October 30, 2013

Why Wisconsin?

My visit to Newton Township the other week is still fresh in my mind and stirring up curious thoughts about my immigrating ancestors. I've often wondered (usually in February) why this family chose Wisconsin (Marquette County) to settle in after leaving their homeland of Germany in 1868.

The Germans in Wisconsin website pretty much solves the mystery for me. As the site explains, many Germans came to America seeking religious, political and personal freedoms they didn't have in their own country. By the 1850's much of the land in the eastern US had been settled and people were pushing west. The land and climate of Wisconsin were similar and familiar to the Germans and there was a heavy influx of Germans to the state between 1840 and 1900. Many of them, including my Hallmann ancestors, brought with them their farming skills and established farms in the state.

So ultimately, the answer to my question, "Why Wisconsin?" and more specifically "Why Marquette County?," is shown in the map below...

Map from Germans in Wisconsin website.  

and is the same reason, I suppose, that many immigrants today choose a particular spot in the United States to settle...familiarity. They're attracted to a place where they can use their skills to support their family and build a new life. Where they know how to handle the weather. Where there are people who speak their language, understand their ways, and can help them acclimate and establish themselves into the new culture and place they want to call "home." 

Photo of Hallmann "Homeplace," October, 2013

The main house and perhaps some of the other buildings in the photo were built by my great-great grandfather August Hallmann around 1871. Seeing this, I take comfort in the idea that they must have been able to live mostly in peace here because of the rural surroundings they chose and their being able to be self-sufficient from the land. The fact they were further surrounded by people of their homeland most likely spared them from many of the hassles and prejudices that many immigrants face when attempting to settle within an already established population. Still...I'm thinking it couldn't have been easy out here in the 1870's!

The children of my immigrant ancestors, August and Albertine Hallmann, c.1906. 
I suspect this photo may have been taken just after August (their father) died, as they appear to be in mourning attire from that era. The two standing in the back row on the far right were born in Germany. The man is great-grandpa Herman Hallmann, who was 3-1/2 years old when he immigrated with his parents to the US and the woman next to him is his sister, Bertha, who was one year old at the time they emigrated. The remaining siblings were born in Marquette County, Wisconsin.

The family church where August and Albertine raised their family, when the services
were spoken, sung and read in German.
St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Newton
My Hallmann ancestors helped establish this church in their new homeland.

My dad told me that for a time, my great-aunt Aurelia, August Hallmann's granddaughter, was the organist at the little St. Paul's Lutheran Church. I can't help but imagine Aurelia sitting on the organist's bench, leading the congregation in song. I feel connected to them all.

                   Aurelia Louisa Hallmann Zabel                              Interior, St. Paul's Lutheran Church
             (died of complications from breast cancer)
                                  photo c. 1927

Rest in Peace August & Albertine.

Happy Belated Constitution Day and Citizenship Day!
September 17, 2013

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