1816 - 1880
Our Jacob Holl began life in Schauren, Rheinland (now called Schauren, Rheinland-Paflz, Cochem-Zell, Germany) on July 20, 1816 to Henrick and Elizabeth Theisen Holl. This was a very small community. The family had lived in the Rheinland for generation. The history of that country had strongly shaped their own family heritage and destiny. Jacob's parents were born in Scharen; Henrick in 1787 and Elizabeth in 1784. Since Jacob was an educated man who could read and write, it is resonable to believe that the family was of at least modest means and could afford the private education of both sons and daughters. One of his sisters, who was a nanny, was also educated, since she was responsible for the early education of the children she oversaw. Most likely his other two sisters were also educated. This was an unusual situation in an agricultural time and place where most heads of households worked as hired farm labor. Only a few men were able to rent land as tenant farmers and their boys went to school until age 10 when they joined the work force to help support the family. Girls from these families were not school educated. The fact that the Holl children had more than the minimum of schooling indicates that the family either owned some land, had a specialty skill or ran a shop or small business, which allowed enough of an income to free the children from working at a young age, and to pay for tuition. There were no higher public schools in Jacob's homeland area in the early 1800's. In America, the early Holl family had a tradition of supporting education and active involvement in the school systems in the US. Since several of Jacob's children owned stores as adults, it would seem that shop keeping was the greatest possibility for the family income heritage. Such skills were handed down through generations.
There was famine and great political unrest in the German Palatinate, when Jacob grew up. No country of "Germany" existed until much later in 1871. There were once 300+ tiny independent Germanic states and cities that developed after the fall of the Holy Roman Empire, during the 1600's. Although people spoke the same language, they were governed in small groups by different rulers. There were different laws in each tiny "country state". People could not move without permission of their ruler and had to move where and when that ruler told them to. These 300+ counties had been incorporated into 39 independent countries by Napoleon after France was conquered the area in 1789. This had brought some economic relief to citizens from the hundreds of tariffs and taxes collected by each riny country passed through while taking goods to large markets. The prices charged for products had to include these added fees and became much too expensive for the general public to aquire by money or barter. With fewer independent states and the elimination of many of the added fees for transporting goods, as well as the lifting of unlimited mandatory years of military service for young men, by the early 1800's the area was beginning to see an upturn in fortunes; but only for a short while.
Aggressive and powerful, Prussia, to the Northeast, was methodically assimilating each small Germanic country under it's rule, using them as resources for their own growth and putting nothing back into them. Also, the systems of government, economics and law of Prussia were quite different from, and far more backwardly feudal, than those that the Rheinlanders had established. Mandatory military service, for as long as 20 years, took the young men away from the farms and settlements, leaving the work to the women, children and older men. Childbirths declined, diseases took a terrible toll as the economy slid, jobs and land were lost and there was little to no future for the young.
There were also laws that required a man to have a minimum amount of money saved before he married, usually $50, which would be many times that amount today. Whole families worked and saved through years of hard times to save enough for just one son to marry. Men were often well on their 40's before they could marry, provided they survived military duty, where disease killed more people than fighting. In the mid 1800's there were several internal German uprisings, mostly by university students and land/business owners. These were quickly and powerfully squelched, giving both those who participated and those who did not, another important reason to consider emigrating to other lands. The population Germanic population in Europe declined by two thirds from the mid 1700's to the late 1800's. Half of the loss was by premature death and half by emigration.
Jacob in America
Jacob Sr. had left his homeland to resettle in North America. He arrived in the Port of New York in July of 1855. According to family history he was accompanied by a sister who chose to remain in New York State with relatives. The had been, and remains today, a large number of people with the Holl surname in that state. Their relationship to our branch has not been explored as yet.
