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Older residents staying in their homes   READ
Passage of time undoing some neighborhood ties   READ
Bakers epitomize loyalty---Grophens   READ
Roots of Ohio Street Civic Association Run Deep   READ
Names told story in Old Oshkosh days   READ

Someone has lied      Conflicting Testimony in the Sixth Ward Stabbing Affray
  Aug. 19, 1893   READ     READ






Bakers epitomize loyalty

Tuesday, October 14, 1986 © The Oshkosh Northwestern

By Mary Ann Dedow of the Northwestern.

Try telling the women of Sacred Heart Parish, Oshkosh, that you've had your share of volunteer work after two, or five, or even 10 years. Try explaining that someone else should take her turn, or even that the church ought to invent new ways of fundraising. 

Sacred Heart women have been making the same doughnuts since 1922. Some of the volunteers are 75 or 80 years old, and they have been standing over hot stoves frying the Bohemian "grophens" for 30 or 40 years without missing a year. 

At one time the women would have begun mixing at 4 a.m. and had their sale at noon. Now they begin at midnight. Tressie Kaufman, 84, is one of those indefatigable people who worked all night to produce this year's batches. 

Grophens are a "High-Holder" tradition and the Highholders, for readers who are not natives of Oshkosh, are a select group of residents with roots in Bohemia.  Their grandparents settled on the south side of Oshkosh around the beginning of the 20th century. Most worked in the lumber mills of the city. 

A certain disdain on the part of Oshkosh residents from other nationalities caused the Highholders to close ranks among themselves. They spoke a German dialect and took pride both in their work ethic and in their close family ties. 

The best of the traditions, including the breads for which they were famed, have survived to this day.

When the Sacred Heart crew say they have slowed up on the amount of grophens they make, that is an understatement. In June, they deep fried 1,600 doughnuts, all between midnight and 8 a.m. on the day of the church picnic. Of course, comments Betty Pischke, who is currently in charge of the baking, "One year we made 3,000." 

Advertising is strictly word of mouth but the grophen tradition is so entrenched that people line up for blocks waiting to buy a bagful. Thirty minutes after the sale begins, all 1,600 are gone. 

The baking went through a sophisticated phase in which the women used an electric mixer, but they have returned to hand-mixing. One batch produces 80 grophens. 

"We find the consistency of the dough is better in small amounts and if we mix by hand." explains Mrs. Pischke. It is assembly line work. One measures ingredients, another "proofs" the yeast, some mix and some cut the doughnuts. There are workers assigned as dishwashers. 

After cutting, the grophens are hand-shaped by pulling the edges so that an indentation appears in the center. When the grophens are dropped into hot fat, the edges puff up accenting the center. 

"It's an art when you learn to make them just right." says Mrs. Pischke.

A grophen is a special kind of doughnut. The resemblance stops with "round". It is rich but not sweet, except for the taste of raisins which are always placed inside.

Grophens taste best when warm but, like all breads, can be resurrected to fresh by placing in the microwave for a few seconds. 

Always place a piece of paper towel or napkin under grophens, or any bread, in the microwave. Breads tend to sweat and will become soggy without the paper to collect the moisture.

All the ingredients for grophens making are donated by members of the parish. The enormity of this can best be described by listing some requirements for 1,600 doughnuts: 145 pounds of flour; 22 pounds of raisins; 10 dozen eggs; 5 pounds of yeast; 10 pounds of shortening; 100 pounds of vegetable shortening for deep frying. 

Profits from the sales are donated to the parish. Sacred Heart women will hold another sale Sunday October 26, 1986 beginning approximately 8 a.m. Grophens may be purchased in batches of a dozen or half-dozen. 

(There were a couple of pictures with this story but my copy wasn't very good and they were hard to see.)

Recipe: by The Sacred Heart Women. Makes 40 grophens.

