The Lippe-Detmold Colony

Warner Township, Clark Co., WI

By Janet Schwarze



The Lippe-Detmold colony in Warner township, Wisconsin began when the families of John and Mary (Kremer) Vollrath, Henry and Sophie (Schwarze) Decker, and Henry and Louise (Viole) Schwarze heard the call of the northland and left Franklin, Sheboygan County to establish homesteads in the timberlands of Clark County. Very few white men had ever brought their families to live in this remote region of the United States.
Some of the best hardwood in Wisconsin was found in Warner where a dense vigorous growth of white and red oak, linden, maple, rock elm, birch, ash and some butternut stood. These vast forests had scarcely been touched by the woodsman's ax. The most universal of the hardwoods were the linden or basswood, which constituted nearly one-half of the hardwood suitable for lumber, and was found to be excellent quality and very abundant. Next after this was oak, red and white, which in about equal quantities constituted nearly one-fourth of the whole amount. The most abundant, red oak was very large and healthy, and was probably as good as can be found anywhere in the Northwest.

These woodlands had originally been surveyed by United States surveyors between 1842 and 1856 the section and quarter corners were marked by a wood stake and from one to four (usually two) trees were marked by a wood stake, and the kind, diameter, direction and distance from the stake were noted. This survey was hurriedly and carelessly done, but however imperfectly surveyed, or however irregular, each new owner had to locate the boundaries pertaining to the deed for the land they d purchased. It was not a job for the weak. The tangled forest was infested with wild animals and Winnebago Indians who understandably considered it their own land. On June 1, 1870, the first adventurous German pioneers from Sheboygan arrived on the west bank of the Black River very close to where the United Church of Christ Church of Warner now stands (3 mi. west of Greenwood on co. rd. G and 1 mi. north on Co. rd. O). All three families found shelter under the roof of an abandoned log house and immediately began to clear a small area of land in order to plant a life sustaining garden as quickly as possible using the skills and tools they d brought with them. By fall, each family had a small log home on their own property.

Once settled, periodic trips had to be made on foot to and from Neillsville for supplies. Those who made the trek would often times set up camp in the woods along the way and sometimes when they returned, they were carrying a fifty-pound sack of flour on their back. Years later, stories were told how the flour would sometimes have to be hoisted about the neck as the transporter swam across tumultuous currents because it was not always possible to cross the river by boat.

John Vollrath, being 55 years old, was the senior member of the budding community. His wife, Mary, would have her 52nd birthday that August. They were the parents of three unmarried children twenty-two year old Philip, nineteen year old Charlotte, and thirteen year old William. They'd also had two other children who died when very young. Mary didn't tolerate the harshness of those first difficult years very well and she did not live to celebrate Christmas in 1871. She did not live to see her children married or to hold any of her grandchildren in her arms. Hers was the first grave these close-knit neighbors had to prepare. She had been the mother of the little community. Now, that distinction would be passed on to Louise.

Henry and Louise Schwarze had embraced love and married in Lippe-Detmold, Germany November 18, 1863, when he was twenty-five and she was thirty. They immigrated as a family to the United States in 1867 with three small children in tow: seven year old Caroline Louise, two year old Henry William and six month old Fred. In addition, Henry's twin half brothers, Herman and John accompanied them. Their father had died when they were eight years old. His second wife, their mother, died the following year and their big brother Henry became their guardian. When they left Germany with Henry and Louise, they were seventeen years old and able to be a great help in the fields. Herman had already acquired the skills of blacksmithing, taking up the skill of his father and grandfather. The Schwarze family was so predominate in those early years that people throughout the county referred to this Lippe-Detmolder branch colony as The Schwarze Settlement. Later, when they managed to cut roads through the dense growth which enveloped them, the junction which bordered Henry's land was called, Schwarze's Corner.  There was also a "Herman Schwarze Schoolhouse" that later became known as the "Benjamin School".

A second daughter, Bertha, had been born to Henry and Louise before they left Franklin, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin and purchased their land in Clark County. When they arrived in Warner, Louise was in the first trimester of yet another pregnancy. Henry s twin brothers didn't join them until later that summer.

