Last Will and Testament of Matthias J. Orth

This is a (barely discernable) copy of Mathias J. Orth’s last Will and Testament, dated June 18, 1866.  It must have dictated by Matthias as there are initials next to his name.  Since he died about 12 days later, it is presumed he was ill when this document was written.  I tried to translate what I think I’m reading, but certainly there is room for error. My translations arebelow. I could not read any of the bottom portion of this document.
I have to wonder what Matthias would have thought if he knew his great great great great great granddaughter would have evaluated photocopies of the document with a photo software program (Photoshop) to aid in reading it 150 years after it was written.

Last willCropped



In the name of God America.
I, Matthias J. Orth in the town of St.  Joseph of The County of Stearns and State of Minnesota of The age of forty five and ____ and of sound
mind and memory. As such I publically
declare this my last will and testament in
manner and ordinance that is ______ ______.

First, I give all ____of ____estate of
what kinds or nature setting?___  and dearly
well blessed wife Helena to be used and
enjoyed by her during the term of her natural
life assets ____ and or after decease.
And in decease (her?) to my children share
and share alike. To pass onto them and their
___assignees pursuing the address of their heirs.

And lastly I ______bequeath articles of residence and remainder of my formal estate
goods and chattles after the payment of all my
honest debts and any said _____ Helena Orth
________and family. Subject to the terms of this
my last will and testament and renouncing
all formal wills to this version.  ____Whereas
_____; I herby ____and ____ of asset
seal in the Eucharist  ___ day of January in
the year of our Lord and in eighteen hundres
and sixty six.

               Mathias J. Orth (LS)

Rest is very difficult to read…….

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Pioneer Life

PioneerLife WEB

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May 2, 2015 · 7:28 pm

The Orth Homestead

I had looked at an 1880 platmap more than 20 years ago,and remember picturing the Orth homestead to be further west than it actually was.  I now realize exactly where is was and know how very valuable this land has become now.   As I think about it, why wouldn’t they (being earliest of settlers) not pick out the best piece of land?

In the early 1990s, knowing I was very interested in the family history, the Lauer family had invited me to one of their reunions.(Bertha Orth Lauer was August’s sister.)  I asked her sons if they knew where the original Orth property was. As it turned out they did. They showed me a house very close to the College of St. Benedict explaining that “Grandma (meaning Nicholas’s wife, Frances)” had lived there.  So in taking another look at this map it’s easy to see just  how close this was to St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict.  One of the articles refers to them settling near Kraemer Lake. Helena’s sister married Peter Kraemer.  Did he name the lake?  I do not know.  But sure wondering…  Here is the link to what that Kraemer lake area is today: KRAEMER LAKE.  The house though, was on Hwy 75 in the town of St. Joseph when I saw it.   Below is the platmap of the area in the 1880s and below, the application/land grant for the acreage by Matthias.



p15 homestead application

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Matthias and Magdelena (Helena) Orth

Mathias Joseph Orth, son of Peter and Catharina, was born in Losheim, Germany.  He was only 16 or 17 when his family came to America via the ship Erie in 1838.  In September 1846 he married Magdelena (Helena) Lauermann, who was born Dec. 30, 1826 in Buschfield, Germany.  (Her parents were Peter Lauermann and Elisabeth Beck Lauermann.) The Lauermann family had also emigrated to St. John’s, Indiana a few years after the Orth family did. There were several families that presumably knew each other from the homeland who emigrated within a few years of each other.

Mathias and Helena (as she was called) lived in Indiana and started their family. It was here that the first six children were born: Angeline, Susannah, Michael, Stephen, Joseph and Nicholas.  In 1852 poor farm times and an epidemic (likely tuberculosis) made them decide to move —this time to Minnesota. It was thought that the cold, drive winters and pure air could cure sickness.  They literally sold everything they had and bought covered wagons for the trip west.  Beginning in their trip in October 1854, they traveled with Peter and Angela Kraemer. Angela and Helena (nee Lauermann) were sisters. They traveled throughout the day and make camp near brooks and pastures at night. They tied the animals to the wagons and slept inside the wagons at night. An article in the St. Cloud Journal Press, dated Oct. 11, 1929 described the trip that had happened 75 years prior.

st cloud orth newspaper

The two families remained in the makeshift homes throughout the winter and then the following spring moved to Kraemer Lake, two miles west of St. Joseph. They settled on adjacent farms, staked in the wilderness.  Like his father was in Indiana, Mathias and family were some of the very first settlers in the area.  They farmed the land and Mathias became very active in local government. He took the oath of office as Stearns County Commissioner on January 5, 1857 and was instrumental in forming School District #2.  (St. Cloud’s School District was #1.) There is information about Matthias in “The History of Stearns County”.

