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Genealogy: Family Histories

German Immigration to Sussex - Lisbon Area

Compiled and Edited by Michael R. Reilly

Last Revised 07/16/2009

Germans migrate to Sussex-Lisbon

(First of five parts)

by Fred H. Keller, Sussex Village Historian,

Source: Retrospect, Living Sussex Sun, Tuesday,  May 18, 2009

An old scrapbook that found its way back to Sussex (via California and Chicago) has provided enough material for a five-part Retrospect series exploring the emergence and growth of the German community in the early days of Sussex-Lisbon.

The scrapbook is a gift to the Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society from Carol Joy (Askew) Cunningham, an artist who owns CJC Collections in Northbrook, Ill., which specializes in graphics and photography.

Her connection to Sussex-Lisbon is James Weaver, the "Father of Sussex-Lisbon" and her great-great-grandfather, and Melinda Anne (Warren) Weaver, her great-great-aunt and Lisbon's first woman settler. (She was also Waukesha County's first school teacher.)

Cunningham's great-grandfather was the English-born William Weaver II (1824-1907), a wealthy man with vast lands holdings who also owned a hops brokerage for 30 years with his brother, Richard Weaver.

William married twice, the first time to Mary Howitt, a woman from a prominent Scottish family.

The 500-acre McKerrow farms in south Lisbon was started by Mary's sister, Elizabeth Howitt McKerrow (1826-1904), the wife of Gavin McKerrow. Married in 1850, they had a son, George McKerrow, who put the farm together from his mother's holdings. Gavin McKerrow died seven months after George was born April 1, 1852.

So, counting Mary Howitt Weaver as her step great-grandmother, Cunningham is indirectly related to the Howitt family of Waukesha, Lisbon and King City, Mo. (known to some here as "Sussex-West").

(Here's an odd footnote to the Weaver family tree: No less than four different William Weavers in Sussex-Lisbon were married to women named Mary.)

Mary Howitt and William Weaver II had six children, four of whom lived to adulthood. Mary died Jan 3, 1874, at 46.

Ten years later, at age 60, William remarried, this time to a 41-year-old New York woman, Frances Louise Pettias (Cunningham's great grandmother. They soon had a daughter, Nettie Louise Weaver, (Cunningham's grandmother).

Nettie Louise Weaver married a metal assayer, Frank S. Askew, in 1907. They moved to Britannia Beach, a Canadian mining camp in British Columbia, and had two sons, Robert and Willard Weaver Askew (Cunningham's father).

Meanwhile, Nettie's mother, Frances Louise Pettias Weaver, moved to the Glendale, Calif., area from Sussex after William Weaver II died.

The family suffered a tragedy in 1918 when Nettie drowned, reportedly trying to save her son. She was a good swimmer, the family story goes, but the current and her heavy clothing dragged her down. The son (some say Robert, others say Willard) was saved, but now neither had a mother.

The boys bounced around after the tragedy, ultimately winding up in California with their grandmother, Frances Louise Pettias Weaver, and William Weaver II's two stepdaughters.

Born in 1916, two years before his mother died, Cunningham's father, Willard Weaver Askew married Martha Davidson. Carol Joy was their first born in 1942.

She contacted me in 1987 as the Sussex historian and later wrote "Your Weaver Family History." The Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society (SLAHS) has a copy of the book.

Her father died in 2007 at age 92. While breaking up the extended estate, both in the Chicago area and in California, Cunningham discovered a 1882-1920s scrapbook and gave it to the society. The 92-page scrapbook covers the years from 1882 to sometime in the 1920s.

One of its newspaper clippings is from the Dec. 30, 1906, Chicago Record-Herald headlined, "Dutch Driving English from Quaint Wisconsin Village" (Sussex). The "Dutch" in the headlines should have read "Deutsch," the German word for "German."

Germans began migrating to Sussex in the 1880s and began to displace the previously dominant English. That story will be the subject of this column over the next four weeks.


1906 Chicago newspaper carries feature on Sussex

Second of five parts

by Fred H. Keller, Sussex Village Historian,

Source: Retrospect, Living Sussex Sun, Tuesday,  May 25, 2009

The Dec. 30, 1906, Chicago Sunday Recorder-Herald carried a feature on Sussex in their travel section: "Dutch Driving English From Quaint Wisconsin Village."