Sophie Decker was the younger sister of Henry Schwarze and an older half sister to the twins, Herman and John. She had married Henry Decker, October 13, 1867 when she was 23 years old and he was thirty-two. When they made the move to Clark County, less than three years later, their little girl, Ida, was a year and a half old and about to become the older child. To the joy of everyone, her baby sister, Anna arrived with a vigorous, healthy cry just 6 weeks after the family setup housekeeping in that abandoned cabin with their friends and relatives. Her birth gave new life to the once deserted homestead. She would grow to womanhood with her big sister and the cousins who snatched little peeks at her as she snuggled in the soft blanket wrapped around her tiny form.

By 1871, Fred and Maria Meier Decker had joined the settlement along with her younger sister, Christine who was destined to marry Herman Schwarze a couple of years down the line.

In 1873 came Fred and Charlotte Schaper Buker, making the long, hazardous journey from Sheboygan county with their team of horses, making the journey overland by wagon to Neillsville and hauling 2,700 pounds in freight. December 1865, he had married Charlotte Schaper, a native of Lippe-Detmold, Germany. She and their two children, Fred and Edwin, came by train. George, another son, was born in Clark County, and later resided on the homestead in Warner Township. Fred Buker had located on a tract of land of 160 acres in Section 24. The tract was covered with woods and Mr. Buker had to cut his own road to the place. On the land stood an old log building, but Mr. Buker soon erected a new one 26 by 28 feet in size, and in the second year he built a barn of logs, 32 by 72 feet. There he and his family resided for two years. At the end of that time he secured a 200-acre tract in Section 19, it being all covered with woods and reached only by a trail. There was a log house and barn on the place and part of one of the forty-acre tracts of which it was composed had been cleared. To his land Mr. Buker eventually added forty acres more, making it into a 280-acre farm. With his own hands Mr. Buker cleared 130 acres of the farm in eight years, and during those winters worked in the lumber woods. He built a large house and barn, 44 by 120 feet, which latter, however, burned down, with the loss of a bull and a quantity of grain. To make good the loss of the barn he erected another, measuring 44 by 100 feet, and also a silo, built by his son, George. For many years Mr. Buker was one of the prominent citizens of Warner Township, serving as chairman of its board for seven or eight years, and for nine years as assessor. It was also he who instituted the movement that resulted in the building of an iron bridge across Black River. He helped to build the Reformed Church, where he served as deacon and one of the most active workers. He has also served efficiently as a member of the school board. His wife, Charlotte (Schaper) Buker, died in 1909, at the age of 86 years. In addition to the children already mentioned, they had two daughters born in Warner Township--Emelia, now Mr. H. Decker, Of Warner Township and Bertha now Mrs. John Steiger.

In 1873 Ludwig and Charlotte (Strate) Noah and their family moved in and immediately built a cabin on their land.  In 1874, Henry Fravert joined the blossoming community. Every year, more and more German families arrived from Sheboygan until they permeated the countryside.

Henry S. Humke was born in Hermann Township, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, April 27, 1855, the son of Conrad Humke, a native of Detmold, Prussia who emigrated to Sheboygan County. The family came to the United States in 1842, and first lived in or near Buffalo, New York, later moving to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he chopped wood on the Ohio River several years. He subsequently settled in Sheboygan County. Henry worked in the pineries eight winters, and during that time was engaged in farming and also drove logs during the springs and summers. He arrived in Clark county in 1878 and settled on a farm of 120 acres, forty of which he cleared. When he first settled there, it was covered with timber, with not even a shanty on it, and the first year he lived in a small log house. November 18, 1879, he married Anna Kippenhan, the daughter of Adam and Helen (Richter) Kippenhan.

These early settlers shared their belongings as they worked together to build homes, clear land and feed their families. Together they picked the scrumptious abundance of wild berries and hunted bear and deer to sustain themselves. They worshipped in their log cabins, reading scriptures by candlelight and singing German Hymns with devotion, all the while longing for an ordained minister of the Reformed faith to deliver the word of God to them. Their prayers were answered in 1873 when Rev. C. H. Schoepfle of LaCrosse visited and conducted sermons in the German tongue at what was then called the Decker School House (so called because Henry had donated the acre of land where it was built).