1 cup milk scalded
1 cup mashed potatoes
1/3 cup shortening
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
2 ounces yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water   110° or 115° F
4 1/2 cups flour

Mix scalded milk with mashed potatoes, shortening, sugar and salt.

In separate bowl, beat eggs. Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water. Add eggs and yeast mixture to milk mixture. Gradually add flour, beating to form a soft dough. Add raisins as desired. 

Turn out on floured board. Knead lightly. Roll out dough 1/2 inch thick and cut with biscuit cutter (without the center hole). Be sure the whole cutter is filled with dough. Stretch sides with fingers to form slight hollow in center. 

Let grophens rise for one hour. Fry in 375° F. deep fat until light brown. While warm, shake grophens in paper bag with sugar. A pinch of nutmeg may be added to the sugar before shaking. 

Note: originally, grophens were made without mashed potatoes, but they would have to be eaten the same day they were made or they would turn hard. The potatoes help keep the dough moist and soft. 

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Passage of time undoing some neighborhood ties

Sat 26-Jan-2001  © Oshkosh Daily Northwestern 

By Karl Ebert

of the Northwestern

Times change and so do neighborhoods. In Oshkosh's older working class districts, where earlier generations forged lifelong ties to friends, churches and neighborhood, those connections are getting harder and harder to make.

The churches still are there, but the neighborhood markets and gas stations mostly are gone, and in most cases the neighborhood taverns that were social focal points have passed on to new owners with new approaches to business.

At the same time, a steady flow of new residents has changed the old social structures. Neighbors now are less likely to know neighbors, lacking the hard-times ties that often pulled folks together.

Its changed a lot in the last 20 years, Sixth Ward resident Roger Wolf said. You don't really know your neighbors, so you just don't get together with people like you used to.

As the city looks for ways to shore up its older neighborhoods, it faces a significant challenge: Many of the things that made places like the Sixth Ward unique are fast becoming history.

There's a segment of this community that, if you referred to the high-holder area or the Sacred Heart neighborhood, it would mean something to them.

But the segment to whom it means something is aging and dwindling, and the young people who have moved in don't share that history or connection, said Oshkosh principal planner Susan Kepplinger.

As people have become increasingly mobile, even the connection to the church and neighborhood church schools - something that was a key part of defining certain neighborhoods - has weakened.

In the Bloody Sixth Ward, mobility also has diluted one of its core characteristics: The working class neighborhoods stubborn independence, distrust and even dislike of outsiders.

Local historian and former Sixth Ward resident Clarence Inky Jungwirth traces the wards Bloody Sixth nickname to the violence of an 1898 woodworkers strike, as well as to the fight of early Sixth Ward residents to get by in a hostile economic and social climate of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The social divides, which split largely along north-south lines were so strong that south-side parents prohibited their children from dating northsiders.

Northsiders were, and in some quarters still are, viewed as snobby and too stuck up, said lifetime Sixth Ward resident Jean Poeschl.

Now, as time passes, the close ties that bound neighborhoods together often are passing with it.

You think back and think about what it was like and its changed, Wolf said. Back then, you didn't have to lock your doors and people would just walk into your house and visit. Now, if you don't call first, its an intrusion.

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Sat 26-Jan-2001  © Oshkosh Daily Northwestern 

Older residents staying in their homes

By Karl Ebert

of the Northwestern

George and Lorraine Kuehn never seriously considered living anywhere other than Oshkosh's old Sixth Ward.

The couple, now in their early 80s, grew up in the shadow of Sacred Heart Church, George on Sixth Avenue near the old Franklin School, and Lorraine on the 700 block of Knapp Street.

They were baptized and married at the church, lived in a flat above Lorraine's early in their marriage, and have lived in their home at 1025 Sixth Ave., across the street from Sacred Heart, since 1954.

They've talked about the day when time and age may force them to move out of the house, but if the move happens, it wont be far: They're on a list for housing at the Simeanna retirement complex on Eagle Street, a place to which a number of their former neighbors also have gravitated.

