It Started with an Apple

I do not usually look for stories that are associated with a death, but I was attracted to today’s situation anyway.  A girl who was originally named Hannah Bollefer happened to die on this day in 1974.   The tale of that girl entering the Perry County community is the starting point to tell several other tales.  And it apparently all started with some apples.

A young man was born in Seelitz on February 15, 1893.  His name was Ferdinand Poppitz.  I have already told part of his story in a previous post called Seelitz Soldiers.  Here is a photo of Ferdinand in his military uniform when he served our country during World War I.

Ferdinand Poppitz

Ferdinand was the son of Ferdinand Carl and Ernestine (Oehlert) Poppitz.  It is important to know where Ferdinand’s home was located.  Here is a photo of the Poppitz place in Seelitz.

Poppitz home – Seelitz

In the background, you can see the infamous hill called Stephansberg.  Here is another photo of that hillside I took rather recently.


It is the location where Rev. Martin Stephan planned to build his palace and rule over his German Lutheran colony here in America.  That was before his indiscretions were discovered, and he was removed from the community.

When Ferdinand returned home from the war, he became a farmer.  He also had an apple orchard which was located on Stephansberg hill.  In order to sell his apples, he would occasionally truck them up towards St. Louis to find a market for them.  Apparently, one of the places he sold his apples was in the historic Kimmswick area near Arnold, Missouri.  His Missouri-grown apples must have found a fan up there, because the story is told that a single girl from that area by the name of Hannah Bollefer just had to find out where those tasty apples originated.  She eventually found the orchard on Stephansberg hill, and she also found Ferdinand.  The two of them were already getting older than the normal marrying age, but that did not stand in their way.  On March 27, 1932, Ferdinand and Hannah became husband and wife.  At the time of their marriage, Ferdinand was 39 years old, and Hannah was 41.

Let me backtrack to Hannah’s family.  She was the daughter of Frank and Johanna (Riechmann) Bollefer.  Frank had a farm in Kimmswick right near Highway 61.  He also had a fairly large family, one of which was Hannah.  This 1900 census shows a family with 8 children.  Three more children would come later.

Frank Bollifer 1900 census Kimmswick
1900 census – Kimmswick, MO

Ferdinand and Hannah adopted one child, John Poppitz.  There is some speculation among people around here that John may also have originated from the Kimmswick area.

Let me take a side trip to tell you about a few of Hannah’s siblings.  She had two older brothers, Louis and Frank, who became Lutheran ministers.  Louis spent many years of his ministry in International Falls, Minnesota.  His brother, Frank, went even farther north to serve his church.  He spent much of his time in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, Canada.  This map shows the locations where these two brother were ministers.

Humboldt and International Falls map

Hannah’s father, Frank, died later the same year that she was married.  One year later, another seemingly unrelated marriage took place.  Oscar Schlimpert, Ferdinand’s close neighbor in Seelitz, married my father’s sister, Lorna Schmidt.  In the above picture of the Poppitz place, you can see the Schlimpert farm in the background, both of them in the shadow of Stephansberg hill.

Now we return to Widow Bollefer’s situation.  In the 1940 census, she is living with two sons, two daughters, and a nephew.

Richard Schmidt 1940 census Jefferson County MO
1940 census – Kimmswick, MO

Also included in that household was a hired hand by the name of Richard Schmidt……my daddy.  I have this sneaking suspicion that my father was in need of employment and the Bollefer family was in need of some help, and my father found out about this job opportunity when he spent some time visiting his sister in Seelitz.  My father was living in Wittenberg at the time which is not far away.  This was my father’s first move away from Perry County.

A few years later, my father would join the Army and fight in World War II.  After the war, he found employment at Emerson Electric Company in St. Louis, met his bride at St. Stephan’s Lutheran Church, and that led to the story of my life.  Now I am realizing that my beginnings in St. Louis may have been connected to some good-tasting apples that grew in Seelitz.  They eventually started my father’s journey toward the big city of St. Louis.

I did not discover this Bollefer connection to my family until rather recently.  Now that I think more about this set of circumstances, I think it solves a little mystery that comes out of my memory banks.  I have a vague memory of my family traveling to the Arnold, Missouri area when I was fairly young.  If I was told the name of the people we were visiting, I certainly do not remember it.  I now think we were going down to visit some folks in the Bollefer family.

There is this interesting gravestone found in the St. John’s Lutheran Cemetery in Arnold, Missouri.

Bollefer gravestone St. John's Cemetery Arnold MO
Bollefer gravestone – St. John’s, Arnold, MO

These are four of Hannah’s siblings, all of which never married.  They were all living in the Bollefer household when my dad was living there.

4 thoughts on “It Started with an Apple

  1. What a small world. The Bollefer’s continue to travel, my dad Francis Bollefer stayed in Saskatchewan his professional life. His children scattered. I never knew my aunt Hannah found romance through an apple. I thot she taught school in perry county . Nice to get those dates. I am named after aunt Adelia. One of the 3 that arrived after the dates mentioned.


  2. Very interesting read! Curious- how did you find out that Hannah searched for the origin of the apples? Was it a family story passed down?

    Thanks for writing! And as a fellow St. Louisan I have to say, Go Cards!


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