Search billions of records on

Oconto County WIGenWeb Project
Collected and posted by RITA
This site is exclusively for the free access of individual researchers.
* No profit may be made by any person, business or organization through publication, reproduction, presentation or links
to this site.



Submitted by Rita

Many of the early homesteaders to Oconto County were first generation Americans whose parents were born in Germany. This was the case with the HOLL brothers who settled in what is now the area of Town of How and Town of Underhill, Oconto County. Their father, Jacob HOLL and their mother Margaret DOLLAR were both born in Rheinland, Prussia and married in the "Old French Church" (St. John the Evangelist) at Green Bay, in 1856. They raised 7 sons and 4 daughters on their Brown County farm. Green Bay was a very large immigrant center for over 100 years and often the new families bought or rented the smaller farms nearby, then "spread out" to neighboring counties such as Shawano, and Oconto where there were large parcels of fertile undeveloped land at lesser prices. The HOLLs, as with many young men, earned money in the many lumber camps and saw mill operations of northern Wisconsin. Padus (now a ghost town) was one such place. Starting at the age of 9 was not unusual, and these children, used small crosscut saws to cut branches into firewood for sale by the lumber companies. Once they were nearing adulthood, the brothers cut trees, drove draft horse logging teams , worked as "River Rats" (a dangerous spring and early summer job which involved riding the floating logs down stream and breaking up logjams), and then sawed lumber to make money for buying a homestead.

In 1879, Jacob HOLL Jr.(second oldest son), walked to the Town of How, as he had heard that there was good land to be had there. The 19 year old hiked the land until he found what he was looking for. He slept under a tree that night, and walked to town the next day to claim the property. Bringing back a new ax, which was his only tool, Jacob built a lean-to for shelter and began to develop the homestead. Older brother, John HOLL, followed in 1880.  Brothers Joseph, Peter, and Henry each developed their own successful farms in the area. Sister Catharine HOLL (KAYE) was the first school teacher in the new district and John, Joseph and Jacob Jr. were active members of the local school board and held many elected commission offices. Henry and his wife moved back to Green Bay after a short time, and youngest brothers Matthew and Edward HOLL settled in the area. Edward was born only two months after his father, Jacob HOLL, Sr. died of pneumonia in 1880. Mother Margaret HOLL (later HAMMES) finished raising her family at the farm in Brown County, facing drought, and the destructive effects of forest fires along the way. In her last years she lived with son Matthew and his family in Oconto County and was buried in the Town of How with other family members upon her death in 1908.

John HOLL (1857-1931) pioneered the wilderness of town of How in 1880 when he used the money he had made from years of working in logging camps and a railroad tie sawmill in city of Oconto. John developed a fine log home, good sized log barn, chicken coop, several acres of cleared land, owned a team of oxen, field equipment, two wagons, and several head of dairy cows five years later at the age of 26. John was reported by local newspapers to be in merchantile business in Chase, Oconto County in 1891. He moved from his homestead farm 12 years after his marriage to Veronica KURZ. They had bought a general store, in 1892,  in the once prosperous village of Hayes. The original homestead was then run by younger brother Matthias HOLL who later bought it.  Eventually, in 1998, John built a much larger store and by the 1890's owned 9 properties and buildings in Hayes. The railroad route through Suring was initially intended for Hayes, but was changed when Mr.Suring donated the land for the station, where produce and grain could be shipped. This marked the eventual downfall of Hayes. John was Justice of the Peace, Notary Public, and Postmaster as well during his long life. He was also tax commisioner for the township and was responsible for taking the money to Green Bay. This was a dangerous and daunting task as highway robbers were aware of the money transfer times and awaited the commissioners along their routes. Using travel and tracking tricks learned from Menominee friends, he always made the delivery. The family was always active in, and members of the councils of the original St. Michael Church in Keshena, and were founding members of St. Michael Church in Suring in 1907. For many years the family sponsored the annual Independence Day festival and picnic with fireworks in the evening, and had Santa visit for several days each November to talk with the children of both white settlers and Native American families. The store was bought and run by his daughter Anna HOLL and remained open until the 1970's. John and Veronica raised 9 children.

Jacob Jr. (1859-1941) owned a sawmill as well as his farm. He married a local woman, Clara PRINZ, and had 7 children. Clara died in 1900 from "consumption" as Tuberculosis was then called. It was a common and devastating disease in the area at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Jacob then married another local woman, Emma RUSCH and raised 7 more children. At the time it was built, he had the largest barn in the county.

Catherine HOLL (Kaye), born December 23, 1871, gave up teaching in town of How and Brown County, Wisconsin, when she married successful business and bank owner J. Edward KAYE in Green Bay. She continued a close relationship with her mother and siblings throughout her life, but spoke rarely of her childood. The couple had no children. Known in the family as "Aunt Kitty Kaye", she was remembered as having a special interest and affection for the children in the family and did much philanthropic work in Brown County. Catherine died April 29, 1960 and is buried with her husband at Fort Howard Cemetery, Brown County, WI.

Peter HOLL (1861-1911) owned a successful farm and married Elizabeth (Lizzy) PRINZ, the sister of Jacob Jr's wife Clara, and also a local woman. They had two sons before Lizzy died, also of TB in 1898 as her sister had. Peter then married a local woman Minnie GUELKER, first cousin of Lizzy,  and they had 6 children before Peter died prematurely from TB. He was a greatly admired and liked man who had worked hard and often offered his skills to community projects during his shortened life.. Minnie raised the family on the farm with the assistance of Peter's local brothers.

