Betty and Gerhard Becker, Coni Calligaro, Richard Drueke, James Griffin, Carmen and Bernhard Hampl, Mary Kay Drueke Groening, Father Dennis Morrow, and Kurt Rosenbaum have made contributions to this family history.
Index Germany Map Grand Rapids Map Census Directory Wander-Buch Obituary Descendants Home Page
William Koch Born in 1827
Andelfingen, 1827-1853. William Koch was born Wilibald Koch in Andelfingen, Württemberg, Germany, on December 2, 1827.
The king of Württemberg was Wilhelm I. From 1815 to 1866 the Kingdom was a member state of the German Confederation and from 1871 to 1918 it was a federal state in the German Empire. Württemberg is now part of Baden-Württemberg.
Andelfingen is a small village in the municipality of Langenenslingennow, which is part of Kreis Biberach, a district of Baden-Württemberg. It is 35 miles southwest of Ulm, a city on the Danube River. (Albert Einstein was born in Ulm in 1879.)
The Danube River flows through Riedlingen, which is 5 miles west of Andelfingen. The Danube originates 60 miles to the west of Riedlingen in the Black Forest and flows for another 1,130 miles to the Black Sea. The Danube is the second largest river in Europe.
St. Willibald was born in Wessex, England, in 700. He was a cousin of St. Boniface, patron saint of Germany, who ordained him a priest and appointed him bishop of Eichstätt, in Franconia, the site of Willibald's most successful efforts as a missionary. He was the son of St. Richard the King and brother of Sts. Winnebald and Walburga. He died in 781.
William's parents were Xavier and Johanna Gerster Koch. The parish church in Andelfingen was St. Cyriakus.
Andelfingen is four miles west of Riedlingen. Riedlingen is on the Danube River in the district of Biberach. It is 180 miles south southeast of Frankfurt and 120 miles east northeast of Basel, Switzerland.
William was a ropemaker. On April 28, 1845, he was issued a Wander-Buch by the Kingdom of Württemberg. A Wander-Buch is a passport and work record for a journeyman. His Wander-Buch contains entries from master ropemakers in cities and towns where he worked between 1845 and 1853. The general area was southern Germany and northern Switzerland, with some work in north western Austria.
Traveling journeymen were not paid for the work they did received free room and board. They had to wear clothes that were easily recognizable and functional: a very broad-brimmed hat and very wide trousers in the ankle area. Their few personal belongings were wrapped in a piece of fabric that was hung from their walking stick, which was carried over the shoulder. They walked from city to city as they had no money for transporation. They had to appear "clean" so as not disgrace their trade.
There were no photographs, so the bearer of the Wander-Buch was described in detail. The description of Wilibald was as follows: average height, oval face, blond hair, ordinary forehead, blond eye brows, blue eyes, ordinary nose, full cheeks, good teeth, round chin, straight legs, clean skin. A medical examination in 1852 indicated that he had no contagious skin diseases and had been inoculated for smallpox.
There are many songs about journeymen, both folk and classical.
When a journeyman had worked a certain amount of time, he was eligible to become a master--a full-fledged member of the ropemakers guild. This was easier said than done. The guild was a sort of cartel that controlled the number of masters. In any event, after eight years as a journeyman, Wilibald decided to go to America and changed his name to William.
Grand Rapids, 1853-1858. In May 1853, William, 25, emigrated from Württemberg. The U.S. flag had 31 stars, the most recent one being for Oregon. The President was Franklin Pierce.
William settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he continued to work as a ropemaker.
According to his obituary, William moved in 1855 to a new house at 109 California Street (803 California Street NW after 1912), at the corner of Straight Street. It "was the first to be built in that locality. At that time it was practically out in the woods, only a trail leading to it from the main part of the town. Mr. Koch often used to tell about seeing deer and other wild animals in back of the house."
On January 25, 1857, William Koch, Jr., was born to William Koch and Theresa Fassnacht. He was baptized at St. Andrew's Church on June 3, 1857.
On April 5, 1858, the bridge across the Grand River at Bridge Street in Grand Rapids, and several factories along the east bank were destroyed by fire. According to the 1891 History of Grand Rapids," the conflagration, near midnight, was a dazzling sight; the flames ran quickly from end to end of the bridge, and it became a continuous sheet of flame across the river, a distance of more than 800 feet. A foot bridge was soon thrown across, over which, for a time, hundreds of persons passed daily" while the bridge was being rebuilt. William's obituary reports that he was employed to make the two enormous ropes from which the foot bridge was suspended.
Regina Theresa Fassnacht Born in 1823
Königheim, 1824-1853. Regina Theresa Fassnacht was born June 17, 1823, in Königheim, Baden, Germany. Königheim is on the Brehmbach River 27 miles southwest of Wurzburg, 70 miles southeast of Frankfurt, and 140 miles north of Riedlingen. Baden is now part of Baden-Württemberg, in the Main-Tauber district.
