Freienmuth Family Sketches
Much of this information was compiled by cousin Alma Marjorie Freienmuth from personal observations, notes left by William (Adam Wilhelm) Freienmuth of Tonganoxie, Kansas, and the book written by Gottleib Amstein, a minister at Wigoltingen, Switzerland, and published at Weinfelden in 1892. The book is called "Die Geschichte von Wigoltingen" (The Story of Wigoltingen) and is the history of the Swiss village in which some of the Freienmuths lived and where the first known record of the family is found.
Most of the material here is a translation of Amstein's book as it relates to that part of the Freienmuth family who stayed in Switzerland and the part they played in the life of Wigoltingen. Perhaps then we can better understand the inclinations and characters of these ancestors and perhaps something of the trends of the generations that follow.
Johannes Freienmuth, born in 1639, was the first of a direct and unbroken line that can be traced down to the present day. He was a farmer and vineyard keeper who lived at Wigoltingen and also owned Haslimühli. He was the father of three sons: Hans or Johann Ulrich, Hans Adam and Daniel. It is the grandchildren of the eldest son, Hans Ulrich, who stayed in Switzerland to supply the records for Amstein's book. Hans Ulrich was the grandfather of Johann Conrad and Johann Jacob whose stories are related in detail. Hans Adam was the forefather of the branch of the family recorded on this web site. Daniel lived in Sontersweilen.
The chronicles of Kesselring mention Hans Freyenmuth, Judge of Wigoltingen, and who was probably the father of Johannes, when in 1630 the plague swept Switzerland. The quaint reference is to the deathbed assertion of his esteemed housekeeper to the effect that she was now ready to die because she had already heard the singing of the angels.
The First Son and His Descendants
Hans Ulrich Freienmuth
Hans Ulrich (also referred to as Johannes Ulrich), the first son of Johannes, owned Haslimühli and in 1700 when the parish house was torn down at Wigoltingen, he bought the surrounding orchard for $84.80, which sum was used to rebuild a church parish house. Haslimühli at Wigoltingen was standing before 1448 at which time the Kaltbach (Cold Creek) was conducted to the mill because of a dearth of water. In 1635 it burned to the ground and was erected again and in 1662 taken over by the town and it became a law that everyone had to have their grain ground at Haslimühli. It was sold to Johannes in 1683 and was still owned by his son in 1694. It was leased by a Spengler in 1806 who also married a Freienmuth but in later years it was converted into a cement plant.
There appeared before Pastor Kesselring in 1661 one Hans Freyenmuth along with 4 others to consult about changing the course of the Thur. Jacob, who was probably his brother, was cited as one of the citizen heroes during a riot, which started in 1664 when some drunken soldiers were being transported through Thurgau to Spain. They had insulted some Evangelical churchgoers and the suspicious citizens thought this was the beginning of a reign of terror by the Catholics. Six soldiers were killed and 4 or 5 of the leading citizens of Wigoltingen tried by the church councils and executed.
There was no record of the death of Hans Ulrich but he must have lived to almost 100 for he leased the Kehlhof in 1760. He seems to have been a leader in the church as its warden and treasurer but nevertheless an active leader in a dispute that forced his resignation. The dispute started when the church in 1722 wanted to levy more taxes so they could contribute to the surrounding churches for bells and remodeling. This Judge Freyenmuth of Wigoltingen and many others thought this would deplete the reserve fund for the poor so they decided to contribute nothing to it. Stormy scenes followed between the pastor and the rebels and the dispute was finally taken to the church council in Zurich where Freyenmuth was given the ultimatum of paying or resigning as warden. He chose the latter and so great was his following that no one heard the minister's Christmas services and at the next election Freyenmuth was again elected warden.
The younger son, Jakob, studied medicine and was called a barber-surgeon. Martin and his wife, Margaret Heer, became the parents of Johannes Conrad and Johann Jakob, prominent citizens of Wigoltingen and Thurgau. Martin took an active part in the affairs of the community.
Johann\Hans Conrad Freienmuth
Johannes Conrad (or Johann Konrad), born November 23, 1775, was a delicate but lively boy, the younger son of Martin. He studied at Wigoltingen, Mullheim and Latin at Frauenfeld, where at the age of 12, he was tutor to the Thurgau governor's daughter.
