family history, reunion at Greencreek July 4
By Jay Nuxoll (email@example.com) assisted by Wanda Reif Nuxoll, Josef August
Elizabeth R. Nuxoll, Bonnie Nuxoll Kinney, Mike Wasko, Rod Arnzen, Frank
Nuxoll, Albert Kleinberg, and Alice Kowaleski, with thanks to German
Consultants: F. J. Tegenkamp and Walter Wendeln of Dinklage, Germany
Now will I praise those godly ones, each in their own time:
These were godly people whose virtues have not been forgotten; whose
wealth remains in their families, their heritage with their descendants.
Through God’s covenant with them their family endures, their posterity,
for their sake.
And for all time their progeny will endure their glory will never be
blotted out. Their bodies are peacefully laid away, but their names live
on and on. At gatherings their wisdom is retold and the assembly
proclaims their praise.
Book of Sirach 44: 1, 10-15
The names, NUXOLL, NUXHOLL, NUXHOL, NUXHALL and/or NUXALL (and other
less known variations), go way way back. That is what is important.
Whether the description for the tiny farm, the source of their name originally
meant “at the eagle owls’ hollow” or “completely useful or fruitful” might
not be very important. But 29 year old ANNA NUXHOLL four centuries
ago insisted that her neighbor change his name if he wanted to marry her
and run her farm. Another ANNA NUXHOL two centuries later not only
had her husband change his name, she made him erect a still standing “new”
Nuxoll farmhouse in 1788 after the ancestral one burned to the ground.
Nuxoll wives throughout history have been long-suffering, supportive and
devoted (maybe even “hellishly” fruitful). Many died in childbirth.
But if they hadn’t also been capable of being assertive when it really
counted, there wouldn’t be any Nuxolls at all today, and nothing left to
show where they came from. They knew what was important.
The name of NUXOLL has come down through the centuries from a descriptive
location for their tiny ancestral farm (14 hectares = 35 acres) in a small
farming village named Bahlen now part of Dinklage close to Oldenburg, in
Nieder Saxony, North Germany. The name of the farm, the source of
surname for its inhabitants and their descendents, came from the description
given well-defined lowland, possibly a dried lake bottom, before the year
1300. According to one theory (although not everyone agrees with
it) German language experts at Munster University who specialize in derivation
of early German names say the initial descriptive location for the area
was "ton Hukes Holle" which meant “at the Eagle-Owls’s Hollow” in the early
low German dialect called Oldenburger Plattdeutsch. "Ton", they say,
was the dialect equivalent for “tun”, the common German combination of
"tu” (at) and “den" (the). "Hukes” was the early local name for what
are now known throughout Germany as “Uhus”-- Eagle-Owls. The early
local word used to describe a low-lying dampish depression, hollow or swale
(not quite a swamp), they say was “Holle”.
There are other theories. According to an 1820 edition Worterbuch
(Dictionary) of Oldenburger Plattdeutsch, the name could just as easily
(and perhaps more realistically) have come from a combination of the dialect
words “Nux” meaning “fruitful” or “useful” (as compared to the negative
expression, “Nix Nux”, = nichts, i.e. not, and “Nux” describing something
as “useless” or “worthless”) and “Holle”. But the last word was not
the dialect word for hollow (see “Hohle”). Its more common version
was capitalized and had an Umlaut (the two little dots above the “o”) and
was the name for that terrible burning place where souls are endlessly
punished. That would suggest the name described a fruitful place
in the midst of hell or a place that was hellishly fruitful (maybe “Fruitful
as Hell”) which, at least in Idaho with its numerous Nuxoll descendents,
would be appropriately meaningful. But more probably “holle” (without
capitol and without dots) was like the early adjective “volle” that came
to mean “whole” or “full”, but was an adverb meaning “totally” or
“completely”. Under that theory the name described an area completely
usable and fruitful. Assuming the farm was once a lake in the middle
of an almost impenetrable swamp, when the swamp drained it would have been
clear of brush, fertile and immediately ready for growing crops.
