Adventures of the first pioneers

In approximately 1835, a man named George White "went west", and arrived at a small community on the east shore of Lake Winnebago named Calumetville. Here he established a hotel and bar where he furnished rooms and meals to the early settlers in the area. A short time later he acquired large tracts of land from the United States Government with a patent signed by President James K. Polk. He then became a government land agent with power of attorney. Calumetville was a growing community with two hotels, two stores, several taverns, two blacksmith shops, a doctor, a flour mill and a lumber yard.

Sometime around 1845, Ferdinand Ostenfeld came to what at the time was known as the Territory of Wisconsin, and stopped at White's Hotel. He knew that a large number of people living in the provinces of Schleswig-Holstein were very uneasy and anxious to leave Germany due to the impending war between Denmark and Germany.

Following the meeting of these two men met, Ostenfeld told White about the folks in Schleswig-Holstein and the predicament they were in. White and Ostenfeld then decided to travel to Germany and inform various friends and relatives about the conditions and opportunities they could find in America. It was a major step for the Schleswig-Holsteiners to leave their homeland, but a number of people finally decided to make the trip. Arrangements were then made for those interested to travel to Hamburg, Germany, and once there, to board the sailing ship Barens, with Hans Nienberg, as skipper. After many goodbys, they set sail in April of 1848. They traveled down the Elbe River into the North Sea and then by way of Newfoundland to New York, arriving there on May, 12, 1848.

Those aboard the ship were George White, Ferdinand Ostenfeld, Charles Gruening, Ernst Veers, William B. Griem, J.C. M. Pfeiffer, Henry Volquarts, William Witt, Claus Oesau, Claus Tams (both Senior and Junior), and Dr. Charles Bock. Others that made the trip were Peter Etler, Detlaf Schnak, John Ibs, and Hannes Kroenke. Some brought their families, while others made arrangements to have family members follow as soon as living quarters were ready. Many of the travelers felt quite secure when they learned that there was a doctor in the group even if medicines in those early days consisted mostly of ingredients like whiskey and tar.

After sailing for about four weeks, the group reached New York, and then proceeded up the Hudson River to Albany. Here all of the chests and boxes containing the goods from their homeland were unloaded. All of those who could afford it went by train to Buffalo, New York. The others went by slow, horse-drawn canal boats via the Erie Canal to Buffalo. There all of the passengers with their boxes and chests boarded a Great Lakes sailing vessel for Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Mr. Ostenfeld had sent word ahead to Mr. Kroeh and Mr. Gaertner, operators of a German Hotel in Sheboygan, for reservations for this group of immigrants. The immigrants arrived around the middle of May of the year (1848).

While the newcomers were taking a few days of rest in Sheboygan, Mr. Ostenfeld made arrangements for their inland trip by teams of oxen hitched to heavy wagons. The women and children and a few of the older men found seats on the baggage that was piled on the wagons, while the others walked. It took them one day to make the sixteen miles to Plymouth, another day to Greenbush, and on the third day they arrived at Fond du Lac. The route they traveled was through virgin forest with no roads, with only some occasional Indian trails. For a long distance they had to climb several steep hills, which took considerable time. At times they had to ford rivers, one of which today is known as the Sheboygan River. After a short rest at Fond du Lac, they traveled for fourteen miles along the east shore of Lake Winnebago to Calumetville where they were quartered at White's Hotel.

It was the morning of May 29, 1848, that White, Ostenfeld, Witt, Veers, Griem, and Claus Tams, Jr. started to walk east eleven miles through the woods over some of the best land in the state. While they were wading through one of the marshes that they passed through, Claus Tams lost one of his shoes. Since he only had one pair, with a little help and a long pole, he finally succeeded in locating the shoe. They continued on until they found land with a lot of stone on it. Their folks in Germany had told them to look for land with a lot of stone, since that is where there is always good soil. Mr. Witt was the first one to select an "eighty" for his future home. Mr. Veers picked the next "eighty." They continued on for another mile where Mr. Pfeiffer decided to live. Mr. Griem wanted to live near a stream, which they found after walking another mile. Mr. Ostenfeld selected a tract of land opposite Mr. Griem, while Claus Tams picked an "eighty" another half-mile east for which he paid one-hundred and twenty dollars.

