|The Old Home|
Photo from www.Irsch/Saar.de
|The New Land|
With apologies for any translation mistakes I make with my self-taught German, this is my attempt to share the May Irscher Newsletter article writtem by Herr Meyer to be read by the residents of Irsch, Kreis Saarburg, Rhineland, Germany."
A particularly strong connection exists between a woman from Waukesha, Wisconsin and our family. For the time being, she has intensively researched the history of the emigration of her great-great grandparents: John Mayer (Meier, Meyer, Maier) from Irsch and Magdalena Rauls from Oberzerf. She is writing a book about them. In advance of that, extensive information on the project is contained in her versatile blog about Irsch, indexed on the Irsch-Saar website and called "Village Life in Kreis Saarburg, Germany" It is under the "Documents" link. To date, she has traveled to Germany four times and now calls our country "my old homeland."
In April 1861 her great-great grandparents with their family and some other families from Irsch started on their way to Le Havre. After receiving the naturalization permit, the 35-year-old John Mayer and his 33-year-old wife Magdalena Rauls Meier with their 10-year-old son Mathias; the 7-year-old daughter, Anna; the son, Johann 2; Michael,10 months old; and a 50-year-old uncle left for America on board the sailing ship "Rattler." A total of 197 passengers were crowded into it, including yet more families and people from Irsch. Thirty-two days after a perilous voyage across the Atlantic, they reached the Port of New York on 9 May 1861.
At length they settled in St. John, Wisconsin where already by 1856 some former immigrants from Irsch had joined a few others in this near wilderness in northern Calumet County. Possibly among them were John Mayer's sister Anna, born on February 26, 1829 and brother Michael, two years younger. The early years of the settlers were marked by hard work to convert the forest land into fertile farmland. Today, St. John in Woodville Township is located between Lake Winnebago and Lake Michigan in one of the most fertile farmlands in Wisconsin.
Since the settlers were almost all Catholic, in 1862 they established a parish church built of wooden logs. Between 1862 and 1869, the parish was run by the pastor from another village called Hollandtown (because it was first settled by emigrants from Holland). He came once a month to celebrate the Mass and the sacraments. In 1865 a new church was built because the log church was now too small for the church members. It was consecrated by the Archbishop of Milwaukee and dedicated to St. John the Baptist. The old log church became the first school building for St. John. The children of the settlers of St. John were taught by Theresa Wolf, a German Catholic who had, with her parents, immigrated a short time before. In 1870 Father Anton Leitner became the first priest of the parish.
The parish of St. John celebrates its 150th anniversary this year on three Sundays in May, after re-establishing the original stones in the old part of the cemetery and doing extensive renovation and restoration work on the church. The Centenial festival committee was led by Joe Kees and his sister, two descendants of an early Irsch immigrant, Michael Kees, their great-great grandfather. The religious belief that originated with the St. John founders is still conserved and living today.
|St. John the Baptist Church, St. John, Wisconsin|
|St. Gervasius and Protasius Church in Irsch|
Photo from www.irsch/saar.de