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HCOC is the proud home of the George Stoppel Farmstead, but how did it come to be here? As young men in the 1830s, George and his brother Franz Joseph left Germany for the unknown. Join us as we follow their trail to discover where they traveled, what they did along the way, and where they ended up.

With the help of your donations, we will uncover the Stoppel Trail that brought the Stoppel family to Rochester, Minnesota!


Stoppel Trail

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New York


On November 11, 1813, in the Kingdom of Württemberg (now the state of Baden-Württemberg in southwestern Germany) Johann George Stoppel and his wife, Magdalena Agatha Spaeth, welcomed the birth of their third son, George Stoppel. George's older brother, Franz Joseph, had been born just two years before on July 14, 1811. As children, they attended common schools and their local Catholic church in Hiltensweiler, near Lake Constance (Bodensee on the map to the right).

At the age of 17, George began learning the cooper trade (the making and repair of casks and barrels) as an apprentice to his uncle, a task that took him three years to complete.

Once we reach our first fundraising goal of $2,000, we can unlock the next step in his journey!

Meanwhile, elsewhere
in the world:

  • 1812-1815, the United States and Great Britain are at war once again in what becomes known as the War of 1812
  • 1813, Jane Austen publishes Pride and Prejudice
  • 1814, Napoleon abdicates and is sent into exile to Elba
  • 1815, Mount Tambora in Sumbawa island (part of present day Indonesia) erupts, leading to...
  • 1816, the "Year Without a Summer", where the Northern Hemisphere experiences unusual cold to devastating effect
  • 1818, Mary Shelley publishes Frankenstein
  • 1820, Liberia is founded for freed slaves from the United States
  • 1820, Antarctica is discovered
  • 1824, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony premieres
  • 1826, the internal combustion engine is patented
  • 1831, Charles Darwin begins his journey on the HMS Beagle
  • 1833, slavery is banned throughout the British Empire with the Slavery Abolition Act

This is also a period of independence and revolt with Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, and Uruguay all gaining independence and Greater Columbia dissolving to become Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. Russia, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece all undergo revolutions in the 1820s followed in the 1830s with revolutions in France, the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, Poland, and the Ottoman Empire. This is in addition to several wars around the world between countries jockeying for regional power.

The Kingdom of Württemberg as it existed from the end of the Napoleonic Wars to the end of World War I
Image By Ssch - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The Stoppel Family church in Hiltensweiler



Having finished his apprenticeship and attained his majority, George traveled to Switzerland to ply his trade as a cooper in 1834. He stayed there for just one year before making his next move. Unfortunately, the historical record is silent on his reason for going to Switzerland or even where in the country he lived. To be sure, since Lake Constance lies at the border between what was then Württemberg and Switzerland, it was no great leap for the young man to make. In fact, Germans made up nearly three-quarters of the population in independent Switzerland in this period.

While George trained to be a cooper, his brother Franz Joseph (who went by Joseph) trained as a bricklayer and stone mason. In 1832, at the age of 21, he enlisted in the German army.

Once we reach our second fundraising goal of $4,000, we can unlock the next step in his journey.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world:

  • 1830-1848, Reformers and radical idealists attempt democratic unification of German people
  • 1830-1850, commonly known as the Trail of Tears, many thousands of Native Americans are forcibly moved west of the Mississippi River under the Indian Removal Act, resulting in thousands of deaths
  • 1832, demonstrations for the liberalization and unification of German states, known as the Hambach Festival, are held
  • 1834, the Spanish Inquisition, begun in 1478, is officially abolished
  • 1834, Peru experiences a civil war
  • 1835, the Texas Revolution establishes the Republic of Texas

View of Lake Constance
Image © Copyright 2021 PlanetWare Inc.

Procession to Hambach Castle, lithograph about 1832


In 1835, George made his way to France. Here he continued in the cooper trade making wooden barrels for wine and dried foods for another 13 years. Though he was raised as a Catholic, during his time in France he began to think along independent religious lines and found he could no longer accept the doctrines of the Catholic faith. He carried this independent mindset with him the rest of his life. Joseph A. Leonard’s 1910 History of Olmsted County, Minnesota remarks that he “had a mind of his own, and used it.”