Theresa was the second child of Leonhard and Maria Anna Hauck Fassnacht. In 1821, a brother, Richard, had been born. In 1829 a sister, Maria Anna, was born.
Grand Rapids, 1853-1858. In 1853, Theresa emigrated from Königheim to Grand Rapids, Michigan. The U.S. flag had 26 stars, the most recent one being for California. The President was Franklin Pierce.
Theresa traveled with her brother Richard from Antwerp, Belgium, via the bark Fanny, to Castle Garden, New York. Theresa, 28, and Richard, 32, arrived on May 5. Richard was listed as a laborer on the ship's passenger list. Antwerp is 310 miles west northwest of Königheim.
On June 13, 1854, Theresa's father, Leonhard Fassnacht, died at age 63 in Königheim.
On January 25, 1857, William Koch, Jr., was born to William Koch and Theresa Fassnacht. He was baptized at St. Andrew's Church on June 3, 1857.
William and Theresa Marry in 1858, Have 4 Children
William Koch, 30, and Theresa Fassnacht, 34, were married on Tuesday, April 13, 1858, in St. Mary's Church.
In 1857, St. Mary's Church was established to meet the spiritual needs of the German population in the Grand Rapids area. The original church building was replaced in 1873 by the current building, a Gothic-style structure. The first pastor was Father Mathias M. Marco. The Kochs were among the founding parishioners.
Richard Fassnacht, 36, and Mary Koch, 34, were married on Wednesday, April 14, 1858, in St. Mary's Church. This was the day after William and Theresa were married. Richard and Theresa Fassnacht were siblings. The relationship between William and Mary Koch is probably the same.
Grand Rapids, 1858-1861. Following their marriage, William and Theresa lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
On July 13, 1858, August J. Koch, Jr., was born to William and Theresa Fassnacht Koch.
In 1859, Johanna Fassnacht was born to Richard and Mary Koch Fassnacht.
On June 28, 1860, Christine Koch was born to William and Theresa Fassnacht Koch.
The 1860 census shows William and Theresa living in the 5th Ward. William was working as a ropemaker, the same profession listed on his passport issued in 1845 in Wuerttemberg.
Civil War, 1861-1861.
Also serving in the Third Michigan Infantry as regimental bandleader was Joseph Schickell (Shickle). Twenty years later, Joseph's nephew, Cris Smith, would marry William's daughter, Christine. See Cris and Christine Koch Smith Family
Grand Rapids, 1861-1888. In 1863, Francis Xavier Koch was born to William and Theresa Fassnacht Koch.
On March 8, 1869, Theresa's mother, Maria Anna Hauck Fassnacht, died at age 77 in Königheim. She had been a widow for 15 years.
The 1870 census shows William and Theresa living in the 5th Ward. William was working in a furniture store.
William Koch first appears in the Grand Rapids city directory in 1870. His occupation is furniture upholsterer in the Lincoln Block on West Bridge Street.
The 1872 city directory shows that the Kochs were living at 109 California Street (803 California Street NW after 1912), at the corner of Straight Street. This was nine blocks west of the Grand River and six blocks south of Bridge Street.
In 1882, Cris and Christine Koch Smith had a daughter, Rose Viola.
In 1883, the business operated as Koch & Koch (William, Jr., and August).
On May 19, 1883, August Koch died at home at age 24. He was buried in Mt. Calvary Cemetery.
On April 3, 1887, Christine Koch Smith, 26, died. She left a husband Cris and child Rose Viola. Cris and Christine had been married only six years.
In 1888, Alexander F. Zugelder, 19, son of Theresa Fassnacht Koch's sister Maria Anna Fassnacht Zugelder, immigrated from Königheim to Grand Rapids to study for the priesthood. Grand Rapids was a new diocese and had not yet established its own seminary, so he attended St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee and the Grand Seminary at Montreal.
William Widowed in 1888 at Age 60
Grand Rapids, 1888-1889. Upon the death of his wife Theresa, William, 60, was left a widower.
In 1888, the funeral business operated under the name Koch Bros. (William, Jr., and Frank). This only lasted one year.
In 1889, Cris and his daughter Rose Viola moved two blocks east and two blocks north from the Koch home to the Hauser home at 105 Gold Avenue (151 Gold Avenue NW after 1912). Cris' sister, Rosa Wilhelmina Schmitt had married Charles Andrew Hauser in 1882, and they lived with Mary Augusta Schickell Schmitt, the mother of Cris and Rosa Wilhelmina. Rose Viola referred to Rosa Wilhelmina Schmitt Hauser as "Tante" and Charles Hauser as "Uncle Charlie." The Hausers had no children of their own.
Theresa Dies at Age 65
On August 3, 1888, Regina Theresa Fassnacht Koch died. She was 65 years old and had been married to William for 30 years. She was buried at Mt. Calvary Cemetery.
Elizabeth Born in 1842
Germany, 1842-1852. Elizabeth Lavo was born in Bavaria in 1842. Elizabeth may not have known who her parents were because they are not identified on her 1889 marriage certificate.
