Sunday, October 23, 2005


Well, I've had a field day with online access to the U.S. census records and I've learned a few things. One of the main things I've learned is that before 1910 my Boettcher ancestors spelled their name with one "t", as Boetcher, instead of the more usual spelling with two "tt"s.

I found my great great grandfather, John Boetcher, living in "Heman" township in Dodge County in Wisconsin in 1860, along with his wife, Minnie, and their children, Charles (Carl), Auguste, Herman and Hanna. The family immigrated in 1856, arriving in August according to my aunt, and that explains why Carl and Auguste were born in Prussia, while Herman and Hanna were born in Wisconsin. Dodge County has no records of a town or township called "Heman", but it did, like Sheboygan County, have a Herman Township that was popular with Prussian immigrants.

Their next door neighbor in "Heman" was a couple named John and Albertine Backhaus. John Backhaus was 46 and his wife, Albertine, was 24. Their oldest son was William, aged 13, which suggests that John had a previous spouse, unless Albertine gave birth at age 11. I haven't located either family in the 1870 census, but in 1880, John and Minnie Boetcher lived at Eagle Point in Chippewa County and their daughter, Hanna, was also there, married to my great grandfather, William Lubach. John and Minnie's next door neighbor in 1880 was the widow, Albertine Backhaus. I didn't find John Backhaus, which suggests he must already have passed on at that point.

More than 2,500 people lived in Eagle Point in 1880, according to the census. The town was named after "Old Abe", the war eagle who served as a mascot for the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry, a part of the "Iron Brigade", easily the most celebrated of all of the Wisconsin units that served in the Civil War. Old Abe was purchased upriver from some Chippewa (Ojibwa) Indians and raised as a pet by members of the McCann clan who settled in Eagle Point shortly after the Blackhawk War of 1832. Members of the McCann family had known and worked with Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, when he was a young lieutenant and later a captain during the Blackhawk War.

The McCann clan essentially built Chippewa Falls from the ground up. They were the lumber business on the Chippewa River. During the 1870s farmers began arriving there, many of them German, Scandinavian and Bohemian or Slovakian. Tilden, where my ancestors established their homestead, Woodmohr, was not yet a township in 1880, so it appears that records for this influx of farmers were maintained at Eagle Point. The 1890 census for Wisconsin was destroyed in a fire, but in 1900 many of the families listed as living in Eagle Point in 1880 had long been settled in Tilden Township. Among the settlers listed at Eagle Point in 1880 was John Boetcher's father, Christian Boetcher, who was born in Prussia in 1794.

I mention Albertine Backhaus here because in 1860 my great grandfather, William Lubach, was living in Sheboygan County not far from Lake Michigan. He was four years old and lived in Scott Township. His neighbors on one side were the Ludwig and Henrietta Backhaus family and on the other side were Wilhelm and Maria D. Ebert and their family. The next nearest neighbors on that side were August and Sophia Heise. William's father, Wilhelm Lubach, fought in the Civil War along with August Heise in Company F of the 27th Wisconsin Infantry. August Heise returned; Wilhelm Lubach didn't.

Wilhelm Ebert's son, William, joined the 12th Wisconsin Infantry on February 22nd, 1864, when he was twenty years old. He was severely wounded at Bald Hill on July 21st, and saw some of the fiercest fighting in the Battle of Atlanta. He was discharged in January 1865 and returned to Scott Township where he was declared an invalid in February so that he and his wife, Fredericke, could receive a disability pension. According to the government he collected that pension until 1916. He and Fredericke raised a family in Scott Township. A blogpost I published in December last year, headed Gone With The Wind, details some of William Ebert's Civil War experience.

Wilhelm Lubach's widow, Maria, according to government pension records, married her next door neighbor, Ludwig Backhaus. I don't know what happened to Ludwig's wife, Henrietta, but I do know that in 1870 , a child named Edward, born in 1862 or 1863, was part of the Ludwig and Mary Backhaus household. I suspect that Henrietta may have died giving birth to Edward. The 1865 state census for Wisconsin lists only three children for the Lubach family, Carl, William and Louise. I would think Edward would have been listed as a fourth child if he was actually born a Lubach. He was listed as a Backhaus in the U.S. census of 1870.

