John N. Feuerstein was born 15 March 1847, in York Township, Dearborn County, Indiana, and baptized 02 April 1847 at St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church in New Alsace, Indiana. He remained a member of the Roman Catholic religion all his life. John was the seventh child of Johannes and Apollonia (Kempf) Feuerstein, and their third child born in the United States. His name would suggest that he was named after his father (Johannes) and grandfather (Nikolas) but with the Anglicized version of both names.
His first language was surely German. What school he attended and for how long is not remembered. It was probably a semiprivate school near the family home where the curriculum was in both German and English languages and there he learned to read and write in both languages.
The 1850 Manchester Twp. and 1860 York Twp. US Federal Census recorded the family surname as "Firestone" and "Firestein" respectively. John is duly recorded in both as the sixth child in the family, Male, and ages 4 (actually 3) and 13 years, respectively.
When the Civil War started John would have been 14, and only 18 when the war ended, borderline for active duty. John, wisely, never enlisted. He was also probably needed as farm-labor on the family farm in Indiana. He was listed as a witness at the wedding of his sister, Barbara to Conrad Herzog on January 16, 1866.
On April 6, 1867, at age 20 years, John purchased 80 acres of land, for $295.00, in Cato Twp., Montcalm Co., Michigan. His brother Kaspar had purchased 160 acres in the same township only the day before. Both farms were near where his sister and brother-in-law Barbara and Conrad Herzog, had purchased a farm and settled in 1866.
During this period, John N. also had two maternal uncles, Peter and John Kemp, and the respective families living in adjacent Ionia County (Mich.). The Peter Kemp family included two first cousins, Michael and George Kemp. The Kemp families surely were one of the reasons that three Feuerstein siblings emigrated to Michigan. Barbara and Kaspar settled there permanently. There is no indication that John N. ever lived on his Michigan farm. It is not confirmed, but to support himself John N. probably worked as a farm laborer for one of his uncles or other farmers in the area.
On April 7, 1868, one year after John N. had purchased the above farm, his father, Johannes Feuerstein, died at home in Dearborn County, Indiana. Both John N. and his brother Kaspar returned to Indiana for the funeral and the reading of the Will.
On April 21, 1868, Kaspar and Catherine Henninger were married. John N. was a witness at this wedding. Kaspar and Catherine lived for about three years on Kaspar's farm in Michigan. They then bought land and settled in Keene Twp., Ionia County, Michigan, near his uncle Peter Kemp.
On July 11, 1871, John N.'s 80 acre farm in Cato Twp. was sold for $800.00. The sale recorded John N. as "J.F.", a resident of the state of Kansas. Kaspar and Catherine Feuerstein acted in John's behalf for the transaction.
How John N. supported himself and where he lived for the next several years is not known. Speculation is that he made a living as a farm laborer.
On November 14, 1877, at age 31 years, 8 mos., John N. was married to Anna Magdalen Baus at St. Martin's Roman Catholic Church in Yorkville, Indiana.
Anna Magdalen was the fifth child in a family of fourteen born to John and Mary (Olinger) Baus (also spelled "Bouse"). She was born in Dearborn County, Indiana, on March 18, 1856. Her age at the time of marriage was 21 years, 8 mos. Anna's brother, Simon Baus, later married John's sister, Francesca Feuerstein, on November 8, 1881.
The first child born to John and Anna was Mary Isabella (or possibly Mary Elizabeth), born on November 11, 1878. She died eight weeks later on January 8, 1879, likely a victim of the terrible weather that winter.
Their second child, George Urban (Urb), was born on December 30, 1879, also in Dearborn County, Indiana,
Mary Catherine Feuerstein (John N.'s sister) married George Anthony Feist on February 10, 1880, and they moved to Leshara, Nebraska, that same year. John N. and Anna left Dearborn County in late 1880 with all their belongings in a wagon hauled by oxen. They may not have been sure of their final destination as they spent at least part of the winter in Mankato, Minnesota. That is where Frank Simon Feuerstein was born on March 5, 1881.
They later moved to Leshara as well, where John N. purchased 80 acres of land adjacent to the Platte River on March 3, 1882, for $548.80. On the same date and in the same township his cousin, Michael Kemp, bought 160 acres of land for $1,500.00. Two months later on May 7, 1882, Michael Kemp sold his land to to John N.'s then unmarried brother George Feuerstein for $1,650.00. George and Mary Feist bought 160 acres adjacent to John N.'s land on August 19, 1882, for $1,600.00. John N. also homesteaded 40.48 acres of land adjacent to his other 80 acres, for a total of 120.48 acres. He received title to the homesteaded land on March 28, 1891. Other records indicate the John Feuerstein family acquired a total of 155 acres of land.
It is not remembered if any buildings were on the land at the time of purchase. A two-story frame house was built. This was to be John and Anna's home for the rest of their lives. The farm was adjacent to the Platte River and relatively flat. However, the farm was subject to occasional flooding. (With dams and upper water control this is no longer much of a problem.) Because of the relatively high flood plain, their home did not have a basement. An earthen room, dubbed "The Cave", was constructed behind the house. The Cave served as a Root and Storm Cellar. Since the land was relatively treeless there was no problem to clear the land. However, the sod had to be "busted". It is not known by the compiler what crops and animals were originally raised on the farm, but corn eventually proved to be the best cash crop.
