The next two days, we will be publishing two parts of a post written by one of our guest bloggers, Cal Eggers. Cal is an outstanding researcher and has contributed to our blog in the past. His blog posts for the next two days come at a very convenient time. The next two days, our museum is getting a new floor installed, and this makes it very difficult to use our research library. Cal’s contribution makes it unnecessary for me to be at the museum for the next several day, so I am very grateful that his posts will fill in this gap.
Today would be the 167th (or 166th) birthday of August Schroeter. The German Family Tree tells us he was born on February 19, 1852, though his tombstone pictured on findagrave has the year as 1853.
When I started this blog it was not for the occasion of August’s birthday but because I saw the picture below of his grandson in the November-December 2018 issue of “The Lutheran Layman,” a publication of the Lutheran Laymen’s League (LLL), an important auxiliary organization of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.
The accompanying article about E. W “Hap” Schroeter mentioned that he was born in Frohna and worked with Theodore (or “Ted” or “T. G.”) Eggers who “had his roots not far from Hap’s natal home of Frohna.” Here are some parts of that article.
Growing up I knew that my Uncle Ted Eggers worked for the LLL. He was one of my baptismal sponsors and I still have on my shelves his Confirmation gift to me, “Cruden’s Complete Concordance of the Bible.” I had also met Hap on at least one occasion but was not aware that he had roots in Perry County. So, I undertook to research and share the ancestries and career paths of these two men. The stories turned out to be more complex and interesting than I had anticipated, with several side trips, so they will be split into two parts, today and tomorrow. Thanks to brother Fred Eggers for a lot of help on this project with resources to which he has access at the museum or in personal files.
Hap’s stay in Perry County was rather short. The German Family Tree records only that Elmer Walter Schroeter was born September 3, 1903, and baptized at Concordia, Frohna, on September 13, 1903. Here we see the church record from Concordia.
The first part of Hap’s life story can be deduced from that of his father, Otto. We have an important clue about Otto in the above church record: “Lehrer in Salem.” More on that later. In the German Family Tree we see that Hap was the second (and only surviving) child of August Eduard “Otto” Schroeter and Marie nee Boeker. Like Hap, Otto left a relatively small footprint in Perry County church records: Otto was born May 31, 1877, baptized June 10, 1877, and confirmed March 22, 1891, at Concordia Frohna.
In 1880, Otto, at age 3, was at home in Brazeau Township. It was hard to find him in the next available census (1900) because those records for Perry County are poorly reproduced and thus poorly transcribed. However, Fred found him in the Salem Township/Farrar census rooming with Dr. Albert Lueders. In fact, Dr. Lueders represents a connection between the Schroeter and Eggers families: Otto’s mother was a Lueders and she and Albert were first cousins. Later that year Albert would become TG’s brother-in-law by marrying Johanna (Jane) Eggers on October 21, 1900.
A history of Salem congregation shows Otto on their teaching staff from 1898 to 1905 and describes Otto as a “Candidate,” meaning that he had just graduated from a teacher’s college, most likely the one in Addison, Illinois, the predecessor to River Forest. (One of Otto’s students at Salem would have been Ted Eggers, who was 10 years old in 1898). Not long after the census — on August 12, 1900 — Otto married Ms. Mary Boeker in Madison Illinois. At that point the newlyweds would likely have moved into the Salem Teacherage.
Like many Lutheran teachers, Otto occasionally moved from one congregation to another. The 1910 census finds him in Chester, Illinois, as a teacher in a parochial school. In 1918, when he registered for the WWI draft he was Macoupin County, Illinois, and reported his occupation as “Parochial teacher at Zion Lutheran, Staunton, Illinois; also regular minister.” Having received a Synodical education, he was possibly substituting in the pulpit for either a short term or long term pastoral vacancy.
Otto’s wife had a family connection to this location. Mary Boeker’s mother was Anna Hilpert from west of Frohna who had married Christoph Boeker from Prairietown, IL in 1872, and St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Prairietown is about 9 miles from Zion Lutheran Church in Staunton where Otto was serving in 1918.
At the time of the 1920 census Otto was still in Staunton but soon thereafter he continued his move eastward to Indiana. Fred discovered a 1942 Butler University Master’s thesis by a William J. Kirchhoff entitled, “A Century of Lutheran Elementary Schools in Indiana.” Here is a portion of page 73, Table 11, “Teachers at St. Paul’s.”
In addition to Otto Schroeter, that list included two other connections between St. Paul’s and Perry County; C. R. Nennert and A. E. R. Mueller were mentioned by Warren in previous blogs, ”Indy Educators” on September 19, 2016, and “Indy Basketball Beginnings” on March 1, 2017.
