Such a Tragic Story

June 3, 1895 was a wonderful day for Carolina Weis.  It was her wedding day.  She married Friedrich Zerbst in Jacob, Illinois.  It was a day to celebrate.  However, Carolina’s life would be one which was visited by tragedy on several occasions.

Carolina was the daughter of Gustav and Anna (Weseloh) Weis.  August was a bricklayer in St. Louis.  Carolina was born two days after Christmas, December 27th, in 1878.

Friedrich Zerbst was the son of Nicolaus and Anna (Miessner) Zerbst of Jacob, Illinois.  He was born on July 13, 1866 and baptized at Christ Lutheran Church in Jacob.  Friedrich became a carpenter.  Since Carolina’s mother was a Weseloh, and that is a name found in the Christ Lutheran church books, her connections might be how a carpenter in Jacob managed to get married to a woman from St. Louis.

Friedrich and Carolina had five children.  Their oldest, Johann Gustav Nicolaus, died in 1908 at the age of 12.  I do not know the cause, but it must have brought much sadness into the Zerbst family.  Then, one year later, in 1909, more tragedy entered Carolina’s life.  Friedrich was killed in a violent incident which occurred while he was at work.

The Christ Lutheran death records state what happened in this way:

“Johann Friedrich Nicolaus Heinrich Zerbst, Born 13 May 1866, Died 25 May 1909, Buried 26 May 1909, Cause of Death: Friedrich Zerbst, Benjamin Degenhardt and others were working in a house in Jacob IL, Zerbst and Degenhardt got into a verbal argument, whereupon Degenhardt in anger killed Zerbst, Degenhardt regretted the killing and wept in sorrowful tears”

In addition to this, Lynn Degenhardt, the creator of our German Family Tree, includes this account told to him by his father, Reinhold (Dixie) Degenhardt.

“Per Reinhold Degenhardt, nephew of Benjamin Degenhardt: Friedrich Zerbst had the habit of taking out a knife, and playfully threatening people. After doing this to Benjamin Degenhardt, Benjamin hit Friedrich Zerbst over the head with a piece of 2×4 lumber, causing his death. Benjamin Degenhardt served about 4 years in the Menard prison in Chester IL for the killing.”

Friedrich was laid to rest in the Christ Lutheran Cemetery.  Here is his gravestone.

Friedrich Zerbst gravestone

Carolina was now a widow with four living children, two boys and two girls.  Then in 1911, Carolina remarried.  Her second marriage took place at Immanuel Lutheran Church in New Wells, Missouri.  She married August Mirly.  Here is their marriage license.

Mirly Zerbst marriage license
Mirly/Zerbst marriage license

The next census in which we find this family is the 1920 census.  They were living in St. Louis, Missouri, where August was employed as a blacksmith.  The two youngest Zerbst children, the two boys, were still living with the family and were also gainfully employed.  One was working in a steel business and one in the automobile business.  There were also three Mirly children in the household by this time.

On November 8, 1933, a final tragic event took place in the life of Carolina.  This time she inflicted the tragedy upon herself.  I never like to report an event like this, but I must.  Carolina committed suicide, as it is reported on her death certificate.

Carolina Weis death certificate
Carolina Mirly death certificate

August would died in 1944, and both Carolina and August are buried together in the Friedens Cemetery in St. Louis.  Here is their gravestone.

Carolina Mirly gravestone

One thing that is a fact of life is that all people succumb to the devil’s temptations many times in their lives.  In this story, we see a couple of examples of how people made some wrong choices.  Those choices brought sadness into the lives of others.  As I write stories on this blog, I sometimes feel that I am portraying the characters in way which is too glorious.  I know these people are sinners, but I like to portray the people of Perry County in a positive way.  I like to point out their strengths and good accomplishments.  I know there are times when I decide to refrain from telling parts of people’s lives that might not be so positive.  I especially try to avoid spreading stories which can be classified as rumors. I guess I will always have choices to make too as I write on this blog.  I suppose today’s story reminds us that no matter where you live, the devil is tempting people to do what is wrong, and there are those times when people make the wrong choices.  This is why the church is such an important part of our lives.  It is a place where we can confess our sins and receive absolution from our Savior, who died so we can have forgiveness.



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