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Illinois, USA


by Edmond Bonjour
My family history on my mother's side is quite complicated. This is partly because there were so many children born in each family, there were some remarriages. and her ancestors in Europe, who first came to America, go back a few generations.
Wilhelm Eden was born in Ostfriesland, German on September 20, 1836. He married Zeda von Hajen in 1857 in Germany and they had nine children, five sons and four daughters. After his first wife died he married Mrs. John Oltmanns who had two children, a son Wilhelm (my great- grandfather) and a daughter Katherine. After they were married she went by the name Sodie. My great-grandfather's step-father, Wilhelm Eden, was very active in the military service. He fought in the war of 1866 in Germany and was awarded a Royal Medal of Honor. Sodie took care of all eleven children by herself. Wilhelm retired from the military in 1886. The next year Wilhelm, Sodie, and three of their children came to America because it was the land of opportunity. They landed in New York and then went by train to Nebraska and settled near Wymore. They tried to make a living by farming but the crops were very poor. They had some friends and children in Iowa who came to America before them so for this reason they moved to Iowa. Years later they moved back to Nebraska and lived in the town of Lanham. Wilhelm was ninety-five years old when he died on February 21, 1931, in Lanham.
Wilhelm Janssen Oltmanns, Sr., my great-grandfather, was born on December 29, 1862, in Akelsburg, Ostfriesland, Germany. His parents were Mr. and Mrs. John Arend Oltmanns. He was baptized on January 3, 1863 and confirmed Palm Sunday, 1878, at Leerhafe, Amt Wittmund. He attended rural schools near his fathers farm in Germany. In September, 1884, he decided to come to America because of military conscription. He left from Amsterdam, Holland as a stowaway on a ship and came to Monticello, Iowa. He worked on a farm for Curtis Hosford and later he worked for William Hale. A few years later he rented a one hundred twenty acre farm in Cass Township in Jones County and then bought it in 1898. On February 19, 1891, he married Franke Margaretha Oltmanns in Wayne Township. They had two sons, John and William Jr. (my grandfather). His wife died on April 9, 1897, and he was remarried on March 31, 1898 to Johanne Magdalena Mathilda Dirksen Peterson. She had been married to Auguat Peterson while in Germany but after coming to Jones County he was killed in a threshing machine accident at Cass Center. They had no children but on October 5, 1908 they adopted an eleven month old daughter whom the named Edna Mathilda.
Wilhelm led a very active life. On his farm all the work was done with horses. He never had a tractor or a hayloader so at haying time the work was done by hand. He retired in 1918 and moved to his son's house in Langworthy and his son moved to the farm. Ever since he came to America he had belonged to the Wayne Zion Lutheran Church and served as deacon from 1922 to 1937. He served the school district both in Cass Township and in Langworthy as director. He always had a good and robust life until July 14, 1952 when he fell at home and broke his hip. He later died at the Monticello Hospital on May 22, 1953.
My grandfather, Willie Janssen Oltmann Jr., was born on a farm three miles north of Anamosa in Cass Township on August 25, 1893. His parents were William Janssen Oltmanns Sr. and Franke Margaretha Oltmanns. (At some time in history the -s was dropped off the last name). He was educated through eighth grade in country schools in Jones County. From 1915 to 1918 he worked as a carpenter for Prull Lumber Company. On May 3, 1917 he married Meta Dirks at the Wayne Zion Lutheran Church. They had five children, two sons and three daughters. They lived in Langworthy for about one year and then moved in the spring of 1918 to his father's farm in Cass Township and his father moved to Langworthy. They farmed on shares until the late 1940's when he bought the farm from his father. He farmed until October 1973 and then moved to Anamosa. He died from cancer on December 25, 1973.
Diedrich Dirks, my great-grandfather, was born in Germany in 1858. He married Margaret Boddicker on June 9, 1880 at Weasahn, Hanover, Germany. They had ten children, four sons and six daughters. Margaret's parents were Harm and Greta Boddicker. She was born on January 3, 1859 at Wiesedemeer, Ostfriesland, Germany. In April, 1882, about two years after they were married, they came to America aboard sailships laden with cattle, supplies, and high hopes. The trip took about six weeks because of changing winds. They settled on a farm in Wayne Township near Langworthy and later moved to a different farm northeast of Anamosa in 1911. They retired in 1914 and moved to Langworthy. Margaret died on march 25, 1936 and Dietrich died four years later on march 16, 1940.
My grandmother, Meta Dirks, was born on July 31, 1900 in Wayne Township on what was known as the Fish Farm. Her parents were Diedrich and Margaret Dirks. She was educated in country schools in Jones County. She married W. J. Oltmann Jr. on May 3, 1917. They had 5 children; Nadine, Roger, Margaret (my mother), and a set of twins, Fay and May. they farmed until they moved to Anamosa in October 1973. She died on August 14, 1975 from a heart attack. My mother, Margaret Mathilda Oltmann, was born on February 5, 1928 on a farm five and one half miles north of Anaomsa in Cass Township. Her parents were Mr. and Mrs. W. J. Oltmann Jr. She went to Frog Hollow School in the country one and one half miles north of her home until eighth grade. She didn't go to school the next four years because there were no buses to take her to town six miles away and she was needed at home to help take care of the twins. Then she decided to get a high school education so she went to Anamosa High School and graduated in 1949. From May 1949 to January 1954 she worked at the Maquoketa Valley Rural Electric Company as a billing and crediting clerk. She attended a communications school in Omaha, Nebraska from January 1954 to May 1954. From June 1954 to 1957 she worked at the Northwestern Bell telephone Company as a telephone operator. She worked at Collins Radio on the assembly line from 1957 to 1959. On August 8, 1959 she married Leo Bonjour. They live on a farm near Olin at Newport Mills.