The premise of the feature was that the English-founded Sussex-Lisbon community was now giving way to a massive influx of ethnic Germans. The "Dutch" in the headline was a corruption of "Deutsch," the German word for German.

Germans were almost unknown for Sussex-Lisbon's first 44 years, two generations, from 1836-1880, even as the rest of Wisconsin was filling up with "Deutsch" immigrants. Fred Bohrmann is credited with being the first German to immigrate to the Sussex area. He promptly married Martha Butler, daughter of William and Sarah Butler.

All three Butlers had been born in England before coming to Lisbon. Fred Bohrmann quickly became the lone German member of the Sussex Episcopal Church, St Alban's, and an important member at that. In 1864 he hauled the first load of limestone from the James Weaver (today the Halquist) quarry in northern Lisbon to the site congregation's soon-to-be-built church on Maple Avenue.

Fred and Martha Bohrmann had a son, George W., in 1854, but he died only three years later. A second son, who they also named George, died in 1921.

The first real wave of German immigrants started arriving in the 1880s: the Hornig, Manke, Stier, Metzger, Siewert, Schlicker, Weber, Lembke, Hecker, Busse, Mindemann, Haass, Brandt, Schultz, Lentz, Staus, Krueger and Neuman families.

Later arrivals included the Nettesheim, Struck, Winkleman, Steffen, Meissner, Kollmorgan, Tutzke, Pfeil, Lingelback, Trapp, Fryda, Kraetsch and other families – many others.

The Chicago newspaper clipping was saved in a large family scrapbook covering the 1880s through the 1920s. During an estate cleanout this year, it was shipped to Carol Joy Cunningham, the great-great-granddaughter of the Father of Sussex-Lisbon, James Weaver. She then sent it to the Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society.

Here is the first part of this 1906 feature:

"Are you fond of scenery, and your fellows, interested in nature and human nature, or in love with the quaintly uncommon in things, places and people? Then pay a visit to Sussex, Wis., and revel in an atmosphere and conditions not often to be enjoyed this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

"But go quickly, for this quaint bit of rural England transported bodily to America, rapidly is yielding to the inflowing Dutch (Deutsch–German) element and time. The Holland wind mill, unless matters speedily swing back to the earlier order, soon will be more typical of the fascinating hamlet than the pretty English-looking church, with the characteristic graveyard about it, that now is Sussex's distinguishing pride.

"A quaint history has Sussex. Long ago in the early '30s (1830s) a little group of English emigrants, leaving the home country in search of improved conditions, came to America, to Wisconsin, to Milwaukee, then but a small village – to begin life anew. James Weaver, a skillful gardener who introduced hop culture into western America, was generally recognized leader of this party. Stone, Buck, Brown, Russell, Elliott, Cooling, and Hickmoth were other (English) names prominently connected with the venture. The new country proved hospitable, though rough; the land taken up or purchased was more satisfactory: social enjoyments of the simple order were not lacking.

"Prosperity smiled on the brave workers almost immediately. But still, as was nature, homesick pangs now and then intruded."

The rest of this clipping will appear in this column over the next three weeks.


Chicago paper notes growth of Sussex's German community

Third of five parts

by Fred H. Keller, Sussex Village Historian,

Source: Retrospect, Living Sussex Sun, Tuesday,  June 3, 2009

A travel story appeared in a 1906 issue of the Chicago Record-Herald, telling of the quaint English community in Wisconsin named after the English county of Sussex. The story goes on to note the tremendous influx of German immigrants in the 1880s, changing the character of this once-English burg.

"So the tiny village (Sussex) was born (in 1842) of necessity since Milwaukee was nearly 20 miles away, over roads much of the time impassable – was named Sussex, after the home county. Many of the houses that by and by surrounded the St. Alban's Church, the 'General store' (Champeny's) and the place where the stage connected the village to the outer world were built in the quaint English fashion, sides of the road, even though a majority of the proud builders spent their early Wisconsin years under primitive log cabins.

