Effingham area Germans moved west with rest of the country
Effingham Daily News
(reprinted with permission of Grimes and the Effingham Daily News)
German immigrants thrived in their new homeland, establishing farms throughout the area. But the sons and grandsons of the original immigrants came to believe some of that area farmland — particularly in the Green Creek area — was starting to lose some of its fertility after 30-plus years of intensive cultivation.
“In 1895, the land around Green Creek, Illinois, was thought to be wearing out,” said family historian Brian Arnzen of Portland, Ore., who created a massive slide show for a recent family reunion. Arnzen is a direct descendant of Herman Henry Nuxoll Sr. — a German immigrant who surveyed a large portion of north central Idaho late in life after becoming a successful farmer in the Green Creek community.
Moreover, the available land in the Effingham-Teutopolis area was scarcely enough to support the large families that had been raised in the early years of German settlement. That had been the case in Germany, but Nuxoll descendant Rich Schumacher of Fairview, N.C. — who grew up in the Lillyville area — has his own theory on how the New World situation was different.
“In Germany, younger siblings were almost like indentured servants to their oldest brothers because of primogeniture (leaving all the land to the oldest son),” Schumacher said during a recent visit to Effingham. “Then when those younger siblings settled here, it’s almost like they reversed the practice and a lot of youngest sons ended up with the land.”
Idaho wasn’t the only destination for those who left the Effingham area. Schumacher said others emigrated to Texas, Kansas, Minnesota and even Canada.
Whatever the case or wherever the place, it was clear by 1885 many young men were getting restless. Herman Henry Nuxoll Jr. left the family home place in Green Creek at age 25 that year, moving to Keuterville, Idaho Territory, where he engaged in logging.
By 1889, young Nuxoll moved to nearby Cottonwood, Idaho Territory, where he worked as a carpenter. He later owned a saloon and bank, according to Arnzen.
Idaho became a state in 1890.
Young Herman was a prolific letter writer. Writing to younger brother John F. in 1886, he extolled the bounty of the Camas Prairie. But he also talked about another kind of bounty.
“You have heard I expect that this county has lots of bachelors and no girls. This is not the case in our congregation. We have more girls in our congregation than boys, that to say boys that want to get married and girls that want to get married.”
Young Herman was likewise encouraging to the job prospects for another younger brother, Francis G. On June 6, 1887, he wrote:
“I understand you have quite a notion to come here. I must say I will not take $500 for what I have since I have been here which is a little over one year. I think you can do about as well and maybe a little better than I have.”
Young Herman was soon joined by other family members. Younger brother Francis G. Nuxoll moved to Cottonwood around 1890 and homesteaded in the tiny community of Greencreek, named for the Nuxoll’s Illinois homeland. His daughter Mary Ann later married Frank H. Arnzen. In fact, Brian Arnzen — Frank and Mary’s grandson — reports a son and three grandchildren of H.H. Nuxoll Sr. married four children of Joseph Arnzen.
The Nuxolls and Arnzens were well acquainted with one another. Young Herman Nuxoll had lived near Johann Bernd (J.B.) Arntsen’s family in northwestern Germany. After both men moved to Effingham County, they were next-door neighbors in the Green Creek community.
J.B.’s son Joseph moved his family to Idaho in 1905.
The Nuxolls and Arnzens weren’t the only families who settled in north central Idaho. Among those who contributed to the building of St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Greencreek, Idaho, around 1900 were Schmidts, Willenborgs, Ungrunds and Luchtefelds, all names seen today in Effingham County. A large number of Hoenes also settled in that section of Idaho, according to family histories.
But Effingham-area people — other than the Nuxolls — started thinking about a move west long before 1900, according to excerpts from the Effingham Volksblatt — a German language newspaper translated in recent years by the late Dorothy Brumleve.
The Volksblatt reported on Nov. 26, 1885, Teutopolis resident Henry Kuether was hosting a meeting of a “Colonization Society” for those interested in emigrating to what was then Washington Territory. But a Volksblatt item dated Dec. 2 of that year reported some controversy.
While some described the Walla Walla area of southeast Washington as a “true Canaan,” one source who had reportedly visited the area said the reports were exaggerated. Nonetheless, the Volksblatt promised to keep its readers informed on the colonization movement, “although that may be difficult for us, since the interested parties have formed a kind of secret society.
“However, that (providing information) is our hope, since the company also includes women among its members,” the newspaper added. Apparently, the reporter felt women were more loose-lipped about goings on in the community.
Walla Walla is about 150 miles from Cottonwood, Idaho — the hub of migration from east central Illinois.
The Dec. 3, 1885, Volksblatt reported about 50 people attended the organizational meeting at Kuether’s shop, with 20 Teutopolis residents joining the society.
The Volksblatt continued to report the colonization society’s efforts. Some summaries from those reports include:
Dec. 10, 1885 — A land agent from Washington Territory attended the society’s Dec. 1 meeting and reported a round-trip train ticket cost $105 per person. At the same meeting, a representative of the Kansas Land Co. pitched land in southern Kansas for $1.25 per acre.
Jan. 6, 1886 — J.F. Hattrup and B. Forsmann were chosen to inspect Washington Territory land on behalf of the colonization group.
Feb. 11, 1886 — Hattrup and Forsmann left for Washington on their inspection tour.
March 4, 1886 — Hattrup and Forsmann sent word they had arrived in Moscow, Idaho.
March 11, 1886 — Hattrup and Forsmann returned from Washington Territory with samples of fruit and wheat kernels.
March 18, 1886 — Hattrup and Forsmann reported on their findings at a Colonization Society meeting. It was rumored eight families would begin their trip west the following week.
March 25, 1886 — Nine Colonization Society members left for Washington Territory on March 22. The newspaper reported other families would leave upon making the necessary preparations.
May 6, 1886 — John Weis was loading a railroad car with livestock, farm equipment and household goods in preparation for the move to Washington Territory.
May 20, 1886 — Weis’ family started their trip west in the company of Mrs. Ed Sonnen and H. Hattrup. Mr. Weis had left the previous week.
Schumacher, who grew up in the Lillyville area but has many distant relatives in Idaho, said the concept of moving from Illinois to Idaho fascinates him.
“All my ancestry is German,” he said. “Just realizing they left Illinois for the same reason their fathers and grandfathers left Germany is interesting.
“It was a matter of becoming more self-sufficient,” Schumacher added. “They were here 50 years, and the same thing started happening here that had happened in Germany.”
Arnzen said two-thirds of those who emigrated from northern Germany to the United States between 1840 and 1900 left to escape poor living conditions, mandatory military service, no future for their children and anti-Catholic discrimination.
While military service and anti-Catholic sentiment wasn’t generally listed as a reason for out-migration from the Effingham area in the late 19th century, lack of economic opportunity was. But the Nuxolls, Arnzens and others have established themselves well in north-central Idaho. In fact, 27 of Frank and Mary Nuxoll Arnzen’s 74 grandchildren still live within 50 miles of where their forebears settled more than 100 years ago.
Mary Cay Arnzen Henry, one of those grandchildren, said she moved back to the area after living in San Francisco. She said the Camas Prairie where her forebears settled lends itself to a rural lifestyle.
“I’m not a city girl,” Henry said. “I love the Camas Prairie’s hills, fresh air and slower pace of life.”
Editor’s Note: Thanks to both Brian Arnzen and Don Kopczynski for providing the editor with a link to the above story. Grimes had called us a few months ago letting us know he was doing something like this and asked for a local contact who may have info for him. We directed him to Rod Arnzen who apparently referred Grimes to his brother Brian and cousin Mary Cay Henry.