In Germany the seat of the Eisenmanger family for centuries was the Kingdom of Wuertemberg, where they had been members of the noble classes dating back to the fourteenth century. One member of the family was the hero of the book known as The Man of the Iron Hand. Christopher Eisenmanger in the 1840s was considered the richest citizen of the Kingdom of Wuertemberg, owning controlling interests in every brick and tile manufacturing establishment in that country. He participated in all the wars of Germany in his time, and it is said that his father was slain in the battle of Waterloo.
Christopher and Johanna Eisenmanger had seven children. One, Christoph Heinrich Eisenmanger, was born on April 29, 1841 in Sindringen, Wűrttemberg, Germany.
Christopher Eisenmanger Sr. was a very progressive man who advocated – and to some degree brought about – reform far in advance of his time. Partly for this and for religious reasons he fell out of favor with the ruling house of Hohenzollern. Eventually all his property was confiscated and he was left practically bankrupt when his son Christoph Heinrich was sixteen years of age.
After the family became bankrupt the sons became eligible for subscription into the German army. To avoid this, the family decided to emigrate from Germany to either America or Australia. The three Eisenmanger children who traveled to America were Christoph Heinrich, then eighteen years old; Johann, later called John, a Baptist minister who died at Williamsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1915 at the age of eighty-two; and Katerina, or Kate, who married farmer Chris Reamenschneider and lived outside of State Center, Iowa.
For a time Christoph Heinrich Eisenmanger lived at Springfield, Illinois. In 1861 at the age of twenty he enlisted in Company H of the Tenth Illinois Infantry, Union Army, and served his adopted country throughout the Civil War with the rank of private. At the time of his enlistment his name was changed to Henry Christopher Ise by his captain, as this was a name easier for the captain to both spell and remember. Henry fought in the battle of Chickamauga, where he had an arm broken. Although wounded at one time and sick at other times he never spent a day in the hospital.
After the war Henry Ise moved to State Center, Iowa, where he worked as a farm hand. Then in 1871 he moved to Osborne County, Kansas, where he claimed a homestead in Ross Township in the northeast corner of the county.
Rosena “Rosa” Christina Haag was born October 7, 1855 in Kleinbottwar, Wűrttemberg, Germany, just twenty miles from Henry’s birthplace of Sindringen. She was the daughter of John and Rosena (Friehoffer) Haag. In July 1852 her family emigrated to America, where they settled on a thirty-acre farm near Theresa, Wisconsin. Eight years later the Haag family moved to a farm six miles outside of Holton in Jackson County, Kansas.
In 1871 Rosa’s brother Christopher Haag claimed a homestead in Ross Township of Osborne County. That winter he brought his neighbor Henry Ise back east with him to find work and for Henry to meet Christopher’s sister. Rosa married Henry C. Ise on May 19, 1873 in Holton, Kansas. Together they raised eleven children (a twelfth died at age six months) on the Ise homestead in Ross Township. From 1872 to 1879 Henry served as postmaster of the New Arcadia Post Office, which was located in the Ise farm home. Over the years the family grew prosperous. The homestead of 160 acres was enlarged and eventually included three quarter sections of land. Nine of their eleven children would go on to graduate from college.
Thirty years after arriving in Kansas Henry Ise became ill and died of cancer on November 21, 1900. Rosa continued to live on the farm for another decade before selling it and moving to Lawrence to be nearer her children. She passed away there on August 2, 1947 and was brought back to Downs, where she was laid to rest next to Henry in the Downs City Cemetery.
The Ises’ story became internationally famous after their son John Ise published a book, Sod & Stubble, based on their life experiences on the homestead from 1873 through 1910. Sod & Stubble was first published in 1936 and is considered one of the finest works ever published on the subject of homesteading the Great Plains of North America. Sod & Stubble remains in print seventy-five years after its initial publication.
The story of Henry and Rosa Ise has come to be celebrated not for their uniqueness, but rather for their being the symbol of what all homesteaders everywhere have had to endure simply to survive, let alone prosper. In 2003 grandson John Ise, Jr. made his first visit back to Osborne County in 60 years to induct his grandparents into the Osborne County Hall of Fame at that year’s Hall’s Induction Banquet in Alton. Along with becoming the first person to ever use the phrase “quantum physics” in a speech in Osborne County history, Ise thanked Henry and Rosa for passing on to their children and grandchildren “the grit and determination to challenge and overcome any obstacle, however imposing it might be.”