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Oconto County WIGenWeb Project
Collected and posted by RITA
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Submitted by Rita

Matthias and Christina (Brust,Miller) Philippi traveled by wagon from New Frankin, Brown County, to Oconto County in April of 1893. With them came their children Mary Ann, Joseph, John, Peter, and the youngest, Christine. Also with them were Mother Christina's three children, Catherine, Margaret, and John, from her first marriage to John Müller (changed to Miller), who had died when she was still pregnant with their youngest. As a widow had worked in the Philippi household in Germany, helping to raise Matthias' children and care for his ailing first wife. After the death of Matthias' first wife, the couple married and began a third family of their own. Each family had a son named "John" and it was a common joke that "your John and my John are picking on our John".

The Philippi and Brust families have been traced back in what is now Germany, but was the Rheinland until 1871, for many generations. Family legend says that the family origin was France. In 1754 the Philippi family resided in Bergheim Erft in the northern Rheinland, later moving to Heckenbach farther south near the Rhein River. Here they married into local families, such as the Philipsen and Schaut, who have been traced back to the beginning of record keeping in Heckenbach in 1616. The family prospered in sheep farming, blacksmithing, inn keeping, wine making and beer brewing through both Germanic and French rule by Napoleon in the earlt 1800's, then under Prussian rule when Germany was united in 1871. The many wars were beginning to take a toll in illness, loss of male family members in army battles, and a badly failing economy in western Germany. Three of Matthias' eldest sons, John, Matthias, and Anton decided to seek their future in Wisconsin, where cousins already lived in Brown County.

The German government took a dim view of young men leaving and demanded that they return, which Matthias could not make happen. In 1883, the family left behind all they knew and nearly all they had in a dash to Antwerp for passage to New York. The Prussian lead government had threatened to put the now 53 year old Matthias in jail and take the family property. There was no time to raise money by selling land and material items. Christina was 7 months pregnant and had to make a long flowing cloak out of new curtains, to hide beneath. Pregnant women were often not allowed to sail, since the journey was hard and if they were sick when they got to America, port authorities would refuse them entry and the shipping company had to pay for their return trip.

Two daughters, Elizabeth and Catherina, ages 17 and 11, from Matthias' first marriage were persuaded, at the last minute by uncles, not to go and were never seen by their father again. This haunted both Matthias and Christina, who had cared for them since they were babies.

The family first settled in Humbold Township, Brown County, near the town of New Frankin where Christina gave birth to their first American child, son John Appolinaris, just 6 weeks after arriving. Two more children were still to come. Matthias was age 59 and Christina was 45 when their last child was born. They farmed and worked in the lumber industry, and Christina was a trained and experienced midwife, both before and after moving to Oconto.

That first day in Oconto, the three youngest boys stood in the doorway of the log cabin and cried. They had left a green and growing Brown County home for the three inches of snow that fell overnight in Town of How, and were sure they would starve to death "way up north". Fortunately, their new home had greatly improved soil, and the family prospered, building a fine Victorian home and large barn in the late 1890's. Sadness befell the family in 1894 when daughter Mary Ann died two weeks before her 16th birthday. She was never mentioned among the family and it is thought that she drowned. The eldest son John, also Matthias, Peter and Anton spread out over Wisconsin and raised large families. Christina Miller became Sr. Stephana of the Order of Saint Francis and was a leader in anesthesiology for many years in Wisconsin and northern Illinois. John Miller married and at first lived in Maple Valley, Oconto County. He and his wife ran a store in Suring in the early 1900's. John was an early amature photogrpher whose photos of local home and people are still seem, but rarely credited to him. He and his wife moved to California. However, Joseph, John, Christine, and half-sister Margaret (Miller) stayed in Oconto County where they married and farmed, leaving many progeny who still inhabit the county.

Submitted by the great grand daughter of Matthias and Christina and grand daughter of John (the youngest one) Philippi.   Rita