At the age of 37 Jacob traveled west to the bustling frontier port town of Green Bay, Wisconsin. The great northern fur trade was winding down, logging and lumber were king, and farming of the newly logged off land was in it infancy. Life was rugged and hard, but there were a variety of jobs to be had and land was available for homesteading through the United States Government. There was a small down payment needed, which could be saved from working for others, and work done to develop the land for living and farming went toward payment of the mortgage.
Margaret Dollar Holl
was assuredly a very busy time for Jacob Holl. He must have found
as most new arrivals did, as soon as possible. During this first year
meet a young woman named Margaret Dollar. She had come to the the
of Wisconsin, Brown County, from Mörsdorf, Rheinland in 1844
her Father, John Dollar, mother Gertrude Catharine Kasten and several
brothers. More siblings were added in the first years of
Margaret had been born 1836 in Europe, came to the at age 12 in 1844,
had worked to establish a Dollar family homestead just south of what is
now the city Green Bay. Dollar Lane, Dollar Road, Dollar Spring and
Creek are named for her father, John Dollar, and are still seen on maps
of that original homestead in the area. That part of Brown County was
deeply forested wilderness in the mid 1840's. There were no schools,
villages or roads, only a few narrow footpaths that were not wide
to accommodate horses, oxen or wagons. Supplies, possessions and tools
were brought in by backpack and a family lived in a hastily constructed
temporary leanto made of broken branches and pine bows, roofed over
tarp, until a log home could be built. By the time she had met Jacob in
1855, Margaret knew well, the skills and demands of life in the new
couple married August 11, 1856 at St. John the Evangelist Catholic
in Green Bay. Jacob was 40 years of age and his bride had just turned
Bay Settlement in eastern Brown County was their fist home. This small
community was one of the first French-Canadian settlements in the early
1800's and was, by this time, a bustling settlement now of mostly
immigrants. There were a few German families in that area in the late
and they were just the beginning of the large number to immigrate
the next 30 years. April 28, 1857,
brought the birth
of their first child, John Holl. He was baptized at Francis Xavier
Green Bay, Brown County, WI . Bay Settlement was also the
of their second child, Jacob Holl Jr. March 22,
1859 and baptized
April 24, 1859 at St Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay. They
probably lived in a home in the village at this early time in their
On the 1860 US Census, Jacob was listed as a "farmer" with real estate valued at $100, in the Town of Bellevue, Brown County, WI. and personal assets of $600. There were 2 children in the family. It is likely that Jacob was working the family farm by this time. The farm was located on land described as being in Brown County, Section 13, Township 23 North, and Range 22 east. He must have purchase land that was already developed for farming as the family was settled there by one year after their second child was born in Bay Settlement. This was a very common way for new settlers to establish themselves at that time in Brown County. The Germanic settlers held land ownership as a great accomplishment, an opportunity that did not present itself to many in Europe, and well worth the investment of time and savings. Peter Holl joined the family on April 09, 1861.
next at the farm on June 23, 1864. She was named for her late
grandmother, Gertrude Kaster Dollar, who had died in Europe less than a
year after her mother, Margaret, was born. The fifth child, Henry,
after Jacob's father, was born August 26, 1865. Margaret was born April
15, 1867 and was also baptized April 23, 1867 at St. Francis Xavier
Green Bay. There were now 6 little children, ranging from age 9 years
new born in the 11 years Jacob and Margaret were married.
November 3, 1867, Jacob
Holl traveled to the Brown County Courthouse and signed a Petition for
Naturalization. This was the first step in a then two step process of
a U.S. citizen. Before the county Clerk of the Circuit Court, he
took and oath and signed a petition stating his place of birth, when
where he came to the this country, and renouncing all allegiances to
former land and Frederic Wilhelm III King of Prussia. This was
for him. Since women were not granted individual citizenship, either
born or born in the U.S., he could not automatically stay though being
married here. Owning land was also not an automatic reason for being
to stay, but it certainly was a good consideration to offer when
for naturalization. Having sufficient resources and income to
himself and his family was a requirement of the first order. All of
sons (but not daughters) being born here, would then be citizens, and
could stay as their guardian. For this reason, many men did not bother
with the second step of Citizenship.
