1794 George F. Boller is born.
Our best records show that George F. Boller was born in the Rhine River valley called Hessen-Darmstadt on January 18, 1794 and grew up as a young man in very violent times. Europe and especially the region that now is called Germany was in great turmoil. For most of George’s early years, the German states variously engaged in five wars of defense against the well-trained, unified French armies led by Napoleon.
History shows that in 1793, just prior to George’s birth, the east tower of Mainz’s ancient cathedral was partly destroyed in the bombardment of Mainz by the French empire’s troops. By 1803, Mainz (Mayence) had been completely occupied by French forces (see map below).
A side-note here: Napoleon plays an important part in Our Iowa Heritage. First of all, he was the French dictator who sold The Louisiana Purchase to the U.S. in 1803. Click here for that story. Secondly, Johnson County, Iowa’s first white settlement was named after this guy. Click here for more on that.
1812-1816 George marries, has a son, and departs for America!
Our records are not completely clear here, but our best guess is that by the time George was in his early twenty’s, he married a young lady we now list in our records as ‘First Wife Boller.’ We believe she was from George’s homeland of Hesse-Darmstadt and on April 15th, 1815, George’s first son, Frederick Boller, was born. Frederick, who later placed his birthplace as Hessen-Darmstadt, becomes an interesting part of our Boller story in Ohio and Iowa. We’ll discuss him more in detail in later writings. But unfortunately, we have no records of Frederick’s mother, nor do we know how she died. Her untimely death might have been associated with childbirth as many premature deaths of young women occurred in these early days before qualified doctors and hospitals were readily available. The only fact we seem certain on at the time of this writing (2015) is that ‘First Wife Boller’ did certainly die in Germany prior to George’s relocation to America. (click here to read an updated alternative history for Frederick, George, and the Boller family).
Schlesswig-Holstein in northern Germany.
Family records indicate that George might have moved northward during the Napoleonic conflicts that were exploding across central Europe at the time. It’s possible that sometime prior to or immediately following Frederick’s birth in 1815, George moved from the Rhine River Valley in southwestern Germany to the far northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein. One reliable family biographical states:
“George L. Boller, while still a young man, lived in Schleswig Holstein which at that time was part of Denmark and which Bismark later made a part of the German Empire. When Napoleon raided that section of the country, George was impressed into Napoleon’s Army, but being loyal to his country, he deserted and came to America to Wayne County, near Wooster, Ohio and settled on a farm.”
1816 Leaving the Homeland. George arrives in America – October 1816!
History does show that Napoleon’s army did indeed reach the northern regions of Germany by 1812. And while Napoleon was finally defeated in 1815 (the year of Frederick’s birth), apparently by then, a twenty-two-year-old George, determined to keep his freedoms, boarded an immigrant ship for safe passage to America with one-and-a half-year-old son, Frederick, in his care. Most Amish-Mennonite Germans coming to America during this time traveled together with extended family, arriving in New York City, Philadelphia, or Baltimore, (no ship records have been found) and then moving westward toward established Mennonite communities in Pennsylvania and Ohio. We have strong historical records that show George arriving in America (from Bavaria) in October, 1816, establishing our Boller family in the USA. Generation One has arrived. The American dream awaits.
First settling in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania.
Our records are unclear, but George likely followed his Mennonite connections first into Pennsylvania and by about 1820, our twenty-six-year-old George had met, fallen in love with, and married Elizabeth Zook, a Mennonite woman, four years older than George, whose family line can be traced back to pre-1710 in Germany and Switzerland.
Elizabeth Zook was born to John & Magdalena Zug (a German spelling of Zook) on July 17, 1790 in Chester County, Pennsylvania (southeastern PA) and was living in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania (located in central PA, halfway between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia) at the time of her marriage to George. Apparently, Mifflin County is the place where the newlywed couple first called home.