In 1790 he was instructed in medicine by his uncle surgeon Jakob and later continued his studies in Zurich where he learned to make plasters, compound drugs and powders and cut roots and herbs. Not wholly satisfied with this, he studied Algebra, Botany and Physics besides and constructed an electrical machine. In 1793 he entered the medical-surgical university at Zurich and in 1795 he traveled to Paris where he attended surgical school.
After two years there he returned home. With hope of freedom for his fatherland, he entered public life the better to attain this. He became assessor and the receiver general of taxes for Canton Thurgau. In 1803 he was a member of the committee of health when he introduced smallpox vaccinations there. In 1803 he was a member of the senate and later of the administration. As health commissioner he examined and certified doctors, veterinarians, midwives and druggists, sought to fight and prevent contagion, especially smallpox, and kept records and statistics. With Dr. Sultzburger of Frauenfeld, he rendered great service in raising the standards of the medical profession, in the government tax and financial departments and supervising and recommending the improvement of roads and bridges.
He also did much to better farm conditions. To prove to his fellows just what could be done with land, he bought a piece of poor land and got a seeding machine, harrow and plow and began planting beets, clover and other crops, thus transforming it into a productive tract. He was much concerned over the poverty of farmers in the lean years and made plans for a state fund to tide over these periods--a practice that is in use there today. He tried to institute hail insurance, raised funds for a state hospital and during all his travels to Zurich, Strasbourg and England, looked for new ideas to benefit his country. With all his duties he nevertheless found time to further his knowledge of botany, biology and finance.
His family life was close and dear to him after his marriage to Barbara Elizabeth Welte, daughter of Senator Welte, on September 30, 1806. One of their daughters married Major Kesselring of Boltzhauser in 1829, the other a Doctor Kern who was later Swiss Minister to Paris.
Freienmuth's was certainly not a cold aristocratic type of personality but one that had at heart the welfare of his fellowmen. It was not in vain that he lived in Paris during the strife for liberty for it filled him with the love of liberty and his life was proof that his only interest was to win it for mankind. He stayed always a fine-minded patriot. His whole being was straightforward and simple; making of compliments was not for him nor was he given to diplomacy but in administrative ability, initiative and restless industry he was a statesman of highest rank. To older people who knew him personally, this little thin lively man with the sharp eyes, whose quick steps hurried here and there all over the country, he remained a pleasant memory.
Under his picture he himself wrote the words:
"For forty years I have worked for the community good. The tranquil thought remains with me that I have not lived in vain, which has been my fervent wish since earliest childhood."Few men of his times could truthfully say this.
There is no memorial to this man who so served his state but his lasting memorial is the State of Thurgau itself with its fine humanitarian payments to unfortunates and the prosperous state of her finances. Much seed sown by him did not bear fruit until after his death, others like the obligatory hail insurance await their maturity. Considering all in all, he was a fine man.
His family life was close and dear to him after his marriage to Barbara Elizabeth Welte, daughter of Senator Welte, on September 1, 30, 1806. One of their daughters married Major Kesselring of Boltzhauser in 1829, the other a Doctor Kern who was later Swiss Minister to Paris.
After a short painful sickness, he died April 15, 1843, aged 67.
Johann/Hans Jakob Freienmuth
Johann Jakob, the older brother of Johann Conrad, the senator, was born in Wigoltingen April 7, 1771. Little is known of his youth but knowing what he did throughout his whole life, how thoughtfully he spent his days and with what untiring industry he worked all day long, it may be concluded that he enjoyed exceptional breeding and was a gifted industrious boy and scholar.
His was not a very strong constitution and since his father owned a very fine home in Wigoltingen, he took over the management of this. His father died in 1790 so at the age of 19 he was thrown on his own resources though his mother, Margaret nee Heer, daughter of Judge Ulrich Heer of Marstetten, stayed by his side with her motherly authority.
His early manhood occurred in the days of the French Revolution and the liberation of Thurgau which he aided with a youthful spirit and manly thought. He took part in meetings, rode over the country scattering pamphlets on freedom and planted a tree of liberty in Wigoltingen. He was a delegate of Wigoltingen, a member of the district court and from 1806, a bailiff, where he worked until his old age. For long years he was also churchwarden and when the high bailiff of the district died in 1829 he took his place, i.e. became major. In 1795-1796 he served in a volunteer company to patrol the border of Thurgau in order to keep the neutrality during the Napoleonic wars. The people of Switzerland had been oppressed by taxes and the demands of the landlords, so, catching the spirit of the Revolution, began to throw off the yoke of the despots and barons. Magistrate Freienmuth caught the spirit of this movement and did his best to assure the liberation of the people. He rode through the country organizing companies of patriots. When they sought to guard the castle at Freudenfels, they were driven off but went on with their organization at Wigoltingen and named Hans Martin Freienmuth as deputy. The only one against the movement was the magistrate of the provost of the Cathedral at Constance (likewise a Freienmuth) who followed his official duty first.