1874 Jacob staked out 80 acres of land in Sheboygan County, Section 23,
Township 16 North, Range 21 East . He was awarded deed to the property,
making full payment for the Federal Land Grant. This was close to 50
almost directly South of where the family farmed in Brown County.
Carolus Holl ,
seventh child, was born June 07, 1869 and baptized September 10, 1869
Holy Martyrs of Gorcum Catholic Church in Preble, Brown County, WI.
is the first of the children to be baptized at the new parish the
attended. Jacob and Margaret were founding members of this parish in
which was significantly closer for them to travel for worship.
The Brown County farmland had a rather thin layer of sandy loam on top of a ancient bed of limestone. Finding a place for a water well was always a problem for homesteaders in this area, but Jacob owned a large and plentiful pit well, lined with stone, for their needs. The foundations of the buildings were quarried limestone rock slabs, and no mortar was used as the rock slabs could be "trimmed" with a hammer and chisel to fit snugly. Larger buildings were made of log construction over these study rock foundations. A very few small outbuildings made primarily of rock in this method remain to be seen, These buildings have a wood shingled roof and door, and wood beam framework. The rock slabs are stacked tightly between the framework to the roof line. Water troughs were also carved of large limestone blocks and a few remain to be seen.
The entire year of 1871 had been terribly dry, without rain the entire growing season. Temperatures had been a dozen degrees higher than normal for months. This had followed several dry previous years, but none had been so bad. It was Fall and there was almost no food for the stock, what little corn grew, was shocked in the fields. The vegetable garden had yielded almost nothing for winter storage. Everything was tinder dry and smoke had been in the air for weeks from small fires that were smoldering in the dried marshes. On the night of Sunday, October 8, 1871, the family was alarmed by the call of fire. The cast iron bell in the nearby local schoolhouse tower was ringing loudly in the hazy hot darkness of night. It had been used several other times recently to notify nearby people of local homestead fires. Neighbors would come to help try and save what they could. This time was a far different matter. A large wildfire was glowing orange to the east of the homestead, lighting up the ski for miles. Jacob and Margaret got the children up, but it was soon evident there was no way to stop the oncoming flames. Gathering the young children and rounding up the stock, the family moved west toward the bay as quickly as possible. Behind them they could hear the crackling roar of the fire, feel the heated winds which made breathing painful and difficult. Stinging eyes made vision almost impossible. After traveling quite a ways, the family realized that the wind had changed direction and the fire was now moving northeast, away from them. In time, they began moving back home. They were more fortunate than most who had experienced the fire. The hay and stored foods were totally destroyed. The buildings were damaged, but most of their stock and all of the family were alive.
They had been on the very edge of what is still the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, the Great Peshtigo Fire, which left an estimated 1,500 people dead. Jacob and the oldest boys cleared debris from the well and began trying to put together a shelter for the stock. Margaret and the younger children tried to salvage tools and roots vegetables that were still in the ground. It was a bad time, but they soon found out that so many had it worse.
Holl made an
early holiday appearance on December 23, 1872 and was
Day, December 25, 1872 at Holy Martyrs of Gorcum Catholic Church in
The building were repaired, weather conditions had improved and family
life was busy and productive. The land grant was award was finalized to
Jacob in 1874 by the US Government and the 80 acres were now Holl
Some time later at least 20 more acres of that section were purchased
added to the farm. Tragedy struck the family on April 16, 1874, went
oldest daughter Gertruda died. She was only weeks from her 10th
The reason for her death is not known as information for her death
was taken from the church books, which gave no information on what
Gertrude was buried in the Holy Martyrs cemetery on the steep hillside
behind the church building that stands today. There are very few
still standing in this old section, and none is visible for Gertrude.
parish does not have records of where people are buried in that
old section of the cemetery and fallen stones were not repaired or
A photograph of Gertrude has not been found.
