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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Oschwald, Ambrose 1801 - 1873


Catholic priest, b. Mundelfingen, Baden. He was educated at Donaueschingen and at the Univ. and Seminary of Freiburg. Oschwald was ordained in the priesthood in 1833, and soon founded an immigrant society dedicated to the establishment of a religious community in the U.S. In 1854 Oschwald and his followers left Europe and migrated to Wisconsin, where they purchased 3,840 acres of land in Manitowoc County and established St. Nazianz. In this religious community the members were pledged to own all things in common, to work only for sustenance, and to live according to monastic-type rules, which Oschwald believed promoted a high degree of virtue. This almost self-sufficient community, despite the hardships of the first few years, had built a convent and monastery by 1858; an orphanage was completed in 1866, a seminary in 1871, and a boarding school at nearby Charlestown in 1872. Shortly before his death, Oschwald named his own successor to lead the community. However, dissatisfaction with the new man, legal discrepancies in Oschwald's will, and the general breakdown of the system soon led to litigation over the disposal of the property and to failure of the communal, semimonastic, experiment. Several years later, after the litigation had been settled, St. Nazianz was taken over by the Church and maintained as a Catholic center. Diamond Jubilee, St. Nazianz, Wis. (St. Nazianz, 1929); Wis. Mag. Hist., 5; Proc. State Hist. Soc. Wis., 1903 (1904); Social Justice Review, 49 (1956), p. 26; WPA MS.

View newspaper clippings at Wisconsin Local History and Biography Articles.

View a related article at Wisconsin Magazine of History Archives.

[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]
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