By Delores Miller
208 years ago Christian Ratzburg (1804-1895) was born in the small village of Zerrenthin, near Stettin, Poland, Prussia, province of Brandenburg. He married Christina Plarge in Germany and (as far as we know) had three children, William the first (1837-1910), Caroline Schultz (1834-1911) and John the first (1830-1912). Times were tough in Germany, wars with neighboring countries. Military service was mandatory, a life sentence. William the first served with the Army during the Danish War in 1864 when he was 27 years old, and already married. Later he was called to the Austrian 1866 clash, and the Franco Prussian 1871-1872 conflict. Because Wisconsin was a fairly new state, land agents wrote to German churches and newspapers, promising a land of riches.
Caroline Ratzburg (1834-1911) married Carl Schultz and had six children, all born in Germany, Wilhelmine, Wilhelm, Carl, John, Bertha, and Maria. Someone sent emigrant tickets for Caroline, her husband, six children and her Father, Christian Ratzburg who by that time was 78 years old. They arrived on April 12, 1882. Settled at Fremont and because they brought their Lutheran Religion from Germany, were some of the first members of St. Paul's Lutheran Church, and eventually made their way to the church cemetery. Christian Ratzburg lived another 17 years in the promised land of America and died at 91.
Early in the 1870s the first wave of immigrants came to Wisconsin, including John Ratzburg the first in 1874. Settled near Fremont, and it is surmised he sent an emigrant ticket for his brother William the first to come in 1880. By this time he was 43 years old and came with his wife, the former Dorothy Maria Malwitz (1840-1903) and four children, Wilhelminia Buss, William the second, Ida Schmidt, Anna Schwan and nine months after the boat landed another son John (1882-1932) was born.
Names were very expensive in those days, and the Ratzburg family had to keep reusing and repeating names like John and William.
Shortly after arriving in American, William Ratzburg the first and his wife Dorothy came to Dupont, a land covered with trees, maple, beech, hemlock and oak. Boulders, cobblestones, fieldstones, pebbles, rocks. Built a log house, hewed out of a dense forest, almost a hovel, and a log barn. Dorothy died in May 1903 after an accident involving runaway horses pulling a wagon. She had survived life in Germany as a peasant with her husband in the military, the boat ride to America, crossing the United States to Wisconsin and then die in a horse and wagon accident. What was she doing in the field? Picking stones?
Dupont neighbors in 1889 were Dell Spaulding, Nichols and Corwin, from Ireland, Ranke, Krueger and Carey. Later associates were Diecks, Laufler, Poppe, Mielke, Hangartner, Arndt, Seibold. They were members of St. John's Lutheran Church, Marion.
This was a happy time, hunting, fishing, trapping muskrats. Large heater for warmth, kitchen wood stove. Cut trees with crosscut saw, split wood. Women picked wild berries on the hill in back of the barn, hickory nuts, large garden. Baking bread, cookies, cakes, biscuits. Knitted mittens, socks, scarves, sewed clothing. Butchered pigs, cured the hams and bacon, fried out the lard. Cooking maple syrup. Raised and bred trotting horses.
Visiting neighbors, relatives and friends, horse and buggy in summer, sleigh in winter. Christmas was an event looked forward too, filled the sleigh with hay and all the family went to church. Picnics in summer, food in great abundance, fried chicken and pies. House parties for birthdays and anniversaries, dances. Someone always had a fiddle and concertina. Kerosene lamps, wash board and brush for clothes and then a hand operated washing machine. Home made soap, water from a cistern pump. Toting well water. Outhouse, chamber pots. Chickens, ducks, pigs, huge garden and potato patch. A self-sustaining farm.
William the second of Dupont who was 17 years older than his wife Hulda produced 12 children, three who died in infancy: Fritz, (1902), Louie, (1903-1978), Herman (1904-1987), August, (1907), Ella Lampe (1908-1990), Dora Sheldorf, (1910-1974), Ren, (1912-1996), Nicholas, (1915-1940), William the Third, (1918-2011), Arthur, (1920), Lester, (1922-2009), and Margaret Baerenwald, (1924-1990). In her 22 years of childbearing, Hulda had 12 children so she was pregnant for 108 months. Pictures show Hulda always a smile on her face, dressed in a cotton house dress, long apron, brown cotton stockings, and her thin long hair, piled in a pug on top of her head. All the children walked west the two miles to Maple Valley grade school.
John Ratzburg of Dupont (1882-1932) married Anna and had Henry, John, Walter, Rose and Ed. Farmed west of his brother in Dupont, later at Tigerton and finally Oshkosh. When he died in 1932, his remains were brought back to Roseland Cemetery.
Early in 1900 William Ratzburg and his brother-in-law Carl Schwan ran a saw mill on the Pigeon River. The railroad arrived in Marion (Perry's Mill) in 1879. Probably to saw timber and lumber to build a new house in 1906 to furnish enough bedrooms for his growing family. Windmill for water power, grew tobacco to dry in the corn crib. Milk cows, canned milk, hoisted to the Maple Valley Cheese Factory.
William the second of Dupont married Hulda Ehlert of Pella. Siblings of Hulda included Emma who married John Ratzburg, Louisa, Mrs Fred Radtke, Mary, Mrs Gust Wege, and Anna, Mrs John Moericke. Between the Ratzburg and Ehlert families, they were related to most everyone in three counties.
Along came the depression of the 1930s, low prices for farm products and Franklin Roosevelt's WPA programs. Because Ratzburgs lived on the ridge, and the road over the hill was crooked, one of the WPA programs was to straighten the road. Farmers were paid a dollar a day to dig dirt and rocks, and a stone wall was cemented in to the embankment, and the date - 1935 chisled into a large central boulder, still standing 75 years later in 2012.
John the first of Fremont (1830-1912) had a son, John the second (1860-1925), came to America when he was 14 years old in 1874, married Anna Pagel in 1885 and lived in East Bloomfield, Waushara County and had eleven children: Emma, Albert, Alma, Louise Hauk, William the first of that branch, Elsie, Edwin, Walter, Adolph, Alvin and Margareta. Were members of St. Johns Lutheran Church, Bloomfield and many are buried at the adjoining cemetery awaiting eternity. William the first of this branch drifted to Hortonville, married Miss Radichel and had five children, Marie, Myrna, Antoninette, William the second of this branch and Janice.
Eventually after almost one hundred years, the Dupont Ratzburg Farm was sold to Tim Nolan and the Ratzburg family drifted away from Marion and Dupont and only the ghosts linger and rest at Roseland Cemetery. But that big hill south of Marion on the way to Big Falls is still known as Ratzburg Hill.
And now they are probably glad
They didn't know the way it would all end,
The way it would go.
Lives are better left to chance,
They could have missed the pain,
But would have missed
The fun at the dance.
Over two centuries ago, Christian Ratzburg was born in a small Polish village and now in 2012 he has uncountable desendants in America and beyond.
Information furnished by Mary Rahr, research analyst and genealogist, census and cemetery records, Richard Dixon, verbal interviews, the Ratzburg Family Archives, and the Standard History of Waupaca County Wisconsin, edited by John M. Ware, 1917.