Two days later on February 4th, Freienmuth again saw a day of lively activity for he rode to Ottoberg to get and broadcast throughout the country a reprint of a proclamation of the French Ambassador whose contents fitted the situation in Thurgau. On February 5th the deputies of the Parish met in Weinfelden and only one wanted to remain true to the barons. On February 13th the National Guard was again complete and Freienmuth, who had belonged to it for 6 years, was relieved at his request. Johann Conrad, surgeon and brother of Jakob mediated the intercourse between the county committee and the government at Zurich. On March 3rd, they were declared free; however, ten days later the French invaded Switzerland and took Bern. Martin Freienmuth volunteered to call the troops to arms in Weinfelden.
These events are thus related in Jakob's diary.
"Today there was great excitement in Thurgau. War! War! The French want to invade Switzerland. No sooner are we free from our own ruling lords than we are called against the French. The reserves are to go into the field today--they have drilled last night and today and leave not knowing when they will return." They were sent back in a few days by the commanding officer at Zurich but there was much dissatisfaction, and, when a few weeks later news came that the Swiss were to sign the French constitution, troops were again organized. On March 23rd the community decided to erect a Tree of Liberty, following the example of Mayor Freienmuth, who had also cut himself a cap of Liberty. On that day a pine tree was brought from the woods at Altenklingen and on the next day carpenters were at work. On March 27th Freienmuth wrote "Have worked all day on the tree of Liberty and have written upon a tablet the words Freedom, Unity, Equality, and Justice. A hundred men gathered today to tear down the Tree of Liberty and hindered all necessary activities."
The tree was made of a pine pole on which was a horizontal crosspiece holding a tablet with the above inscription and at the end hung flags of the republic. On the top of the pole was the black painted cap of liberty.
On June 12th Freienmuth was named district Judge and Martin Freienmuth figured as one of the board of administrators. French troops were quartered in Thurgau during this period. In 1799, German, Austrian and English troops fought in Thurgau.
After a 6-year engagement he married Marie Ursula Forster on April 30, 1799. Of their 4 children, one died in infancy, 2 daughters married happily. The only son, pride of his parents, when 17, fell with a load of hay that was being lifted into the bar by means of a compound pulley. The chain broke and the boy was killed. Jakob's wife died in 1851.
Unremitting labor, thoughtful duty to his office and calling and a deep-seated love for the spiritual goodness of life always righted him after his trials. He stood among the first in the furtherance of the public good for over 50 years. He instituted cattle insurance, supervised the dyking of the Thur, surveyed lands, and worked on tax problems traveling to Bern and many other places on behalf of the city. Among his interests was the purchase of new bells for the church. The acquisition of these bells gives an interesting insight into the activities of those days. When the large church bell broke in 1808, Mayor Freienmuth, the Duke of Lampers-weil and Henry Schmid went to the grand duke of Baden to see one from a church there. It was so satisfactory that Freienmuth decided to get it even though it did seem to him to be an extremely heavy undertaking.
The church assembly voted to buy it and raised 1000 francs. Freienmuth was sent to the surrounding parishes for financial aid and he got a goodly sum. It was finally bought in 1811 for about $850.00. Sixteen wagon horses and Freienmuth's riding horse were used to pull the bell home. At Constance they bought a small bell on their way home. Jakob (Johann) Freienmuth, his servant and his brother Conrad were among those who went for the bell.
With all these activities he won for himself the name "Little Jake of Thurgau."
When in October 1846 the Farmer's Society had a big festival or State Fair in Burglem (the first of its kind in Switzerland) Little Jake of Thurgau got special credit in a speech by the president for having done so much to better farm conditions.
If any man ever stayed true to the saying "No day without some accomplishment" Freienmuth was that man. He kept a daily record for over 50 years, copied Thurgau history, collected its papers and great stacks of letters and proceedings so that he had on hand much authentic material about Thurgau's history.