The next child to be born was Anna on November 23, 1875. Then Matthias Holl on November 09, 1877. Both were promptly baptized at Holy Martyrs Parish in Preble shortly after birth. Jacob was 63 years old and Margaret was age 44 when it was learned that another Holl child was on the way. Expected early in 1880, this one would be their 11th since their oldest, John, was born in 1857. The oldest sons had worked in the logging crews at Padus, which were owned by a longtime neighbor and friend, John Hammes. John and his wife and children had farmed a large acreage west "down the road". from the Holl farm, as well as having the permanent lumber camp at Padus which was used every winter.
1879 second born son
Jacob Holl Jr. had staked a claim of homestead in a county to the
Oconto County, using the part of his earnings not sent home to the
Jacob was 19 years old. He had only an ax to begin working on the
forest and marshland. Oldest son John, was working in a railroad tie
in city of Oconto, with the expectation of making his own
claim in the western part of that county in mid 1880.
There has been no photograph found of Jacob Holl. However, by researching the people of his original home in Europe, and making comparisons of photographs of his sons and his wife, some physical characteristics can be assumed. Jacob was tall for a man of his time, standing 6 feet or more in height. He had a full head of black or very dark brown hair that was straight or slightly wavy, and deep set brown eyes. He had a square, well defined facial structure and medium to light build. His skin was smooth and olive, darkening deeply in the sun during farm work. We know from accounts by one of his sons, Henry, that in his later years, Jacob was affected by a gradually worsening chronic back problem that eventually left him very stooped. He walked bent over and when it was too painful for him to manage the heavy, strenuous field work with the team, Margaret and the older sons did those jobs while Jacob tended the small children, cleaned the barn and coops, watered and fed the stock, weeded and watered the vegetable gardens, cooked meals and took over the many other chores near the home. He kept working despite the pain, doing as much as he could. Back problems of various degrees have been experienced with frequency by Holl descendants. This leads to the possibility that it may have been a genetically related condition. He was described as a kind and gentle father who, along with his wife, worked hard, sacrificed and offered as much as they could to their children at all times. From the accounts of the older children, it was also a mutually loving and respectful marriage. Jacob and Margaret worked together as a team. The were instrumental in the building of a local public school which their children attended, and were founding members of their church congregation.
climbing into the pit well on the family farm with block and tackle to
rescue an ox that had fallen in Jacob became desperately ill. Even with
the help of several others, this took considerable time. It was the
part of winter, the work had been strenuous and no doubt very painful
him. After the successful rescue, Jacob contracted pneumonia from which
he died 12 days later. Cause of death is listed as "pneumonia due to
gasses (sic)". Jacob Holl died
1880, age 64, at the family homestead in town of Humbolt, Brown County,
Wisconsin. His son Henry related that he was returning from the mill
a wagon, when he was met by his mother Margaret, at the gate. There she
told him that his father had passed away a short while
children still at home were Peter age 19, Henry age 15, Margaret age
Joseph age 11, Catherine age 8, Anna age 6 and Matthias age
Holl Senior is buried in the original Holy Martyrs of Gorcum Cemetery
the steep hill behind the church building; being a founding
of the congregation. No stone remains to mark his resting site
Seven weeks after his death, Jacob's last child,
Holl was born April 08, 1880 and baptized on April 09, 1880 at Holy
of Gorcum Catholic Church, Preble, WI.
For the next 9 years Margaret and the children farmed the Holl land. In 1879 son Jake had been the first to make a homestead claim on wilderness lands "up north" in town of How, Oconto County, Wisconsin. The 1880 federal census had has Peter living at the family Brown County home that early summer, where he was probably helping out after the birth of brother Edward. Later in 1880, oldest son John staked his claim and began homesteading, also in town of How. In 1881 Peter was starting his own farm there. Oldest daughter Maggie was working as a domestic and nanny in the city of Marinette for a lumber business owner's family. Daughter Catherine was a teacher, first in town of How and then in Green Bay, and daughter Anna was living with her. Henry had stayed on to work the family farm.
