Shoemaker to Carpenter

Herman Benjamin Kuntze is today’s birthday boy.  He was born on July 30, 1885.  Herman’s parents were Wilhelm and Susanna (Grosse) Kuntze.  His father was a shoemaker in Altenburg who had come to America around 1870 with his first wife, Wilhelmina, who died in April of 1877.  Wilhelm remarried later that same year in October to Susanna.  Herman was baptized where his family were members at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Altenburg.

The 1900 census indicates that when Hermann was just 14 years of age, he was already working with his father as a shoemaker.  In 1907, Herman’s father died, and he took over the shoemaking business.  One year after his father’s death, he married Mathilda Engert at Immanuel Lutheran Church on September 27, 1908.  Mathilda was the daughter of Gotthilf and Anna (Gerler) Engert.  Here is their wedding photo.

Herman Kuntze & Mathilda Engert 1908
Kuntze/Engert wedding

This 1910 census shows Mathilda (Tillie) and Herman living with his mother and siblings, and running the shoemaking shop.

Hermann Kuntze 1910 census Altenburg
1910 census – Altenburg, MO

It must have been about this time that Herman was considering an occupation change.  Competition must have been fierce.  Huge shoe factories were now located in St. Louis.  Another one was even closer in Perryville.  Many people were buying their shoes at local general stores in town.  It is quite possible that most of Herman’s business had now become shoe repair, not shoe making.  Maybe Herman was not that interested in repairing shoes being made by someone else.  At any rate, it was not long after this that we find Herman being called a carpenter, not a shoemaker.  The first place I found that Herman was a carpenter was on his World War I draft form filled out in 1918.

Herman Kuntze – World War I draft registration

On this form, it not only states that Herman is a carpenter, but that his employer was Martin Bellmann.  A previous post told the story of Martin Bellmann titled, Pound the Hammer, Ring the Bell, Bang the Drum.  In that post, this photo was shown.

Moving Log Cabin College 1912

Here is a close-up portion of this photo.  FullSizeRender(17)

Herman Kuntze is the man in the white shirt walking toward the right.  Martin Bellmann is the man who is the second person from the right facing the camera.  I believe that Herman is the only identified person in this photo who happened to be a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church.  The movement of the Log Cabin College in 1912 would not have been an activity that I think would have been one that interested members of a church which at that time was not a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.  Therefore, I am of the opinion that already in 1912, Herman was already working for Martin Bellmann, who was involved in this move because of his expertise in carpentry and his interest in this project as a member of Trinity Lutheran Church.

The 1920 census not only shows Herman as a carpenter, but that he now has a two year old daughter named Bernice.

Hermann Kuntze 1920 census Altenburg MO
1920 census – Altenburg, MO

After about ten years of marriage and not having any children, Herman and Mathilda must have decided to adopt a child.  Bernice was born on October 26 in St. Louis in 1917.  Sometime between then and 1920, Bernice must have been adopted by the Kuntzes.  The 1920 census just states that Bernice’s father was born in the U.S.  Then in 1925, the Kuntzes had a child of their own, a son by the name of Ellis.  He was born on November 14, 1925.

Here is a picture of the Kuntze family taken when Ellis was quite young.  Ellis was also apparently too young to know that he wasn’t supposed to smile in a photo.

Herman Kuntze family
Hermann Kuntze family

There is also a photo taken on the occasion of Ellis’s confirmation at Immanuel on April 2, 1939.

Tillie Ellis Herman Kuntze

You will notice that Bernice is not in the picture.  That is because by this time, she had already been in poor health for several years as a result of a congenital disease….one which she received from her birth mother.  Also, not long after this photo was taken, Bernice broke her leg, and this complicated that disease.  It eventually led to her death on November 18, 1939.  On, you can find this description of Bernice’s life and death.

“She was born Oct. 26, 1917, in St. Louis. She was schooled in the Em. Lutheran School at Altenburg, and confirmed in the Lutheran faith on March 29, 1931. About 7 years ago her health failed her and on May 16 this year she got a leg broken. From then on, she was bedfast. She was a true Christian, bearing her cross in patience, and passed away in her Lord Jesus at the age of 22 years, 23 days.”

Here is a later picture of Ellis Kuntze.

Ellis Kuntze
Ellis Kuntze

Ellis went on to serve his country in the U.S. Navy in World War II.  Here we have a photo of Ellis in his Navy uniform.

Ellis Kuntze military

The Kuntze story is one which illustrates two characteristics that I have noticed about Perry County folks as I research these blog posts.  First, we so often see how the Lutherans from this area have always been there with a willingness to adopt orphans into their families.  Secondly, so many Perry County families sent boys off to serve their country in the military.  Both of these are very admirable traits.

Herman died in 1967; Mathilda died in 1975.  They are buried together in the Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery in Altenburg.

Herman and Mathilda Kuntze gravestone Immanuel Altenburg


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