Since it is Thanksgiving Day, and since Thanksgiving has traditionally been a day for family, I am doing a post about my own family. I have found out quite a bit about my own family only after I retired from teaching and moved to Altenburg. Once I started spending time at the Lutheran Heritage Center & Museum, I became aware of family stories I had never heard before. Or, I suppose I have to confess that I was like so many other people who heard family stories and just did not pay attention to them because at that time in my life I just did not care about those stories. Now I do. Maybe I am writing this post down today because I want people in my family to have a place to go to discover this story. In fact, it is my hope that the stories we write on this blog are ones that may help someone discover facts about their family’s past.
One of my great grandfathers was Gottwerth Schmidt.
Gottwerth was four years old when he, along with his mother and father and younger sister, came to America aboard the Republik in 1839. He grew up in Altenburg in its very earliest days. During his lifetime, he was an eye witness to both the 1845 and the 1867 church sanctuaries being built. On May 23, 1865, Gottwerth married Wilhelmina Seibel.
Goodspeed’s History of Southeast Missouri contains a short bio of Gottwerth’s life. It can be found here:
Apparently, Gottwerth had become involved in the operation of a general store in partnership with Dr. E.E. Buenger in 1863, not long before he married Wilhelmina. That same year, he became the postmaster for the city of Altenburg.
I have to assume that he ran that post office out of the store that he and Dr. Buenger operated. Eventually, he took over that store on his own. Gottwerth and Wilhelmina would have five children. In 1905, Wilhelmina died at the age of 58. Here is a photo of the Gottwerth standing in front of the Schmidt Store around 1920. Gottwerth would have been 85 years old in 1920.
Standing with Gottwerth is his youngest daughter, Clara. The house behind the fence was the Schmidt home. This store and home were located not far to the west of the church cemetery. Gottwerth would be buried in that cemetery in 1926. He was preceded in death by his wife and two of his children, Ernst and Louise. Gottwerth was 91 when he died.
Just a quick side trip to discuss my Great Aunt Clara (shown in the photo above). Clara was the only one of Gottwerth’s children that I got to know. When I was a child, Clara lived in the Altenheim in St. Louis, and my family would occasionally go there to visit her. If I had to do it all over again, and I know what I do now, I would love to go back in time and sit at her feet to ask her all kinds of questions about her life and family. Here is a photo of the Altenheim where she was.
The home where the Schmidts lived still stands, and it just so happens that it is up for sale right now.
I have been told that there is a log cabin inside it. It is just a guess, but I think that if there is a log cabin in there, it may be that section of the house in the back. If so, the front of the house may at one time been added to the front of the log cabin. Some photos of the inside of this house can be found on the website where they list the house for sale.
As I have studied different families that lived in East Perry County, I have run across Gottwerth’s name on several occasions. He must have been a very busy man in his prime. He was not only postmaster, but he served as Justice of the Peace. He also must have been actively involved in the operation of the Altenburg Creamery. I have run across several wills which listed him as someone who was executing those wills. He must have also been very active at Trinity Lutheran Church and School. All in all, I am proud to be his great grandson.
I look forward to a family reunion in heaven someday where I will get to sit down with Great Grandpa at a feast and be very thankful. Happy Thanksgiving!