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Henry Holl
 1865 - 1854

Henry  Holl 
c: 1885
Jim  Holl  Collection
Henry Holl 
Dorothy Holl Runge Collection

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. Tall by the standards of his time, he had the Holl dark hair and eyes.  He was born 14 months after his older sister Gertrude and they spent their early years together, which included attending the log cabin school near their farm, and learning chores.

At the age of six, the Great Peshtigo Fire of October 8, 1971 raced through their community, in it's early stages, and Henry escaped west toward La Baye (the Green Bay) of Lake Michigan with his family and stock. It had been close, but everyone in the family survived.

Recent atmospheric research indicates the strong probability that this previously unexplained tragic event, that remains the worst natural disaster in the U.S. (in terms of loss of life, estimated at 15,000 people in Wisconsin alone), was caused by a meteor shower in the early evening. The upper Great Lakes region had experienced a lengthy drought, which left the entire area dry as tinder. There had been no rain the entire summer, Small woodland and smoldering fires had been experienced. The flaming meteor shower debris is thought to have landed in several places around Lake Michigan, starting various parts of the fire simultaneously in places along the southern end of the "thumb" of Wisconsin, which spread northeast into Door County; along the south western edge of the shore of Green Bay, which traveled northward across what was then Oconto County (now also Marinette County) and up to Marquette, Michigan; along the northeastern shore of lower Michigan, and in Illinois where it was called the Great Chicago Fire.

The family home and barns were damaged and all their winter stock feed was burned. Upon returning to their home, Henry helped his mother and younger siblings gather twigs, leaves, unburned grasses and wild plant in a large sack mother Margaret had sewn together out of scraps of partially burned material left after the blaze had moved on. They were seeking anything they could use for bedding and food for their stock. His father, Jacob and older brothers went to work repairing the house and building a shelter for the stock with the few tools that had survived the fire. Many farmers hastily buried their basic tools (shovels, hoes, axes, knives, hunting rifles, pails, hammers, etc.)  in an effort to save them for use after the fire, while the rest of the family readied themselves to escape. Their pit well also had to be cleaned of debris immediately before the water became contaminated. Until help came,  Margaret used her hands to dig in the still smoldering garden for carrots, turnips and other root vegetables that had been left for winter and early spring use. Most had been roasted, but were edible. Stored potatoes were also used as they had been partially roasted by the flames. With the drought, it had been a hard year to grow anything and feed the livestock. There was not much to use fresh, and even less to store for the winter. Now all was gone. Still, the area that Henry lived in was less hit by the fire than places where it spread to as it grew larger and more destructive. The family had experienced just the beginnings of the holocaust. The family recovered.

In his later years, Henry remembered his father as being bent and weakened by worsening back problems, which left him in pain much of the time. It became impossible for him to do the hard field work, and he would continue working near the house, doing choirs in the home and barns while Margaret and the older children worked in the fields. Jacob and Margaret were close, and their children were the center of their lives. The couple were kind to each other, having a tender relationship. They gave their best to their children and stressed the importance of education and hard work in a successful life by setting their own example.

Henry experienced a great loss in April, 1874 when his sister Gertrude died. She was buried in the new cemetery of Holy Martyrs of Gorcum near their home. By this time, Margaret, Joseph and Catherine had joined the family and Henry was active in helping to raise them. In the winter of the following year sister Anna arrived. Brother Matthew came along in 1877. The last day in January of 1880, a milk ox had fallen into their pit well. Since such wells were usually between 30 and 50 feet deep, several feet wide and lined with a stone circular wall, it was impossible for the animal to get out. Jacob and his older sons rigged up a tripod of sturdy logs over the well, and Jacob went down with block, tackle and rope to fashion a sling around the ox. They were able to draw the animal up to safety in the coldest part of winter, and it survived. However, Jacob soon too ill. The reason given at the time was well gasses. He died 12 days later of pneumonia. Henry recounted having taken grain in a wagon for milling that day. As he approached home, his mother came out to meet him, saying that his father had passed away a short time earlier. Henry was fifteen years old. His father Jacob had be just 13 years old when he had lost his own mother in the Rheinland. Jacob was laid to rest with his daughter Margaret at the Holy Martyrs Cemetery. A few weeks later, his mother gave birth to his youngest brother Edward.

With older brothers John and Jacob Jr. homesteading land "up north" in town of How, Oconto County, Wisconsin, in that year, it fell to Henry and his older brother Peter to work the Holl farm. By 1885 Peter had his own homestead in How, and was married. Henry stayed on the original Holl farm with this mother and younger siblings. Catherine became a teacher in the How rural schools and sister Maggie lived in Marinette, working as a domestic and nanny for an lumber company family. That left Henry, brothers Joseph, Matthew, Edward,  sister Anna and his mother on the farm in Brown County. Maggie passed away in April 1887 from Typhoid Fever while in Marinette. She had just been home to plan her Spring wedding to Nick Ehlinger of How and had returned to Marinette for her belongings and new wedding gown when she became ill and died. She was brought home and rests with her father and sister in Holy Martyrs Cemetery.

