An original surveyor’s map of Iowa as filed in Dubuque on October 21, 1852 by George B. Sargent, Surveyor General. This is the Iowa the Boller family came to in 1852-1853.

Click here to read more about the Johnson County land the Boller family purchased.

Certainly, Jacob B. Boller and his young family were hearing the good reports back in Butler County, Ohio from the growing Mennonite communities in Iowa. Our most accurate records show that sometime in 1853, Jacob and Catharine Boller picked up their belongings in Butler County, Ohio and settled on the southernmost of three plots of farmland located in the southeastern corner of Washington Township of Johnson County, Iowa.

1869WashingtonTwnsp Washington Township – Johnson County, IA in 1869.

A very rare Washington Township map from 1869 clearly shows three plots of land assigned to the Bollers; George’s relative, Frederick, and his two oldest son’s names, John (J) & Jacob (see lower right corner of map). It’s our guess that these three pieces of land were originally purchased by George F. Boller while the family all still lived in Ohio. Ohio census records from 1850 show Frederick living with John Boller and his family in Wayne County, while Jacob and his family lived in Butler County, Ohio. But by 1852, Iowa census records show that Frederick had now moved to Johnson County, and by 1853, we know that Jacob had relocated to Iowa as well!

Click here to read more about the early days of Johnson County…


1889 Map of Washington Township/Johnson County shows F. Boler (Frederick) and J. Boller (Jacob) but no J. Boller property as shown in 1869 map.

While no records exist of brother John ever relocating here (the 1889 Johnson County map above indicates the land was purchased by another family), the plot of land assigned to Jacob Boller is still under Boller ownership to this very day!

As Jacob and Catharine settled into their new surroundings in Johnson County, six additional children, born within a ten year period, expanded the Boller family from four to nine (young Joseph Boller, born in Ohio, died in 1854). In 1855 Magdalena Boller was the first daughter born to Jacob and Catharine. On November 23, 1856, Daniel J. Boller was born, becoming the first person of the third generation of Our Boller Story and the first of our immediate family born in Iowa. In the midst of the U.S. Civil War, Katie Boller was born in 1860, followed by George D. Boller in 1861, Jacob A. Boller in 1862, and last but not least, Samuel J. Boller was born in 1866.


1854-1866  The Boller farming family continues to grow. On May 1, 1854, Frederick Boller purchases 40 more acres of land on the English River in Washington County, just west of what would eventually become Kalona, Iowa.


Here’s an 1874 map showing Frederick Boller’s additional farmland in Washington County.


Farming was a way of life in Iowa.

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.


1860’s – 1870’s  New Iowa towns spring up. Amish, Iowa near the Boller farmstead.

The railroad systems of America had now 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. The nearest community to the Bollers in 1869 was a small town named Amish, Iowa. Amish (now called Joetown) was located in the south-central portion of Washington Township of Johnson County and can be seen on the township map of 1869. The town’s main industry was a small hotel, which was built by some industrious Mennonite man simply because its location was one day’s walk from Iowa City. Amish is important to Our Boller Story because it also served as the nearby site of Daniel J. Boller & Barbara Miller’s wedding in 1881. But Amish’s demise had already been sealed with a decision that had been made three years earlier.


1879  The railroads connect America. Kalona, Iowa (Bulltown) is born.

In 1879, the BCR & N railroad decided to extend their rail line five miles south of Amish, running through the Washington County, Iowa farmlands of John Gregg Myers. This location of the railroad brought a new town to life on August 6, 1879 called Kalona, Iowa. Located only four miles southeast of the Boller farm, Kalona was originally nicknamed “Bulltown.” My father, George E. Boller said that Kalona was named after one of the famous registered sire bulls belonging to Katie (Jacob & Catharine’s daughter) and husband John Warey. This story can’t be completely proven, but it certainly makes for interesting dinner conversation!

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


Current map of Kalona, Iowa.

Kalona, with its railroad connections to the outside world, continued to grow and flourish, while by the turn of the century, Amish had died out completely. Today there is but a trace of Amish, Iowa in the vast farmlands of southwestern Johnson County. Amish, like countless other settlements of the early frontier, died from lack of commerce. Only those communities that could offer area residents the growing services they demanded would survive.


Frederick Boller – George F. Boller’s first son – April 12, 1815 – September 27, 1887.

On September 27th, 1887, Frederick Boller, Jacob’s half-brother, passed away. Sadly, we don’t know too much about George F. Boller’s oldest son. We know he was born in Darmstadt-Hessen (Germany) in 1815, and most likely traveled as a one-and-a-half-year-old child with his father from Europe to America in 1816. A Mennonite farmer who had moved with his father from Pennsylvania to Ohio and then, bravely, on his own to Iowa, didn’t leave any records indicating that he was married or ever had children. We do know that he successfully completed his application for American citizenship on July 12th, 1860 and continued farming in the Kalona area until the ripe old age of 72.


“Fred” (as his tombstone reads) was buried at the Pleasant Hill Cemetery (also known as Amish Cemetery near Amish, IA) located on Angle Road (behind the church) in Joetown. The tombstone reads:

Fred Boller

Died Sep 27, 1887

Aged 72 Ys 5m 15ds 

Rest in peace.

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 brother of George? Click here to read an updated alternative history for Frederick, George, and the Boller family.


Kalona News, November, 1899.

By November 1, 1894, Jacob B. Boller and his wife, Catharine (both age 69) were ready to leave the hard work of the Boller farm and move into the quieter and more convenient lifestyle offered in Kalona…a new home located at 408 4th Street.

An interesting article was published in the Kalona News in November, 1899. This article covers the golden (50th) wedding anniversary party held for Jacob and Catharine. Certainly, it must have been a big day for the entire family! The article states that seven of the eight children were present…only John J. who was by that time farming in Taylor County, in southwest Iowa, was unable to attend. Two Mennonite pastors were there to lead the singing and prayer service that followed the dinner party. All the children presented Uncle Jacob an “elegant gold watch” and Aunt Catharine received “a handsome pair of gold-rimmed spectacles” (glasses). Friends and family alike surrounded Jacob and Catharine that day and many times, I’ve thought how wonderful it would have been to be in the crowd that special day in the autumn of 1899. One can only imagine how Jacob and Catharine might have reminisced on how so very much had changed in the life of the Boller family over the one hundred year span since Jacob’s father, George, was born in Germany!

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