As long as we can stay in this house, were going to stay here, George Kuehn said. We tell everyone they'll have to carry us out.

The Kuehns deep rooted attachments to their Sixth Ward neighborhood are typical of a generation that grew up in Oshkosh's working class neighborhoods.

The neighborhood, south of Taft Avenue and west of Minnesota Street, is a place where history and social ties keep people in the neighborhood long after their peers in other parts of town have moved to condominiums or apartments for seniors.

For older residents like the Kuehns, its a place that's easy to define: home.

Its the neighborhood, George Kuehn said. All these people grew up together. They loved one another. If you needed a loaf of bread, we saw that you got it. Everyone was as concerned about the boys and girls in the neighborhood as if they were their own. When I think about it, it was fantastic.

The strength of those ties, the friendships and sense of place that bind the Kuehns to the Sixth Ward, are evident in housing statistics from the 2000 Census.

It is in working class ethnic neighborhoods like the old Sixth Ward that you'll find some of the highest concentrations in the city of homeowners who have reached 75 years old.

People 75 and over account for just 7 percent of Oshkosh's population, but make up nearly 14 percent of homeowners in the city.

And in some neighborhoods, principally on the city's south side, better than one in every five homeowners is at least 75 years old. Add homeowners 65 and up, and they account for up to 40 percent of homeowners in parts of the old Sixth Ward.

That doesn't surprise me one bit, said Clarence Inky Jungwirth, author of a history of the Sixth Ward. People don't want to move. They're comfortable in the habits that you develop, the things that make you feel at ease. You don't want to leave that.

The Kuehns and their generation are the sons, daughters and grandchildren of German Catholic immigrants, known as high-holders.

Raised in the modest working class neighborhoods of the Sixth Ward, they are the generation that lived through the depression and fought World War II, both abroad and on the home front.

They returned to take up typical working class jobs: police and firemen, factory workers, clerks and shop owners.

Their social life paralleled the one forged by their parents: taverns, card games, weekly block parties and, above all, the neighborhood church.

But its not just the German neighborhoods of the Sixth Ward.

In Oshkosh, where class and ethnicity played a defining role in the city's makeup, residents of the city's working class neighborhoods forged strong ethnic identities and neighborhood ties.

North of the Sixth Ward, in the neighborhood along Sawyer Street, the descendants of German Russian immigrants show the same lifetime allegiances to place and to Zion Lutheran Church.

There is another visible pocket of older homeowners to the south, in the area southwest of St. Vincent's Church, at South Park and Oregon Street. There, in a post-war neighborhood largely populated by the descendants of those same older neighborhoods, you'll find similar ties to church and neighborhood.

I've been here so many years and I just don't care to move away from it, said Polly Steinhilber, 87, who still lives in the house she and her husband Carl had built in 1953.

When people are in their 80s, this (their home and neighborhood) is their security, Steinhilber's daughter Faith Lueck said. They don't want to move. They hate leaving places where they grew up or have lived a long time. They don't like change.

Its reflected as well across the river, where one of the larger clusters of older homeowners is in the neighborhood between Murdock and Congress avenues and west of Jackson Street.

There, the ethnicity is different - predominantly Polish instead of German - but the dynamics are the same: A strong connection to church and neighborhood.

Its the churches, Jungwirth said. The churches influence in these ethnic neighborhoods has been the strong pull because when you were young, that was a social center. It was a haven both for religious purposes and social purposes. And for the ethnic groups in this city, the church in your older age has strong pulling power.

There's another dynamic at work that is not social, but economic.

Oshkosh's older working class neighborhoods are largely made up of modest houses on small lots, which makes maintenance much easier as the owners age.

And having bought homes in the years following World War II, they are long paid for, making it much easier for retirees living on pensions and social security to stay in their homes.

The Census Bureau has not yet released data on home values from the 2000 Census, but in 1990, those neighborhoods had some of the most affordable housing in the city.

