It is not often that I do a story that begins in the twentieth century.  That is mainly because I cannot get at many records for people that lived past 1940.  Today is an exception, mainly because today’s character is a member of my family, and I have enough information and photos to tell a decent story.

Melba Natalie Kasten was born on January 28, 1926.  She was the daughter of Alfred and Natalie (Koenig) Kasten.  Melba was baptized at Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg, Missouri.  Below is her baptism record.

melba mousie schmidt baptism record trinity altenburg mo
Melba Kasten baptism record – Trinity, Altenburg, MO

I could not resist the temptation to include the record above Melba’s.  It shows the record for Robert Fiehler, Gerard’s father.   Melba would later marry my father’s brother, so she became my aunt.  So Gerard’s father and my Aunt Melba were born just two weeks apart.  Gerard’s father would later marry my cousin, Lillian Schilling, so both of these two individuals ended up in my family by marriage.

Around here, if I mention my Aunt Melba, practically no one knows who I am talking about.  That is because she was known by almost everybody as Mousie.  I could never get myself to call her Mousie, and I don’t think my parents would have approved if I did.  She was always Aunt Melba to me.

On November 5, 1950, Mousie married my uncle, Herbert Schmidt at Trinity Lutheran Church.  Here is that church record.

schmidt kasten marriage record trinity altenburg mo
Schmidt/Kasten marriage record – Trinity, Altenburg, MO

I will add here that the Robert Fiehler/Lillian Schilling marriage can be found on the same page in the church books.  I also must state that I was born earlier in 1950 and would have been about 9 months old at the time of Herb and Mousie’s wedding.  My family lived in St. Louis.  I have reason to believe that I likely would have attended this wedding.  I obviously do not remember it.  It was a Sunday wedding.

The home in which I live right now was once the home in which Herb and Mousie lived.  In fact they had this house built back in the mid-50’s.  I have great memories of visiting my aunt and uncle when I was a child.  We stayed in the same house I now own.  I also ran across some old photos which were once taken inside this house that I would like to share.   Before, I do so, I must state that Mousie was notorious for not wanting her picture to be taken.  These are some of the few photos that I have of her.

First, there was an occasion when my parents joined Herb and Mousie along with my Uncle Rudy and Aunt Dorothy.  They can be seen in the photo below.  My mother is not in the photos because she was taking them.  In this first photo, Mousie can be seen on the right in the striped blouse next to Herb at the end of the table.  Rudy and Dorothy are sitting on the opposite side of the table from Mousie.  My father has his back to the camera, and my mother had been sitting in the empty chair.

mousie at dining room table schmidt gathering 2

Here is a photo I took of this dining room in my house this morning.  Some snowmen are occupying some the chairs these days.

schmidt dining room 1

Here is another photo taken on the same occasion.  Mousie is in the front glancing over her shoulder.

mousie at dining room table schmidt gathering

And this is another one I took today from that angle.

schmidt dining room 2

My mother also took a picture of Mousie and Herb in their kitchen.  Mousie is standing in front of the stove, which is where you would often find her when we were visiting her home.  She was a great cook.

mousie and herb in kitchen

And here is a photo from that angle today.

schmidt kitchen

Uncle Herb did some farming, but he also worked for the East Perry Lumber Company.  Mousie was in charge of milking the cows.  As near as I can remember, they never had more than 2 or 3 milk cows, but everyone I’ve ever talked to has said that Mousie loved those cows.

Mousie was also a seamstress.  She would often make or alter dresses, especially for special occasions.  She would make wedding dresses and bridesmaids dresses.  Later in their lives, Herb and Mousie started an upholstery business, H & M Upholstery.  We own some pieces of furniture that were once re-upholstered by them.  A rocking chair that once belonged to my maternal grandparents is shown below that was re-upholstered by them.

schmidt chair upholtered by herb and mousie

Uncle Herb would also fix “cane chairs” like the one in the pictures below.  This piece of furniture belongs to Gerard.   He does not think Uncle Herb worked on this chair, however.


One special place in our house is a lingering reminder of Mousie.  It is a spot on the dining room floor that was darkened over the years because this is where Mousie sat in front of her sewing machine doing her work.  At the same time, this location offered her to opportunity to keep an eye on the barn and her cows out the windows.

mousie's spot schmidt dining room

I don’t have any plans to clean up that part of the floor.  To me, it is a reminder of a very special person in my family.  I can almost hear her telling her stories and her laughter.  She was a wonderful woman.

She also died much too early.  She died in 1984 at the age of 58.  She and Herb are buried in the Trinity Lutheran Cemetery in Altenburg.  That cemetery can be seen from my house.

trinity lutheran cemetery from our house

Nowadays, new memories are being made every time our grandchildren come to stay at our house.  They, like I did so long ago, enjoy the very different experience of spending some time in the “country”.


Teacher Winter’s Journal…..January 28, 1839

“On Monday, the 28th, we passed a little city the homes of which were scattered, and on the banks of the Mississippi there were high cliffs which were overgrown with woods.  Here we saw the first snow in America.”

Gerard and I have discussed the possible location described here, and our best guess is that it was somewhere in the vicinity of Thebes, Illinois.  In the map below, you can see that the geography of that area is still quite hilly on both sides of the Mississippi River.

thebes illinois map

Another much older map shows the region through which the Knickerbocker was traveling during the end of January in 1839.

hamburg landing bainbridge landing map.png

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