Friday, October 24, 2014

A Teenager To America: Mathias Risch, Jr., Dearborn County, Indiana ---- 52 Ancestors Challenge

         This young man arrived in America in 1828 at 15 years of age with his father, mother and four siblings.  The family's record from their Catholic church in Hugstetten, Baden, has this message: "Ist im Junious 1828 nach Nordamerika mit frau und kinder ausgewandert."  Translated -- "In June 1828 emigrated to North America with wife and children."  Next to Mathias's father's name in the list of emigrants from their small town was a 7, indicating the total number in this family.  There were 40 people in all in that church record who left Hugstetten that year.  Maybe some of them returned.  But most of them probably knew when they got in the wagon with whatever belongings they could carry that  they would never come back to their Baden home. I wonder how a teenage boy felt leaving behind his relatives and friends and the places where he had roamed.  This Risch family was bound for the southeastern area of Indiana called Dearborn County, across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, Ohio.  There would be Mathias Risch, Jr.'s home for the remainder of his life. 
          What's the story of Mathias Risch, Jr?  How did this young man's life develop in the new country?  Surely the main goal of his parents was to give him and his brothers a better outlook for their future - the opportunity to have land and to improve their standard of living from that expected in Baden.   I wrote earlier about Mathias Risch, Sr, including background on how immigrants to southeastern Indiana would have found the land, how they made their homes and fed themselves in the 1820s through 1860s. There are a few historical tidbits you may want to reread in that post.  (I'll post a link at the bottom of this page.)  For Lincoln_boyhood_national_memorialinstance, one of the Dearborn County histories I turned up explained the work required of new settlers in these words: " With hard labor the unaided settler could clear and burn an acre of land in three weeks.  It usually required six or seven years for the pioneer to open a small farm and build a better house than his first cabin of round logs."
         At the time that Mathias would have been helping his family build their log home on the land his father purchased in Dearborn County, another young man barely four years older, named Abraham Lincoln, was living about 170 miles southwest near Gentryville, Indiana, in Spencer County.  (See Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial at  The photo hear depicts the typical farm home of that time, similar to the homes that Abe and Mathias lived in with their families .  Can you picture the Risch family of seven living here?  As a young man Mathias would be sharing this space with his parents and four brothers, probably feeling fortunate to have the materials for the shelter and the land to grow food.  
       Mathias Risch, Jr., and his brothers acquired survival skills of the times as they matured in Dearborn County.  Although Mathias being a teenager when he arrived presumably was already introduced to farming, hunting, harvesting wood and other skills of young men in the 1820s.  I can imagine him in the dense forests and rugged hills of southern Indiana perfecting his trapping skills and preparing logs to build wagons and construct their home.  It must have been very difficult clearing those lands to raise crops for eating and to sell.  Maybe there were others, neighbors and church friends, who shared their food and shelter with the Risch family until they were sufficiently established.    
     Between 1828 and 1840, one of the skills that Mathias perfected under his father's tutelage was carpentry.  Mathias, Jr., was recognized as one of the first carpenters in New Alsace, Indiana, the town established in 1838 near his home in the southern part of Dearborn County.  As his own family grew, he used both those carpentry skills and his farming knowledge to provide for them.  He became a husband twice and a father eleven times.  After Mathias passed away, one of his daughters,  Mary Anna Risch (1851-1911), made her way to Indianapolis, and married Charles A. Kuhn, providing the family connection that carries on today. 
     There are, of course, many details surrounding each segment of a person's life.  We can't know what exactly came about or how he felt as Mathias had these experiences.  But if we look at the events, we might be able to use our imagination to create some kind of understanding or picture of him.  Let's try that!  Following is a brief profile of Mathias Risch, Jr.:
--- 5 Jan 1813:  Mathias Risch, Jr., is born in Hugstetten, Baden, House No. 55.  The baptismal record from his Catholic parish church reads:
     In the year 1813, the 25th of January, at 9 p.m. was born in House No. 55, and at noon on January 26 was baptized by the undersigned in the parish house, because of the cold, Mathias, legitimate son of the carpenter Mathias Risch and Maria Weiss.  Witness to the baptism was the baker, Konrad Risch, together with godfather Mathias Weiss, member of the court of justice.  Godmother was Barbara Graner, born Fackler.  --- J. M. Meissburger, Pastor