Francis Poeschl, another lifetime resident of the Sixth Ward, said family also plays a role in the decision to stay put.

He and his wife, Jean, for example, spent their first married year living with her parents on Sixth Avenue before buying the house next door, at 738 W. Sixth Ave.

They shared meals, had coffee in the Poeschl's yard, and gardened together.

And in many cases children eventually bought their parents homes and in turn sold them to their children.

Roger Wolf, for instance now owns the Sixth Avenue home in which he was born - a house built by his great grandparents in 1907.

Now 54, Wolf said the things that keep him in the neighborhood are the same things that kept his parents generation anchored on Oshkosh's south side.

At different times, I've lived in different places and I've done the things I wanted to do, but all my friends and family are in this neighborhood and you just kind of come back, Wolf said. Its my heritage, my friends, my family and I've been happy just to stay where I am.

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Newspaper story in Oshkosh Daily Northwestern July 25, 1987

A personal View by Mary Martin, Executive Editor


    What had thirteen charter members and is still going strong?

    You would be half right if you said, "The United States of America."

    Another correct answer would be the Ohio Street Civic Association.

    The roots of the Ohio Street group go deep, though obviously not as far back as the Revolution. Organized April 13, 1933, to give merchants on the street a boost, the association quickly became a civic minded organization, dedicated to making Oshkosh a better place to live.

    Many present day members are sons and daughters  and grandchildren of the 13 original founders. 

    Names of the founding fathers are familiar, with descendents still living on the south side. Charter members included:

     Alfred Berger Sr., grocer; Al Beck, grocer; Harold Fischer, garage owner; Frank Granberg, Granberg Press; Gus Jeshke, tavern owner; Ted Spaedtke, tavern owner; Frank Jungwirth, tavern owner; Alois Kinatader and Alois Kinderman, co-operators of Nigl's Grocery; Otto Ilk, Kamm Sausage Co.; Joe Poklasny Sr., Poklasny Funeral Home; Rudolph Novotny, tavern operator; and Frank Sebora, grocer.

    Some present day members can trace ties back four generations. 

    Some even plan their vacations so they are present for the children's parade which has been annual event for the Ohio Street Civic Association for 54 years. 

    That's the way it is this year for the George Kinderman household.

    Terri Kinderman Amann, George and Marian's daughter, participated in the parade as a child. Her grandfather, Alois, was a charter member, and her father marched in the parade for a few years and then became a worker for the event, something he is still doing. Terri grew up and married and has two children, Matthew,8, and Meredith,5. The family lives in Cincinnati but Terri said she decided her children were old enough this year to be a part of the parade this Sunday. 

    Part of the reason she wanted Matthew and Meredith to participate is because of the great memories she has of family involvement in the Ohio Street Association. She and her sister, Julie, and brothers, Mark and Peter, all marched in the parade at one time or another. Terri remembers  spending part of every summer just planning what costume to wear or what float to make. 

    "It was a big deal when I was a kid and I wanted my children to feel what I remembered," she said.

    Each year the parade takes an unofficial theme.  This year, the 200th year of the United States Constitution makes a patriotic theme a natural. Parade organizers never know for sure what the theme will be. 

    (George) Kinderman said," We don't set any rules, but we do give awards for the most beautiful and original float. 

    Every youngster in the parade also gets a bag of goodies- something that has become a tradition with the association. 

    The parade will assemble at Sixth Avenue and Idaho street, march east on Fifth Avenue to Ohio Street and then South on Ohio, ending in South Park. The park is a focal point for the Ohio Street people to gather and is also the site of the picnic and games that are a part of the celebration. 

    Much of the money that the group has raised over the years has been used for improvements to South Park. Last year, the club netted $5000 which was spent upgrading the wading pool in the center of the park. The marble monument at the entrance to the park on Ohio Street was dedicated in 1948 to Oshkosh servicemen and women and was also a gift of the group.

