I am going to get a little personal with our story today. When I was a boy growing up in St. Louis, we would regularly visit Perry County because my father was born and raised in Wittenberg, and we had plenty of family here. One of the families we would visit when we were here was the Schlimpert family who lived at the base of the infamous Stephansberg hill located in Seelitz. These were magical times for me because this city boy absolutely loved getting away from the big city and coming to the “country”.
I often tell the story that one of the things I looked forward to on those family trips was the bread and butter which was placed in front of me on the large Schlimpert table. That homemade bread and freshly churned butter made my mouth water. There were two women working in that Schlimpert kitchen in those days. One was my Aunt Lorna, my father’s sister, who was married to my Uncle Ossie, whose given name was Oscar Schlimpert. The other cook in that kitchen was today’s birthday girl, Lydia Meta Clara Schlimpert, who was born on February 4, 1898. She was Uncle Ossie’s unmarried older sister, and everybody called her Meta. It is her story that we tell today.
First, let’s take a look at the family of which Meta was a part. Her parents were Jacob and Caroline (Boeger) Schlimpert, and they lived on the same piece of property that Oscar would later farm.
Oscar was the youngest in this family. Meta is the second girl from the left behind her mother. Also in the picture are Hugo, Bertha, Gertrude, and Selida.
While I am at it, here is a photo of the original homeplace of the Schlimpert clan after settling in the Seelitz area.
Here is a brief description of what happened to the other siblings of Oscar and Meta.
- Bertha (born in 1892) married Willie Kermse in 1917. Interestingly, in the 1910 census she was a servant in the house of Theodore and Sarah (Boehme) Mueller. ***These Schlimperts’ grandma was a Boehme.
- Gertrude (born in 1894), moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and was living with her Aunt Emma (Boeger) Gardner in 1920. While there she married a carpenter named Watson Likins.
- Hugo (born in 1895) fought in World War I, and was reportedly the victim of biological weapons that were used by the enemy. It affected his health for the rest of his life, and he never married. For many years, he lived with Oscar and Meta.
- Selida (born in 1901) moved to Oklahoma City just like her older sister and lived with the Gardners too. She married Rev. Henry Castor, who served as pastor of congregations in several locations over the years.
The mother of this family, Caroline (Boeger) Schlimpert, who happened to be from Chester, Illinois, died in 1923. This leads us to see the situation as it is stated in the 1930 census.
You can conclude that at this time, thirty-one year old Meta is now caring for her 72 year old father, her older brother, Hugo, who is by this time suffering from his war wounds, and her younger unmarried brother, Oscar.
Oscar was married three years later, and his marriage to Lorna Schmidt becomes my connection to the Schlimpert family. In the 1940 census, we see that Lorna and a daughter, Marie, have been added to this household.
We now have Meta and Lorna operating in the Schlimpert kitchen. I have been told by members of the Schlimpert clan that Lorna’s primary task was to take care of the children, and Meta was to be primarily the cook. By the time I arrived on the scene in the 1950’s and 1960’s, there were plenty of folks in that kitchen, including several daughters, but in my mind it was always Meta’s kitchen, and the food produced in that kitchen was outstanding.
There is a family story that says there was a culture of yeast that was used by Meta in her baking for many decades.
When one attempts to research someone who was never married, there often are very few records to look at……no marriage records, no children baptized, etc. In Meta’s case, you also run across the difficulty that she did not like having her picture taken. Here is one of the few that we have, and even in this one, it appears she does not want the photo to be taken.
This photo, though, is a precious one to those in the Schlimpert family. It shows Meta in her kitchen, wearing what seemed to be an ever present apron, and food on the table, including a loaf of bread that looks like it is fresh from the oven. And most of all, Meta is exhibiting that always present smile that made her such a wonderful person to be around.
Recently, Marie Schlimpert died, and many Schlimperts and Schmidts gathered for the funeral. Afterwards, many assembled around a large table in a restaurant which brought back memories of what it was like to gather around the Schlimpert table in Seelitz. All of these people also consider Meta to have been a very special part of their lives.
Meta was beloved by her family, her friends, and her church family. She died in 1986, and she is dearly missed, as is her cooking. Some of her recipes are still used by people in this community. There is also another Meta Schlimpert wandering around East Perry County whose name is a tribute to this wonderful woman. Meta’s whole life was one of sacrifice for her family. I can just imagine hearing Jesus proclaim to her, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
***Update: I was just given two more photos of Meta. One is of Meta holding Ossie and Lorna’s grandson, Steven. The other shows Ossie, Lorna, and Meta on the couch with several children and an in-law in the back.