Posted by: marymarthatours | November 18, 2014

What Goes Around … A Story

Cornelia Simon

Martha’s and my mom, Cornelia Simon Weiler, always said that she wanted to trace her family’s genealogy “when she got old”.  It was something that she and I looked forward to doing together.  Unfortunately, mom never “got old”, dying much too young at age 67.  After she died, I decided to take up the task as a way to remember and honor her.  It’s been great fun for almost 40 years, and I think mom would be amazed at what I’ve learned along the way. 

She always claimed that she was descended from Peregrine White, the first child born to Mayflower Pilgrims in the new world.  This seemed an unlikely claim, as at the time, there was no suggestion of anyone named “White” in her family.  Now, although I haven’t found any link or proof back to Peregrine, I do know that there was an ancestor named Roxanne White, a person my mom didn’t even know existed.  It just shows that the potential of “family stories” shouldn’t be ignored.  And although there are some kinks in the line leading back to John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, mom now has a verified Mayflower ancestor in George Soule.

dinefwr6 2000 mwMom would have loved hearing the stories of the distant ancestors that I’ve uncovered over the years.  I’ll bet that she would have laughed at Martha and me referring to Dinefwr Castle in Wales as “our castle” because one of our Welsh ancestors built it in about 1175 c.e.  She would have enjoyed the fact that one of her middle-school grandsons studied medieval European history on his own in an attempt to count how many kings he descends from.  Another grandson used old family letters to create a story about settlers on the Oregon trail.  And a great grandson used the 1840’s diary of one of mom’s great grandmothers, Emeline LaBar, to win a statewide contest on family history.

But the story I think she would enjoy the most is much closer to home.  It started in the little community of Fountain City, Wisconsin, on the Mississippi River, just over an hour’s drive from my home in Rochester, MN.  Fountain City was home to many German immigrants who arrived in this country in the mid 19th century.   Two of those settlers, memorialized on the wall of the Buffalo County courthouse in Alma, Wisconsin, were August Simon and Michael Pistorius, my mom’s German great grandfathers.

August Simon    Michael Pistorius

Michael Pistorius appears to have had a colorful life.  He arrived in Fountain City in 1855 and listed his occupation as “carpenter” in the 1860 census. His first wife, our ancestor, died in 1857, and around 1865 Michael married Maria Erhart, widow of Xaver Erhart who had at one time owned the Eagle Brewery in Fountain City.   Maria (Erhart) Pistorius is also found among a list of people who were owners of the Eagle Brewery.  Whether Michael took over the Brewery from his wife is unknown, but in the 1870 census his occupation is listed as “brewer”.  Things appear to have gone downhill from there.  In the 1880 census, his occupation was “keeper of baths” and his wife was no longer living with him.  He died in 1887.

Old Eagle Brewery,WI Hist. Soc   DSCN4649

Eagle Brewery late 1800’s and Eagle Brewery Bar & Dance Hall circa 1900

My mom would not have been happy with the story of Michael’s decline, but it’s “the rest of the story” that she would have found fascinating.  In 2013 our youngest granddaughter started college at Winona State University in Winona, MN.  Because housing was expensive in Winona, she choose to rent an apartment in an old building in Fountain City, Wisconsin, just a short drive away.  The rental agent mentioned that the two story brick building facing the river had once been a brewery.  That set my husband and me into motion.  We visited the Fountain City Historical Society and learned that yes, indeed, our granddaughter was living in a building that had once been the Eagle Brewery in the late 1800’s and then around 1900 became the Eagle Brewery Bar and Dance Hall.  She is living in the building where her 4-greats grandfather once worked.  How cool is that!


(by Mary) 




  1. Amazing! What a bunch of great stories. Thank you.

    Your granddaughter must be thrilled to re-tell the story to her friends. Winona U. is a very nice place — friends of mine have taught there, and I’ve visited the campus, and Mike Waller and I from time to time would rent a plane and fly there for lunch, as he had to have at least one flight a month to keep up his pilot’s license, and it was just the right distance to get there and back and have lunch before dark.

    with love and remembrance of your dear mom, Mary p.s. did you know that after your mom’s lovely clothes were donated to the St. Mark’s Thrift Shop, my thrifty mom who volunteered there bought a few pieces, wore them often, and in fact was buried in one. The two of them were such good seamstresses.

  2. Thank you so much for this message, I loved reading it. I think you might have heard that after our Needlework Tour in 2015, I will be staying a week longer and my daughter is joining me.  We are going to travel to Scotland with a 3rd traveler, Margaret, a roommate of mine from Library School.  Margaret lives in Newcastle.  Anyway, I’m meeting my daughter at the Manchester airport when everyone else leaves.  I would be very grateful for any suggestions you have for must-sees in Scotland.  I am SO looking forward to our trip together!

    Judy Proksa

    • Where shall I start Judy – let me know which areas you are visiting and I’ll try to send you ideas of what to see while you’re in my homeland.

      • Thank you so much for offering to help. I am little more than a blank slate. I would like to go to Iona, but don’t know if it’s easy to do. Otherwise, I am just beginning to read about Scotland. We’ll be there from about Sept. 7-15.

  3. Lovely story Mary.. Enjoyed reading this one!

  4. I enjoyed reading this piece. I am familiar with Fountain City and this old building as we live downriver from here. Neat to see how your appreciation of family history has trickled down to your grands. I was so happy to see the new post today, and doubly happy when I saw the content. Thanks for the lovely story.

  5. What an interesting family history story! Enjoyed reading. My project for next year is doing some family history research.

  6. What a beautiful story. All your posts are fun to read and this one is special.

  7. What a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Mary.. How cool! Remember our trip to Alma and seeing photos on the wall of “August” ..My son John will love this as he loves making beer, Pat

    • …so interesting….I’m loving it too. Mom, let’s make a plan to visit Alma with John this spring or summer.

  9. Fascinating! The further back in time we trace our families, the more connections we discover. My ancestor came over from England via Holland in 1623 and we’re related to the Hiltons and Tiffanys. Too bad we didn’t get their money. Or their craziness genes.

  10. I love this story. It is way cool indeed. Couldn’t figure out the comment box at the end. Thank you for sharing it.

    Sent from my iPhone


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