Well into the 20th century this area was easily identified by its expanse
of treeless grassland, and in the bleak days where no one could afford
firewood after the Second World War peat could still be dug there.
But long before description became name (when “ton” would no longer
be needed or used), the Munster pundits say that in speech the strong "n"
sound of the “ton” overpowered the consonant “H” sound at the beginning
of the word "Hukes" and elided it to sound like “Nukes” (i.e. “Nux”).
The “H” sound starting the second word “Holle” softened a bit too, and
the final unstressed “e” was totally swallowed. All was run together
as if a single word -- “Nukesholl”, but spelled either “Nuxhol” or “Nuxholl”.
Around 1800 the Nuxoll spelling become the norm in Germany, at least for
those no longer in the direct line which continued to inherit control of
the ancestral farm. Even if none of these “Zellers”(i.e.
head farmers”) remain in Germany, the surname there is still pronounced
in the same way it has always been in the local dialect -- “Nukes” (the
first syllable accented) and “Holl”. In the United States there
is variation in pronunciation and accents, which created differences in
spelling immediately when the ancestors came to America, the very first
arriving probably in 1833.
earliest written record of the surname was in a levy upon the livestock
of side-by-side farms made in 1498 by both the spiritual and temporal ruler
of the area, the Catholic Prince Archbishop of Munster. The extent
of the levy shows that the area of the farm had to have been already extensively
developed, probably existing long before the local parish in the area was
founded in 1350, maybe even in the prior century. In the levy the
area of the farms was rendered phonetically in Latin, but the names of
the two “Zellers”, the farmers in charge, were not. One was HINNERK
TOR NUXHOL (one “L”), the spelling of last name (and even first) of subsequent
operators varying only slightly in records of other levies through 1562.
The next door farm levied upon in 1498 was operated by Johann Rentze with
his location described as being “ton Nukesholle”, a full blown spelling
using an “N”, not an “H”, and still using the “ton”. This argues
strongly against the Munster theory of eagle owl name derivation for the
location. Perhaps the second smaller farm split off from the larger
area involved, but its Zeller was distinguished from other Johanns in the
area by a shortened reference to his father’s name, Rentze (from Laurentius
or Lawrence) in the form of a surname. It might have been common
for a son to be identified by his father’s name, but unexpected that such
a surname should continue basically unchanged to this very day. The
farm next door to the Nuxoll farm is still called the “Renze” farm.
Surnames only started in North Germany after the late middle ages.
Tradesmen became known by the names of their trades – Schmidt, Schumacher
or Schneider. But before that farm families had long been identified
by the name of their farm. With farm names so important, the Zeller
who ran a farm was expected to bear its name. Even when members were
forced to move off those farms and fend for themselves elsewhere when only
the oldest sons inherited, those disinherited still kept the old surname
even when identified in church records as “Heuermen” working for others
on their farms. For example a person shown living “Bei Schiplage”
was working on the Schiplage farm for the Zeller with that surname.
At least twice in the history of the Nuxolls there was no son to inherit
and take over the farm when the head farmer died. Because of the
first instance an unbroken chain can be directly traced by all living persons
with some variation of the Nuxoll/Nuxholl name back through ANNA NUXHOLL
(born 1604). As a young woman she inherited the farm from her father,
HEINRICH NUXHOLL (born 1580). Nuxolls really should be thankful to
her. At age 29 she married her 49 year-old neighbor, HEINRICH UCHTMANN,
but insisted he change his name – he became “genannt” (i.e. known as) NUXHOLL”
– if he wanted to become Zeller and run the farm. Who knows if he
considered that a huge sacrifice (she so young and he so old), but their
descendents continued the ancestral name of this strong woman who outlived
him (she died at 90). Unusual for a woman of 29 not to be already
married in those days, but without even pictures (certainly no photos)
we must not guess why. However, this young woman saw to it that her
surname, not that of her husband, continued. Through her all the
various branches of the Nuxoll family can trace their roots to the farm
with its descriptive name.