After each one of the first settlers had made his selection, they returned to White's Hotel, which was their headquarters during that first summer. Here each one made arrangements to build a house out of logs or out of sawed lumber. As soon as any of them were ready, they would move in and prepare for the winter. The first years were the hardest because they had to walk through the woods to Calumetville for all of their food and supplies. Income in those days was very limited; a few earned a little helping others. Many a time came when they ran out of coffee and money, they would go out in the woods to look for acorns, which they would roast and use instead of coffee by adding a little coffee essence. Whenever they ran out of meat the men would try to shoot wild game, which was quite plentiful, especially the now extinct carrier pigeon.

New Holstein - the early years

Information provided here is excerpted from the Timm House Historic Structure Report, prepared by River Architects, LaCrosse, Wisconsin

The Village of New Holstein was founded by immigrants from the province of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. In 1845, Ferdinand Ostenfeld emigrated from Schlewsig-Holstein, drawn to north-eastern Wisconsin by letters from Carl DeHass, a friend who had immigrated to Wisconsin from Hamburg. Ostenfeld wound up in the settlement of Calumetville, striking up a friendship with the community's hotelier, George White. Ostenfeld spoke often of political turmoil in Schleswig-Holstein, caused by conflict between Denmark and Prussia. White, who owned considerable acreage in the vicinity of Calumetville, suggested that he and Ostenfeld go to Germany and persuade Ostenfeld's friends and relatives to settle in the area. In the fall of 1847, Ostenfeld and White traveled to Hamburg. There and in Holstein, across the Elbe River, they met with Ostenfeld's friends and relatives, and by November 1847, had convinced many to immigrate to the Calumetville area to create a farming community. Interestingly, many were highly-educated professionals and trades people, and few had any practical farming experience.

Seventy emigrants left Hamburg in April 1848, arriving in New York harbor in May 1848. They traveled west in two groups, the first reaching Calumetville on May 25, 1848, the second arriving on June 10, 1848. Ostendfeld and White helped each family select an 80-acre (or larger) plot. With help from Prussian settlers in nearby Marytown, many families had erected a small log cabin within two weeks of their arrival. Another group of immigrants from Schleswig-Holstein arrived sometime after June 10, and before July 20, 1848. The Gisbert Timm family was among this group, Herman Christian Timm was then 14-years old. The immigrants settled in close proximity with one another, predominantly in Sections 8, 9, 10, 11, 15 and 17 in Town 17 North, Range 20 East. At Ostenfeld's suggestion, the area was named, "New Holstein."

The settlers of New Holstein were very enterprising. Claus Oesau and Rudolph Puchner each opened a small general store in the township in 1849. In 1850, New Holstein was granted a post office. Rudolph Puchner, named first postmaster, operated the post office in his general store. On August 5, 1851, Adolph Moeller had the original plat of Altona laid out, west of Puchner's store. Altona developed its own small commercial district (along present-day Calumet Street, north of Wisconsin Avenue), in competition with the one that sprang up around Puchner's store. The latter was called, New Holstein village.

In the 1850s, more Germans settled in New Holstein Township. Businesses multiplied in the township, and included Joachim Schildhauer's sawmill, Claus Oesau's saloon and dry goods store, J.O. Kroehnke's store and tavern, Henry Beilenberg's bakery, Ferd Leuthge's hotel-tavern-and hall, another general store, a shoe store, a meat market, and a blacksmith shop and wagon shop. Civic and cultural organizations were also founded during this period, such as a township school system divided into four districts, a town cemetery, a Lutheran church congregation, a German singing society, and a dramatic society. By 1860, 217 families resided in New Holstein Township. All but four were of German origin.

In 1871, voters authorized the purchase of $30,000 stock in the Milwaukee and Northern Railroad. The line was constructed through New Holstein village in 1872. The arrival of the railroad sparked a construction boom in New Holstein village and gave it an economic advantage over neighboring Altona. Buildings also were erected along the public highway between the two hamlets, now called Wisconsin Avenue, and the two took on the appearance of a single community. Ferd Ostenfeld plated the Ostenfeld Addition just west of the railroad tracks. Herman C. Timm moved into the village, built a warehouse alongside the railroad line and opened a grain dealership.