Grand Rapids, 1852-1889. In 1852, Elizabeth emigrated from Bavaria to America. The year is based on the 1900 census.
The 1880 census shows Elizabeth as a servant and housekeeper for the Schenkelberg family in Grand Rapids. Clarence Schenkelberg and his wife Theresa were grocers, along with Clarence's brother Casper. Their address was 27 Turner Street. The Schenkelbergs were among the original parishioners of St. Mary's Parish.
William and Elizabeth Marry in 1889
On July 2, 1889, William, 61, married Elizabeth Lavo, 47. They were married by Father Bernard Goossens at St. Andrew's Cathedral. Witnesses were Albert Dumsky and Amelia Daun, both of Grand Rapids.
Grand Rapids, 1889-1905. Following their marriage, William and Elizabeth lived at the funeral home at 45 West Bridge Street.
In 1891, William Koch, Jr., died at 34, leaving his wife Anna and a child Mamie.
In 1893, William and Elizabeth attended the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Jane Drueke Biggins had in her home in Wilmette a souvenir ruby jar from the Exposition with the name Elizabeth Koch on it. Son Bill has the jar now and provided the photos below.
The World's Columbian Exposition, also called the Chicago World's Fair, was one of the great World's Fairs of the 19th century. Elizabeth's jar is early American pressed glass in a pattern known as Ruby Thumbprint. According to Kovel, "the pattern was first made by Adams & Company of Pittsburgh in 1891. The pattern was originally called Excelsior, and was listed in catalogues as the XCLR pattern. Pieces were sold either plain or engraved. Thumbprint was also produced in all-clear glass and called King's Crown. Many pieces of Ruby Thumbprint glass are still found with the name and date of the fair and the name of the owner. It was inscribed at the fair while you watched."
Mary Kay Drueke Groening has a walking stick with "Wm. Koch 1893" etched on the top end of the stick.
On June 19, 1894, Alexander F. Zugelder, a son of Theresa Fassnacht Koch's sister Maria Anna Fassnacht Zugelder, was ordained at age 25 at St. Andrew's Cathedral in Grand Rapids. He said his first Mass at St. Mary's Church. Fr. Zugelder had immigrated from Königheim to Grand Rapids in 1888. He served as a pastor in four Michigan towns: Cadillac for eighteen months, Provemont for four years, Beaver Island for six years, and Beal City. He was transferred to Beal City in 1905.
In 1896, William entered into a partnership with Charles F. Stein. The funeral home at 45 West Bridge Street and the livery business at 11-15 Scribner both became known as Koch & Stein. William and Elizabeth moved back to 109 California Street (803 California Street NW after 1912).
In 1898, Otilia Leuchtweis, granddaughter of Theresa Fassnacht Koch's sister Maria Anna Fassnacht Zugelder, immigrated to Grand Rapids from Königheim at age 9. In the 1900 census, she was living with the Kochs. In the 1910 census, she was living in Beal City with her uncle, Father Zugelder, and attending college. Otilia's mother, Mary Magdalena Zugelder Leuchtweis, had died in 1893, when Otilia was only four years old. Otilia's father, Michael Joseph Leuchtweis, remained in Königheim when Otilia emigrated.
In 1899, the funeral and livery business became Koch & Co. Charles Stein dropped out of the partnership.
In 1900, William entered into a partnership with George J. Egeler. The business became known as Koch & Egeler.
In 1902, William Koch was listed in the directory without an occupation. It remained this way until his death except that in 1904 he is associated with Fred W. Platte. The 1900 census shows Fred W. Platte, 36, undertaker, living at 483 Second Street in Grand Rapids. The 1910 census shows Fred Platte, 46, undertaker, living at 116 Gold Street.
In April 1905, William suffered an attack of severe pleurisy from which he did not recover. He had been in ill health since winter.
William Dies at Age 77
William Koch died of heart disease on October 19, 1905. He was 77. He was buried alongside his first wife Theresa at Mt. Calvary Cemetery.
Grand Rapids Newspaper, October 20, 1905
Grand Rapids, 1905-1911. Elizabeth was widowed upon the death of her husband William. She had been married to William for 15 years. She continued to live in their home at 109 California Street (803 California Street NW after 1912).
Living with Elizabeth in the 1910 U.S.Census were Wallburga Koch, 64, widow, born in Germany, and her daughter Ida, 25, single, a nurse, born in Michigan. The 1880 Census shows Wallburga living at 25 H Street in Washington, D.C. with her husband Gustav, 42, a shoemaker, born in Hesse Darmstadt. Find A Grave shows that Gustav died in 1905 and Wallburga in 1926.
Elizabeth Lavo Koch died October 18, 1911. She was buried alongside her husband and Theresa Fassnacht Koch at Mt. Calvary Cemetery.
William and Theresa: 4 children, 2 grandchildren, 6 great grandchildren
Index Germany Map Grand Rapids Map Census Directory Wander-Buch Obituary Top Home Page