In the process of researching a birthday boy today, I managed to solve a previous mystery that has been bugging me. The birthday boy was Friedrich Ludwig Gerler who was born on April 14, 1873. Since this is a Gerler, I must give a shout-out to Diane Anderson, one of the research rock stars from our previous post. She is our resident expert on the Gerler family, and her binder on that family history was quite helpful today. Here is Friedrich (Fred) Gerler’s baptism record which can be found in the Immanuel Lutheran church books in Altenburg, Missouri.
On September 13, 1896, Fred married Bertha Lehner at Zion Lutheran Church in Pocahontas. This couple has the recognition of being part of the very first marriage to take place at that congregation. Here is the record in their church books.
If you look at the very bottom right of this image, there is a witness to this wedding by the name of Maria Birner. More on her as we go along. The pastor who performed this marriage was the first pastor of Zion, Rev. Fred Geske.
The first child born to these Gerlers was Hilda Gerler, who was born on September 10, 1897 and baptized at Zion Lutheran, Pocahontas. Here is that baptism record.
Once again, if you look at the sponsors in the last column, you will see the name of Ernstine Birner. It just so happens that Maria Birner’s middle name was Ernstine, so I believe the two are the same person.
The question has to be answered about why this Birner name shows up in connection with the Gerler/Lehner couple. The answer can be found in the fact that Maria Birner’s mother was Susanna Lehner, who had married Heinrich Birner, who by this time was a blacksmith in Wittenberg, Missouri. So Bertha (Lehner) Gerler was Maria Birner’s aunt.
That leads us to the 1900 census where we find the Gerler family living in Pocahontas. Here is an image of that census record.
Lo, and behold, there we once again find Maria Birner, this time listed as a servant. She must have helping out with her Aunt Bertha as she was raising their two year old Hilda. Fred, by the way, was listed as a miller on this census.
Maria Birner eventually married William Mayhew of Wittenberg. William and Maria were the main characters in the post titled, Mayhew, the Wittenberg Barkeep. In that post, I wrote that I could not find Maria Birner in the 1900 census. I have now solved that mystery. She was living with her aunt and uncle in Pocahontas and helping to take care of her cousin (and godchild), Hilda.
There is still more to this story. Hilda would later marry a man by the name of Louis Landgraf, and he would later operate a lumber company in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Louis was the son of Adolph and Lina (Schuppan) Landgraf. Adolph is credited with being the builder of the first parsonage at Zion Lutheran Church in Pocahontas. Here is a paragraph that we find in the Zion Lutheran history.
Here is a photo of that parsonage after it was remodeled in 1921.
I’m going to sneak in a little hint to our readers. I have started writing a piece of historical fiction about the town of Wittenberg. Maria Birner is one of the characters in that book, so I was quite excited to find out this little tidbit of information and plan to include it in my book.