Johann Adolph Chudobba (1881-1952)

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Johann Adolph Chudobba
Catob, John.jpg
John Catob
Born: 9 Feb 1881 Riesenburg, Germany
Died: 26 Feb 1952 Harbor Springs, Michigan
Father: Johann Adolph Chudobba
Mother: Justine Henriette Chudobi
Siblings: Maria Chudobba
Gustav Julius Chudobba
Helene Emma Chudobba
Johann Adolph Chudobba
Paul Chudobba Kube
Emma Chudobba
Friedrich Carl Chudobba
Karl Bruno Kube
Spouse: (1) Caroline Luise Christiane Schwerdtfeger
Married: Oct 1907 Harbor Springs, Michigan
Children: Karl August Johann Catob
Frieda Marie Catob
Gertrude Caroline Catob
Helene Isobel Catob
Spouse: (2) Gertrude Martha Holterman
Married: 12 Dec 1929 Riesenburg, Germany

Johann Adolph Chudobba was born 9 February 1881 in Riesenburg, West Pruessen, Germany.

His parents are Johann Adolph Chudobba and Justine Henriette Chudobi.

He was known in Harbor Springs, Michigan as John Catob.

His siblings are Maria, Gustav Julius, Helene Emma, Paul, Karl Bruno, Emma and Friedrich Carl Chudobba.

Hans journeyed to the United States intending to work for his Uncle Fritz (Frederick Chudobba) and Aunt Minna (Wilhelmina), on their farm located north of Harbor Springs on Catob Road. The two men saw things differently and John shortly left. He walked into the town of Harbor Springs and ran into a man who also spoke German (he knew no English). The man was part owner of the hardware store. Learning that John was a tinsmith, he hired him to work in his business.

The Tinsmith Shop
Before long, John was building his home on Spring Street and turned the stable on his property into a tinsmith shop. John did things such as metal siding on houses, drain pipes, however, he was also a very gifted maker of pretty things, glass stars, such as the ones at Bluff Gardens, lanterns and other items. Eric Catob owns the model ship that he fashioned.

He married first Caroline Luise Christiane Schwerdtfeger in October 1907 in Harbor Springs, Emmet, Michigan.

Their children are Karl August Johann Catob, Frieda Marie Catob, Gertrude Caroline Catob and Helene Isobel Catob.

Lena died in 1923 at the Petoskey Hospital (Lockwood McDonald). Karl remembered walking across the ice of Little Traverse Bay, with John, to visit his failing mother. The weather was snowy and blowing and they lost their direction. Ending up near Charlevoix, they were given directions by a man there, and finally made it to the hospital. John was distraught to have lost his young wife. He managed to run his business and raise his four children for several years by himself, at times turning to drinking for an escape from his woes.

In 1929 he returned to Germany to find another wife. He chose a family friend for his second wife, Gertrude Martha Holterman they married 12 December 1929 in Germany and he brought her back to Harbor Springs. She was an excellent seamstress as well as a professional violinist. Trudy sewed beautiful clothes for her husband's daughters and tried to meet their needs.

After the death of his second wife, John spent much of his time in his tinsmith shop. Sometimes working; often drinking the moonshine that he made with his own handcrafted still, with friends.

He died in his Tin Shop in Harbor Springs, Emmet, Michigan. He is buried in Lakeview Cemetery in Harbor Springs.


Hans, born February 9, 1881 - died February 26, 1952

Unser Hans, compiled and written from reminiscences and memories by his two youngest brothers, Friederich (Fritz) and Karl Bruno Chudobba.

Our brother Hans, was 9 and 12 years older than we, respectively. We like to remember our youth, in which we shared joy and sorrow with our big brother Hans with greatest pleasure. Because of the age difference alone Hans was our exemplar since at that time, he by far surpassed us in strength and dexterity as well as in scholastic abilities and craftsmenship. Our memories reach back to a period of about 70 years ago.

In the courtyard that belonged to our parents dwelling, Brother Hans built up his muscle power; and we, his little brothers, were his audience. A teapot that was filled with lead and shaped almost like a globe served as training weight. It was lifted and snatched with one or two hands. He had lifting contests with his friends of same age and records were established.

Later, juggling tricks were performed with the heavy weight. Sometimes, the lifting and juggling weight was not sufficient anymore and we were lifted up and balanced with a belt. One of these exercises was called "floating angel." First, our Hans did not have much success with an apprenticeship position. In the beginning, he played a flying visit at a gardener's and then at a wheelwright's. Only in the plumber apprenticeship he felt fulfilled since he a great interest in technical stuff.

