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Fayette County, Iowa  

 History Directory

Past and Present of Fayette County Iowa, 1910

Author: G. Blessin


B. F. Bowen & Company, Indianapolis, Indiana


Vol. I, Biographical Sketches



~Page 592~


John Michael and Margaretha (Schmidt) Bopp


The subjects of this sketch were both born in the beautiful Rhine country at Mayence, Germany. Mr. Bopp was born October 28, 1822, and was the son of John and Magdalena (Faszbender) Bopp. His father was born in 1788, and his mother in 1790. They were farmers who devoted a large part of their land to the raising of the famous Rhine wine grape. His parents were the only members of his immediate relatives who followed farming as a business, the other members of his father's family being trades people and mechanics. His father was a soldier under the great Napoleon for eight years, until he was captured on the retreat, in the campaign which the French made against the Russians at Moscow. He was held as a prisoner of war until after the battle of Waterloo. He was also mayor of his town for many years, and was always prominent in its business and social affairs. In his family there were six sons and three daughters, who have all long since died, but their descendants are numerous in the vicinity of the old home on the Rhine.

Mr. Bopp grew to manhood in his native land, and was the only one of his family who came to America. On February 1, 1851, he was married to Margaretha Schmidt, who was born in the same village, on February 14, 1828, the daughter of Peter and Anna Mary (Bopp) Schmidt. Her father was born in the same neighborhood June 28, 1802, and her mother on May 28th of the same year. There were five children in her father's family, one son and four daughters, who have all died excepting one sister who still lives in the old home. Her father was a fisherman by trade, and carried on his business on the rivers Rhine and Main, which join at that place. She grew to womanhood in her native town. They both received good common school educations with additional training in music and some other branches.


A little over two years after their marriage, May 29, 1853, they started on their journey to America, coming over the Atlantic in a sailing ship. The journey required forty-two days and was filled with many hardships and much sea-sickness. At one time, of the entire shipload of immigrants, Mrs. Bopp was the only passenger not sea-sick. They landed at New York, and immediately came on to Chicago, which was then only a small town by the lake, and where they knew but one family who had preceded them to this country. They were both sick with typhoid fever for several months, and here Mr. Bopp worked on the railroad for about a year. In May, 1854, he came to Iowa with some other Germans, who brought along an interpreter, and entered a piece of government land in Windsor township, Fayette county, and returned to Chicago to arrange for moving out. He arrived with his wife and first child September 28, 1854, and built a small slab house near a creek in the northwest part of the township. This slab shanty had no floor, and only one window, and here they spent their first winter. Mr. Bopp bought a span of oxen and hauled logs for a house on the land which he had entered, and for fencing a small tract which he put into crops that season. He also rented some land for the first year. There were no near neighbors, and no house to be seen from the little log cabin on the prairie. They endured many hardships the first winter, on account of the deep snow and severe cold, to which neither of them was accustomed, and which was much harder to endure on account of insufficient clothing.


In the spring of 1855 Mr. Bopp erected a log cabin, and shortly afterwards the family moved into it. The prairies were covered with tall grass and an endless variety of native flowers, and the wild wolf and native game were plentiful. It was a wonderful change from the peaceful German village to the wild open prairies of a new country like Iowa at that time, but the hope of success, and the determination which had decided them to come and to make their journey from their native land, stood by them in their new surroundings, and gave them courage to work and wait. Neighbors came very slowly, and it was many months before they could see the smoke from another log house, and a long time before they could learn enough English to make themselves understood, even to the few who came. These were days of hardship and toil, and, no doubt, their memories and their hearts often went back to the peaceful German village which they had left, with all their friends and early associates.


