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Charles Ballstadt (1833-1923)


Posted By: Karon Velau (email)
Date: 9/24/2022 at 12:08:05

Charles Ballstadt
(December 20, 1833 - June 3, 1923)

The world owes much of its modern civilization to the Teutonic race whose representatives through many generations steadily drifted westward, carrying with them the older progress and improvement of their former homes. Many leading citizens of Calhoun County are of German birth or German lineage, and the sterling characteristics of these people have been manifest in every walk of life leading to improvement and upbuilding. Mr. Ballstadt is among the number who have come from the fatherland to America. He was born in the province of Pommern, Germany, December 20, 1833. His parents died when he was only about six years of age, and he was reared and
educated by a guardian, with whom he remained until twenty-four years of age. In the meantime he served for three years in the German army, in accordance with the laws of his native land. At the age of twenty-six our subject crossed the Atlantic, landing in Xew York in the spring of 1859. He then made his way to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he worked for six dollars per month, being glad to receive any wage that would yield him an honest living. When the Civil war was inaugurated, in April, 1861, he responded to the call for seventy-five thousand volunteers issued by President Lincoln. He became a member of the First Wisconsin Infantry under Colonel Starkweather, being a private of Company H, which was commanded by Captain William George. He served for three
months as a private and in 1864 he again joined the army, this time as a member of Company K, First United States Veteran
Volunteer Engineers, under Captain William O. Saar and Colonel Merrill. Chattanooga was their destination. The troops were sent with one hundred pontoon boats down the Tennessee river to Decatur, Alabama, to lay a pontoon bridge across the river at the time
of Hood’s invasion into Xashville, Tennessee. Subsequently they were sent to build blockhouses to protect the railroad between Nashville and Columbia, Tennessee, and there the regiment was cut off from its base of supplies. For a time they lived on only quarter rations and had a hard time to get anything at all to eat. There Mr. Ballstadt was taken ill and sent to Chattanooga to the hospital, where he remained until the war ended, receiving an honorable discharge in October. 1865. He was mustered out at Nashville, Tennessee, and for a week or two lay ill in Chicago before he could proceed to his destination — Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A year passed before he had fully recovered his health. After the war Mr. Ballstadt was employed in a machine shop in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, and not long after this was married on the 23d of March, 1869, to Miss Caroline Wentlandt, who was born in the province of Posen, Germany, February 15, 1843, daughter of Ludwig and Johanna (Kamms) Wentlandt. After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Ballstadt started for Nebraska, but while en route decided to change their course and made their way by team to Fort Dodge, Iowa, where they arrived in the spring of 1869. In July of the same year our subject purchased the homestead of Jimmy Connor, on section 4. Greenfield Township, Calhoun County. This country was then new and wild and the prairie was unbroken. In the spring of 1870 there was a memorable storm, the blizzard lasting for three days and the snow was so blinding that many lost their way. It was an experience which will never be forgotten by the early settlers. Mr. Ballstadt engaged in breaking the prairie with ox-teams, planted trees and made other improvements upon his farm. There was no coal bank nearer than the Des Moines river and it took two days to make a trip there and return with a load of fuel. He built his home with lumber, which he hauled from Fort Dodge, first living in a little shanty, fourteen by fourteen feet, and eight feet in height. It was made of hard lumber and the hand-made shingles were of red oak. Nails were probably very scarce at that time, for only one nail was used to a shingle. Some settlers of the neighborhood became dissatisfied with conditions of Calhoun County at that period and left for other
