Where Was the Baby Born?

No, even though it is Christmas Eve, this post will not be about where the baby Jesus was born.  That question was answered long ago.  A prophet in the Old Testament said Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem.  And when the Magi came to Jerusalem asking where the new baby King was born, the Jewish scholars were able to ascertain that He was born in Bethlehem.

Today’s story does not even start with a birthday, but a wedding.  The wedding took place in Altenburg on Christmas Eve of 1916.  That wedding is recorded in the church books of Trinity Lutheran Church.  Here is that record.

Enke Wachter marriage record Trinity Altenburg MO
Enke/Wachter marriage record – Trinity, Altenburg, MO

The bride was a Perry County girl by the name of Lena Wachter.  She was the daughter of William and Ernestine (Bodenschatz) Wachter.  Lena was born on March 20, 1893 and baptized at Trinity.  There is no doubt about where she was born.

It is the groom’s birthplace that is up for debate.  He was not what we would call a “Perry County boy”.  His name was Walter Enke.  He was the son of Julius and Emma (Hirsh) Enke, who were from Gasconade County, Missouri.  I managed to find a marriage license for Walter’s parents.  It is shown below.

Enke Hirsh marriage license
Enke/Hirsh marriage license

Julius and Emma were married on May 26, 1889, and the license says it took place in Crawford County.  However, it also states that Julius was from Bem in Gasconade County.  Bem was a small unincorporated area in Brush Creek Township in Gasconade County.  You would have to describe it as a very remote location.  After their marriage, we find the Enkes living in Brush Creek Township in the 1900 census.

Walter Enke 1900 census Brush Creek Township Gasconade MO
1900 census – Brush Creek Township, MO

Young Walter is shown on this census as being 7 years old.  It also records that he was born in Missouri.  Walter’s date of birth was August 20, 1892, and all appearance are that he was born in Bem, Missouri (For today’s purposes, I like to think of Bem as being a shortened version of Bethlehem.)  However, there are two big problems with that conclusion.  They are to be found on the two draft registrations that were filled out by Walter over the years.  First, we have his World War I draft registration filled out shortly after his wedding in 1916.

Walter Enke – WWI draft registration

Walter, at age 24, was living in St. Louis and working at Scherk Iron Works.  However, where it asks for a place of birth, it says he was born in Cherry Valley, Washington.  That seems quite strange, yet when we look at the World War II draft card filled out in 1942, we see another interesting note about his birthplace.

Walter Enke – WWII draft card

This form says Walter was born in Walla Walla, Washington.  I cannot come up with an answer to why Walter would state that he was born in the state of Washington on both of his military draft forms.  In all of the census records in which we find Walter, it is documented that he was born in Missouri, never Washington.  So, I must ask, “Where was the baby Walter born?”  In the remote place called Bem in Missouri, or in the rather large city of Walla Walla in Washington?

Walter had an older brother named Albert who was born in 1891, just one year before Walter.  This is his World War I draft registration form.

Albert Enke – WWI draft registration

It states that he was born in Steelville, Missouri, another town in Gasconade County.  Like his brother, by 1917, he was no longer living in that county.  Albert was living in Colorado.  There was a younger brother, Henry Charles Enke, who was born in 1899 and filled out a World War II draft form.

Henry Charles Enke WWII draft form
Henry Charles Enke – WWII draft form

Henry Charles was born in Bem, Missouri.  So Walter had an older and a younger brother born in Gasconade County, Missouri.  This lends credence to the claim that Walter, too, was born in Missouri.  However, the bottom line is that I am not sure where Walter was born.

Let’s return to Walter and Lena.  The 1920 census shows their family living in St. Louis, with Walter working at an automobile company.   The 1930 census has the family back in Altenburg, where they would spend the rest of their lives.  Walter became a carpenter, and his family lived in a house located within sight of where I now live on the east side of Altenburg.  Our German Family Tree lists 8 children in their family.  Their second child, Wilbert “Poker” Enke, was born in July of 1920 and baptized at Trinity, Altenburg, so I am guessing the Enke family moved to Altenburg shortly after being recorded in the St. Louis census of 1920.

I do not have a photo of Walter, but I do have one of Lena.  She is shown in this Wachter family photo which shows all of her siblings.  Lena is sitting in the front, second from the left.

Wilhelm Wachter family
Wachter Siblings

Walter died in 1971; Lena died in 1990.  They are both buried in the Trinity Lutheran Cemetery in Altenburg.


I feel the need to discuss their son, Wilbert “Poker” Enke just a little more.  I have heard for years now that the home that once belonged to my great great grandfather, Gottwerth Schmidt, later became the home of Poker Enke.  Poker was married to Emma Krannawetter.  He was a truck driver for many years including driving for Schaefer Water Company.  Below is his obituary.

Wilbert Enke obituary
Wilbert Enke obituary

This year, Poker’s old home has been decorated in a rather unusual fashion.  It is a depiction of a scene from the movie, Christmas Vacation, which features a character known as Cousin Eddie Griswold.  Here are a few images of the Christmas display presently in front of Poker’s old house.

Yes, that is a Stag beer can in Cousin Eddie’s hand.  What else would you find in East Perry County?  I spent way too much time searching to see if Poker had a cousin named Eddie.  I was unsuccessful.  I wonder what Poker would think of this year’s Christmas display.   I never knew Poker, but from what I’ve been told, I’m guessing he would have approved.

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