Antoni Köhl (1764-†1844) - Tanner

Son of master tanner Antoni Köhl (1744-†1800)  and Catharina Schwarz (1737-†1803). Grandson of master blacksmith Peter Köhl (1704-†1777) and Maria Meyer (1702-†1757).

Antoni was born as the first child of Anton Köhl and Cathrina Schwarz in Chur. His father was only 20 years old and probably worked as a blacksmith in his father's business in Araschgen. He seems to have been the only child of the couple.

His father sold the house and tannery located in Araschgen to master Johannes Schifferli in 1781. He exchanged this with a residential house at Unterthor/Reichsgasse. At this time, Antoni had probably completed his apprenticeship as a tanner, worked in the Köhl tannery near the Chur slaughterhouse and now lived with his parents and siblings at Unterthor/Reichsgasse, where today the Regierungsplatz is located.

In 1783, Antoni was admitted to the shoemakers' guild and was now allowed to run the Köhlsche Gerbe with his father. Around 1796 Antoni, by then 32 years old, married Dorothea Gelb (1776-†1847), daughter of Michael Gelb and Dorothea Camenisch.

Children of Antoni Köhl with Dorothea Gelb:

  • Köhl Katharina (1796-†1845) married Johannes Künzle (1800-†1848) in 1833 and moved to St. Margreten SG. The couple had 3 children, but they were orphaned as children.
  • Köhl Dorothea (1798-†1864) married Johann Christoph Gengenbach who came from Germany and emigrated to Kaltenwesten DE in 1829 and Baltimore USA in 1832. The couple had 7 children. Most died in infancy, but some created families in the USA which still have descendants today.
  • Köhl Anton (1800-†1801) died of smallpox in his second year.
  • Köhl Anton (1802-†1810) died at the age of eight.
  • Isaak Köhl-Killias (1805-†1876)  married Ursula Killias in 1830 and had 6 children with her.
  • Köhl Magdalena (1808-†) married carpenter Florian Voneschen in 1841 and moved to Felsberg. The couple had 2 children.
  • Köhl Barbara (1812-†1815) died in her third year.

His first two daughters were born in the parents' home. But there it became probably a little too narrow for the two families. In 1789 Antoni bought the residential house on Reichsgasse and a stable near the Storchenbrunnen from his father[56]. With the money, his father subsequently bought an apartment and a stable from Anna Camenisch, located at the brickworks near the Mühlbach (house 359, Gerbergässli 4), right next to the Köhl tannery.

The takeover of the Köhl tannery

In mid-1800, his father died at the age of only 56. Three years later, his mother, Catharina Schwarz, also died. Antoni now inherited her house at Gerbergässli 4 and probably also the tannery near the Ziegelhütte. But these were difficult times. The warlike conflicts with the Helvetic troops, epidemics and great political and economic changes did not make it easy for the tanner to earn money.

In 1809 Antoni fell seriously ill. The work as a tanner had taken its toll and he could hardly keep up with his work. Of the 5 children, 2 had already died. The Poor Commission now supported the sick father and paid for clothes for his children. He also asked for support for his farm. But his health improved only slowly. The children had hardly any food, were emaciated and emaciated. His oldest son did not survive this. Anton, died at only 8 years old.

Antoni now had to liquidate his first assets, selling a stable and herb garden near the brickworks. In 1815 his youngest daughter Barbara also died. The children Catherina (19), Dorothea (17), Isaak (10) and Magdalena (7) now lived in the house on Reichsgasse. Antoni now worked again as a tanner and was able to celebrate the marriage of his daughter Dorothea with Johann Christoph Gengenbach, who came from Kaltenwesten DE. In 1828 his daughter then moved to Germany with her husband.


Location of the Köhl tannery with the various buildings: 359: residential house, 358/360/361: Köhl tannery, 380: bark mill (city map from 1876, StAC E 0229.002)

The city fire of 1829

On the night of December 7, 1829, the family home, located on Untere Reichsgasse (Regierungsplatz), burned down. The source of the fire was in the group of houses built closely together, where the Regierungsplätzchen is located today. 14 fires burned down, while other houses were severely damaged. One human life was also lost in the fire, while several other people suffered severe burns[6]. Antoni and family lost the house and became impoverished. The family moved to the inherited house at Gerbergässli 4, but even this house was burdened with a considerable debt.

But even though times were hard: His oldest son Isaak (25) married Ursula Killias. Isaak worked as a tanner in his father's business and now also lived with his wife in the family home at Gerbergässli 4. Antoni had meanwhile become impoverished through no fault of his own, had high debts and had to sell his home near the brickworks, together with the garden and tools, to the guild master Bavier. The proceeds of 3000 guilders were redeemed in the form of a debt of 2640.

The poor relief now seized the residential house. He requested to stay in the second floor of the house with his family for rent. The poor relief authorities stated that Antoni had always worked hard and had fallen into poverty through no fault of his own. Therefore, he was allowed to stay in the house and only had to pay part of the rent. Antoni continued to be supported by the poor relief.

In 1833, his daughter Catharina (37) married Johannes Künzler of St. Margrethen SG and moved out of the family home. His youngest daughter was now the only one not married and supported her father and mother. Antoni lived in modest circumstances, often unable to work, even though the care of the poor demanded this of him time and again. His son Isaak also fell ill with severe rheumatism and was unable to work during the cold winter months, nor could he support his father financially. Antoni had to sell other goods and was bedridden. His wife and daughter cared for the old man. In 1841 his youngest daughter, Magdalena, also married and moved to Felsberg.

After a long illness, master tanner Antoni Köhl died of typhoid fever in March 1844 at the age of 70. His faithful wife Dorothea was to follow 3 years later. Although he lived to see the birth of 15 grandchildren, his line of men died out with grandson Theodor Köhl in 1877.


6: Von den Churer Feuersbrünsten, P. Gillardon, 1930, Bündnerisches Haushaltungs- und Familienbuch, S. 65,

1: Kaufprotokoll StAC AB III F12 002 S301

56: Kaufprotokoll StAC AB III F12 003 S47

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