In 1862 the United States passed the Homestead Act whereby settlers could get up to 160 acres of land from the government if they agreed to live on and work the land for at least 5 years. Matthias applied and was granted his 160 acres in this area of St. Joseph (then called Clinton). The plat map of 1880 shows the location of this land.

It was there Matthias and Helena raised their family.  Matthias died in 1866 at the age of 45 years.  Helena continued to run the farm with the help of her sons.  There were many difficult years, especially in the mid 1870s when grasshoppers devastated many Minnesota farms. Helena suffered from asthma. Toward the end of her life Helena was cared for by her daughter in law, Frances Orth (Nicholas’ wife). Both Helena and Matthias are buried in St. Joseph Cemetery.

Note: In various references, Magdelena’s first name has been spelled three different ways.  The majority of references are spelled “Magdelena”, sometimes it’s “Magdelina” and yet other times, it’s “Magdalena”.  I can’t be sure of the correct spelling and since she went by her nickname, “Helena”, it was often recorded as such. 

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Great grandchildren and great great grandchidren of Johann Orth, our earliest known ancestor

So far we have followed the lineage from Johann down to August Orth’s grandfather, Matthias Orth.  Here is a visual summary of the lineage.

WEBGrGand ggg children

I have recently created an email account to communicate with Orth family members and to gather contact information of thosee who will eventually want to receive the final summary of all of this.   I prefer to keep all of the biographical information OFF Facebook .  If you want to be in the distribution list for emails (will be more relevant as I move farther through the process) please email:  I need your name, your parents’ names and possibly your grandparents name if you think I might not know which line you descend from. If your other members of your own family want information as well, send me their email addresses or have them do so.   This address will also be used for gathering information you wish to provide about your respective “branch” of the family when we get that far.  More information to follow.  Mostly I’m trying to stay organized with it all at this point!


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From Germany to America

The Orth family was among the 20,000 immigrants who left Germany in pursuit of a better life. According to history sources, population pressures, crop failures and bad weather were cited as the main reasons for Germans at this particular time to see a new life in America.TheEriePage8web

Whether these are the reasons the Orths left, will probably never be known. What is known is that Peter Orth, his wife Catharina and their children left Losheim in the spring of 1838 and traveled down the Rhine River to the Port of Le Havre, France and boarded their ship – “The “Erie”. The trip took many weeks. People making these early journeys took as many of their belonging with them as possible. They cooked their own meals on the ship.  They reached the port of New York on May 28, 1838. From New York they traveled either by wagon across southern Michigan or else took a steam up Lake Huron and down to Chicago on Lake Michigan. It is presumed at this point their either traveled by railroad or were greeted her by people who had moved here earlier.  However they got there, their final destination was St. John’s Indiana (Lake County) where they made their home for the next 16 years, joining others who had moved here previously from their German homeland.

The Orth family was one of the first four families to settle in St. Johns. They helped erect a Catholic church in 1843. They are referred to in a book entitled, “The History of St. John’s Parish” by Nettie Barman.  There was an Orth Street in St John for a long time, named after them.

P9Citizenshipweb Peter and Catharina Orth farmed the land and raised their children. Several families of friends from the homeland also moved to this area.  One of them, the Lauermann family, had a daughter Magdelena who eventually married Peter and Catharina’s son, Matthias.  Peter and his family were granted United States citizenship on August 31, 1843. He died in about 1844 and is buried in St. John’s Cemetery in St. John’s Indiana. Catharina then moved in with her daughter, Susan. Catharina died sometime in the 1860s.



