Our ancestors are woven in the fabric of who we are today, and little did Robert R. Romero Jr. know that someday life would bring him full circle to the place that his ancestors once pioneered and left their mark.
They started as German immigrants in the mid-1800’s. It was 1868 when John Jacob Koch, his wife Anna and their first child John Godlob Koch would depart from Bremen, Germany for the land of promise, the United States. They would arrive on July 31, 1868, in Baltimore on the ship Bremerhaven. By 1869 they were in Chicago, IL where their second child, George Koch was born. By 1880 the family would settle and homestead in Howard County, Nebraska.
Anna died in 1880 in Howard County, NE of Dropsy. Today Dropsy is more appropriately known as congestive heart failure. She was only 46 years old and would leave Jacob with five children from the age of 7 to 17 to raise. But Jacob must have been a strong and determined man. He went on to obtain his naturalization on 25 November 1883 in Nebraska and continue farming. It is unknown what became of Jacob, but two of his sons would continue that pioneering spirit they undoubtedly obtained from their father.
John Godlob Koch would marry Lydia Margaret Conrad on 14 May 1888 in Howard County, NE. Their first baby was born and would die at the age of six months in Nebraska. Their second child, Silvia Grace Koch would be born on 5 May 1890 in Ravenna, NE. Between 1890 and 1892 John with his family, along with his brothers, George and Frederick would all move to Kootenai County, Idaho. Western Frontier Life in America helps to explain this movement and what their life would have been like on the new frontier. John and Lydia’s second child Goldie Mae Koch was born on 2 July 1892 in Rathdrum, Idaho. John and Lydia would have one more child, their only son Dewey born in 1898 in Rathdrum.
John served as a Justice of Peace during his time in Rathdrum, Idaho. At that time Rathdrum was the county seat of Kootenai County. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, a Justice of the Peace was similar to a Magistrate Judge today, but they often did not have any formal legal training. It’s interesting to think that nearly 100 years later, John’s great-great-grandson, Robert R. Romero, Jr. would pursue a legal career, and not just anywhere, but would come back to Kootenai County, Idaho.
Today the old jail in Rathdrum has been restored and is ready for visitors. It would have been the stomping ground of men like John Koch. If you have not visited this piece of history, take the time to step back in time. It is worth the visit.
John and his brother both applied for adjacent plots in March 1895 at the Ramsey Spur, today known as part of Rathdrum, off of Ramsey Road. They would both homestead the property. Homesteading in that day was a form of obtaining title to land simply by living on it and improving it. After a period of time and a statement that the land had been improved, one was able to obtain the title to the land and claim it as theirs. Both brothers worked the land and improved their homestead until they were able to receive title to their land and homes in 1901. The home in the photo is that of John Koch. It sadly no longer exists today.
Tragedy would strike the family in 1904 when John and Lydia’s beloved only son Dewey contracted Scarlet Fever during an outbreak in the Rathdrum area. Dewey died at the age of six and is buried on the family’s land. Scarlet Fever was considered highly contagious, so it’s very likely he was buried far from the home. Though Robert has tried to locate the burial plot, he has been unsuccessful.
The entire families of John and George would later leave this area on 14 October 1909 for Orland, California. Robert R. Romero Jr. would grow up not far from where the family finally settled down in Yuba City, CA.
We may never know what it is about our ancestors that pull some back to walk in their footsteps, but for some reason, Robert is one such person that would come back to a place where his ancestors briefly graced and would continue in the same occupation that his great-great-grandfather once participated. Robert today lives in the same area as his ancestors and possesses the same pioneering, legal and political spirit that his great-grandfather once gave to this area.