The Early Settlers of St. John's Parish at Union Hill in 1867

In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of St. John's parish at Union Hill, Victorin J. Ruhland has written a history of the early settlers of a century ago.

Mr. Ruhland is a son of Mr. and Mrs. Albert J. Ruhland of Belle Plain township. He was graduated from New Prague High School in 1951, after which he served with the U.S. Army.

He received his Masters degree from the University of Minnesota, with a major in Agricultural Economics, and a minor in Economics and Soils.

Mr Ruhland is employed by the State Soil Conservation Service in St. Paul

Mrs. Ruhland is the former Jean Murphy of Mankato. The couple have one son, Jimmie, two years old.

Mr. Ruhland's history of Union Hill will be run in the New Prague Times serially in weekly installments, over following weeks.

The Early Settlers of St. John's Parish at Union Hill in 1867

Dedicated to the 44 families who were the founders of St. John's and the community of Union Hill, Minnesota. Written in the Centennial Year following the building of the first church at the present location.

By Victorin J. Ruhland June 1967

This summer will mark the 100th year since the founding of St. John's at Union Hill, Minnesota. It was in the year of 1867 that the early settlers constructed a church at the present location. In July of that year the church was finished and the first High Mass was sung in honor to St. John the Evangelist.

This location later also became known as Union Hill. Although the present church built in 1883 has replaced the earlier one, the location has served as the center for the community since that year of 1867. It is indeed fitting that we pay tribute this year to these early settlers and recall them as individuals. This series will discuss some of the findings by this writer for each settler in the Union Hill area in 1867.

Stories written about the year of 1867 describe how happy the people were with the completion of the church construction and the opening of their own church. This was the conclusion of about ten years of struggle and disappointments in their goal for a church. Even though a priest would come occasionally to the area to care for the spiritual needs of the area, the people desired something more. They desired a church of their own where they could come together and worship similar to what they had experienced before coming to this country. Their first attempts in building a church ended in failure. A log church was first built in 1860 about two miles northeast of the present church. This church was not permitted to be consecrated partly because of the closeness to St. Benedict's Church.

Their second church erected about four miles southwest of the present location served the spiritual needs for only a year. After Mass one Sunday the priest announced the church was closed. This announcement once again resulted in unhappiness for the people who greatly desired a church. This church was too small and too close to Heidelberg. The priest told them, however, the parish would not had to disband.

The little congregation still hoped for their own church. A committee was selected to seek the proper location for the construction of another church. Two offers were received by the committee for land to be donated for the new church. These offers were accepted and construction of the new church was started. The church was completed and on July 15, 1867, the church was blessed and the first High Mass sung. The church was named St. John the Evangelist, the same name as their former church had.

These people worked hard and together for their church. Stories state that they had much in common with each other which, no doubt, made this cooperation possible. However, much of the more detailed information on their common background has been lost in the pages of history.

The purpose of this research, therefore, was to regain some of this information and to determine what they had in common with each other as well as some of their experiences. After checking gravestones, memorial cards, death obituaries, court house records, interviews, and answers to letters of inquiry; a biographic account about each of the settlers was developed. The attempt was to trace the movements of each of the early settlers from the time they left Europe to their arrival in Union Hill. Such a study yielded such information as where and when they were born, when and why they left for this country, where they settled before coming to Union Hill, their marriage partners, their children, and when and where they died.

A historical account of the church written in the year 1916 in honor of the 50 year celebration of the parish, mentioned the names of 44 families in the new church of 1867. These names the writers had, no doubt, obtained from the existing early church records. The research at this time will involve these 44 families. It will be assumed that this list of 44 families included all the families.

A review of the descendants of the 44 families present some interesting conditions today. Of the 36 family names present in 1867, 13 are still found in Union Hill today. Descendants in the Union Hill community today as a group can trace their ancestry to 22 of the original 44 families. Of the remaining 22 families, 14 families moved away after varied lengths of stay in Union Hill and 8 families lived and died in this area but their descendants moved away. About one-fourth of the present people can trace their ancestors back to the original families. Furthermore, nearly three-fourths of the people can trace some part of their ancestry back to the original settlers. This may explain in part the strong feeling of the local people for this area. Farms have usually been transferred to a member of the next generation. Only a few newcomers have come to this community to live in recent years.

Another interesting observation is the birthplace of these early settlers. Of the 22 families whose descendants are still present in Union Hill today; 21 of the fathers and, for the most part, the mothers also came from within an area having a diameter of 50 miles. Most of the other 22 families also came from within this area.

This area is between Bonn and Trier in Western Germany near the border of Luxembourg on the west and the Rhine River on the east. Over half of them came from the Waxweiler area which is about 25 miles northwest of Trier, about 55 miles southwest of Bonn and within 10 miles of the Luxembourg border. Other birthplaces in the Waxweiler area were Bitburg, Fliesheim, Mauel, Mettendorf, Wallersheim, and Wilsecker. Another group involving at least a fourth of the families came from an area about 25 miles northeast of Waxweiler. Towns in this area included Alendorf, Dolendorf, Feusdorf, Ripsdorf, Schmittheim, and Walsdorf. These six are within 10-12 miles of each other. Several families also came from the area around Trier.

Their speech was a form of low German. Even though they came from a relatively small area slight differences existed in the speech of the two main groups. The family from Waxweiler, for example, pronounced some words differently than the family from Alendorf even though the communities were less than 25 miles apart.

These immigrants were also called Prussians since their homes in the Rhenish Provinces were part of Prussia at that time. They much preferred to be called Rhenish Prussians, however. The area ruled by Prussia was not a continuous territory for the German independent states of Hannover and Hessian lay between Prussia and the Rhenish Provinces. Prussia, a powerful eastern German state, was restored these lands in the treaty of 1815 for her role in defeating Napoleon. These lands had been taken over by Napoleon in 1795 from Prussia. Prussia had taken over these independent Rhenish Provinces about 20 years earlier.

Land ownership by the peasant farmers became common in Western Europe only several generations before migration to this country occurred. Before this time, the nobles and lords controlled most of the land as well as the lives of the people. However, due to the limited agricultural land and the large population, farms were small. Over two-thirds of the large population in this part of Europe were considered rural. Farms were divided and subdivided as the next generation came of age. Most farms consisting of many scattered fields, ranged from 10 to 25 acres in size. The limited opportunities for these Europeans meant that some of the surplus people would have to migrate to areas with fewer people.

