Why did Paul Kraemer go to Fredonia?

What and where is Fredonia?

Fredonia is both a village and a township (red shading)  in Ozaukee County about 35 miles north of downtown Milwaukee as can be seen on the map below. The township dates from 1847 when it was set off from the City of Port Washington. Fredonia Township was settled mainly by Catholics and Lutherans from Luxembourg and Germany.[1]

2016 Map showing Fredonia township (red shading) and the Village of Fredonia

Why did Paul Kraemer go to Fredonia?

We know that Paul Kraemer spent a year in Fredonia, Wisconsin because two historians indicate that Paul lived in Fredonia, Ozaukee County, Wisconsin for about a year before going to Plain, Sauk County. Reverend Lauer, who ministered to Plain and wrote a history of St. Luke Parish, said: Paul Kraemer and his family from Irlach, near Neuburg von Wald [Neunburg vom Wald in Bavaria, Germany] came in 1866 to America and first of all, it is true, came to Ozaukee County, Wisconsin and in May of 1867 came to Plain (Lauer, 1907, p. 7).[2]

Hildegard Thering, the postmaster of Plain who also wrote a history of Plain, said:

Paul Kraemer, carpenter and weaver, his wife Walburga (Stangl) Kraemer, and family came from Irlach, Bavaria. They arrived in America in 1866, then to Ozaukee County, and in May 1867 to Plain (Thering, 1983, p. 7).[3]

Unfortunately, these authors did not explain why Paul went to Fredonia or what he did there. Research on immigrants indicates that they frequently went to the home of somebody they knew from the old country who had gone before them – a relative, neighbor or friend.  This was the case with Paul and Walburga too.

We believe that they went to Fredonia because a former neighbor from Irlach had a farm there, and Paul was traveling with his younger brother. That neighbor was Adam Wachter who had left Irlach in 1846. Adam’s younger brother was John Wachter.[4]   But the relationships also go deeper, farther back in time and over a long time. Here is a summary:

  • Paul Kraemer was born at,  at lived at, Irlach #27;  John and Adam Wachter lived at Irlach #30; so they were neighbors.
  • In June 1844, Adam Wachter married Justina Vogl. Paul’s father, Christoph Kraemer, was a witness for the Wachter-Vogl wedding. Christoph’s second wife and Paul’s step-mother was Katharine Vogl – a relative of Justina. So they were relatives and neighbors. Paul was 16 years old at the time, would have attended the wedding and would have known both Adam (age 28) and John (age 23).
  • Two years later, in 1846, Adam Wachter left Irlach and went to America alone. Paul Kraemer would have known of this emigration event; he was 18 years old at the time. Adam bought land in Fredonia Township and established a farm there in 1847. An 1872 plat map shows that he had 140 acres. The earlier map shows that Adam’s farm was in the far northwest corner of Fredonia Township.[5]
  • In the 20 years between 1846 and 1866, Adam Wachter would have written home about his experiences in America and Paul Kraemer certainly would have heard about them. Those letters would have influenced both John and also Paul’s thinking about going to America.
  • Paul Kraemer and his family traveled to Hamburg to New York with John Wachter. The Teutonia ship manifest shows that the ship arrived at the Port of New York on June 14, 1866.

Given all these circumstances, we believe that John Wachter and Paul’s family went from New York to Fredonia and to the Adam Wachter farm together. They would have traveled by train from New York as there was train service from New York to Chicago and on to Milwaukee at the time.  They would have taken an oxcart to Fredonia.

Moreover, we believe that John and Paul had planned to go to the Adam Wachter farm from the beginning of their journey. This is supported by other research on immigration patterns.

1872 Partial map of Fredonia Township showing the Adam Wachter farm and Waubaca

What did Paul do in Fredonia?

We do not know. It is possible that worked and lived that whole first year with the Wachters as Paul could have helped with the farm work in exchange for room and board. Or Paul might worked as a farm hand on another farm under such an arrangement. It is also possible that he worked as a common laborer in one of the lumber, door and window, or furniture businesses in the Village of Waubeka [see lower right corner of map above].[6] An 1872 business listing showed that there were such businesses in Waubeka and it is possible that they were there as early as 1866. But, we really do not know what Paul did in Fredonia and we have not found any records that might provide a clue.

We do know that in June 1867, Paul and Walburga bought a farm about three miles east of Plain on what is now Butternut Road just off County Highway B.   How they came to buy this particular farm is yet another story.

A little more about Adam Wachter and Wachters

Adam Wachter was married three times. In Germany, he married Justina Vogl in 1844, but left Irlach alone only two years later. We do not know if tragedy struck down his wife and child or if he simply left as we have not researched this issue.

In Wisconsin, Adam Wachter married Barbara Ruhland in November 1846 and they had a large family. They lived mostly in Fredonia, Ozaukee County, Wisconsin. There were still living there in the 1875 Wisconsin Census. In the 1880 census, Adam was a widower living in Woodville, Calumet County, Wisconsin, with two of his children. In 1887, at age 71, Adam married Katharine Melcher. He died in Woodville at age 82 in 1898.

Other Wachter relatives lived in Roxbury (near Sauk City) in the 1870s. The Peter Wachter family lived there and John Wachter was a witness at the wedding of one of his daughters so they were related. Peter Wachter was a witness to Paul Kraemers will. The Wachters later moved to the Mazomanie area in Wisconsin where many live today.


[1] Histories of Washington and Ozaukee Counties, Western Publishing, 1881; and www.village.fredonia.wi.us/; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_Washington_Wisconsin.Source: Google maps.

[2] Lauer, Rev. John G., St. Luke’s Church History, 1907. Self-published.

[3] Hildegarde Thering. A History of Plain, Wisconsin, 1982. Franklin Township Historical Society.

[4] Wachter Avenue in Plain is named after him. Debbie Blau has written a wonderful story about John Wachter and his relationship with the Village of Plain.  See Debbie Blau, “Wachter Avenue in Plain”, Old Franklin Township Historical Society Newsletter, December 2014 (http://www.townoffranklinhistoricalsociety.com/id26.html).

[5] The farm was quite far from the Village of Fredonia just off Interstate 43 (see map above). So we believe that the Fredonia referred to by the historians is the Township rather than the village although they might not have known the difference.

[6] Such work as a common laborer in one of these business could have been built-up by children or grandchildren and could be the genesis of the often-repeated story that Paul was a carpenter. There will be more on this in a future story.