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My Colorful Great-Grandma Bertha Kuehn

Updated on April 5, 2017
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Paul was born and grew up in Wisconsin. He is married to a Thai and living in Thailand. He has Swiss, German, and Austrian ancestry.

Bertha Kuehn with five children

Picture taken in Germany about 1881
Picture taken in Germany about 1881 | Source

Introduction

This article is a sequel to the story of my great-grandpa, Carl August Kuehn, who immigrated to the United States in early 1882. My great-grandma, Bertha Stamminger Kuehn, was born in the Chemnitz area of Germany. After marrying great-grandpa in 1871, Bertha immigrated to Wisconsin with five children in September of 1882. In addition to raising nine children, my great-grandma led a challenging and colorful life after the death of her husband in 1899.

Sources used in this article come from my second cousin, Margie Kuehn Nelson, and my first cousin, Bonnie Bronankant. I also draw on articles from Ancestry.com and from the Door County Advocate newspaper published from 1893 until 1923.

Early Family Background: 1845-1871

My great-grandma was born in Ebersdorf, a village outside of Chemnitz in the Saxony state of Germany, on October 14, 1845. She was the youngest child of Johann Jakob Stamminger born in 1801 and Christiane Leisner born in 1810. Bertha Amelia Marie Stamminger had one older brother, Andreas, who was born in 1830. I have learned nothing about his life or the lives of Bertha's parents. Great-grandma lived in Ebersdorf until her marriage with my great-grandpa. Unfortunately, I have not been able to discover anything about Bertha Stamminger's life prior to her marriage.

Marriage Photo of Carl and Bertha Kuehn

Picture was taken in probably 1871.
Picture was taken in probably 1871. | Source

Married Life in Chemnitz, Germany: 1871-1881

According to great-grandma's obituary, she married Carl August Kuehn from Chemnitz in Chemnitz during 1871. In the 1870s, while my great-grandpa worked registering wagons at the Chemnitz railway, Bertha gave birth to her five oldest children. Tekla, the oldest and only living daughter, was born on February 27, 1871. Next, the first son, Carl Adolph Gustaf, was born on January 13, 1873. Carl was followed by Otto Herman born on November 5, 1874. John came into the world on August 7, 1876, and finally, Frederick Arthur was born on August 6, 1878, before the end of the decade.

Immigration to the U.S. and life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin: 1882-1886

On April 26, 1881, great-grandpa immigrated to the United States and immediately took up residence in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After finding employment as a cigar maker, great-grandma, and my five oldest great-uncles immigrated to the U.S. on September 20, 1882, to join my great-grandfather.

During the next four years, my grandfather, Charles August, and his twin brother, George Leonard, were born on September 13, 1885. Another set of twins, Henry and Anna, were also born during this period, but sadly died shortly after birth.


Life in Door County: 1886-1899

At an unknown date in 1886, Carl and Bertha Kuehn moved from Milwaukee to Door County, Wisconsin. They most probably initially settled at Egg Harbor, because that is the place of birth of great-uncle, Herman, who was born in June of 1887.

According to Door County newspaper records, my great-grandparents secured a mortgage on May 15, 1888, from Charles Reynolds. According to Margie Nelson, this mortgage money was used to purchase land on County T in Jacksonport. Records show that Carl and Bertha's last child, Paul Richard, was born in Jacksonport on July 2, 1889.

After acquiring the land, my great-grandfather built a home and farmed until his early death in 1899. Carl August was very active in the Zion Lutheran church in West Jacksonport. According to my cousin Bonnie, great-grandpa was a very strong man and could lift very heavy weights.

During this time period, Tekla married on October 22, 1888, and Carl Adolph Gustaf also got married on July 11, 1895.

A Four Generation Photo with Bertha Kuehn

Bertha Kuehn, Tekla Kuehn, Tekla's daughter Emma Anchutz, and Emma's child, Marion.  Picture taken probably around 1915
Bertha Kuehn, Tekla Kuehn, Tekla's daughter Emma Anchutz, and Emma's child, Marion. Picture taken probably around 1915 | Source

Life as a Widow: 1899-1923

After Carl August's unexpected death from appendicitis on July 30, 1899, Bertha was left as a widow to care for a ten-year-old son, Paul, 12-year-old Herman, and 14-year-old twins, Charles and George. Otto Herman and John were now in their twenties and would marry before 1903.

