Charles Ernest Kohler

He and his older step-brother, Frédéric Guillaume "William" Kohler, both emigrated to Louisiana, but at different times, and both married the same woman: Angelica "Angelique" Rabalais.

William married her first – in 1874 – and had 3 children by her: Emile Paul (1873), Jules (1879) and Jeanne “Jane” (1883).

After William died in 1887 Angelica married Charles Ernest a year later and they had two boys: Eustis William Kohler (also called "E.W.", "Popee"  and "Yo") in 1889 and Ernest “Pete” (1893). My family were friends with the family of E.W. Kohler over several decades, so I have included that family in the Kohler-Davies family tree.

Angelica died in 1905 and then Charles Ernest married Eugenie “Mim” Armand the next year. They had 3 children: Eloise “Martha” (1909), Louise Olga “Billie” (1917) and Philip (1928).

Incidentally, Mim Armand’s sister, Agnes “Zin” Armand, later married Ernest “Pete” Kohler, Charles Ernest Kohler’s son by his previous marriage. So one sister married the father and the other sister married the son!

Charles Ernest Kohler’s 5-page application for citizenship (page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4, page 5) states that he was born in Alsace, France and that he moved to the United States in 1880 when he was 17 and that he had resided continuously in Louisiana since 1880. He must have arrived in the States (maybe through the port of New Orleans) sometime in the first five months of 1880. He did not arrive through New York. (An Ernest Kohler did arrive in New York in 1882 aged 17 from “Germany” but this must be another Ernest Kohler.)

According to an account given to Lela Kohler by her father-in-law Eustis William Kohler

"My father Ernest Kohler, his older brother William Kohler, and a Kohler cousin came to America from Alsace; they were 3 months in a sailboat. [This sounds as if they all came together, but we know William came in 1872. Ernest would have been 9 in 1872. Ernest's citizenship document states he came when he was 17; it's more credible that he came when he was 17 than when he was 9 and that he came to the US 8 years after his brother William.] They settled around Lake Pearl near what is now Hessmer, Louisiana. The cousin didn't like the heat and humidity of Louisiana, so he left and went north. [Some people have speculated that the cousin founded the town of Kohler, Wisconsin and that he or a descendant started a plumbing company which became the famous Kohler Company, manufacturers of bathroom fixtures. This isn’t true since the Kohler Company was founded in 1873 by Austrian-born John Michael Kohler.] Later, Ernest became First Engineer for the Santa Fe Railroad. He made a lot of money and gave it away."

Ernest worked in the Panama Canal area for the French government. He sent money home to Alsace for safe-keeping because people were dying in Panama of yellow fever and he was afraid his family would lose his money if he died.. The 'Government fell through on the job'. He wrote home for his money and his sister Louise wrote that his brother Emile had taken the money and gone to Africa. [Actually, Emile went to Buenos Aires, Argentina.] Ernest invented a machine to dig ditches but another man stole the idea and got it patented. That he was in Panama is confirmed by New York immigration records page 1 and page 3) which show that C. E. Kohler, aged 22, arrived there on 25 Mar 1889 from Aspinwall, Panama on board the City of Para; which sailed monthly between Rio de Janeiro and New York and called at several ports along the way. He carried two pieces of luggage and was described as a "labourer"; Citizen, visitor or immigrant = "Sojourn". (The age of 22 is not correct; he was 26 on 25 Mar 1889.)

[Note on the Panama Canal:

"In 1882 Ferdinand de Lesseps, who had built the Suez Canal, suggested a French-owned canal at Panama. There were many setbacks: he couldn't raise enough backing, malaria and yellow fever had a devastating effect, the ground was extremely hard, and he insisted on a level canal instead of a system of locks. In 1889, Lesseps' company was liquidated in order to pay back investors. In 1894, a new company, the Compagnie Nouvelle du Canal de Panama, was created in France to attempt to finish the canal, but France determined that she could not possibly complete the canal and later sold the rights to the United States."]

His granddaughter Louise couldn't remember much when I [David] saw her in June 2004 and there is some uncertainty about her recollections. She told this story:

"Ernest had a fiancée in Europe. He sent her ahead to Louisiana, where she stayed while he went to work in a diamond mine in South America. He sent her money. His younger brother Frederick came to Louisiana, met the fiancée and ran off to Canada with her and the money. Then Ernest returned to Louisiana where he married his brother William's wife Angelica after William died. Nobody ever heard from Frederick again. Ernest brought several Indians with him from South America and they worked for him in a brick-making business. He had a big house but it caught fire. He was a Catholic."