Valentine Bier Family: What came next?

On this Valentine’s Day, I’d like to pick up the thread of the story of the Valentine Bier family.  I started weaving this story a year ago, in honor of Valentine Bier’s nameday and birthday, with an introduction to the patriarch of the Bier family in southern Wisconsin.  After several more installments, we left Valentine transplanted to a meager existence in Rock County, and his wife and children newly arrived from Ketzelsdorf to join him.  Then I was distracted by the Bier trip to the homeland and related topics.  For today, I’d like to pick up the thread of the family’s story where I left it.  Valentine and Catherine were reunited at the train depot in Janesville after almost a year apart.  He was meeting his youngest daughter, Amalia, for the first time.  They climbed onto a lumber wagon and began their journey home.

They arrived in the fall of 1882, and that winter the family lived in a two-room shack on the property of the farm on which Valentine was employed as a hired hand.  The farm was owned by Al Husker, and the building in which the family was to be housed was a two-room shack previously used as a woodshed and rummage room.  In the Memoirs of Father Charles, who was 3 at the time,

The walls were not plastered, and a single layer of siding boards, not too well matched, was all that kept out the wind and weather.  The larger room had two small windows and was used as kitchen, dining room, living room, and bedroom.  Into it were crowded a small kitchen stove, a table, a cupboard, two rough wooden benches, and a bed.  The smaller room had no window at all and was used as a bedroom.  There was no plumbing in the shack nor any household convenience whatsoever.  —  Father Charles Bier, Memoirs of an Old Recluse.

When my mother and I drove to the site, we found that a farm house sits on the north side of the road, and an open expanse of prairie to the south.  The winds through the ill-matched siding must have been fierce.  In order to fit into the tiny space, the two older children, John and Frances, were housed with other families where they worked to earn their keep, of course.  They were 11 and 12.  Valentine worked long hours and was seldom home before well into the night.

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The Al Husker Farm straddled Wilcox Road in between Harmony Town Hall and Vickerman.  The pond just to the north is now on the grounds of Camp Rotamer.  1891 Plat, Courtesy of the Charles Tallman Archives, Rock County Historical Society.

The following fall of 1883, Valentine rented a few acres south of Milton where the family lived for 4-5 more years in the small farmhouse.  I don’t know the name or owners of the farm on which he worked, but on those few acres he raised the cash crop of the day:  tobacco.  He did so on half shares, meaning that 50% of whatever he earned from its ultimate sale went right back to the landlord.  As the meager amount that he earned from this enterprise wasn’t enough to support the family, he also hired himself out to other farmers at a rate of 75 cents per day.  The family’s principal income, however, depended on the labor-intensive tobacco crop.  Fortunately, much of the tedious work could be done by Catherine and the children.  In Father Charles’ words

The price paid for the leaf tobacco at the time was about 5 cents per pound. and the average yield per acre was about 1500 pounds.  This amounted to about $75 per acre of which half was paid to the landlord as rental. — Father Charles Bier, Memoirs of an Old Recluse

Around this same time, the two eldest children began to formally work out of the house as hired hands.  John worked for a local farmer for $10 per month with only Sundays off.  All of his earnings, save for what it took to keep him fed and clothed, went back to the family and allowed Valentine to invest in farming equipment and a few cows and to steadily increase his farming enterprise.  Similarly, Frances’ work as a hired girl was equally arduous and brought in $1.50 to $2.00 per week.  Valentine set aside the money she earned and after three years was able to buy his first team of horses with it.  Without John and Frances’ sacrifice of, essentially, their childhoods, Valentine may never have been able to break out of the cycle of subsistence or tenant farming.  Neither of them were able to formally go to school, save for a few months to learn English upon first arriving.

 

Edward, John, Louis, Frank & Charles Bier

Neither John . . .

Jiru-Bier Women Four Generation Portrait

nor Frances had the luxury of a gradually exit from childhood, nor did they ever really learn English.

