Hugo Palisch’s birthday on January 7, 1892 will be the gateway for discussing some of the early developments in the history of the telephone. First, let me tell you a little bit about Hugo. After being born in Frohna, Hugo was baptized at Concordia Lutheran Church. His parents were Charles and Lydia (Engelmann) Palisch. In the first census taken after Hugo’s birth, we see that he was living in the village of Frohna and his father is called a merchant.
I included in this image some other people that have been discussed on this blog recently. Rudolph Oswald was the butcher in Frohna, and Theodore Bachmann was running the machine shop there.
Hugo’s father, Charles, was working in the store owned and operated by several Palisch brothers, including him. This photo shows the Palisch Brothers Store, which was located at the intersection of Highways A and C in downtown Frohna.
A previous post was written about the beginnings of this store, titled, Unraveling the Palisch/Fischer Connectons.
Here are some other items relating to this photo that I think are connected to today’s story. First, it is my understanding that the first telephone exchanges were often located where local post offices were. For a while, the post office for the village of Frohna was in the Palisch Bros. Store. Also, some old-timers from Frohna have said that one of the earliest telephone exchanges was located in the Fischer home which you can see behind the store on the left in this photo. Based on his later occupation, I think that as Hugo grew up in this Frohna business environment, he developed a keen interest in the new telephone technology.
Sometime before 1910, the Charles Palisch family moved to Perryville where Charles was working for the Perry County government. Here is an image of the 1910 census showing this family, with Charles described as the county collector. Another note: Hugo’s sister, Adelheid, later married the founder of the Young & Sons Funeral Home in Perryville.
At the young age of 18 years, Hugo is already employed as a lineman for a telephone company in Perryville. Later during that decade, we see Hugo’s World War I draft registration.
It is hard to read, but it says that Hugo was the manager of the Perryville Telephone Company. That is pretty impressive for a young man 25 years of age. As it turns out, Hugo did get drafted into the military and served his country during World War I. Here is a document which shows his service.
The highlighted area shows that he was part of Company C of the 314th Field Signal Battalion. The U.S. Army used Hugo’s skills to be part of a battalion that was involved in communications. Here is a flag for his battalion.
In this WWI roster for his battalion, we see that Hugo achieved the rank of corporal.
I found this description of how men were placed into the different companies that were part of the 314th Field Signal Battalion. Hugo was in Company C.
The following video gives a sense of what kind of work was done by a Field Signal Battalion during World War I. It is a silent movie with no captions. You may want to just watch portions of it instead of the whole thing.
According to some narratives that I found, the work of Field Signal Battalions was often done while bombs were falling around them. Some of those bombs contained mustard gas or other biological substances, which caused these men to work while using gas masks. It has always been the case that communication has been a critical requirement for an army’s success.
After doing a little research, I discovered that a phone such as the one we have on display at our museum would have been the kind of phone many used around the time of World War I. This one once was used in the Cornelius Boettcher family.
After returning home to Perryville, it did not take Hugo long to marry his hometown sweetheart, Lena Dewein. Lena was the daughter of John and Magdalena (Hooss) Dewein of Perryville, who were both involved in the running of a hotel. Hugo and Lena were married at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Perryville on September 14, 1919.
Sometime between 1920 and 1930, Hugo moved his family to Washington, Missouri, where he was managing a telephone exchange. It appears that the Palisches had two children.
In 1942, Hugo filled out this World War II draft card.
More specifically, it says Hugo was working for the Ozark Central Telephone Co., an outfit with headquarters in St. Louis. That company was eventually engulfed by Southwestern Bell Telephone Company.
Lena Palisch died in 1955 in Washington, Missouri, but she was buried in Perryville. Here is her Missouri death certificate.
Hugo would die in 1969. Family histories indicate he died in Omaha, Nebraska, but he also was buried in Perryville. Their gravestones are located in the Home Cemetery in Perryville.
There is also a military plaque accompanying Hugo’s grave which shows his service to the country.
Even though East Perry County is a rather remote place, the people here did not try to keep themselves isolated from new technology when it became available. In fact, it seems that in many cases, they embraced new things. Hugo was a man who learned how to handle a new technology and make a career of it.