that somehow he spent the time necessary to master his passion for the pictures. It sheds light on the time and the people and I was surprised and excited when I discovered his work in the 1980s in possession of his daughter-in-law and a grand-niece. Thank you Uncle Charlie!!


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