My family background on my father's side is much simpler because both his parents came directly from Switzerland.
George Bonjour, my grandfather, was born on January 16, 1883 in Corgemont, Switzerland. His parents were Mr. and Mrs. Alfonse Bonjour who farmed in Switzerland. He became an orphan at the age of nine years when both his parents died. He had a guardian appointed to him but the guardian was dishonest. When he was about fifteen he went to trade school to learn cabinet making. His guardian would keep him on the same job and not advance him to a different job. He wanted to learn all the various skills so he would run away and then the guardian would find him and put him on a different job. He had to keep this up until he had all the training he needed. After he got his education he worked for a furniture factory delivering furniture with a cart pulled by a Saint Bernard. Later he got to work in the factory and actually make furniture. One day in the factory four young men and George were talking about America. The four men decided to come to America and since nothing was holding George there he decided too come too. They got on a ship in France and three weeks later were in America in 1904 when he was twenty-one years old. They landed in New York and after going through customs they got on the first train heading west. When the train stopped at Monticello, Iowa they decided to all get off. They all got a job on the George Chalupski farm. George worked there for seven years and then went by train to St. Louis, Missouri. He worked as a professional hand milker for a dairy for a short time and then worked in a furniture factory for about one year. While in St. Louis he married Ida Grandgene on May 1, 1911 and then moved back to Monticello.
Ida Grandgene (Grandjean), my grandmother, was born on June 16, 1883 in Neuchatel Switzerland. When she was still young her family moved to Bienne where her father's watch factory was. She worked in the factory putting ladies watches together. In 1903, when twenty years old, she came to America with her family. They settled in St. Louis, Missouri where she was a governess for a wealthy family. On May 1, 1911 she married George Bonjour and they moved to Monticello, Iowa. After returning to Monticello George worked for Hall Manufacturing as a dray man, picking up and making deliveries with horses. While in Monticello two children were born, Maurice and Georgette who died about one year later from polio. He farmed in Cascade for about one year and then moved, in 1918, to the first place east of Olin where he worked as a hired hand for Dr. White. From this point on he rented farmland. He never owned a farm in his life. Since he only wanted to rent they would have to move when the owner wanted to sell the farm. They always moved on March 1 along with everyone else.
In 1919 they moved to the Easterly place three miles south of Olin and paid cash rent. It was here that my father, Leo, was born. In 1934 they moved to the first place south of Olin and farmed on shares. In 1936 they moved to the Wood's farm three and one half miles southeast of town and paid cash rent. Their last move was in 1941 to the first place north of where I now live. They retired in 1952 when my father and uncle bought the ninety-nine acre farm from the Grafft's. They lived there until their deaths which were both caused by heart attacks. George died on August 29, 1966 and Ida died on February 9, 1971.
My father, Leo Edmond Bonjour, was born on May 8, 1921 on a farm three miles south of Olin. His parents were George and Ida Bonjour. He attended school at Olin and graduated in 1939. From March to October in 1940 he worked on the Howard Mackey farm. Then he was a hired hand for James cousins from October 1940 to October 1947. From March 1948 to March 1952 he worked as a member of the Dairy Herd Improvement Association (DHIA). My father and uncle bought a ninety-nine acre farm in 1952. Then in 1959 they bought a one hundred one acre farm, where I now live, form Chester Sarby. On August 8, 1959 he married Margaret Oltmann in the Evangelical United brethren Church in Olin. I was born on September 30, 1960 and two years later on October 6, 1962 my sister, Renee, was born. Leo and Maurice, my uncle, bought eighty acres of land from Grassfields and seventy acres from Ray Stivers in 1962. In 1975 they sold ten acres of land across the river to make the present farm three hundred forty acres. They farmed in partnership from 1952 to 1978 when my uncle retired. My father now rents half of the farm from Maurice and farms for himself.
I, Edmond Leo Bonjour, was born at the John McDonald Hospital in Monticello on September 30, 1960. I graduated from the Olin Consolidated High School on May 18, 1979. I am presently enrolled at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa and I hope my life is as interesting and exciting as my ancestors.

Fred Bonjour
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