Site 18 Germania

Welcome to Germania, rich with history and natural beauty. This site is on the John Muir Nature and History Route for several reason. One, Native Americans lived here for thousands of years and when you walk through Germania, the Germania Marsh, and drive the roads in the area, you are on land where the First People walked, lived, hunted, and fished. All around you was their home.

Second, Germania Wildlife Area provides easy walking access to a biologically rich ecosystem. You have several access points and can easily spend a day just exploring the Germania Marsh and its wildlife.

Third, the small community of Germania was forming when the Muirs settled farther south in Marquette County and it tells a story about people who moved here to find a new life and to establish a community of like-minded folks. The Germania Company is an example of that desire for a new start and new opportunities.

          The Germania area is a wonderful place for a back-roads drive or walk.  Watch the roadsides for beautiful wildflowers like this Turk's Cap Lily or below that, Hoary Vervain.

Germania is rich with Native American history.  Eagle Road was once an Indian trail.  These first people lived here for hundreds, probably thousands of years.  The first people would have been hunters and gatherers, following game and travelling with the seasons.  But then they began to garden, growing corn, beans, and other foods.  That meant they settled into villages.  There is evidence of gardens in this area as well as evidence of several cultures that changed over time. 

The map below is from the Charles Brown Collection at the Wisconsin Historical Society.  The map was made in the late 1800s and the landscape has changed.  Most features are gone today.   DO NOT TRESPASS on private property.  Driving or walking on the roads around Germania gives you a connection to this area rich in Native American history. 

This map shows known Oneota sites in Wisconsin.  Click on the link below to see a full timeline of First People cultures in Marquette County. 

Keyhole houses may have been built and used by Native Americans who lived around this area. 

Interesting history......Societies set up home in Marquette County

Above is a photo that shows the "Long House" of the Germania Company.  You can barely see it in the center of the photo in the background.  It no longer stands, but read about the interesting history of the Germania Company:

            Early settlers were not always single families seeking new homes or new beginnings.  Sometimes, they moved here as part of a larger ideal or because of associations between members of an organized group.  Two examples are the Potter’s Emigration Society (which you will learn about as Site 8) and the Germania Company.  While organized for different reasons, they are examples of the desires of a group of people with similar dreams and goals, banding together to move into and settle in the new lands of Wisconsin in what we know today as Marquette County.

The Germania Company was located in the town bearing the same name, Germania.  German settlers set up homes here as early as 1850 and probably earlier.  It was called Indian Land at that time.  That’s when Abraham Pierce and his wife Henrietta, both in their second marriages, settled here.  They lived in a dugout on the east hillside of Comstock Lake.  The Portrait and Biographical Album of Green Lake, Marquette and Waushara Counties says that Abraham died in 1853 and Henrietta returned to Massachusetts, married Benjamin Hall, and moved back to Germania. 

            Hall set up the Germania Company.  He had given up his life as a trader and shipper and had become a preacher proclaiming the second coming of the Lord, following the teachings of William Miller.  Millerites, as they were called, believed they could mathematically calculate the second coming.  They were staunch abolitionists and based their calculations on events including those like the Dred Scott decision, matching them to prophecies.  The second coming was predicted for 1843 and many followers left the flock when, instead of the Second Coming, the Great Disappointment occurred.   Many followers of Miller and Miller himself, discouraged setting an exact date for the coming, so when Jesus did not appear in 1843, it did not discourage followers who were less rigid in their predictions.  Benjamin Hall, with his new wife Henrietta who had become a follower, according to her diaries kept while living in Massachusetts, kept the faith.

 A band of about fifty followers moved with Henrietta and Benjamin to Germania.  Hall bought another 1200 acres of land to add to Henrietta’s and a colony house was built.  The society  worked for the good of the company and  goods and labors were shared, but members could set out on their own in business or farming.  Those who lived in the “big house” as the hall was called, all ate together and worshipped together.  Some members bought their own land.  Hall was a master at making money and operated as a banker, giving loans and making investments in Marquette County and even in Milwaukee.  He developed water power in Germania and the woolen mill in Montello.