It is no wonder that the settlers from this part of Europe had a strong appreciation for the soil and a desire to own more land than was possible for them in their homeland. The first to come picked areas they felt had the most fertile soil. This they found under the "Big Woods" in this part of Minnesota

These weren't the only reasons, however, for the migration to this county. Prussia demanded military support form the lands she ruled. Men were required to serve several years in her armies. This obligation led many individuals and families to leave their homeland and come to this country in order to avoid the military duty. The stories of adventure and success in the new land, no doubt, also played a part in the decision to come to this country.

These settlers were by no means strangers to one another upon establishing themselves in this community. Many were related to one another. Seventeen families involved one or more brothers or sisters in the group of 44 families. Nine more families became in-laws after marriage in this country shortly after their arrival here. It appears, therefore, that in 1867, 26 of the 44 families had one or more brothers or sisters in the group. In addition, at least seven families were cousins to one or more of the 26 families. Even in those days many families were related to one another which is even more true today in the Union Hill area.

Besides being related, there is no way of knowing how many were friends or at least knew each other before coming to this country. Many settled in Kenosha County, Wisconsin, for a couple of years before coming to Union Hill. Here they must have become acquainted with others who came from the same area in their homeland. It is no wonder, therefore, that the families were not complete strangers to each other upon settling in the Union Hill area.

Of the 44 families the first came about 1852, 15 years before the completion of their church at today's location. In that year, the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux was signed. This treaty involved the sale of nearly 24 million acres of land in Southern Minnesota and opened this land to the migrating settlers. Prior to this time the land belonged to the Sioux Indians and white pioneers were not allowed to settle on it.

In the next five years through 1857 nearly twenty of the 44 families came to the Union Hill area. The area first settled was mainly north of Union Hill along or near Raven Stream which flows through that area. In the next five years only a few settlers came to this area partly because of the Panic of 1857.

The names of the 44 families present in 1867 include the following: Caspar and Jacob Barten, Hubert Bonzelet, John Botzet, John Etten, Leonard Gansen, Matthias Guetten, Matthias and Nicholas Hauer, Anton Heinen, John Hinderscheid, William Hoffman, John Huss, Gerhard Klinkhammer, Franz Kraemer, John J. Nicholas, Thomas and Valentine Lenz, Henry Lochen, John Merget, Peter Neisen, John and Matthias Pint, Peter Poss, Leonard Rech, Joseph Schneider, Bartel, Mattias, and Nicholas Schoenecker, Peter Schommer, John Schwalier, Andreas Simmer, Peter Solheid, J.H. Spaetgens, Bernard Tix, Christ Trappen, John and Joseph Unzen, Caspar Walerius, Nick Wilwerding, and Carl Witt.

The following is a summarized account of each family based on information located by this writer. The first section will discuss the 22 families who lived and died in the Union Hill area and whose descendants are still living there. They will be discussed in alphabetical order.

Caspar Barten

Caspar Barten came from Waxweiler, Germany to the Union Hill area in the late 1850's. He first settled on a tract of land in Section 14 of Derrynane Township. Around 1863 he married Mrs. Franz Giesen, a widow with five children. Caspar bought 80 acres across the road from the Giesen farm in Scott Co. and here the Bartens made their home.

Mrs Barten nee Elizabeth Schmitz was born at Schmittheim, Germany, and came to America in the early 1850's. She was married to Franz Giesen in Calumet Co, Wisconsin. It is believed Mr. Giesen also came from the Schmittheim area in Germany. Around 1857 the Giesens came to the Union Hill area and settled on a farm a half mile north of the community. It is believed that Mr. Giesen's brother John also came at this time and settled on the neighboring farm. Several years later Mrs. Franz Giesen was widowed. Later Mrs Giesen and Caspar Barten were married.

The Bartens had one son, Joseph, who stayed in the Union Hill area. Five children were born in Mrs. Barten's first marriage. They were Mrs. Henry Walerius, Mrs. Hubert Schoenecker, and John Giesen of Union Hill; Mrs Michael Walerius of New Prague; and Sister Augustine of Marysville, Missouri.

The Giesen brothers both met their deaths shortly after their arrival in Union Hill. It must have been around 1862 that Franz was found by his brother under a fallen tree. He had been clearing the woods to increase his cultivated land. Fright drove his brother to lift the tree from the body but Franz was already dead. Later, as the story goes, several men couldn't lift the same heavy tree from the ground. It was believed that shock or the overexertion caused John's death for he died shortly afterwards. This accident ended the hopes and dreams of two young brothers for life in the new land.

Both widows were remarried in 1867 so that the first parish directory included both of the Giesen families under their stepfather's name. The family name, however, did survive in the community as is very evident today. The son of each brother grew to manhood and had families in the Union Hill area. An interesting sequence of names occurred in the two family descendants. Franz had a son named John and his brother John had a son named Frank. In the second generation, John's family had a son named Frank and Frank's family a son named John. However, in the third generation this sequence came to an end for both Frank and John remained single and only recently passed away.

Jacob Barten

The Jacob Bartens came with their family to Minnesota in 1857. They came from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where they had moved to from Galena, Illinois. They had a son born to them at both locations. Their travels before 1854 are not known. They must have come to this country in the early 1850's. It is not known where they were married. Upon arrival in Minnesota they settled on a farm south of Union Hill where they made their home and raised their family.

Mr Barten was born in Waxweiler, Germany. His wife was Barbara Botzet Barten. Her brothers also came to the Union Hill area several years later. The birth place of the Botzet family is not known. Jacob died in 1886, Barbara died from dropsy in 1881.

The children of the Bartens included Peter of Belle Plaine; John, Jacob and Henry of Union Hill; Nicholas of Carlos, Minn; Mrs Joe Koenig of Jordan; and Sister Rosina in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

John Etten

John Etten upon completing three years of military service in the Prussian army in 1862 left his home of Walsdorf for this country. He came with his brother Lawrence and settled in Kenosha Co., Wisconsin. Here John married Mrs. Theodore Zimmer nee Anna Barbara Meyer, a widow. She had come from Alendorf with her family in 1854 to Kenosha County.

