The Max Kade Institute is collaborating with Pope Farm Conservancy in Middleton, Wisconsin, on researching the history of immigration and settlement in the Town of Middleton, particularly the experience of settlers from the small German state of Mecklenburg.
Pope Farm Conservancy , a beautiful hundred-acre public park west of Middleton, features educational trails that interpret the site’s history and unique physical and cultural geography. One important group of visitors are fourth-grade students who study Wisconsin.
Recently, the footprint of a settler’s cabin was identified on Conservancy land that once belonged to Fritz Elver, a farmer from Mecklenburg. After 1867 the cabin was inhabited by another Mecklenburg immigrant family: Joachim Goth, along with his wife, son, and mother, and—over the years—nine more children. Joachim worked as a day laborer on the Elver farm. Following the typical chain migration pattern, Joachim had followed his uncle Jürgen Goth (immigrated in 1854) and his brother Carl (1857). Today, descendants of the Goth family and other Mecklenburgers still live in the area. One of them, Carl Goth’s granddaughter Mae Goth Hartwig provided us with invaluable information about her family, family documents such as original letters, and stories of what life was like in this German-American community.
Under the guidance of Mel Pope, three signs now have been posted where the cabin once stood. They inform visitors about the immigrant family that once lived there and the history of German immigration to the area in general. But this is only the beginning. As we continue to research the history of settlers from Mecklenburg in the Town of Middleton, we will also develop educational materials and post resources on the MKI Web site. And we invite you all to come and visit Pope Farm Conservancy and experience German-American history in the rural landscape!