--- June 1828: Risch family emigrated from Baden to Baltimore, Maryland to Dearborn County, Indiana, in the southeastern area of the state. Mathias Jr. was 15 years old and he had four younger brothers. 
--- 31 Oct 1828:  Mathias Risch, Jr.'s father purchases 80 acres in Kelso Township, Dearborn County, Indiana.  Here began the family's establishment of their home in Indiana.
--- 1838: Town of New Alsace, in southern Dearborn County, IN, established. Mathias lived near this town and is buried in the cemetery there.1860 Census Mathias Risch Jr.
--- 1839:  Mathias's father, Mathias Risch, Sr., died at age 55 in 1839.  The family history is that he was killed by a falling tree.  Could he and his sons have been clearing land for their farm?  Mathias Jr. was 26 years old and not yet married.  His widowed mother, Maria, was 55.
--- 27 Feb 1840:  Mathias married Basilia Winter in Dearborn County, Indiana, in St. Paul Catholic Church. It is thought their families may have known each other in Baden.
--- 12 Aug 1840:  Mathias Risch becomes a naturalized American citizen. Two local citizens, John Boss and John Woolyoung swore to his good behavior and moral character.  He renounced all allegiance to the Grand Duke of Baden.
--- 1840 Census:  At 27 years of age Mathias is recorded in the Jackson Township, Dearborn County, Indiana, census.  His occupation is listed as  manufactures and trade,  probably referring to carpentry.
--- 8 Feb 1847:  Mathias purchases 40 acres of land in Kelso Township, Dearborn County.  
--- June 1848: Mathias's wife Basilia dies.  He is a widower at age 35 with three sons and a thirteen-day-old daughter.
--- 30 Nov 1849:  A second marriage for both parties, Mathias marries Julianna Leppert Karrer, a 22 year old widow, in St. Paul Catholic Church in New Alsace, Indiana. Mathias became the stepfather for two sons of Julianna's.
--- 1850 Census:  It appears that two of Mathias's children with Basilia Winter died before 1850, based on this census.  One girl and one boy would have been two and four years old.  They are not included in the family that was enumerated.
--- 1851 - 1870:    Seven children are born to Mathias and Julianna in Dearborn County, Indiana, in these ten years.  Their daughter born in 1851, Mary Anna Risch, was my great grandmother. 
--- 1860 Census: Mathias and Julianna's household includes nine children in the 1860 census of Kelso Township, and his occupation is farmer. He is 47 years old and Julianna is 33.    (See the census listing in the image on the right.  Lines 2 through 12, household #73.)
--- 1870 Census:  The Risch household in 1870 included seven of their children between the ages of 19 and 3. At age 59, Mathias again indicates that he is a farmer.
--- 27 Feb 1876: Mathias dies suddenly at age 64.  He is buried in St. Paul's Catholic Cemetery, New Alsace, Indiana.  This is the way the brief death record reads from St. Paul's historical files: Risch, Matthias, Died 27 February 1876 , died after receiving the sacraments.  Wife Julianna nee Leppert.  Burial on the 28th.
     It would Risch, Mathias Jr., Tombstone - St. Paul Catholic Cemetery, New Alsace, Indianabe nice to have an image of Mathias, my great great grandfather, but that has not surfaced.  As always, I am hoping to hear from fellow researchers who may have those treasures. For now, here is a photo of his grave in New Alsace, Dearborn County, Indiana.  RIP.
    I would say that Mathias Risch, Jr.'s emigration to America brought him good fortune.  Of course, there were some trying times for him in Indiana.  But overall he was able to gain a livelihood that he would probably not have acquired in the place where he was born and lived until a teenager.  Wars, economic crisis and increased restrictions in the first half of the 19th century brought many difficulties for young people trying to establish an occupation and a home in the southwestern regions of Germany.  Mathias and his family seemed to be among the determined and hard-working immigrants that took risks and found the way to better themselves, even through some difficult situations.  Perhaps his industriousness provided inspiration that we can recognize in some of his current descendants. 
     If you have an interest in the Risch line descending from Mathias's great grandparents, Joseph Risch and Barbara Oberietor CLICK HERE.
     Your suggestions or questions are welcomed.  Click the comments section below to leave me a message.  Thanks for visiting Indiana Ties.

For more Risch family information, click on one of these stories:
Mathias Risch, Sr. - Our Farmer in Dearborn County, IN
Julianna Leppert Karrer Risch - Was her life deprived?…
The Risch Surname
 Note on 52 Ancestors Challenge:  I am participating in the 52 Ancestors Challenge being led by Amy Johnson Crow at  She's bringing together family history writers who share ancestral stories throughout 2014.  There's a wide variety of stories each week written by people everywhere and about people from everywhere.  Visit Amy's blog to enjoy a few.

Copyright © 2014 Nancy Niehaus Hurley

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