Houston County, Minnesota—background for family history

First publication 2013.11.13. © Thomas G. Kohn, 2013.

John Reinert and his wife Katherine Blasius-Reinert arrived in the U.S. around March of 1867. To date, no ship’s passenger list has been found to document their exact arrival.[1] The Prussian commander of the militia signed a permit for emigration on 9 February 1867. If the family left Germany soon afterward, travel to Le Havre, France might require a week, and ship passage about three weeks. Thus, it is likely they arrived in March.

The family traveled with five children aged 19 (Susanna), 16 (Nicholas), 14 (Peter), 7 (Maria), and 3 (Gertrude). Their most likely port of arrival was New York City, and they may have been processed through Castle Clinton (also called Castle Garden).[2] However, it is possible their ship landed in Hoboken NJ. The family stayed some time with one or more of Katherine’s siblings. Her brother Nicholas Blasius lived in New Trier township, Cook county, Illinois; her sister Anna Catharina Blasius-Schmitz-Simon also in New Trier township or the nearby town of Wilmette; and her brother Johann Blasius lived in Chicago.

Figure 1. Caledonia township, Houston county MN, 1871
An informal family history holds that they had settled near Caldedonia in or after 1867. By the Ninth U.S. Federal Census of 1 June 1870, John Reinert and his family lived in Houston county, Minnesota. Their home in Minnesota was a farm about one and one-half miles north and three to four miles west (red square in Figure 1) of the village of Caledonia (red polygon). The farm might have included crops like flax, which the father John Reinert had experience with in Germany. No deed exists to show ownership, so it is likely they leased the farm.

Figure 2. John Reinert Household entry, U.S. Federal Census 1870
The enumeration of household 127 in the 1870 census (Figure 2)[3] identifies John Reinert as “John Rinerd” (age 50, farmer with real estate valued at $1700 and personal estate valued at $400) and his family as Catherine (46, keeping house), Susanna (22), Nicholas (19), Peter (17), Mary (10), and Gertrude (5).

Other families enumerated before and after the Reinerts include these households.
  • William Paddock (dwelling 118, household 112, in section 10)
  • James Mulligan (dwelling 119, household 113, in section 10)
  • Delmer Irvin (dwelling 120, household 114, section 10)
  • Michael Lorig (dwelling 121, household 115, not found as an identified land owner)
  • James Lochead (dwelling 122, household 116, “Lockard” in section 3)
  • John Schmitt (dwelling 123, household 117, in section 3)
  • Gunder Knudson (dwelling 124, household 118, in section 3)
  • Edmund Powell (dwelling 125, household 119, in section 3)
  • Jacob P. Bakin (dwelling 126, household 120, “Becker” in section 3)
  • Dwelling 127, household 121 is the John Reinert family
  • Daniel McCarty (dwelling 128, household 122, in section 3)
  • Michael Allen (dwelling 129, household 123, “M. Ellings” in section 9)
  • Patrick Jennings (dwelling 130, household 124, in section 9)
  • Catherine McGloughlin (dwelling 131, household 125, “Laughlin” in section 9)
  • Michael Jennings (dwelling 132, household 126, perhaps occupant of “P.Jennings” in section 4)
  • John Hashite (dwelling 134, household 128, “M.Hastings” in section 4?)
  • Nicholas Pirrotte (dwelling 135, household 129, in sections 9 and 10)
  • Frank Wis (dwelling 136, household 130, not found as an identified land owner)
  • Anna Shields (dwelling 137, household 131, not found as an identified land owner)
Figure 3. Neighboring households to John Reinert, Caledonia twp
The household locations are shown as numbers in Figure 3. Two small squares indicate dwellings that are not enumerated with a family. They are possible locations for the John Reinert family.

It is likely that John swore his intention to become a citizen at the District Court of Minnesota in Caledonia on 23 October 1867. However, the signature could be read as “John Reinart,” who was a different immigrant who lived in Houston county at the same time.

John Reinert died from throat or neck cancer in March of 1871. The parish registers do not include burials of 1871,[4] and his grave is not recorded in the Caledonia parish cemetery. Katherine and the children kept the farm running for about a year.


The land features of Houston county, and for that matter, much of Minnesota and Wisconsin along the upper Mississippi River, resemble those of the middle Mosel River. Meandering tributaries feed the broadly flowing Mississippi, which is bounded by the bluffs that rise above the river.

Figure 4. Map of Houston county, Minnesota, 2003
The Root River flows east through the north third of Houston county and beside the towns of Houston and Hokah. Tributaries of the Root River from the north are Storer, Silver, and Money Creeks. North of Houston on Money Creek, a tributary of the Root River, is the unincorporated village of Money Creek. Also north of the Root River are Pine Creek (unincorporated) and the largest town of the county, La Crescent, which overlooks the Mississippi floodplain across from La Crosse, Wisconsin. South along the Mississippi are the towns of Brownsville and Reno (unincorporated).

The southern three-fourths of the county rise as much as 500 feet above the Mississippi, and most of the climb occurs in the bluffs above the western bank of the river. Tributaries of the Root River from the south are, in westward order, Thompson Creek (formerly also known as Indian Spring Creek), Crystal Creek, and Badger, Beaver, and Riceford Creeks. Thompson Creek was named in honor of Edward Thompson and his brother, Clark W. Thompson, the principal founders of Hokah. Caledonia sits in the center of the broad plateau above the rivers, among gently rolling hills that might have reminded John Reinert and his family of the plateaus above Wasserbillig and Igel. The land is fertile but often steeply sloped. The farming typical to the area includes raising soy beans, corn, and livestock feed crops. The area is not populated very heavily today, with the average town size of about 700 residents. The other towns on the plateau are a combination of unincorporated areas (Yucatan, Sheldon, Black Hammer, Riceford, Newhouse, Wilmington, and Freeburg) and incorporated villages (Spring Grove and Eitzen).

Next sections: Parish, Local Development, History, Reinert History in the Area, Travel in 1872, Tipton KS, Seguin KS, La Crosse WI



Several online sources provide transcripts of ship manifests, including an index of arrivals by year,  (an index of departures by port, including Le Havre, a searchable database of NARA records, and the Dayton and Montgomery County Library has most volumes from Germans to America: Lists of Passengers Arriving at US Ports 1850-1897 (Ira A. Glazier and P. William Filby (the correct volume to search is Vol. 19).


On August 3, 1855, Castle Garden opened as an immigrant landing depot. The creation of Castle Garden represented a country at a crossroads, signaling a change in American immigration policy, and in the ways through which immigrants became Americans. Two out of every three immigrants to the United States in this period passed through the Castle Garden. It was closed on April 18, 1890 and immigrant processing was moved to Ellis Island.


Ninth U.S. Federal Census of Houston county, Minnesota; page 18, dwelling 127, household 121, lines 10 through 16.


Email of Oct 17, 2013 “Re: Parish records from 1871” from Maria Keefe (stmaryschurch@acegroup.cc) “Unfortunately, we have very few records dating as far back as 1871. Of the few we have, I was not able to locate any burial records for John Reinert.”

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