During those days (abt 1900), the youth was enthused about the development of steam-engines. So, it didn't take long until our brother Hans started to experiment with small and tiny steam cylinders and steam kettles. Then it was not as nowadays when you can buy such things in every hobby store. No, everything had to be built and assembled on your own with file, drill etc. Often a pattern model was not available, which could have been copied. Sometimes it was a nerve-racking puzzle until a self-made steam cylinder finally worked flawlessly. In the passage of time Hans built a locomotive and several steam-boats in his free time. We, his younger brothers had to do the dirty work for him.

Often, our older brother digged us in the ribs when we let go of a piece that we were supposed to hold and that got too hot while soldering. Also the so-called "plumber fleas" (pearls of plumber's solder) that sprang off and rolled away during soldering hindered us in our dirty work since we had to protect our sensitive children's hands from these hot droplets, which, once again, enraged our brother.

We still remember very well the trial run of the last bigger steamer that our Hans had built. It took place at the "Red Bridge" outside of Riesenburg. A considerable crowd of curious onlookers was present when the steamer was set in the river water with a pre-heated kettle. The cylinders, driven by the produced steam, transferred their power to the propeller-shaft; and the propeller that was firmly attached to it put the little boat in motion (at least 80 cm (about 32 inches) long and in the form of the then newest passenger steamer ). The steering was set up in such a way that the steamer should go in a circle. Unfortunately, the circle-steering failed; and the first trial run ended tragically in as much as the little ship rammed the bridge wall at the opposite bank squarely and sunk instantly. Rescue efforts were successful soon: with the aid of a long-handled rake, the little-damaged boat was retrieved. Hänschen ["Little Hans"], the main person during the rescue efforts had wet pants now because the rake handle was not quite long enough. The damages to the steamer were soon fixed, and the next trial run was satisfactory. A bigger hand-held syringe that Hans made out of sheet zinc has often startled unsuspecting boys who passed through the "cat alley" near our courtyard. A stream of the rather far-reaching syringe had hit them without them knowing where the little shower came from; for, we sat behind the wooden fence of the courtyard.

At a pitch-dark night, our dear Hans had run into a tree that bordered the street and had seriously marred his face. If the darkness was the only reason or if possibly a visit to the tavern played a role - nobody knows. In another instance, though, alcohol played a role. Our parents had sent several of our brothers and sisters to the potato field to dig potatoes. A bottle of Schnaps, maybe sent along by Mother, was supposed to help them ban the already severe autumn chill. The majority of the siblings had probably turned down the alcohol; and for Hans, who sacrificed himself unselfishly, it then had been too much. When Father finally arrived to bring the potatoes home, he was already told on the way there that "Hans'che" [little Hans] wasn' t doing too well.

When Hänschen came to Germany from the USA for a longer visit in 1920 or 1921, he was very dried up; for in America, at that time there was no alcohol (prohibition). So, then, he seized the opportunity in Germany and sucked himself full like a sponge. The cost was very low because the German currency wasn't worth very much; and an exchanged dollar bill was sufficient for several bottles of Schnaps and beer. Our endeavors to keep him from visiting taverns were not always successful. The greatest influence on him had Aunt Alma who often, but also not always, was able to make him celebrate in the family circle instead of in a restaurant.

John Catob handmade beercooler.jpg

Often, we then sang his beloved homeland songs at home, with a glass of beer. We recall one of his favorite songs with the following text:

"What the world brings tomorrow, will it bring us sorrow, Joy or Pain? Come what may: Sunshine, thunderbolt, Tomorrow is another day, Today is today. ---When fate likes it, Tomorrow, we will be scattered all over the world. Therefore, let's be jolly, Innkeeper, roll in the vat, Lassie, pour out, pour out, Today is today."

Where Brother Hans picked up the text and melody for this song we don't know. At any rate, it is not one of the well-known folk songs. Another one of his favorite songs talked about a crying mother whose son emigrated. The sentimental content of this song infers that it wasn't easy for our brother Hans to emigrate to the USA. The decision to return to the United States after his visit in Germany was also difficult for him; though he couldn't wait to see his loved ones there again.

During his last visit to Germany, our dear Hans was almost hurt badly. Our oldest sister (Maria) had placed a closed metal heating bottle in the heating-oven. When the water inside the bottle began to boil the steam pressure blasted out the screwing mechanism and hurled it barely missing Hans' ear, through the room.

