Updated date:

My Pioneer Ancestors

As a baby boomer, Denise and millions of others are becoming senior citizens. She explores what it means to be over 60 today.

Photo reference: My grandparents just after they married. Frances "Frankie" Elizabeth Bollinger and Walter Philemon Clement, 1929. My grandfather said he fell in love with my grandmother's "heavenly curls," probably similar to the ones the chief want

Photo reference: My grandparents just after they married. Frances "Frankie" Elizabeth Bollinger and Walter Philemon Clement, 1929. My grandfather said he fell in love with my grandmother's "heavenly curls," probably similar to the ones the chief want

My grandmother (right), her sister Lois next to her and two family friends, Thanksgiving 1927.  Even then they had photo bombers.

My grandmother (right), her sister Lois next to her and two family friends, Thanksgiving 1927. Even then they had photo bombers.

Moving West in a covered wagon.

In the late 1700s, the French controlled territory known as the Territory of Louisiana was transferred to Spain as part of the 1763 settlement to end the Seven Years War. After that time the Spanish authorities in the territory were encouraging hardy settlers to clear and improve the land, but only if they were Catholic. In 1793, one of those authorities, Don Louis Lorimier, established a post at Cape Girardeau in what is now Missouri. He later met and was very impressed with an ancestor of mine, George Frederick Bollinger. Lorimier encouraged Bollinger to go back to his home in North Carolina and return with as many settlers as he could persuade to come the Missouri territory and they would receive 640 acres of land for $41. George was the eleventh of twelve children of Heinrich Bollinger, from German speaking Switzerland. They were not Catholic. They were all members of the German Reform Protestant Church but Lorimier was willing to overlook that knowing that they were hardy, industrious, and hard-working people. George went back to North Carolina and called a meeting of as many of the family and friends as he could. He managed to persuade 6 of his own brothers plus 13 other families to pack up and move to Missouri. With George were his brothers families: Mathias Bollinger (of whom I am descended), John, Daniel, Philip, Jacob and David. Also there were Peter Crites, Peter, Adam and Conrad Stattler (who is also related to me), Peter and George Grounds, Frederick Limbaugh (whose famous descendant is Rush Limbaugh), John Hahs, Joseph Niswanger, Frederick Slinkard, Leonard Walker, Handel Barks, and William Tinnin.

Bollinger Family History

Covered Wagon

Francis Quintilla Bollinger in 1945 with child and grandchild and great grandchildren.

Francis Quintilla Bollinger in 1945 with child and grandchild and great grandchildren.

My grandparents in 1927.

My grandparents in 1927.


The Journey

In the fall of 1799, these twenty families packed up their belongings, seed and young fruit trees and vines, and headed west. They faced the unknown with great courage and strong hearts. Traveling over creeks and rivers, through valleys and forests where there was little more than a path to follow, and George Bollinger leading them. George himself had married Elizabeth Hunsucker on her eighteenth birthday and when it came time to leave she was not well enough, having just given birth to their only child, Sarah. He left them behind to see the rest of the families through to Missouri, and while he was gone Elizabeth died, never having seen the home he was preparing for them.

Finally after enduring many hardships and traveling very slowly, they arrived at the Mississippi River, across from Ste. Genevieve in late December. Unfortunately the ice was not thick enough for them to cross the river with the heavily laden wagons. They had to make camp and stay there until the river was frozen over enough to cross. Finally on December 31st, they tested the ice and found it to be two feet thick. They would try to cross the next day. On January 1st, 1800, the brave band of pioneers sought guidance and blessing from God and packed up their wagons and their livestock to begin the crossing. They spaced the wagons apart from each other to be sure the ice wouldn't crack and even the people walked to take some of the weight off the wagons. They made it across by mid-afternoon with only badly cold feet and hands and were greeted by the townsfolk of Ste. Genevieve. They were able to buy supplies and rest before moving on to the Big Whitewater River where the rich soil was to their liking.

They lived in their wagons until they were able to build log cabins to live in. They constructed expertly notched log cabins with mud and grass to fill in the cracks. The spring came early and they were able to clear fields and plant their grain. The fertile soil produced bountiful crops and they were able to build barns and corrals for their livestock. George was able to secure 640 acres of land for each of the families and was very conspicuous as a leader. The town of Bollinger, Bollinger County and Fredericktown in Madison County were named for him.

In 1803, the U.S. purchased the entire Louisiana Territory, 828,000 square miles, from Napoleon Bonaparte for $234 million. He had taken the land back from Spain in 1800 in hopes of creating a new France in the New World but his wars and expenses required parting with that dream.

George was commission to create a milita and became Major George Frederick Bollinger. Later when the territory became a state, George served as a state assemblyman and the presidential elector on the Jackson ticket. Between 1800 and 1820, George made 5 more trips to North Carolina to persuade more families to colonize Missouri. Some of those are: the Whiteners (whose original name was Weidner), Fadler, Myers, Dolle, Blaylock (or Blalock), Miller, Grindstaff, Propest, Bangert Conrad, Zimmerman, Hahn (another in my family tree), Heitmann, Murray, Shell, Seabough, and others .

