My Great Grandfather John Catob was born Johann Adolph Chudobba on February 9, 1881 in Riesenberg, Germany.He traveled to America hoping to work on his Uncle Fritz Catob’s farm outside Harbor Springs, Michigan. The two men’s personalities didn’t get along so he left and walked into town one day trying to get a job. Johan didn’t know English, but luckily a part owner in the hardware store spoke German and gave him a job when he learned he was a Tinsmith.
John met a little German girl named Carolina in town and they married on the 28th of October, 1907.
John soon bought property in town and hand built a nice home on the corner lot and turned an old stable on his property into a Tinsmith shop.
He made all sorts of things that the townspeople needed: metal siding, drain pipes and other mundane things, but as a man who always had a creative, inventive side, he also made pretty nice glass stars and lanterns and he enjoyed fashioning a model ship, things later prized by descendants who recieved one.
He and Lina had a son and three daughters, they loved. One day Lina had troubles and had to be taken to the hospital as an abortion he had insisted on went bad and he soon lost her.
John had always enjoyed good German beer and soon began drinking more and more of it. One day, he decided he needed to go back to Germany and find a wife to bring back to help ease his pain and to help raise his family.
He found Gertrude, an old family friend there, they soon married and he brought his bride to Michigan.
I am sure John thought his loss would be assuaged by his new wife, and she did try. She was a violinist and also an excellent seamstress and made the girls wonderful dresses for special occasions. She tried very hard to be a good mother to the kids.
John smiled and talked a good talk, but still the loss of Lina took a huge part of him. He hand-crafted his own still and made moonshine there in the Tinsmith Shop where he spent many hours alone.
In 1938 Trudy died and John lived on until the 26th of February 1952, they are buried in Harbor Springs at the cemetery.
I think about Johan leaving his homeland that he so loved and watching the circumstances of his life change from his dreams of youth, to trying to understand and sometimes forget, the reality of life.
I think of how he had to come to America to meet another German and marry and how these life paths made all the difference to how I came to be. One different choice by any of our ancestors and we would not be who we are today.
4 thoughts on “The German Tinsmith”
Hi! I was just randomly googling my last name to try and find any geneology-type hits… I’m just trying to do a family tree for fun. Stumbled onto your site! Johann Adolph Chudobba is my great-great grandfather. Karl Augustus is my grandpa’s (also Karl) father… so we’re second cousins once removed I believe? Just wanted to reach out and say hi! Your posts are great to read!
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Hi Bethany! Glad you found the blog. I will be doing moe in a while on that side of my family, a bit busy right now so haven’t written a blog post in a while. I am glad you are enjoying it! Hope to hear more from you, and if you have any family stories to share I would love them!
Like Bethany ( my fabulous niece!), I randomly searched my grandfather’s name (Karl A. Catob) and found his father’s info. I had never really thought about my great-grandfather other than a branch on the family tree. I was surprised how much he looks like my dad (Karl J. Catob) and Bethany’s dad, Steven. I, too, am struck by the obstacles he overcame. it is nice to think of him as more of a person than just a name! Thank you for your research!
Glad you enjoyed it Annie!