The records of Anna’s descendents -- their births, baptisms, marriages
(even names of baptismal sponsors and the witnesses at their weddings)
-- can be found in the archives of St.Catharine’s, the Catholic Parish
in Dinklage or in those of neighboring Bakum or Carum parishes. Prior to
1300 parish records are almost impossible to trace because only first names
were used. When St. Catherine’s was founded, it was divided out of
an older one at Lohne on the higher ground to the East. There probably
was a chapel in Dinklage before 1300, but the area was barely populated
because it flooded all the time. Reduction of that flooding and permanent
settlement came only because of the great influx of people fleeing from
the plague in the 11th to 13th centuries, the same influx that required
development of lasting surnames. Sadly, the more recent records of
all these churches are also full of the details of lives and deaths of
a great many who fought American cousins not too distantly related in both
world wars. Some also never came home from the Russian front.
German spelling did not become standardized until long after the invention
of moveable type by Gutenberg around 1640. Even when the ancestral
Nuxoll home burned to the ground a century or so later (and a “new” one
erected), the NUXHOL spelling of the name was used as regularly as NUXHOLL,
and interchangeably even for the same person. It all depended
how someone wrote the sounds that he heard. It was only at the turn
of the nineteenth century, perhaps because of overwhelming French influence
at the time of Napoleon, or for no reason more mysterious than a new pastor
at the church at Bakum (near Dinklage), that the surnames of children (at
least those of Heuermen) began to be written into the parish record as
NUXOLL (and even at first, NUXOL). Whatever the cause, that spelling
– NUXOLL -- has become the norm in Germany and is the only way the name
is listed in the telephone directories in the area.
already mentioned, the original ancestral Nuxoll home was destroyed by
fire and a “new” one built to take its place. It still exists (although
there is no longer a Nuxoll farm), but does not stand where the old one
burned to the ground on Easter Sunday in 1786. Instead, it is on
the opposite side of the main road running through Bahlen from Dinklage
north to Märschendorf. The Zeller at the time, GERD BOCKLOGE
“genannt” (i.e. called) NUXHOL, was the second of those who had to take
on the surname of his wife, ANNA MARGARETA NUXHOL, to run her farm after
their marriage. In 1788 he built for her the “new” house re-using
some of the old charred oak beams. Into one was carved their names
in French script which makes the “H’ of NUXHOL look deceptively like
a “Z”. That beam is supposed to have come from the primeval forest
bordering the old lakebed, which became the family farm.
Sadly, neither that house nor the farm is owned by the Nuxolls any
more. By 1801 the debt on the family farm was more than 2,000 thalers;
by 1831 more than 2,500. Perhaps the debt started as the cost of
rebuilding, but it was truly a terrible burden because at a time the full
value of the entire farm at best was no more than 4,000 thalers.
By 1844 pressure from its many creditors forced the farm into bankruptcy.
The highest bidder at the auction was a Dinklage business man named Arnold
Pöppelman, but he kept the Nuxoll farm only until 1852 when he acquired
the ancestral holdings of the Lethe family in the nearby parish of Emstek.
Then he sold the Nuxoll farm to Heinrich “klein” Sextro whose older brother
had inherited their father’s farm. Entirely unconnected to the Nuxolls,
he was able to became Zeller without having to change his name. But
in 1893, upon his death, his son who would have become the Zeller emigrated
to America with his children, staying barely long enough to sell the farm
to his widowed sister, Bernadina (“klein” Sextro) Kröger. Her
descendants still occupy the farm today, but graciously allow visitors
to gaze at the names and 1788 date the Nuxhol couple carved into that beam
more than two centuries ago. The building is sturdy and still in
Those of the Zeller lineage brought the NUXHOLL spelling to America
first, about a dozen years before any NUXOLL came. The NUXHALL variation
came about almost immediately as neighbors persisted on spelling the name
like it was pronounced. In 1833, eleven years before the fateful
sale of the farm, JOHAN HERMANN HEINRICH NUXHOLL (born May 14, 1803), the
very last to inherit it traditionally as oldest son also became the very
first Nuxholl to come to America. He was seeking the fortune it would
have taken to save it when he arrived in Covington, Kentucky and he left
behind his desperate wife and two children to run the farm. At least
they were able to rejoin him in 1845 in America after the bankruptcy.