The Ettens located on 160 acres in Section 1 of Derrynane Township upon their arrival in Union Hill in 1867. Lawrence also came to Union Hill and lived with them.

John and Barbara had a family of eight children. They were Mrs. Godfred Widmer (Mary), St. Bonifacius, Minnesota; Mrs John Reintzes (Gertrude), St. John, North Dakota; Mrs Charles Hoffmann (Anna), St. Paul; Mrs Thomas Schoenecker (Kath), Union Hill; Lena and Henry, Union Hill; and Mrs Henry Busch (Elizabeth), St Benedict. Another son, John, died while a child of five years.

Leonard Gansen

The Leonard Gansens came from Waxweiler, Germany, directly to the Union Hill area in 1867. They settled on 40 acres 3 miles north of Union Hill. This land is still in the Gansen name. Their family of six children was approaching adulthood when they came to Union Hill. The Gansens were in this country only four years when Mr. Gansen died.

Mrs. Gansen continued to live on the farm for awhile but later went to live with her daughter in Faribault. She died in Faribault; however, the location of her burial site is not known. Mrs Gansen's maiden name was Catherine Eischens. One report states that the Gansens were first cousins to the Lochens in Union Hill. If this is true, it may be the reason the Gansens came to Union Hill.

The Gansen family included Mrs. Caspar Nall, later Mrs. John Wirtzler (Gertrude) of Hampton, Mrs Peter Ring (Catherine), Mrs Math. Becker (Margaretha) of Faribault, Mrs Carl Stolzenberg (Mary) of Austin, Mrs John Schommer (Anna) of Union Hill and John Gansen of Union Hill.

The Hauers

The Hauer family of 1867 included five brothers, four of them civil war veterans. They were Andrew, Jacob, Matthias, Nicholas (Klaus) and Nicholas (Nick).

Only Jacob and Mattias Hauer are included in the list of 44 families who were in the parish a century ago. However, land ownership records tend to indicate that the five brothers were in the community at that time. It is possible that the other members of the Hauer family belonged to the parish at Heidelberg in 1867, or it is possible that the original list of 44 families was not complete.

Only Mathias and Nicholas (Klaus) remained in this area after 1867. Andrew moved to Fort Dodge, Iowa; Jacob settled near Montgomery; and Nicholas (Nick) lived in several areas including Iowa, Ellsworth, and Belle Plaine. In later years, he lived with his niece in Union Hill.

The Hauers were among the first of the original settlers of this community to come to this country. In 1850 Nicholas and Eva Schlinker Hauer brought their family from Trier, Germany and settled in Michigan. They did not find Michigan to their liking and moved to St. Paul. In the late 1850's they came to this area. Mrs. Hauer died during the civil war when her sons were away from home serving in the army. The elder Hauer always felt that they should never have left St. Paul for the frontier life in this community following the death of his wife according to the story that is told. In addition to the five sons, the family included Mrs. Nicholas Wilwerding (Margaret).

The Hauer family included two sons with the name Nicholas. The older Nicholas went by the name Klaus and the younger was called Nick.

Matthias Hauer

The military life of the Civil War attracted Matt partly because of the better wages that could be earned. In August, 1861, he along with his brothers, Jacob and Andrew, enlisted and served with the Minnesota Second Infantry Regiment. He was discharged with the regiment at the end of the war. In 1865 he was married to Mary Peters of St. Benedict. They were the first couple to be married in St. John's. They made their home in Section 14 of Derrynane Township. Although their romance developed in this community, both famlies knew each other well. The Peters and Hausers were neighbors in their homeland near Trier.

The Haurers had a family of 13 children. They included Nicholas and Mrs. Anna Renneberg (Theresia) of Union Hill; John of Fort Dodge, Iowa; Mrs Andrew Giesen of St. Paul; Peter, Mrs Matt Nickalay, Joseph and Mrs Peter Thomas, New Prague; and Matt and Henry of Heidelberg. Three died in their youth. Mrs. Renneberg and Mrs. Thomas are still active today. The Matt Hauers later joined the parish in Heidelberg and both are buried in the cemetary located there.

Nicholas Hauer

Nicholas (Klaus) Hauer lived a long life to the grand age of 96. Klaus came with the rest of the family to this area. He received ownership of 160 acres of land in Section 25 of Belle Plaine Township from the United States Government. Later , he and Leonard Rech traded farms and on this second farm in Derrynane Township he made his home the rest of his life.

On June 10, 1863, Klaus was married to Gertrude Renneberg in a home in Shakopee. Gertrude was born in Hoegen, Germany, to Anton and Johanna Spaetgens Renneberg. The Rennebergs came to this country and to this area in 1863, the same year Gertrude was married.

Klaus joined his brothers as soldiers in the Civil War. In June, 1864, he was drafted and served in the Minnesota Fourth Infantry Regiment. He was discharged with the rest of his regiment. Neither he nor his three brothers suffered an injury during the war years.

The Hauers had a family of eight sons and two daughters. They were Mrs. Margaret Mahowald of New Market; Mrs. Henry Barten (Mary), Dominic, and Frank of Union Hill; Anton of Hector; Peter of Heidelberg; Nicholas of Leofeld, Canada; Henry of St. Paul; John of Belle Plaine; and Matt of Washington State.

Anton Heinen

Anton Heinen brought his wife and family from Waxweiler, Germany, directly to this area in the early 1860's. They settled on an 80 acre farm about three miles north of Union Hill. Several years later they bought another 80 acres that laid just south of their farm.

Anton was born in 1821 and died in 1892. His wife, Katherine Heinen was born in 1820 and died in 1904. Both are buried in Union Hill.

The children of the Anton Heinens include Mrs. William Unzen and Mrs. John Gansen of Union Hill and Michael Heinen of Minneota, Minnesota. After Mrs. Unzen's death, William moved to St. Leo with his family and later to the state of Oklahoma.

William Hoffman

The William Hoffmanns were among the first settlers to this part of the country. They arrived in 1853 directly from Dollendorf, Germany. Along with them came the Schneiders; the two wives were sisters. The Hoffmans settled on 160 acres in Section 35 of Belle Plaine Township and made their home on it for the rest of their lives. The farm was obtained directly from the US Government.