During the time on this small farm, there were several joyful arrivals.  The first was the birth of the third to last child, Caroline, in September, 1884.  She is described from suffering from some form of epilepsy, and I suspect that this may have contributed to the fact that she never left home.  Far from being an invalid, however, later diaries show her as an integral member of the family, devoted to helping Catherine run the household as children and eventually grandchildren passed through.  The other arrival was that of Catherine’s mother and two brothers, Johanna, Frank, and Florian Jiru in 1885.  They had also become dissatisfied with life in Ketzelsdorf.    Frank was accompanied by his wife, Anna Hanauska (sister of Frances Bier’s eventual husband, Wenzel Hanauska) and baby daughter, another Johanna.  They all joined the Valentine Bier family in the tiny rented farmhouse, and for awhile there were 12 people under the tiny roof.

This only lasted a short while, however, as Valentine transferred his brood to a larger rented farm, the Lime Borden farm on the southeast side of Milton.  Frank Jiru and his family stayed behind in the small rented farm that they vacated, and Florian and Johanna Jiru stayed on with the Valentine & Catherine Bier family–Florian for a couple of years and Johanna for the rest of her life, about 20 more years.  The Lime Borden Farm had a relatively palatial 8-room farmhouse, along with the usual farm buildings and a tobacco shed.  Despite the better setup, however, the three years spent there were far from profitable, as the summers were all quite dry and the prices of farm products including tobacco were quite low.  When my mother and I drove by the place, on M-H Townline Road just west of Vickerman, it looked quite rocky as well.  It doesn’t seem as though the three years spent on the Lime Borden Farm were remembered very fondly.

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The Lime Borden Farm is just to the East of the area now occupied by and ethanol plant outside of MIlton, Wisconsin. 1891 Plat Map of Milton Township, Courtesy of Charles Tallman Archives, Rock County Historical Society.

Father Charles specifically recounts a few of the more harrowing incidents that occurred during this stretch of time that are best quoted directly in his words:

In the spring of 1886 while Father was doing work in the fields, the horses were accidentally frightened an ran wildly into a barbed wire fence.  The better one of the team was cut so badly that it seemed impossible to stop the flow of blood.  My parents were both in great distress and well I remember how they cried aloud to God to help.  As soon as father was able to quiet the animal sufficiently, mother pressed some rags into the worst of the wounds till the bleeding gradually stopped.  Incidentally, this was the valuable mare that was being paid for by my sister Frances with the wages she was earning while working as a hired girl for the family from whom father had bought the mare, and it took almost three years of this service to pay this sum in full.  –Father Charles Bier, Memoirs of an Old Recluse.

Can you imagine, working for three years just to pay off off a mare?  And what if it had died–she still would have had to keep working for the debt alone!  No wonder they invoked prayer!

The second incident involved Valentine attending a turkey raffle and winning a few birds.  Apparently these events differed from today’s meat raffles in that the turkeys were still alive rather than in a freezer.  As he was walking home with them, some jealous fellas jumped him and ended up injuring one and killing the other turkey!  And this is why we can’t have turkey raffles (or anything nice, kids.)

While Valentine toiled away and fought off turkey muggers, the children still at home started school at the Vickerman School, a short walk from the farm.  Yet, this wasn’t all sunshine and roses.  As the only Catholics at the school, they were automatically outcasts.  This was made worse by the fact that they didn’t speak any English and were quite visibly poor.  Eventually the other children let Charles and Frank and their siblings play with them, except they never got to be the blindman in “blindman’s bluff,” as they didn’t own their own handkerchiefs, and the other children didn’t want Bier germs on theirs.   Kids being perhaps unintentionally mean is a problem across the ages, I suppose.

In addition, the ninth of the Valentine Bier brood was born on the the Lime Borden farm:  Emily Bier Gassert.