There the couple had more children despite that long separation.
Eventually almost all his remaining brothers and sisters came to Covington,
six of the ten children of HERMANN HEINRICH NUXHOLL, (born November 26,
1778), the last Nuxholl Zeller to operate the farm until he died.
The NUXOLLS left living in the Dinklage area were for the most part (and
still are) the descendents of Heuermen whose great-great or great-great-great
grandparents had never been the ones to inherit the farm. Many spelling
their names that way also came to America through the 1800’s. By
the mid 1900’s some adopted the NUXALL spelling to reflect pronunciation,
especially in eastern Oregon. There have also been instances when
the final “L” was dropped so names are spelled NUXOL or NUXAL. There
are also instances of the name as NUXELL or NOXELL. Stories of both
planned and unplanned name changes through immigration process are not
unusual for many other families who came to this country.
But the centennial celebration book of the St. John the Apostle’s Catholic
parish in Carum entitled, “Carum, einst & jetzt” (Carum, as it used
to be and still is), probably most fully reveals the history of the area
and its living conditions that the Nuxoll peoples abandoned when they became
“Auswanderers” (emigrants). The emigration became widespread by the
1840’s, and by the end of the 1800’s almost two thirds of all the young
men and women of the area had departed for other lands, mainly for America.
There never had been enough land. Living conditions were dismal at
best. Families always suffered at the death of a Zeller when only
the oldest sons inherited the farms and the rest had to leave. Many
had been forced to depend on seasonal jobs in the Dutch lowlands which
became more scarce as population increased.
One of the very best reasons to leave was to avoid the mandatory six-year
military duty imposed upon all men at age 20 by the Prussians who took
over control of the area after the fall of Napoleon. Military duty
caused a most galling conflict of religion for Nuxolls since the Duke of
Oldenburg was Lutheran and they were all Catholic. Those who left
in time happily avoided the big Franco Prussian war of 1870.
The most famous and prolific of “auswanderers” to America, even if
not the earliest one, was HERMAN HEINRICH (H.H. or Herman Henry) NUXOLL
(born March 23, 1829). His second generation Heuermann father who
had been forced to serve the Lutheran Duke encouraged his oldest son to
leave at age 19 to avoid that. Details of his 1848 trip to America
are well known both in that area of Germany and in America because of the
letters (one even printed in full in the Carum parish centennial book)
he wrote home to his parents, brothers, sisters, and grandmother.
He sailed from Bremerhaven and landed at Baltimore where he took the famous
B&O railroad to Cincinnati, Ohio. There he got a job as a bookkeeper
at a lumber mill run by an Irishman who taught him English with a brogue
he never lost.
Within a year he managed to send enough money to bring his next three
younger brothers. Unfortunately the oldest of these, 17 year old
GERHARD (born October 10, 1832), became sick on ship and died in a hospital
in New Orleans in May, 1849 even as the other two, 14 year old JOHANN WESSEL
(J. Wessel) NUXOLL (born November 8, 1834) and 11 year old JOHANN HEINRICH
(John H.) NUXOLL (born December 19, 1837), were continuing upriver by steam
ship to Cincinnati. They had been forced to leave him behind, and
only learned months later that he died. By the next year the rest
of the family -- parents, two younger sisters, their youngest brother and
maternal grandmother joined them in Cincinnati in 1850. Their descendents
have cousins all over the United States, in Canada, in Germany and even
On February 1, 1853 Herman Henry married Elisabeth Bernadina “Dena”
Auman in Cincinnati. She had come with her folks from the Dinklage
area too, and he and she were already well acquainted because they worked
together on a big farm in Germany before he left. After two years
(during which HH became an American citizen) they moved with their first
two children to a farm of their own in the Illinois area called Green Creek
(two words). The family kept increasing. Dena, sadly, died
in childbirth with their thirteenth child, a girl named Elisabeth who died
shortly afterwards also. Herman then married a widow named Gertrude
Waldman (born a Detters). She died too when their only son, Clemens
William, was barely 14.
