Joseph and Theresa Fritscher & Family
Joseph Fritscher was the third child born to Johann Fritscher and Johanna Fiker Fritscher on December 31, 1852. He was a young man when he traveled to the United States of America in 1876 with his widowed mother and his brother and sister. Joseph was married to Theresa Appel on May 23, 1882 by Reverend Father C. J. Knauf, in Hersey, Nobles County, Minnesota. Theresa Appel had been born on May 4, 1854 in Austria, and her family also attended Mass at St. Adrian. So it is likely that the couple met at a community or church function or that they were introduced by close family friends. It was also Father Knauf who later baptized their first child, Wilhelmina. The Catholic Church was central to the lives of the Fritscher family in Minnesota. The small farming communities in the area were filled with Irish and German immigrant Catholics who came to the area with the hope of plenty of available land for farming and plenty of timber for building homes there. They were also encouraged by the prospect of the new religious community that was being built in the region. Bishop John Ireland had come to Minnesota in the 1870’s and had stationed priests first in the northern and central sections of the state, and finally in the south and southwest sections. In 1877, Father Knauf was sent by Bishop Ireland to Adrian to build a Catholic congregation there. By December of 1878 there were sixty families in the growing local Catholic community, including our Fritschers in the community nearby.
The couple thrived in the area. The Homestead Act of 1862 had promised free land to anyone who would develop and improve that land, so the Fritschers filed a homestead where they began to work and raise their family. Joseph was an enterprising and industrious young farmer. The family remained in Nobles County, but moved closer to Heron Lake where they became members of the parish at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. After Wilhelmina's birth in 1883, there was Charles Joseph in 1884, followed by Mary Theresa, Augusta Josepha and finally Rudolph in 1889. The last four children were all baptized at Sacred Heart. There were times of harsh weather and problems with growing crops in the midst of grasshopper infestations, but all in all the family prospered. Pioneers had so much to do that even their playtime was useful. Families came together to help raise one another's barns and cabins and to cooperate at quilting bees and other work parties that would tackle the big jobs like husking corn, preserving food, or making soap or candles. When the day's chores were done, they celebrated with a feast, music and dancing. There were County fairs, picnics and contests of every sort, from pie eating to shooting, weight lifting to log rolling. And of course, weddings or the birth of a new baby were always reasons for celebration.
There were more Catholic communities being developed farther west and south, and in Texas, two brothers named Flusche had formed a company to create several German speaking Catholic communities in that state. The German Catholic community at Pilot Point was the largest of the three German communities that developed in Denton County in the late nineteenth century. This colony was founded by the Flusche Brothers in 1891, at the request of banker A. H. Gee and J. M. Sullivan of Pilot Point. Emil Flusche, a Catholic empressario, had successfully founded similar colonies in Iowa and Kansas, and in Texas at Muenster and Lindsay.
The brothers distributed flyers and posters in many of the areas in the eastern and northern states, and published advertisements in German Catholic newspapers. They advertised that: "Catholic businessmen, craftsmen, and especially older persons of means who want to live a quiet life near the church in the most beautiful, healthy area" were encouraged to settle there. In Pilot Point, they promised, the summers were not as hot as those in Minnesota. The farming conditions were excellent and Texas was in no danger of being taken over by the fanatical, "slippery hypocrites" that had thrust many a northern state into "servitude". Their claims of the mild winters and the beautiful and abundant land with plenty of fresh water and timber were too much for the Fritscher family to ignore.
The first German colonists to arrive at
Pilot Point were Herman Boerner and his son-in-law Louis Tschoeppe from "Neu
Braunfels". On September 10, 1891, Emil Flusche with his wife Anna and their
four children arrived in Pilot Point from his colony at Westphalia, Kansas. He
moved with his family into a house on the north side of town owned by Mr. J.A.L.
McFarland, the cashier at the bank. Later, the Boerner family became closely
allied with the Fritscher family as their children began to marry.
The colony prospered. Mass was first celebrated on November 4th, 1891, and largely through donations, St. Thomas Catholic Church was built; and it was consecrated on March 7th, 1892. Many of their protestant neighbors attended this event to "watch these Catholics worship their wooden God."