This idealistic man found great joy in nature. Innumerable men have looked from the heights of Wigoltingen to the distant Santis and other Appenzell heights but none saw as much as Freienmuth saw from his observation tower which he built in 1833 and which caused much curiosity because he would tell no one why he erected his "Belvedere." He beautifully describes a trip he took up Santis at the age of 27 with his brother and Johann Heinrich who was William Freienmuth's grandfather.
Freienmuth was also a great friend of music. In 1792 he bought a violin and learned to play. Now and then he brought together an orchestra in which he took much pleasure. In 1818 he bought an organ and schoolmaster Spengler instructed his daughter in organ playing. Little Jake could not endure the way the Canton's songfests were conducted and often scolded about them. Only in later life did he lose his desire for music. A deep sorrow rings through the words written in his diary on New Year's Eve 1848 about the new mode of singing as if they didn't know what they were saying. He thought of the early days when he sometimes played the violin all night with the miller of Haslimühli.
He was a master at making fireworks, also made sundials and a pedometer to measure the miles he walked. He experimented with an electric machine, made a wind harp, a spirit-level, a barometer, measuring rule of copper, bullets, melted amber, made medicine for men and animals, studied geometry, trigonometry, surveyed the community and did his own carpentering. As his teeth became old he pulled them out one by one with the cock of his gun.
In his later years he sat day after day at the writing table copying songs he liked, clipping newspapers and magazines or books containing anything about the community or family. When on May 15, 1855, the railroad opened from Winterthur to Romanshorn and he was in his 85th year, he went to Mullheim to see the locomotive and get an idea of the new day that was being ushered in.
The evening of his life was spent in memories at the home of his daughter who had married George Haberlin of Thiel. On November 3, 1855, at the age of 84 years 7 months and 2 days, he went to a well-earned eternal rest.
The Second Son of Johannes
Hans Adam Freienmuth
The date of Hans Adam, the second son of Johannes, birth is unrecorded but must have been about 1670. He married a Müller in Mannenmühle near Hugelshofen in Canton Thurgau and settled there. This Hans Adam had two sons and a daughter. His daughter married a Spengler in Haslimühli and lived at Müllheim. The elder son was Johannes and the second son was Johannes Heinrich, from whom this branch of the Freienmuth family is descended.
Of the seven mills in the vicinity of Hugelshofen, four were water powered. The Mannenmühle was first mentioned in 1529. A Freienmuth married a Mueller in 1765 and entered into a partnership with his father-in-law, after which the mill remained in the Freienmuth family until 1871; at that time it was sold to Johannes Bommeli von Mattwil.
Hans Adam's daughter married a Spengler in Haslimühli and lived at Mullheim.
Johannes, the first son of Hans Adam, who inherited the mill, lived for a while in Weinfelden and married a Möhn. He was described as a jolly man and drowned in Kemmen brook in 1783. The mill and millstream (Kemmen brook) are below and the living quarters are above.
The Grandson of Johannes and Our Ancestor
Johannes Heinrich Freienmuth
Johannes Heinrich, the second son of Hans Adam, was born in 1778, married Barbara Jücker of Pfin. He took over Mannenmühle after the death of his brother Johannes. The family history describes him as a nervous man who liked his wine and smoked like a stove.
He was the father of two children, Elizabeth and Wilhelm. Elizabeth married Jacob Altweg and was the mother of 13 children. They lived at Köhlhof.
Wilhelm Freienmuth was born the same year as his father's death. He married Anna Susanna Spiri of Ottoberg on November 5th, 1846. She was the daughter of Susanna Heer and Hans Heinrich Spiri and was born August 31st, 1823. Wilhelm and Anna Susanna had four children, three sons and a daughter.
Wilhelm was a second Lieutenant in 1846 and First Lieutenant in 1852. He lived in Ottoberg (1861-1862), Briedenhof (1862-1865), and Mannenmühle from 1868-1871.
Anna Susanna died January 18, 1861 of typhoid at the age of 27. After her death her family seems to have been somewhat disrupted by moving to Ottoberg, Budenhof, then back to Mannenmühle.
In October of 1871, Wilhelm and two sons, Edward and Adam Wilhelm (called William) migrated to South America with a British Land Company that started a settlement in Argentina and Montevideo. It was a wheat farming enterprise at Carcaramel which seemed unattractive to all three, for one by one they came to the United States. Wilhelm was a machine attendant and stoker in the furniture factory of Obst and Company in South America.
