Johann Michael Toepfer

July 5, 2009 at 8:00 am (Toepfer Roots) (, )

Johann Michael was the youngest of the three sons of Johann Wilhelm Toepfer I and Catharina Maria Toepfer that sailed to America. They came to America on the S. S. Mosel in 1867. He was born on February 19, 1875 in Thelausa (Fischer), Russia. Johann Michael was just one year and 4 months old when the Johann Wilhelm Toepfer family arrived in America. His father died suddenly (of a stomach ailment) after being in the country just one year. With the plight of being in totally new surroundings, no father for the children, or husband for support (and Catharina Marie was pregnant), things were in a desperate state. Twins were born to Catherina Marie Toepfer. A son she named Johann Wilmelm II and a daughter she named Juliana.

When the twins were about a year old, Catharina Maria Toepfer moved to Herzog, Kansas, a German colony established in Ellis County, Kansas by Germans from Russia. At Herzog, Catharina met a widower, Michael Denning. After their aquaintance, Catharina Maria married Michael Denning on December 16, 1880 at St. Fidelis Church in Herzog, Kansas.

After the marriage, Catharina Maria (Toepfer) Denning and her 5 children moved in with Michael Denning and his 6 children from his previous marriage to Anna Knopp (deceased).

Johann Michael Toepfer was now 5 years and 10 months old. Michael spent the next 8 years in Herzog, Kansas in the Denning household.

When Michael’s older brother, Friederich, moved from the Dennings household, Johann Michael and two other brothers and sister also moved with him. On October 8, 1889, Friederich had married Maria Braun and Fred, Maria, his brothers, and sister moved to Rod’s farm.

Johann Friederich had just turned 22, Johann David was 19, Johann Michael was 14, and the twins, Johann Wilhelm and Juliana were 11 years old.

In 1892, David married Helena Beil and after they were married, some of the younger Toepfers lived with them.

The Toepfers worked the farm for seven years, but the fruits of their efforts were very disheartening. Several successive crop failures forced them to leave the farm and seek employment.

Toepfers in America by you.

Johann Friederich, Johann Wilhelm II, Juliana, Johann David, and Johann Michael ... in 1895

In the early spring of 1895, Friederich, his family, and his three brothers, and his sister, Juliana, packed their belongings into moving wagons and ventured forth for Topeka, Kansas. It took approximately six weeks to make the trip from Victoria to Topeka. When the horses became exhausted they found places along the path to stop and set up camp. At these stops they rested the horses, washed clothing and dried it on lines which they brought with them. The women prepared extra food for the travel while the children were able to play and exercise.

By this time two of the four Toepfer brothers, Johann Frederich and Johann David, and the twin sister, Juliana, were married. The two boys that were still single were Johann Michael and Johann Wilhelm II (Juliana’s twin brother).

When the travelers reached Topeka, Kansas they rented small houses on the outskirts of town. The men immediately began seeking employment while the women set up their households. The Toepfer men found work with the AT&SF railroad, but the work soon ran out and there was nothing else available. They returned to Victoria (Herzog) after about a 2 year absence.

Johann Michael and Margaret Toepfer by you.

Johann Michael and Margaret Toepfer, on their wedding day.

On September 4, 1896, Johann Michael Toepfer married Margaret Riedell. Margaret was born on May 14, 1878 in Herzog, Kansas. After their marriage they worked and lived at Victoria, Kansas.

Their first child, Benedict (Ben) Toepfer was born in Victoria, Kansas on June 7, 1897.

In 1898-1899 the Johann Michael family moved to St. Peter, Kansas where they farmed until the spring of 1908. During this time, their next seven children were born. William, born August 25, 1899, Bonaventure, born January 12, 1901, Mary, born August 28, 1902, August, born February 29, 1904, Jacob, born January 13, 1906, and twins Adam and Eva, born October 23, 1907. Michael Toepfer then moved to Mt. Angel, Oregon with his wife and eight children. There, three more children were born, Theresa, born February 22, 1909, Margaret, born February 7, 1910, and Adolph, born on February 23, 1913.

At first Michael followed the carpenter trade and also drove a cream truck for the Mt. Angel Creamery. As a carpenter, he helped to build the beautiful St. Mary’s Catholic Church, and the Michael Toepfers were also members of the congregation. After about five years they moved to Crooked Finger, a small settlement above a little town known as Scott Mills, Oregon. There he returned to farming. In 1914 they rented an old farm house with acreage from the McKowon family. Two more children were born to the Johann Michael’s, Joseph on January 26, 1915 and Catherine on July 23, 1916.

After three years in Crooked Finger, they decided on one more move. In 1916 the Michael Toepfers hitched up the horse, loaded up a wagon with their household goods and moved to Coon Hollow, seven miles east of Sublimity, Oregon. They purchased a large farm owned by the Willing family. It had a small, primitive, two room dwelling and the Toepfers; Michael, Margaret, and their 13 children called this home, but of course, this arrangement was obviously much too small for the large family. Michael put his carpenter skills to work to build a bigger and better house. In 1917-1918, he and his older sons, and some neighbors, began the building. They constructed a large two story house to accommodate his growing family.

The Toepfer Home by you.

The house that Johann Michael built. Joe Toepfer standing out front.

His last two children were born in the new house. Juliana on August 3, 1919 and Johnny on February 24, 1922.

The Johann Micheal Toepfer Family by you.

The Johann Michael Toepfer Family in 1930

Johann Michael farmed there until he died. Margaret Riedel Toepfer and the younger Toepfers continued to farm until later years. One of their sons, Joseph, took over. Joseph bought his mother, Margaret, a house in Sublimity, Oregon near St. Boniface Catholic Church. Margaret and her brother, Andrew Riedel, lived there together until his death in August 1949. By then, Margaret was ill and could not be left alone. Another son, Jake, moved her to his home at Marquam, Oregon where she lived until her death on January 31, 1950. It was a cold winter that year, the snow was deep and many guests ay the funeral had taken falls on the frozen walks. Salt was spread onto the ice by the Funeral Director to keep the pall bearers from losing their footing and end up falling during the funeral procession from the house.

Margaret (Riedel) Toepfer

Margaret Riedel was the daughter of Michael Riedel and Theresa (Schmidt) Riedel. Her parents came to America in 1875 aboard the S. S. Mosel. Margaret was the first of the Michael-Theresa Reidel family to be born in America. She grew up in Herzog, Kansas where she met and married Johann Michael Toepfer and they were married in Herzog, Kansas.

1 Comment

  1. Becca Turek said,

    Hello, I am a great granddaughter of Mary Toepfer and a great-great granddaughter of Johann Michale Toepfer. The information and pictures you have here are amazing thank you!

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