The ninth addition to the Valentine Bier Family arrived May 16th, 1887.  It was another baby girl and mother named her Emily.  Although John was of the opinion that our family was large enough, my parents were always happy to welcome one more.  As usual, there was no thought of going to a hospital or of calling a doctor for such a trifling ailment as childbirth.  That was considered too expensive a luxury for poor share-croppers like my parents. –Father Charles Bier, Memoirs of an Old Recluse

So what happened next?  Did the venture on the not-terribly-profitable Lime Borden Farm do them in?  Stay tuned…

 

Bier Trip to the Homeland Part IV: A Brief Separation in Time and Space

The journey to “the homeland” has begun in earnest!  After soaking up the culture of the Bavaria for the past few days,  today we boarded a bus and drove to Prague in the Czech Republic.  The purpose of the Munich part of the trip was to get a taste of what our ancestors’ German cultural homeland is like;  this second part will investigate their lands from which they physically sprung.

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The areas of the Czech Republic on which we will be focusing:  Prague for the sheer pleasure of it all, and the Pardubice Region for the familyhistory.

165 years ago, the Bier and Langer strands of my family tree were living what I imagine to have been an uneventful life in Bohemia.  In fact, their families lived less than 20 km apart from each other in, essentially, the same county (Pardubice) of the now Czech Republic.  For a brief review, here’s a copy of my father, Thomas Bier’s, ancestor tree:

Thomas Bier Ancestor Chart

Ancestors of Thomas Bier.  Those who are Germans from Bohemia are circled.

Did the Bier / Jiru and Langer / Janisch families know each other in the old country?  Who’s to say.  The Langer / Janisch clan emigrated about 30 years prior to the Bier / Jiru family–in 1853.  Further, the Langer family settled in a large enclave of German Bohemians in the Watertown area.  While Watertown is also in southern Wisconsin, it lies over 30 miles away from the greater Janesville area that attracted the Biers.

Wouldn’t be an amazing story, though, if my Grandpa Vincent Bier and Grandma Mary Alice (Langer) Bier’s families were friends 3-4 generations in advance of their wedding?  Some exciting sleuthing into the historical record provides some tantalizing clues that this was, in fact, the case.

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Wedding of  my Grandma Mary Alice (Langer) Bier & Grandpa Vincent Bier.  21 November, 1946.  Did their grandparents–Emil Langer and Valentine Bier–ever meet?

 

Franz Langer was Mary Alice’s Great-Grandfather;  he was the one to make the move to the United States with his wife, Barbara Janisch.  Valentine Bier was Vincent’s Grandfather and was the emigree.   And, according to a brief clipping in the Rock County  Recorder Times, Valentine actually served as a pallbearer for Franz Langer at his death in 1894.  While the name is actually spelled “Valentine Beers,” it seems reasonable to assume that this was, in fact, Valentine Bier.  Both men attended the same church, St. Mary’s in Janesville.  The timing also lines up:

 

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Obituary of Franz Langer from the Rock County Recorer Times 11 October, 1894

 

 

Another source that I frequently reference is the Bier Family Journal.  This ledger-like document chronicles the daily life of the Valentine Bier family from 1899-1903;  most of the Valentine Bier children contributed at some time or another, although Father Charles Bier was the most prolific diarist.

 

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The Bier Family Diary:  a ridiculously rich source of primary information.

The diary generally concludes each day by enumerating the visitors that stopped by.  Take a look at who visited the house in the summer of 1899:

Wed. Aug 16, 1899:  Weather is quite agreeable, but rather warm in the afternoon.  Father, Louis and Fr. begin to haul manure.  Chas sees the great base ball game taking place between Janesville and Milwaukee league teams.  The score is Mil 2.  Janesville 0.  Visitors of the eve at home are Mr. Emil Langer Senior and Junior, Uncle Anton, and cousin Chas. Bier.  Fr. Baar, and Fr. Schneider, Jno. and Bertha.  Jno. begins tobacco harvesting.

