1853-1899 – The Kalona Connection.

As Jacob and Catharine Boller settled into their new farm surroundings in Johnson County (1853), six additional children were added to the Boller family over the next 13 years!

Read one account of the early days of living on the untamed prairie of Johnson County. Iowa.

John J. (1851) and Joseph (1853) were born in Ohio, prior to the Bollers migrating west to Iowa. But sadly, on December 19, 1854, after just one year in Johnson County, little Joseph suddenly died. He is buried in Peter Miller Cemetery (see above), located just north of today’s Kalona.

In 1855, Magdalena (Maggie) was the first daughter born to Jacob and Catharine. On November 23, 1856, Daniel J. was born, becoming the first person of the third generation of Our Boller Story and the first of our immediate family born in Iowa. Catherine (Katie) was born in 1858, followed by George D. in 1860.

The 1860 U.S. census shows Jacob and Catharine and their five children (John, Magdalena, Daniel, Catherine, and George) living on their farm in Johnson County. Note that there is a young couple from Ohio – Benedick & Catharine Biggs – living there as well, helping with the farm. On the next line, we find Frederick Boller, age 45, on his Johnson County farm as well.

The Bollers were blessed with two more children – Jacob A. in 1862, and last but not least, Samuel J. in 1866.

In the 1870 U.S. census, all seven Boller children are living at home, helping with the farm, and apparently, a 24-year old woman from Ohio, Lucinda Weaver, is a part of the household as well.

Life on an Iowa farm in the later part of the 19th century was fairly even-keeled. Agriculture had become the mainstay of most Iowans in the first fifty years of statehood. As the world became more connected through expanded railroad systems and the invention of the telegraph, more conveniences of life became readily available to the average American. Modernization of farm machinery made farming a much less hazardous occupation and by the time Jacob’s sons were old enough to take over much of the daily chores, farming in Iowa had become an industry. It’s said that one Iowa farmer can feed hundreds if not thousands of American citizens every day. Community life focused around the relationships built within the church community and as more people moved into the region, small towns began to pop onto the map as commerce grew throughout the state.

Click here to read more about how farming in Iowa was impacted with the advent of the steam engine…


By the 1870’s, the railroad systems of America had become the primary form of transportation and communities lived and died based on the location of the rail line as it came across the Midwest. A good example of this is found when comparing Amish, Iowa (also known as Joetown) with Kalona, Iowa.

Click here to read about the first railroad to come west into Iowa in 1856.

Amish was the nearest community to the Bollers in the 1860’s, located in the south-central portion of Washington Township of Johnson County (see map above). Amish’s main industry was a small hotel, which was built by an industrious Mennonite man simply because its location was one day’s walk from Iowa City and it was the 16-mile rest stop for the stage coach coming from Iowa City to Oskaloosa! Read more here.

Burlington/Cedar Rapids & Northern (BCR&N) Railway (see yellow lines) ran both east/west and north/south, Including the Muscatine/Montezuma RPO line w/track north to Iowa City

In 1879, the BCR&N railroad made a decision to extend their rail line westward, and when the people of Amish heard the news, they were excited. But, all that happiness left town quickly when the railroad announced that their new line would be built five miles further south than originally planned, running through Washington County and not Amish!

As it turned out, it was a Washington County farmer named John Gregg Myers who was the happy one, since the railroad bought some of his farmland for their new extension. Other Washington County farmers were excited as well, and on August 6, 1879, a new town, built around the station stop on Myers property, opened up for business. Located only four miles southeast of the Boller farm, Kalona is nicknamed Bulltown. My father, George E. Boller always said that the town was named after one of the famous registered sire bulls belonging to Katie Boller and her husband John Warey. Others believe that Kalona, the bull, belonged to J.G. Myers. Either way, this bull story makes for interesting dinner conversation!

(C-0231) (M-0105) BH-107)Celebrating Kalona over the years.

Interestingly, while my great grandfather, D.J. Boller, left the Kalona area soon after the town was founded, my immediate Boller family still had a lot of interaction with Bulltown. Read more about this Kalona connection here. Kalona, with its railroad connections to the outside world, continued to grow and flourish, while by the turn of the century, Amish had nearly died out completely. But, before we leave the subject of Amish, allow me one more story:

On September 27th, 1887, Frederick Boller, the ‘other’ Boller family member from Wayne County, Ohio, passed away. Sadly, we simply don’t know how Frederick fits into Our Boller Story. We talk about this dilemma in more detail here, but suffice to say that while some Mennonite records indicate that he was the German-born son of George F. Boller, census records from Ohio seem to indicate that he was, more likely, a younger brother, cousin, or nephew of George’s who came to Wayne County just prior to 1850.

1860 – Washington Township/Johnson County, Iowa Census. Frederick appears on this census report as well as the Johnson County records, since he owns farmland in both locations.

A Mennonite farmer who arrived in Johnson County, Iowa in 1852, we don’t believe Frederick ever married or had children. We do know that in 1854, Frederick bought an additional 40 acres on the English River in Washington County, just west of where Kalona is today, and in 1860, successfully completed his application for American citizenship – farming in the Kalona area until the ripe old age of 72 years, 5 months, and 15 days (1887). He is buried at the Pleasant Hill Cemetery (also known as Amish Cemetery near Amish, IA) located on Angle Road (behind the church) in Joetown.

So…Is Frederick Boller a son of George F. Boller from an earlier marriage (as some Mennonite records show) or is he a cousin, nephew, or younger brother of George? Click here to read an updated alternative history for Frederick, George, and the Boller family.

This 1889 Map of Washington Township/Johnson County updates the farmland of the Bollers. As you can see from comparing 1869 (top right) to 1889 (bottom right), the 40 acres designated to J. Boller now seems unclaimed, Frederick’s property, now two years after his death, is still in his name (F. Boller), while Jacob has added 80 acres (2 parcels) to the west of his 1869 property.

In 1880, we find Jacob & Catharine overseeing the Boller farm with the help of Daniel, Maggie, Katie, George, Jacob, and Samuel.

As we get closer to the turn of the century, Jacob B. Boller and his wife, Catharine (both age 69) were ready to leave the hard labors of running the farm and move into the quieter and more convenient lifestyle offered in Kalona. Family records indicate that in November 1894, the Bollers moved into their new home located at 408 4th Street. Which now brings us to the final chapter of their lives.

But before we go there, allow me to digress and tell you a bit about Jacob & Catharine’s eight children…

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

Kalona Historical Society, Kalona, Iowa

Kalona Historical Society-Interactive Map, Kalona, Iowa

Joseph Boller, Find-A-Grave

Frederick Boller, Find-A-Grave

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