    The many benches, playground equipment and shade trees in the park are a result of profits the group makes at the annual celebration. 

    Officers of the association this year are: Victor Meixensperger, president; James Sarres, vice president; Harold Matsche, treasurer; George Last, recording secretary and Warren Norkofski, financial secretary. Directors include: Don Potter, Henry Hanson, Richard Loos, Gerald Boushele, Robert Horton and Walter Ackerman.

    Oh yes, if you see Betsy Ross and Ben Franklin Sunday, you may also see a beaming mother, Terri Kinderman (Amann), reliving her days as an Ohio Street parade kid.

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Names told story in Old Oshkosh days

Sunday Jan. 22, 1984

Oshkosh Northwestern

Mary Ann Koene

When someone says "The good old days are gone forever," he may not be far wrong, at least as far as the colorful characters who once inhabited the south side of Oshkosh. 

Sechsagottfried, Schleimahans (literally "Slimy John"), Bachschneider and Bekersep were among the Bohemian immigrants who made the early days of Oshkosh entertaining to remember. 

The Fox River, running through the center of the city, neatly divided it into two sections. On the north lived most of the influential and wealthier "city fathers".

The south side belonged to a varied group of immigrants. Most of them were of Germanic descent, but only in a generic sense. They represented a medley of dialects and social classes. Those who came from Bohemia (present day Czechoslovakia) considered themselves Germanic, although in their native land they were ruled by the emperor of Austria. 

These transplanted people had nicknames for everyone. The name might relate to the person's origin, or work, or perhaps have no connection at all. Sechsgottfried, for example, inherited his name from the old country, where he lived in the sixth house on the block. 

Many people were called by their house numbers, such as Ninahanzel (Nine john), Triwenzel (Three Wenzel), and Sechsahans (Six John). Baagfranzel meant Frank-who-lived-near-the-park. Weezhans was John-next-to-the-pasture. Schoesdauerkoil meant Karl-from-the-village-of-Schoesdauer and Blanerhans indicated John-from-the-upper-plains.

Work related names included Wagahans, the wagon maker, Bachschneider, the tailor next to a creek, and Gropfschmietjogel, the blacksmith. The latter, according to his descendents, was a mean one. He even had an ear cut off once in a fight.

There were also unexplainable nicknames. Who could tell why someone was called Grump Anna? Or Mohanslari or Schmirkei or Geirg? There were Maryfranzel and Grossmary (Big Mary), Kloibalouisi (literally Lame Louise) and Schlagerlari. Their neighbors included Mosbanmari, Wenzifranz, Stutznatzel and Beihofmichel.

Today when asked what national roots his parents had a child will answer "French," or "Spanish," or "Norwegian." One hundred years ago, that was not specific enough.

Two major groups of immigrants settled the Southside. One segment came from the highlands of the Böhmerwald forests. They called the Germans of the lowlands and valleys the "Plattdeutchers." This literally meant "low Dutch," and signified a lower social standing. 

The Bohemian women from the highlands had a custom of going with wheelbarrows to the pasture lands south of town to collect hay. The switch engine operator of the Wisconsin Central Railroad (now Soo Line) who ran his train through the area, asked the women where they were going. "Hoi holden," they replied in German ... collecting hay.  The name has clung to the present day, in the term "Highholder." 

These groups were closely knit , but friction was noticeable between them. "We kids used to have a huge fight every fall on what is now Oregon Street," commented one old-timer, referring to the Plattdeutchers and the Highholders.  

Even the road was blocked off for the "fight," which was an annual event. Since one side was primarily of the Lutheran faith and the other Catholic, this added fuel to the situation; if this was not sufficient cause for a battle, one could always stir up the Democratic-Republican issue. 

It was natural for many of the immigrants to have settled in the lumber town of Oshkosh. The Bohemians had come from a heavily forested area of Europe. They were used to hauling logs in an even more primitive fashion than in the United States. 