Another page in that thesis on Indiana schools explains Otto Schroeter’s important career move after serving at St. Paul’s.
By way of explanation, in the early days of the Synod there were only a few Districts. Missouri was in the Western District and the Central District encompassed several states to the East of Missouri, including Ohio.
Otto died in Indianapolis on January 17, 1931, at the relatively young age of 53.
We now go back to the birthday boy, “August” Karl Schroeter, Otto’s father. August first appears in Perry County records in the 1870 Census as an Apprentice Miller, living in the John Weinhold household. This was most likely the Johann Heinrich Weinhold who was part of the Geselschaft as a 21 year old Miller (Zion p 553). (The Weinhold mill seems to be busy as John has four members of the household working in the mill.)
On November 7, 1875, August married Maria Lueders at Trinity, Altenburg. Otto was the second of nine children born to this union. The German Family Tree lists ten children but one of them appears to be a Schroeder (with a D) and is not the right age. After marriage, August is found in the census records of 1880 as a Miller in a flour mill.
At the time of the 1930 census August was retired and still living in Brazeau Township. He died on June 21, 1930 at the age of 77. But, where did this teen-aged aspiring Miller come from, and why?
I rewrote this next section several times as additional information came to light. Since the journey is sometimes more interesting than the destination, I would like to share some of the challenges that were faced to get the story accurate. At the elementary school that two of my grandsons attend they expect 4th graders to write at a level that my generation achieved only in High School. To encourage the free flow of thoughts, the rule when grading papers in the earlier grades is “spelling doesn’t matter.” Well, I was reminded that in genealogy research, spelling does matter!
In his entry in the German Family Tree there is no mention of August’s parents or place of birth. Some ancestry.com trees listed his birthplace as St. Louis, but without any attribution. His death certificate lists his parents as Edward and Laura and her maiden name appeared to me to be “Wiedner.”
Since the 1880 census showed his Mother’s birthplace as Saxony, I thought that might lead to a connection to Perry County or the Gesellshaft, but there were no Wiedners to be found. Eventually by cross-checking various sources, I learned that her surname was Niedner, not Wiedner. This led to the discovery that Laura and her family were passengers on the Johann Georg (Zion p. 548) and that there were many Niedner entries in the German Family Tree.
Meanwhile, the above Ancestry transcription of August’s entry in the 1880 census had also sent me astray regarding August’s father. Under “Father’s Birthplace” in census records, the entry is typically a state or province, e.g. Saxony, so I assumed “Sleswig” to be the northern German province or Staat of Schleswig-Holstein and quit looking for him among the Saxons and Hanoverians of Perry County. However, eventually, I found that Edward is indeed included in the German Family Tree, with the full name of Johan Karl Eduard Schroeder, son of August Schroeder, from “in Grueneberg in Schlesien (not Sleswig) Germany (lived and died in Germany).” Then I found the actual Johan Karl Eduard Schröter as a Shoemaker from Grünberg as a passenger on the Copernicus (Zion p. 551). The German Family Tree entry states that he remained in St. Louis and never settled in Perry County.
Please permit me a short geopolitical diversion: Family trees on ancestry.com have Eduard born anywhere from Hanover to Baden Württemberg. Assuming the “Grueneberg in Schlesien” birthplace is correct, we learn from Wikipedia that Schlesien (Silesia in English) was in 1945 partitioned into areas in Poland, Germany, and Czech Republic and that the town of Grueneberg is now Zielona Góra in western Poland. Per google maps, that town is about 210 km from Dresden and about half that far from the current border with Germany so it would have been feasible for Eduard to know about and join the immigration.
As a final comment on “spelling does matter”, there are several other German Family Tree groupings that included surnames of both Schroeter and Schroeder. It is not clear if these are unrelated people or just different spellings by the pastors who recorded the church rites. That may warrant investigation by someone with more patience than I have.
With that all straight, we see August’s parents in St. Louis in the 1870 census, along with two younger daughters. Edward is identified as a Coal Dealer. Records show that Laura and Edward were married in Old Trinity by C. F. W. Walther on September 26, 1847. The only picture from the Schroeter family I was able to locate is this one of Laura, which appears to have been taken in a St. Louis studio.