Wilhelm and Jacob left South America in the fall of 1877 for Texas. Wilhelm traveled from Porto Allegre over New York and St. Louis and then to Dallas. America was a big disappointment for him--his courage and spirit were broken and his hopes had disappeared. The fate, which had dealt so badly with him, had made him bitter (his wife's death at such a young age).
Wilhelm died in Texas on November 8th, 1878 and is buried in Dallas. The pastor from the Protestant church in Dallas preached the sermon. Wilhelm's sons planted a rose bush and at the foot of the grave a cedar bush.
Descendants of Wilhelm Freienmuth
Edward Freienmuth was born April 15, 1847 in Switzerland. His daughter, Sylvia, found a manuscript, either part of a diary he kept, or a page from a letter he wrote home. She did not know what happened to this paper and she did not recall that it was addressed to anyone in particular, though it seemed that it had no ending. She never knew her father left Switzerland with his brother, Wilhelm; he did not once mention his brother when he left Switzerland nor did he ever write we - only I!
He had just graduated as a chemist from the University of Zurich (then called the "Polytechnikum"), where he had studied from 1865 to 1867, and migrated to South America with a group of Swiss families. He wrote of entering France where they were treated with hostility at first, for this was during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) and they were mistaken for German citizens. He was impressed by the many Zouavian troops in their colorful, almost oriental, uniforms with broad red or blue stripes running down the sides of their trousers. The troops had been brought to France from Algiers to help fight the war, as they were known for their bravery and (perhaps) sharpshooting. Edward then gave an account of his train moving south along the Rhone River, towards Marseilles, where they boarded their boat. He mentioned passing the Rock of Gibraltar and then they headed down the big, wide spaces of the South Atlantic. The long trip must have been rather uneventful, for all he wrote was that "those of us who still had a little tobacco would meet on deck and have our little smoke" (so, no tobacco to be had on board), also that he realized the earth was really round, for one would see the very tip (the mast) of an approaching ship before the rest appeared.
The destination was evidently Montevideo at the mouth of the Platte River or Buenos Aires but their final goal was Rosario. When they arrived, they were not allowed on land; yellow fever had broken out and seemingly it affected passengers on the ship. Edward wrote that while sleeping on deck on the bare board he awoke next morning to find a young boy, barely six feet away from him, dead of the disease. When they were finally allowed to land, the boatmen outrageously overcharged them, but they were anxious to see the city. All he wrote of their sightseeing trip was that the policemen were dressed in white uniforms and that, as they passed the wide open gates of a prison yard, they could see prisoners being flogged, tied to whipping posts. There was no record of what he did in Rosario, except that he managed to build a chair for himself! He was disappointed in being unable to find work as a chemist, although industry was coming to South America, and factories were being built everywhere.
Edward went to Dallas in the fall of 1877. He evidently had no trouble finding work in a drug store. He stayed in a boarding house in Houston: a two-story house run by a Swiss woman, a Frau Lehmann of St. Gallen, at the corner of Preston Street and Louisiana Street, according to the 1880 Texas census.
Edward worked in various towns north of Houston, towns settled by German-born families. He apparently worked in a drug store in Piedras Negras, across the Rio Grande from Eagle Pass, owned by a Dr. J. H. Handy. It was several years later when he and a man named Wipprecht decided to form a partnership and open a drug store in Seguin, Texas, 30 miles east of San Antonio. He eventually must have bought this man's share in the business, for there is no mention of him in the 1897 Swiss almanac in which he kept a daily record of local events, such as deaths of friends or prominent people, the weather (a very cold Norther today, the thermometer down to 20°, or a very hot day - 100°).
Edward became an American citizen on November 2, 1886. He was in San Antonio May 1887 he and some others founded a natural science club. Edward saw the trains from the garrison from San Antonio pass through with about 400 infantry and cavalry men going to war.
Edward passed a state examination as druggist and received a diploma, No. 315. He liked San Antonio. Edward wrote quite a lot, including articles for the German-Texas newspaper. He moved to Seguin, Texas in March, 1891.
In 1893 he married Marie Quast, who had come from Germany and was living in Seguin with relatives, the Behnkes.
Sylvia was born in 1896, the day before he began his 1897 reports in his almanac. Edward mentions our baby was baptized today, and our baby had her first tooth! He faithfully recorded every letter he wrote or received from his brothers, a Boltshausen in Switzerland, and especially his correspondence with his beloved Uncle Spiri.
