The Botzum Family
John George Botzum was born in Neuhaes, Germany in 1796. He married Katherine Dragaser, of Urmmeispatch, Germany also born in 1796. We believe they were married somewhere between 1818 and 1820. Their home was situated along the Rhine River near Strausburg.
John George had served seven years as a soldier, having fought in the Battle of Waterloo. He hated war, and having five sons, who would come of age and be drafted into the German army, he and Katherine dreamed of another land, in the new world, where they could raise their family in peace.
In May of 1836, John George and wife Katherine, and seven children: Michael, 15; Suzanna, 12; Nicholas, 11; John George, 9; John Adams, 5; Catherine Margaret, 3; and infant John August,1, immigrated from Germany to New York on a sailing ship, and found their way to Cleveland, Ohio later that same year. Shortly thereafter, Katherine gave birth to their eighth child, Conrad, who was born in St. Mary’s Flats (what is today called The Flats).
Along the Cuyahoga
When the baby, Conrad, was old enough, the family left St. Mary’s Flats and traveled by flat bottom boat to Niles, Ohio (near the intersection of what is today Bath and Riverview Roads). John’s first job was digging ditches, probably related to The Ohio & Erie Canal, for 50 cents a day, while Katherine worked in the wheat fields and kept boarders. They lived in a log cabin somewhere between Ghent and Niles. (Some historians believe that Conrad was born in the log cabin rather than in St Mary’s Flats.)
Though exact records are unclear as to whether it was John George Botzum or Richard Howe who first purchased 600 acres of land from the Connecticut Land Company for $2.00/acre, Summit County Tax Auditor’s Duplicate Tax Records do indicate strong Botzum family land holdings by 1860. These same records show that John August Botzum was the owner of 200 acres in 1874, and transferred ownership to his brother Conrad in 1884.
Building on the Farmstead
Conrad built the Sweitzer barn, the smaller of two barns on the property in 1885, at a cost of $200. The larger Bank Barn was built in 1898, despite the Depression of 1893. Following a fire in 1906, which destroyed the circa 1835 frame house built by Richard Howe, the current molded concrete block house, summer kitchen and privy were built.
At this time, with the Botzum Brothers businesses flourishing, the family moved to Akron, residing on Botzum Court, a street that still bears the family name, at the end of Walnut Street off of West Market Street behind St. Vincent’s Church. The Botzum family held reunions at the old cottage on the North end of the property, built by the brothers in the 1930’s, until late in the 1950’s, while tenant farmers cared for the farm until the early 70’s.
Changes in Ownership
In December of 1963, Sherman Shoemaker, the family’s insurance man, and his wife Mary, purchased the farm from the Botzum family. Then in March of 1991, the farm was sold to the Public Trust for Lands and subsequently, became part of Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area. Early in 1996, the farm, land and buildings were found to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. In July of 1996, the National Park Service put out a Request For Proposals, to the private sector, to lease and restore the farm. On April 13, 1998, the Winkelmann’s lease began.
Today The Conrad Botzum Farmstead, a 501.c.3, non-profit corporation, is working to preserve and restore the Farmstead under the direction of it’s Board of Directors and the leadership of George and Maureen Winkelmann. Maureen is Conrad’s Great Grand-daughter. Weddings began to be held in The 1898 Bank Barn in June of 2001.