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Our Earliest Known Ancestors

(Note: Names indicating a direct Orth ancestry of the St. Cloud Orth families are in bold faced type.)

Johann Ort
The earliest verified Orth of our lines is Johann Ort(h). He was born before 1733 in the Saarland area of Germany. He married Susanna Seiler. They had at least one child, presumably more. That child’s name was Nikolas.

Nikolas Ort
Nikolas Orth, son of Johann (Ort, Orte, Orth) was born March 1, 1753 in Merzig, Germany. He married Barbara Rassier (born June 5, 1758. Sometime during his life he moved the short distance from Merzig to Losheim. He died on March 22, 1797 and is buried in Losheim. Presently we know of only two children, but again, it’s quite reasonable to assume there were more. The children we know about are: Johann, who was born in 1791 and died in 1792 and Peter, born in 1793.

Peter Orth
Piere Ort (Peter Orth) was born in Losheim, Germany on October 3, 1793. He married Catharina Schneider (born Sept. 18, 1795) on Nov. 28, 1815. I believe they were farmers. Their children were all born in Losheim (considered Prussia then). They immigrated to America in 1838 settlings at first in St. John’s, Indiana. They farmed the land and raised their children. Several families from Germany also came to this area. One of them was the Lauermann family. Their son, Matthias would eventually marry on of the Lauermann daughters. Peter and family were granted US citizenship on August 31, 1843. He died in about 1844 and is buried in St. John’s Cemetery. Catharina then moved in with her daughter, Susan. Catharina died sometime in the 1860s. Their emigration is detailed in the next section. The children of Peter and Catharina are as follows:

1. Barbara Ort- b. 2/4/1817 married Caper Minea. Their children were:

a. Joseph, b. 7/20/1842 in Joliet, IL, m. Julie Keller
b. Angeline, b.4/6/1841 in Illinois m. August Jobst
c. Catherine b. 3/27/1844 never married
d. Peter, b. 11/10/1845 in Indiana, m. Jennie Kerr
e. Marguerite, b. 7/16/1847 in Indiana, m. John Brettner
f. John, b. 2/7/2/7/1849 in Indiana, m. Mary Bruggeman
g. Henry, b. 7/14/1850 in Indiana, m. Julianna
h. Elizabeth, b. 8/6/1852 never married
i. Jacob, b. 7/271855 m. Catherine Ott, later m. Catherine Belinske
j. Bernard, b. 10/18/1857 in Minnesota, m. August Litfin
k. Barbara, b. 4/25/1859, m. Albert Zschocke

2. Angela Ort, b. 10/14/1818. Married Sebastian Stephen, who was a tailor in 1845. He served seven years in the French Army and was at one time, a brewer. Lived in Joliet, IL. She died in 1852. Her later remarried. Angela and Sebastian had three sons.

a. Sebastian
b. Aliosisus
c. Henry

3. Mathias Joseph Ort, b. 4/27/1820, died 7/16/1820. (Note: their next child was also named Mathias Joseph. This was common back then after losing a child.)

MatthiasHelenaWEB4. Matthias Joseph Orth. B. 9/25/1821 married Magdelena (Helena) Lauermann on 9/8/1846. Mathias is the father of Nicholas, from whom the majority of St. Cloud Orth family are descended. More information about Matthias is provided in the next section. His death is recorded on 6/30/1866. He and his wife, Magelina (Helena) are pictured here.  Children of Matthias and Helena are:

a. Angeline
b. Susannah
c. Michael
d. Nicholas
e. Stephen
f. Joseph
g. Elizabeth
h. Peter
i. August

5. Peter Ort b. 1/4/1823, died 2/2/1823

6. Catharina Ort, b. 8/21/1824 m. Joseph Tress (or Dress) 6/1846

7. Maria Ort b. 3/20/1826

8. Anna Ort b. 12/12/1828, d. 11/22/1832

9. Aloysius Ort b. 10/11/1829, d. 3/12/1832

10. Elisabeth Ort. B. 2/2/1831, d. 4/4/1833

11. Helena Ort, b. 6/23/1834, d. before 1838

12. Susannah b. 12/19/1836 m. Jacob Austgen (Susanna died in 1870 when her youngest child, Peter was 4 months old. Jacob later remarried.)