On 11/18/95 Grover Cleveland made the homestead Law (Dodds Act) applicable
for portions of Indian reservations not claimed by Indians as farms, leaving
it open for settlers. Most of Herman Henry’s children, except for
some already settled with their spouses in Illinois, swiftly homesteaded
together in an Idaho area they named Greencreek (one word) after the Nez
Perce Indian Reservation was opened, HH himself being a surveyor of the
land in advance. HH visited the Idaho family for the last time in
1903 (his Illinois children may have come too) but died in St. Louis on
February 14, 1904 on the return trip. He is buried in Green Creek,
Illinois. Most of his children had eight or more children each, and
many sons. More Nuxolls now live in Idaho than in all of Germany.
The brothers and sisters of HH (and his Illinois children) had families
too, but not many of their descendents are Nuxolls for lack of sons through
succeeding generations. John H. (who on coming to American in 1849
was 11) served as the constable of Teutopolis, Illinois for many years.
A picture taken of him and his wife and family on their 50th wedding anniversary
is actually printed in the Carum parish centennial book. His descendents
still live in the nearby area and Ohio, and have held annual reunions for
many years, the next scheduled on July 17, 2005 in Teutopolis. J.
Wessel (14 when reaching America in 1849) never left the Cincinnati/Covington
area and died at age 95. Some of his descendents now reside
in the Kentucky and New York areas, and some are still Nuxolls. Two
younger sisters (two others died in Germany as infants), MARIA ELIZABETH
NUXOLL (born March 9, 1840) and BERNADINA NUXOLL (born February 4, 1843),
came to America in 1850 with their parents, grandmother and youngest brother,
FERDINAND NUXOLL (born April 8, 1847). Although he married while
still caring for the parents in Effingham, Illinois ( his mother died in
1872; his father in 1873), he had only a single daughter already married,
who stayed behind with her large family when he and his wife finally left
According to the records kept in Germany another Nuxoll family with
three children left together for America in 1845, but contact with them
was lost on the Germany side and their descendents are still to be identified.
Another Herman Nuxoll and his wife in 1928 moved to Comstock, Nebraska
where a descendent now runs what he describes on the Internet as his windmill
ranch named “Second Wind”. Besides displaying its many windmills
the ranch provides a venue for musical summer concerts with mass attendance.
In 1928 several Nuxoll (and Nuxholl) families moved to Saskatchewan, Canada
both directly from Germany and from the Cincinnati area. In 1959
after graduating from high school in Dinklage, Josef August Nuxoll (who
refers to himself as the “last of the Mohicans”), left Germany at age 18
for Canada. He now lives in Kitchener, Ontario, one of the most Germanized
areas in the world, where he uses both English and German to sell cars
and trucks every day. He has done much to reconnect and reacquaint
the branches of the families. His fluency and contacts have provided
access to genealogists in Dinklage who can consult the various parish archives.
The Nuxolls in Canada have had annual reunions for the last 32 years, the
one this year scheduled for June 12, 2005 in a park near Niagara Falls
on the Canadian side.
Because of email and the Internet all the families have started to
discover one another and their common ancestry. Exact relationships
were for a while confused due to the way so many ancestors had almost identical
names. Around 1800 many with the name HERMAN HEINRICH, or some close
variation, less than seven years difference in age and living less than
a mile apart when born shared that name with grandfathers, uncles, and
even fathers. There were so many that they can only be kept straight
by constantly checking birthdates. That has resulted in some bewildering
family trees, especially if made with ignorance that dates are not written
the same way in Germany. Their custom is to list first the number
of the day of the month; then, separated by a period, the number of the
month; and finally, again separated by a period, the year (hopefully in
four full digits to keep the centuries straight). One may think something
is wrong with a date like 14.2.1805. But that is just valentine’s
day two centuries ago. There is never a second day of a fourteenth
Plans are now getting underway for the first annual North American
reunion of the various Nuxoll, Nuxholl, Nuxhall, Nuxall, etc branches hopefully
scheduled next year somewhere near Cincinnati, Ohio, on the second week
of June, 2006. Even German cousins from Dinklage have shown interest
in attending. There is hope that JOE NUXHALL, the youngest major
league baseball pitcher ever (if not the youngest to play major league
baseball) might lend the glamour of his name to bring everyone together.
