I first started and based this research on the 1900 census.
At that time I concentrated on people that listed Bohemia as
a birthplace only. The earliest surviving Bohemian of
Oshkosh in 1900 arrived in 1856, according to the 1900
census, he was named Schlinker. Of course, I do not know how
many of the early arriving Bohemians had died before the
1900 census and so are not counted here. Also since some
arrived so early, up to 45 years before the 1900 census,
their children were born in Wisconsin. And then their
children were born in Wisconsin and so they are listed in
the census as being from Wisconsin and not Bohemia. One such
family is the Pratsch family arriving in America in 1855.
This will take further research to see if there are
families came each year between the years 1856 and 1869.
These early arriving Bohemians or Austrians mainly settled
in Neenah and Menasha. People claiming Germany are not
included in this list although many listing Germany were
from Bohemia. As I progress in my research I will eventually
include all Catholic German speaking people from the general
area of the corner where Germany, Austria and Bohemia meet.
That is the home place of the HIGHHOLDERS.
From 1870 onward
they settled in Oshkosh. During the 70's one family a year
arrived. In 1880, 4 families arrived; 1881, 10; 1882, 29;
1883, 23; 1884, 18; 1885, 14; 1886, 7; 1887, 14; 1888,17;
1889, 20. In the 1890's the immigration continued with 1890,
17 families; 1891, 38; 1892, 24; 1893, 17; 1894, 6; 1895, 2;
1896, 2; 1897, 2; 1898, 7; 1899, 9.
numbers are not accurate because it is impossible to get an
accurate count of Bohemians. Bohemians claimed to be from
Germany or Austria or Bohemia. They received the German
label because they were German speaking. The Austrian label
because Bohemia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. And
the Bohemia label when the person identified correctly with
his geographic homeland. The numbers above also are not
accurate, because by the time of the census, children that
had immigrated with their parents were now heads of
households of their own and thus their family is counted
twice. Also because of the woodworkers strike in 1898 some
Bohemian families moved away from Oshkosh and so are not
counted on the 1900 census, although they had immigrated to
Oshkosh and possibly had lived in Oshkosh for a decade or
the population on the 1900 census in the 6th and 13th wards
there is a total of 4,716 people. In the 6th--2,566 and the
13th--2,177. There are 593 people or 13% that claim a
birthplace or their parents birthplace as other than
Germany, Austria or Bohemia.
The places claimed are
England, Wales, Scotland, Russia, France, Denmark, Norway,
Switzerland, Saxony, Asia, Turkey, Sweden, Prussia, English
Canada and the New England states.
So I am making
the assumption that the 6th and 13th wards were a very
ethnically cohesive neighborhood with about 87% of the
people ancestrally of German background.
were farmers and woodworkers. That is why some were recruited to move
to Oshkosh. The new mills of Oshkosh needed laborers that
were skilled in woodworking. In Bohemia the Schwartzenberg
Canal had been created in the early part of the 19th century
and the area was opened up for logging, attracting workers
to the forests. See this offsite page about the canal.
By the late 19th century the area had become overpopulated
and the promise of a job, housing and a chance to go to
America convinced many people to emigrate. In Oshkosh
all of them became factory woodworkers. The only farming
they did was the growing of fruits and vegetables for their
Lumber Company even paid for passage of some workers to go
to America. The Paine Lumber Company opened their door, sash
and blind factory in 1884. Soon there was enough cheap labor
in Oshkosh that wages were cut back and people were still
willing to work. Which eventually led to a woodworkers
strike. The woodworking industries employed over 2,200
people in 1900.
At the end
of the century Oshkosh was an industrial powerhouse. Oshkosh
was the millwork capital of the country with seven large
factories producing doors, sashes and blinds; the largest
match producer and was one of the largest carriage and wagon
up to top
were also clothing manufacturers, furniture makers, box
makers, sawmills, broom factories, iron foundries, grass
matting plants and numerous machine works. See list of factories.
Bohemians lived on the south side in either the 6th ward or
the 13th ward. They were almost exclusively Catholic
and belonged to St. Vincent's until Sacred Heart Parish was
created in 1906.
to this is the Pratsch family. They arrived so early that
the 6th or 13th wards were not yet developed. They also
switched religions to Lutheran. Over the years other
surnames have switched to Lutheran mainly because of
German's of Oshkosh were either Catholic or Lutheran
depending on where they had come from. The Lutherans were
from northern Germany and were Prussian or Pomeranian. The
Catholics were from Bavaria or Bohemia. Later in response to
the woodworkers strike, the Paine Lumber Company recruited
Volga Germans from Russia as replacement workers. They were
Lutheran and built Christ Lutheran Church and Zion Lutheran
Church. They settled on the west side along Sawyer St.
The Bohemians and the Russians did not get along,
understandably. Although that is not true today, because of
Catholics also did not get along with the Prussian Lutherans
east of the railroad tracks in the 9th ward. There were
regular feuds between the teenage boys of the "Low
Dutch" Lutherans and the "High Dutch"
Catholics. This is also not true today.
Germans that settled in Oshkosh eventually left the old
world behind them. They learned to speak
English and adopted the culture of their new home. There is very little in Oshkosh today
that could be considered German. They
became American and didn't look back.
Bohemians and Bavarians of the 6th and 13th wards were known
as "highholders". The real source of the meaning
is lost but it either came from referring to the people from
the highland region of Germany or from the German "hoi-holden"
which meant collecting hay. The women would collect hay from
south of town for their cows and pigs and carry it back to
their barns. Passersby would ask where they were going and
they would reply in German "hoi-holden". In the
translation it was changed to highholder, which is easier to
of the south side were industrial working class and were
considered "poor" especially compared to the north
side "rich". Most worked in the factories but some
owned their own businesses mainly grocery stores and
houses were always well kept and the neighborhood was clean
and tidy. Although on the inside of the homes there were not
families were quite large and it was not uncommon for
families to have ten people in them. Often extended family
members would live with each other until they were able to
afford a place of their own. Most owned their own homes and
had large gardens to grow their own vegetables.
grandparent's garden occupied the whole back half of their
lot, it was 50 x 100'. They grew and canned all their own
fruits and vegetables. Also in the garden was a section
devoted entirely to flowers.
sixth ward is primarily a residential neighborhood. The main
commercial street is Ohio street, running north/south from
the river to 20th street. And the commercial zone is only
from the river to 11th street.
the river there were manufacturing plants and wood
processing facilities. Then south from here were taverns,
grocery stores, butcher shops, and other neighborhood level
commercial stores. The main shopping district is on Main
street or on Oregon street. (Today the
major commercial areas are Main street downtown and the
highway 41 corridor.)
Interspersed throughout the neighborhood are other grocery
stores, butchers, and taverns, with a cluster at Ninth and
Knapp north to Sixth street at Sacred Heart Church.
This is an historical view only, it does not reflect current