Rasch II - early settler of Warren, Michigan and St. Florian, Alabama
(place your cursor over a photo to read the caption, click on the photo to view entire, enlarged image)
What does the St. Clement's
Cemetery in Center Line, MI have in common with St. Michael's Cemetery in St.
Florian, AL? They are both the final resting places of men
named Florian Rasch!
Florian Franz Rasch I, was born in 1793 (his headstone date of 1791 is in error) in the village of Groß Olbersdorf,
Silesia, Prussia (now called Olbrachcice Wielkie, which is about 4 km
northwest of Zabkowice Slaskie, Poland).
At the age of 21, Florian was a Captain in the Quartermaster section of Napoleon's Grande Armée as it
prepared to invade Imperial Russia in the summer of 1812. As
Napoleon's army of 700,000 men advanced into Russia, the Czar's army fell back, burning their own towns and
crops to deny the invaders food and shelter. Napoleon ordered
his infantry forward on long, forced marches to try and engage the
Russians, but they quickly found themselves beyond the reach of their
quartermaster's supply lines due to the rutted, axle-busting paths that
passed for roads in that region. By the end of 1812, the Grande Armée had advanced as far
as Moscow and was then forced to retreat, losing 600,000 men in battle
as well as to disease, hunger and exposure. It's
been passed down through the generations that Florian and all of the
men under his command survived the war, a proposition made all the more
likely by the fact that their supply lines were unable to keep up with
their infantry as they advanced farther into Russia.
On November 7, 1815, Florian married Carolina Schindler and together
they had five children, the first being a son born on Nov. 22, 1819 and
who was named Florian Franz Rasch II. Carolina was dead by the time
young Florian was 10 years old and his father soon married a second
time. Florian's new wife was Barbara Gutkorn (1804-1843) and
she would bear him another six children.
Florian II also became a farmer in a nearby village and in 1849 he
married Caroline Nickel (1827-1880). Their firstborn child
was Paul Joseph Rasch (1851-1910) and on August 5, 1851, the three of
them boarded the ship "Stepane" in Bremen, Germany, bound for New York
City, NY. Later that year, Florian II arrived at the Macomb
County courthouse in Mt. Clemens, Michigan, where he purchased 80 acres
of land in Section 16 of Warren Township. In 1852 Florian II returned
to Germany to bring his father to the U.S.
Florian I arrived in the USA
with his family on May 19, 1852 and settled in Warren Township with his
son, where they were among the first members of St. Clement Parish in
nearby Center Line. Florian I would become one of the first
parishoners to be buried in St. Clement Cemetery three days after his death on
September 11, 1855. He is undoubtedly the only veteran
Grande Armée to be buried
in that cemetery.
Years later, Florian II's wife Caroline came down with tuberculosis.
Believing that a warmer climate would help her condition, Florian II
moved her and 10 of their 11 children to northwest Alabama in the
spring of 1873 (by that time, their son Paul had entered the Capuchin Order at Holy
Cross Monastery, Mt. Calvary, Wisconsin; he became known as Fr. Luke Rasch when he was
ordained to the priesthood on Sept. 21, 1877).
Florian II ended up in Alabama because, several years after the end of the Civil War, the Homestead Society of Cincinnati,
Ohio had purchased the 2,436 acre Wilson Plantation near Florence, Alabama.
Their intention in making this purchase was to establish a colony of
German Catholic settlers in Alabama, as had previously been done in
Tennessee with the nearby colonies of Lawrenceburg, Loretto, St. Joseph, and
St. Mary. The former Wilson Plantation land was sold to the settlers at a price of $8 to $15 per
acre, depending on the location and improvement of the lots. The first
settlers of this new colony included Florian Rasch II and by 1876 forty pieces of
land had been sold to forty different families.
all but one of Florian II's siblings left southeast Michigan and moved
to other locations such as Grand Rapids (Michigan), Louisiana and
All sources agree that the community formed by the new colony was named for Florian Rasch II.
The family legend is that he was a very holy man who went to daily Mass.
Because theirs was a religious colony,
one of the first tasks had been to build a place of
worship. So in 1872, the settlers organized St. Michael Roman
Catholic Parish and built a simple frame church. Florian Rasch II is
said to have made the first donation to the church when he gave a bell
for the church tower. Because of this donation, it was decided to use
his baptismal name, Florian, in giving a name to their new community,
which is called St. Florian to this day.
Caroline's health continued to deteriorate and she
died in 1880. Florian II grieved bitterly over her death, going to the
cemetery daily and weeping at her grave.
To help recover, he traveled to Wisconsin and spent some time
there with his son, Fr. Luke. He returned home to St. Florian and a few
years later, Florian Rasch II died inside St. Michael's church on
February 12, 1891. A few days later he was laid to rest next to his beloved Caroline in Row 17 of St.
(1) August Rasch (1836-1913), the son of Florian I and Barbara Gutkorn, was
the only sibling of Florian II who stayed behind in the Detroit area.
He was a successful tailor, businessman and philanthropist in the city of Detroit.
In 1954, August's great-granddaughter Barbara Ann Rasch
married Roger B. Smith, who would go on to become the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
of the General Motors Corporation.
a) Genealogy of the Rasch Familyb)
History of St. Michael Parish, St. Florian, AL
updated: Feb. 28, 2014