Often in a Coffin

This past week our museum received a donation from Kathy Miesner of a beautiful piece of furniture.  One of the things that makes this piece of furniture unique is the fact that on the back side it is stamped with “G.A.O. Altenburg MO”.  That means that this item was either made or sold by the Gustav Oehlert Store in Altenburg.  Here are some photos of this piece of furniture.

Gustav Oehlert was the son of Johann Oehlert who came to America and Perry County in 1854 as a 22 year old.  Gustav operated a store which sold furniture, but he was also involved in manufacturing some furniture as well.  Here is a photo of his store in Altenburg with Gustav standing on the right.


As was the case in those days, a furniture maker was also involved in making coffins.  This was the case with Gustav also.  The following story is told about Gustav by John Poppitz.  This story is included in Mary Dillon’s Altenburg book.

“Gus Oehlert, dad’s uncle, was a dapper, popular man who spent his life in East Perry County at various occupations and businesses including furniture and casket making.  His shop was in Altenburg on the north side of Main Street across the street from E.B.Zoellner’s blacksmith shop.  As he grew older he developed the habit of an after lunch nap in his shop.  Many an entering customer upon calling out his name were startled to see him suddenly sit up from within a sample casket, rub his eyes and exclaim, “Now I’m alive again.”

Another story was told by Robert Fiehler.  He recalled watching Gustav arriving at his shop driving his Model T Ford.  This quite possibly was the first automobile in Altenburg.

The site of the Oehlert store is now occupied by a home which probably used the basic substructure of the original building.  Here is a photo.


Just two days after receiving this piece of furniture, two men from Lincoln, Nebraska came into our museum who were Oehlert descendants.  They were thrilled to see this piece of furniture.  Amazing things like this happen quite often here.  I put them under the category “Acts of God”.

7 thoughts on “Often in a Coffin

  1. it’s wonderful to read about the rich history, and to be able to visit such a museum, all in East Perry (County). A big thank you to Kathy Miesner, and a big HELLO to all my relatives in the area.


  2. That little voice in my head kept telling me, “you can’t sell this piece — you need to return it to its home in Altenburg…….” I’m thrilled to know that an Oehlert relative was blessed by its presence in Altenburg. Thanks Carla, and all of the staff of the museum, for your dedication to preserving family histories.


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