"When the devoted churchmen and women who had all been members of the 'established' religion in England left behind the barn and blacksmith shop that successively served as the regular place of worship, they took pride and pleasure in making the new (stone) church look as English as possible, duly surrounded it with small but thrifty glebe, rectory and the neat little church yard, where most of the original settlers now lie buried.

St Alban's Episcopal Church is one of the oldest in Wisconsin, and it is the happy boast of its affectionate members that though other churches not so far away have been closed at different times for lack of funds or clergy the Sussex church has remained continuously and prosperously open, thriving with its children, who still find much of their social life in connection with it.

Here, again, the name of Weaver is of frequent and important occurrence. The story is told of how two of the 'Weaver boys' long since become old men, frail in all but spirit, walked to Milwaukee to receive confirmation at the hands of Bishop Nicholsen, then diocesan of all Wisconsin. The new guildhall of the church was built by another Weaver (Richard) in memory of his wife. Within the church are Weaver windows and memorials of varied order.

Some of the early Settlers

" 'Old James Weaver' raised a fine family of 16 sons and daughters, many of whom, with their descendants, have amassed wealth and honor in many parts of the United States. In Oregon, successful hop culture rejoiced in Weaver origin. Dr. George Weaver of Chicago has added scientific luster to the name.

"Of usually and uniformly fine character, members of the Sussex settlement have blossomed forth, here and there, as odd types and individuals. Middle-aged residents still speak of Hickmott, the London policeman, who turned Wisconsin farmer, for years went about his work with the tall silk that formed a connecting link with bygone Sundays.

"Not far from the Village of Sussex flourishes Brury Kaffmeyer, famous guide and fisherman, who avers that the bite of a fish on his bait tells him at once what kind of finny victim will be found at the end of the line. All summer 'Brury' is in demand by sportsmen who know the value of his services, even though he tries patience and temper by pulling in fine fish steadily while the rest of the party may long sit idle. In winter he does paper hanging and calcimining, mends mason work and chimneys and looks after odd jobs of carpentering, etc. Always he tells entertaining tales of his prowess with hook and rod."


The Germans are coming, says Chicago Record-Herald

Fourth of five parts

by Fred H. Keller, Sussex Village Historian,

Source: Retrospect, Living Sussex Sun, Tuesday,  June 9, 2009

Even before German immigrants replace the previously dominant English founders of Sussex-Lisbon shortly after the turn of the last century, the community had already begun to change.

Scots and Irish began to settle in the Town of Lisbon and, in fact, founded the Village of Sussex. St Alban's was still the dominant church, but now the Lisbon Presbyterian Church began to serve the Scots, and St. James Catholic Church the Irish.

By the 1880s, a fifth ethnic group had joined the mix. Wisconsin had received German immigrants since the 1840s, but very few had ventured to the Sussex area until then. What began as a trickle turned into a flood, and the German community eventually came to dominate the area, even to this day.

On Dec. 30, 1906 (a Sunday), a feature in the Chicago Record-Herald, probably in the travel section, claimed there was only a short time left to see "little England" in Sussex, because the Germans had arrived, were still coming and would soon dominated land ownership, politics, business and culture.

Here is the third part of that feature:

" 'Grandma' Cooling, who for 57 consecutive years taught in the Sunday school of her beloved church, is another Sussex character widely known. Never having a 'chick' of her own … 'grandma' has reared 19 children to maturity. The flock of her husband's first marriage furnished the first material for her proxy-material efforts. The young family of one of these stepchildren, who dying young, left little ones to be cared for later found room in the generous Cooling heart and household. The motherless children of a Sussex clergyman whose wife died during his incumbency, they were also similarly cared for.

"Once visiting Waukesha with her husband Charles Cooling in search of a child for express adoption, 'grandma' found a deserted infant in the railroad station. This child became perhaps her most cherished treasure, and the serious ill health of one of his sons now sorely tries his devoted grandmother's tender soul.

"Though turning 85 'grandma' reads everything, travels where and when she likes, is on the look out for a new driving horse and averages $1 a month for postage stamps necessitated by her large correspondence. Charles Cooling kept the first blacksmith shop in Sussex. Meanwhile his brother, Richard, became a local successful farmer. The adjacent village of Templeton (east Sussex) was named after his son-in-law, James Templeton.