 

Emil Langer Junior would be Mary Alice’s father.  Edward, the youngest of the Valentine Bier clan, was Vincent’s father.  At the date of that visit at which they surely met, Emil Langer, Jr., was 14.  Edward Bier 10 years old.  Their children would marry in just over 47 years.

Wow!  Genealogy is FUN!

In a few short days, we will retrace beginning of these families brief separation in time and space…

Bier Trip to the Homeland

After years of muttering about how we “really oughta,” we’re doing it.  We’re taking all of the rich first-hand narrative information about our family history and doing a mission of discovery.  I along with an assortment of my Bier relatives are spending our first night in Munich.

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Our guide, Christiane Haack. She was quite popular holding this sign in the arrivals hall.

This trip was about two years in the making, and we set up an itinerary to accomplish several things:

  • Go back to Ketzelsdorf (Koclirov) and see the village that our ancestors left behind.  
  • See a little of the other villages that other relatives came from (more on this later)
  • Stop by the nearest big city, Prague
  • Take in a smattering of German and Bavarian culture in Munich.

The trip ranges from my parents at the older end of the spectrum to my cousin, Nick Laning, who is 17.   Here’s a fun little tree to see how we’re all related and who’s along for the ride.   The tree is set up in relation to my great grandfather, Edward Bier.  He’s the youngest of Valentine’s kids, and the most recent common relative of us all.  Trip participants are circled:

Edward A Bier Hourglass Chart

We spent this first day getting here, wandering around the city in bleary-eyed fascination and taking in a delicious dinner of sauerbraten, bread dumplings and bier at the Augustiner Keller Biergarten, proudly serving Augustiner bier which has been brewed since 1328!

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Louise Bier and dessert and some scrap metal on the wall that we sat next to.

Now I’m in bed writing and the younger and heartier of the group are out pub hopping.   Also Uncle Jim. For my family, discovering our “German roots” is not proving to be that much of a stretch!

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Mom and Dad walking home from Augustiner Keller

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Discovering our German roots in the hotel bar–Bier and Riesling

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Valentine Bier Family: Part II

Valentine Bier-Catherine Jiru Family Portrait

Catherin (Jiru) Bier, c. 1890

Left Behind:  March, 1882

When we last left Catherine, she had said goodbye to her husband, Valentine, to fend for her brood in Ketzelsdorf while he attempted to secure enough funds to sponsor their passage to America.  Recall that the family had already been reduced to destitution after Valentine had nearly died from smallpox.  Charles was only about 2 1/2 years old at the time, but later paid close attention to the stories passed down to him by his older siblings and his parents.  Looking back as an adult, Father Charles Bier writes:

Meanwhile mother was trying to keep herself and her flock of six youngsters from starving.  Now the creditors who had loaned my father the cash to go into the grain business began to worry that they might not get their money back, so they simply came and took whatever property was removable.  There was a cow, two goats, a few geese and chickens and some garden tools and implements.  This would have driven mother to the verge of despair had it not been for the help she received from some friends and relatives.  —Memoirs of an Old Recluse

During all of this, Catherine gave birth to her seventh child, Amalia, at the end of July.  This means that Valentine left his wife when she was five months pregnant!  Can you imagine how scared she must have been?

Valentine’s Journey:  March-April, 1882

Valentine Bier-Catherine Jiru Family Portrait

Valentine Bier, abt. 1890

Valentine’s ticket was paid for by an old friend from Ketzelsdorf, Frank Huschka.  According to passenger lists, Frank Huschka had come to Wisconsin ten years earlier, in 1872, at the age of 22.  He had traveled with his 20-year-old wife, Flora.  Frank & Flora’s occupation was listed as “landleute,” loosely translated to “farmer, peasant, country person.”  Frank was about 8 years younger than Valentine, born in 1850.  After the passenger list, I am unable to pick up the trail of Frank & Flora Huschka save for the recollections of Father Charles Bier.  He notes that after ten years in America, when Frank sent Valentine a ticket for passage, he was still struggling with poverty.  And yet he still found it within himself to help out an old friend.