Evidently he did quite well financially with his drug store for on January 11, 1897 he writes (in his almanac) that he bought the building his drug store was in, and on January 16th he made his down payment of $500.00, in July he paid another $500.00, and on November 20, the final payment of $1000.00. He spoke Spanish fluently and had a great many Mexican customers. He worked hard; he was in the drug store from early morning until 10 at night. Marie spoke very little English, but managed quite well as his only clerk.
Edward went with brother-in-law Heinrich Quast to the memorial services for the president on September 19, 1901. Business was bad, with the price for cotton 7 1/2 - 8 cents.
Edward had a seizure in 1904, and went to visit William and Jacob while recuperating. This was the first time he and Jacob had seen each other in 18 years. William, William's son Otto, and Edward traveled to St. Louis, by way of Kansas City, to see the World's Fair. They stayed 2 weeks.
Edward died after an illness of several weeks, on August 8, 1907 at the age of sixty.
Adam Wilhelm Freienmuth (known as William)
William landed in New York on July 18, 1874 with the steamship South America, stayed a week and then went to St. Louis. He went to Dallas on April 1, 1875 and stayed working at a mill until summer 1876 when the mill was moved to Lawrence, Texas. He went to Dallas in the fall of 1877 and stayed in Texas until July 1879.
William was really a quite gifted man; through his travels and his background he had learned five languages. He had become a skilled millwright working in his father's mill in his native Switzerland. He had worked at his milling trade in South America and upon arriving in Texas. After living in Carcaramel, Argentina for a short time, then Montevideo, William worked as a millwright in St. Louis for a year before coming to Lawrence, Kansas. Being of a quite inventive mind, he had received a patent on a new method of truing and leveling millstones in August 10, 1880, Patent No. 231,032, but just at this time the steel rollers or burrs for grinding grain were developed and his patent was never produced.
He went to Lawrence, Kansas in August 1879. During his days in Lawrence there was much fun at the old Turner Hall in the way of acrobatics and dancing as a member of the Turnverein. In Germany, clubs were known as Vereins, and in the German language a Turner is a man of strong physical bearing. These clubs were formed to give physical training to the young men of Germany. Some fifty thousand of these young Germans fled to the United States from Germany in 1848. The Turnverein societies spread to many cities in this country.
The first club in Lawrence was organized in 1857, when a hall was built on the southeast corner of Tenth and New York Streets. There were forty-eight members; forty-four of these enlisted in the U.S. Army when Lincoln called for volunteers. The club disbanded and another club was organized in 1867. This group built a hall on the corner of Ninth and Rhode Island Streets. More information about the Turnverein is found here. William was always proud of his turn in the Swiss Army, where he served as First Lieutenant on the border when the Germans forced the French back into Switzerland during the Franco-Prussian Wars in 1870-1871.
He was always able to find good employment as a stone dresser in mills in the days when millstones were used. In Lawrence in 1883, he was head of the Pacific Mills and worked at Bowersocks.
He obtained a room at Fischer's and at the age of 36 fell in love with their daughter, Eda Henrietta, whom he married on November 5, 1885. They built a home on Connecticut Street on a bluff overlooking the river where they lived about three years, where their first child, a boy, was born.
In 1887 and 1888 he was sent to Tonganoxie to install the machines in the new flour mill being built there and was appointed Head Miller. In April 1888 William and Eda moved to Tonganoxie. He purchased the 200 acre farm 2 miles north of Tonganoxie which he often said reminded him of his native Switzerland.
Four more children, two boys and two girls, were born at Tonganoxie.
The first part of the home was built in 1889. He told his son, William Hans, in later years that in order to have the house square with the world, he and the carpenter set the stakes in line with the North Star. Two additions were built to the house later.
As he labored to develop the farm and plant an orchard and vineyard, he kept his position as head miller, driving to work each day the two miles with a horse and two-wheeled cart, which was later used by the children in driving to school. William was taken into the partnership of the mill in 1898 and gave up working at the mill in 1903 when the first commercial crop of apples and pears was produced.
The work on the farm was difficult and demanding, clearing the land of brush, trees and rocks, planting a vineyard and orchard, in the process making a stone fence and wall stretching from the barnlot up the hill, around the brow of the hill for over 1/2 mile. Also stone walls and retaining walls were built around the barnyard, the storage cellar, the yard and the farm buildings.
William's farm in Eastern Kansas was a beautiful place, with forests and hills, green meadows and fields--very reminiscent of Thurgau. The farm was called Many Oaks Farm, after the many fine oak trees on the place. The name is still in use today, as recently a son of the present owner was married, and the paper stated that the couple were at home on Many Oaks Farm.