Edward Lubach doesn't appear in the 1880 census and the 1890 census was destroyed in a fire, but in 1900 he and his wife, Catharine A. (Luhn) are living in Scott Township, along with a son, Edward, age 12, and five daughters. Also included in the household is his mother-in-law, Catharine Luhn. The 1860 census has her married to Jacob Luhn, a Prussian who was part of the same cluster with the Ebert, Lubach, Backhaus and Heise families. Catharine was from Hessen Darmstadt. The family disappears again in 1910, except for two of the children, Alexander, 23, and Ella, 19, who are listed in nearby Lynden Township as servants in the Charles Sibley household. Edward and Catharine appear again in 1920 in Scott Township with two more daughters who were not yet born in 1900. Their next door neighbors in 1920 are Alexander and Selma Lubach, who have recently blessed them with a granddaughter, Arline, and a grandson, Edward.

My great great grandmother, Marie Lubach, experienced a little trauma during the Civil War. A German emigration record suggests that Marie had a sister named Sophie and that they were the daughters of Wilhelm and Maria D. Ebert, their next door neighbors. Sophie was married to August Heise, who went off to war on the gulf coast with Wilhelm Lubach in January, 1865. A month later, William Ebert, the Ebert sisters' younger brother, returned from the war early with a severe wound and a disability pension. Two years later, Marie was a grieving widow married to her next door neighbor and raising a child whose mother, most likely, had died during the war. Her sons, Carl and William, don't appear in the 1870 census, but in 1880 Carl has married Catharine (Guth) up north in Fondulac. They will live in nearby Kewaskum for a few years before moving to Ohio where they will lose three sons to a diptheria epidemic in 1893. William has married Hanna (Boetcher) way out west in Chippewa. Marie's daughter, Louise, age 12, is still at home in Scott in 1870. She married Carl Boetcher in Sheboygan County in 1880, shortly before they also moved west to Chippewa.

Two months ago I published a post on this blog headed Bloomer Advance with a link to a letter written by Vernon Kressin earlier this year. The letter indicated that he and his wife, Lois, had visited the grave of Wilhelm Lubach, who fought in the Civil War and died in St. Louis. Vernon Kressin's ancestors are listed living in Eagle Point in 1880. Lois Kressin is the daughter of Carl and Louise Boettcher's son, Edwin, who was born in Tilden Township. If her claim to be the great granddaughter of Wilhelm Lubach is true, it virtually cinches my claim that Hanna (Boetcher) Lubach was the younger sister of Carl Boettcher and that Louise (Lubach) Boettcher was the younger sister of William Lubach.

Most of the people in America with my surname, Lubach, live in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. I don't think any of them are related to me, but some of them do have an an ancestor who was raised by my great great grandmother.

The town of Kewaskum is five or ten miles south of Scott Township in Sheboygan County and ten or twenty miles east of Herman Township in Dodge County. If you visit Kewaskum do take a tour of the cemeteries. You'll see world class gothic monuments. Roughly a third of the people buried in those cemeteries are named Backhaus. I don't know yet exactly how Ludwig Backhaus (b. 1815) in Scott Township and John Backhaus (b. 1813) in Herman Township were related, but I'll bet you a hundred dollars they were.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

In a Dark Time

Well, I've done it now. I finally broke down and shelled out the bucks for an membership. Nearly all of the information I've accumulated and posted about my family history on my webpage in the past three years, and here on my blog in the past year, has come from the internet free of charge. So why am I now willing to part with the big bucks? Am I selling out? Do the pay sites suddenly have vital information worth more than ten dollars a month to me? I don't think so, on either count.

The main thing you get with a membership is comprehensive access to several main sets of database records, the largest and most important of these being the U.S. Federal Census Records and the Social Security Death Index. You can search these records without being a paying member; you just can't see the results. Instead all you get is an indication of the number of hits on your search item in those databases. But simply knowing that there are hits can be a very useful clue. When there are hits, the specifics can often be accessed elsewhere free of charge.

