A Nebraska Builder

Today’s story is one involving people who are more contemporary than those we usually cover.  Normally, we tell stories that describe folks who lived way back in the 1800’s.  Today’s story goes well into the 1900’s.  This story attracted my attention for three reasons.  First, the story refers to characters living in Seward, Nebraska, where I attended college.  Second, one of the characters is a Mueller, and I have some Muellers in my family.  Third, one of the other characters is a Fiehler, and my colleague doing research with me here at the museum is Gerard Fiehler.

We begin with the Fiehler.  Natalie Theodora “Theo” Fiehler was born in 1891 in Frohna, Missouri.  Her parents were Johann Benjamin and Bertha Ernestine (Doberenz) Fiehler.  She was baptized at Concordia Lutheran, Frohna by Rev. Wm. Zschoche.  (Note:  This Rev. Zschoche and the Rev. Bundenthal  mentioned in yesterday’s post had served at different times at the same Lutheran church in Atchison, Kansas.)

The Mueller who is part of this story is Wilhelm Johannes “John” Mueller.  He was born in 1887 and also baptized at Concordia by the same pastor.  His parents were Immanuel and Sophia (Grosse) Mueller.  Here at the museum we refer to the family in which these Muellers are included as the “Frohna Muellers”.

Theo and John were married on April 6, 1913 at Concordia with Rev. Wenger officiating.  Here is the record from the Concordia church book.

Fiehler Mueller marriage
Mueller-Fiehler marriage record – Concordia, Frohna

We also have their wedding photo in a family book here at the museum.

John and Theodora Mueller
Mueller-Fiehler Wedding

In another family book that we have, there is a photo of the entire wedding party.  Interestingly, that family book includes another wedding photo like this taken one year earlier, and it shows John and Theo standing as a couple in another Mueller wedding.  I am amused that in both photos there is someone holding a box of cigars.

Mueller Fiehler wedding party

In the 1920 census, the Muellers are recorded as living in Potter, Nebraska.  St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Potter began in 1918.  Five of the charter members of that congregation were Muellers, with John being one of them.  John was listed as a contractor there.  In the 1930 census, the couple was living in Seward, Nebraska, and John was described as a carpenter.  John is credited with building churches and schools, among other things.  One of the churches he is credited with is St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Potter.  This church (shown below) was built in 1919, but expanded and remodeled in 1953.

St. Paul's Potter NE.JPG
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Potter, Nebraska

We are told that John worked for 63 years of his life.  The newest church building at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Seward was dedicated in 1968.  I arrived on the Concordia Teachers College campus that year, and I remember the “new smell” in that church building.  It is indeed possible that John may have been involved in that building process, although he would have been getting up there in age.

John died in 1977.  We finally get to the reason we are telling this story today.  Theo died on July 28, 1982, thirty-four years ago today.  They are both buried in a cemetery in Seward.

As is always the case, we would love to get comments from anyone who might know more about this story.


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