Unto Mr. and Mrs. Bopp were born fourteen children, nine of whom are yet living: (1) J. W., the eldest, was born September 28, 1853, at Chicago. His sketch appears elsewhere in this volume. All the rest of the children were born on the home farm in Windsor township. (2) Ellen M. was born August 4, 1855, and is the wife of William Billmeyer, a large landowner of Auburn, Iowa. They have five children, four daughters and one son, all of whom are living. (3) M. N. was born June 2, 1857, and resides in Windsor township, on the old home farm which he now manages. He was married to Minnie Clark, and they have two children, both of whom are living. (4) J. G. was born September 3, 1858, and was married to May Mottinger. They live at Hawkeye, Iowa, where he is a retired farmer and money loaner. They have no children. (5) Martha P. was born September 20, 1860, and was the wife of G. H. Mottinger, of Mottinger, Washington. She died May 14, 1909, and was buried in the family lot at Hawkeye, Iowa. They had no children. (6) Louise E. was born November 3, 1861, and is at the old home. She has been an invalid all her life. (7) Clara I. was born June 8, 1863, and died March 16, 1882. (8) Henry E., a twin brother of Clara, was born June 9, 1863, and died October 14, 1867, from the effects of an accidental fall from a wagon. (9) L. E. was born October 18, 1864, and was married to Leona Mendenhall, July 9, 1896. His wife died August 14, 1897. He was again married to Carlotta Baety, of Canada, and now lives at Minneapolis, and is engaged as a traveling salesman for the Cary Safe Company. (10) C. W., (11) William E. and (12) Chauncey, triplets, were born March 23, 1868. Chauncey died August 3d of the same year. The other two are still living. C. W. lives at Hawkeye, Iowa, and is president of the First National Bank, and was married to Elizabeth L. Miller, who assists him in the management of the bank. His sketch appears elsewhere in this volume. William E. is a traveling salesman for the Cary Safe Company, and lives in Minneapolis. He was married to Luna E. Wheeler, of Grinnell, Iowa. They have two children, both living. (13) Fred A. was born November 6, 1869, and was killed in a railroad accident near Redfield, South Dakota, February 23, 1903. He was married to Eugena Rudloff, of Columbus, Wisconsin, and left a widow and one son. She has since re-married and lives in Minneapolis. At the time of his death he was one of the highest salaried salesmen in the west. (14) Anna M., the youngest of the children, was born April 14, 1873, and lived at the old home until her marriage to J. D. Hughes, of Boise City, Idaho. They now reside at Roseberry, Idaho, and have three children, one son and two daughters.


Mr. and Mrs. Bopp were truly life companions, as they were born in the same village, studied in the same school, under the same teachers, and attended the same church before their journey to this country. They both lived to a ripe old age in the new home in their adopted country. They celebrated their golden wedding February 1, 1901, on the farm which they had taken from the hand of nature, and with their own planning and efforts had made it into a beautiful home, with all the modern conveniences which may be enjoyed on a farm.


Mrs. Bopp was a member of the Methodist church for many years, and did much to keep up neighboring Sunday schools and churches. Mr. Bopp was a supporter of schools and churches but was not actively identified with any one denomination. They were both deeply interested in the success and education of their children, and gave most of them college schooling, and assisted them in every possible way to become active and influential business men and women in the community in which they lived. In their later years they took great pride in the success of their sons in the business world. Seven members of their family were school teachers part of their lives, and the family did much to further the interests of education in the neighborhood of the old home, and were always active in supporting any worthy enterprise or undertaking. Mr. Bopp was not a strong man and felt the hardships of pioneer life very keenly. He was a great lover of flowers and books, and in his earlier years was a fine singer. He was one of the choir at the dedication of the first monument to Gutenberg, the inventor of printing, at Frankfort, Germany, and was a great lover of fine penmanship and the beautiful in nature. Mrs. Bopp was of a more commanding disposition, and took great delight in seeing successful enterprises and material prosperity. They worked hard for many years and saw the wild prairies subdued and converted into prosperous farms and beautiful homes. They saw the growth of churches and schools; the building of roads and towns, and were taxed heavily to start in the building of the first railways, which brought them nearer to the outer world. With their neighbors, they sold eggs for four cents per dozen; butter for six cents per pound; dressed pork for one dollar and thirty-five cents per hundred, and what for thirty-five cents per bushel, which had to be delivered at McGregor, with ox teams, a distance of fifty miles; and with all these disadvantages they kept their family together, attended church in their own and neighboring cabins, and contributed to that cordial sociability only found in the pioneer homes. They enjoyed the afternoon of life together in the same devotion and companionship in which they grew up in their native village, and lived to see a great county and a great state grow to be a part of a great nation, by the efforts of themselves and other immigrants from foreign countries, joined with those of native Americans. Theirs were lives well spent, and their last years were gladdened with the satisfaction of success for themselves and their family, and the consciousness of having wrought faithfully and well at the old homestead.


Mr. Bopp died July 21, 1901, at the family home. He was buried in the Hawkeye cemetery, where he had lived to a see a prosperous town, in which his sons had taken an active and prominent part in its growth, on what was a houseless prairie when he came to Iowa. Mrs. Bopp died at the old homestead, August 5, 1905, surrounded by all the members of her family and amid the scenes and associations of more than fifty years. Six of her sons acted as pall bearers for her, as they did for all the members of the family who have gone on before, and she is buried in the Hawkeye cemetery, where five of her children, and husband, had been laid to rest.


Mr. and Mrs. Bopp were truly pioneers, and were widely known over the county, both by their own friends and because of the success and enterprise of their children. It is certainly a great achievement when a young couple like Mr. and Mrs. Bopp leave their native land to go thousands of miles across the seas, into a strange country, whose language and customs they do not understand, and take up a homestead and develop it into a home for a large family, and start them in life with good health, splendid educations and commendable business habits. Such lives must be counted a success, and it is families like this one on which the strength and greatness of a state and nation must be founded. It is families like this one which make a state and nation great, and the benediction of "well done, good and faithful servants," went with them to their final rest.


~transcribed by CMD for Fayette County IAGenWeb Project