Photo Reference: Benjamin & Francis Bollinger Family, circa 1902. Middle row far left is Joshua Franklin Bollinger who married Amy Georgiana Boyd.

Photo Reference: Benjamin & Francis Bollinger Family, circa 1902. Middle row far left is Joshua Franklin Bollinger who married Amy Georgiana Boyd.

Francis Quintilla Bollinger on her 100th birthday.

Francis Quintilla Bollinger on her 100th birthday.

More to the story

Mathias Bollinger (1764-1832) married Frances Hildebrand (1771-1800) and were parents of Moses Bollinger, born in North Carolina, he must have been young when they came to Missouri.

Moses Bollinger (1789-1853) married Mary (Polly) Statler (1788-?), daughter of Peter Statler and later, Elizabeth (Polly) Stotler. One of their sons was John Arthur Bollinger.

John A Bollinger (1828-1913) married Mary Magdelana Hahn (they were first cousins) and they had 11 children, one of which was Francis Quintilla Bollinger.

John was the sixth of seven children born to them. In 1849 he got the gold fever and left his family in Missouri to search for gold in California. As the story goes he didn't strike it rich but he was able to make enough to support the family and eventually buy a piece of land in Bollinger Canyon near the San Ramon River in California. He must have been going back and forth between California and Missouri because of the birth records of several more children. Finally he moved the whole family to California between 1860 and 1863. Unfortunately, there was some dispute as the ownership of the land he purchased and most of it was reverted to the Native Americans when California became a state. They then moved to San Jose where the last two children were born.

Francis Quintilla Bollinger married Benjamin Franklin Bollinger (they were also first cousins) and they were my great great grandparents. Francis Quintilla was a remarkable woman in that she lived to be 104 years old. I was just 5 when I met her and she was a little scary to a 5 year old. She used to tell stories about their trek across country to California. When my mother entered the hospital room with me, she opened her eyes and then closed them. My mother thought perhaps she didn't recognize her but then she opened her eyes again and asked how long it took my mom to get there. She was sharp enough to know that my mom and I came from Indiana on that visit. My mother smiled and said, "Three days." Francis Quintilla Bollinger, then 103, smiled and said, "it took me 6 months," remembering her own trek across the country to California.

She told a story that the wagon train they were part of was stopped by American Indians and the chief tried to negotiate with her father to buy her for two ponies and a pile of buffalo skins. He, of course, refused and the entire wagon train was worried that they would all be killed in the night because of his refusal to sell his daughter. She had light colored hair and long ringlets, which she thought caught the chief's attention.

I might be telling a completely different story today if he had sold her.

Photo Reference: Francis Quintilla Bollinger on her birthday, October 1946, at the age of 90.

Photo Reference: Francis Quintilla Bollinger on her birthday, October 1946, at the age of 90.

I've never been there.

Unfortunately, I've never had the pleasure of seeing Bollinger County MO for myself, or Fredericktown. I have seen Bollinger Canyon which I believe is named for John Bollinger (but I haven't any proof of that yet). I have many cousins still in Missouri, I am told. To my Missouri cousins, I'd like to say a great big "Howdy"!

My mother, Betty Lou Clement, middle.

My mother, Betty Lou Clement, middle.

The Bollinger siblings and mother,Amy Bollinger, sitting.

The Bollinger siblings and mother,Amy Bollinger, sitting.

A Bollinger Family Reunion in Chowchilla, California, 1952.

A Bollinger Family Reunion in Chowchilla, California, 1952.

Joshua and Amy Bollinger, my great grandparents

Benjamin and Francis Bollinger had many children (13 I think), but among them was my great grandfather Joshua Franklin Bollinger, who married Amy Georgiana Boyd and moved to Chowchilla, California. Joshua and Amy were the parents of my grandmother, Francis (Frankie) Elizabeth Bollinger Clement, who was the mother of my mother, Betty Lou Clement Scott.

My grandmother, Frankie, one of the oldest of 9 siblings, passed in 1999. She was a formidable woman who loved her father very much and used to tell stories about him. She preferred to be called Frankie to Francis. When she and my grandfather Walter Clement married, they moved to Merced, California and built a home. Frankie was a very creative woman, with many hobbies, such as raising pure-bread dogs, raising parrots and tropical fish.

She also was a ceramic artist. In the early 60’s she opened her own ceramic shop. She called it Frankie’s Doll House mainly because she was a master at creating ceramic and porcelain dolls. However within a couple of years she knew she would have to change the name of her ceramic shop. She had gone so far as to have a sign created at no small expense, and was listed in the phone book, but people got the wrong impression about the name. After angrily fielding many pornographic phone calls, she realized some people thought Frankie’s Doll House was a bordello. So she changed the name to Merced Ceramics. Not very creative but unmistakably not a cat house.

