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A Family Halloween Story

October 31, 2011

According to family stories, in 1847, this writer’s great-great maternal grandfather, John Sturmer, immigrated to the U.S. from Neufilzen, Rhineland, Germany (also known as Prussia) with two of his brother and two sisters. His brothers were named Peter and Jacob. They spent two years farming in New York before eventually moving to Grant County, WI.

Peter married Mary Hull and they had three daughters, Susan, Catherine, and Mary. In 1850 they were living in Distrist 24, Grant County, Wisconsin.

1850 Census showing Peter Sturmer Family
1850 U.S. Census showing the Peter and Mary (Hull) Sturmer Family.


Sometime after that, Peter and Jacob went to California to try their luck in the Gold Rush. Peter left his wife and young daughters in Grant County with the intention of returning to them after he had found some gold. According to an account in the Grant County Independent of August 19, 1949:

“About Peter Sturmer is told a strange story, which might be classed by some as imagination, but the family gravely insisted the details were true.

“Sturmer was not killed in the gold mines or camps and it is most certain that he gathered gold in some form while in California. A letter by his brother Jacob, who was also in quest of gold, told of his departure for Wisconsin.

“Peter’s two small daughters, Catherine and Mary, counted the days until his return. About the time he was to have arrived home, they became impatient and while playing out of doors, they cried out in their native German, ‘Hier is der Vater, yo’–‘Why, here is Father.’

“Rushing to the door, their mother expected to see her husband. Bitterly disappointed that no one was visible to her, she turned to the children, who insisted they had seen their father.

“Some time later, Mrs. Sturmer received word that her husband had been killed along the trail, murdered for the gold he was taking home to his family. And the vision of their father which appeared to the little girls occurred about the time he lost his life.”

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