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Family Web Site
Bob and Rita
1864 - 1874
photograph of Gertrude Holl has not been positively identified but this one is believed to be her. Regarding her
appearance, all that has been passed down about her is that she very
closely resembled her niece, Margaret Holl, at age 9 years. Gertrude's oldest brother was John
Holl who, being 7 years her senior, remembered her well. He
spoke only seldomly of his sister, but remembered her as quiet, hard
working and always at her mother's side to help. She was
bright in school, athletic and pretty, with long dark brown slightly
curly hair. She was a favorite of her father Jacob, who read to her in
German from the bible.
the 4th child born to Jacob and Margaret Dollar
Holl on June 23, 1864 at the farm in Brown County, Wisconsin. She was
first daughter, so in keeping with the naming traditions of children
the homeland, she was named after her maternal grandmother, Gertrude
Dollar. We know very little about her brief young life
was the first of her generation to pass away on April 16,
She was 9 years and 10 months of age and the only child of that family
not to have lived to adulthood. Descendants of her siblings do not
having heard anything about her. It was a common custom "not to speak
the dead" in those times, and the experience might just have been too
to pass along.
on October 8, 1871, she fled, along with the family,
and survived the flames of the Great Peshitgo Fire. She was
to the rebuilding and repair of the farm that followed and attended the
community built one room school built just across the neighbor's land,
directly west of her home. A faint outline of this school foundation is
still visible near the creek on Cottage Road. The bell from that one
schoolhouse, now long demolished, is in a specially built steeple at
entrance to the Christa McAuliffe Elementary School, named in honor of
the teacher who lost her life in a space shuttle explosion. The land
this newer school was donated many years after Gertrude's
her brother Henry Holl. Henry had been born next after
was 8 years old when she passed away.
was traditional for the first daughter to become the "second mother" to
younger siblings, and take on much of an adult woman's responsibilities
as early as possible. Having and raising children was a dangerous
prospect for farm women, with limited help and resources. Neighbors
were not nearby and were just as busy with pioneer survival. Extended
family often lived far away. Mothers tended to have large numbers of
children in a short span of years, continually leaving the women in
less than good health. And early rural pioneer life was notoriously
hard, nearly constant work for them. In this weakened sstate,
a substantial number of mothers died from childbirth and disease. Any
help these women could get gave them a better chance of survival. The
oldest daughter was left, at the loss of the mother, to take her place.
The more she had learned at a young age, the better her younger
sibling's chances of survival.
The time that mother and daughter spent together was also enriching,
with the passing down of family history, songs, sewing and
meding, special needlework, gardening, animal care, baking, cooking and
recipes, storage and hand milling of grain, the preparation of foods
for winter through spring storage, learning about other places and
customs, birthing of people and animals, care for the sick, making
medicines, thinking through problems to solve them, what the priorities
in life are and how to conduct
yourself properly in a social setting. These are only a few of many
Gertruda was the only known child in the family not to have lived to
adulthood at a time when nearly half of the children born were lost
before age 5 years. She was
buried in the Old Catholic Cemetery behind Holy Martyrs
of Gorcum Church in Preble, WI. Her death certificate was
from the church burial book, neither of which offers a cause of death.
The only additional information was her father listed as "a
A. Van Grotel from Preble was listed as undertaker. Like most graves in
the Old Cemetery, no stone is visible and Holy Martyrs office does not
have records of where people were buried.
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