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Joseph Fritz
Born 27 June 1824
Lech, Austria
Died 19 June 1884
Columbus, Ohio
Buried Mount Calvary Cemetery
Father Benedikt Fritz
Mother Veronika Jochum
Joseph Fritz was born in Lech, Austria on 27 June 1824, to Benedikt and Veronika Jochum Fritz. He died in Columbus, Ohio on 19 June 1884. He was buried in the Mount Calvary Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio.


Joseph and Catherine had ten children:

  1. Joseph Conrad Fritz (1.1)
  2. Edward Otto Fritz (1.2)
  3. Henry Fritz (1.3)
  4. Mary Caroline Fritz (1.4)
  5. Frank Allois Fritz (1.5)
  6. Christian Fritz (1.6)
  7. George E. Fritz (1.7)
  8. Martin Clinton Fritz (1.8)
  9. John Crist Fritz (1.9)
  10. Mary Philomena Fritz (1.10)


Johann Joseph Fritz was born in Lech, Austria on the 27th of June, 1824. He was first child of Benedict and Veronica Jochum Fritz. Joseph's mother died on the 1st of May 1837,[1] when Joseph almost 13 years old.

Growing up, Joseph had four younger brothers, Benedict, Christian, Anthony, and Basil.[1] He had two younger sisters who each died as a baby.[2]

In spring of 1853, Joseph left Austria with his brother Benedict, their destination the United States. The may have been on the Waltham which left Le Havre, France for the port in New York City, arriving on the 5th of April, 1853.[3] They spent 36 days at sea until their arrival in New York City.[4]

There is an account that Joseph's younger brother Christian left for America in 1852.[4] According to this timeline, Joseph and Benedict traveled to Cleveland, Ohio in search of Christian, only to find the younger brother had left there. Other accounts, including census information on Christian, his obituary, and a ship passenger log which may include him, all claim his immigration took place in 1854. History may never reveal whether Christian was in Ohio prior to Joseph's arrival, or if he arrived in the United States after his older brothers.

Following the brothers' arrival in Ohio, Benedict traveled from Cleveland to Columbus, where he took employment as a house painter.[4] It is likely Joseph was with Benedict at this time. Although Benedict remained for only eight months before heading to California to mine for gold,[4], Joseph took permanent residence in this city.[5]

In about the year 1855, an immigrant of Baden, Germany[6] named Catherine Geisinger moved to Columbus.[7] Joseph married Catherine that same year.[7]

By the year 1862, Joseph lived at 267 East Walnut Street,[8] a small street sandwiched between Town Street to the north and Rich Street to the south, and east of the Scioto river.[9] He lived at this address the rest of his life.[10]

Joseph continued to work as a painter.[11] In 1864 Joseph may have worked for "G. C. L. repair shops."[12] In 1867, Joseph worked for "C. \& I. C. Railway Shops,"[13] possibly painting train cars.

Family tales

What is curious is the stories of Joseph that later circulated in the families descended from Benedict and Christian.

Three [Fritz] brothers came to this country in 1852 and 1853. They went to California near Placerville, where they made their gold strike and where they met Gephart Schoech who was responsible for them returning to Blakesburg, Iowa to live. One of the brothers, Josef, left the gold fields with his gold, but never reached Iowa and was never heard of again. It was assumed that he was killed for the gold he carried.

These words tell of the brothers Benedict, Joseph, and Christian. [Genealogical Table of the Families Fritz|The document] accompanies a single-line family tree which includes a fourth brother, Anton Fritz, and continues to Anton's grandson Franz Fritz. Likely Franz authored these documents.

This excerpt was likely left by Franz following his 1969 trip where he visited Blakesburg and met with Christian's descendants. Because Edward Fritz (3.7a.1) wrote letters to Franz, it's possible Franz wrote these at a later date, and mailed them to Edward. The writings were microfilmed on the 24th of June, 1975, following a visit with Gertrude Alice Fritz that year from another Austrian cousin, Gerhard Fritz.

