An Angel’s Sad Pilgrimage

The post today will be more of a memorial than it will be a story.  The boy born on August 1, 1890 only lived 28 years, and he died for his country in World War I.  This post will also be the story of this boy’s grieving mother.

Theodore Arbeiter was born on this day in 1890 and baptized at Christ Lutheran Church in Jacob, Illinois.  Here is his baptism record.

Theodore Arbeiter baptism record 1 Christ Jacob IL

Theodore Arbeiter baptism record 2 Christ Jacob IL
Theodore Arbeiter baptism record – Christ, Jacob, IL

Let’s backtrack a little.  In 1885, Wilhelm Arbeiter married Engel Bellmann at Christ Lutheran Church.  Engel is the German word for angel.  I hope I am not the only husband that calls his wife an angel, but Wilhelm had even more reason to do so.  Here is their marriage record from the Christ Lutheran books.

Arbeiter Bellmann marriage record Christ Jacob IL
Arbeiter/Bellmann marriage record – Christ, Jacob, IL

Here are photos of Theodore’s parents, Wilhelm and Engel.

Theodore was the third child born into this Arbeiter family.  Wilhelm was a farmer in the Fountain Bluff Township as is indicated in this 1900 census, which is also the first to show Theodore.

Theodore Arbeiter 1900 census Jacob IL
1900 census – Fountain Bluff Township, IL

Engel’s parents were living in the same household.  The only other census in which we find Theodore was the 1910 census.  In that year’s census, the Arbeiters were living in Somerset Township, which is located just north of Murphysboro, Illinois.

Theodore Arbeiter 1910 census Somerset Township IL
1910 census – Somerset Township, IL

This map shows the location of Somerset Township in relation to other nearby locations such as Jacob and Perry County (across the river).

Somerset Township IL map
Somerset Township, IL

In 1917, Theodore filled out his World War I draft registration form.  He gave himself a Murphysboro address.

Theodore Arbeiter – WWI draft registration

Theodore did enter the military and served in the 115th Machine Gun Battalion, 30th Division.  He died in battle on October 18, 1918.  This coming October will be the 100th anniversary of his death.  Theodore was buried in France.  His grave can be found at the Somme American Cemetery in Bony, France.  Here is a photo of his marker.  It is difficult to read his name, but it is there.

Theodore Arbeiter cross Somme American Cemetery France
Theodore Arbeiter marker – Somme American Cemetery, France

Here is what can be found on an internet site which documents Theodore’s service.

Theodore Arbeiter Somme Cemetery record

There were four men from the 115th Machine Gun Battalion, 30th Division buried in the Somme American Cemetery.  Here is a list of those men.

115th Machine Gun Battalion, 30th Division Theodore Arbeiter

I must admit that I looked at the second name on the list and immediately thought he may have been related to the famous politician, Adlai E. Stevenson, but if you look closely, his first name is Aldai, not Adlai.  I could find no connection of this soldier to the politician.

The photo below was taken of the 115th Machine Gun Battalion, 30th Division.  Since it was taken in 1919, Theodore was not in this photograph.

115th Machine Gun Battalion, 30th Division 1919

Normally when I get to the burial of the person, my post comes to a conclusion, but not today.  As Paul Harvey used to say, you need to hear the rest of the story.

First of all, there was another Jackson County, Illinois native who died in World War I.  In fact, this soldier died on October 11, 1918, just one week before Theodore died.  Not only that, but the soldier who was killed was Theodore’s cousin, Ernst Rowold.  Ernst’s father, also named Ernst, was one of Theodore’s sponsors.  You can see his name in Theodore’s baptism record.  I may have to do another story on Ernst someday.  Sally Gustin, one of our guest bloggers, who is part of the Arbeiter family, helped me with this post, and she said her uncle told the story of going to Murphysboro for a WWI funeral, and it was probably the funeral for Ernst Rowold.

Secondly, on June 22, 1918, just a matter of months before Theodore’s death, his father, Wilhelm, died.  That made Engel a widow, which was the case when her son died.  Not only that, she was named the executor of his estate.  In looking at some probate documents I ran across this one.


It states that Engel was required to attend a meeting on the first Monday in October of 1918.  The first Monday in October was October 7.  Less than two weeks later, her son died.  What grief this woman must have been experiencing!

In 1929, the United States government passed the Gold Star Pilgrimages of Mothers and Widows Act.  That piece of legislation made it possible for mothers who had lost their children in World War I and buried in Europe, to make a trip across the ocean to visit the graves of their children at government expense.  Engel Arbeiter was one of those mothers to make that voyage across the Atlantic.  We see evidence of that in this record of women from Jackson County, Illinois who made that trip.

Engel Arbeiter Mother's Pilgrimage 1929
Mother’s Pilgimage list

I found a short video that highlights the Somme American Cemetery in France.  I found it to be a very moving video.  It is less than two minutes long, and I encourage you to watch it.  Imagine, if you will, Engel (Angel) Arbeiter visiting this cemetery back in 1929, eleven years after her son’s death.





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