Valentine traveled on a ship called the Elbe, as did his family after him.  Wikipedia tells us that the ship was practically brand new at the time, having been launched in April 1881.  The Elbe was the first of a series of eleven express steamers known as the “Rivers Class,” as they were all named after German rivers.   The Elbe had accommodation for 179 First Class passengers, 142 in Second Class, and 796 in Steerage. She was a very popular ship with immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe to the United States and was virtually always sold out in steerage.  Not surprisingly, Valentine’s ticket was in steerage!  He landed in Baltimore and took a train to Janesville, Wisconsin.

As the smallpox had badly scarred his face he never shaved again but grew a heavy black beard, now sprinkled with gray.  When he arrived at the R.R. station in Janesville, Wis., Mr. Huschka did not recognize him as he looked more like a “weary willy” than the respectable friend of former days.  He was then hired as a farm hand at $18.00 a month. —Memoirs of an Old Recluse

That $18.00 a month translates into about $400 per month in today’s currency–and he was trying to secure eight people’s passage.  Between April and July, he did it.

The Journey Home:  July-November, 1882

In July, 1882, Catherine received the bittersweet news that, with the help of friends, Valentine had secured the family’s passage to join him.  Father Charles captures some of the trepidation she must have felt:

This gave new hope to mother, although the thought of undertaking such a trip with seven small children was like a nightmare to her.  Yet the hope of finding a better home, and again living with her husband, buoyed her up with new courage and the determination to leave her onetime happy home, her friends and kinfolks, her parish church and school and all that had been dear to her since the days of her childhood . . . Truly sad for her were the last few days she spent in Ketzelsdorf, preparing for the dreaded voyage and the departure that left no hope of ever coming back . . . When the moment came to bid farewell to her mother and sisters and brothers she was overwhelmed with sadness and grief.  Her oft repeated prayer was:  “God’s will be done!” —Memoirs of an Old Recluse

[Note:  Catherine’s mother and brothers, Johanna, Frank & Florian Jiru, were to join them in about three years’ time.  I have no further record of her sisters save their mention in this passage.]  The family took the same route that Valentine did:  departure from Bremen, Germany.  Two to three weeks on board the Elbe in steerage.  Arrival in Baltimore.  Train to Janesville.  With seven kids, the youngest of which was an infant.  The oldest were 12 and 13.  Yikes.

Perhaps that voyage from Moravia to America with seven small children, the youngest of which was only a babe of three months, can be more easily imagined than described.  The older children had to carry as many bundles and packages as they could and when changing trains I also had to be carried as I was less than three years of age.  We spent over two weeks on board the ship Elbe.  This was a sailboat equipped with some additional steam power.  We had to travel in the lowest class called steerage which affords the least and poorest accommodations.  All the children became seasick but mother was spared from this affliction.  When the sea was rough and the ship rocked from side to side we often bumped together and fell over each other.  This made me cross and irritable so that in later years they used to tell me how angry I became when that happened and how I used to shout and tell them not to push me like the cows.  The food we got on board the ship was very poor.  There was no milk and the butter and meats were saturated with salt.  We felt so sick most of the time that we could not have eaten even good food. — Memoirs of an Old Recluse

S.S. Elbe Ship

S.S. Elbe, 1881

Before we leave the Elbe, it’s worth mentioning that the ship had a brief life and an interesting fate.  Thirteen years later, in 1895, she met her demise:

