“I arrived at a little town on the Wisconsin River,” Frederick Louis Haeberle wrote in his nineteen-page essay, “Why I Came to America.” He arrived in early March, 1884, after immigrating from Germany. “It was very cold, and my clothing was light – no overcoat, no overshoes, no mittens. As I walked along the main street I saw, through the store window, red flannel mittens. They looked so warm that I spent my last money—a half dollar, for them.”
The little town was Kilbourn, Wisconsin, now called Wisconsin Dells. Fred arrived penniless, cold, and unable to speak English. He didn’t know a single person in America. When he had asked a friendly and compassionate Swiss agent for advice on where he should go, the agent had told him he’d sent quite a few people, including his own son, to Wisconsin and that they liked it there. The agent had given Fred his son’s address.
From the Kilbourn Depot, a man offered Fred a sleigh ride. After about six miles, Fred caught a second ride, which took him a short distance to the home of the Swiss agent’s son.
The man and his family took him in. “I felt so thankful and so filled with the good fortune which followed me. I was especially impressed with the willingness of the people to help a stranger along the way.” The family provided him with food, shelter, and a pair of shoes, which he badly needed. They were farmers and farm work was new for Fred, but he gave it his all and learned.
He stayed with the family for eight months until he met another family, 20 miles away, who was interested in hiring him for more wages and opportunities. It was difficult to leave the family who had first helped him and whom he’d grown to care about, but he hoped for advancement, so he bid his fond farewells. After two years with this second family, Fred again saw new opportunities and seized them.
In 1891, the man who arrived cold and penniless became a naturalized United States citizen. His life’s passion and profession became education, beginning in a room schoolhouse in Nebraska and ending with a 30 plus year career as a highly regarded professor at Shattuck Military School in Faribault Minnesota.
Fred’s relatives, including grandson Chris Yates, would like to learn contact information for the kind families’ relatives so they can thank them and share this story with them. Following are clues from extensive research done in courthouses and historical societies.
Clues for the family 6 miles from Kilbourn
- Head of household was Henry (maybe around 30 years old) and he and his wife had a small boy Arno. A daughter followed soon after Fred moved on. The wife’s father was a well off German farmer. The farm might have been in Adams or Columbia County.
Clues for farm 14 miles from the Wisconsin Dells bridge.
- Fred hauled wood 6 miles into town so the farm could have been in Baraboo or Reedsburg. There was a school nearby. The owner was named William and might have been around 70. His first wife died there. The second wife was Hattie, and the daughters were Bessie and Elizabeth. They lived in a stone farmhouse.
It would be thrilling to solve the mystery of the two kind families of Kilbourn. If you can help, please contact Chris at email@example.com.