Rootsweb and U.S. GenWeb are large free database projects that make relevant portions of the federal census records and other databases available to localized free genealogy websites. Most counties in America have one or more websites that exist solely for the purpose of making records available to people whose roots are in that locality. So if you know what you are looking for and where to look for it on the web, you can usually find it. What and other paysites sell is convenient and comprehensive access.

I guess what's happened to me is that I've reached the point where I've decided I don't mind paying for convenient, comprehensive access. First, I can afford it. Second, it's a worthwhile product. And third, I've reached a point where I can start to make use of some of the vast quantity of information that is related less specifically to my particular ancestors. Comprehensive access allows you to make better generalizations based on peripheral data.

I'm fortunate to have at least one fairly distinctive surname to trace. My last name is not one that you encounter everyday. If you were to canvas all of the phone books in America, you would find fewer people with my surname than you would find listed under Smith or Jones in any one small town in America. And with only a few hundred or perhaps one or two thousand total listings to draw on, it's not that hard to eliminate those that are probably not directly related to me.

While the items that I have found and posted on my webpage are not necessarily always the proverbial "smoking gun" of definitive proof, they are often enough sufficient evidence on which to base an assumption or a supposition. And when a supposition leads directly or even indirectly to a subsequent find, it indicates something about the validity of that supposition.

Now for something completely unrelated, I've added another reciprocal link to my blogroll.

In a Dark Time features some terrific wildlife photography and some excellent commentary and personal reflections on poems by many of the most significant modern American poets of the past century. I include it here because of the entries on Theodore Roethke and Nelson Bentley.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

"I Shall Return"

Ruins of the Mile Long Barracks on Corregidor. The portion in the foreground had served as MacArthur's office until the Japanese Air Force redesigned it as a rock garden.

A bronze statue of the late American Caesar, General Douglas MacArthur, on a bluff above the beach at Corregidor, the island fortress he commanded at the mouth of Manila Bay. Across the water behind him is the Bataan Peninsula. His famous motto, "I shall return," is inscribed on the stone block to his left. The guns of Corregidor delayed the Japanese conquest of the Philippines for nearly six months at the beginning of American involvement in WWII. Less than three years later, early in 1945, MacArthur did return to Corregidor in preparation for the Battle of Manila.

MacArthur's father, Arthur MacArthur Jr., still in his teens, served in the 24th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the Civil War and won a Congressional Medal of Honor leading a charge up Missionary Ridge in the Battle of Lookout Mountain in Tennessee. Thirty-five years later he commanded an army unit that took possession of Manila in the Pacific theatre of the Spanish-American War. The 24th was one of only a handful of regiments that trained at Camp Sigel in Milwaukee. Others included the 9th, the 26th, the 27th and the 45th. The 26th was nearly all German and served along with the 24th at Missionary Ridge. Arthur MacArthur died from a heart attack in 1912 while attending the 50th reunion of the 24th in Milwaukee.

MacArthur's grandfather, Arthur MacArthur Sr. , was a lawyer in Milwaukee. He was elected lieutenant governor in 1856, but served as governor while the outcome of the gubernatorial election was in dispute. After the Civil War he served as a federal judge in Washington D.C.. The governor of Wisconsin who was elected in 1862 drowned shortly after taking office while surveying Union casualties at Shiloh in Tennessee. His term was served out by a German, Edward Salomon, whose brothers, Charles and Frederick, both commanded Wisconsin regiments during the war.

My great great grandfather died serving in the 27th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment, commanded by Konrad Krez, a prominent German lawyer and poet from Sheboygan. Krez also commanded the 28th Wisconsin at the brigade level in the latter stages of the war.

The pictures above were taken yesterday on my second visit to Corregidor. My first visit there was five years ago shortly after I arrived in Manila. On a clear day I can look out over Manila Bay from my living room and see "the Rock" thirty miles away on the horizon.

I don't think I'm responsible for the spam barrage in the comments below.