After six years of service, Joseph was discharged from the German army in 1838. In 1846 he made the big leap across the Atlantic and immigrated to the United States.

George’s time in France corresponded almost exactly with the period known as the July Monarchy (1830-1848) when the country was a liberal constitutional monarchy under Louis Philippe I. Louis Philippe was reform-minded and sought religious equality among Catholics and Protestants, and it was during this time that laws enforcing Catholicism were repealed. Economically, this was an opportune time for George to be in France as the country experienced economic growth and the beginnings of industrialization. By the late 1840s, however, things took a turn for the worse. Many of Louis Philippe’s reforms worked to the benefit of the wealthy rather than the French populace as a whole. Poor harvests in the years leading up to 1848 resulted in food shortages. A fall in purchasing power led to industrial overproduction and extensive unemployment, which led to a banking crisis. Demonstrations ensued, culminating in the Revolution of 1848, also known as the February Revolution, and the establishment of the Second Republic in France.

Numerous other countries in Europe, including the Germanic states and Switzerland, experienced revolution in 1848 as well. Most pushed for the creation of independent nation-states and democratic governance, yet gains made by reformers and democracy advocates were rolled back both in the ecclesiastic and monarchical realms.

Though not recorded anywhere, these fraught circumstances likely influenced George’s next move.

Once we reach our third fundraising goal of $6,000, we can unlock the next step in his journey.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world:

  • 1836, the first migrant wagon train travels the Oregon Trail
  • 1836, Texan separatists are defeated in the Battle of the Alamo
  • 1837, Queen Victoria begins her reign over the British Empire
  • 1837, telegraphy is patented
  • 1840, New Zealand is founded
  • 1841, Richard Owen coins the word “dinosaur”
  • 1842, the British Empire acquires Hong Kong through the Treaty of Nanking
  • 1842, first use of anesthesia
  • 1844, Dominican War of Independence gives Dominican Republic autonomy from Haiti
  • 1844, Johannes Ronge launches the 2nd German Reformation directed at the Catholic church to replace doctrine with “light of reason and conscience”
  • 1845, Irish Potato Famine begins, causing the country’s population to fall nearly 25% due to death and emigration
  • 1846-1847, Mormon migration to Utah
  • 1846-1848, Mexican-American War results in Mexico ceding much of what is now the Southwestern US
  • 1848, Karl Marx publishes The Communist Manifesto
  • 1848, fight for women’s suffrage in the US begins at the Seneca Falls Convention

Liberty Leading the People (1830) by Eugene Delacroix, commemorating the July Revolution of 1830

Revolutionaries in Berlin in 1848, waving the revolutionary flags

Signers of the Declaration of Sentiments at Seneca Falls, 1848
By -, CC BY-SA 4.0,


New York

In the midst of revolutionary fervor in France and the rest of Europe, George followed in his older brother’s footsteps and left the Continent for the United States via the port city of Le Havre on August 30, 1848. We know he became an independent thinker, but whether or not he participated in or supported the revolutions is unknown. What we do know is he left Europe at the same time as many who did, and this group became known as the Forty-Eighters. Germans were the second largest group of immigrants to the United States between the 1820s and 1840s behind the Irish, but became the largest group because of the 1848 revolutions. Many Germans who came as Forty-Eighters settled in Texas, Cincinnati, and Milwaukee.

Joseph A. Leonard’s 1910 History of Olmsted County, Minnesota tells us after spending 41 days crossing the Atlantic Ocean on a sailing vessel, George landed at Castle Garden, New York. Located at the very tip of Manhattan Island, Castle Garden began as a fort in the early 1800s. Interestingly, at the time George arrived, it was an opera house and theater. It wouldn’t become an immigrant landing depot until 1855. From this point, George went to Rochester, New York, and spent a year working on a farm.