The night of 30 January 1895 was stormy.  In the North Sea, conditions were freezing and there were huge seas. SS Elbe had left Bremerhaven for New York earlier in the day with 354 passengers aboard. Also at sea on this rough night was the steamship Crathie, sailing from Aberdeen in Scotland, heading for Rotterdam. As conditions grew worse, the Elbe discharged warning rockets to alert other ships to her presence. The Crathie either did not see the warning rockets or chose to ignore them. She did not alter her course, with such disastrous consequences, that she struck the liner on her port side with such force that whole compartments of the Elbe were immediately flooded. The collision happened at 5.30 am and most of the passengers were still asleep.The Elbe began to sink immediately and the captain, von Goessel, gave the order to abandon ship. Amid great scenes of panic the crew managed to lower two of the Elbe‘s lifeboats. One of the lifeboats capsized as too many passengers tried in vain to squeeze into the boat. Twenty people scrambled into the second lifeboat, of whom 15 were members of the crew. The others were four male second-class passengers and a young lady’s maid by the name of Anna Boecker, who had been lucky enough to be pulled from the raging sea after the first boat had capsized. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Elbe, Captain von Goessel had ordered all the women and children to assemble there but no other lifeboats were launched because the ropes on the derricks were all frozen up, and so they perished along with the captain. Within 20 minutes of the collision, the Elbe had sunk and the only survivors were the 20 people in the one surviving lifeboat.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Elbe_(1881)

Baltimore Harbor, Locust Point

Locust Point, Baltimore Harbor. Abt. 1860.

Catherine and the children landed in Baltimore Harbor on November 13, 1882.  While we all know of Ellis Island as a significant point of entry, Baltimore Harbor was the second most popular arrival point for immigrants to the United States at the time.  Disembarkation was fairly straightforward when compared to the process at Ellis Island and Elsewhere.  Doctors and officials boarded the ships as they steamed up the Chesapeake Bay.  The B&O railroad had even constructed two huge buildings that served as terminals for both arriving ships and departing rail cars.  (Connery, William.  “Point of Entry:  Baltimore, the Other Ellis Island.”)

After arriving at Baltimore we were all vaccinated while in quarantine.  This did not leave any ill effects as it seems we had all become immune to smallpox during father’s illness. — Memoirs of an Old Recluse

This statement is interesting and may reveal some provincial resistance to vaccination harbored by the Biers and/or lack of availability of the vaccine.  Vaccination to smallpox had been introduced into Europe in the 1790’s.  (Carrell, Jennifer Lee.  The Speckled Monster:  A Historical Tale of Battling Smallpox.)

Reunited:  November, 1882

Catherine and seven children traveled several days by rail from Baltimore to Janesville, Wisconsin.

My earliest recollection of any event of which I took notice and of which there is still a faint inkling in my memory, happened on the train as we traveled from Baltimore to Chicago.  It was that of a negro porter announcing the time for lunch.  We did not know what he said [recall that they spoke not a word of English] but it was the color of his face that lingered in my memory. — Memoirs of an Old Recluse

 

Janesville RR depot c. 1900

Janesville railroad depot, c. 1900

Catherine and the children disembarked the train and were met by Valentine, whom they had not seen for over eight months, and his sponsor & friend, Frank Huschka.

 

 

 

 The meeting of mother and dad was pathetic.  They both wept like lovelorn pilgrims, once more happily reunited.  It was the first time that dad had seen the baby and he had a pet name for each one of us.  While this reunion gave him much joy he also bewailed the fact that he had not been able to provide a decent home for the family.  After loading our luggage on the wagon we all piled on for our first American “buggy ride.” — Memoirs of an Old Recluse

The description is so heartbreakingly human;  it animates the somber faces that otherwise exist only as frozen visages in photographs.  Imagine how relieved Catherine and Valentine were.  I wonder what the individual pet names for each child were?

Lumber wagon c. 1880

Lumber wagon c. 1880. This is the type of humble conveyance that transported the reunited Bier family.

 

What a relief, readers.  So now the hard part is over, right?  Wrong . . .

 

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Valentine Bier Family Overview, or “Hey, you, pay attention!”

Before I continue on with the narrative of the Valentine Bier family, I want to give a brief summary of his progeny and descendants.  I always appreciate a “cast of characters” summary at the beginning of a particularly confusing novel, and this is certainly confusing.  Remember:  you can always refer back to the Valentine Bier Descendants summary page if you ever get confused.  As I’m working on my genealogy, I always like to keep a very brief family tree handy.