A series of marriages, sons Jake in 1883, John and Peter in 1885, followed in the mid to late 1880's leaving Margaret with an extended family that now included grandchildren. One of these marriages was planned for the Spring of 1887 by Maggie to town of How beau Nick Ehlinger. After posing together for an engagement photograph, Maggie had left the farm to return to Marinette for her belongings and the new wedding gown she was to wear. During that trip, she contracted Typhoid Fever and died shortly before the wedding date. Maggie was brought back to Brown county where she was laid to rest with her sister Gertrude and Father Jacob in Holy Martyrs of Gorcum Cemetery.
In 1889 Margaret Dollar Holl married Frank Hammes. He was a land widowed neighbor whose children were grown. Over the years he had amassed large farmland holding and had at one time owned the local hotel. The couple was married April 30, 1889 at St Francis Xavier Cathedral, Green Bay, Brown County, WI. Son Henry was a witness. Henry was now boarding and working at a nearby farm, saving toward his own homestead in town of How. Matthew age 11 and Edward age 9 were living with their mother Margaret at the time of her remarriage.
Family history relates that this new union of Frank and Margaret was not a happy one from the start. The reasons and timing of events had been partially lost to time. Events were researched in court and land documents to help explain the sequence that followed the marriage. Almost from the moment of the marriage, Frank Hammes had tried to sell the Holl land for his own benefit. He was of the "old school" belief that the male head of the household owns everything himself, including his wife, her children and what she has brought into the marriage. Frank was not able to sell the land, and needed Margaret's signature and consent, which she refused to give him. Margaret and her late husband Jacob had agreed before his death that the land was to stay in the family for her and their children's use. Upon her death it was to be divided between the children of their marriage. Frank was not accustomed to being refused.
Later in 1889 the Holl family petitioned the Brown County Court for probate proceedings on the estate of the late Jacob Holl. The court awarded sole ownership of the entire estate (land, buildings, equipment and all possessions) to Margaret, and in the event of her death, it was to be divided among the children. Frank continued to insist that Margaret sign papers to sell the land, and she continued to refuse. In reparation for what he perceived as a personal loss of profit. Matthew age 11 and Edward age 9 were still living with their mother Margaret. Frank took the youngest two sons out of school. They were kept working full time on the Hammes farm; no wages were paid to them. Margaret and the boys could not leave or receive guests without Frank being present. They were isolated. Margaret continued to refuse to sign for Frank selling the Holl land.
One night in 1892, Matthew and Edward turned up on the doorstep of brother Henry, who was living and working nearby in Brown County. The boys, then age 11 and 13, related seeing Frank Hammes come into the kitchen with an ax and threaten mother Margaret's life. Out of fear for their safety, Margaret had helped the boys to escape by night, telling them to go to where Henry lived. They asked Henry to take them "up north" to live with older brothers in town of How. Henry did secret the boys away to John Holl's farm and they finished growing up in the area. Next the family came for Margaret. With the help of the Brown County Sheriff, she was then removed from the home of Frank Hammes, who stood at the doorway and threatened to shoot anyone coming for his wife and property. Margaret left with only the clothing she had on and a few items that she could carry.
She also joined her youngest sons at John Holl's Sunny Hill Farm, remaining there with son Matthew and his family when he took over the farm. The entire remaining family, including new homesteading new Henry Holl were near to each other again. Daughter Catherine Holl was a town of How teacher and Anna were living in How as well. Not much later, Catherine was hired for a teaching position in Green Bay and moved there with younger sister Anna.
