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Matthew Holl

1877 - 1950

Matthew Holl 
Dorothy Holl Runge Collection

Matthew Holl was the 10th child born to Margaret Dollar Holl and Jacob Holl on November 09, 1877.  He was baptized at Holy Martyrs of Gorcum Church in Preble, Wisconsin. Witnesses for the baptism of Matthias (Matthew) were Joseph Wein and Anna Marie Reinnert. With nine older siblings, Matthew had plenty of "coaching" in his early years. Older brothers John and Jacob were finished with school and worked winters at logging camps. They helped on the family farm the rest of the year, as their father Jacob Holl, was increasingly unable to do the heavier farm work because a worsening back disorder that left him bent over and in pain. Still, Matthew saw his father doing the work close to the house, such as caring for the younger children, cooking, feeding stock, collecting eggs, cooking meals and all other types of chores while Margaret and the older children handled the fieldwork. His father always did his best and family history tells us that his parent's marriage was a loving, close and kind relationship.

Matthew knew his oldest sister, Gertrude, only through older family members. She had passed away in 1864, long before his birth. Maggie was the sister who assumed the traditional "second mother" role to Matthew, of the first born daughter.  Matthias lost his father at the age of 3 years, in the winter of 1880 from pneumonia 12 days after taking part in the rescue of a family milk oxen that had fallen into the farm's pit well.  A few weeks later Matthew was presented with a younger brother, named Edward. The two boys would be close all of their childhoods. Matthew attended the log cabin school near their home, following the spring fed creek, that began on their family farm, to the one room schoolhouse. He was particularly adept at mathematics and in his adult life could easily add long lists of numbers in his head faster than anyone using an adding machine or cash register.

By the mid 1880's, older brothers John, Jacob and Peter were married and homesteading land in town of How, Oconto County, Wisconsin. Sister Catherine was a new rural graded school teacher also in How. Henry was boarding and working at a farm in Brown County, and Maggie was a domestic and nanny for a lumber company owner in Marinette. In April of 1887 his beloved older sister Maggie died suddenly in Marinette from Typhoid Fever. She had just been home to plan her May wedding to Nick Ehlinger in town of How, and had returned to Marinette for her possessions and new wedding gown when she became ill from the epidemic in that area. He attended the funeral where she was laid to rest at Holy Martyrs of Gorcum Cemetery with sister Gertrude and father Jacob.

In 1889, his widowed mother remarried a neighbor when Matthew was 11 years old.  Frank Hammes had also lost his wife years before, and his children were now grown. He had owned a hotel and large tracts of farm land in eastern Brown County, Wisconsin.  His brother John and family had been Holl family friends and neighbors. Being from a much earlier generation, Frank Hammes held with the old belief that a woman and children were the property of the man who headed the family. He also believed that all they owned belonged to him as well. Shortly after the marriage, Frank attempted to sell land from the Holl farm without Margaret's signature. He did not succeed, nor was he successful in obtaining Margaret's permission for the sale.

The Holl family had the late Jacob Holl's estate probated in court later that year and the entire estate was settled solely upon his wife, Margaret, to be given, in the event of her death, to the children of their union.

Unaccustomed to being limited in his pursuits, an angry Frank Hammes removed Matthew and Edward from school and had them working full time on his lands in compensation for the losing the land sale.  Margaret continued to refuse signing off on the Holl property for Frank to sell, and Frank's temper became volatile. The boys reported witnessing Frank entering the kitchen with an ax and threatening Margaret with death. The left in the dark of night in the year 1892, showing up at the doorstep of middle brother Henry. The asked him to take them "up north" to live with their older brothers. Henry secretly took them north. As Frank Hammes was known for his temper, the sooner Henry had them away, the better for

 Henry Holl, years later, described this trip to his grandson, Clifford Holl.  On the way to the Sunny Hill Farm of oldest brother John,  the three stopped for food at a roadside tavern. Many of the Holl family members had very dark hair, brown eyes and olive colored skin that tans darkly with exposure to the sun. This remains a family traits, though not everyone has them. The tavern keeper absolutely refused to serve the younger brothers. They were very dark skinned from working in the sun all summer and were in the worn clothing they had escaped in. At that time it was against the law in Wisconsin to serve Indians, even just food, in places that sold liquor. Henry explained that these were his brothers and 100% German. Both
their parents had been born in Germany! The tavern owner said "Don't give me that. I KNOW an Indian when I see one and them boys is Indians." The two younger brothers had to wait outside while Henry, who apparently was known to the tavern keeper, purchased the food and they ate down the road from the tavern.