In the 1870s a number of German and Irish Catholic families had settled in the Pohocco and Estina (later renamed Leshara) Precincts. As mission priests came through the area, they were welcomed and Mass would be offered in the homes. By 1887 the group had grown to nineteen families. The family names included Feuerstein, Feist, Lammel, Nau and Schnetzer. After land was donated a Catholic church was built on the border of Estina but in Phocco Precinct. The church was completed in 1888 and named "Church of the Sevel Dolors" or "Our Lady of Dolors". That church building was destroyed by fire in 1924, cause unknown, and replaced in 1925. It was also renamed "The Church of the Little Flower of Jesus" or "St. Theresa, the Little Flower of Jesus". In 1960 the church was again destroyed by fire, this time an arsonist was caught. Because of the decline in parishoners the church was not replaced. However, the cemetery remains. The common name of the church was "Estina Catholic Church". Any reference to the church and cemetery in this biography and family records will be by the common name. (NOTE: The cemetery is known in the area and on web sites as "St. Therese Cemetery.")
The family continued to grow. The last (14th) child was Leona Margaret, born in 1897. John and Anna's ages were 50 and 41 years respectively. Their fourth child and the first born in Leshara (1882), Thomas Daniel, lived only five years.
A school and Federal census were taken in 1900. The school census listed all children between the ages of five and 21 years. Feuersteins Urban to Rose are on the school census but Cecelia and Leona are not. The Federal census listed John and Anna's ages as 52 and 44 years respectively and married for 22 years. Anna is shown as mother of 14 children, of whom 12 are living. Both John and Anna are listed as born in Indiana and their parents as born in Germany. Urban and Frank were not listed as members of the household; they may have had farm jobs and were not living at home. Sarah, 15; Herbert, 14; Annie, 13; John, 11 were all listed as at home but did not attend school during the previous year. Herbert at age 14 was also listed as at home "Farm Labor". Augustine, 10; Martha, 8; Ellen, 7; Rosa, 6, were listed as at home and attended school during the past year for eight months, except Rosa who attended school for only four months. Cecelia, 4, and Leona, 3, were also on the Federal census but did not attend school. The above would indicate that some of the children attended school to the Fourth Grade only. The children attended a country school two miles from their home. At least Martha completed the Eighth Grade there in the spring of 1904, and then two years of High School in Leshara. In the Fall of 1911, Martha attended a Normal School in Fremont, Nebraska, and received a Teacher's Certificate in the Spring of 1912. It is remembered that when the oldest surviving child, George Urban (Urb) first attended school in 1884 or 1885 he was fluent in the German language only.
The oldest surviving daughter, Sarah Philomena, entered St. Mary's Convent in Omaha, Nebraska, on 15 August 1906 and took the name Sister Callista. Sister was stricken with Appendicitis and died 18 July 1916 in Omaha.
August Gerard (sometimes listed as "Grover Augustine", and known as Gus) served in the U.S. Army during the First World War. He was a Corporal in Company D, 105 Ammunition Battalion. Gus never married. He lived with and supported his parents until their deaths. Gus continued to make a living on the family farm, but it was sold upon his retirement or his death in 1958. The original frame house still existed in 1987, but had been moved about 100 yards. The Cave also remains. No Feuerstein descendant lives on or owns the property there.
Their oldest son, George Urban (Urb) purchased land and settled in South Dakota in or before 1912. Other family members followed Urb to South Dakota, married and settled there as well. The first to follow was Martha, who after teaching school for about three years there, met and married John Winker in 1915. She was followed by Cecilia who met and married John's brother, Lewis, in 1916. Attendants at this wedding were John Beese and Leona Feuerstein, who were joined in marriage in 1917. All three weddings were held at Estina Catholic Church near Leshara. Following the weddings, receptions were held at the home of the brides (home of Mr. & Mrs. John N. Feuerstein). For Cecelia's wedding a five-course wedding breakfast was served for immediate relatives. For Leona's a two-course wedding breakfast was served.
Rose Gertrude married but never had children. She became a nurse and midwife and helped deliver many of her nieces and nephews. She also owned and managed the "Long Branch Saloon" (bar and dining room with live entertainment) and lived in the Leshara area for many years. She kept records of the John and Anna Feuerstein family. Upon her death she left the records with her friend, Mrs. Francis (Dorothy) Conrad of Fremont, Nebraska.
John Nicholas Feuerstein died on January 19, 1925, at the age of 77 years and 10 months. He was buried in the Estina Catholic Cemetery, Pohocco Precinct. His obituary included the following: "Mr. Feuerstein was one of the prominent pioneer residents of northern Saunders County, where he had taken an active part in affairs for many years. He had resided in the home where he died for forty-three years. In 1877, while he lived in Indiana, he was married and made his residence in his home state for five years before moving to the new country of Nebraska."
Anna Magdalen lived another ten years, until December 27, 1935. Her age was 78 years and 9 months. She was buried beside her husband in the Estina cemetery.