Biography of Herman Tiehen of Salem

Herman Tiehen, a prominent pioneer and substantial landowner in Richardson County, Nebraska, was born on July 15, 1829, in Hanover, Germany. He emigrated to the United States in 1851, initially settling in St. Genevieve, Missouri. After working various jobs and journeying to the California gold fields, he returned and settled in Otoe County, Nebraska, before moving to Salem precinct in Richardson County in the mid-1860s. There, he expanded his holdings to 1,900 acres and became a respected community figure. Married to Catherine Agnes Rothenburger in 1863, he passed away on March 4, 1911.

Herman Tiehen
Herman Tiehen

The late Herman Tiehen, who at the time of his death in the spring of 1911 was one of the best-known pioneers and most substantial landowners of Richardson county; a resident of the precinct of Salem since the middle sixties, was of European birth, but had been a resident of this country since 1851. He was born in the kingdom of Hanover on July 15, 1829, a son of Herman and Angeline Tiehen, both of the well-to-do rural class, the former of whom died in 1836, his widow surviving until 1884.

At the time of his father’s death Herman Tiehen was but seven years of age and his boyhood was spent in helping his mother. He attended school until he was fourteen and then became a farmer and herdsman, remaining thus engaged until he was twenty-one years of age, by which time he had saved enough money to pay his passage to America, the great new land across the water on which his mind had long been set with a steadfast purpose there to try to create a better station for himself than he could hope to attain in his native land. In 1851 he set sail for New Orleans, paying a part of his passage by labor on the vessel, and upon his arrival at the southern port set out by river for St. Louis, but by the time he had reached St. Genevieve, Missouri, his meager funds had been reduced to forty cents and he could go no farther by boat. At St. Genevieve he secured employment at grubbing stumps at a wage of twenty-five cents a day, and his board and worked through the winter at such employment. The following spring he began working for a farmer at a wage of eight dollars a month and was thus engaged until 1853, when he and five companions started from St. Genevieve with six yoke of oxen and a wagon laden with supplies, bound for the gold fields of California. Upon his arrival in the gold fields Mr. Tiehen had no difficulty in finding employment and in three years spent there managed to save three thousand dollars. In 1856 he returned by way of the Isthmus of Panama and presently made his way over into the then Territory of Nebraska and bought a tract of government land in Otoe county, eight miles southwest of Nebraska City. Erecting bachelor quarters on that tract, he settled down there and began developing and improving his place, living a bachelor life there until 1863, when he married one of the pioneer maidens of the Humboldt neighborhood in this county and two years later moved down into Richardson county and established his home on a farm in the precinct of Salem, he and his wife beginning housekeeping there in a one-room log house. Three years later when the first lumber brought up the river for this county to Aspinwall arrived, he bought lumber for a frame house and hauled the same over to his farm and there erected a comfortable house, which, with ample additions and improvements from time to time, served him as a place of residence the rest of his life. From that original quarter section in the precinct of Salem Mr. Tiehen gradually increased his land holdings, as his operations prospered, until he became the owner of nineteen hundred acres of land and at the time of his death was accounted one of the wealthiest men in Richardson county. Mr. Tiehen was a Democrat and ever gave a good citizen’s attention to local civic affairs, a strong factor for good in the pioneer days of this county, but never was a seeker after public office. He was a member of the Catholic church, as were all his family, and did much to extend parish activities in the early days of St. Herman’s parish at Salem, and upon the occasion of the erection of the fine new church at Salem contributed twenty-five hundred dollars to the building fund. During the later years of his life Mr. Tiehen lived comfortably retired from the active labors of the farm, in full enjoyment of the ample rewards earned by his long life of well-directed industry, his death occurring on March 4, 1911, he then being in the eighty-second year of his life. His widow, who still survives him, continues to make her home on the old home place, where she is very comfortalbly and very pleasantly situated, one of the best-known pioneers of that section of Richardson county.

Catherine Tiehen
Catherine Tiehen

It was on January 16, 1863, that Herman Tiehen was united in marriage to Catherine Agnes Rothenburger, who was born in the neighboring state of Missouri on April 21, 1842, a daughter of John and Wilhelmina (Neiters) Rothenburger, who later became early settlers in the Nemaha valley in this county and were long accounted among the foremost pioneers of the Humboldt neighborhood. John Rothenburger was a native of France, born on June 27, 1807. In 1840 he came to the United States, landing at the port of New Orleans, and in that same year made his way up the river to Missouri, where, a year later, he married Wilhelmina Neiters, daughter of pioneers of that state. In 1854 he came over into Nebraska Territory with his family and making his way up the Nemaha valley, settled on land which later came to be a part of the Humboldt settlement. When he entered upon possession of that tract there was no neighbor nearer than eighteen miles distant and the situation for the pioneer family seemed lonely and bleak. indeed. While Mr. Rothenburger was building a shanty on his claim he was surprised by the approach of a small band of hostile Indians. Hastily gathering his family in the wagon he lashed his horses into a run and sped across the prairie ahead of the redskins, making his way in safety to the river, twenty-two miles away. There he remained for a couple of months, by which time the hostiles had been driven out of this section, and he then returned with his wife and seven children to his claim, where he completed the erection of his shanty and established his home. He and his wife spending the remainder of their lives there, Mr. Rothenburger’s death occurring on February 2, 1884, he then being eighty years of age. The pioneer farm on which he settled back in 1854, one of the first settlers in Richardson county, is still in the possession of the family, one of the valuable farm plants in that part of the county. Mr. Rothenburger raised the first crop of barley shipped from Rulo in this county.

Catherine Agnes Rothenburger was twelve years of age when she came to this county with her parents back in pioneer days and she grew up on the home farm, thoroughly familiar with all the details of pioneer life and subject to the hardships and privations of th same, and was living there at the time of her marriage to Mr. Tiehen in 1863. To that union seven children were born, namely: Minnie, born in 1864, who died in infancy; John, born in 1867, now a resident of Salem, this county; Mary, born in 1870, wife of William McDougall, of Falls City; Anna, who died in childhood; Catherine or “Katie,” born in 1875, who is at home with her mother; William, born in 1880, now a resident of Falls City, and Agnes, born in 1885. Mrs. Tiehen has been a resident of Richardson county since pioneer days and is the second oldest pioneer of this county. Her recollections of the incidents of the early times here are clear and distinct and her narratives of the events of those days form some most interesting and informative sidelights on conditions here in the days when this region was being claimed for civilization.


Edwards, Lewis C., History of Richardson County, Nebraska : Its People, Industries and Institutions, Indianapolis : B.F. Bowen, 1917.

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