George Fortwingler (seated, right) is pictured with his second wife Ursula (seated, left). Their children are Emma (standing between them) and Ethel Mary seated. Ursula is pregnant with their third child, Hazel. George's children by his first wife A. Reisslei, who died, are two sets of twins (back row): Julian, George, Julius and Caroline.
The Fortwingler name is probably not as familiar as most other pioneer families, such as the Bulls, Bairds, McCauleys and Delaneys. Unlike those families whose many descendants stayed in Edina, the Fortwinglers made their home here for one just generation.
Still, the Fortwinglers owned one of the larger properties in Edina for 22 years. From 1876 to 1898, the Fortwinglers owned a 267-acre farm bordered by Highway 100 to the west, 70th Street to the north, 78th Street to the south and West Shore Drive and Kelllogg Avenue to the east.
Yes, the Edina History Museum, Arneson Acres Park and Lake Edina of today are located within those boundaries.
Here is the Google map of the property today:
Here is the 1898 map. 70th Street is at the top border. Cahill Road is the street running north and south at left. Nine Mile Creek is shown to the left of the Fortwingler property.
Thanks to a Fortwingler descendant David Cassin, we have the photo and story of the family. Patriarch George R. Fortwingler had a circuitous journey that took him from Baden, Germany, to Edina.
Born on Nov. 28, 1823, George most likely fought in the German Revolution of 1848. In that conflict, he was seriously injured and left for dead when slashed across the forehead by the saber of a mounted horseman.
He immigrated to the United States in 1854 and lived in Ohio for a one year before moving to St. Paul, MN. He had two sets of twins with his first wife A. Reisslei: George and Caroline in 1856 and Julius and Julian in 1860.
According to Cassin, one day while Mrs. Fortwingler was working at home, she became frightened by some Indians and accidentally overturned a kettle of boiling water, which scalded her to death.
In 1864, George married a 19-year-old mail order bride, Ursula O. Renz, from his home of Baden. He had four children age 8 and under at the time.
The family moved in 1866 to Bloomington, MN, where George owned the "Half-way House" hotel, which was at the intersection of Old Shakopee Trail and Nine Mile Creek. The hotel was so named because it was located halfway along Old Shakopee Trail between Fort Snelling and Shakopee. Likewise, Nine Mile Creek got is name from being nine miles along Old Shakopee Trail.
Two years later the couple bought an 80-acre farm where Washburn Elementary is now located (bordered by 8th Street, 86th Street, Xerxes Ave and Penn). They had three children: Emma (b. 1870), Ethel Mary (b. 1871) and Hazel E. (b. 1878).
In 1876, the family moved to Edina and lived there until 1898. By this time, the oldest son George Jr. had died in a farming accident, Julius had moved to New York -- apparently to further an acting career -- and the other children had married. George and Ursula moved to Minneapolis until their deaths. George died on Aug. 1, 1916, at age 93. Ursula died on March 4, 1935, at age 90. They are buried at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.
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