Jiru-Bier Women Four Generation Portrait

Johanna Jiru, taken abt. 1904

Not to spoil the surprise, but the whole family eventually made it to the United States.  Also coming along with them was Catherine’s mother, Johanna JIRU.  She appears in a number of family photographs and is mentioned in family diaries.  No matter if everyone else is frowning in a picture, she always has a spunky grin on her face.  She appears to have weighed no more than 80 pounds at any given time.  Two of her sons emigrated around the same time as her daughter, Catherine, did.  Their names were Frank and Florian and they both settled in Janesville, Wisconsin, as well.  I hope to learn more about the Jiru family during our upcoming trip back to Bohemia this summer.

OK, now onto the rest of the family.  Valentine’s parents, as previously mentioned, died in his childhood, and I don’t know about Catherine (Jiru) Bier’s father, and her mother, Johanna is accounted for.  They had ten kids, and a lot of familiar Rock County names spring up amongst their descendants.  Here’s a summary, so share with your friends:

 

Valentine Bier-Catherine Jiru Family Portrait

Valentine Bier Family, taken abt. 1890. Back row L-R: Charles, Frank, Louis, Anna, Frances, Amalia. Seated L-R: John, Valentine, Catherine, Johanna Jiru. Kids on laps: Emily, Edward, Carrie

This portrait is a copy of a copy.  It was taken about 1890, and in diaries is noted as being the first formal portrait ever created of the family.  Note how Johanna Jiru’s bird-like face bears a smile!  (Aside:  If anyone has the original of this, I’d love a scanned copy.  And, I’m always happy to share my information as well.)

Each of the kid’s story is interesting in its own right and will be summarized eventually.  For now: shorthand.  My goal is to give you a thumbnail sketch of each individual and highlight some descendants’ names in the hope that these families, too, might be directed to the blog.  Here we go:

CAST OF CHARACTERS:  THE KIDS

 

 

  1. Edward, John, Louis, Frank & Charles Bier

    John A. Bier. Taken abt 1905.

    1. John Bier was born in Ketzelsdorf and died in Janesville.  He left home at 15 to begin working as a hired hand in order to support the family.  He married Bertha SCHMIDLEY.  They had three daughters whose married surnames were ROETHLE, LANNON & MCCUE.

 

 

Jiru-Bier Women Four Generation Portrait

Four generations: Johanna (?) Jiru, Catherine (Jiru) Bier, Frances (Bier) Hanauska, Mary Agnes Bier. Taken abt. 1905 in Janesville, Wisconsin

2.  Frances (Bier) Hanauska was born in Ketzelsdorf and died in Wisconsin.  She married Wenzel HANAUSKA.  Theirs is a good example of families from the same village moving en masse and resuming life in a new location.  Wenzel Hanauska’s family was from Ketzelsdorf as well.  His sister, Anna Hanauska, married Catherina Jiru’s brother, Frank Jiru, and they both died in Janesville.  Frances started working out of the home as a hired girl at the age of 13.  Three years’ wages bought the family’s first team of horses.  Frances always appears serious and somber in photos, and I imagine that a life of hard work has something to do with it.  She and Wenzel had five children.  Two boys carried on the Hanauska name in the area, and I went to high school with one of their descendants–Leigh Hanauska Kelz.  One daughter became a nun, one remained single, and one became a GANSER.

 

 

Edward, John, Louis, Frank & Charles Bier

Louis A. Bier, abt. 1905

3.  Louis Bier was also born in Ketzelsdorf and died in Iowa, after farming most of his life outside of Janesville.  My dad remembers him as always speaking with a thick, thick German accent, wearing a bushy mustache, and smoking a pipe.  He married Frances PARR, who was also born in Austria although I need to determine which town.  There are a lot of Parrs around Janesville, and people are always asking me to figure out “how we’re related to the Parrs.”  Well, this is about the sum of it.  Some of the names of their first generation of descendents in addition to Bier include:  MUELLER, PETERS, and KORTH.