William was born in 1799. For awhile he had been driver and caretaker of the horses of Count Beisel of Cologne.

William and Sybilla's (Klinkhammer) family included Mrs. John Giesen later Mrs. Carl Witt (Helena) and Joseph of Union Hill, and Margaret who married John Peter Mamer of New Prague. The family also included a daughter who died in Wisconsin while the family was coming to Union Hill and another daughter who stayed in Germany.

John Huss

John Huss and his family came to Union Hill in 1863 in a covered wagon and settled on a farm one mile north of the community. His single brother, Stephen, had come to this area two years earlier. Within ten years the two brothers owned 360 acres of land. In later years, John opened a store in Union Hill. This was the first store in Union Hill.

John Huss and his brother Stephen were born in Fliesheim, Germany and came to Kenosha, Wisconsin in 1854. In 1857, John married Elizabeth Niesen in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Elizabeth was born in Wallersheim, Germany to Joe and Katherine Schneider Niesen. She immigrated to this country in 1853 and settled in the Kenosha area.

The John Huss family included sons: Stephen, Matt and John, and daughters: Mrs Frank Giesen (Katherine), and Mrs. Matt Michael (Anna). A son Nick died in infancy. All the children spent their lives in the Union Hill area.

Gerhard Klinkhammer

Gerhard Klinkhammer had died before the church was built in Union Hill. Gerhard and his family came to America in 1852 and first settled at Brighton (Kenosha Co) Wisconsin. About five years later they settled on a farm four miles south of Union Hill. (Derryname Twp)

The Klinkhammers came from Ripsdorf, Germany. After a short life in the new land, Gerhard passed away. He was buried near the earlier St. John's Church. Mrs Klinkhammer passed away in her ninetieth year near Ellsworth and her remains were brought to the Union Hill area for burial. Mr Klinkhammer was reburied in the present cemetary and now lies alongside his wife's grave.

The family consisted of three children: Peter of Union Hill, Joseph of Heidelberg, and Mrs. John J. Lenz (Anna) of Ellsworth.

Nicholas Lenz

Nicholas Lenz was the last of the four Lenz brothers to settle in the Union Hill area. They arrived around 1863 and moved on 160 acres in Helena Township, northeast of the church. Nicholas was born in Alendorf, Germany. He came across to Wisconsin and in 1857 married Gertrude Rosenplanter at Kenosha. Her sister married Hubert Bonzelet who also moved to the Union Hill area.

Nicholas and Gertrude had 11 children born to them. They included John, Valentine, Thomas, Peter, Nicholas, and Mrs. Matt Gerardy of Ellsworth; Mrs John Pint of St. Benedict; Mrs Matt Huss and Mrs. Matt Pint of Union Hill; and Mrs. John Schneider of Turton, North Dakota. A son, Joseph, died at two years of age. Mrs Pint is still active in the Union Hill area.

Following his wife's death in 1906, Nicholas moved to Ellsworth where most of his children lived. He died there in 1912 from blood poisoning. Both are buried in Union Hill.

Henry Lochen

Henry Lochen returned to his homeland after six years of hard work establishing himself in this country. The group that accompanied him back to this country in 1854 included his parents, two sisters, a brother and his friend. Henry had come to Minnesota in the early 1850's and settled on a farm about two miles northeast of Union Hill.

Henry was born near Waxweiler, Germany to William and Maria Octav Lochen. William had been an expert swordsman with the cavalry of Napoleon's Armies and had accompanied Napoleon on his drive on Moscow in 1812. He was captured by the Russians and spent many hard years in Siberia before being released.

Henry worked hard for the establishment of a church at Union Hill. He made his home available whenever the priest came to the area to say Holy Mass. Forty acres were bought from Henry and a log church built by the local people was their first attempt to establish a church. However, the bishop did not accept the church site and later the land was sold back to Henry.

Mr. Lochen was married to Mary Hilgers at Shakopee. She was the daughter of a school teacher who taught in a neighboring school. She was born in Laningen, Luxemburg. They had nine children in the family. They were Nicholas of Plentywood, Montana; William of Eden Valley; Sister Adeline of Madison, Wisconsin; Thomas, Daniel, Mrs. Joe J. Busch (Angela), Mary, Elizabeth, and Mrs. Gerhard Busch (Margaret) of Union Hill.

John Meyer

John, along with his sister Angela, came in 1867 and settled at Union Hill, it is believed. Their brother Benedict, also came to this area in 1867 and settled near St. Benedict. The Meyers came from Waxweiler, Germany.

The following year Angela was married to Thomas Lochen at Union Hill. They made their home on his farm two miles northeast of the church. Thomas was a brother of Henry Lochen and Mrs. Matt Schoenecker. He had some from Waxweiler with his parents, brother and sisters in 1854. The Tom Lochen family consisted of Mrs. Mike Faber of St. Leo, and Mrs. Gerhard Busch, Louise, Henry and John of Union Hill.

John never married and so stayed with his brother-in-law Tom Lochen. During the Civil War, John served as a soldier. In the Union Hill area he was a laborman. In 1878, he dug a well by hand near the church to a depth of 29 feet. On April 3, 1886, he was accidentally killed. He was well known in the community and went by the name of "Honnas".

John Michels

The John Michels came to this country in 1862 as newlyweds. They were just married in Trier, Germany. They lived for two years in Kenosha, Wisconsin before coming to Union Hill. They made their home on his farm about four miles northwest of Union Hill. Through the years the letter "s" has been dropped from the family name and it is spelled "Michel" today.

John and Margaretha Moers Michels had a family of five daughters and three sons. They were Mrs. Conrad Fink of Cold Spring, Mrs. S. Wagner of Springfield, Mrs Adam Riesgraf and Mrs. John (Lena) Gestach of Carver, Mrs. Stephen Huss and Matt of Union Hill, Peter of Tintah, and John Jr. of Hixton, Wisconsin. John just recently passed away.

Peter Neisen

Peter Neisen was already deceased when his wife, Anna, and family decided to leave their home in Feusdorf, Germany and come to this country. They came directly to the Union Hill area in 1867. In 1870, they bought a farm three miles north of Union Hill and the two sons farmed it together for several years.