Two years later, his mother Margaret remarried to a widowed neighbor, Frank Hammes and Henry was witness for the wedding at St. Francis Cathedral in the city of Green Bay, April 30, 1889. Shortly afterward, Henry began working and boarding at a farm near the family home. He was earning mother to make his own homestead in How near his brothers. Sister Catherine was now working as a teacher in Green Bay and Joseph was "up north" with his brothers.

New Stepfather, Frank immediately attempted to sell Holl farm land for his own profit, but could not do so without Margaret's signature. Margaret refused, saying that the Jacob had wanted the land to stay in the family for the children's use when he passed away. Frank was an "old world" man who believed that the head of the household owned everything himself, including his wife and stepchildren, and any possessions brought into the marriage by the woman. He was not ready to accept what he saw as the loss of "his" property; actually the Holl family farm, buildings, equipment and all the possessions. The adult Holl children had the late Jacob Holl's estate probated, as no Will was written. In late 1889 the Brown County Probate Court awarded the entire farm and possessions to Margaret, and in the event of her death, it was to go to the children of Jacob and Margaret. That left second husband Frank Hammes out of the picture completely. In retaliation to his perceived losses of Holl land profits, stepfather Frank took young Matthew, then age 11, and Edward, age 9, out of school and had them work full time, year-round, on his own farms. By 1990 the boys and Margaret were isolated from others and kept at his home. All of Margaret's things; furniture, dished, linens, jewelry, papers, letters, clothing, photographs, books, and all else she lived with, was also moved to the Frank Hammes home. Margaret continued to refuse permission for Frank to sell the Holl property.

One evening after dark in 1892, Henry found his younger brother's Matthew and Edward standing alone at his door in their worn clothing. They had run away from their stepfather after sunset and knew he would be after them. They asked Henry to take them "up north" to live with their older brothers and reported seeing step-father Frank had come into the kitchen with an ax, threatening Margaret's life. Henry immediately took the boys to the How Sunny Hill Farm of oldest brother John Holl and his wife Veronica Kurz Holl. The family needed the assistance of the county sheriff in removing Margaret from Frank Hammes' home as he had threatened to shoot anyone coming for her or her things. Margaret hastily left with only what she had on and the few things she could carry. She remained at Sunny Hill Farm, first with son John and his family and then with Matthew and family when he took over the farm. Soon afterward, Henry joined the family in How, claiming his own land and starting a homestead near the village of Underhill. Youngest brothers Matthew and Edward were raised among the family there.

Wedding Photograph
Henry Holl and Virginia Renier
Dorothy Holl Runge Collection

Over the next few years brothers Joseph (October 22, 1892)  and Matthias (May 04, 1896) were married and began families in How,  just as John, Jake and Peter had. Sister Catherine was married in 1895 to J. Edward Kaye in Green Bay and younger sister Anna was living there with them. January 05, 1897 Henry married Virginia Renier at Holy Martyrs Church. Her Belgium 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 How, but Virginia's fear of the nearby Indian Reservation and 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.

In 1898 sister Anna married Frank Witters in Green Bay. Henry and Jennie became the parent of a son named Peter H.. Daughter Alice soon followed in 1899. Anna and Frank also gave birth to son L. Abbott that year.

Tuberculosis was an epidemic hitting nearly every family in the parts of northeastern Wisconsin. It was responsible for decades of deaths, sometimes taking all members of a family to the grave.  Henry's sisters-in-law Elizabeth and Clara Prinz, who were the wives brothers Pete and Jake, died of Tuberculosis in How in 1898 and 1900, leaving a total of 9 motherless Holl children. His brother Peter later succumbed to the disease in 1911 and his second wife, widow Minnie Guelker Holl, raised all 9 children of his two marriages. Henry's brother also Joseph died in 1901, but the cause is unknown since records can not be found, only his grave. In 1908 Henry's mother died at Sunny Hill Farm in how. Margaret had been living there with Matthias and his wife Anna. Several babies were also lost at or near birth among the Holl families in those few years, including little Alice, daughter of Henry and Jennie, in 1903. Her gravestone remains visible at the old cemetery where her grandfather and aunts were buried in Preble. The memories of each person were treasured and passed along in family history.

On the Brown County farm of Henry and Jennie a second son, Antone, was welcomed to the family. Their sons grew up farming vegetables for local canning factories in the area. In the years to follow oldest son Peter H. Holl and his father Henry agreed to live on the farm together with Peter and
50th Wedding Photograph
Henry and Virginia Renier Holl 
Newspaper Photo
Winkler Collection
his growing family taking over the day to day running. His parents Henry and Jennie would retire and have the farm as their home as long as they needed it. Henry remained active on the farm and was close with his 10 grandchildren, especially Clifford Holl, whom he related many family history stories to while they spent time together doing choirs on the farm.
Peter Holl
son of Henry Holl 

Funeral Prayer Card
Minnie Guelker Holl Collection

Possessing the same community spirit as his brothers in How, farm property was given to the Brown County,  Bellevue school system for a new elementary school. It was built on the new Holl Road and in the modern tower at it's entrance is the school bell from the former one room schoolhouse that stood on the original Jacob and Margaret Holl homestead not far away. That one room schoolhouse had replaced the log cabin and frame schools that Henry and his brothers and sisters attended as children.

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.

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