In 1892, Joseph and Theresa Appel Fritscher and their five children, ranging in age from about nine to just under three years of age, moved to Texas to live in the newly formed German Catholic community at Pilot Point. Older relatives recalled that the family didn’t tell their friends exactly where they were moving since Texas was thought to be such a wild and uncivilized place. When they moved, Joseph brought his mother and his deaf sister, Anna, as part of his household. They traveled by train since, once again, the town had been developed along the rail lines. Land records show that they sold their land in Minnesota after they had already arrived in Texas.
In Texas, the family became members of the parish at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Pilot Point, Denton County. They farmed and raised their family there in the beautiful little community just a few miles outside the County seat of Denton. However after only four years, Theresa died in Pilot Point on October 12, 1896, and she is buried there in the St. Thomas Cemetery.
Joseph, with the help of his aging mother, raised the five children alone until in 1909 he married Susanna (her last name is unknown), at St. Thomas Church. They were recorded on the census of 1910 where Joseph, age 57, Suzie, age 48, Rudolph age 20, and Joseph's mother, age 82 and sister age 60 are found in Pilot Point. Joseph's mother, Anna, died shortly thereafter in March 30, 1911 of pneumonia. His sister, Anna, has not been found in church or census records since the 1910 census.
It was shortly after his mother's death when Joseph and Suzie moved farther south, and decided to find land in Mexico where they could settle. They were farming in Mexico when in 1915, a renegade named Doroteo Arango, better known as Pancho Villa, became a notorious figure in the area. He was known as a bank robber, cattle rustler, and a ruthless killer, but was also a revolutionary against the Huerta dictatorship in Mexico, which endeared him to the Mexican people. In late 1915 Pancho Villa had counted on American support to obtain the presidency of Mexico. Instead, the U.S. Government recognized the new government of Venustiano Carranza. An irate Villa swore revenge against the United States, and began murdering Americans in hopes of provoking President Woodrow Wilson’s intervention into Mexico. Villa and his “pistoleros” launched raids along the U.S.- Mexico boundary to frighten the Americans living in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona border towns. President Wilson ordered the War Department to begin deploying troops only as far as the borders of Texas and New Mexico. While the presence of American troops served to deter Villa on the north of the Rio Grande, the murder of U.S. citizens in Mexico continued. It was a frightening time for Joseph Fritscher and Susana and they quickly packed their belongings, gave up their land and narrowly escaped with their lives as they fled back to Texas.
By the census of 1920, after having lost his land in Mexico, Joseph and Susana are found in Placedo, Victoria County, in far south Texas on the Texas Costal Plain. Joseph was 67 and Susana was age 65. They were living on the Port Lavaca and Victoria gravel road, and were farming again. Although we are not sure what type of crop Joseph was planting, we do know that many of the relatives were engaged in cotton farming. Victoria County's cotton production of 10,181 bales in 1910 led the coastal region, and in 1934 cotton occupied two-thirds of the County's cropland, corn about half of that. A settlement had existed since the time of the Republic of Texas. But in 1910, owners of the land platted the town of Placedo, added gutters and sidewalks, and recruited new citizens forming a lovely community.
It is believed that Suzie died while they were living in Victoria County and is likely buried there, although her death certificate has not yet been found. By the time of the 1930 census, Joseph Fritscher, age 77, was a widower living with his daughter, Mary Till, and her husband Charles and their four-year-old daughter Leona on the Till family's cotton farm in Robstown, Nueces County, Texas.
Joseph's daughter, Wilhelmina Boerner, called Minnie, or Frances by the family, also lived in Nueces County, a short distance away in the little farming community of Violet. In 1930, Minnie Boerner and her husband Herman, age 56, and their six children are listed on the census in Violet, Texas. In 1935 Joseph moved from Robstown to Violet, Texas to live with Minnie and Herman Boerner. It was there on April 23, 1939 when Joseph died of gangrene of the foot, as a complication of his diabetes. He is buried at the Catholic Cemetery in Robstown, Nueces County, Texas.
For additional information on Joseph Fritscher, see "Joseph's Story" from the Home Page.