portions of the country. There were many sloughs and ponds and it required much draining to make the land cultivable. The settlers had to go twenty-five miles to pay taxes and many hardships and trials were to be borne, but gradually pioneer conditions gave way before the advance of civilization. In the year 1869 Mr. Ballstadt began grading on the Illinois Central Railroad from Fort Dodge. Manson was the nearest trading point after the completion of the road to that city, but previous to that time Fort Dodge was he market in which the settlers sold their products and purchased needed supplies. Mr. Ballstadt paid three dollars and seventy-five cents per acre for forty acres of his homestead. It was swamp land, but his efforts resulted in making it a productive tract and as the years have passed he has added to his property until he now has four hundred and fifty acres, all of which is under cultivation. Today he is one of the well-to-do farmers of this portion of the state and deserves great credit for what he has accomplished, as his property has been acquired entirely through his own efforts.
Unto Mr. and IMrs. Ballstadt have been born six children, of whom one died in infancy. The others are: Albert H., born June 2, 1871, and is a resident of Lincoln township, Calhoun County: Rudolph C, who was born August 19, 1873, and is employed in a bank at Manson; Theodore L., who is at home and whose birth occurred on the 31st of January, 1876: Helena A., who was born April 19, 1878, and is a resident of Fort Dodge; and Carl G., who was born August 25, 1884. 3nd is living at home. After residing for thirty-three years in Iowa, during which time she never knew that any of her relatives had emigrated to America, Mrs. Ballstadt learned through correspondence with her eldest brother, now in Germany, that her brother Edward had crossed the Atlantic and was carrying on a prosperous business as owner of paper mills in Outagamie County, Wisconsin, and that her brother August, now deceased, with whom she had been corresponding, had married twice and by the first marriage had five children, all of whom were living in Wisconsin.
This was joyful news to Mrs. Ballstadt, and in company with her husband she made a trip to Wisconsin recently, enjoying a two
Weeks’ visit with her relatives there. They had written many letters, but ail had been returned, none reaching Mrs. Ballstadt. She also had a brother William, who is now deceased, and her brother Samuel is yet living in Posen, Germany. Her parents died
at a very advanced age, her father in 1879, When about eighty years of age, her mother in 1883, when about eighty-one years of age. Mr. Ballstadt has served as school director and as township trustee, and was also constable for several years. In his political affiliations he is a Republican and has always supported that party. In the work of public progress and improvement our subject has ever taken an active and helpful part, his labors being effective in promoting the progress of the county. He has helped lay out roads and build bridges, to improve the prairie and to advance civilization along all 'lines of material progress. Great changes have been wrought by time and man since his arrival here. He first used a double shovel and one horse to plow his land, and planted his corn by hand. The blackbirds were very plentiful and would often steal the corn. The country was full of ducks, cranes and geese, and thus the hunter had ample opportunity to indulge his love of sport. During the cyclone which occurred on the 17th of June, 1898, Mr. Ballstadt barely escaped with his life. He and his family, with the exception of his eldest son, made their way to the cellar. Mr. Ballstadt had just returned from Manson when the cloud came and descended upon this region. His barn was moved two inches from the foundation and wrecked to some extent. The chimney was blown from the house, the grass was damaged, fruit trees were destroyed and three large trees which stood two rods from the house were uprooted. The smoke house was torn to pieces from the force of the wind and the picket fence was thrown over and many of the posts were pulled from the ground and broken off. His son Albert, living in Lincoln township, suffered even more severely from the storm. His horse barn was damaged and one horse
was thrown over a wire fence and injured. Although discouragements and obstacles have barred his path to success, Mr. Ballstadt
has nevertheless advanced toward prosperity with a resolute spirit and strong determination, brooking no obstacles that he could overcome by honorable effort, making the most of his opportunities, and at all times following the belief that honesty is the best policy he has now become one of the substantial and prosperous agriculturists of this portion of Iowa. Both he and his wife are charter members of the Evangelical Lutheran church. The first meetings here were held in the schoolhouse and later in a small church, but today the congregation owns a modern church which was erected at a cost of four thousand dollars. For a year he has been one of the trustees of the church, and takes a very active interest in its work. [Source – Biographical Record of Calhoun County, Iowa, by S.J. Clarke, 1902, p.363]


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