a. Gerret, b. 1857
b. John, b. 1859
c. Leonard, b. 1861
d. Othelio, b. 1863
e. William, b. 1865
f. Jacob. B. 1866
g. Albert, b. 1868
h. Peter, b. 4/12/1870

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The Name Itself

It will come as little surprise to learn that the name ORTH is a German one.  The earliest entry of the name or derivative dates back to the 1300s though family records do not exist that far back. The current name “Orth” is known thought to derive from the German names: Ort, Ord and Orte.

Whatever spellings were used prior to 1700 will probably always be unclear, but our direct ancestors spelled the name ORT until they immigrated to America in 1838. It was our ancestor Piere Ort (Peter Orth) who made the change.  It was very common for immigrants to “Americanize their family names.

The name itself has several meanings, one of which is: point of a sword or spear. Another is: village. Still another is: one who comes from Orth.


So where IS Orth?  In looking at a German map from the 1700s, the town of Orth is located in the northern area of Germany on a peninsula, just south of Denmark. The earliest tracings of the family find them living in or around Losheim near the French border.

The migrations and settlements of our ancestors over the years form the framework of the Orth family.

detailed peninsula mapWEB

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The Search for the Orth Family Continues

Although my intentions were on target when I started this blog, I now have limited time I can sit at a computer for any given time.  So I’ve altered my original plan. I am taking the book I did years ago, scanning it and uploading the “to be edited ” version up page by page.  Some of the pages will just be basic information, especially in the beginning.  But as we get into the present generations, I’ll ask for help from the family for their own family’s biographics for the purposes of updating. More information to follow as we move along. The following text is updated from the original introduction page. 

The Search for the Orths Continues

Back in the early 90s, I became very curious about the Orth family history. I knew so little about them. I hadn’t never gotten to know my grandfather, August, very well. Because he had so many children and grandchildren,I doubt he even knew my name. His wife Mary Michels Orth died the month before I was born. I knew only this much: August was born on Groundhog Day, he liked fish (even cleaning them), he always helped with the dishes and wore some high top black laced leather shoes. Oh, and he called every woman and girl, “Sister”. My dad and his brothers referred to him as, “The Old Man”. Somehow I learned he had quite a temper, but I never witnessed it personally.

At about this same time, I saw an old photo of him. In it, he was standing next to his mother. I had never seen a photo of her before and became very intrigued. So after putting my kids on the school bus one day, I drove to the Latter Day Saints Family History Center in Golden Valley. I was told to start with what I knew, which wasn’t much. It happened to be Groundhog Day and as I accessed his file, I realized that day would have been his 100th brithday. So I took that as a sign, I should dig deeper.

Although the internet was in existence, present databases were not available. I used old microfiche machines and hand wrote much of what I found. I quickly made human connections. Paul David, a descendent of the Lauermann branch of the famly was invaluable. He shared his findings and he was so very knowledgeable about famly migraions and such. Gene Minea was another great source. Arlene Orth Rodd and Armella (Ginger) Orth both had precise notes of the framework of the family. I truly met some great people doing this all of whom were as curious as I was. I was able to copy some old photographs people allowed me to view, but not leave their hands. Back then the process was tedious, but  viable.

I published what I knew in 1991, the year before my father died. I tried so hard to finish it so he could be able see what I’d found. The trouble with such books though, is by the time you print something on a family, it’s already out of date. It can never be “finished”.  Live events continue to happen.

About 150 copies were printed and mailed to those requesting them. There is a master copy at the Stearns County Historical Center. My own copy is marked up with additions, correction and notes.

My purpose now is to make all of the information available electronically for any of the family members who wish to have and share it.

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Family of Nicholas and Frances Orth

Family of Nicholas and Frances Orth

August Orth taken in approx. 1916 with his siblings and parents.
Front: William, Frances, Amelia, Nicholas, Theodore
Back: Julius, Chester, Bertha, Herman, Lambert, Theresa,


July 14, 2013 · 9:04 pm