Mrs Anna Neisen lived here only about ten years before she passed away in 1876. Her family consisted of sons Peter and Matt of Union Hill, Mrs. John Mamer (MaryAnn) of New Prague, and Mrs. Catherine Neises of Colwich, Kansas. Another son, John, did not come with the rest of the family. He served in the German army for ten years, including the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. However, he did come over later in 1874 and lived in Belle Plaine, Minneapolis, and Essig, Minnesota.

John Pint

John Pint came to Union Hill in 1863, the same year his brother Matt did and the two settled on neighboring farms. John immigrated to this country in that year and came directly to Union Hill where he settled on a farm one mile north of St. John's Church. The farm is still in the Pint family.

John was born in Wilsecker, Germany in 1837. Marie Moers became his wife in 1865 at New Prague. She was born in 1837 in Feustdorf, Germany. She also came to this country in 1863 and settled at Union Hill. Her sister was the wife of John Michels.

The John Pint family included Mrs George Wagner later Mrs. Val Lenz of Ellsworth; John of St. Benedict; and Mrs. Frank Giesen (Elizabeth), Jacob and Matt of Union Hill; Mrs. Joseph Westrup (Margaret) and Mrs. Lucy Fink of Eden Valley; and Mrs. Albert Ott (Mary) of Winsted.

Matt Schoenecker

Matt Schoenecker and Anna Maria Lochen came to Union Hill in 1854 from Waxweiler, Germany. They accompanied her brother back to this country who had returned to Germany after six years of work in this country. Matt bought 80 acres from his brother Nick, who was already in this country and engaged in farming. In 1861, he married Anna Maria and they made their home on his farm.

Matt's father, John, had died in Germany and this left Matt to support his mother, Katherine. His brothers had already left home and were on their own. Whether Katherine accompanied Matt to this country or if she came later is not known. She died in 1868 and was the first adult buried in St. John's cemetary at Union Hill.

Matt and Anna Maria lived to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary. They had five sons and five daughters: Mrs. John Giesen (Mary), Mrs. Joseph Barten (Louise), Mrs Jacob Pint (Elizabeth) and Anna and Thomas of Union Hill; Henry of Eden Valley; William of St. Paul; Mrs. Caspar Walerius and Joseph of Jordan; and John of Estacada, Oregon.

Nicholas Schoenecker

Nicholas Schoenecker was one of the first if not the first to settle in the Union Hill area. One historical reference state of him arriving in 1852. His land was section 25 of Belle Plaine Township which is still in the Schoenecker name.

In 1860, Nicholas was selected the spokesman of a committee of Union Hill men who called on Bishop Grace in St. Paul. They came to request the assignment of a priest to the new church they had recently constructed. However, their request was no accepted due to the shortage of priests and the closeness of the church to St. Benedict's Church.

Nicholas was born near Waxweiler, Germany. Two of his brothers also came a couple of years later and settled nearby.

Nicholas was married to Katherina Lochen and they raised a family of six boys. They were Matt of Fargo, North Dakota; Bartel of Andale, Kansas; Henry of Fargo, North Dakota; Nick of Idaho; Peter of Jordan; and Hubert of Union Hill. In addition two girls died while at a young age. Katherina was not related closely related to the other Lochens in Union Hill if at all related. She died at the age of 46 in 1877. Mr. Schoenecker married again to Mrs. Lucia Schaefer Bovie, a widow. All three are buried in Union Hill.

Peter Solheid

Peter Solheid is considered the first lay teacher of the St. John's parish. He would teach the children of the parish their religious faith in his home. The Solheids arrived in the Union Hill area in 1867 shortly after the church was built. They settled on a farm two miles northeast of Union Hill and here made their home. They came to this area directly from Waxweiler Germany.

Peter was born in 1815 to Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Solheid. His wife Anna Walerius was born in 1821. It is not known how closely related she was to the Caspar Walerius who came several years earlier to Union Hill also from Waxweiler, Germany. The Solheids lived to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary on June 1, 1891.

Mr. and Mrs. Soldheid's family included Mrs. Catherine Link and Mrs. Mary Kraus of St. Leo and John, Carl and Peter of Union Hill. Descendants of the three sons are still living in the Union Hill area today.

John Henry Spaetgens

The Spaetgens and their six children came from Germany in 1864 to Shakopee. The next year they settled on a farm in Section 15 of Derrynane Township southwest of Union Hill. One source states that the Spaetgens came from near the Netherlands border in Germany for they could speak Dutch.

Mr. Spaetgens was married to Josephine Mufels who bore him two children before she died. The children were Mrs. Theodore Heffele (Elizabeth) of Heidelberg and Bartel of St. Joe. Mr. Spaetgen married again to Gertrude Heinen and four more children were born into the family. They were Joseph of Le Center, Mrs. Hentges of Jordan, Mrs. H. Carl Witt (Mathilda) of Union Hill and Katherine of St. Paul.

Caspar Walerius

The Caspar Walerius family came to this country from Waxweiler, Germany, in 1862, and remained in the eastern states for a few years before coming to this area in 1866. They settled on a farm a half mile east of Union Hill.

The Walerius children included Michael and Henry of Union Hill, Nick of Belle Plaine, Mrs. Michael Heinen who later moved to Minneota, and Jacob of Minneapolis. Michael and Henry married Giesen girls who were sisters. Both raised a large family in the Union Hill area.

Carl Witt

The biography of the Carl Witt family is indeed one that portrays the spirit and determination of the pioneer settler even under extreme difficulties. It is filled with savagery and tragedy as well as with happiness.

The Carl Witts and their four children came from Wangerin, Germany to LaCrosse, Wisconsin in 1857. Wangerin was located in the state of Pomerania in Protestant Germany; approximately 125 northeast of Berlin. Today the community is located in Poland.

While in Wisconsin, Mrs. Witt passed away. Carl was married again to his deceased wife's sister and in 1859 he moved the family to Brown County, Minnesota. Shortly afterwards they began farming in the Birch Coulee area of the Minnesota River Valley in Renville County near Morton, Minnesota. They were located near the Sioux Indian Reservation and so became acquainted with many of them on the reservation. In 1862, the young Sioux braves, angered by the past misdeeds of the white man went on the war path determined to kill all white settlers in southern Minnesota. Many white settlers were killed including Mrs. Witt as the warriors headed southeast to attack Fort Ridgely.

