Spoden History Narrative

A Short History of the Spoden, Wild, Thies, Ahrens, Dietrich and Block Lines       

The Spoden and Wild families came from Luxembourg and Germany, respectively.  John and Margaret Spoden, both born around 1800, were starting a family during a time of political strife. Although Napoleon acquired Luxembourg for France in 1795, by 1830 the King of Belgium was attempting to annex the country to his own. Meanwhile, Prussia and the Netherlands wanted to add to their German-speaking lands, which included a part of Luxembourg. All four of John and Margaret’s children eventually left their parents and their homeland for opportunities that awaited them in the United States. Their three daughters, Margaret, Mary, and Margaret arrived in America sometime before 1860 while still young women. All three came to New York State and married there. Mary and her husband Frank Wohler moved to Kansas and had five children. Margaret (1) married Leonard Banz and settled in Dunkirk, New York and struggled in vain to raise their eight children to adulthood. Margaret (2) married Michael Smith and raised two daughters in the nearby village of Fredonia. Frank, the only son, sailed to America in 1860 at the age of twenty-two. He worked as a farm laborer in Minnesota before saving enough money to come to Fredonia and purchase his own land. He was naturalized in 1868 and married German-born Amelia Wild in 1871. Amelia had come to the United States with her two sisters when she was about nineteen years old; approximately one year before Austria fell to Prussia. She and John raised six children, together: Leonard, Josephine, Frank, Amelia, Florian, and William.

        Leonard and Josephine Spoden married siblings from the Lennertz family of Dunkirk, New York. Consequently the children of Leonard and Clara Spoden and Josephine and Jacob Lennertz were double first cousins. In 1888, diphtheria took the life of thirteen-year old Frank Spoden, Jr. Petite Amelia Spoden married William Ortlieb, a man fourteen years her senior. She became a widow at the age of forty-eight and, with her two children, moved in with her brother William. The extended Spoden family would gather at their home for Thanksgiving because of Amelia’s cooking. William took over his father’s farm. He never married but was loved and known by all as Uncle Bill. Florian married Ellen Elizabeth Thies. Ellen died while their three sons were away at college. Florian remarried three years later to Alice Deaderick.

        Both the Thies and Ahrens families originated in the Mecklenburg-Schwerin region of Germany. Friedrich Christian Theodore Thies, born in 1823, was a hardworking shepherd who married Sophie Maria Johanna Ahrens, cir. 1848. They had six children together but only five lived long enough to make the family trip to the United States. They were Friedrich, John, William, Dorothea, Charles (Carl), and Henry. The Thies’ had quite a bit of savings prior to the trip and Sophie sewed individual money bags in the lining of each family member’s underclothing to keep the silver pieces safe until they came ashore in America. In New York, the family traveled by train to the Lake Erie community of Dunkirk. There, Friedrich worked as a farm laborer in the summer and a woodsman in the winter until he could purchase an 11-acre tract near the town of Pomfret, New York, in 1874.

        John Dietrich was born in Prussia in 1831. He came to the United States sometime between 1851 and 1856, possibly to avoid the oppressive unification wars under William I. He labored in the railroad yards in Dunkirk, loading freight with his brother, to earn a living. John married Wilhelmina Block, also from Germany, and together they had four children: Minnie Friedericka, John, Bertha, and Elizabeth.

        John Christian F. Thies married Minnie Dietrich in 1876. They lived for several years in Dunkirk before moving to Nebraska to raise their family and farm on the plain. After seven years, they removed to Laona, New York for two years before finally settling in Fredonia, in 1891. Here, John established a fruit and truck business which eventually expanded to include many large greenhouses. His business was so successful; he was able to pass it on to his son Frank in 1918. The Thies’ had four children: Adeline Ida, Franklin John, Ellen Elizabeth, and Jessie Clary.

        Ellen Elizabeth Thies was born in Arkwright, New York, before her family left for Nebraska. Upon returning to Fredonia, she graduated from the public and normal schools, there. When she met Florian George Spoden, the one complication in their relationship was the different religions in which they were raised. When Ellen (Ella) traveled back to Nebraska for a visit, Florian followed after her and proposed. He converted to Methodism and they married in Fredonia on October 4, 1906. Together, the couple raised three sons; Florian George, John Franklin, and Harold Thies. They lived happily at their home on Main Street in Fredonia, surrounded by their orchards and vineyards, and busy with work, community service, church, and family until Ellen’s early death in 1939.