 

 

Anna Bier

Anna (Sister Veronica) Bier

4.  Anna Bier was born in Ketzelsdorf and died in Oakland, California.  She joined the Little Sisters of the Poor and became Sister Veronica.  She took a vow of extreme poverty, begging on the streets to support the mission, and never returned home after joining the convent.

 

 

Edward, John, Louis, Frank & Charles Bier

Frank Bier, abt. 1905

5.  Frank Bier was born in Ketzelsdorf and died in Iowa.  He eventually gave up farming and became a railroad man.  He married Mary KLEIN, who was a great friend to the girls in the family.  Her family lived “in town” in Janesville.  Frank and Mary had 8 children.  Three of the boys became priests, and surnames found in their first generation of descendants include Bier, and RADDENBACH.  Finally, I think that we can all agree that Frank’s cheekbones are ridiculous and that he is a bit of a dreamboat.

 

 

Edward, John, Louis, Frank & Charles Bier

Father Charles Bier, abt. 1905

6.  Charles Bier was born in Ketzelsdorf and died in Janesville.  He became a priest, starting off a run of Catholic religious in the family that ended in my dad’s generation because, for some reason, neither he nor any of his cousins really seemed to enjoy the seminary all that much.  Charles’s diaries, when stacked up, are over a foot thick.  His commentary provides much of the color and detail that make this story so interesting.

 

 

 

Charles, Edward, Emily, Frances, Amalia Bier

Amalia (Bier) Bott

7.  Amalia Bier was born in Ketzelsdorf and died in Wisconsin.  She married James BOTT, who promptly died after the birth of their fifth child.  Amalia is the one who caught smallpox as an infant prior to emigrating.  Before getting married, Amalia also worked out of the home as a hired girl and traveled between the homes of her elder brothers helping to care for their wives after childbirth.  In pictures of her as an old lady she always looks just done with it all, and I imagine that all told, she had a pretty rough life.  In addition to one nun, the other children passed on the Bott and SHERIDAN names through marriage.

 

 

Valentine Bier-Catherine Jiru Family Portrait

Caroline Bier, abt. 1890

8.  Caroline Bier was the first of the children born in Wisconsin.  She lived at home her entire life and suffered from some  form of epilepsy.

 

 

 

Charles, Edward, Emily, Frances, Amalia Bier

Emily (Bier) Gassert

9.  Emily Bier was born in Wisconsin.  She married Joseph GASSERT and raised a family in Milwaukee.  One of her sons was a priest and the rest of the next generation can be found under the names Gassert, MEULER, REITER.  Of all of the Valentine Bier clan, Emily had the most grandchildren:  26!  Despite this she always smiles benignly in her photos.

 

 

Edward, John, Louis, Frank & Charles Bier

Edward A. Bier, abt. 1905

Finally, Edward Bier was the last, and was born and died in Janesville.  He was born when Valentine and Catherine were both 47 and started becoming an uncle to his older siblings’ children shortly thereafter.  In fact his wife, Rosalia ROETHLE was sister to one of John Bier’s daughter’s husbands.  Think about that for awhile!  Ed and Rosalia had 4 boys, one of whom became a priest and the rest of whom scattered Biers including my own family all over the Rock Prairie.  I never met him, but he just always looks so austere in his photos!

 

Sooooo, that’s it.  Remember, names who might be interested in this topic and should be directed accordingly include:

BIER, BOTT, GANSER, GASSERT, HANAUSKA, KLEIN, KORTH, JIRU, LANNON, MCCUEOETHLE, MEULER, MUELLER, PARR, PETERS, RADDENBACH, REITER, SCHMIDLEY, & SHERIDAN

 

Do any of you remember anything about any of these original ten?  Please comment below!