"A family tree can wither if nobody tends its roots."


Blums & Beckers of New Bilten, Wisconsin

by  Phyllis Zeck

My paternal grandmother Grace Norder descends from the Blum and Becker families of Bilten, Glarus Switzerland. Click here to view my great grandfather’s Pedigree Chart for Edward C Norder. This chart shows the connection between the Blum and Becker family which began with my 6th great grandparents Rudolf Blum and Elisabeth Becker. The Blum’s and Becker’s were part of the first adventurers to settle the Bilten Valley. Following is a link to a site that has an depth history of Bilten www.glarusfamilytree.com  

I find it so interesting that my paternal ancestors from Switzerland desired a quiet, spacious living environment by farming in Wisconsin. This is the opposite of my maternal ancestors from Italy who settled in Chicago. My Italian grandfather’s numerous brothers raised their families within a few blocks of each other and sometimes had apartments in the same building as each other. When I see photos of my great grandparents birth town of Pescasseroli the buildings are built side by side without any space for a front or back yard.

I’ve previously written about my correspondence with Bob Elmer, a historian who has studied the families who settled in New Glarus Wisconsin.  Bob co-authored a very informative document which paints a great picture of how the New Bilten settlement was born which is titled The Planting of New Bilten. This settlement was located between New Glarus and Monticello. Monroe is 11 south of Monticello and is the town my grandmother Grace was born in. Bilten never developed into a village, just farms. The first large block of the town was 40 acres and purchased in 1850 by brothers Mathias and Jacob Marty. Jacob’s in-laws built the first store in the village. Mathias and Jacob built the first hotel in 1851. 

New Glarus approx 1915

As Bob explains in The Planting of New Bilten, there were no families from the town of Bilten Switzerland with the first group of immigrants who came to settle the New Glarus community in Wisconsin. In March of 1847 sixteen families, about 70 people left for America.  Bob wrote “The group left Bilten on March 27, taking a flat boat down the Linth Canal to Lake Zurich (the Zuricksee), a steamer to Basel, wagons to Paris, and then a boat down the Seine River to the French port city of LeHavre. From there they left Europe on April 24 on the ship Columbia (Salmen died enroute). Johann Melchior Blum, (my 4th great grandfather) who at age 65 was the oldest in the group, also died that first year – either after their arrival or possibly enroute from New York. The entire trip from Bilten to New Glams lasted about 100 days.” An additional description of the families arrival in America was found at Google in the biography of Fred Bloom on page 460 of the Illustrated Album of Biography of Southwestern Minnesota, Occidental Publishing Co., Chicago, 1889.  “After 48 days at sea they landed in New York, thence up the Hudson River to Albany, thence by canal to Buffalo, thence by steamer via the lakes to Milwaukee, where they landed July 4th; thence on lumber wagons one hundred miles to the town of Washington, Green county, Wisconsin”.

The photo above is courtesy of the University of Wisconsin. The caption reads “New Glarus Hotel A large crowd of people outside of the New Glarus Hotel. The people appear to be dressed up and some of them are hurrying toward the hotel. The occasion is unknown, but the time is estimated to be before 1915.

Click this PDF Bilten Pioneers Cleared Timberland  which is an interesting article from the University of Wisconsin describing life as the first New Bilten settlers readied their land for farming.

My 4th great grandparents were Johann Melchior Blum and Sophia Kundert. Sophia died in 1835. Johann immigrated to America with his third wife Anna Elisabeth Pfandler on the ship Columbia. The ship docked in New York on 09 Jun 1847. Sadly, Johann died at the age of 65 on 02 Jul 1847. 

My 3rd great grandparents Johann Rudolf Blum (he traveled to America with his father) and Verena Luchsinger had two plots of land (19 & 20) in New Bilten. The following are excepts from pages 34 and 35 from Bob’s essay.

Johann Melchior Blum, 65, and Anna Elisabeth Pfandler, 50. He died in 1847, possibly even before the group arrived here. An 1852 listing of the plots notes that his widow held a right to Plot 20 but the Emigration Society controlled the land. They were the parents of Johann Rudolf Blum.

Johann Rudolf Blum, 38, and Verena Luchsinger, 29. They received Plot 19 and in 1855 they purchased that and the 20 acres to the east, which had been assigned to his parents (today it’s the southeast comer of the intersection of Washington Rd. and Burr Oak Ln.) By 1860 they were cultivating 70 acres (raising more com than most) and had a team of oxen and six 6 cows. Johann Rudolf was married three times and Verena was his second wife and mother of his children. They immigrated with two children: Johann Melchior 7, and Elizabeth.  Johann Melchior died in the Civil War in 1863. Another daughter, Verena, married Dietrich Norder. In 1900 Johann Rudolf was living with the Norders in Monroe, where he died a year later. Click here to read a page of Last Will John Rudolph Blum 08 Mar1895.


2 Responses to Blums & Beckers of New Bilten, Wisconsin

  1. 3 years ago by Lori Anderson

    Holy cow! Which would be scarier, coming to America or coming to America and having your husband die on the way or soon after!

  2. 3 years ago by Valerie Ciolli Stockmar

    This is fascinating! I can picture the beautiful farmland in WI that your paternal ancestors chose. Your maternal ancestors chose a completely opposite living space. Maybe “chose” is not the right word. They were in a new, strange country. Only followed those who went before them and survived.


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