There is a record of Edward dying in 1876 and he is buried in Concordia Cemetery, St. Louis. At the time of the 1880 census, his widow, Laura and 7 children, along with a servant, are living on Miami street (near Concordia Publishing House). Son Charles is described as a Coal Merchant. The age of Charles is listed in the St. Louis census as 27, the same as is the age of August in the Perry County census taken the same month. Were they twins or was there a reporting error? The death record of Charles in find.a.grave shows his birth date as January 29, 1854, so he was actually only 26 (and a half) while August was almost 28 at the time of the 1880 census.
After all that, the reason for August finding his way to Perry County is still not clear. Perhaps his brothers outmaneuvered him as successor-designate to the coal business and there was no room for him in the operation or maybe he just did not want to get his hands dirty from coal but did not mind getting flour in his hair and clothing at the mill. But at least we know that his mother had many relatives in Perry County, and that is probably why he came to Frohna.
Now we finally get back to the life of Hap (Elmer) Schroeter. First I want to point out that while Hap was baptized at Concordia, he most likely was not born in Frohna as the Layman reported but in Farrar. His father, Teacher Otto, would have been living in the Teacherage pictured below, which was behind the brick “big” 1892 school. (Both buildings have long since been demolished.)
Hap continued to grow up in teacherages as his father followed calls as described above. In 1920 at age 16, he is living with the family in Staunton, Illinois.
The next record of him is in Lorain, Ohio, as Principal of Zion School. From the image following that we see this as the result of his assignment after graduation from River Forest Teacher’s College.
The next two images located Hap in Cleveland in 1930 and led to another interesting discovery.
Hap is listed as a boarder with the occupation “Teacher in a Lutheran school” on Franklin Boulevard, just west of downtown Cleveland, an area now called “Ohio City.” His residence was less than one mile from Trinity Lutheran Church, established 1853, at 2031 W. 30th Street, so it is probable that is where he was teaching.
At first this was assumed to be a typical boarding situation, perhaps with a family of the congregation. Looking more closely told a different story. He is one of six young persons with various professions living in the same residence. The “Head of Household” is Ella Steffens (a Perry County and Lamstedt name!) and opposite her name are the entries: “Occupation: Manager” and “Industry: Lutheran.” What was that all about? Then I saw at the top of the page the words: “Institution: Walther League Hospice.”
For the younger readers, the Walther League was (between 1893 and 1977) what we now would call a “Youth Group” – but much more. It was the Missouri Synod’s auxiliary for young people, with organizations at the congregation, region, district, and national levels. As a youth I was a member of the Walther League at Salem, and Vernon Scholl and I attended a national Walther League convention in Chicago in 1953. But I had never heard of a Walther League Hospice. A search on-line found the “Walther League Messenger” of October 1922, and on page 96 were “Hospice Notes.” It appears that hospices had by then been established in a few cities, with interest in other areas. It seems to have been a Lutheran version of what is now called a “Youth Hostel” rather than just a boarding house (or an end-of-life care hospice.) I did not follow up to see how long they remained in operation.
The hospice was also about ½ mile from Cleveland Lutheran Hospital (founded 1896), which may have been a factor in choosing that location in order to serve staff nurses and patients’ families.
While in Cleveland Elmer (Hap) married Miss Minne Manke on August 14, 1932. The Rev. Hinz who signed the certificate was Pastor at Immanuel Lutheran, about a mile south of Trinity. We have some information that Hap may have been teaching there by 1932, or it may have been his wife’s church.
In 1940 Hap, Minnie, along with a daughter, Marilyn, and a sister-in-law were living in a house farther south in Cleveland. At this point he is a music teacher in a parochial school.
From the Lutheran Laymen article we know that Hap joined the LLL in St. Louis in 1944, as assistant to TG Eggers, and succeeded him as Executive Secretary, serving from 1951 to 1954.
Sometime after leaving the LLL Hap relocated to Buffalo, New York. Except for what is included in his death notice in the Lutheran Witness below we have found only limited details of his life there. There is information that indicates that he continued to serve the church in various ways, possibly combinations of part time, full time, or volunteer service. This included leadership of Camp Pioneer, a Lutheran family camp along Lake Erie near Buffalo, LLL Western New York District Executive Secretary, church musician, and several synodical boards and commissions. One specific contribution was recognized in the article below.
Hap died in Buffalo on May 15, 1974. No record of his place of burial was found.
Come back tomorrow for Part 2 of our story as it moves to the history of the other member of the featured LLL duo, “TG” Eggers, along with some closing comments on both him and Hap.
What about August’s story; did it align with any of Warren’s repeating themes? On the one hand, he “sent for a purpose” two descendants into service of the church at large. On the other hand, he reversed the usual pattern of leaving Perry County for a job in St. Louis or the Plains states, and instead, left St. Louis for a job in Perry County.