George’s brother Joseph arrived in the United States in 1846 and settled in the area of Cincinnati, Ohio. On February 6, 1851, Joseph married fellow Württemberg native Maria E. Schwab. Maria gave birth to their first child, John or Johannes, in 1849. While in Cincinnati, Joseph went back to his bricklaying and masonry roots, but also took up farming.

Once we reach our fourth fundraising goal of $8,000, we can unlock the next step in his journey.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world:

  • 1849, gold prospectors arrive in California
  • 1849, safety pin and gas mask are invented

Manifest for the ship George took from Le Havre, France,
arriving October 10, 1848

Aerial view illustration of Manhattan, with Castle Garden (round structure) at the very tip, ca. 1880s
Image courtesy of Library of Congress


Franz Joseph Stoppel and Maria Schwab Stoppel



After saving some money while doing farm work in New York, George joined his brother in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he went back to the cooper trade. Here he met Maria A. Faber, who had come from Germany with her parents in 1847. They married on December 24, 1851. They stayed in Cincinnati for the next five years and started their family. Louis was born around 1851, followed by George Jr. in 1853, and Louisa in 1856.

Having declared his intention to become a United States citizen in 1850, George finally received citizenship on October 10, 1853. Politically, he began his life as an American as a Republican, but later became a Democrat. Joseph A. Leonard’s 1910 History of Olmsted County, Minnesota describes him as being “critical, far-seeing and independent” when it came to his political views.

Joseph and Maria had three more children while living in Cincinnati: Karoline, born 1851, Josephine, born 1853, and Henry, born 1855.

As a hub for German immigrants, Cincinnati was a good fit for the Stoppel brothers and their growing families. They had not, however, left the unrest of Europe completely behind them. In 1853, a visit to the city by Archbishop Gaetano Bedini led to a riot involving around 600 German men and women protesting the visit due to his repression of revolutionaries in the Papal States in 1849. Moreover, the influx of immigrants in the mid-1800s resulted in a surge of nativism, a political stance that promotes the interests of native inhabitants against the interests of immigrants. This gave rise to the short-lived Know Nothings (1844-1860), who opposed slavery and supported greater rights for women, but also were anti-Catholic, anti-Irish, anti-immigration, and xenophobic. In the elections of April 1855, another riot in Cincinnati broke out as nativists associated with the Know Nothing party attacked a German-American neighborhood. The Know Nothing mayoral candidate lost the election and the rioting marked the end of the Know Nothing party in Cincinnati.

Once we reach our final fundraising goal of $10,000, we can unlock the last step in his journey.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world:

  • 1850, Little Ice Age ends
  • 1851, The Great Exhibition (featuring the Crystal Palace) in London is the first world fair
  • 1851, Herman Melville publishes Moby-Dick
  • 1853-1856, France, the United Kingdom, the Ottoman Empire, and Russia engage in the Crimean War
  • 1854, Japan’s policy of isolation is ended by the Convention of Kanagawa
  • 1855, Bessemer process leads to the mass-production of steel

George and Maria Stoppel

Document declaring George Stoppel a United States citizen

View of Cincinnati during the Nativist Riots of April 1855


In 1856, the two Stoppel families uprooted themselves and headed west. One story tells that a German minister’s description of the Minnesota Territory as “all good land where the wind don’t blow” influenced their decision. According to this story, they arrived in Winona by steamboat in the spring of 1856, and from there took a wagon to Rochester. George then filed a claim for 160 acres of land on April 28, 1856. Another story tells that the families traveled from Cincinnati by oxcart, sharing one wagon between them, in August of 1856 (whether that is when they left Cincinnati or arrived in Rochester is unclear). At this point, Joseph and Maria had four children and George and Maria had three children. All but the women and youngest children walked. In either case, after their long journey each brother pre-empted a quarter section of adjoining land in Rochester Township, about three miles southwest of Rochester. Joseph A. Leonard’s 1910 History of Olmsted County, Minnesota explains that “George immediately began to improve the place.” To file their claims, however, the brothers had to walk to the nearest land office, which was in La Crosse, Wisconsin. After three days and 70 miles, they reached their destination and paid $200 for 160 acres, or $1.25 per acre. Though George filed the land claim in 1856, the formal document describing the land signed by President James Buchanan is dated June 10, 1858.