The following is the story of this tragedy as told by one of their children, H. Carl Witt:

"It was about noon. Father had gone some distance away to cut hay and my brother William had brought home a load with the oxen a short time before. My stepmother was stacking the hay in the yard and William was unloading it when five Indians appeared. They had on warpaint and carried guns, but were on foot. We had a big dog that always made for Indians and when my stepmother saw them coming she got down and caught the dog and tied him up, as she always did when Indians came. But they walked up to the stack and without saying a word, shot my stepmother in the breast. She died almost instantly. William jumped down from the wagon on the side opposite the Indians and ran into the woods. We children were playing near the cabin. My oldest sister, Augusta, was working in New Ulm. There was an opening for a cellar beside the cabin and I was standing beside it when one of the Indians leveled his gun at me. One bullet struck me in the back of the head and another entered my left hip. Although I was not quite eight years old, I knew enough to lie still when I fell. I had fallen into the cellar opening. The other children had hidden in a little smoke house father had built.

"For some reason, the Indians didn't stay to kill the rest of us. They probably thought I was dead and may not have seen the others. Anyway, they didn't stop to take any scalps but hurried on, perhaps to attack some other family. William had hidden in a hollow log in the woods, and, wounded as I was, I ran with the other children to find him. He went after my father, who came home at once. They buried my stepmother where she had fallen and we packed up and set out for Fort Ridgely with the oxen. At the fort, a doctor removed the two bullets from my head and my hip. It seems that the bullet that entered my head had glanced and did not penetrate deeply, while the other had caused only a flesh wound.

"We stayed at the fort until the worst part of the fighting was over and then went to New Ulm. We remained there awhile and then went to St. Peter and from there came to Belle Plaine, where we were housed in a warehouse with other refugees. If it were not for the small cannon at the Fort we would all have been killed.

After a brief stay in Belle Plaine, the family moved to Union Hill in 1863 where they settled on the Franz Giesen farm. Carl later married Mrs. John Giesen, a widow with two children. Her husband had died shortly after finding his brother, Franz, dead under a fallen tree.

Mrs. John Giesen (Helen Hoffmann) was born in Dollendorf, Germany, to William and Sybilla Hoffmann who brought her to this country in 1854. She married her neighbor, John Giesen and lived on his farm until his death. They had two children, Frank of Union Hill and Mrs. John Lenz (Elizabeth) of Ellsworth.

Carl's family consisted of four sets of children. To his first wife were born four children. They were William of Shakopee, Mrs. Joseph Hoffmann (Augusta), H. Carl, and Mrs. Peter Klinkhammer (Louisa) of Union Hill. His second wife bore him two children, Joe of New Ulm and Mrs. Peter Bettendorf (Mary) of St. Cloud. His last marriage gave him two foster children and four of his own. The four were Mrs. Tom Lenz (Margred) of Ellsworth, John of Omaha, Henry of Union Hill, and Mrs. Math Seuer (Helen) of New Market.

(The next section will discuss the eight families who lived and died in the Union Hill area but whose descendants have moved away from this area.)

Hubert Bonzelet

Hubert Bonzelet was a most dedicated parishioner of St. John's. He served as trustee for many years. He was also selected to the committee by the members of the committee in 1867 to seek a location for the new church. He wrote in the "Old Parish Chronicle" later in life which gives a detailed account of the early years of the parish. His style of writing clearly reflects the thinking and speech of that day.

Hubert came to America in 1855 from Trier, Germany. In that same year, he was married to Catherine Rosenplanter in Kenosha, Wisconsin. She was also born in Trier. Mrs Nicholas Lenz (Gertrude) was a sister to Mrs. Bonzelet. The Bonzelets lived in Wisconsin until 1858 when they left and came to this area settling on a farm two miles north of Union Hill. Here they raised their family and farmed their 120 acres of land.

On July 2, 1905, they celebrated their golden wedding anniversary which also was the day that their son, Father Honoratus, celebrated his First Holy Mass at St. John's. Both died within seven months of each other in 1907.

The Bonzelet family consisted of thirteen children. They included Mrs. William Schneider (Mary), Mrs. Nick Eppers (Gertrude), and Mrs. Joseph Hansen of Adrian; Matt of Browns Valley; Peter of Kranzburg, South Dakota; John, Mrs. Peter Roerig (Josephine), Hubert and Valentine of Browns Valley; Father Honoratus (Joseph); and Thomas of Union Hill. Two children died in their youth.

Franz Kraemer

Franz Kraemer came to Union Hill in the late 1850's. His place of birth and his trip to this country was not located. When and where he married Maria Kubes was also not found. They made their home on his farm a mile out of Union Hill in Helena Township. Later they made their home on the land they owned across the road in Belle Plaine Township. In 1864, at the age of 42, Franz was drafted into the military service. He served with the First Regiment of Minnesota Heavy Artillery. He was discharged in June 1865, and returned to his farm.

The Kraemers had five children including Henry, Mrs. Peter Rolles (Anna), Peter, John and Sister Anatasia (Catherine). Mrs. Kraemer died in 1896 and Mr. Kraemer in 1901. Both are buried in St. John's cemetary.

Thomas Lenz

Thomas Lenz was the only one of the four Lenz brothers to stay in the Union Hill area after having located here. He lived for over 60 years on his farm a half mile West of Union Hill. Thomas was born in Alendorf, Germany and came to this country with his brothers in 1851. He also settled in the Brighton-Salem area of Wisconsin. In 1853, he was married to Elizabeth Holz in Salem. In 1856, they came to Union Hill and made their home on his farm.

The Tom Lenz family included the following children: Mrs Jacob Barten and Mrs. John Barten of Union Hill; Theodore Weiers of Humbolt, Canada; and John of  Ridgerwood, North Dakota. Another son, Matt, died in 1871 at the age of five from a heart condition.