Under the leadership of Rev. Schoepfle, a church was formed, January 11, 1874. A meeting was called and a congregation organized as Die Deutsch Reformierte Immanuels Germainda in Town of Warner, Clark County, Wisconsin. Its founding members were: Henry Schwarze and Louise, Frederick Buker and Charlotte, Henry Decker and Maria, John Vollrath and Margaret, Philip Vollrath and Louisa, Ludwig Noah and Charlotte, Adolph Noah and Mina, August Noah and Louisa, Herman Schwarze and Christine, Gottlieb Meinholdt and Augustine, Carl Meinholdt and Minna, Ernst Meinholdt, Henry Fravert and Margaretha, Peter Brick and Elizabeth, Henry Humke and Anna, Henry Kern and Johanna, Peter Miller and Elizabeth, John Schwarze, Heinrich Meier and Amalia, Frederick Wehrmann and Marie, Henry Dimler and family, William Reineking and Maria, Adam Kippenhan and Magdalena, John Kippenhan and family, Franz Abel and Caroline, Christian Senf and Christina, Christoph Kippenhan and Margareta and William Toburen and Minna. During the church's first sixty years, there were 493 baptisms, 462 confirmations, 127 marriages, and 143 burials. It was the heart of the Warner community. (Herman and Christina Schwarze were the only couple who lived to celebrate the church s sixty-year anniversary).

On May 16, 1902, while raising a barn on Henry Fravert's place the scaffolding on which about sixteen men were working, gave way and the men fell to the basement quite a distance below. Those who were seriously hurt were Gustave Meinholdt who hurt in his back and ankle, Henry Humpke hurt in his hip, Fred Kuehn injured his right wrist, one of his legs and broke his ankle, Henry Gemmeke suffered internal injuries, Gottlieb Kuester fractured his right foot, and John Christensen was hurt internally, as was Robert Beilke.  A number of the others were hurt but not enough to require the aid of doctors.

The first World War was a trying time for the families of the Warner Township, Lippe-Detmold settlement. Some were German native and most had relatives still living there. Across America, villages and towns just like theirs were sending soldiers to defend the country and they were no exception. Those who served were: Otto Reineking, Alfred and Paul Schwarze, Calvin and Emil Noah, William and Gustav Wehrman, Adolph and Calvin Franz, Arthur Meinholdt, Oskar Decker, Arthur and Calvin Miller, Arthur Awe, August Kippenhan, and Otto Fravert. Nevertheless, the English townspeople did call the Germans in Warner, Huns.

For several years, Fred Kuester served as janitor of the new church, which is still used today. He only lived a little over a mile away and being an early riser, he'd go over there before services to put things in order. On one such Sunday, Mr. Drummond and Mr. Gullord from Greenwood headed off his rig and told him not to open the church or ring the bell because services given in the German tongue weren't allowed anymore. Fred told them he was paid to ring that bell and open the doors, and that was exactly what he intended to do. Those two decided to back off after hearing the tone of his voice and didn't wait around to see if they could convince the rest of the members to stay away That put the matter to rest.

As years went by, other ethnic groups were assimilated into the neighborhood and German ceased to be the common language spoken there. Today, the pendulum of time is swaying once again to a German tongue on the west bank of the Black River as a new community life absorbs the one founded by the Lippe-Detmolders. Every year, more and more Amish arrive from Pennsylvania and Ohio to live on the farms cleared by those first settlers from Sheboygan County. Everyday their carriages pass the gravestones of their predecessors on their way to their own schools, their own churches and their own barn raisings without looking back to the people who first settled there.

Now, it is up to those who are descendants of that first Warner township to preserve the rich heritage which is embedded there. For those who'd like to glimpse even further back in time, we are happy to provide an article which was written by Jerome B. Arpke in 1895 and transcribed for us by Rhonda Schwarze. Not everyone in Warner township was a Lippe-Detmold off-spring, but many were and the experiences captured in Mr. Arpke's work are certainly representative of those who emigrated from Germany to America.


View a Photo of John & Katherine Schwarze's Family.

*Above photo, courtesy of Allan Wessel

(Click to enlarge Photos)

*Above photo, courtesy of Stan Schwarze



We suggest you also read--The Lippe-Detmolder Settlement in Wisconsin



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