Stories from Squaw Creek Homestead


Dorothea Mazonetz Ertl

Squaw Creek Homestead is the land first settled by my Bohman family ancestors near Auburndale. The barn and home were still standing a few years ago when I last drove by.

Dorothea Masonetz Ertl (my 4th great grandmother) and her husband Johann Ertl were married on 3 November 1847 in Hyršov, West Bohemia, Czech Republic (formerly called Hiershau, Austria). Johann and Dorothea had a baby boy and as was traditional, they named the child Johann after his father. Baby Johann died in infancy and when the next son was born, he was also named Johann. (It was very common to reuse the names of deceased children in those days). Four more baby boys were born and died in infancy – all named Johann. According to the family story, the priest finally said “no more Johann!” and insisted that the next male child be called Franz Johann. That son lived and several more children were born and lived to adulthood – none named Johann.

At some point Johann and Dorothea were owners of a wine keller – something like a pub- in the late 1870s/early 1880s. As the story goes, one day a sharp looking man in a military uniform walked into the wine keller and Anna, the youngest daughter of Johann and Dorothea, was smitten. His name was Jakob Bohman and he was a musician in the military band.

Anna Ertl became pregnant and had her daughter (also called Anna) on 26 February 1878. In the church register, baby Anna is recorded as illegitimate initially, and then she was declared legitimate with the marriage of Jakob Bohman to Anna Ertl on 20 May of the same year. Jakob and Anna had 2 more children, Margaret and George, by 1881.

1869 Census of Hyršov

Anna’s father, Johann Ertl, cut himself one day while stripping the rusty metal ring from a wine barrel. In spite of medical attention, the cut on his chest became infected and he died. I haven’t found a firm date of death for him, but I know that he was still living in 1869 when the census was taken in Hyršov. The family story narrative makes it seem that Johann died shortly before the family came to the US in 1883.

Anna was pregnant with her 4th child when Jakob disappeared. Military officers came and searched the house and property. The family story states that Anna was so concerned that she consulted a local spiritualist. The spiritualist told Anna that Jakob was AWOL from the military with 9 or 10 other men and on a ship bound for America. The spiritualist also told Anna that her child would be born just in time to make a trip on a steamer, the S.S. Elbe, that was making it’s maiden voyage to America when it returned to Bremen.

SS Elbe

Records show that Jakob Bohman arrived in New York on 2 April 1883. It is not known whether or not he told Anna before he left what his plan was. It is also not known why he chose Wisconsin and how he communicated to Anna that she should come too. It is almost certain that he did so. Anna would have had to travel some 400 miles from Hyršov to Bremen to get to the port. She would have had to make arrangements to sell her property and belongings, and she would have had to have known how and where to meet Jakob once here in the US.

Maria Bohman was born on 1 September 1883 in Hyršov and Anna secured passage for her family to travel to America. Anna had to lie about Maria’s age because children had to be at least 5 weeks old to travel at that time. She took her 4 small children, her widowed mother Dorothea, and her youngest brother Joseph – who was only 17 years old himself – with her. On 7 September 1883 the Elbe left Bremen for America.

To be continued…

These memories were passed down by Helen Jo Breu in letters written to my great great grandmother, my grandmother, and to me over several years from the early 1980s to the late 1990s.

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