Joseph HOLL (1869-1901) farmed in what is now the Town of Underhill (originally Town of How). Joseph married Oconto County woman Ludovica (Louisa) JORGENSON who was the daughter of Ludovic (Lars) Jorgenson. The couple had two children. Joseph ran a general store in the village of Mosling. He also owned the stage and dray service running between Underhill, Suring, Gillett, Hinz, and Hayes, which made the complete route twice a day (except Sundays) to handle train travelers, shoppers, and return trip passengers. The weekly Oconto County Reporter announced in December 1893 "It affords excellent accommodations for passengers".  Joseph Holl died in 1901 of "Consumption", which was Tuberculosis of the lungs, at the age of 32 years. His widow and two children soon moved to Eau Claire, Wisconsin. It is speculated that the reason was better medical treatment for their 6 year old son and that Lousia had close family members in residence there, where she had been born. Contact with the descendants of Joseph and Louisa Jorgenson Holl was lost until a descendant great grand daughter made a chance contact again in 2004. This branch of the family now spells the surname Hall.

Matthew HOLL (1877-1950) came to town of How as a young teenager. He later married local woman Anna KOPITSCH and had three children, which were raised on their Town of How farm. This was the original homestead of his eldest brother, Hayes merchant  John Holl. Matthew was described as a "mathematics genius" who could do "sums and calculations in his head like (as fast as) lightening". Many a bet was lost over Matthew's ability to add faster that a cash register or adding machine, and he never needed a pencil. Matthew was blind the last 15 years of his life, but insisted on "doing my share" of the work around the farm. This combination lead to many falls in those last years, and eventually to his death from falling down the concrete cellar stairs while visiting in Bonduel. Mother of the Holl brothers, Margaret Dollar Holl Hammes, lived her final years in the Matthew Holl home and died in 1908. Margaret, her son Matthew and his wife Anna are buried in St. Michael Catholic Cemetery in the Holl family section, town of How.

Edward HOLL (1880-1938), born April 08, 1880, married Mary TOLZMAN on October 30, 1912. Edward and Mary had one child, Dorothy. Edward was born in Brown County, WI, 3 months after his father's sudden death. Edward's older brother, John, helped raise him after he left his step father in Brown County, WI at the age of 11 in 1891 with his brother Matthew, then age 13 years. Edward Holl attended business school after high school graduation.  He first owned a sawmill, then bought a general store in Hintz, Oconto County, in partnership with his brother Joseph. Upon his brother's early death from Tuberculosis, Edward bought out his brother's interest in the store. Until recently, the store and social hall buildings as well as the original family home still stood in Hintz beside the Oconto River. When his brother Peter Holl became ill in the early 1900's and had to leave his family for treatment, Edward ran the farm and helped with raising the two sons in Peter's abscence along with his other business interests. Edward passed away after a long struggle with cancer September 01, 1938. He and wife Mary, who passed away May 22, 1974, are buried in the Mausoleum in Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church Cemetery, Hintz, Oconto County, WI.

Other children of Jacob and Margaret Dollar Holl were:

Henry HOLL (1865-1954) Henry Holl entered the the family on August 26, 1865, the 5th child born to Jacob and Margaret Dollar Holl in Bellevue, Brown County, Wisconsin. He was named after his grandfather, Henrick Holl in Scharen, Rheinland, now Germany. January 05, 1897 Henry married Virginia Renier at Holy Martyrs Church, Preble, Brown County, Wisconsin.. Her Belgian Renier family were neighbors of the Holl family for decades, living on their farm just west of where Henry had grown up. The newlywed couple set up housekeeping at Henry's homestead in town of How, but Virginia's fear of the distance from her family persuaded Henry to sell the homestead in How and resettle on land near the Renier family farm in Brown County. They raised two sons, Peter and Anton on their general farming of the land and donated land to the building of the new elementary school. In 1947 Henry and Jennie celebrated their 50th Golden Wedding anniversary with their family and friends. The event was reported in the Brown County newspaper, where both had been born and lived all their lives. They were among the founding members of Holy Martyrs of Gorcum Church, which they still attended in Preble where they had been married in 1897. Henry passed away October 25, 1954, and Jennie followed January 26, 1958. They rest in the new cemetery section of Holy Martyrs of Gorcum, not far from Henry's father, sisters and their little daughter Alice, who died young. 

Anne HOLL (Witters) (1875 - 1942 ) Anne Holl was born November 23, 1875 in town of Bellevue, Brown County, Wisconsin at the family farm. She was the 9th child of Jacob and Margaret Dollar Holl and the youngest daughter. She became a teacher and lived with her older sister, Catherine, while both worked in Brown County, Wisconsin rural schools. In 1888 Anne married Frank Witters in Brown County, Wisconsin. The couple had two sons, both born in Wisconsin.  From their marriage in 1888, until Frank Witters abandoned the family in 1917, they lived in Marshfield, Wisconsin and dairy farmed in Okotoks, Alberta, Canada. Anne and their sons moved to Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1915 after selling the farm at auction.  In Calgary, she worked to support the family as a seamstress in an upscale woman's apparel shop.  Meanwhile, Frank Witters has begun homesteading on August 6, 1913, at Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, Canada, where he stayed a majority of the year improving the land as specified by his homestead act agreement. In 1917, just after receiving the deed to the homestead, Frank Witters quietly sold the land and disappeared. He was not heard from by his wife and sons, but was recently found on later censuses in the United States. Anne remained married to him. While raising her sons, she eventually worked her way to manager of the fashion shop, then opened her own Salon and ran it successfully in Calgary for decades. Anna Holl Witters died in hospital July 08, 1942 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Anna had lived in Canada 31 years, and in Calgary for 26.  She is buried in Burnside Baptist Cemetery.

Many of the descendants of the HOLL brothers, who were such an active part of the settlement of early Oconto County, Town of How and Gillett, still can be found on the farms and in the villages of their ancestors. Submitted by great, grand daughter of John HOLL and Veronica KURZ, Rita