MAGNETAWAN – The resting place of two local pioneers is now properly marked.
HONOURING THE PAST.
More than 60 people gathered at the St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church cemetery on Sunday in commemoration of the headstone now marking the burial site of Gottlieb and Elise Rosskopf.
“At times like this I usually say to cling to your roots,” said Fred Raaflaub, the grandson of Elise Rosskopf, nee Raaflaub, during the commemoration ceremony held Sept. 2.
According to Raaflaub, Gottlieb and Elise were married in 1888 and took over the family farm as the other brothers moved away from the area.
They had a large family – Annie, Marie, Ernest, Ida, Freda, Alfred, John, Henry, Harvey, and Edwin. There was also Paul who died at age 12 and three who died as infants.
The Rosskopf and Raaflaub families were very involved in what is now St. Paul’s church despite a three-mile trek to reach the building, which required the crossing of the lake and couldn’t be done in all seasons. One of the stained glass windows in the church is in memory of Gottlieb and Elise.
“The Swiss and German families had formed Immanuel Lutheran Church, with a church building and a parsonage on an acre of land donated by another great-grandfather of mine, William Hoerner,” explained Raaflaub.
The church was just a short distance in the Hungry Lake Road, now Horner Road.
“Originally it had been intended to build the church here (at the cemetery site), but most of the members were back toward Hungry Lake and that site was closer,” he said.
According to Raaflaub, the cemetery belonged to the Church, claimed under the Free Land Grants Act in 1878, at the time the Church was organized.
“Although it didn't meet the criteria for settlement, the Crown Land Agent assured them they would not lose the property when they decided to build on the Horner Road,” he said.
They continued use of the cemetery at that location and Jule Wurm, a member of the congregation, who owned the neighbouring land, later acquired the lot.
At that time, the cemetery remained property of the church although it was located on private land. The last burial was in 1966. The cemetery contains 50 plots, the first belonging to a one-year-old girl laid to rest in 1880.
The historic site was recently handed over to the municipality and is now maintained by the local Cemeteries Board after years of being over grown in the wooded site.
Prior to receiving a proper headstone, the Rosskopf’s plot had been marked with a metal sign, like many others on the property. The new headstone is donned with both of their names, as well as in honour of their deceased son Paul and a son who died in infancy.
According to Raaflaub, St. Paul’s church was originally built in 1895, high up on rocky Richmond Street. The building suffered severe wind damage in 1913.
As the church did not own the land, the congregation decided to build a replacement building on some land that they did own located on Sparks Street.
“They owned this lot with a house for a parsonage, which was about where the present church sits,” he said. “It was said the land where the other church sat would have cost too much, the outrageous sum of $25, so they built the church just on the north side of where sits the present one.”
Raaflaub said it was Ernest, one of Gottlieb and Elise's sons, who began building the stone foundation for it. “They took material from the old church to build that one, just as material from it was used in the construction of the present one,” he said.
Although the Gottlieb and Elise came from different backgrounds, Raaflaub says they seemed destined to meet.
“There were many similarities or coincidences in their lives,” explained Raaflaub. “Both were part of the Swiss immigration that began in the mid 1870's and both arrived in 1878. Both families got land back the Hungry Lake Road. Both families found the land too rocky for farming. Because of that both families moved to the same area, Sleepy Hollow south of Magnetawan.”
Raaflaub explained that in 1868, the Government of Ontario passed the Free Land Grants Act which provided a grant of land to anyone over 18 who would build a house at least 16 ft. by 20 and clear at least 15 acres for cultivation in order to encourage settlement of the area.
“When the area was surveyed in 1870, they thought the rocky land was like Switzerland, so they had success in getting Swiss immigrants,” said Raaflaub. “There were no majestic mountains and the land they got was too rocky and not good for cultivation. The Raaflaubs, it is said, lived the first winter on turnips and potatoes.”
Gottlieb's father Jacob, died in 1890. His mother, Annie is believed to have been too lonely and, with the girls, went back to Switzerland.
“We can't be hard on her for life could be lonely,” said Raaflaub. “Times were difficult.”
Gottlieb's father, Jacob Rosskopf was born in Baden, now part of Germany, in 1824.
“Baden became a republic for a while but was a centre of revolutionary activity, probably the reason that Jacob and his wife Annie moved to the canton of Basel in Switzerland, a peaceful country at the time,” said Raaflaub. “It was at Sissac, Basel that Gottlieb was born in 1863 and it was from there that they emigrated to Canada in 1878, with a family of six boys and three girls.”
According to Raaflaub, Elise's parents (his great-grandparents), Emanuel and Elise Raaflaub, had lived in Saanen Switzerland, but moved to a larger farm at Aigle.
“Though only 50 km away, it was in a different province, the French-speaking canton of Vaud,” he said. “It was at Aigle that Elise was born in 1870 and from there the family emigrated to Canada, also in 1878. Elise had two brothers, a married sister who came later, and another brother who was born here.”
According to Raaflaub, the Rosskopf’s went by multiple names. Gottlieb is so called in the church records, but was also referred to as James and Jim.
Elise is named Eliza on the headstone, as that is what was on the previous marker.
“Maybe it was an attempt to Anglicize as was frequently done,” explained Raaflaub. “As a child I recall visiting Aunt Lizzy, as we called her, after she had moved into town.”
He said some of the grandchildren called Elise “Muzzy.”
The German spelling of Elise’s father's name, Immanuel was first used, but then the English version Emanuel was later used.
“Uncle Bill Horner dropped the ‘e,’ which is why the Hungry Lake Road is now not Hoerner, but Horner Road,” Raaflaub explained.
The Rosskopf and Raaflaub roots are still firmly planted in the Magnetawan area, he said.
Ida's son, Fred Cadman is the donor of the bench that sits in the cemetery. Freda married Alf Pitt and their daughter, Shirley, attended the ceremony.
“Most of the Rosskopf family moved away, but Annie married Stan Morris here. Two of their sons, Norm and Harve, remained in the area operating a gravel and trucking business and Jim has returned. Their daughters were Marion, twins Edith and Ethel, and Ida,” said Raaflaub. “Henry remained on the farm and he was a long-time reeve of Ryerson Township. He married Edna Pawson and both Henry and Edna were active in the church, as was their son, Bob. Their daughter Alanna married Gordon Stewart and their sons, Dean, Allan, and Bill have also been around the area.”