As the years passed the orchard continued to produce more and more and it became quite a business, spraying, pruning, mowing and the harvesting of the apples and pears was quite a project, always providing employment for from 12 to 25 men and women.
In order to dispose of the inferior fruit, at first William built an evaporator and made, packed and sold dried apples. Later, they made apple butter by the hundreds of gallons. Then he built a large cider mill, using not only their own apples but also doing custom work, and buying apple from farmers and other orchards in the vicinity. Included with the cider mill equipment were three large wooden storage tanks and vinegar generators to manufacture cider vinegar.
One year they made 65,000 gallons of cider. Some of the largest crops of apples were produced in the early teens and in 1927 and 1929 but after the dry 1930's the orchard was gone.
At the time the cider mill was built William also had a sawmill on the farm and sawed out all the dimension lumber. The large barn was built about 1912 using all oak sawed on the farm, built in bents with mortise and tenons and wooden and iron pins.
The silo was built in 1917 or 1916 and son Edward Otto did all the masonry work. In 1915 the dairy was added to the farm operation and it was among the first in the community to have purebred Holstein cattle and the third to have a milking machine in a modern dairy barn.
William was always known as a progressive farmer; in the management of his varied business interests, he was keen, alert, quick to see an advantage and equally quick to avail himself of it. He was quiet and retiring by disposition, but genial and companionable with friends and gained a high place in the regard of those with whom he had business relations.
He was very appreciative of his family and even in his will he thanked them for the love and pleasure afforded him during his lifetime. He was very patriotic, always a public spirited citizen of his adopted country. He always took an interest in community affairs. In 1906 he was instrumental in organizing the Sunshine Grange in Tonganoxie. He was an active member of the Kansas State Horticulture Society for many years. He was a stockholder in the first Mutual Phone Company in Tonganoxie and later also a stockholder in the Bonner Springs Portland Cement Plant. He was a member of the Leavenworth County Farm Bureau, the first Farm Bureau organized in the United States.
When the age of the automobile arrived he purchased one in 1910 when there were only 25 in Tonganoxie.
He always enjoyed opera and classical music. He often spoke of his activities in the Turner Hall or Turnverein in Lawrence. He put up a turning bar in the yard for sons Edward Otto and William Hans but he certainly could out perform the boys even when he was in his sixties.
Some time after 1914 the farm was operated as a partnership known as W. Freienmuth & Sons, father, Edward Otto and William Hans.
William was, as were all the Freienmuths of his generation, a man of medium or slightly less than medium size, very straight, energetic and quick in his movements. He was an inveterate reader, of a mechanical inventive mind, a lover of good music, good books, him home and his family. Always he loved his hills and valleys, was happy, alert and philosophical often with a twinkle in his eyes and a soft whistle on his lips. On some occasions in letters to his family he was even given to a turn at poetry.
He died of gastric carcinoma March 8, 1925 in Tonganoxie, Kansas and is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery, in Tonganoxie, Kansas.
Eda Henrietta Fischer Freienmuth and her grandchildren, Edward Still Freienmuth, Eda Jane Freienmuth and William Leland Freienmuth took a trip to Colorado in 1937. This was Eda's last trip to Colorado, and William Leland's first trip.
Elise Margaretha Freienmuth
Elise lived in Hugelshofen from 1857 to 1864, in Weinfelden from 1864 to 1865, in Mannenmuhle from 1865 to 1871, in Dressenhofen in 1871, in Frauenfeld in 1873. During the same year, 1873, she moved to Lausanne, Switzerland. Elise came to this country shortly after her brothers Edward, Adam Wilhelm and Jacob came, and she also settled in Texas. She arrived in New York in November 1884. She had received a good education in Switzerland and for many years served as French and German governess for a wealthy Texan, Judge Hill and his family. She wanted to save enough money to return one day to Switzerland.
Elise visited William in Kansas and stopped in Dallas to see Jacob, August 1888. Elise became sick with heart disease in 1891. She got sick again and was in the hospital for 3 months and then went to live with Edward in Seguin, Texas in December 1893. She was bedridden from September 1893.
She was small, blue eyed and blond; energetic yet with a dainty dignity that endeared her to the family she so long cared for. Until her death on January 17, 1949 at the age of 87, she made her home with Edward or his family.
Jacob was at school in Berg, Switzerland, from 1864 to 1866, and then in Hugelshofen from 1866 to 1871. He was just 13 when his father, Wilhelm, his older brothers, Edward and Adam Wilhelm, and he left Switzerland for South America in October of 1873.
He traveled from Porto Allegre over New York and St. Louis and then to Dallas in the fall of 1877. Jacob arrived in Houston in January 1880. He was a boarder, along with his brother Edward, where they were working as millers.
He was a large and strong man--taller and much stronger than Edward. He was a very good rider and looked the most like his mother. He learned to be a turner at the furniture factory of Obst and Company in South America.
In Jan 1886, Jacob was bargaining to buy a city lot in Houston. He became an American citizen on November 2, 1886 in Houston.
Jacob was Dallas in December 1886 and found work in January 1887. Jacob took William's place in the mill in Tonganoxie in 1903. He was head miller and grain buyer at the mill for many years.
Descendants of Edward Freienmuth
Ernst Edward Paul Freienmuth Von Helms
Ernst Edward was born November 18, 1899 in Seguin, Texas to Edward Freienmuth and Marie Quast. Marie married Ernst Von Helms in 1910. Ernst adopted Edward and his last name was changed to Von Helms. He obtained a PhD in German Literature.
Ernst Edward entered the United States Army on June 1, 1917 in Baltimore, Maryland and was discharged September 15, 1919 in Paris, France.
He had the rank of Sergeant and was with the Headquarters District, APO-713. He earned the World War I Victory Button (Bronze) and WW I Victory Medal with Battle Clasps for Defensive Sector.
He wrote the book "German Criticism of Gustave Flaubert, 1857-1930", Publisher: New York, AMS Press, 1966. He also had a coat of arms, which is shown on a tile from the Angélico Chávez History Library, Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Ilse Freienmuth Von Helms
Ilse was born in Seguin, Texas, Januart 27, 1904 to Marie and Edward Freienmuth. Her father died in 1907 and she was later adopted by Ernst von Helms. She moved to Germany where she attended grade and high schools. She returned to Texas and attended Lutheran College, Seguin.
Ilse had several books of poetry published and was elected to "International Who's Who of Poetry," 5th edition.
Descendants of William Freienmuth
William Leo Freienmuth
William Leo was born August 19, 1886, but he lived only 15 months.
Edward Otto Freienmuth
Edward Otto was born October 19, 1888.
Theckla was born March 21, 1891, but she lived only 8 months.
Alma Marjorie Freienmuth
Alma Marjorie was born October 7, 1894. Alma was the one who started putting together the Freienmuth family genealogy. She was a teacher and a medical technician. In her booklet, Swiss Family Freienmuth, was a poem she wrote of times in her childhood.
On Many Oaks Farm
Three were we,
On that hilly orchard farm.
Many oaks crowned hilltop's rocky rim
And hugged the valley's stone-paved stream.
All ventured we
That ever race experienced.
High hills, dark woods, wide fields to roam,
Unreined imaginations in an understanding home.
Young at heart,
Unbound by city streets,
Inventive dreamers seeking novel ways
To sate the energy that healthy youth displays.
Sometimes as savages,
Stalking with pop-gun or with sling
Tell-tale tracings for oft a weary mile
To a safe retreat in a deep brush pile.
Of wind and sun and storm,
Nymphs mid moonlit bloom agape,
Bacchic feasts of lush wild grape.
Defending the fatherland
Rocky forts where forts should be-
Stealthy Indian, hickory bow, scouting from a lookout tree.
Never found a raft that sailed
As that on farm pond long ago,
Nor more mysterious footprints than traced the virgin snow.
Had more searching mind
Than probed life of tumble-bugs in dusty lane
Or marveled at tadpoles losing their tails again.
To pristine music
The muted murmur of the wind in pines can mark
As well as high clear note of meadowlark.
Hearts stirred by winds on the crest of the hill,
Heads bowed over earthy fragrance of violets,
On knees before new fern frond or wee moss flowerets.
So roots were planted,
And only years and years can tell
If grew the plants that started there
And of all their seeds-how well.
William Hans was born October 15, 1896.
Descendants of Jacob Freienmuth
Ernst Edward Freienmuth
Anna Marie Freienmuth
Anna Marie was born March 2, 1901.
Emil Jacob Freienmuth
Emil Jacob was born October 25, 1904.
If you have questions about any of the information found here, please contact me and I'll provide you with any information I have.