Nikolaus Kirchner (1815 – 1899) was the second and final teacher to occupy our little schoolhouse. We are excited to finally put together the pieces of his story to form a good picture of his life. We know from the early Immanuel Lutheran Church records that he and his family lived in the little two-room building during most its use, from 1854 until the second schoolhouse was built in 1858. His presence was an important influence on the children who attended school in the little classroom. We are fortunate to have the remnants of this structure. It was obvious from reading the early church records that he was also very well liked and respected, in addition to being an excellent farmer.
We also learned that teacher Kirchner was originally sent from the town of Neuendettelsau in Franconia, a part of Bavaria, to be educated in a teacher's seminary in Saginaw, Michigan. He came with his four-year-old daughter through the port of Hamburg in 1852, along with the director of the seminary and four other pupils. In 1853, Kirchner married a widow, Maria Ranzenberger in Saginaw and supported her four children: Maria, Martin, Waldburga and Leonhard.
The Kirchners moved to Franzosenbusch in 1854 when Nikolaus received a call to replace the departing teacher, a single man. The Kirchners had four more children between 1853 and 1858, during the time of our school house. Barbara, Ludwig (Louis), Meta and Anna. It is hard to believe that in addition to the parents, there were nine children in that one-room teacherage by 1858, including Kirchner's daughter Margarette. The family stayed in Franzosenbusch, where Kirchner continued to be the teacher for the Immanuel Lutheran School, until sometime in 1861, when they migrated to Minnesota with other families from the vicinity. From there, they followed a large German migration to Nebraska in 1872. Meta, the young daughter lived in a sod house near North Platte; her husband ran for state senator in Montana, where Meta is buried. Kirchner and many of his children were buried in Nebraska, where we discovered his and his children's grave markers. This was truly a pioneering family!
A very special “thank you” is extended to Margaret Ranzenberger, Holly Johnson, Helen Ranzenberger and JoAnn Hattig, who are descendants of our teacher's family. They have all helped significantly in our research and contributed to our understanding of the lives of the Kirchners and Ranzenbergers. In addition, we wish to thank the research staff of the Wartburg College in Wartburg, Iowa for early records on the settlement of Saginaw Valley, Michigan.
Additional local reference:
Westchester Tribune of September 28, 1926, "The children, when it came time to go to bed, slept in a loft in which the feed for the cattle and horses was kept." The hay served as a couch, and it is related that the youngsters enjoyed it immensely. Kirchner, while a good farmer, working the 40 acres of church ground, was said not to be a good musician, and had difficulty in leading the choir.
According to a story in the
Last Modified: 02/07/2009