Wednesday, April 6, 2016


E is for Sophia Etscheid (1861-1953)



Sophia was my great grandmother and "Little Carlie's mother, He was my "C" post.

Sophia was born in Reeseville, WI in 1861. It was a wild and wooly place back then. She lived in a log cabin during a time when Indians were still feared. When the Indians came to the cabin, the children were hidden along the rafters behind the family trunk and warned to be very quiet. In the wintertime, they (the children) followed fence posts going to and from school because the snow drifts were so high. Today, we would have just had a snow day.

 She only finished the 4th grade and by the time she was 19, she was working in Watertown, WI as a maid for the Joseph Bursinger family. She met Louis Wilkowski in Watertown and they married in 1887. Louis was employed as a cigarmaker in Oconomowoc and they moved to a little cottage by one of the lakes. Sophia often spoke about their first Christmas and Louis' surprise gift to her. He walked home in the snow with a platform rocker on his back. It was a wonderful gift for an expectant mother. They eventually had four children, 3 sons and a daughter.

Louis continued in the cigar trade until 1901 when he opened a saloon at 116 E Main St in Watertown. Sophia's life would seem to be perfect. In 1902, the family moved to 202 N 5th St where tragedy struck. Sophia's son, "Little Carlie" was killed while playing crack the whip in the school playground. It was very icy and he flew off the end of the whip and hit a fence. His sister Della carried him home and a doctor was called but he never regained consciousness. Six months later Louis had a heart attack and died. Sophie was left with 3 children to raise.

After Louis' death, Sophia had a very hard time. She would have received a death benefit from Louis' lodge, the Plattdeutscher Verein; one dollar from each member. I don't know how that converts to today's money but it must have been substantial since membership in 1907 was 334. Still, Sophia was forced to go to work. She worked at any job she could find. The 1910 census describes her as a private nurse. She also ran a boarding house, and practiced mid-wifery. She even picked and/or weeded farmers produce fields. She would leave food on the back of the stove for the children and work at whatever she could to support her family.

In 1920, she moved to Fond du Lac, WI and lived with her son Fred and his wife Tessie. Later that year, she moved to her daughter Della's home and remained with them until her death in 1953.