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OSHKOSH
Bohemians and Bavarians

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        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. According to the 1900 census the earliest surviving Bohemian of Oshkosh in 1900 arrived in 1856, 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 others. 
         Per the 1900 census several 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.
         These 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 more.
         Counting the population on the 1900 census in the 6th ward and the E.D. 150 half of the 13th ward 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 half the 13th wards were a very ethnically cohesive neighborhood with about 87% of the people ancestrally of German background.
        The immigrants were farmers and  woodworkers in Bohemia and Bavaria. The new mills of Oshkosh needed laborers that were skilled in woodworking. Once in America they were almost exclusively woodworkers. The only farming they did was personal household gardening and fruit growing. 
           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. 
        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 in 1898. 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 producing centers.


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       There were also clothing manufacturers, furniture makers, box makers, sawmills, broom factories, iron foundries, grass matting plants and numerous machine works. See list of factories.
         Almost all 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. 
         An exception 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 marriage. And some Lutheran names have become Catholic. 
          The 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 intermingling.
         The 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.
         The 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.  
         The 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 pronounce
         The Germans 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 taverns.  
         Their houses were always well kept and the neighborhood was clean and tidy. Although on the inside of the homes there were not many furnishings. 
         The 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. 
         My 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. 
         The 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. 
         Starting at 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 conditions.

   As of 2002 I have learned that some of the Oshkosh Bohemians of circa 1900 moved on to Northern Wisconsin, South Dakota, Washington, Oregon and Saskatchewan, Canada. Most followed the lumber industry as it moved West or they took up farming.

 Population facts:
 
1870 15% population of Winnebago County ---- German.
1898 80% of foreign born of city of Oshkosh are German or German culturally.
1900 33% population of Winnebago County ---- German.
1900 Est. 12-15% population of Oshkosh  from Bohemia.
1900 10% of population worked in the woodworking industry.
1903 population of Oshkosh----28,284.
2000 population of Oshkosh----62,000.

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