"The Russell brothers, curious old bachelors, long lived and worked by themselves.

"Dr. Frank Rice, who recently died, at one time Guiteau's physician, (Charles J. Guiteau assassinated President James Garfield, shooting him July 2 which resulted in a lengthy, downward decent to death on Sept. 19, 1881 – Guiteau was tried, found guilty and hung quickly afterwards) earned fame far exceeding the limits of the Sussex region, where for nearly 50 years his peculiar 'rig' and fine double team scoured the country road without ceasing. Rev. Samuel S. Burlayson [correct spelling: Burleson], for years the beloved Sussex rector, is widely knows as the father of five fine sons who are all ministers like himself."


Rising German community forms its own church

Last of five parts

by Fred H. Keller, Sussex Village Historian,

Source: Retrospect, Living Sussex Sun, Tuesday,  June 16, 2009

From 1837 to well beyond 1880, Sussex was known as a Little Piece of England, but that began to change as Germans immigrated here in the 1880s.

The Chicago Record-Herald travel section recorded the transition in a feature it ran Dec 30, Sunday, 1906, whose conclusion we publish here:

"Long necessarily a 'close community' with but little communication with the outer world, the Sussex people retained for an incredibly long period the speech, accent, manners and ideas of their English origin. Even now, with one railroad [the Bug Line] passing through Sussex, and another through nearby Templeton [the Wisconsin Central], most of the village people still display a distinct English tone. The early intermarrying of the adjacent families and the fact that a majority of Sussex clergy have been English have done much toward preserving this conditions.

Cling to English Tone

"The present rector of St Alban's, the Rev F.C. Roberts is thoroughly English, despite his long residence in Milwaukee, as is his wife. The Rev. Arthur Westcott, Mr. Roberts' immediate predecessor, was English too. The first Sussex services were conducted by the genial 'Father' Riley, from Nashotah Mission, whose devoted and arduous services still are remembered with love and praise.

"Times have changed so little in the 70 years elapsing since the first Sussex settlers began to find American life and citizenship so well worth having. Of late alterations have been so marked and numerous that even the more progressive 'old timers' sigh a little occasionally, over the vanished exclusiveness and seclusion of the early Sussex.

"Cemeteries, rural telephones, hot water heat in the neat well-kept, prosperous looking farm houses, the near approach of the trolley [plans for a trolley through Colgate to Lake Five and on to Merton and Lake Keesus never materialized] daily papers, the rampant automobile - all these have helped bring city ways and people to the quaint little beauty spot of fine old fashioned gardens, true hospitality and the peculiarly warm and cordial and intimate relations due to the fact that all the country side is knit by family ties.

"The constantly increasing influx of Germans who are buying out and displacing the sturdy English-American stock, now ripe for 'retiring' to the towns and cities, promises speedily to reduce the characteristic and fascinating Sussex flavor to the mere memory . During the past spring and summer alone six farms have been sold to the thrifty exiles from the land of Deutschland.

"So if you want to enjoy a glimpse of this wonderful bit of old England, set down intact in Wisconsin, and for the best part of a century unchanged in spite of intensely American Patriotism better take a train, boat or trolley toward Milwaukee Waukesha or Sussex proper at once."

The Germans who arrived here in the 1880s didn't fit in with the English of St Alban's Church, the Scots of Lisbon Presbyterian Church or the Irish of St. James church, so they started their own.

On Oct. 25, 1888, 10 men of German origin - Christian Schmidt, Carl Walter, Karl Messman, Heinrich Brandt, Fritz Kollmorgan, August Mindeman Sr. and Jr., Carl and William Mamerow and John Albrecht - met at Walter's home and formed the German Evangelical Zion Church, the forerunner of today's Redeemer United Church of Christ. Back then, the Sussex population just called it (wrongly) the German Lutheran Church.

The church went up and 12 German names eventually appeared in the 11 colored glass windows: Tutzke, Schlee, Travernia, Hornig, Marx, Malsch, Schmidt, Siewert, Stier, Kurtz, Schoeder and Metzger.

The Germans had completed their invasion.

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