Peter Poss

Peter Poss came to the Union Hill area from Kenosha, Wisconsin in the early 1860's, it is believed. He married Katherine Tix about the same time.Not much is known about Peter before his arrival in Union Hill. Katherine came with her parents to this area around 1854. She had a brother (Bernard Tix) and a sister (Mrs. Leonard Rech) living nearby in 1867. The Poss farm was a half mile north of Union Hill. Here they had eleven children born to them. Peter's life was cut short by an accident in 1883 when he was only 43 years old. He was thrown from a wagon loaded with pumpkins and suffered a broken spine.

The Poss family included Nicholas of Iowa; Jacob and Peter of Humboldt, Canada; Math of Union Hill; Mrs. Martin Pranke (Mary) of Prior Lake; Mrs. Susan Glenn of Mrs. Elizabeth Schaunus of Belle Plaine; Mrs. Katherine Haus of Calio, North Dakota; and Mrs. Anne Haus of Mantodor, North Dakota. Math was killed by lightening at the age of 18 on their farm in Union Hill. Another son, Bernard died as a young boy.

Mrs. Katherine Poss married a second time. She had another son, John Hertz. John and his mother left for the Dakotas and later for Humboldt, Saskatchewan. Here she died shortly after arriving and was buried at Humboldt.

A peculiar coincidence in connection with the death of Peter Poss was the death of Mr. Newell of Belle Plaine, who was also thrown from a horse loaded with pumpkins. Both accidents happened on the same day from the same cause and both were interred from a Church of St. John the Evangelist.

Joseph Schneider

Shortly after their marriage in 1853 in Dollendorf, Germany, the Schneiders came to America. They made their home in Wisconsin and in the later 1850's came to Union Hill. Joseph bought a farm a mile north of Union Hill. Mrs. Schneider was a sister to Mrs. William Hoffman. The Hoffmans accompanied them on their trip to this country and settled on a neighboring farm.

Joseph was born in 1825. His wife, Anna was born in 1814 to Theodore and Anna Schmitz Klinkhammer. They had two sons; John of Turton, South Dakota and William of Browns Valley, Minn.

The committee selected to seek a proper location for the church in 1867 inluded Joseph. His membership in the new church was short lived, however, for less than two years later, he was dead. He died in 1869 and was one of the first to be buried in the new cemetary of St. John's.

Peter Schommer

Mr and Mrs. Peter Schommer and their daughter, Lena, came to the Union Hill area in the middle 1850's. Peter met Anna Schommer in Wisconsin and they later married. The story is told that since they both had the same name, Schommer, but not related the priest who married them asked Anna to spell her last name with only one "m". They settled on a farm two miles northeast of Union Hill and here raised their family. The family included Mrs. Lena Fritz of Wilmont, Minnesota; Emilia who died shortly after her wedding; Peter of St. Leo; Nick of St. Benedict; John of Union Hill; Mrs. Sophia Lambrecht of St. Benedict; and Mrs. Mary Lehn (Frank) of Anoka.

Christian Trappen

The Christ Trappens came from Wilsecker, Germany, where the two had become acquainted with each other. Christ came to this country in the early 1860's. His wife to be, Margaret Weinard, came later and the two were married in this country. They came to Union Hill and settled on their farm a half mile west of the church. She died in 1891. Her husband died about twenty years later from cancer of the throat at age of 86.

The Trappen family consisted of six daughters and one son. The daughters were Mrs. Peter Schneider of Bovey, Minnesota; Mrs J. Lueurs and Mrs. J. Shields of Belle Plaine; Mrs. Pat Casey (Lena) of Slayton, Minnesota; Mrs. Thomas Meade of Black Duck, Minnesota; and Mrs. Fred Lux of Kewaunee, Illinois. Bernard of Tintah, Minnesota was their only son.

John Unzen

Little is known about the John Unzens prior to their arrival in thei area in the early 1860's. It is believed he was a brother to Joseph and William Unzen who also located here. It is also possible that Nicholas Unzen who was buried in the St. John's cemetary in 1872 at the age of 84 was the father of the Unzen brothers. In December of 1864,  John was drafted and served in the Second Minnesota Infantry Regiment until the following July. He returned to his farm located in the immediate area around Union Hill. Early in 1867, he and his neighbor gave some of their land for the site of the new church. The church was built on the land given by John. He later opened a saloon, the Unzen House in Union Hill in addition to his farming operations.

John's family included his wife Josephine (Sophia), his son J. Peter of Ellsworth and later of Kenosha, and his daughter Mary (Mrs. Michael Eischens) of St. Leo.

John died at the age of 50 in 1877 from erisipelas and Sophia died in 1895 at the age of 74. It is believed they were buried in St. John's cemetary, even though Mr. Unzen's grave cannot be located for lack of a gravestone.



The last group are the 14 families who lived in the Union Hill area in 1867 but moved away after various lengths of stay. Neither did any of their descendants stay or move back to this community.

John Botzet

John Botzet came from Germany in 1861 (?) to Kenosha, Wisconsin. Five years later he came to the Union Hill area. He was a brother to Mrs. Jacob Barten, it is believed. Two brothers, Henry and Nicholas, also came to the Union Hill area before they moved to Carlos, Minnesota, a couple of years later. John's ventures were very successful and later in life he was able to live a contented retirement in Jordan.

John was born in 1832 and died in 1895. He was buried in Jordan. He was survived by his wife (Anna) and a daughter Mrs. William Maurer (Mary) of St. Paul. Mrs. Botzet later also moved to St. Paul and lived with her daughter. She died about twenty years later. 

Matthew Guetten

The author was unable to locate any information about Matt Guetten.

John Hinderscheit

It is believed that John Hinderscheit lived in the Union Hill area about a year and a half  before moving on. He later settled in St. Paul, married and raised a family there. He was a cousin to John Hinderscheit of Heidelberg, the later which has descendants living in Union Hill today.

The John Hinderscheit in Union Hill in 1867 must have come with friends or relatives from his birthplace of Waxweiler, Germany to the Union Hill area as he was only fifteen years at the time. The story is told that he was more interested in adventure in the new land than in supporting the military ambitions of the rulers of his homeland. Land ownership records show him owning 40 acres about a half mile southwest of Union Hill in 1866 and 1867. He then sold the farm and moved on.

