My Maternal Third Great Grandmother

Sophia Maria (Steffes) Koehn

Sophia Steffes

August 10, 1813 Germany – April 24th 1885 North Dakota

Sophia was another of the remarkable pioneering woman of my family. Born in Germany she was married at age 17 to Emmerich Kohn (Koehn) in 1830 in Müllenbach, Germany. She had 13 children, Six of which died before their second birthday, which was not that unusual for the time period.

In 1863, her husband died leaving her with three children still in the household (My 2nd great grandfather was married and living in a separate household). In 1866, the widowed Sophia departed for New York, with 2 young daughters and a 24 year old son named Anthony after selling everything they owned.

Landing in New York, the four rented a place to stay and young Anthony went out to see the city. Nothing was ever heard of him again. Unfortunately Anthony had been carrying the cash for the journey leaving the others penniless in New York. Luckily Sophia was able to gain employment as a housekeeper/laundress that provided food and a place to live.

Meanwhile back in Germany, Nicholas Koehn’s first wife passed away in 1869 leaving him with two small boys. Nicholas decided that he too would come to America. He set his path to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where he had heard there were good jobs to be had in the copper mines. He contacted his mother in New York and had her and her daughters join him in while he worked in the mine.

After a number of years, Nicholas heard of the opportunity to homestead in North Dakota and the entire family followed their dreams into the west.

Sophia passed away at the age of 72 in Hobart Township in Barnes County, North Dakota.

Victoria Anna Schuele Holm – My Grandmother

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Victoria Anna Schuele, second oldest of the four children of Anton Schuele and Maria Crescentia Ohnsorg was born October 26, 1887 in Chaska, Minnesota and lived originally in Laketown, Minnesota. By the end of 1890 all three of her siblings perished to fever and in 1892 her father, Anton died of tuberculosis. In 1893 she and her mother moved to Chaska and lived in a small apartment.

In 1896, her mother married John Lawrence Schug, a widower who lived in Cologne, Minnesota. John’s first wife died from complication of her fifth childbirth in 1894, leaving 4 children under the age of 8. Victoria would become the eldest child in the household. Victoria’s mother had 11 more children with John and died four days after an unsuccessful delivery in April 1911. Victoria (aka Dora) played a substantial role in caring for the 15 members of the combined family.

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Victoria met and married John Holm in Fingal, North Dakota. Victoria originally came to work as a kitchen helper on her step-father’s first cousin’s farm (Katherine Annie Ranft Holm).  John and Victoria farmed near Cuba, North Dakota until John’s death in 1951. Victoria and John had five children; Dorothy (Arthur) Storbeck, Lucille (Jim) Kunze, Clarence Holm, Evelyn (Kenneth) Grant, and Walter (Orlys) Holm.

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Victoria lived on the farm until the last few years of her life, when she moved to an apartment in Valley City, North Dakota. She passed away in 1972 and was laid to rest with her husband in the St. Catherine’s Cemetery in Valley City, ND.

1915 Canadian Land Opportunity

Talk On Western Canada

    Taking from the January 14, 1915 Weekly Valley Herald, Chaska, MN – Page 3

“You Don’t have to Lie About Canada – The Simple Truth Is Enough.

The Natural resources of the country are so vast that they cannot be told in mere figures. Man can only tell of what tine portions have done. He can only say, “I am more prosperous than I ever expected to be.” And yet, if a farmer expects to succeed on land the has been forced to pay $50 to $100 an acre for he ought to feel assured of attaining prosperity when he finds the richest prairie soil at his disposal absolutely free. If he has a little capital, let him invest it all in live stock and farm implements – he will find himself ten years ahead of the game. Some day such a chance will not be found anywhere on the face of the globe. But now the same opportunities await you as awaited the pioneer and not one hundredth part of the difficulties he encountered and overcame. Success in Canada is made up of two things, natural resources and human labor. Canada has the one and you the other. A postal card stands between you and the Canadian government agent. If you don’t hold these two forces and enjoy the fruits of the results it is your own fault.

Debt and Canada Will Not Stand Hitched.

You want a cozy home, a free life, and sufficient income. Your want education for your children, and some pleasure for your wife. You want independence. Your burden has been heavy, and your farm hasn’t paid, you worked hard and are discouraged.

You require a change. There is a goal within sight, where your children will have advantages. You can get a home in Western Canada, freedom, where your ambitions can be fulfilled. If the Prairie Province of Canada are full of Successful Farmers why should you prove the exception? Haven’t you got brains, experience, courage? Then prove what these are capable of when put on trial. It is encouraging to know that there is one country in the world where poverty is no barrier to wealth; own your own car; own yourself; be somebody.

For facts write to any Canadian government agent. Advertisement.”

Johann Melchior Wahl

2012 – The Minneapolis Tribune recently ran a series on the 150th Anniversary of the Dakota Indian War.

Because my family had deep roots to that area, I have spent time researching their involvement in that action. Here is a little of what I found.

150 years ago – The Dakota Indian War

My grandmother’s 18 year old grand uncle, Johann Melchior Wahl arrived in Baltimore, Maryland from Württemberg, Germany in 1862. Less than three months after his arrival to the farm in Carver County, Minnesota, the first attack on the unsuspecting farmers in Acton, Meeker County, Minnesota signaled the start of the Dakota Indian War. Within days Melchior had enlisted and was marched to Hutchinson, MN along with other area farmers, to defend his new countrymen. During his time as a soldier he not only participated in notable battles with the Dakota, he also served as a witness to the hanging of the 38 Indians at Mankato. Later he spent time on post at Fort Abercrombie, Dakota Territory, where another relative of mine was killed by Indians in the second attack on the Fort

Before he could be released from service, his Company H of the 9th Minnesota was called to action in the Civil War and he was dispatched to Mississippi in the spring of 1864. After a long march with little in the way of provisions, he took part in the action at Brice’s Crossroads. Due to the Confederate’s superior knowledge of the terrain and the southern soldier’s fighting while being well rested and well fed, the Union Army was defeated. The week long retreat over the wet and muddy roads, combined with the lack of provisions and poor hygiene was too much for him and he died in a Memphis Hospital on July 24th 1864 of dysentery. It was doubtful he learned much English, but in his short time, here he gave his all to his new country.

Melchior was buried in Memphis, not more than 30 feet away from yet another of my Carver County Great Grand Uncles, who had also died of disease a year earlier in serving in the Union Army in Memphis.

The only records of their existence during the war was detailed in Army records and muster rolls. In Melchior’s case, a complete list of his possessions was documented at the time of his death… One shirt, a trouser with belt, socks and shoes.