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Anna Hitz Risch (1825-1897)

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     Anna Hitz was born 16 October 1825 [1] in Saas im Prättigau, Canton Graubünden, Switzerland, to Heinrich Hitz and his wife Luzia Ruedi.  The family undoubtedly spoke Schweizerdeutsch, a regional dialect of German.

     On 6 July 1845, she married Martin Risch of nearby Conters im Prättigau.  He was the son of Christian Risch and Anna Mathis [1].  The couple established a household in Saas and, in due course of time, they became the parents of seven children (the first was stillborn).  The Risches were probably farmers; daughter Anna told of taking the cows up to the mountain pastures during the summer [2]. 

     When Martin Risch died on 6 March 1866 [1], the widow Risch decided to emigrate with her brood of six to the United States.  Although no one seems to know exactly why the Risches decided to leave Switzerland, perhaps Martin's death was associated with some economic misfortune, or maybe their small farm was no longer sufficient to support the family.  And why did they choose Wisconsin as their destination?  Possibly they had friends or relatives who had previously emigrated there. 

     Switzerland being a landlocked country, the German-speaking Risches had to journey overland to Hamburg, Germany, where they embarked for America on the ship Allemania [3].  Conditions for third-class (steerage) passengers aboard the Allemania [4] left much to be desired, but probably it was all the widow Risch could afford.  After the Risches disembarked at New York's port of entry, Castle Garden, on 29 October 1866 [3], the older daughters sought work as maids.  This again suggests that the Risches were in dire straits financially. 

     The census of 1870 records Anna Hitz Risch and her younger children living in Fountain City, Buffalo County, Wisconsin [5].  Fountain City is built on a steep hillside overlooking the Mississippi River, a landscape very like that the Risches had known in Switzerland.  Both Swiss and German farmers had previously settled in the area, so the Risches would have had no difficulty communicating, even though they didn't speak much English yet. 

     In 1870, their household property was valued at a mere $100 [5]. The older boys, Christian and John, had found work on the farm of Florian Danuser, a wealthy Swiss immigrant whose property was reported to be worth $8000! [5].  Lucy, aged 19, was not at home either; she was working in Winona, Minnesota, as a 'hired girl' in the household of Judson and Hannah Wells [6].  But there was a new member of the family--a little girl named Mary, born 1867 in the United States [5].

     Since Martin Risch died in March and Mary could not have been born until the following year, it is not possible for Martin to have been her father.  Throughout her lifetime, Mary evidently believed that Anna Hitz Risch was her biological mother, although it's possible that she could have been an orphaned infant whom Mrs. Risch took in and raised as her own.  For whatever reason, Mary is not mentioned in a Risch family history written in 1979 [7], although she bore the Risch name and grew to adulthood in the widow Risch's household. 

     By 1873, Anna’s daughter Lucy was married and living on the other side of the Mississippi in Minnesota [8].  Christian Risch, the oldest Risch son, married Elizabeth Kammueller [9] around 1875 and remained in Buffalo County, Wisconsin.  Although the Dittrichs’ farm was not geographically far from Fountain City, the Mississippi River was a formidable barrier for most of the year. The nearest tiver crossing was at Bluff Siding, Wisconsin.  To save traveling several miles out of their way, the Risch siblings used to cross the frozen Mississippi in the dead of winter to visit Lucy on the other side [2].

     In 1879, son John departed for South Dakota with Peter and Jacob Schneller, sons of a neighbor.  There, they all took up homesteads [7].

     The federal census of 1880 shows widow Anna Risch and her 13-year-old daughter Mary living near Minneiska in a dwelling adjacent to that of her daughter Lucy and son-in-law Ernest on the Dittrich farm [10]. 

     Daughter Anna married Anders Gustav Carlson on 26 January 1884 [11].  Mary wed around 1892; she and her husband Frank Janisch later moved to North Dakota and then on to Washington state [12].  Nellie married Sylvester James Shelton in 1896 [13] and eventually moved to the plains of Saskatchewan, Canada [14]. 

     During the last years of her life, Anna Hitz Risch moved across the Mississippi River and lived humbly in a little house next to the county 'poor farm' near Minneiska, Minnesota.  Her granddaughter Mabel Carlson Jacob remembered visiting her once, sometime between 1893 and 1897.  There being no meat in the house, the widow Risch walked to a neighbor's house to borrow a couple of eggs for their meal [2]. 

