German Farmers Organized Charity in 1877

 06/27/2016 - 13:33
George Nissly was one of the few German families from Saline included in the 1874 Atlas of Washtenaw County. His gorgeous brick home on Macon Road was included in the Atlas, but his name was misspelled.

A group of German farmers from Saline set up a charitable organization, and filed it with the Washtenaw County Register of Deeds in 1877.

The purpose of this organization: “to assist those of the Society who may be suffering from disease, infirmity or necessity.”

Some of the names listed as members included Christopher Hauser, John Schwalns, Konrad Jedde, John Lindenschmidt, George Lindenschmidt, Jacob Weesinger, Michael F. Schaiable, and Adam Sauer.

The information about this society is written out longhand in a large book in Ann Arbor, and deciphering it requires a certain amount of handwriting analysis.

I checked the 1874 Atlas of Washtenaw County to see if any of the names in this charitable organization were listed in the Atlas.

They were not. Very few German names from the Saline area are in the Atlas.

I did find one German farm house, drawn by pen-and-ink and published in the Atlas, on page 91. That gorgeous brick home still stands on the east side of Macon Road just north of Johnson Road.

The Atlas gives the name as “George Neissle” but Robert Lane, Saline historian, told me he believes this is a spelling mistake. I agree.

The correct name is George Nissle.

The German families joining the charitable society were probably not tuned in to the Atlas, which failed to contain any German.

Furthermore, it cost money to have your biography or a drawing of your home in the Atlas. German families wouldn’t want to show off their home in a book that would not be read by their German friends.

Meanwhile, it’s fascinating that the German community in Saline worked so hard to provide a social safety net for their members in case of “disease, infirmity or necessity.”

George Nissly may not have needed that safety net. The 1870 US census shows him in Saline Township with his wife, Mary, and six children, ages 1 to 16. With such a large family, plus his brother and other extended family, the Nissly clan had a built-in social network for support in nearly any disease or emergency.

George’s nephew, George J. Nissly, was the co-founder of the Saline Observer newspaper in 1880.  His descendant, Rick Parsons of Saline, commented about this on Facebook. Parsons mentioned that he has the front page of that first newspaper, dated Nov. 18, 1880.

Nissly, the co-founder of the Observer, was only about 21 when he established the newspaper.

The following year, he got married, and eventually went into the poultry business with a farm on Henry Street. He died in 1902 and was laid to rest in Oakwood Cemetery along with his uncle and quite a few other Nisslys.

Sources: The Miscellaneous volume, page 11, at the Washtenaw Register of Deeds; Robert Lane; Rick Parsons, a descendant of George Nissly’s nephew; Bentley Historical Library in Ann Arbor; Saline Area Historical Society; and Ancestry.com; Glen V. Mills City Directory; R. L. Polk City Directory; marriage records; death records; and Find A Grave. 

Photo: George Nissly was one of the few German families from Saline included in the 1874 Atlas of Washtenaw County. His gorgeous brick home on Macon Road was included in the Atlas, but his name was misspelled.

Martha Churchill is a local historian, and the author of several books about local history. She can be reached at mc@marthachurchill.com

Martha A. Churchill
BA in Journalism and Anthropology at UM in 1973. Law degree at Cooley Law School in 1979. Member of Milan City Council since 2004. Practicing attorney. Genealogist since 2001; local historian since 2006. Free-lance writer.