1820 George marries Elizabeth Zook.
George and Elizabeth were German-speaking individuals who were very accustomed to living in Amish Mennonite communities that had settled on fertile farmlands of Pennsylvania. It’s interesting to note that Pennsylvania (Latin for ‘Penn’s Woods’) was first established by William Penn as a “holy experiment” of religious tolerance…a place where persecuted Protestant Christians could come from Europe and settle in peace to practice their reformed Christianity in a land of freedom.
1821-1831 Moving westward to Wayne County, Ohio.
George and Elizabeth had two children, Christiana Boller (1821) and John Boller (1823) while living in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania and then sometime between 1823 and 1825 moved their family further west to Wayne County, located in northeastern Ohio. In a Wayne County land purchase recorded on October 21, 1813, we see the name John Zook (Zug) as purchaser. This land purchase in a growing Mennonite region of Ohio very likely belonged to Elizabeth’s father who was still living in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania at the time. Again the Amish Mennonite connections of Our Boller Story forged a pathway for George & Elizabeth Boller and their small family to go west.
In a mid-nineteenth century Ohio census record, George identified his profession as a farmer. The lure of cheap land in the “West” seemed to have been an important reason for the Pennsylvania Amish Mennonites being interested in eastern Ohio. Selection of Wayne County was likely no happenstance. Already long experienced in agriculture, the Amish Mennonites for generations had learned how to select good land by attention to the kinds of healthy trees they found in the area, and by noting the drainage of land and the presence of springs.
The Louisiana Purchase. The great American expansion.
When the frontier began opening up in the Louisiana Territory, the Amish several times sent out scouting parties to seek good land. One such group sent in the summer of 1807 by the Amish in Somerset County, Pennsylvania (southwestern Pennsylvania) went as far west as Iowa to look for prospects. From an early journal we read…
“this party traveled down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh and up the Mississippi to Iowa where observations on several sites were made but no decision reached upon a place for settlement. On their return the party traveled overland through Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.”
Later in Our Boller Story you’ll see how this early Iowa connection enters into the formula of how our family ended up settling in Iowa. (Click here to read more)
On February 28, 1825 the first person in the second generation of Our Boller Story, Jacob B. Boller was born to George and Elizabeth in East Union Township of Wayne County, Ohio. Jacob grew up on the Boller farm located near the county seat of Wooster, Ohio and as a young man attended church at Oak Grove Mennonite Church located in Green Township of Wayne County. Some of our earliest records come from a book that covers the history of this church which became a congregation in 1816, the year George F. Boller arrived in America!
1826 Wayne County (East Union Township) Tax List shows a George Boles. Could this be our George Boller?
George & Elizabeth firmly established themselves in Wayne County, Ohio and had three more children, Elizabeth Boller (1826), George Benjamin Boller (1828) and Magdalena Boller (1831), bringing the grand total of children to six — three boys & three girls.
East Union Township, Wayne County 1830 Census, George Boler (age 36) with 2 boys (George & Jacob) under 5, 1 boy (John) under 10; Elizabeth (age 40), with 1 girl (Elizabeth) under 5 and 1 girl (Christiana) under age 10.
Township map of Wayne County, Ohio.
In 1836 George buys land (above) from William McDowell in East Union Township Wayne County, Ohio. This record shows the property with a $550 property value, 12=Range (farmland), 16= East Union Township, 4= Southeast Corner.
Nolan Gerber (related to the Bollers in Kalona, IA) is from Wayne County, Ohio and states this…
“Based on the birth dates of his children, George and his family would have arrived in Wayne Co. between 1823 and 1825 – between the births of John and Jacob. Based on tax records from 1827, I know for sure the family first settled somewhere in East Union Township. Where exactly prior to 1836, I’m not sure? In 1836, George and Elizabeth Boller purchased this property (above) from William McDowell. In red, I have highlighted the whole section. In yellow is the SE section George bought. I can’t pinpoint exactly where the house was located, but the area of the Eura/Levi Schrock farm at 416 McQuaid Rd is my best guess. I’m thinking a little more south-based on the 1850s Baker’s map.“