By 1875, the commercial sector had expanded with the addition of the Calumet County Fire Insurance Company (founded in New Holstein in 1873), an opera house, a physician, a harness maker, a cabinet maker, a jewelry store, a flour mill, and a butcher shop. In 1879, Herman C. Timm built the community's first grain elevator, on the site of his agricultural warehouse The village continued to grow, and in the 1880s, a small industrial sector began to develop with the construction of a grain elevator for the H.H. Greve Company just north of Timm's elevator, and the founding of the John Lauson Company, which employed five men in the manufacture of steam boilers in the mid-1880s. In 1890, telephone service began in New Holstein. New enterprises that were initiated in the early 1890s and that would become important local businesses included the A. A. Laun Company, which carried lumber and building materials, and coal (1890), and the New Holstein Creamery Company (1891). The organization of the creamery reflected the decline of wheat cultivation and the rising importance of dairying in Calumet County. In 1900, the H. C. Timm Elevator Company's two elevators had a capacity of 16,000 bushels, while H. H. Greve's elevator, next door, could hold 12,000 bushels.

On August 7, 1901, the voters of Altona and New Holstein incorporated the two hamlets as the village of New Holstein. The population of the new village was 569 people. The village expanded with the platting of the A. A. Laun Addition in March 1902. The community's first newspaper, The Calumet County Reporter, began publication the same year. It was a weekly edition and the name was changed to The New Holstein Reporter in 1905. In 1903, the New Holstein Fire Department was organized, and two firehouses were constructed. The village's first high school was built in 1905-06.

In 1908, the H. C. Timm Company purchased the former Greve Elevator Company, bringing the firm's capacity to 31,000 bushels. Two other local businesses that prospered during the first decade of the twentieth century were the New Holstein Canning Company, canning pears and corn beginning in 1900, and the John Lauson Manufacturing Company, makers of gasoline engines. Thomas Edison awarded a contract to the Lauson Manufacturing Company to make engines to power his electric light plants.

In 1910, the population reached 839, and two new factories began production. These were the F. W. Schmidt Pea Harvester Company; and the Meili-Blumberg Company, which produced feed and ensilage cutters. The New Holstein Light Plant opened in 1913, providing electricity to homes and businesses in the community. The same year, the Highland Addition to the village was platted.

In 1915, businesses in the village included a hotel, an agricultural implements dealer, a drug store, three general stores, a men's clothing store, a shoe repair shop, a furniture store, a creamery, a paint store, a hardware store, two meat markets, a bank, several grain elevators, a shoe store, a laundry, a butcher shop, a milliner, a lumberyard and building materials company, a cast iron foundry, a cigar factory, a weekly newspaper, the Lauson Manufacturing Company, Meili-Blumberg Company, and the New Holstein Canning Company. The community's second bank, the People's State Bank, was organized in 1918, and merged with the State Bank of New Holstein. The New Holstein Association of Commerce was founded in 1919. In 1920, the village numbered 1,373 residents.

New Holstein prospered during the 1920s, incorporating as a city in 1926. The same year, the Langenfeld brothers (Adolph, Paul and Ed) started the Associated Fur Farm, raising silver fox. They were the first in the vicinity to raise animals for fur and soon developed a national market, inspiring others in the area to undertake fur farming. During the early 1930s, the Lauson Manufacturing Company struggled, shutting its doors in 1933. In response to the closure of the village's leading employer, a group of local businessmen organized the New Holstein Founder's Guild, to attract industry to the community and to support existing firms. In 1934, the Lauson Manufacturing Company buildings were donated to the New Holstein Founder's Guild. The Guild brought the Leverenz Shoe Company to New Holstein, installing the factory in the former Lauson plant in 1935. The new factory employed 50 men. The same year, the Lauson Company reorganized and reopened. With assistance from the Guild, the Meili-Blumberg Corporation converted to the manufacture of road graders and tractor devices, weathering the Depression well. In 1937, Elroy Mauer became the first mink rancher near New Holstein. The Arps Corporation, another local manufacturer (now Amerequip), developed a snow plow for use with Fordson tractors in 1939.

The village of New Holstein grew steadily following World War II, rising to a population of 1,831 in 1950 and leaping to 3,012 by 1970. The leading industries of the period were the Lauson Engine Division of Tecumseh Products, the Arps Corporation, A.T. Hipke and Sons (formerly the New Holstein Canning Company), the Leverenz Shoe Company, the Salvatorian Brothers Center (a printing shop and mission warehouse), the M-B Corporation (formerly Meili-Blumberg) and the Kestell Furniture Company. The H.C. Timm Company had a work force of 13 and four fur farms were operating in the area around New Holstein.