He just retired as announcer of Cincinnati Red games on September 23, 2004.
He first pitched for them on June 10, 1944 at age 15. Another famous
cousin, ELIZABETH NUXOLL, PhD., one of the nation’s preeminent history
scholars and recently selected to edit the Columbia University papers of
John Jay, first US Supreme Court Justice, is already involved. Because
of her efforts many Nuxoll ancestors can be traced on the Internet through
the Ancestry World Tree Project. Her husband is a descendent of the
J. Wessel Nuxoll who at 14 was the older of the two forced to leave their
third brother behind in New Orleans to die from cholera caught on the ship.
Elizabeth and her husband have three sons and live in New York.
To prepare for next years big Cincinnati reunion the Idaho Nuxolls
will have its own this year on July 4, 2005, “piggy back” on the annual
St. Anthony’s parish picnic in Greencreek. Almost everyone there
is a Nuxoll relative anyway so the increased attendance might hopefully
neither prove to be a huge additional burden nor a great distraction.
Joseph August Nuxoll, from Kitchener, Canada, the last of the family to
emigrate from Germany, will attend with Jay Nuxoll of Seattle whom he hosted
at the Canada reunion in 2004. They are fourth cousins, sharing the
same great, great, great grandfather, HERMAN HENRICH NUXHOLL (born September
18, 1770). They will be guests of Jay’s mother, Helen (Mrs. Ralph
L Nuxoll) of Grangeville, who will turn 93 the very day of the reunion.
Besides a photo display of the ancestral homeland, a concentrated effort
will be made to update and add histories to the Idaho family tree of about
9,000, which now records only names and dates of birth, marriage and death.
For many years it has been painfully compiled by hand by ALICE KOWALEWSKI,
of Keuterville, a Nuxoll descendent everyone hopes will be able to attend
so she can receive the recognition she so greatly deserves. The Idaho
family tree can probably never be totally current due to the birth rate
of the family.
The recent death of Andy Nuxoll in the Cottonwood area has provided
a huge trove of old family photos, some with glass negatives dating back
to his father Frank Nuxoll of Effingham, Illinois. These are already
in the process of digitization through the efforts of his lawyer, Mike
Wasko, Cottonwood, and Rod Arnzen, himself a Nuxoll descendent. The
latest of scanners, cameras and computers, will be able to add pictures,
histories and news articles of parents and grandparents to the Idaho tree.
Computer programs easily handle even the largest of trees, storing and
printing out information in a logical manner even if put in a bit here
and a bit there. The newest Family Tree Maker program even takes
into account the change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar
in 1582 when Pope Gregory XIII modified the calendar Julius Caesar had
adopted in 46 BC to bring it into sync with the seasons. Ten days
were dropped that year – October 15 directly followed October 4 – and the
rule for determining leap years was altered. HEINRICH NUXHOLL, father
of the famous ANNA who married her older UCHTMANN neighbor, “lost” ten
days of his life because he was born in 1580. His father did too
(would you believe another HEINRICH?), but he must have delighted in the
consternation of non-Catholics in the nearby Dutch lowlands who were the
first to be called “April Fools”. They refused to follow any Pope’s
new calendar, only to discover the following spring that the Easter they
were waiting to celebrate had already come and gone..
So, if you are a Nuxoll, or used to be a Nuxoll, or related to a Nuxoll,
and you have a picture of your grandfather or grandmother, or of their
homestead, or a letter or an article printed years ago about something
having to do with them, please come and bring that to the Greencreek reunion.
Help “flesh out” the Idaho Nuxoll family tree. Learn about Dinklage
and the Nuxoll farm. Help identify people in the newly discovered
family pictures. Be proud of your precious heritage and name.
Rejoice that your ancestors were.
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