            After Hall died in 1879, the colony eventually disintegrated but Henrietta and Abraham’s son C. E. (Clarence) Pierce managed the business which included a store, general farming, raising of stock, and other interests, successfully for years.

            The Wisconsin Historical Society reports that the 19th Century saw many utopian societies set up in Wisconsin, Germania being just one. A 1999 article in the Magazine of Wisconsin History by Peggy Sands relates the historical and theological basis of the Germania Company and traces its beginnings and growth as one of the more successful experiments in the state.  She reports that Hall had written inside of one of his hymnals, this song:

Oh come, come away

To high bliss aspiring

Each worldly toy we leave with joy.

Oh come, come away…

Oh watch, watch and pray

For Jesus soon is coming

From worldly care henceforth away

Oh watch and pray.

The blessed king will soon be here

The New Jerusalem appear

To meet him in the air

Oh watch and pray… 

            Perhaps he was calling folks to come away with him to Germania as he wrote this in his hymnal.  As you walk the roads of Germania today, it is easy to imagine the voices of the faithful drifting through the woods.  Like other settlers in other parts of Marquette County, this land was a new beginning, a land of hope, a place to aspire to something bigger than yourself and that which you left behind.

 

 

The long house of the Germania Company may be gone, but you can still visit a very historic building today called the Longbranch Saloon.  Originally built as the Germania Hotel and Tavern, it has been in continuous operation since 1868 and still draws people for the good food and comradery.  The original hotel had rooms for 24 guests. 

The first Post Office in Germania opened in 1855.  It closed and another was opened in 1866.  James Phillips, shown below, was the Post Master.  You can see the original Germania Post Office shelving and cubicles at the Marquette County Historical Society in Westfield.  Site 12 takes you there.  

Take time to walk through the Germania Marsh from one of several parking areas.  It is rich in bird and animal life and offers beautiful vistas. 

From the DNR website: “The Germania Dam Company built the first dam and mill in Germania in 1867 which created a large shallow flowage of several thousands acres called Germania Lake. In 1902 the dam was removed to permit the farmers to harvest wild rice which was soon abandoned due to poor economic return.  In 1948, a committee of game managers inspected the area as a potential restoration project and the favorable report and the engineering surveys which followed indicated that the area had a good water supply and was suitable for flooding. The preliminary project and first Land Acquisition on the Germania Marsh was approved by the Wisconsin Conservation Commission on September 9th 1955 as a wetland restoration project.

                The current Germania Marsh Dam (Lower Dike) was completed on October 13th 1959 and was modified and repaired in 1999 after vandals had dumped sand into the gear mechanism that moves the water control gate.”

A 1974 article by Elaine Reetz about the August Warnke family history  tells more about the Germania Mill Pond.  It says, “When August had completed his miller apprentice ship (in Princeton) he and a brother, Michael, purchased in March of 1886 the Germania Co. flouring mill at Germania. Wilhelminie and Martin Matz bought a partnership in the mill, known as Warnke Brothers and Matz Mill, and did a thriving business, hauling rye and wheat flour to Princeton where it was shipped by railroad.

  ‘It was a big mill, with five water wheels, but it burned to the ground from unknown origin after they had run it for 13 years,’ Otto Warnke said.  ‘I remember that I was about 5 years old, and watched the fierce fire burning from our home across the street.  Dad and Uncle Michael became farmers for the first time. They drained their property, the Germania Millpond and went into the dairy business. They purchased bag after bag of seed from Princeton usually blue joint grass seed for the low ground, and pastured the former millpond. Today this millpond acreage is Included in the Germania Marsh Wildlife Area.” 

The Germania Wildlife Area is listed as a Wetland Gem in Wisconsin.   It is 2400 acres of open marsh/wet meadow, swamp hardwoods/tamarack swamp, upland prairie/oak savannah and shrub carr.