One of the Ridge Gerlers

According to church records, there is some debate about whether Louis Gerler and Anna Lichtenegger were married on March 31st or April 1st.  I lean toward the April date, but I choose to do their story today.  I also choose to use this event in order to highlight two other characteristics that are part of the study of history……geography and photography.

Before I go any farther, I must give an enormous amount of credit for the information and media in this post to a good friend of our museum, Diane Anderson, who lives in Ava, Illinois.  She is an outstanding researcher and is a descendant from this Gerler family.  Her collection of photographs for this family alone is amazing, as will be evident in this post, and there are plenty of photos that I won’t even use.

Louis Gerler was a Jr.  He carried the same name as his father.  Louis Gerler, Sr. came to America with his family when he was 7 years old in 1854.  I may have to tell the story of this family’s immigration in another post.  It is a fascinating story of its own.  Louis married Emma Thurm in 1874 at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Altenburg.

Louis Sr. and Emma Gerler
Louis, Sr. and Emma Gerler

This couple had six children who lived to adulthood.  Here is a photo of this family that must have been taken not long after 1888 because the baby in the photo was born in that year.  It is possible that this photo was taken on the occasion of Louis, Jr.’s confirmation which took place in 1889.  This picture was apparently taken in the home of the Gerlers, not a studio.  What appears to be a homemade backdrop was placed in the room, and you can see other items from the home in the photo.  I much prefer this kind of photo over the studio photos with the fake backdrops they use because I think this kind of photo can give you more hints about the life of the family.  I also like photos that are taken outdoors.

Louis Gerler, Sr. family
Louis Gerler, Sr. family

What are the chances that Emma Gerler made those outfits for the girls?  Louis, Jr. was the firstborn child of this couple and can be seen in the upper right in this photo.

Louis, Jr. married Anna Marie Pilz in 1899 at Immanuel.

Gerler Pilz marriage
Gerler/Pilz wedding

This couple had two children, one which died in infancy.  Then shortly after their daughter was born in 1903, Anna Marie died.  Louis would remarry in 1907.  His second wife was Anna Maria Lichtenegger whose family was from Pocahontas, Missouri in northern Cape Girardeau County.

Gerler Lichtenegger marriage
Gerler/Lichtenegger wedding

If you look at these two wedding photos you can identify both similarities and differences between them.  I will limit myself to commenting about Louis’s massive hands.  They must have been a huge asset to him as a farmer.

The Gerler and Lichtenegger families both have early connections to the area in Cape County around New Wells and Pocahontas.  Louis’s grandfather, Christian Friedrich, whose death is recorded in the Trinity, Altenburg books, was nonetheless buried in the cemetery in New Wells.  He has to be one of the earliest burials in that cemetery.  The rest of this family’s history seems to be recorded in the Immanuel Lutheran books.  The Lichtenegger family were members of St. John Lutheran Church in Pocahontas.  However, there is a record in the St. John records that says that Anna Marie transfered and became a member of Immanuel in 1905.  The Gerler/Lichtenegger marriage took place in Pocahontas at St. John.

This is where I will veer off to talk a little about geography.  A couple of the Gerlers ended up living in an area of East Perry County that is referred to as the Ridge.  Here is a map which shows a ridge which starts in the Wittenberg area and ends near Seventy-Six, Missouri.

The Ridge

The blue rectangle indicates the approximate area where a few of what have been referred to as the Ridge Gerlers had their property.  Here is a map from a 1915 atlas that shows this ownership.

Louis Gerler property

It must have been a monumental task to rightly determine the boundaries of the land that was owned by Louis Gerler.  At least in those days, if he had any border disputes, it would likely have been with his brother, Herman Christian Gerler.

The Ridge was also at one time referred to as Friedland.  The Immanuel church records are full of references to people being from Friedland.  This brings up another mystery that I may have to research someday.  It seems like most of the people that lived on The Ridge were also members of Immanuel, not Trinity or Concordia or Salem.  I wonder why that was the case.

Here is a photograph of the Louis Gerler, Jr. family showing six children.

Louis Gerler, Jr. family
Louis Gerler, Jr. family

Once again, you can see some sharp contrasts between this photograph which probably was taken around 1930 and the family photo of Louis Gerler, Sr. shown previously.

These Gerler parents were living in Ava, Illinois with their son, Roland, when they died.  Louis died in 1954, and Anna died in 1955.  However, both of them are buried in the Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery in Altenburg.

I am going to have to return to this Gerler family again someday.  There are some stories yet to be told about this family, but I don’t have the time or space today.


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