It is unknown how much of this tale Franz learned from his father or his grandfather, and what he learned from his visit to the United States. A similar tale was passed by Benedict's granddaughter Ona Mae Fritz to her granddaughter, Christine. Christine was in junior high and learning the history of the gold rush when her grandmother Ona told her the story. According to Christine:[14]

[Joseph] is the one my grandmother, Ona, talked about. She said her uncle was killed on the journey back from California. Someone tried to rob them of the gold and her uncle was killed

Christine would have heard this story before Franz's visit. Also, Franz's visit was with Christian's descendants, not with Benedict's descendants. Gertrude at some point was in contact with Benedict's descendants, so it's possible she learned the story through Ona.

A similar story passed through Benedict's grandson Edward's elder daughter, Barbara, as conveyed by her sister Janet:[15]

"My sis keeps mentioning a long-lost brother of Benedict's, one who was rumored to have traveled to the gold fields in California and was never heard from again. Could this be Joseph?"

The story sounds cut-and-dried. The microfilm mentions the brothers arrived in the US by 1853. They state Benedict mined for four years before moving to Blakesburg. This would be 1857. If Joseph were killed at this time, he would not appear on any federal censuses. If he died somewhere between California and Iowa, it would be difficult to find a death record. End of story.

However, details fail to add up. A biography of Benedict written in Portrait and Biographical Album of Wapello County, Iowa said Joseph "died in Columbus, Ohio, in 1884". An autobiography by Gephart Schoech mentioned Benedict at his gold mine in California, but made no mention of Joseph. With the availability of extensive collections of records easily accessible via the Internet, records of Joseph Fritz in Columbus, Ohio were able to be linked together to provide a convincing case that Joseph Fritz did indeed survive and raised a family. With the ubiquity of low-price y-DNA testing, a matching DNA test between Joseph's descendant, Bob Fritz, and Anton's descendant, Bruno Fritz, has finally been able to confirm the falseness of the story of Joseph's murder.

There was a letter, perhaps from Gertrude, stating roughly that Benedict's descendants knew what became of Joseph. Template:Citation needed This suggests Christian's descendants did not know, and the myth about his death came entirely from someone on the Benedict line, rather than being a story known by both lines.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Probate of Veronica Jochum
  2. Information from Bruno and Ida Fritz.
  3. New York, Passenger Lists.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Portrait and Biographical Album of Wapello County, Iowa.
  5. Columbus city directories show Joseph living in Columbus from 1862 though his death in 1884.
  6. Baden is listed as Catherine's birthplace on the 1870 US Federal Census. In the Cleveland Leader newspaper (20 October 1881), Catherine testifies in court that she was born in "Baden Baden, Germany."
  7. 7.0 7.1 In the Cleveland Leader newspaper (20 October 1881), Catherine testifies in court that she "[has] lived in Columbus twenty-six years, and have been married at length of time," suggesting a marriage year of 1855.
  8. The earliest Columbus city directory I have found is for 1862. Joseph likely lived in Columbus prior to this year.
  9. Old maps of Ohio often do not show Walnut Street. The "Franklin County and Columbus 1872" atlus shows Walnut Street, but does not make it clear where house 267 was located. In 2013, Google Maps places East Walnut Street as east of the Scioto river and West Walnut Street as west of the river.
  10. The Columbus city directory for 1884–1885 lists Joseph at this address. Every city directory between 1862 and 1884 lists Joseph at this address except for 1882, which puts him at 22 City Avenue in Columbus.
  11. Columbus city directories for 1862 through 1884, and the 1870 and 1880 US Federal Censuses. The exception is the 1870 city directory which lists Joseph as an upholsterer. The 1877 city directory lists Joseph specifically as a house painter, and the 1878 city directory as a painter for "Piqua shops."
  12. Columbus city directory for 1864.
  13. Columbus city directory for 1867.
  14. From an e-mail from Christine Masterson on 27 December 2012.
  15. From an e-mail from Janet Fritz Maas on 25 December 2012, referencing her sister, Barbara.



1870 United States Federal Census, Franklin County, Ohio, population schedule, Third Ward of City of Columbus, Columbus post office, folio 141 (back), page no. 24, dwelling 136, family 171, Joseph Fritz; digital image, FamilySearch ( : 19 October 2013); citing FHL microfilm number 552700; citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1201.

1880 United States Federal Census, Franklin County, Ohio, population schedule, Columbus, folio 214-C, page no. 45, dwelling 6, family 6, Joseph Fritz; digital image, FamilySearch ( : 19 October 2013); citing FHL microfilm number 1255016; citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 1016.