My Auntie Paulou Bollinger Walker's Memorial

Bollingers, 1941

The children and grandchildren of Joshua and Amy Bollinger, my grandmother Frankie second from the right standing; my mother second from right kneeling.

The children and grandchildren of Joshua and Amy Bollinger, my grandmother Frankie second from the right standing; my mother second from right kneeling.

Recent Reunion


Bollinger Family Reunion

Every year we have the Bollinger Family Reunion at the Fair Grounds in Chowchilla, California, on the first Sunday in May. People begin arriving in the morning and bring potluck lunches, which we all share. Visiting continues to the early afternoon when the obligatory photo must be taken before people begin the trek for various homes. The reunions used to be a huge gathering, but in recent years have begun to dwindle.

On January 20th, 2015, we lost the last of the children of Joshua Franklin Bollinger and Amy Georgiana Boyd. The youngest living sibling of my grandmother: Mina Paulou Bollinger Walker, was a prankster and fun aunt to be around. She will be missed. She was close to my mother and a key member of the family. The Bollinger Family Feunion will be poorer this year for her passing.

Bollinger Family Comments - Have you visited Bollinger County, MO?

Guy Bollinger on September 23, 2017:

I found your web site and read it with interest. Guess we are cousins as my linage does back through Joseph Bollinger to Heinrich Matthias Bollinger the patriarch of our Bollinger line in the USA. Joseph was a brother of your John. Their father was Moses. My parents grew up in Bollinger County MO. I have often visited the sight of the first cabin Matthias built along the Whitewater river. I have found bits of pottery as well as indian artifacts there. My grandfather had a farm about 1/4 a mile from the site. I have always heard stories about John, as a matter of fact my grandfather's brother's son has the diary of John going west. They used to live in Califorina, but do not know where they are now. I have a fairly lengthy family tree of the Bollinger's if you are interested.

Todd Larios on February 19, 2017:

Hey Denise,

I have one the Master Copy of the Family records. I plan on getting it put into electronic format at some point. I would hate to lose it.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on April 22, 2015:

Verla Warther,

Greetings cousin! It's lovely to find long lost family. Where are you living now? By the way, there is another Bollinger family reunion coming up soon. It is always the first Sunday in May at the Fair Grounds in Chowchilla. I'm not sure if I'm going this year. My Mother and sisters usually attend. The family is getting smaller, as you probably know. We lost my great aunt Mina Paulou, the last Bollinger sister/sibling of my grandmother Frankie/Francis Bollinger Clement in February. Here is a link to her tribute my husband created if you are interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hzU0T_yOmg



verla warther on April 21, 2015:

Hi, cousin. I am a granddughter of Moses Bollinger, John and Mary's youngest child. As a child I can remember attending the family reunions every year in Chachilla,Calif. It was there that I had met aunt Francis. I grew up on the fruit ranch that John had developed outside Campbell, near San Jose, CA. As a child I heard the stories of the family move west. A most hardworking family.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 22, 2015:

Say Yes, thanks for that. Yes, Bollinger Canyon was named for my great, great, grandfather, John Bollinger who bought that strip of land with the few nuggets he managed to find in the California Gold Rush. It is pretty cool to talk to someone who has been there. I didn't know it was a hippie haven before.



Yoleen Lucas from Big Island of Hawaii on February 19, 2015:

The name "Bollinger" caught my attention. I grew up in Oakland, and used to visit Moraga. Bollinger Canyon is on the way there. In the 1970s, it was a hippie haven, and you had to know someone to hang out there. In the 1990s, a contra dance scene began, and I understand it's still going on. I played guitar at the first dance they ever held.

As an urbanite, I've always been fascinated by the country. This brought back memories! Thanks for the hub!

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 18, 2015:

I loved your treasures too. I saw the name "Long" from Harrison County, Indiana and wondered if we might be distant cousins. Although my Long's are from Virginia and Switzerland County, Indiana. Only a thought. I image if we go back far enough we are ALL related somehow.

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on January 17, 2015:

I love old family stories and the vintage photos you have are a treasure.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on August 16, 2014:

@Rhonda Lytle: I agree completely. I have always felt like a pioneer out of time. I love the past.

Rhonda Lytle from Deep in the heart of Dixie on August 15, 2014:

It's such a gift to know one's history going so far back. You've done your ancestors proud here! I love hearing old stories of early Americans. I think our society could benefit greatly from reviving some of the attitudes and habits of our past.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 23, 2014:

@OhMe: Thank you. I haven't been there either but someday... Thanks for visiting my lens!

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on January 23, 2014:

I really enjoyed reading about your family's history and seeing these great photos. I have never been to Bollinger County, Mo.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 22, 2014:

@delia-delia: I know. And I get all upset when my car breaks down and I have to call a tow truck. Imagine not having anyone to call? Just your own ingenuity to get you through. I'm not sure I would have made a good pioneer.

Delia on January 22, 2014:

Quite interesting story! How nice you have all this, with photos! I use to live in Mo. and Cal. When I use it drive to California I wondered what it would have been like to have traveled by covered wagon with all the conditions to endure.

Related Articles