1825-1852 – The Mennonite Connection.

Probably the best place to start Our Boller Story about my gg grandparents – Jacob B. Boller and Catharine Smucker – is to again remind you of our strong Mennonite background.

Since their small beginnings in the 1500’s in Europe, Amish-Mennonite communities have always been known for their strong sense of family. Unlike our present-day society where everybody fends for themselves, the Mennonites take very seriously their God-given responsibility for not only caring for their own immediate family but watching out for the larger community around them as well. It is very common even today for Mennonites to live in close proximity of one another, sharing one another’s joys and burdens in life. When one family has a need, the whole community of believers will quickly pitch in with whatever he or she can provide so their brother or sister in need can make it through.

Maybe you’ve seen pictures of an old-fashioned barn razing. This is where all the Mennonite or Amish community would gather on a farmer’s property and in one day build a massive barn that might otherwise take a family several months to complete on their own. In this sunrise to sunset event, all the men and young boys would labor on the barn while the women and younger children would co-labor in the kitchen assembling a magnificent feast of country-fresh food…enough to satisfy dozens of men and their families! Working together for the common good was a high priority in the Amish Mennonite community and every child growing up in this environment took these values with them wherever life took them.

My dad’s original notes on Jacob & Catharine Boller and family.

For Jacob B. Boller, born to George F. & Elizabeth (Zook) Boller on February 28, 1825 in East Union Township of Wayne County, Ohio, it probably didn’t take long for him to understand the Mennonite values of community. Being the third child in the family and the second son, Jacob was actively involved with the many daily chores of farm work on the Boller farm located near Wooster, Ohio.

Jacob’s name appears in the recorded list of those who were actively involved with the Oak Grove Mennonite Church located in nearby Green Township of Wayne County. Certainly, home and church life filled the greatest amount of this young man’s daily life as he grew up in the 1830’s.

Throughout that decade (1830’s), Jacob’s parents, George and Elizabeth, were intentionally setting things in order for their children’s future. With the three boys – John, Jacob, and George – the primary goal was to get them settled on fertile land that they could farm when they reached adulthood. Sadly, many of these life plans changed when Elizabeth (age 49) suddenly died in April, 1840.

Elizabeth is buried at the Paradise Church of the Brethren Cemetery in Green Township of Wayne County, Ohio.

As we discussed earlier in George’s story, after Elizabeth died, the Bollers started to look beyond Wayne County, Ohio for their futures. Actually, our Boller records speak of George Boller purchasing…

forty acres of Government land in the Territory of Iowa, the title deed of which bears the signature of Pres. Jas. K. Polk.”

In fact, we have four documents from 1848 indicating that George did invest in 200 acres of rich farmland in Clayton County, Iowa (northeastern Iowa), but from everything we know, no one in the immediate Boller family ever followed through on those specific investments. It’s our guess that George eventually sold the rights to that land and purchased, instead, eight 40-area parcels (320 acres) in Washington Township in the SW corner of Johnson County, Iowa sometime prior to 1852. But more on that later.

The first Boller to permanently leave the nest was Jacob’s younger sister, Elizabeth. Born two years after Jacob in 1827, 17-year-old Elizabeth married Moses Stutzman in 1844, and moved west to Fulton County, Ohio, where they immediately started their family of eleven children. Eventually, all the rest of the children left Wayne County as well. John, the oldest son, married in 1848, and moved to McLean County, Illinois in the mid-50’s. Christiana, the oldest daughter, married another Stutzman (Benjamin), moving to northern Indiana around that same time. Eventually, George and Magdalena, the two youngest Bollers, followed suite as well, becoming Hoosiers in the late 1850’s. Click here to read more.

As for my gg grandfather, Jacob B. Boller, it looks like the love of a good woman was the key motivator for leaving home. In 1849, the 24-year-old Jacob married a Mennonite woman of the same age, named Catharine Smucker. Catharine was living in Wayne County when the two met, but it’s apparent that Catharine might have had some family connections in Butler County (see map above), because that’s where the two were married on November 18, 1849.

Born on July 2, 1825 in Alsace-Lorraine, France, Catharine Smucker came from a very similar Amish-Mennonite background as the Bollers, but rather than being from Germany, the Smucker (Schemouker) family hailed from France. Most historical records trace Catharine’s parents to a little village called Bertrambois in Meurthe-et-Moselle of Lorraine. At age 18 (1843), Catharine and her family migrated to Wayne County, Ohio, where her name appears in those same Oak Grove Mennonite Church records we mentioned earlier.

* In family records, Catharine (Catherine) Smucker's name is found with both an "a" and an "e"...but her tombstone uses an "a"...so we went with that spelling in this report.

We don’t have any family records that show the exact reason Jacob moved from Wayne County, Ohio to Butler County. All we know is that the happy couple settled in Fairfield Township of Butler County (near Hamilton, Ohio), where their first two children, John J. Boller (1851) and Joseph Boller (1853) were born. It’s our assumption that Jacob followed in his father’s footsteps and was a farmer by trade, working farmland in Butler County, Ohio until their next move came in the summer of 1853.

One interesting aspect about Jacob’s move from Wayne County to Butler County is its convenient location in relationship to the Ohio River. In the 1840’s and 50’s, prior to the railroads expanding beyond Ohio, the fastest mode of transportation for early settlers moving westward was America’s river system – the Ohio River connecting to the Mississippi River. Butler County, Ohio, located directly north of Cincinnati would have certainly been a bustling place since it was so very close to the steamboat landings of Cincinnati.

Which brings us now to Jacob & Catharine Boller and their 1853 westward adventure…

Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.

Oak Grove Mennonite Church, Wayne County, Ohio, Wikipedia

Creative Congregationalism – A History of The Oak Grove Mennonite Church in Wayne County, James O. Lehman, 1978, p37

Town of Bertrambois, Map-France.com

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