Aegidius (Egidi, Gideon) Bauer

Written by Margaret Fairfield Read, his great-great granddaughter

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Aegidius Bauer (the baptismal spelling of his name) was born to Sebastian and Gertrud (Muller) Bauer on 2 Sep. 1818 in Horden, Baden -- we now say Germany.

He was the fourth of eight children. When he was an adult, he served his compulsory three years in the Prussian army. After he completed his service, he declared no son of his would ever have to do the same. (This detail comes from a short history written by Paul Adrian Bauer, Egidi’s grandson, copies of which are available at the Mariposa Historical Society.)

Egidi worked as a weaver in Wintersdorf, and married Regina Gress there in 1844. Their first child, Frederick (Frank) Paul, was born 17 Apr 1846.

They soon left for America from the port of Havre, arriving in New Orleans 21 July 1847 aboard the French ship Marcia Cleary. Traveling with them were Regina’s brother, Franz Xaver Gress, and several of the Bauer siblings. German Catholics were not the most common immigrants to America, but all the German immigrants tended to travel in groups. Either they came with family members or with others from their home community.

A travel brochure touting the advantages of living in Missouri had been circulating in areas we now call Germany. Aegidius, Regina and Frederick traveled up the Mississippi River to Ste. Genevieve County. By the 1850 census Frank (affectionately called Francis) was four and their second son Joseph was one year old (born 29 Mar 1849); “Ekety Bower” was listed as a farmer. “Gideon Bauer” was naturalized there in 1855. During those years, two more children were born: Frances, their only daughter (7 Aug 1851) and Michael (16 Oct 1852).

(It is not clear how much he used the name Gideon. Also, his name is often spelled Egide in 19th Century sources -- including his gravemarker -- but Egidi ending with an “i” is how he wrote it as part of his signature, so that is how he is referred to on this webpage.)

In 1858, as Missouri was becoming more militant prior to the Civil War, the family moved by wagon train, leaving Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, for the trip to California. The 1860 census places “E. Bowers” in Mud Springs Township., El Dorado County, California, where Egidi worked as a miner.

Within two years, the family moved south to Mariposa County, probably having heard of the rich gold veins being talked about in the Fremont mine. The 1870 census shows “Aketa Bower” working as a gardener in Hornitos, while the 1880 census has “E. Bauer” listed again as a farmer.

Around 1862, Egidi made arrangements to have his oldest son, Frank Paul, apprenticed to the butcher George Reeb in Hornitos. In 1874, this same son moved to Vallejo to work in a butcher shop there. Frances had married Thomas Branson in 1872, then Joseph married Anna Biederman in 1874. The latter two families stayed in Hornitos.

In April of 1876, Egidi and a neighbor, D. K. Pitzer, went to the land office in Stockton to prove their homestead lands. The Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office, has excellent records of these transactions, showing that these two men spoke up on behalf of each other.

Also in 1876, Frank was married to Elizabeth Jane Powers in Vallejo. This left only Michael at home for the 1880 census. He married Mary Jane Geary in 1884.

Egidi taught all his sons the art of panning for gold. Although Frank moved away, he returned to Hornitos every chance he got so that he could visit family and also pan in the nearby streams. None of the family became rich from California gold, but there are a few pieces of family jewelry still in existence that were made from the flakes and dust they gathered, and Frank was able to pay for a fence in Oroville in 1899 by working the posthole diggings.

Family lore has it that Regina never learned to converse comfortably in English, so all four of her children learned first to speak German, then English. All three sons and son-in-law Thomas Branson learned Chinese from the numerous Chinese miners in the Hornitos area; Egidi may have been fluent as well. This was especially helpful for Frank in his butcher shop in Benicia. Chinese cooks from ships, needing to fill their larders for the voyages back to Asia, bypassed other shops to buy their meat from a person with whom they could speak their own language.

Egidi Bauer’s obituary was printed in the Mariposa Gazette of 1881. His funeral was one of the largest to date. Perhaps that was because he had been shot by his friend and neighbor, Duiguid Kyle Pitzer. The story unfolds in both the newspaper and the lengthy court records (available in the courthouse in Mariposa that is still in use today). It would seem that Pitzer and Egidi had disagreements because one of Egidi’s pigs was getting out and digging in Pitzer’s garden. The arguments escalated with no reasonable settlement in sight. On the evening of Saturday, 9 July 1881, Pitzer had been to town (Hornitos), probably to the saloon, and was walking toward home. He had a gun in his hand. Bauer was walking toward town, unarmed. Evidently a few words were exchanged, then Pitzer “did willfully, unlawfully, maliciously and with malice aforethought shoot and kill E. Bauer with a Pistol” according to the criminal complaint filed the following Monday by Joseph. The shooting took place right in front of Joseph’s house.

This shooting took place around seven in the evening, when a large number of neighbors were outdoors (July in Hornitos), so there were numerous witnesses. Joseph reported in court that he heard his father speak to Pitzer and his attention was drawn when Pitzer fired the first shot. Egidi staggered and threw up one arm, Pitzer fired again and Egidi fell. Joseph testified that his father died in the street.

Pitzer turned himself in to the sheriff. A trial was held within a week, with a jury of his peers and neighbors, and Pitzer was convicted of manslaughter. Had he been found guilty of murder, he would have been hanged and he was the father of some eleven children. He was given the standard sentence for manslaughter of six years in San Quentin. His prison records show that he served four years and two months of the sentence before being released. (Later gleanings from the Mariposa Gazette reported that he died in 1915 on the sidewalk in Merced. A passerby happened to notice him lying there and saw him breathe his last.)

Regina stayed on the Hornitos property until her death in 1891, at which time the estate was probated. Egidi’s blacksmith tools ($8) went to Joseph, two horses ($40) and wagon ($100) to Michael and the household furniture ($40) to Frances (Mrs. Thomas H. Branson). 37 head of cattle were sold for $380. The land and proceeds of the estate were divided into equal fourths.

When Egidi was killed just two months short of his sixty-third birthday, he and Regina had nine grandchildren. That number grew to twenty-three, with far more descendants now than it is practical to count. It is interesting to note that Frank became a Protestant, and all of Frank’s descendants have remained Protestants, while the descendants of the other three remained Catholic. Not all of Egidi’s descendants have been aware of his life story, so it is hoped that many more will learn about him through these paragraphs.

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