by Delores Miller
Big Falls, Wisconson - Kitzman, Barkholtz Families
A. W. Whitcomb was born February 2, 1832 in the State of Maine, a Civil War Veteran, before drifting west to Wisconsin in search of the American dream. Married twice and had three sons.
A. W. Whitcomb trekked from Oshkosh to Waupaca County to an area later known as Big Falls and Wyoming Township. Found a territory covered with virgin timberland of pine, basswood, red, white and burr oak, hemlock, beech, birch and elm trees. By 1887 he had a saw mill up and running, and organized a railroad, bringing logs in, and sending millions of board feet lumber out to build homes and businesses in Oshkosh. The trains also carried passengers, freight, and mail. The railroad had spur lines to Hunting, Granite City, Marion and the world beyond. Little Wolf River provided power with a natural dam and waterfall.
The Campbell Brothers and George H. Cameron also of Oshkosh had their operation of lumber and farming enterprises south of Little Falls in Helvetia. The only memory of Campbell is a nice fishing lake named after him.
James Spaulding and Thomas Wall and their sons purchased the saw mill from Whitcomb who had died January 7, 1901 of Bright's (kidney) Disease at the age of 69. Buried at the Little Wolf Cemetery, south of Manawa. Sadly today in 2012 the only remembrance of A. W. Whitcomb, the founder of Big Falls is a straggling trout stream wandering through the townships.
When Wall-Spaulding came to this village in 1895, it proved to be the hey day of Big Falls and the surrounding area. Hundreds of men were employed both in the woods and mill. A cedar shingle mill, water powered, sawed 50,000 roof shingles in a day. The saw mill was located north of the Pond in Big Falls, run with turbine engines and water power.
Hotels, boarding houses, butcher shop, saloons, hardware stores selling among other things - burial caskets for dead people, general merchandise and groceries, livery stable, blacksmith and wagon shop, grist mill to grind flour and corn, creamery, German Methodist Church, cheese factory, bank, post office, restaurant, furniture store, pickle receiving station, shoe and boot store.
Dr. John Gygi, a physician from Switzerland set up a medical shop in Big Falls. Sadly he died of an overdose of ether at the age of 43 on October 22, 1919 and is buried under the only full length marble tombstone in the Big Falls Cemetery.
During prohibition and the 'dry' years, moonshiners kept stills in the back woods to provide alcohol to the thirsty hard working lumbermen, who after drinking the 'white lighting' had to cool off in the Big Falls Jail for a few days.
A roller skating rink and dance hall was built in 1909 by Rudolph Konopatzke and provided entertainment for the young folks.
Patrick Killin, born in 1840 in Ireland immigrated during the 1863 potato famine, to Wisconsin and Big Falls and erected in 1889 a 20-room hotel complete with food and drinks in his saloon. He sold it in 1917, died in 1925 and is buried at St. Mary's Cemetery in Marion. In 1922 Charlie Polzin took over the management of the Big Falls Hotel.
During the 1919 Spanish Influenza Epidemic, many local young adults died of the dread disease. Winters were longer, snow deeper and temperatures way below zero for weeks on end in those days. Poor roads made impassable, especially in the spring slush.
Dismally, the Wall-Spaulding ceased operations on March 20, 1920. The forests were depleted, Tom Wall died in Florida of a prolonged illness. Trains discontinued service to Big Falls, and for a time a stage coach shuffled mail and passengers. Otto Faehling later had a saw mill, pickle factory, and blacksmith shop.
According to the 1920 census 766 people lived in the township of Wyoming, including Big Falls. Now in 2012 it has dwindled to 270. Where have all these good people gone?
Because the saw mills needed workers, pamphlets and brochures were mailed back to Europe promising a land of riches. Off on a boat they exited from Norway, Ireland, Germany and Russia. A melting pot of ethnic refugees came to colonize and settle Big Falls.
The Kitzman clan began arriving from Russia in 1890. Villages like Wolgmien, Lublyn, Tarnafka, Shitomir, Wilhuft, Suzke, Milaschof, Rossbludge, Lubin, Wollinien. These Kitzmans were part of the German Lutherans in Russia that Catherine the Great, a German Princess took along with her when she married Alexander in the mid 1700s to the Volga River wheat growing Steppe area. For 140 years they lived in peace until Czar Nicholas needed men for his Army and many wars. That is why they began sneaking off and seeking asylum to America and Big Falls. Sent emigrant tickets back for more tribes to migrate. Once here, they married and begat large families. Some joined the military, all had to register for the draft. Along with their meager belongings in a steamer trunk, they brought their Lutheran Religion and were founding members of both St. Luke and St. Peter Lutheran Churches. Baptisms, Confirmations, Marriages and finally funerals were held from these churches, before the cortege to the Big Falls cemetery where many Kitzmans are awaiting eternity. Only the epitaph on their tombstones remind us of who these founding families of Big Falls and Wyoming were.