A logger would climb the steep hills of the Böhmerwald to cut down and bring logs to the mill. He would load them on a wagon which he would pull down the slopes. If he slipped, a man could have several hundred pounds of wood crashing down on him. 

Lumber mills of Oshkosh around the turn of the century hired both Bohemians and other European stock to ride large steamboats up the Wolf River to Boom Bay where logs had been cut and were waiting to be hauled down river. 

Each company had its own stamp, which was placed on the logs. They were bundled together and tied by tow lines to the steamboat. The men would "ride" the log rafts to guide them down river.

Stone quarrying was another major occupation among the early southsiders. Skill, to cut the stone according to its grain, and strength, to handle the heavy tools, were both essential. Without cranes, the men would haul the stone to the top of the quarry by hand or in wagons which they also pulled by hand. 

One of the quarries had been abandoned after most of its stone was removed, and had filled with water. It was a popular swimming place for children. However, it had acquired the name "Death Quarry" because people would throw dead dogs, pigs, and cats in the hole as a burying place.

The famed "Black Mariah," the essential paddy wagon of the day, took prisoners to the quarries where they were assigned to pound stone all day. The Black Mariah looked like a truck but it was open to the sky, so prisoners might have rain falling on them while on their way to jail. 

The south side of the late 1800's had one main street, Brooklyn, which is now South Main Street, (actually the street was Kansas and the neighborhood was called Brooklyn) and the No. 6 fire station at the corner of Ohio and 10th. This fire station had a cupola on top since the fireman had no telephone, and had to keep watch for area fires from this vantage point. 

Every family had its own well and pump. When taking a long walk, a boy did not stop for a "Coke" but for a drink at someone's pump on his way. 

Children of these early settlers still remain on the south side. Like their parents, they are blunt, but kindly folk. One always knows where he stands with them, because they will tell him "straight out." 

To the uninitiated, it may sound derisive to give someone  a nickname based on a handicap, like "Lame Louise," or to call attention to someone being overweight, like "Big Mary." Such a nickname today could be cause for a civil liberties suit.

The Plattdeutchers and Highholders had a different concept. Nicknames identified a person. They had come from an era before television told them about the "beautiful people." A man or women's value lay in his or her character, not in outward appearances. 

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Weekly Times
Oshkosh, WI

Aug. 19, 1893


Conflicting Testimony in the Sixth Ward 
Stabbing Affray

The sixth ward stabbing affray has drawn its last crowd to Justice Merrill's court room and for a while this case which has been the center of an unlimited amount of interest will rest. It was called Tuesday morning and the defendant was bound over to circuit court. His bail was reduced from $2,000 to $1,000 owing to the fact that the plaintiff has apparently recovered his health. At the time the first bail was fixed the condition of the plaintiff was considered critical and it was doubtful if he would recover.

The alleged assaulter, Joseph Drexler and his victim, Eronimous Youngwirth, were in the court room yesterday and were watched with considerable interest by inquisitive spectators. Since the arrest the case has taken an entirely different aspect and the testimony to be introduced will be contrary to all expectations. It is understood that the defense will try to prove that Drexler did not cut Youngwirth and that he did not chase him out of the hall. It will further offer testimony to the effect that Youngwirth assaulted Drexler and inflicted a serious wound, to which a scar that has ruined the appearance of the face attests.  On the other hand the prosecution will endeavor to prove that Drexler inflicted the nearly fatal blow upon Youngwirth; that the latter did not assault Drexler and that Drexler followed him out into the yard with the intention of killing him. It is the general opinion that in case of conviction the defendant will not be charged with more than assault with intent to do bodily harm.  

Youngwirth had a narrow escape and illness has had a marked effect upon him. It is said that his bowels protruded through the wound, but luckily they were not cut. His face is deathly pale and he walks sideways as if he is still suffering. His mother accompanies him wherever he goes. 




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