Shortly after great-grandpa's death, a notice appeared in the Door County Advocate newspaper about a foreclosure sale of the Kuehn's property. According to the article, default had been made in the payment of money secured on May 15, 1888, executed and delivered by Carl August and Bertha Kuehn to Charles Reynolds, and recorded in the office of the Register of Deeds of Door County.

After getting through the foreclosure, Bertha had enough money to build a log cabin on Sunny Slope Road next to one of her son's farms sometime probably between 1910 and 1920.

Based on newspaper records, Bertha went up to Escanaba, Michigan, in 1910 to live with her sons Gustaf who was homesteading there and Herman who was a lumberjack. She really didn't like living there, and returned to Door County where she took turns staying with her children.

According to both my cousin and second cousin, Bertha was a midwife and had some income from that. On Margie Nelson's father's birth certificate, Bertha was listed as a midwife and delivered her grandson, Frank L. Kuehn. She also delivered one of my uncles, August, and one of my aunts, Marie.

Based on my cousin's article, family stories say that Bertha was an alcoholic and drank from a flask hidden in her skirts. She was also said to be a mean-tempered woman, and perhaps that is where my father and brother got their mean tempers. Bertha was also a large woman with reddish auburn hair.

Bertha's obituary in the Door County Advocate on February 1, 1923, states that great-grandma died at the home of her daughter, Tekla. She had been ill with an apparent heart attack right before January 1, 1923. After rallying for a short time, she must have succumbed to a second heart attack. The obituary pointed out that Bertha Kuehn was a good Christian woman, fine neighbor, and a fond wife and mother.

I really wish that I could have met or learned more about great-grandma from my grandfather or father.


© 2017 Paul Richard Kuehn

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    • Paul Kuehn profile image
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      Paul Richard Kuehn 4 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      I appreciate your comments, Denise, and thanks for reading my hub. One of my maternal great-grandmothers is also from Switzerland.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 4 months ago from Fresno CA

      Fascinating. I am so intrigued by information on our ancestors. My maternal grandmother always said that her ancestry was from Germany but after I did some research, it turns out the Bollingers were not from Germany but from northern Switzerland where they speak German. I wish she were alive for me to show her what I found.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Paul Kuehn profile image
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      Paul Richard Kuehn 4 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Thanks for your comments, Peggy. When did your early family members settle in Milwaukee and what kind of work did they do?

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Paul,

      It is interesting what you were able to learn about your great-grandmother from historical records and your family. Many of my early family members also settled in Milwaukee as well as other parts of Wisconsin.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image
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      Paul Richard Kuehn 4 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      It is my hope that relation who come after me will treasure these articles and use them to find more information about the Kuehn family. I appreciate your comments and am happy you found this article interesting.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image
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      Paul Richard Kuehn 4 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Thanks for your great comments, Paula. I look forward to reading any articles you might publish in the future regarding the ancestry on your maternal side.

    • Paul Kuehn profile image
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      Paul Richard Kuehn 4 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Thank you very much for your comment, Larry. I hope I can make this article better in the future.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 4 months ago from Oklahoma

      You draw a fascinating picture with your words

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 4 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Paul....How wonderful to have had the opportunity to collect this information on your ancestors. Had most of us been proactive, we'd have tirelessly questioned our elder ancestors as much as possible while they were living. I'll always regret not doing this with my grandparents, especially my paternal side because I know very little about them and their history.

      I do have important bits and pieces of interesting info on the ancestry of my maternal side.

      Once becoming aware of the benefit of knowing family history, I have made it a point to be forthcoming with my own children. Investigating one's ancestry has clearly become a popular endeavor in the last decade or so. I really enjoy watching the TV program, "Who Do You Think You are?" It is so impressive to learn of what these individuals are able to uncover about all those who came before them.

      Sounds like you learned some really vital and fascinating facts about quite a few members of your family & I'm sure you are pleased about this! Thanks for sharing this lovely story, Paul. Paula

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      Louise Powles 4 months ago from Norfolk, England

      How interesting! I love genealogy and finding out all about my ancestors. Your great-grandmother had a difficult life by all accounts. I love the photo's. You've certainly done your research. It's a great piece of history and something your family will treasure.