Today it’s Martin Kuhn’s turn as my 52 Ancestors feature. He is a maternal fourth great grandfather to my niece’s youngest child, Eli Marcum. Since Eli is celebrating a birthday this week, I thought he may enjoy seeing a part of his family history online. Posted here is a relationship chart between Martin Kuhn and Eli, the smiling young man on the right.
The story of the immigration of Martin and Katherine (Birkenstock) Kuhn's family to America is an example of how sometimes the details of family lore can change as time passes and the stories are retold. You know how we’ve all witnessed the example of whispering a piece of information in someone’s ear who passes it along, and after a series of people hear the information repeated the details change.
In this case, we in this family are extremely fortunate that my Aunt Dolly (Dolores Weber Holzer) became interested in talking with living relatives about her family history, to pass along to her own descendants. She preserved this piece of the Kuhn story many years ago, exactly as it was told to her by relatives who knew the story of their immigrant grandparents. This is the excerpt from Aunt Dolly’s writings as she interviewed the Martin Kuhn descendant:“There are 7 children of some man named Kuhn and his wife, my great , great grandmother Catherine Birkenstock. At some time Fred and Barney (not sure), came over on a sailboat when they were ages 14 and 15. They got jobs in America and when ....... Richard, Adam and Mary and their mother, Catherine. Their father was dead at this time. They came from Germany."
Of course, we cousins interested in family history latched on to this juicy information. We’ve been running with it for years, looking into any leads, connecting the dots that relate to these details of our Kuhns. As the story develops there are many twists and turns and discoveries. But this particular chapter of the story is about Martin. After the facts are gathered, it was actually confirmed that Martin Kuhn, Eli Marcum’s fourth great grandfather, did come to America and make a new home with his family. However, I believe the facts also give us the answer as to how the story came to be told the way it was to Aunt Dolly. See what you think. Here’s that story:
The Martin Kuhn family emigrated to America from Neustadt, Kurhessen, (Neustadt, Hessen, Germany) in the 1850s and 1860s. They left their homeland in three phases. The oldest child immigrated in 1853, followed by three more in 1857, then Martin and Catherine and the remaining five children disembarked in Baltimore, Maryland, on the 21st of August, 1862. We think the family reunited in Cincinnati, where at least two of the earlier immigrant Kuhn children were living in 1862. These details of the family history are still coming together. However, by 1864, Martin and Catherine and seven of the children had moved 60 miles west of Cincinnati to Connersville, Fayette County, Indiana. (Details about Martin and Katherine’s family are in the reports linked at the bottom of this post.)
Perhaps Martin had news of opportunities for employment in this eastern Indiana region. There is evidence of other families from Neustadt that settled in Connersville. So, we can probably presume that there were letters written to friends and family in Neustadt with the news of jobs available. There were mills in Connersville taking advantage of the Whitewater Canal that ran through the town. In 1867 the White Water Valley Railroad took over the right-of-way, but the mills in the Connersville-Metamora area still used the water from the canal. The railroad facilitated transportation of people and goods to other parts of Indiana and the Cincinnati area.
I most likely won’t ever know what type of work Martin found to support the family. He reported to the immigration officials that he was a weaver. In the 1870 census his occupation is reported as day laborer, which could indicate he was not considered skilled. He could have been working in a mill or factory. However, his life in the United States was short. He was only a resident of Fayette County for about 11 years when he died in Connersville, Indiana, on June 4, 1873 at the age of 63.
Within a few years after Martin’s death, there were additional changes for this family. Katherine Kuhn and some of her children moved from Connersville to Indianapolis sometime between 1873 and 1879. Katherine lived with one or more of her children in Indianapolis until her death in 1890. This is where the incorrect piece of the story that I mentioned above begins to have a possible explanation. Remember that in Aunt Dolly’s interview she was told that the father of the family was dead when the family came to America. Can’t you imagine how these details could become misconstrued? The place of Martin’s death is the only incorrect piece. He didn’t die in Germany before they came to America. He died in Connersville before Katherine and her children moved to Indianapolis. The descendants that were telling the story may not have known about the history of the Kuhn family in Connersville at all. Or they just didn’t have the information on Martin since he died 17 years before his wife. And, therefore, as the details are repeated the story morphs a little. Right?
So, Martin Kuhn actually was alive and came to America in 1862 with his family. Now I have to get busy and see if I can find even more about him so that Eli, and the numerous great grandchildren, have as much of this family story as possible.
By the way, have a Happy Birthday Eli Xavier Marcum!! I hope that you make good memories to tell your grandchildren. And thanks to everyone for reading Indiana Ties.
You may want to browse these related stories and reports:
Kuhn Birkenstock Family Group and Descendants Report
Katherine Birkenstock Kuhn’s Will Discovery
Copyright © 2014 Nancy Niehaus Hurley