Matt Works For The Railroad


The oldest child in a large family, Matt Trausch began farm work at a young age.  In mid-1891 when Matt was 13-years-old his father Thomas broke his leg and Matt took over the farming operation. (1)  Later in the 1890s, Matt worked for Henry Hagemann a carpenter who constructed many buildings in the Holstein and Roseland area.  It was Hagemann who taught him the carpenter trade.  However, the area still hadn’t recovered from the devastating mid-decade depression and drought, and there wasn’t much demand for new buildings. (2)

Matt Trausch about 1902

Matt was in his early 20s and needed dependable work. His father had a large family to support and didn’t pay Matt wages for his farm work which helped support the family.  The  Adams County Democrat  carried the following news on April 28, 1899:  “Frank Hennigan received word to put on five section men Tuesday and now Ben Coday, Matt Trausch, John Linen, and Geo Hennigan besides foreman Hennigan are at work.”   (3)

During 1887 the Kansas City & Omaha Railroad was built across southern Adams County establishing the towns of Pauline, LeRoy, Roseland, and Holstein.  Matt began his railroad career working as a section hand on that line.  Section hands maintained a section of track in the years before the work was done by machines.

How Matt learned about the jobs available at the Burlington Railroad’s  Aurora, Illinois repair shops is unknown.  It may have been through correspondence with his relatives in Aurora.  In 1857 the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad (CB & Q) built a large roundhouse and repair shops in Aurora. Over the years the facilities were expanded and large brick buildings were constructed.  For a history of the Aurora shops and roundhouse see

The shop where Matt worked repairing and building railroad cars. 1898 photo of shops (10)

In January 1900 Matt and his friend Peter Konen made a “pleasure trip” to Aurora. (4)  Matt remained there and on June 8th the census taker found him living with the John and Katherine Burscheid family.  Katherine Trausch Burscheid, born April 7, 1865, in Stolzembourg, Luxembourg was Matt’s first cousin.  Also in the household were four Burscheid children and Margaret Pauls Trausch, Katherine’s mother. (5)  Matt paid room and board to Katherine. In later years Matt would not eat cooked cabbage because it was served to him nearly every day for two years.

   Information about Matt’s time in Aurora came from family interviews.  “Then Matt went to Illinois to work in the railroad shops.  He sent every cent home and they got the farm debt paid.  Matt always figured he was going to be an engineer on the railroad.  Then they had that terrible wreck and men and cows were killed.  Matt had enough, he wrote home for his Dad to buy him a farm.” (6)

“He worked in the railroad shops in Aurora, Illinois. They repaired railroad cars in the shops. If they needed more cars they even built them.  There was a crew on each corner working in teams. When there was an accident the crews were called out to help.” (7)

In February 1901 the Adams County Democrat reported that “Matt and John Trausch have gone to Aurora, Illinois to work.  Matt has been there for the past year but had been home on a visit and his brother John went along expecting to find work.”  (8)

The 1902 Aurora City Directory lists John, Matt, and Margaret Trausch (their aunt) all living at 494 Kane Street, the Burscheid family residence.  John and Matt are both listed as carpenters for the “Q”—the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad.  (9)

In November 1901 a CB & Q stock train collided with a freight train near Walnut, Illinois.  Matt was sent out to help clear the wreck.  That experience had a profound effect on him.  “There was a whole trainload of cattle. The cattle were all killed and injured. Dad had to go out and work on the cleanup. Cattle were bellowing and hollering. People were crowding around to see. Dad said they would throw pieces of cow livers to make the people leave. Some people were killed in the wreck too. Then the train caught fire and some cattle burned. That wreck went against him so, that was one reason he quit the railroad.” (11)

The Chicago Tribune
Thursday, Nov 21, 1901

After the train wreck, Matt wrote to his father asking him to buy a farm so he could come home.  While working in Aurora, Matt and John had saved the money used to purchase the farm.  In January 1902 Thomas Trausch purchased the NE ¼ of Section 10, T6, R11 (Roseland Township) for the sum of $6,400 or $40 an acre.

“When Matt and John came home from Illinois, on the way out, they bought a binder in Hastings before they ever got to the farm.  The wheat was ready to harvest when they got here.  Their Dad, Thomas, had hired someone to plant the wheat for them in the spring, and they kept working to make a little more money.  Then when their folks wrote that the wheat was about ready, they quit their jobs and came home to harvest it.”  (12)

A McCormick binder similar to the one Matt purchased.

“ That was a self-tying binder they bought. It tied bundles then when five or six bundles were on the carrier, there was a foot trip, you tripped the bundles off in windrows. Then you came along and shocked them by hand. That was a great improvement. You didn’t have to carry the bundles along until you got enough for a shock. The first binders didn’t do that. The shocks were all in a row and when you threshed you drove along with a hay rack, the team (of horses) would go by themselves, and you stood there and pitched them on the rack, say git-up to the team, and go to the next shock.” (13)

The farm Thomas purchased for his sons was located two miles east of Assumption which was the center of the German-speaking Catholic community.  Eventually, John sold his share of the farm to Matt.  Matt lived on the farm that his railroad wages helped purchase until his death in 1958.


  1.  Juniata Herald June 24, 1891  “Roseland Reporter”
  2.  Ed Trausch  October 26, 1982, interviewed by Catherine Trausch Renschler
  3.  Adams County Democrat  April 28, 1899 pg 2 “Roseland Items”
  4.  Adams County Democrat  January 19, 1900, page 7 “The South Side”
  5.  1900 Census taken June 8, 1900, Aurora Ward 6, Kane County, ILL  house 494 Kane St.  pg 138A
  6. Catherine Kaiser Trausch June 1972, interviewed by Catherine Trausch Renschler
  7.  Ed Trausch  October 26, 1982, interviewed by Catherine Trausch Renschler
  8.  Adams County Democrat February 8, 1901, page 6, “The South Side”
  9. Aurora, Illinois City Directory 1902, page 484
  10. 1898 photo of repair shops
  11. Bert Trausch Octtober 26, 1982, interviewed by Catherine Trausch Renschler
  12. Edna Kline Trausch September 1984, interviewed by Catherine Trausch Renschler
  13. Bert Trausch September 1984, interviewed by Catherine Trausch Renschler