Our Minger Family

    A wonderful history of our Minger family has been compiled into a book in by Edith (Brown) Lenarz, Ruth (Brown) Tohrwasser, and Mae (Brown) Siemers. It is titled, The Minger Family History, A Book of Memory. Much of what I will summarize here is exerted from this book. The Minger book is no longer available; however, I have digitally photographed each page and have prepared a PDF version. If you are a Minger descendant and are interested in a copy of the PDF version, please ask.

“We owe our Swiss heritage to Johann Ulrich Minger and Anna Maria (Hofer) Minger, our emigrant ancestors from Switzerland. John Ulrich was the oldest son of Bendicht Minger, a dairy farmer.” Their family line can be traced five more generations back to Hans Minger, born about 1598. They were from the Messen - Mulchi area of Switzerland. Anna Maria Hofer was from a neighboring village.

“In adulthood, Johann Ulrich became a farmer, carpenter and blacksmith…Despite his short stature (not over five feet) it is said that he was very strong. A story has been told that at one time, on a wager, he carried 200 pounds of milk for 12 miles. He was also considered quite a wrestler, having won many matches in his time.”

Johann Ulrich and Anna Maria lived in Mulchi and nine children were born to them.” One or more died infancy.

In the spring of 1845, they left Switzerland and “traveled across the country of France to LeHavre on the Atlantic seacoast. With them they took their cattle and also their household equipment which was piled on oxcarts and pulled by oxen. Anna Maria and her younger children rode on the oxcarts, while Johann and the older boys walked and drove the cattle.” Their oldest child was 19 years old and the youngest was four years old.

They arrived in New York City, their port of entry, after a 45 day sailing across the ocean, “At one point they were stranded for three days in a dead calm before a breeze came to their rescue.” Their journey from New York City to New Philadelphia , Ohio took another 21 days. First they traveled up the Hudson River in New York to Albany; then possible by stagecoach to Schenectady, New York, which is where the Erie Canal started. Their trip of 350 miles on the Erie Canal to Buffalo, New York was made on a flat-bottomed boat which was pulled by mules along side the canal. It is thought that from Buffalo they went again by boat on Lake Erie to Cleveland, Ohio and from Cleveland on perhaps two more canals (Fulton and Dover) to their final destination of New Philadelphia. Among the Minger's family possessions which survived what must have been a long difficult journey from Mulchi to Ohio were two items - a lovely sugar bowl and a trunk.” In 2005, I was able to photograph the sugar bowl. It is a treasured possession of Clara Kords Frommelt of Guttenberg, Iowa. She is one of their great-great-granddaughters.

Johann Ulrich and Anna Maria lived in Ohio for about 10 years, before relocating to Clayton County, Iowa, where they lived out the rest of their lives. They are buried in the little country cemetery near their home on Jolly Ridge, in Clayton County, Iowa. Our line continues through their oldest son, Johann (known as John). He was seventeen years old when his family immigrated. As a young man, John worked on a steamboat on the Ohio River. At age 26, he married 19 year old Elizabeth Hassig. “It is said that Elizabeth did not have happy growing-up years and that she was only too happy to get married and leave home.”

John and Elizabeth had 14 children. The first was born in Ohio and the other thirteen in Millville Township, Iowa. “Life was not easy for John and Elizabeth, and with such a large family of children, they never had much money…Eleven of their children lived to adulthood, some of them to an old age.”

When John died in 1908, he was almost 81 years old. Elizabeth died 14 years later at age 87. At the time of her death, she had eleven children living, 56 grand children and 45 great grandchildren.

We are descended from John and Elizabeth's ninth child, Sarah Louise Minger. She was 22 years old when she married John Smith. His family lived across the road from her family on Pumpkin Ridge, near Turkey River, in Millville Township, Iowa. They were childhood friends and attended the same school. They lived the first years of their married life on his parent's farm in a second house, which had been built on the property. Their first three children were born there. Next, they moved into a log cabin on a farm of their own on Pumpkin Ridge. It was adjoining his parent's farm. Five more children were born in this log cabin. John and Sarah and all eight of their children lived in this log cabin until 1908, at which time they built another wood-frame house.

John had a good orchard on his farm and was especially noted for the variety and quality of pears that he grew on it and sold to other people. He also sold honey from the bees that he had on the farm. John and Sarah lived the rest of their married lives on this farm. Sarah died in 1940 and John died almost 20 years later. They are both buried in Goshen Cemetery on Pumpkin Ridge.

Our line continues through their fourth child, Emmet Willard Smith. He grew up on the farm. When old enough, he began working on the railroad. He married Grace Elda Lenhart. Throughout the early years of their marriage, Emmet held various jobs. At times he continued to work on the railroad, he tried joining his father to help him farm, they managed a gas station, owned a sawmill, and farmed on a farm of their own. In their later years, Emmet had a blacktop paving company and Grace worked as a cleaning lady for a local college.

Emmet and Grace had two sons and a daughter. We are descended from their oldest son, Don Emmet Smith. While in high school, Don met and fell in love with Janet Grace Neuendorf. At that time, he lived with his parents on their farm in Zwingle, Iowa. It was Don and Janet's passion and calling to be missionaries, bringing the gospel of Christ to Native Americans in the southwestern United States. They served for over 40 years in Christian ministry. Don passed away in 1989 at the age of 61. Eighteen years later, Janet passed away at the age of 78. They are both buried in the Flagstaff City Cemetery in Flagstaff, Arizona. They had four children, all of whom survived them.

Biographical Sketch:

Other researchers of this line
    If you know of anyone researching this line, please contact me.


  • A family history
    leads to the satisfaction in really knowing who you are
    and from when you came.

  • "Nor long shall any name resound
    Beyond the grave, unless't be found
    In some clerk's book; it is the pen
    Gives immortality to men."

  • A good life lasts for several generations.

  • In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep,
    to know our heritage, to know who we are
    and where we come from.

    — Alex Haley
  • To forget one's ancestors
    is to be a brook without a source,
    a tree without a root.

    — Chinese Proverb
  • Family faces are magic mirrors.
    Looking at people who belong to us,
    we see the past, present, and future.
    We make discoveries about ourselves.

    — Gail Lumet Buckley
  • In every conceivable manner,
    the family is a link to our past,
    a bridge to our future.

    — Alex Haley
  • What greater thing is there for human souls
    than to feel that they are joined for life – to be with each other
    in silent unspeakable memories.

    — George Eliot
  • Some people come and go in our lives.
    Some stay forever.

  • We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors,
    we borrow it from our children.

    — Native American Proverb
  • The memories we give may a lifetime live in the heart
    of those we hold so close.

    — Unknown
  • Families are like fudge . . .
    mostly sweet with a few nuts.

    — Unknown
  • The family is one of Nature's masterpieces.

    — George Santayana
  • Having a place to go – is a home.
    Having someone to love – is a family.
    Having both – is a blessing.

    — Donna Hedges
  • Every man is his own ancestor,
    and every man is his own heir.
    He devises his own future,
    and he inherits his own past.

    — Fredrick Henry Hedge