Who were the Dietrichs?

In 1854, two German brothers, Jacob and John Dietrich, arrived in America after a 53-day voyage by ship. They settled first in Connecticut and were joined the following year by their sister Elizabeth and Jacob’s bride-to-be, Catherine Jackel. Jacob and Catherine were married February 18, 1855.

Jacob and Catherine Dietrich in 1855.
Jacob and Catherine Dietrich in 1855.

The Dietrichs soon moved west to the young town of Chicago, where Jacob found work as a wheelwright for the Illinois Central Railroad. In 1857, the young couple decided to push further west. When they arrived in Westport (part of present-day Kansas City, Missouri), they bought a team and wagon for the trip that brought them to Franklin County.

They stopped one night on a hillside to camp and were so impressed by the beauty of the location that they decided to make it their home. The exact site was three miles south and two and one-quarter miles west of the present town of Princeton.

They built their first cabin in 1857. The next year, it and almost all of their possessions were destroyed in a prairie fire. Catherine worked for a neighbor for their room and board while Jacob cut the logs and earned money for a new cabin, which was built on the same site in 1859.

The hillside on which it originally stood afforded a wide view over a beautiful timbered valley, with a spring nearby for water. At the foot of the hill ran the Humboldt Trail, which became a government mail route in 1858.

In June of 1863, Jacob Dietrich became ill and died of pneumonia. He was buried in St. Boniface Cemetery, Scipio, a Catholic mission parish southeast of present-day Richmond.

Alone with three small sons, Catherine decided to stay on the frontier. To earn money, she walked to Ohio City to collect laundry from city officials living there, leaving her children alone in the cabin in the meanwhile.

In 1865, Catherine married Jacob Puderbaugh. They had one daughter, Addie, before his death in 1873.

Catherine helped each of her children obtain an education, and in return, her sons taught her to read English so that she could read their letters home. John, the eldest, became an educator and superintendent of schools. Charles farmed locally and was an Ottawa merchant. The youngest, Frank, taught at Ottawa University and later became a U.S. Circuit Judge. Catherine lived to be nearly 93 years old and is buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in Chicago.

Share this: