Watch Your Step

John Preusser was born on December 22, 1883 in Altenburg, Missouri.  Although being born and raised in a small town, he spent most of his life in the big city of St. Louis.  Today, I will attempt to tell you what I have found out about his life.

John’s parents were August and Friedrike (Winter) Preusser.  [Around here, this name is pronounced Proy-zer]  In a previous post on this blog, I talked about how August was one of many undertakers in Perry County over the years.  He was also a church sexton, which often had to deal with handling the preparations for someone’s burial.  That post was titled, Who Buried the Undertaker?  Here is a photo of John Preusser’s parents taken when they were quite old.

August and Friedericke Preusser
August and Friedrike Preusser

John (whose given name was Johannes) was baptized at Trinity Lutheran Church.  He was also confirmed at that church in 1898.  The last evidence I could find of John living in Perry County was in the 1900 census when he was 16 years old.  He did manage to find a bride from his home congregation at Trintiy, but I could find no record of his marriage in the German Family Tree.  I did find an index that said he was married in 1909.

John married Caroline Neumueller.  She was the daughter of Dr. John and Wilhelmina (Oehlert) Neumueller.  John was a physician in Altenburg.  A story was written about him in the post, Altenburg’s Early Docs.  I also have photos of Caroline’s parents.  First, here is a picture of her mother, Wilhelmina.

Wilhelmine Oehlert
Wilhelmina (Oehlert) Neumueller

I also have this photo of Caroline’s father, which also includes Caroline herself (on the left) and her sister Lydia.

Dr. Neumueller Carolyne Lydia
Dr. John Neumueller with daughters Caroline and Lydia

The 1910 census puts the 26 year old John Preusser in St. Louis along with his wife, Caroline and a newborn son, Herbert.  John’s occupation was given as a partner in a furniture store.  Also, a younger brother, Theobald Preusser, was living with them and working as a salesman in a furniture store.  I assume he was working with his brother.

When John filled out his World War I draft registration form, he indicated that his job was an “elevator starter” at the Famous & Barr department store in downtown St. Louis.

John Preusser – WWI draft registration

That store was located at 6th and Olive.  Here is a drawing of that building.

Famous Barr

Without elevators, buildings such as this would not be practical.  In those days, most elevators had to be operated by someone trained to handle their controls.  Here is what those controls may have looked like in 1918.

Elevator manual control

An operator may not have always gotten the elevator to stop at precisely where the floor was located, so he would have to instruct the passengers to “Watch your step” as they got on or got off.

Not long before this World War I registration form was completed, the Preussers had a baby boy named Werner.  Sadly, this child lived to be just a little over one year old.  However, before he died, this photo was taken.  You do not see many baby pictures back in those days, and to have one for a child who died so early is quite unique.

Werner Preusser
Werner Preusser

In the 1920 census, we see John back in the furniture business.  He is described as a salesman.  By that time, his family consisted of five children.  One more daughter would be born in 1922.  The 1930 census says John was managing a furniture store, and two of his sons were also employed in furniture businesses.  Their eldest, Herbert, was described as a sign painter for the furniture store.  In this city directory from 1931, we see both John and Herbert shown.  Herbert has his own sign business.

John Preusser 1931 city directory St. Louis
1931 city directory – St. Louis, MO

I find it even more interesting that another son, Richard Preusser, is shown in the same city directory as being employed by Dau The House Furnisher.

Richard Preusser 1931 city directory St. Louis.JPG

If I have this figured correctly, this is the same Dau Furniture Store that became established in the same building that once housed the Cherokee Brewing Company that I have written about before.  Also, not long ago, in a story about streetcars in St. Louis, I ran across this photograph of a streetcar running down Cherokee St. just in front of the Dau Furniture Store.

Streetcar St. Louis Cherokee Brewery building
Dau Furniture Store – on the right

In the 1940 census, John is shown as being an apartment manager, while two of his daughters are listed as working for a commercial printing business.  I suppose they could have been working for their brother, Herbert, in his sign business, but I have this sneaking suspicion they were actually working at Concordia Publishing House, which is located not far from the above photograph.

Anyway, here is the sad, but amazing, tale of John’s demise in 1951.  Here is his death certificate.

John Preusser death certificate
John Preusser death certificate

On January 15, 1951, at around 7:00 a.m., John was struck by a streetcar at Grand and Liermann Ave. and killed.  Here is a present-day map of that location.  Grand Ave. is the major road on the right, and the 3619 Liermann address shown here was where he lived.

John Preusser address 1951 map

It was an early winter morning.  The roads may have been icy.  It was still dark.  John may have been attempting to get on the streetcar that struck him.  He may have tripped over the streetcar rails.  I don’t know the details, but it must have been a real shock to his wife and family to find out that John had been killed in such a way so close to his home.

We have these photos of John and Caroline taken later in their lives.

Caroline died in 1972.  Both John and Caroline are buried in the Concordia Lutheran Cemetery in St. Louis.  Here is their gravestone.

John and Carolina Preusser gravestone
John and Caroline Preusser gravestone

I would say that, in the end, John should have taken the same advice he once gave people he served, “Watch your step.”

Just a quick note:  Normally I read my stories out loud to someone in order to catch any mistakes I may have made.  Usually it is Gerard Fiehler or my wife, Sandi.  However, this morning, since I happen to be gathered with my family in Wisconsin, I asked my favorite granddaughter, Kaitlyn, to listen.  She gave me some very valuable help, and if I did not give her credit, she would never forgive me.

One thought on “Watch Your Step

  1. Never underestimate the value of a good proofreader or proof-listener!
    Unfortunately, not all writers use this valuable resource!


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