Now, one of the youthful pranks: fire-eaters who had performed in a circus had inspired the youth to try to do the same. Our brother, too, trained to copy these tricks. A mouthful of petroleum was sprayed out of almost closed lips by strong blowing; and the mixture of petroleum and air was lighted by a match. It worked! Because of the better optical effect, the dress rehearsal was to take place on the street in total darkness. Be it by coincidence or by will, at the exact moment that Hans was performing the experiment at a street corner, an old lady (Mrs. Schultheis) came walking she suddenly saw herself faced by a fire-spitting person and was paralyzed with fear. The culprit was searched for but never found.

Yes, that is how our dear brother was: always inclined to tricks, sometimes sentimental; and then again exuberantly funny. Always interested in innovations and experiments and he loved cheerful company with a glass of beer and the singing of homeland songs.

John died in February 1952 in Petoskey, Emmet, Michigan.

He is buried in the Lakeview Cemetery, Harbor Springs, Michigan.


Harbor Light, Feb 1952:

Chudobba Services
Are Saturday

HARBOR SPRINGS -- John Adolph Chudobba, (Catob) 71, a resident of Harbor Springs for 48 years, died Tuesday night at his home on Spring street after an illness of three weeks.

Mr. Chudobba was born in Riesenburg, Germany, Feb. 9, 1881. He came to this country and to Harbor Springs 48 years ago. In October, 1905 he was married to Miss Lena Schwerdtfeger who preceded him in death. Mr. Chudobba had worked here as a sheet metalsmith.

He is survived by one son, Karl Catob of Neshaming, Pa.; three daughters, Mrs. Irwin Barlass of Van Dyke, Mrs. Clifford Howse of Harbor Springs and Mrs. Robert Keller of Broomall, Pa.; three brothers, Gustave, Fritz and Karl, and one sister, Mrs. Emma Lippek, all of Germany; and 10 grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held at 2:30 p.m. Saturday from the Erwin Funeral Home with the Rev. L. E. Brubaker officiating. Burial will be in Lakeview Cemetery. Friends may call at the Erwin Funeral Home from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Friday.

Lakeview Cemetery, Harbor Springs


S. S. Brandenburg sailing from Bremen, May 24th, 1906, Arriving at Port of Baltimore, June 5th, 1906:
No. on list: 17
Name in Full: Johannes Chudobba
Age: 26
Sex: M
Married of Single: S
Calling or Occupation: Tin smith
Able to Read/Write: Yes Yes
Nationality (Country of which citizen is subject): Germany
Race or People: German
Last Residence: Riesenburg
Final Destination: Harbor Spring, Mich
Whether having a ticket to such final destination: No
By whom was passage paid? self
Whether in possession of $50, and if less, how much? 15
Whether ever before in the United States: No
Whether going to join a relative or friend; and if so, what relative or friend, and his name and complete address: uncle Fritz Chudobba Harbor Spring, Mich
Ever to prison of almshouse, or institution for care and treatment of the insane, or supported by charity? If so, which? No
Whether a Polygamist: No
Whether an Anarchist: No
Whether coming by reason of any offer, solicitation, promise or agreement, express or implied to labor in the United States: No
Condition of Heath, Mental and Physical: Good
Deformed of Crippled. Nature, length and cause: No
  • 1st Marriage: Emmet County Michigan, Vital Records Search Marriages:
Date: 10/28/1907
Liber: 4
Folio: 34
  • 2nd Marriage: 12 December 1929 Germany, Family Records
CHUDOBBA, Johann & HOLTERMANN, Gertrude M.
  • 1930 Federal Census, Harbor Springs, Emmet, Michigan
Catob, John A., head, male, white, 49, married at 26, Ger, Ger, Ger, speaks German, Tinsmith Hardware Store
, Gertrude M., wife, female, white, 41, married at 40, Ger, Ger, Ger, speaks German
, Gertrude C., daughter, female, white, 13, single, MI, Ger, Ger
, Helene E., daughter, female, white, 10, single, MI, Ger, Ger
  • Death: Emmet County, Michigan, Vital Records Search, Deaths:
Catob, John Adolph
Date of Death: 2/26/1952
Liber: 5
Folio: 153
Place of Death: Petoskey
Catob, John
Born: 0/0/0000
Died: 0/0/0000
Burial: 0/0/1952
Cemetery: Lakeview, Harbor Springs
Catob, John
Died: 1952
Sec: J
Catob, John A.
  • Theim, Karin. Ahnen Stand 24.5.2011 NK DsNr 1486 Christian Chudobba Kartei.pdf
Notes: Grübchenkinn [dimpled chin]
evangelisches Kirchenbuch Riesenburg Stadt Film 208293 Taufen 1881 Nr. 24