     Following her death at age 72, Anna Hitz Risch was buried in the cemetery at Minneiska, Minnesota.  Her grave marker reads  "Anna Hitz--Martin Risch--born 16 October 1824--Died 2 October 1897" [15].  Perhaps time has obliterated the words "wife of".  Her daughter Mary is buried in an unmarked grave next to her.

Children of Anna Hitz Risch

i.
Christian, born 5 November 1847 in Saas im Prättigau, Canton Graubünden, Switzerland [1]
ii.
Luzia "Lucy" M., born 23 February 1850 in Saas im Prättigau, Canton Graubünden, Switzerland [1]
iii.
John, born 7 June 1853 in Saas im Prättigau, Canton Graubünden, Switzerland [1]
iv.
Anna, born 31 July 1858 in Saas im Prättigau, Canton Graubünden, Switzerland [1
v.
Barbara "Nellie", born 10 June 1863 in Saas im Prättigau, Canton Graubünden, Switzerland [1]
vi.
Johann Heinrich "Henry", born 16 July1864 in Saas im Prättigau, Canton Graubünden, Switzerland [1].  Moved with his brother John to Richland Township, Brookings County, South Dakota, where he became a naturalized citizen.  Later, he moved to Watertown, South Dakota, where he worked as a stagecoach driver in the Black Hills.  He never married [16].  Upon his retirement he moved to Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, Canada.  He was living there in 1940 [17].
vii.
Mary, born 1867 in Wisconsin [5].

Sources Cited

[1]
Records of the Evangelische Kirche in Saas im Prättigau, Canton Graubünden, Switzerland. Microfilm available through LDS Family History Centers.  Pages scanned by Chris Duggan of St. Paul, Minnesota, February 2011.
[2]
Informant, Mildred Hansen of Galesville, Wisconsin.
[3]
Germans to America: Lists of Passengers Arriving at U.S. Ports, by Ira A. Glazier and William P. Filby. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources Inc. First series published between 1988 and 1996. Volume 18, covering the period of June 1866 to December 1866.
[4]
The Allemania was built in 1865 by C. A. Day of Southampton for the Hamburg-America Line.  It was 315 feet long and 41 feet wide at the beam.  It had one funnel, two masts and was rigged for sail.  Its average speed was 12 knots per hour.  The transatlantic crossing, therefore, took about 21 days.  The Allemania was equipped to carry 60 first-class passengers, 100 second-class passengers and 600 third-class (steerage) passengers.  Description of the ship Allemania taken from insurance records.  Accessed 22 May 2003. http://www.theshipslist.com/ships/descriptions/ShipsA.html
[5]
Federal Census of 1870, Wisconsin, Buffalo County, Fountain City, sheet 17.
[6]
Federal census of 1870, Minnesota, Winona County, Winona, 3rd Ward. National Archives microfilm series M593, Roll 719, Page 477.
[7]
Informant, Verna Johnson Risch of Brookings, South Dakota, The John and Sophia (Hoffman) Risch History, 8-page booklet written 1979.
[8]
Obituary, Lucy Risch Dittrich, Plainview, Minnesota, newspaper, November, 1916.
[9]
Informant, John Leonard Riesch of Middleton, Wisconsin.
[10]
1880 Federal Census of Minnesota, Winona County, Mount Vernon Township, Family History Library Film 1254637, NA Film Number T9-0637, Page Number 120D.  Entry from http://www.familysearch.org/ transcribed by Donna C..
[11]
“Funeral Services for Mrs. Carlson Friday”, Plainview, Minnesota, newspaper, published 29 December 1939.
[12]
Obituary of Mary Risch Janisch, published 1954 in a Winona newspaper.
[13]
Federal census of 1900, Washington state, Lewis County, Pe Ell Township.
[14]
Postcard dated 1978 from Shirley Boyle Hoehn of Leask, Saskatchewan, Canada, to Donna C.
[15]
Gravestone inscription for Anna Hitz Risch, Minneiska Cemetery, Wabasha County, Minnesota, as transcribed by Mildred Hansen of Galesville, Wisconsin.
[16]
Informant, Eleanor Risch of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
[17]
Obituary, Anna Risch Carlson, Plainview Minnesota newspaper, December, 1939.

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