Frank was not ready to let go yet. Shortly after Margaret had left Brown County, he went to court with two friends and a doctor who all testified that Margaret was incompetent to handle her own affairs. It was not necessary for the person in question to be present at such hearings in that time and Margaret was not informed of the proceedings. On the information provided by Frank, the court judged Margaret incompetent and gave Frank Power of Attorney over her affairs. Frank then sold the 20 acre portion of the Jacob Holl Farm on which the home and buildings stood, and all farming equipment that he could not use. The Holl building were set well back from Erie Road on a slight rise. A long lane ran from the buildings to the road, through the farm fields. Clothing and furniture that he did not want was also sold. Frank removed all of the family's possessions; such as china and dishes, trunks, kitchen equipment, letters, documents, photographs; burning everything that was not sold or he did not use. This included all personal items belonging to Margaret.
The Holl family was informed of the land sale by a family friend and neighbors. To stop the further sale of land, they went to court and had temporary power of attorney for Margaret transferred to oldest son John Holl, with whom she was living. Frank Hammes was ordered by the court to repay the full compensation for the land sale and sold or burned Holl property to the Holl family, and to return any Holl family items left in his possession. Frank did not comply with the order, and nothing was returned or paid.
The following few years were active and productive for the Margaret's Holl family in town of How. She was surrounded by happy events and celebrations. There were the marriages of son Joseph in 1892, daughter Catherine in 1895, Matthew in 1896, and Anna in 1898. Grandchildren were soon numbering in the double digits. Farms were prospering and expanding . Her offspring were venturing beyond their homestead farms to add new businesses in their lives. Besides running large farms, John and Joseph bought general stores and enlarged the buildings, Peter had a dray delivery service, Jacob had logging and sawmill operations, Joseph also had a stage line circuit between villages that connected to the railroad. Henry was carving his own homestead farm out of the wilderness near village of Underhill. Matthew had taken over John's "Sunny Hill Farm". Anna and her husband Frank bought and ran a pickle factory. Youngest son Edward went on to business school. All were active in their communities and served on various public boards and commissions; kept books as clerks for the school districts; were Justice of the Peace (which at the time meant serving as judge in local court); post mastering; were founding members in their local church congregations, among other public services. There were also graduations, anniversaries, Civil War honor ceremonies, community picnics, parades, school presentations, church functions, dances, harvest celebrations and traditional holidays among the events to attend and enjoy. The family stayed close, helping each other along. They worked hard and played well.
These years also
had their heartbreaks. Peter's wife Lizzie Prinz
died of Tuberculosis in 1898, followed in 1900 by her sister, Jacob's
Clara Prinz. Together they left 9 motherless children. In
Joseph died and was buried near Gillett.
In time Peter and Jacob remarried and began adding more children to the clan. In 1903 Frank Hammes died and it was hoped that he had left the court ordered money for sold land and Holl family property to Margaret. When the Hammes Will was probated, Margaret was not even mentioned. The Holl family then contested the Will in court. Margaret did not ask for anything from Frank Hammes' estate, only for what she had brought into the marriage and lost through his doing. The Hammes family agreed to the judges appointment of J. Edward Kaye, Margaret's son-in-law who was known in Brown County for his fairness, as executor of estate for the Frank Hammes Will to replace Frank's son. The 20 acres of land and building sold by Frank was assessed for value at the time of sale, and the money was transferred from the estate to Margaret. Several pieces of furniture still in the Frank Hammes home were returned to her as well. Since there was no way to prepare and verify an inventory or listing of all the clothing, farm equipment, letters, documents, jewelry and other Holl possessions that had been sold or burned by Frank Hammes, no monitory value could be placed on them and there was no compensation from his estate. After the judge reviewed and accepted the reparations, J. Edward Kaye stepped down as estate executor and the Hammes son resumed the position. The Frank Hammes estate was then divided among his descendants in full accordance of his Will.
With that chapter of her life finally closed, Margaret continued to live among her family in How until her death September 14, 1908. She was laid to rest among family and friends at St. Michael Cemetery in town of How, Oconto County.
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