The government required homesteaders to build a house on their land, but with winter approaching, the Stoppels decided to dig a cave into the hillside. It was here that Joseph and Maria’s fifth child, Charles, was born on March 16, 1857. That summer, George and Joseph each built a log cabin. Guided by Joseph’s experience with masonry, they quarried limestone from the nearby hills to build stone houses over the next few years, completing them in the early 1860s. Joseph built a lime kiln, the first in Olmsted County, near his house. The lime he produced there was used in several of Rochester’s earliest commercial buildings. Meanwhile, George added numerous buildings to his growing farming operations. A Record and Union article from December 1876 wrote about his “Fine Farm Buildings”, saying:

His barn, erected some three years since, is one of the best and largest in the county. It is 50x70 feet in size, and has a capacity for 150 tons of hay and over 5,000 bushels of grain. It contains underground stables for horses and cattle, with a pump in each, a room for cleaning grain, tool shed, chicken house, etc.

One of the most novel arrangements about the place is the wine cellar. It consists of a sort of cave extending under the bluff near the house, resembling the Hoosic Tunnel in shape. [The Hoosac Tunnel is a railroad tunnel in Massachusetts. When completed in 1875, it was the second longest tunnel in the world.] …It is used for storing wine, potatoes, etc. In connection with the cellar is a building used for a woodshed, corn-house, work-shop and smokehouse, the whole very conveniently arranged.

Both Stoppel families continued to grow in Minnesota, as well. George and Maria added another boy to their family with the birth of Frederick in 1864. Joseph and Maria had another four children: William, born 1859, Frank, born 1861, Mary, born 1862, and Emil, born 1866. Sadly, diphtheria found its way to the families in 1867, taking the lives of George and Maria’s children, Louis and Louisa, and Joseph and Maria’s children, Mary and Emil.

Both men lived long, productive lives in Olmsted County. George died November 29, 1897, just past his 84th birthday. His wife, Maria, died February 2, 1901. Joseph died June 26, 1898, just shy of his 87th birthday. His wife, Maria, died January 7, 1910.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world:

  • 1856, the world’s first oil refinery opens in Romania
  • 1858, British Empire in India begins
  • 1859, Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species
  • 1861-1865, American Civil War
  • 1861, Russia abolishes serfdom
  • 1863, France annexes Cambodia
  • 1867, United States purchases Alaska from Russia
  • 1867, Alfred Nobel invents dynamite
  • 1868, invention of the safety bicycle
  • 1869, first Transcontinental Railroad is completed in the United States
  • 1870, first commercially sold typewriter is produced
  • 1871, beginning of the Second Industrial Revolution
  • 1872, Yellowstone National Park, the first of its kind, is created
  • 1873, blue jeans and barbed wire are invented
  • 1874, Impressionists present their first public group exhibition
  • 1876, General Custer is defeated at the Battle of Little Bighorn by an alliance of Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho
  • 1876, beginning of the "Gilded Age" in the United States
  • 1877, Thomas Edison invents the phonograph
  • 1881, first electrical power plant goes into operation in Godalming, England
  • 1883, Krakatoa volcano in Indonesia erupts
  • 1884, first electric car is produced
  • 1885, first car with an internal combustion engine is produced
  • 1886, Statue of Liberty is constructed
  • 1886, Coca-Cola is developed
  • 1889, Eiffel Tower is inaugurated
  • 1890, the cardboard box is invented
  • 1892, basketball is invented
  • 1893, New Zealand becomes the first country to enact women's suffrage
  • 1896, Olympic Games are revived in Athens

Rochester plat map showing George and Joseph Stoppel's lands, 1868

Document granting land to George Stoppel, dated June 10, 1858

Joseph Stoppel farmstead, 1874

George Stoppel farmstead, 1874

George Stoppel farmstead, looking southeast, 1966