This life has now passed away
They are with the Lord today
Enjoying a better life anew
Their memory shall we carry through
Until we again RENDEZVOUS...
AUGUST Kitzman, 1864-1947, the first to immigrate in 1890, became a naturalized citizen in 1914, wife Henrietta, children Ferd, Henry, Elsie, Albert, Theodore, Leona, Cora.
ALEXANDER, 1884, arrived in 1897, wife Louise, children Reinhardt, Susan, Hugo, Alois, Paul, Alvina.
HERMAN, 1881 came in 1897 wife Marie, children, Harvey, Arthur, Lena, Bertha, Meta, Harry.
LOUIS LUDWIG, 1892, came 1899 wife Emma, children Virgil Lowell, Eroneal.
CHRISTIAN Kristgan Kitzman 1863-1925 the Patriarch of the family arrived in 1900 with his sons Gustav 1884-1948 and Daniel 1874-1945. Departed Hamburg Germany on May 9, 1900 and arrived in New York three weeks later on June 4, 1900. The name of the ship was Albano which held 790 passengers. Eventually the ship was mined off Tunisia on August 8, 1917 and sunk to the bottom of the ocean.
GUSTAV married Anna Barkholtz .
DANIEL and wife Emma had Martha, William, Dorothy, Ella, Otto. JOHN Kitzman 1873-1825 imigrated in 1902, wife Wilhelminia, children Gust, Julius, Hulda, Linda, Helena, Adam, John, Adolph, and Albert.
All these Kitzman families are listed on the 1920 census for the Township of Wyoming, Waupaca County, Wisconsin, Lewis Arndt Enumerator. Included information on the internet provides valuable dates of immigration, language, homeland, ages, sex, marriages.
After Wall-Spaulding closed their doors, and sold equipment to the Tigerton Lumber Company, agriculture and dairy farming on this cutover land were the main sources of income, after they dynamited and blasted away all those tree stumps. Many Kitzman families left for greener pastures and high hopes but always managed to call Big Falls home.
Wilhelm Barkholtz 1872-1956 and wife Ernestine 1870-1914 and daughter Anna 1891-1986 arrived at Ellis Island, New York on November 7, 1898 on the ship Palatia which held 2060 passengers, was 460 feet long, by 52 feet wide, built in 1894 and scraped in 1925. Other immigrants on the ship were from Russia, the USA, and Hungary. When Wilhelm arrived, he had $30 in his pocket and records confirm they were from Wulkezien, Germany (Prussia). Emigrant tickets were sent by Wilhelm's uncle and aunt Ernest and Lena Lembke. Four sons, Wilhelm, Carl, Harry, Ludwig (Louie). Eight years after William Barkholtz came to America, he became a Naturilized Citizen on September 25, 1906, August Opperman and Carl Fetter were witnesses. Sadly Ernestine in 1914 died in a grass fire when her clothing caught fire.
Wilhelm Jr changed his name to William Smith, joined the Canadian Army in 1918 and died while in service and a fine monument commemorates his grave in the Big Falls Cemetery.
Anna Barkholtz 1891-1986 wed Gustav Kitzman 1884-1948 on October 20, 1908. Legend says it was an arranged marriage. Twelve children Evelyn Chiles, Arnold, Alfred, Laura Arndt Van Nuland, Gehardt, Wilbert, Edwin, Herbert, Milton, Victor, Eleanor and Carol Zimmerman.
All the children of Christian, August and Gustav Kitzman attended West Hill School.
Today in 2012 Big Falls is a village consisting of two saloons, churches, post office, feed mill and the everlasting cemetery, and 85 live souls which call Big Falls home. Second and third growth timber provides hunting land for out-of-town people who seek quiet times in the mid-Wisconsin woods.
Information furnished by Myrtle McNinch Hanson, Mary Rahr, Richard Dixon, Russell Miller, Historians, cemetery, church, census documents, From Sawmills to Villages book and other sources.
copyright 2012 by Russell and Delores Miller
This article ran earlier in Delores' local newspaper.