My Little Grandma: Theresa Treml Drexler
I always called my maternal great-grandmother, Theresa Treml Drexler, the little grandma because she was so much shorter than my grandma, Pauline Drexler Schmidt. Little grandma couldn't have been more than 4'10".
Mom would always take my younger sister Beatrice and me to visit little grandma's house whenever we were staying with grandma at 903 North Walnut in Marshfield. Our little grandma lived almost next door but in reality, we had to cross a small field and go up a small hill to reach her house. Inside, great-grandma was always at the woodstove cooking something.
In my ancestry research, I have learned that Theresa Treml Drexler was born in Austria in 1879 and immigrated to the Marshfield area of Wisconsin when she was two or three years of age. After suffering the loss of her mother, great-grandma watched her father remarry four years later a widow who had five children.
Following marriage at the age of 19, little grandma had eight children and saw them all grow up before great-grandpa had a tragic death in the early 1930s.
The little grandma that I knew was the one who had lived as a widow until passing away in 1963. This is the story of her life.
Roots in Eisenstadt, Burgenland
Theresa Treml was born on January 7, 1879, to George Treml (1852-1941) and Anna Hilgart (1855-1891) who lived at that time in Eisenstadt, Burgenland. In 1879, Burgenland the easternmost state of Austria belonged to Hungary. With a predominantly Roman Catholic German-speaking population, the inhabitants of Burgenland voted to join Austria in 1921 after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of World War I.
George Treml was the youngest of seven siblings. He had three brothers-Franz Xavier(1835-1915,) Joseph(1847-1926,) and Wenzl (1849-1935.) Franz died in Austria and Joseph in West Bohemia of the Czech Republic. Wenzl, however, immigrated to Wisconsin in 1883 and was vice-president of the Auburndale State Bank upon his death in 1935.
Theresa Treml never got to see her three paternal aunts-Barbara born in 1838, Theresia in 1842, and Rosalia in 1844. All died in Austria.
George Treml and Anna Hilgart married in Eisenstadt on January 22, 1877. Four years later, a very young Theresa and her parents immigrated to Auburndale, Wisconsin. They probably left Eisenstadt due to unemployment and their low standard of living as farmers.
Early Life in Auburndale, Wood County 1881-1891
Wood County is in the central part of Wisconsin. When my little grandma and her parents immigrated to Wood County, they settled in or near the village of Auburndale which is six miles east of Marshfield.
According to an 1881 history of Auburndale, the Connor brothers, John and Robert, were the first to settle and draw up plans for a village in 1871. By 1881, Auburndale had general stores, blacksmith shops, churches, a school, and saw-mills. Lumber was produced from the saw-mills. It had developed into a good business since Auburndale was now served by a railroad. Agricultural produce was also shipped to markets down the nearby Wisconsin River.
When George Treml settled with his family in Auburndale, he probably either worked in a saw-mill or was a farmer. I have not yet discovered his occupation through my genealogy research.
It is known that between 1881 and Anna Hilgart's death in 1891 the Treml family grew by five. After John was born in 1883, Anna and Marie came into this world in the years 1887 and 1889 respectively. George Joseph was then born in 1890 followed by Joseph in 1891.
As the oldest child, little grandma had to help her mother care for five younger brothers and sisters. Twelve-year-old Theresa Treml's burden was greatly increased after the early death of her mother in 1891. Until her father remarried in 1895, my little grandma had to be a second mother to four younger siblings under the age of eight.
Living with a Stepmother and Stepbrothers 1895-1898
On April 23, 1895, four years after the death of his wife, Anna Hilgart, George Treml remarried in Wood County. He took as his new wife a 41-year-old widow, Paulina Beier Brath (1854-1937) who had five children from her previous marriage. The kids were all boys and included John Emil (1884-1976), Joseph Albert (1885-1930), Friederich Lawrence (1887-1966), Emanuel (1889-1976), and Frank (1890-1964).
The Treml family now resembled a kind of Brady Bunch family of the 1960s with a total of 11 children including my little grandma. My great-grandma now had stepbrothers in addition to her siblings to help her stepmother care for.
This situation didn't last long because little grandma met and married Frank Xavier Drexler in Auburndale on November 10, 1898.
Marriage with Frank Xavier Drexler 1898-1932
When little grandma met my great-grandpa, Frank Xavier Drexler (1876-1932), he was living with his stepfather Franz Xaver Pongratz and biological mother Caroline Luetner on a farm in the Auburndale area. Great-grandpa's father died when he (Frank) was one-year-old. After his mother remarried, his stepfather and mother immigrated to Auburndale around 1880. Unlike little grandma, Frank X. Drexler was born in Bavaria, Germany.
During their 34 year marriage, little grandma and great-grandpa Drexler had eight children - four sons and four daughters while living on a farm in Auburndale. The oldest, Frank, was born in 1899. My grandma, Pauline Theresa Drexler Schmidt followed in 1901. The third through fifth ranking children were all boys - George, John, and Edward born in the years 1902, 1904, and 1906 respectively. The last three children born were my great-aunts - Mary, Martha, and Anna born in the years 1908, 1910, and 1913 respectively.
In 1913, Theresa and Frank X. Drexler moved from Auburndale to a farm on the north side of Marshfield. After all of their children except John married, a tragic accident happened to great-grandpa in 1932.
While working as a teamster hauling refuse from Marshfield Hospital, a team of horses kicked and dragged his body while he was trying to get up into the horse cart. Great-grandpa died almost instantly.
Life as a Widow 1932-1963
Following great-grandpa's tragic accident and death in 1932, little grandma spent the last 30 years of her life as a widow in Marshfield. By the late 1930s, she had moved to a house on North Walnut Avenue close to her oldest daughter, my grandma, Pauline Drexler Schmidt. There she lived with son John who remained a bachelor all of his life.
Undoubtedly, it was financially hard for little grandma right after great-grandpa died during the Depression. Although John was giving her some support, my ancestry newspaper research revealed that she had tried to rent out two or three rooms of her home on March 29, 1933, not too long after great-grandpa's death. She also advertised apples for sale which she got from her trees.
My ancestry research did not reveal much about great-uncles, George and Ed. I only know that they both married and had families. Frank Joseph, however, became a building contractor and had his own successful business in Marshfield. Bachelor John became a very accomplished woodcarver and filled one room of little grandma's home with many of his carvings. Ma inherited one of his better works after John passed away in 1979.
I know almost nothing about great-aunt Mary, only that she married and became a Sullivan. Great-aunt Martha Drexler Imhoff married a farmer and lived on a big farm near Marathon. I remember visiting her dairy farm in the early 50s. Martha died of breast cancer in 1984. Great-aunt Anna or Annie as ma called her married Harold Drexler and they then relocated to Milwaukee. When we lived on a rented farm (1954-1957), Annie, Harold, and their three kids would occasionally visit. Annie died of lung cancer at a rather young age.
During the last 18 months of her life, little grandma's health started to fail. She spent the last year living with grandma Schmidt and according to grandma, little grandma died in grandma's arms while having a heart attack.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Paul Richard Kuehn