Butcher and Meat Cutter
Buried in IOOF Cemetery, Block 2, Lot 1
Frederick “Fred” was born August 18, 1831 in Jugenheim, Germany, to Bartholomew Balsz and Phillipine Gerisch. The couple had eleven children born between 1814 and 1836, several of whom came to the United States. Frederick’s mother Philippine is believed to have died around 1836 in Germany shortly after the birth of her last child, David. Bartholomew, a butcher, then immigrated to the United States with some of their younger children, settling in St. Louis, Missouri.
Young Fred is thought to have married at the age of 17 in St. Louis and had a son he named Frederick, Jr. The name of Fred’s first wife is unknown, but she died about 1849.
Soon thereafter, Fred left his son with family and went west with his brother David, who would have been 13 years old. The brothers drove a team of oxen along the California Trail to Sacramento, where they found work as butchers. They remained there until Fred eloped with his second wife, Mercedes Gonzales, around 1860. The couple had three boys and one girl before Mercedes died about 1867. Shortly after, Fred married Eliza Tapia who was about 16 years of age on November 12, 1867. She bore him five more children before her death in 1878.
By this time, Fred’s younger brother David had opened a slaughterhouse north of Phoenix in the Arizona Territory, so Fred moved his family there. Between Fred the butcher and David the cattleman, they had the perfect vertical business model.
Fred married his fourth wife, Sotela Bracamonte, on October 29, 1879 in Phoenix. She was about 17 years old; he was 48. Fred and Sotela would add at least ten more children to the family. Between Fred’s family and David’s family, they had enough children to open their own school--Balsz School—which still exists today in Phoenix.
Fred continued to work as a butcher, going into business for a short time with Frank D. Wells in Phoenix. That partnership was dissolved in 1884, by which time Fred’s sons were in business with him.
Sotela died February 8, 1899, in Phoenix of heart disease and was buried in the family plot in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Fred did not remarry this time, but he had plenty of children to care for him in his final years. The number of children he fathered fluctuates by different accounts, but in 1906 he said he had had 19 children by his four wives.
Fred died at the home of his son Joseph on June 13, 1910. He had suffered a bout of pneumonia the year prior and never fully recovered. He was buried next to Sotela.
© 2020 by Patty Gault. Last revised June 28, 2020
Grave marker photo courtesy of the Pioneers’ Cemetery Association
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