Merchant by the Mill

If Herman Walther was still alive, we would be wishing him a Happy 170th Birthday today.  Herman was born on September 15, 1847 in Germany.  As near as I can tell, he came to America with his family in 1851 at the age of four.  He was the son of Gottlieb and Sophia (Matina) Walther.  By the way, I do not see this Walther family as being related to Rev. C.F.W. Walther.

Gottlieb and Sophia would settle in the Altenburg area.  There is a record of a baptism of one of their children in 1853 in the Trinity Lutheran Church books.  Two children were born to this family in the 1850’s, but both of them died in their first year of life.

This land record indicates that Gottlieb bought some property in this area in 1856.


I also found an account that says he bought property in 1858 that was located near the Wilkinson Mill.  This may or may not be the property described above.   The land owned was the parcel shown in this 1915 land atlas which is identified with Herman Walther’s name on it.

Herman Walther land map 1915

The 1870 census indicates that Gottlieb was a farmer.  Herman and his brother, Francis, were likely working on the farm also, but that is not noted here.

Herman Walther 1870 census Altenburg
1870 census – Altenburg, MO

Ten years later, we see this census indicating that Herman was now a merchant.  He was still single and living with his father and his brother’s family.

Herman Walther 1880 census Altenburg
1880 census – Altenburg, MO

A general store was built right along the side of a road going south of Altenburg (now called Highway C).  In this enlarged version of the previous map, it shows two black dots where the red arrow is.  These would have been the Walther Store and the Walther home.

Herman Walther property map

The blue arrow indicates where the Wilkinson Mill was once located along the Apple Creek.  The mill probably drew traffic to Herman Walther’s store.  Here is a photo of the Wilkinson Mill.


Nowadays, this area around Apple Creek is overgrown and evidence of the mill is difficult to find anymore.

Site of Wilkinson Mill

In the same year as the 1880 census, we find that Herman got married.  The story goes that Herman was on a steamboat going to St. Louis to buy merchandise for his store when he originally met the girl who was going to become his bride.  Her name was Maria Hesse, whose family was from Joachim Township in Jefferson County, Missouri.  This is located near Herculaneum.  Maria and Herman were married in St. Louis.  It says that at the time of their marriage, Maria was “of St. Louis”.  Here is their marriage record.

Walther Hesse marriage record St. Louis
Walther/Hesse marriage record – St. Louis, MO

Here is their wedding photo.

Herman & Maria Walther
Herman and Maria (Hesse) Walther

This couple would have seven children, however three of those children died rather early.  The 1900 census shows them with three children.  One more child would be born after that census.  Here is a photo of the Walther Store and their home next door.  If you look closely, you will see that Herman’s first name is spelled with two “R’s” and two “N’s”.  Also, his last name is spelled Walter.  There was a period of time when he went by that more “Americanized” name.

Walther Store

Herman and Maria are standing along with one of their children in front of the store.

We have this egg crate from the Walther Store on display at our museum.

Walther Store egg crate

Another story is told that the Walthers were the first people in this area to have a telephone.  It just ran between their store and their home next door, and Herman and Maria would use it to communicate with each other.

I took this photo this morning of the location where this store once stood.

Site of Walther Store

It is Braeuner property now.  One of the Walther daughters married a Braeuner,

Herman died in 1923 at the age of 84; Maria died in 1959 not long after her 100th birthday.  Here is a photo of Maria in her advanced age.

Maria Hesse Walther

And here are their gravestones.


5 thoughts on “Merchant by the Mill

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