Koehler Family History
The Koehler roots have been traced back to Christian Friedrich Köhler who was born about 1819, presumably in Kreis Saatzig, Pommern. The exact location is unknown. Christian, who went by the name, Friedrich, married Albertine Bertha Vogelmann on November 22, 1847 in Karkow, Kr. Saatzig, Pommern, Germany. Albertine, who went by the name, Bertha, was born about 1827, the daughter of Christian Vogelmann. A photograph of Bertha Vogelmann has been graciously provided by her great grandson, Kay Kruger.
Tracing the Köhler family became an interesting detective pursuit because of the frequency they moved from one village to another. Friedrich was a shepherd and, either by choice or because his occupation required it, lived in at least five different villages between the years 1847 and 1869. Initially, all I knew was that my great grandmother, Emilie Köhler, who was born on May 12, 1851, was from Steinhofel, and that she married Julius Maass on November 13, 1873. I also knew that she had one brother, Fred (or Frank), and four sisters, Wilhelmine, Bertha, Albertine, and Mathilde and that their mother was a Vogelmann. Their parent's full names, as well as their own, and the dates and places of their birth were unknown. Searching the Steinhofel church register revealed a Mathilde Louise Köhler born on March 11, 1869, but I was unsure if she was Emilie's sister and there were no other Köhlers listed. Julius Maass' Petition for Naturalization stated that Emilie had been born in Kitzig. However, the church register for Kitzig (Kietzig) had no record of Emilie's birth.
Assuming that they may have lived in an adjoining village, I began searching church registers for several surrounding villages. It turned out that Friedrich and Bertha Vogelmann Köhler were married in Karkow and the first two daughters, Wilhelmine Caroline Auguste and Luise Mathilde Emilie were born there. Luise Mathilde Emilie, who went by the name, Emilie (pronounced Amelia in German), was my great grandmother. Then they apparently moved to Alt Damerow where their first son, Carl Friedrich August was born on May 29, 1853. It is assumed that Carl Friedrich August died in childhood because another son born six years later was given the same name. Next, they moved to Buchholz where Friedrich Wilhelm was born on July 17, 1855 and died one week later. A four-year gap in births follows indicating that they may have moved again to a village as yet unknown. However, I caught up with them again in Kitzerow where four more children were born, Carl Friedrich August (b. September 12, 1859), Christian Friedrich Franz (b. November 23, 1861), Auguste Albertine Bertha, who went by the name Bertha, ( b. November 17, 1863) and Auguste Albertine Mathilde, who went by Albertine (b. January 09, 1866). Another gap of three years exists, but they did indeed end up in Steinhofel where Mathilde Louise was born on March 11, 1869.
Wilhelmine, Emilie, Bertha, Albertine, and Mathilde grew up in Pomerania and married there. Wilhelmine married William August Buss about 1876. Bertha married Carl August Wetzel. Albertine married August F. Johlitz. Mathilde married Fred 'Fritz' Block. In the late 1800's, all but Carl Friedrich August began to immigrate to the United States. Emilie and Julius Maass left Germany on May 16, 1895 and settled in Minnesota. Wilhelmine and her family departed Hamburg, Germany on October 27, 1901. They lived first in Wausaw and then later in Rhinelander, WI. In about 1911 they moved to Cotati, California. The exact dates when the others immigrated are unknown. According to an unsubstantiated obituary [Blue Earth Co. Enterprise, 11/23/1928], Christian Friedrich Franz (who went by the name Frank) left Germany at age 18 (ca. 1879) and settled in Wisconsin. Albertine and August Johlitz may have followed next (ca. 1882) and settled around Arbor Vitae or Rhinelander, WI. Mathilde and Fritz Block were said to have immigrated in 1893 and lived in Kenosha, WI. Lilly Krause believes her grandparents, Bertha and Carl August Wetzel, came to the U. S. in 1900 and settled in the Springfield, MN area. Frank Koehler (Köhler) married Teresa Engel at either Ransom or Ottawa, Illinois in 1892 and eventually moved to Minnesota where he farmed about 18 years near Amboy and in Sterling township.
For many years, all we knew about the Köhlers who stayed in Germany was what was written in a letter from Franz Köhler to his cousin, August Maas, in Minnesota around Easter in 1949. He described the very difficult years the Köhler descendants endured following WW II and how he wished that his parents had also immigrated to the United States. Then in September 2005, Kevin Maas discovered in the attic of the Paul Maas family farmhouse north of Walnut Grove, MN, a collection of letters from Franz and other cousins in Germany. Franz's father, Carl Friedrich August Köhler, who went by the name, August, was a shepherd who lived at Piepenhagen just northwest of Labes, Kr. Regenwalde until 1929. Then he moved to Labes A&D, a sheep station north of Labes. He and his wife, whose name is unknown, were married November 3, 1882 and they had nine children, Franz, Hermann, Berta, Anna, Karl, Fritz, Wilhelm, Emma and a fourth daughter whose name is unknown.
August Köhler died in 1942 and was buried in Labes. August's wife died in 1945 while the Köhler's were fleeing to the west to escape the Russians. Their children, who were then 43 to 64 years of age and married with children of their own, settled in West Germany. Several of them corresponded with August Maas until the mid 1950's. The latest letters indicated that Franz was living in Appen, Kr. Pinneberg, Anna in Heeslingen near Zeven, Wilhelm in Ostenfeld, Schleswig Holstein, and Emma in Amedorf, Kr. Neustadt am Rübenberge. Berta was living in Burg/Dithmarschen in July 1952 but she sent a photograph from Monheim Rheinland in December that year. Hermann died in 1948, but his wife, Martha, was living in Glückstadt/Elbe north of Hamburg in 1954. Karl died in 1938, but his wife, Minna, was living in Wilhelmshaven in 1952. Fritz and his son Günter, as well as many others from Klein Mellen near Dramburg, were taken prisoners by the Russians two days before Green Thursday (March 27) in 1945 and marched away on foot to labor camps. Günter, who was 15 ½ years old, was released because of his age, but Fritz, who was a blacksmith, was never heard from again. His wife, Elfriede, writing from Lübeck/ Israelsdorf in April 1948, tells how they had to leave their property within 10 minutes and then trekked three months on foot until they reached Mecklenburg. Being too exhausted to go further, they spent four months in Mecklenburg before going on to the British Zone. She remembers with terror all they experienced and survived. As a mother, she was especially happy that her 2 daughters could escape the Russians. But, three years later, she still didn't know where Fritz was. Her last letter in 1953 indicated she was living in Iserlohn (Westfalen).
The letters also indicate the names of several children (grandchildren of Carl Friedrich August), some of whom may still be living in 2008. One of Wilhelm's sons, Walter, was captured in Africa during WWII by the Americans and held prisoner for awhile in the US. Several letters remain to be translated, so there may be additional information to add.
© - Gene Maas
rev. 19 Feb. 2008
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