1856 - 1915
Philipp Joseph, known as "Joe", the oldest child of Peter Joseph and Catherine Bibelhausen Kurz, was born December 06, 1856 in New Denmark, Brown County, Wisconsin. He did farm chores, starting at an early age, and worked at outside jobs as a boy to help with the family income. German was spoken in the home. All wages were turned over to his father while he lived at that home, as was the custom in traditional Germanic households. The head of the household "owned" the children and their work. As father, he also was known for his traditionally vigorous form of physical punishments. Joe, like the rest of the children, grew up quickly and skillfully, going out on his own as soon as possible. Yet there was a strong bond forged between these sibling, shown by the help they gave each other and the many photographs they exchanged for decades to follow as adults living at great distances from each other. Philipp Joseph is credited with setting this example for the younger family members. His mother's large Bibelhausen family had lived by these helping behaviors and this may have influenced Joe's decision to stay in touch.
Family history tells
us that his father,
Peter Joseph Sr., was a well educated man who had attained the title of
Professor in his native Rheinland, before emigrating after
in protests against the Prussian takeover of that land. However, Peter
Joseph did not see a need for his American born sons to attend school,
despite encouragement by his wife Katherine to educate the
Peter felt it was a waste of time since "they are going to be just
Regardless of the lack of encouragement from his father, along the way,
Joe managed on his own to learn English, read, write and do sums. This
knowledge served him well in his future ventures. Of all the children,
Joe was thought to have resembled his father's appearance the closest.
The 1870 Census
shows him, at age 14, living
with his parents and siblings, and working as a farm laborer. By 1880
was no longer living at the home of his parents. He and brother John
purchased unsettled land along the western border of Minnesota, where
city of Warren now stands. Shortly after that, Joe went west to seek
future and younger brother Jake took his place on the Minnesota
for a few years.
Joe settled in Rumsey Township, Comanche County, Kansas on government land, living in a "dugout" house, carved in the side of a hill, for the first few years. By 1885, brother Jake had joined him in the dugout shelter. April 22, 1885, the rains came, flooding the Medicine River nearby. Homes and wagons were washed away and 24 bodies were found the next day in the receding water. There were four people in Joe's home that night and they spent the entire time bailing water that was sometimes a foot deep out of the dugout. The light they had was from a saucer of lard with a rag wick.
Family history tells us that Joe experienced increasingly painful weakness in his legs and lower back for the next few years until 1892, when he traveled to Buffalo, New York for a diagnosis that could not be made in Kansas. He was told that he had Tuberculosis of the spine. There was no cure for this eventually fatal disease, but people were responding to new types of treatment, having lengthened lives and sometimes a partial remission of symptoms. Joe headed for Oregon, where his sister Katherine was living with her family in Polk County. Brother Jake remained at the Kansas homestead.
The last 20 years of
Joe's life was spent
at the home of his oldest sister, Katherine Kurz Maier Murray and her
in Falls City, Oregon. It was top treatment of the time, before
medication, for the person with Tuberculosis to be exposed to the
amount of sunlight and fresh air combined with nutrition which included
fresh fruits and vegetables. The climate and the orchard farm of sister
Katherine's Oregon home was a good match. Joe spent much of his time in a tent
near the home, where the photograph was taken.
With the news that Joe had contracted Tuberculosis of the spine, gradually weakening and eventually loosing the use of his legs, various family member came from great distances to visit him over the years of his residency in Oregon.
The most memorable was the attempt of his dear brother Jake Kurz with daughter Clara and son Charley. The three traveled by train across the southwest from their ranch in Kansas in 1907, boarding ship at San Francisco, California for the coastal trip north to Portland, Oregon. While on board one very foggy night, their Steam Ship Columbia was broad sided by the lumber ship San Paulo, sinking in 17 minutes. Jake made desperate attempts to save his daughter and son but was eventually overcome from exposure to the cold Pacific. Though unconscious, Jake's life was saved, but his children perished and were never recovered, being among the estimated 98 souls lost in that wreck. Jake had not seen his brother or sister for 15 years, since Joe traveled to Buffalo for his diagnosis in 1892. Needing to recover, Jake returned alone to his wife and two daughters in Kansas, one month afterward. It is not known if Jake and Joe were ever reunited.
Family history tells us that Joe remained single and continued to live with the Murray family after his sister Katherine's death in 1909 and was bedridden his final years. His nieces continued his care. Philipp Joseph Kurz passed away in May of 1915 at the age of 59 years and is buried near his sister in Polk County, Oregon. His mother, Katherine Bibelhausen Kurz, died one month later in Ladysmith, Rusk County.
Joe's sister Catherine Kurz Maier Murray had been his caretaker for years at her home on Oregon, however, she was diagnosed with cancer and died in September of 1909. Her daughters continued to care for their uncle Joe Kurz in Oregon until his death.
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