The boys returned to school in How and shortly after their arrival, mother Margaret also came to live with them at Sunny Hill Farm. Her leaving was just as sudden as her sons' and she also could take only just what she was wearing and a few items she could carry, as Frank threatened to shoot anyone coming for her. The Brown County sheriff had to accompany the family in helping her leave. It had been a hard 3 years for Matthew, filled with change and turmoil.

More pleasant changes followed for the family. By now brother Henry had also begun a homestead in How, and sister Catherine was teaching in Green Bay. Within a short time, the parent's of Matthew's sister-in-law, Veronica Kurz Holl (John's wife), came to live and work the Sunny Hill Farm, along with their youngest three children. In 1896 John Holl had purchased a general store in Hayes, where he and his young family were living. Peter Joseph Kurz was running the farm for him while he ran the store and built a larger one. In 1898 Peter Joseph Kurz suddenly died, possibly from heat stroke, while hoeing potatoes at the farm. He had been found in the garden and died shortly afterward. His widow, Catherine Bibelhausen Kurz, with children Josephine, Henry and Vincent moved to Ladysmith, Rusk Count, Wisconsin, to live with an older brother, Antone Kurz. Matthias had been living at Sunny Hill and took over running the farm at age 20.
Wedding Photograph
Matthew Holl and Anna Kopitsch
Dorothy Holl Runge Collection

Matthew  had married local woman Anna Kopitsch May 04, 1896 at Sacred Heart church in Shawano, Wisconsin. After the death of Peter Joseph Kurz, John sold the farm in land contract to Matthew and Anna. Their first child, Thelma was born in 1897. She died shortly afterward and is buried at St. Michael Cemetery in How with other family members. Three more children, Harold, Walter and Mavis joined the family in the following years.

Besides the loss of their daughter, Matthew saw two sisters-in-law, Clara and Elizabeth Prinz Holl, and his brother Peter die of Tuberculosis in 1898, 1900 and 1911. His brother John died in 1901 and John's son, Irvin, also died. By 1908, his mother Margaret, had joined them all at St Michael Cemetery.

Matthew was described as a "mathematics genius" who could do "sums and calculations in his head like (as fast as) lightening". Many a bet was lost over Matthew's ability to add faster than a cash register or adding machine, and he never needed a pencil.  Besides this show of skill, he put his ability to use as clerk for the local school system and as treasurer for the local cheese factory for 12 years. Matthew remained in dairy farming all his life, while being active in community events and working for community boards, much in the way his older brothers did. Education and community public service had always a keen concern for the Holl family.

Glaucoma left him blind the last 15 years of his life, but he insisted on "doing my share" of the work around the farm, which his son Walter was now running.  The combination of his independent spirit and his blindness lead to many falls in those last years, and eventually to his death after head injuries from falling down the concrete cellar stairs while visiting the home of friends in nearby Bonduel. The cellar doors had inadvertently been left open during his stay there and he was unable to see them as he walked around the familiar grounds on April 17, 1950. His widow, Anna Kopitsch passed away February 28, 1969. They rest beside each other, and with their families, at St Michael Cemetery in town of How.

Press Gazette - Apr. 17, 1950


" Oconto Falls, Wis. - Matthew Holl of the town of How died at the home of relatives at Bonduel Monday morning at the age of 72. Mr. and Mrs Holl had gone to Bonduel last Thursday for a week's visit and he became ill Sunday.  Death was caused by a cerebral hemorrhage.

The body is at the O'Neill funeral home in Oconto Falls, and will be taken to the residence Wednesday morning. Funeral rites will be conducted by Rev. M. G. Alt at St. Michael's Catholic church at 9:30 Thursday morning. burial will be in the catholic Cemetery in the town of How. Pallbearers will be six nephews; Fred, Harold and Matt Holl, Peter and George Holl of Green bay, and Ed Holl of Gillett.

Mr. holl was born Nov. 4, 1878 in Green Bay, and when 18 years old took up residence on the farmstead that has been his home ever since. His son Walter is now operating the farm. Mr. Holl lost his sight 17 years ago.

His marriage to Anna Kopitsch of Bonduel was solemnized at Shawano on May 4 1898, and the couple would have celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary next month.

Survivors include the widow; two sons, Harry of Wausau, Walter at home; a daughter, Mrs. Anton (Mavis) Otradovec of Green Bay. There are eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren; a brother, Henry, and a sister, Mrs. Katherine Kaye, both of Green Bay.

Mr. Holl took an active interest in the development of his home community, serving on the town board, as a clerk of the Linsey Brook school for many years. He was secretary of the Liberty Cheese factory for 12 years."

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