In 1868, John was married to Mary Peters in St. Paul. They had six children; namely Emma, Joseph, Margaret, Henry, Mary and Anna. John held the position of teamster with the Bruggemann Brew Company for many years. The Hinderscheit name came originally from Luxembourg. Shortly after 1700 one of the Hinderscheits married into a famliy in Waxweiler and remained there. He, no doubt, was the ancestor of John.

John Joseph Lenz

John Joseph Lenz was a man of more than ordinary abililty. While at Union Hill, he served repeatedly as county commissioner and in 1883 was elected to the state legislature. Later while living in Ellsworth his influence was instrumental in attracting a large number of German settlers to that area. At the time of his death, he owned about 1200 acres of land in the Ellsworth area.

Hon. J.J. Lenz was born in 1834 in Alendorf, Germany and came to the Brighton Wisconsin area around 1851. In 1856, he moved to the Union Hill area along with his brothers. He became acquainted with Anna Maria Klinkhammer also of the Union Hill area and in June 1863, they were married. She was born in 1845 in Ripsdorf, Germany, to Mr. and Mrs. Gerhard Klinkhammer who came to this country in 1852. They made their home on his farm one mile east of Union Hill. In 1883, Mr. Lenz sold his farm to Adam Ruhland and moved with his wife and family to Ellsworth, Minnesota. There land was more plentiful for his large family who also were interested in farming.

The Lenz's had 13 children, seven sons and six daughters. They included Nicholas of Souix Falls; Peter of Wolf's Point, Montana; Barbara (Mrs Peter Ruffing) of Marshfield, Wisconsin; Gerhard of Adrian; Rudolph of Litchfield; Margaret (Mrs Jacob Ruffing) of Adrian; Theresa (Mrs. Anton Pint) of Adrian; Johanna (Mrs. Charles Witt) of Watertown, South Dakota; Catherine of Adrian; Joseph of Nashua, Minnesota; Herman of Adrian; Dorothy (Mrs. Fred Pass) of Madison, Minnesota; and Leo of Barney North Dakota.

Valentine Lenz

A century ago Valentine Lenz offered to give five acre from his farm in addition to that offered by his neighbor for the site of the new church. These offers were accepted immediately and the cemetary was located on land given by Mr. Lenz. Val appears to have been interested in developing an organization in the recently settled areas. However, once the area had become well established he was ready to move closer to the frontier.

It is believed that Val came to this country and to this area the same time as his brothers. He was married to Susanna Mares who lived one mile northeast of Union Hill. Her parents, Christian and Antonetey Mares sold their farm in 1968 and left the community. Susanna's sister became the wife of Joseph Unzen, who also was one of the original settlers. The Lenz's made their home and raised a family on the farm immediately southwest of Union Hill. They stayed in the community until 1879 when he sold the farm to John Huss and moved with his family to St. Leo.

The Lenz's were one of the first settlers in the St. Leo area. Val, again, assisted in organizing the frontier community. He was elected township justice and was appointed the postmaster of the St. Leo Post Office in 1880. Mrs. Lenz passed away in 1897 from consumption (tuberculosis).

In the early part of the twentieth century Mr. Lenz moved from St. Leo to Humboldt, Saskatchewan, Canada. This was relatively new land for developing at that time. Here he died some twenty years later. The members of the family to reach adulthood included Mrs. Peter Tholkes of St. Leo, Mrs. Matt Karmer, Mrs. John Weber, Mrs. Mike Miller and Valentine of Canada; and Mrs. Nick Recht of Washington state.

John Merget

The Mergets lived for twenty years in the Union Hill area on a farm on Section ten and eleven of Derryname Township. They came to Union Hill around 1861 from Sheyboygan county, Wisconsin. John was born in Darmstadt, Germany, and in 1854 came to Wisconsin. He met Magdalen Sprey while in Sheboygan County and in 1854 the two were married. Magdalen was born in Grossherzogtum, Hessian, Germany. She came to Wisconsin in 1846.

John and Magdalen were among the few of the Union Hill community that were not from the Rhenish Provinces as nearly everyone else. The Mergets were both of Hessian background. Yet their birthplace of Hessian is relatively close to the Cologne-Trier area.

John served as the town officer of Derrynane Township for a time while still on the farm. The Mergets retired from farming in 1882 and moved to Jordan. Here Magdalen died in 1897. They had no children.

After Mrs. Merget's death romance developed between Pauline Grund and John. She came to America in December 1898, and they were married that same month in New York. A daughter, Elizabeth, was born to them. After nearly nine years of marriage to Pauline, Mr. Merget passed away in 1907.

Pauline Merget continued to live as a widow for nearly 37 years before her death in 1944. She was born in Schoennvalde, Schlesien, Germany.

The life span of John and Pauline covered nearly 117 years between his birth and her death. The Mergets were all buried in Jordan.

Math Pint

The Math Pints were in the Union Hill area about fifteen years including the year 1867. Math was an older brother of John, also of Union Hill. Math was born in Bitburg, Germany, not far from Trier. He learned the wagon makers trade and when coming to America in 1856 he obtained similar employment in Montreal, Chicago and Racine. He was married to Lucy Lichter in 1859 in Racine. They moved to Union Hill in 1863 and settled on an eighty acre farm in Section 25 a mile and a half northeast of Union Hill. In December 1882, Mrs. Pint passed away following the birth of their twelfth child. The following year Math moved his family to Ellsworth, Minnesota. The Pints were living near Belle Plaine in Sections 4 and 5 at this time having sold their farm near Union Hill in 1877.

The Pint family consisted of three sons and five daughters. The sons were Math Jr. and Anthony of Ellsworth and Peter of Sanborn, Minnesota. The daughters were Mrs. J. Peter Unzen and Mrs. Nick Lichter of Kenosha Wisconsin; Mrs.Peter Lenz of Wolf Point, Montana; Mrs. William Vogelsberg of Ellsworth; and Mrs. Rudolph Lenz who is still living in Litchfield, Minnesota. In addition three boys and a girl died between 1880 and 1883 and along with their mother are buried in Belle Plaine. Mr. Pint is buried at Adrian, Minnesota.

Leonard Rech

A peculiar fact concerning the voyage to this country by Leonard and Mary Tix in 1852 was that they both came over on the same ship without knowin each other. Mary was ten and Leonard was eighteen at the time. They later settled in Union Hill where they became acq