Monday, October 31, 2011

The Flood Creek Hermit

Several years ago, my mother and I were walking through St. Mary's Cemetery in Roseville, Iowa.  I needed some tombstone pictures. She was keeping me company and telling stories about family members. Many of my family are buried there. We were just casually strolling here and there in this small country cemetery. It was a lovely day.  As we walked along, I noticed a small tombstone by the side of the driveway.  It read:  Pete Nohs, died Feb. 17, 1903.  It was such a small tombstone, it almost made you think it belonged to a child.

My genealogy antenna went a bit haywire when I noticed the name Nohs.  I was researching the Noss line. Coincidence?  When I questioned Mom, she drew a blank and tended to calm me down with the thought that it probably wasn't a relative. Something about the poor little tombstone touched me and I took a photo of it ... just in case.  Ya just never know ...

The next day, I spent the afternoon at the local library looking through old newspapers.  I decided to see what I could find on Peter Nohs who died in 1903.  I found his obit:

"Old Peter Nosh, the Flood Creek hermit, who has been sick for sometime past, died Tuesday morning, from a complication of troubles.  Contrary to the generally accepted opinion, he was not an old bachelor, but had a wife and daughter both of whom died in the old country before he came over 34 years ago.  The funeral service will be held tomorrow."
   Rockford Register, Rockford, Iowa - Thursday, 19 February 1903

Again the old antenna immediately began to quiver (if you are a genealogist, you know exactly what I'm talking about).  Peter Nosh? Nohs?  Noss? Could this be possible?  My great-grandfather, Carl Noss, and family did not arrive in Iowa until 1886.  If Peter had lived in Iowa for 34 years by 1903, that means he came over earlier.  Could this be a relative and the reason my Carl decided to settle in Floyd County?

A couple of days later, I returned home and immediately headed for the Omaha Public Library as they had a complete collection of Iowa census records (this was pre-Ancestry days).  There was Peter Nuss in the 1880 census for Floyd County, Ulster Township.

Later I found a land record that contained Peter's signature.  This solved the mystery of the assorted Nohs/Nuss/Noss spellings.

If you look closely, you will notice he signed his name with the typical German double S, which to the eye of a non-German appears as an "hs".... thus Nohs.  

From there I followed Peter's story through census records, land records, probate records, passenger lists and German church records.  I was like a dog with a bone.

The final reward is that old Peter Nohs, the Flood Creek hermit does belong to me.  He's my 2nd great uncle.   Now when I wander through that peaceful country cemetery, I always stop and talk to Peter.  I just want him to know that he has family and we remember him.

This is Peter's story:

He was born 13 April 1818 in the small country village of Bettingen in Saarland, Germany.  His older brother, Johan, is my great-great grandfather. He was married to Theresia Hermann on 1 June 1841.  They had a baby girl who died at birth later that year.  In 1844 they were blessed with a son they named Peter.  I can almost feel Peter's pride at the birth of this son. Sadly no other children were born to Peter and Theresia.  In March of 1868, tragedy struck the family with the death of their only child and then Theresia died two years leter in December of 1870. Peter must have been devastated to lose his entire family.

In the spring of 1872, a Bettingen farmer by the name of Peter Merfeld and his family decided to emigrate to Iowa and Peter joined them on the voyage. They sailed on the "Silesia" and landed in New York on 11 April 1872.  They traveled across country and settled in Floyd County where Merfeld's brothers had settled a few years previously.  

Another old newspaper article extracted from Rockford Register, dated 20 Oct 1898 gives another glimpse into the life of Peter:

  "Peter Noss, the old hermit of Flood Creek, has been sick for some time and is a hard case for the authorities to handle.  He insists on being left alone in his little hut and does not want anyone to go there to care for him, neither will he be cared for anywhere else.  The township trustees keep such supervision of him as possible and will see that he does not suffer for want of food.  The chances are that someday he will be found dead in his little home."

If you are a fellow genealogist, you have certain stories or family members that touch you deeply.  Poor old Peter Noss, the hermit of Flood Creek is one of mine.  Somehow I feel he never got over the loss of his little family.  I'm hoping he found some peace in a small house in northern Iowa.  I know I feel a connection to the old hermit when I lay my hand on the top of his tombstone in that peaceful country cemetery.

1 comment:

  1. Love this story! I'm glad poor old Peter will be remembered.