Once again, today’s post was authored by Cal Eggers. Hang on tight! He’s going to take you all the way to the West Coast today.
Today would be the 153rd birthday of Herman Jacob Eggers who was born September 12, 1866, in Brazeau Township, near Altenburg, Missouri. Although his first name was Herman, it seems that he almost always went by “Jacob” or sometimes “Jack”. Some of his children went by their middle name as well; to add to the confusion, sometime the middle name of one sibling was the same as the first name of another. In any case I will try to use the names they appeared to use most commonly.
Original church records of his baptism have not been found but the museum’s German Family Tree (GFT) and the newspaper report of his death later in this story confirm that date of birth.
Jack first appears in the census of 1870 living with his parents Henry (Johann Hinrich) and Anne (nee Resen) Eggers. Yesterday’s story, Henry Helps His Heirs was about Henry’s family and now we move into the next generation.
By the time of the 1880 Census Jacob was 14 years old and still living with his parents.
While obviously I never knew this distant cousin, I did “meet” him in a way that influenced my genealogical journey. About 20 years ago I had entered information about most of my grandfather’s (another Henry Eggers) descendants into my desktop Family Tree Maker, but had not thought much about other branches of the Eggers family. Then, on a trip back to Perry County, while browsing in an antique store on the Courthouse square in Perryville I discovered the picture below with the caption: “Wedding of Uncle Jack Eggers.” Who was Jack Eggers and how was he related to our branch of the Eggers family? Those questions moved me to subscribe to ancestry.com and dig into the history of the rest of the Claus Eggers clan and eventually well beyond.
Their marriage in New Wells by Rev. J. A. Mayer is recorded in the image below. The date is reported as November 8, 1888, which happened to be a Thursday. We don’t know if that was a recording error by the Pastor or an unusual day for a wedding.
Minna gave birth to sons in October 1889 and April 1891 but died in November 1891. Her death is recorded in the brief image below; the GFT reports the cause to be typhus, also known as typhus fever (and as I learned, not the same as typhoid fever).
Jacob was left a widower with two very small children. At that time his parents were still living and he must have depended on them and other relatives to care for the children while he farmed. About 18 months after Minna’s death Jacob remarried as shown in the next image. This marriage was performed in Altenburg by Rev. William Zschoche.
The first census showing Jacob’s household is that of 1900 we see Eda (Ida), Minna’s two children, and five children of Jacob and Ida.
By the time of the 1910 census the family had grown to 8 children and Jacob’s parents were now living with them. Jacob’s farm south of Altenburg around this time is shown marked in the image below from the 1915 Plat Book.
In trying to keep track of Jacob’s “double digit” family through the years I realized that William and Paul who were part of the family in the 1900 census were not living with Jacob and Ida in the 1910 census. I discovered — but won’t document with images — that William was recorded as a nephew living in the Ernst Wachter household and Paul was a laborer in another Wachter household in Shawnee Township, Cape County. I believe that these were relatives of Jacob’s (second) wife.
In 1912 Jacob’s fourth child, Alma, died in her youth as documented by the death certificate below.
By the time of the 1920 census shown below the family had experienced several changes. Most notably, Jacob is no longer farming or living south of Altenburg, but in “Wittenberg Village” as notated at the top of the census page. He is described as a Painter in the Swing Factory (as are some of his neighbors on the same census page). While there are six children in the household, some from the former census are no longer there. We struggled for a while with the name “Laura C”, aged 7 in this census. The name Laura does not appear in any later census or in the GFT. Was this another child who had died young? Fred and I finally agreed that this was actually “Clara” who was really 9 at the time and was recorded with the wrong name and the wrong age.
As I searched for records beyond 1920 I soon realized that the entire family, including Jacob and Ida, had eventually lived and died somewhere on the West coast. The next part of this story will focus on sorting out where and when each of them first “landed” out there. In the interest of brevity, I omitted some events and some supporting documentation.
Henry (Heinrich Eduard Theodore): On June 5, 1917 Henry was already a married farmer when he registered for the draft in Corvallis, Benton County, Oregon.
By 1920 per the image below, Henry had left Corvallis and was farming in Baker, Crawford County, Kansas, hometown of his wife, whom he had married in 1916, and where his uncle Martin Eggers had been since at least 1908. I have notes suggesting that Henry’s wife, Meta Grother, was related to Martin’s wife but won’t try to sort that out now.
The next clipping describes the return of Henry’s family from Kansas to Corvallis. (I am grateful to the Corvallis paper for publishing this sort of family information – just as the Perry County Republican used to – and to my brother Fred for searching it out.
William (Hermann Wilhelm): When William married Lina Doering in Altenburg on August 27, 1916, the article below and the marriage license show that he had already had a farm in Oregon. This is the earliest verifiable date we have for any of the Eggers family in Oregon, but we could speculate that he and his brothers might have been there for at least a year to establish farming.
The 1920 census finds him in Corvallis and reports him to be a Blacksmith in his own shop. A family member once told me that the brothers from Altenburg supported the Oregon forestry industry and that would have included shoeing horses.
Paul (Paul Ernst Martin): In June 1917 he registered for the draft in Corvallis and claimed exception by virtue of being a foreman on a ranch. That apparently did not convince the draft board because his tombstone (not pictured) bears the inscription “PVT. HQ CO 73 infantry, World War I.” I noticed that the three older brothers all registered on the same date and included two images below in order to show the date.
By the time of the 1920 census Paul had married Elizabeth Sturm from Nebraska and was farming his own place in Willamette Township (near Corvallis).
Rudy (Theodor Rudolf): When he registered for the draft in 1918 he was working for the Frisco in St. Mary. I could not find him in any 1920 Perry County census but there is an unverified record (not shown) of him living on South Broadway in St. Louis at that time.
The first record of Rudy on the West coast is in 1925 when he was married in Multnomah County, Oregon (just north of Corvallis and location of Portland) to Edith Robison (not Robinson), born in Nebraska.
Otto (Otto Benjamin): In 1910 at age 10 he was still at home on the farm in Brazeau Township but by 1918 he was in Corvallis when he registered for the draft; the image is shown in two parts so as to include the date. His registration reports that he was “farming for self”; we don’t know if it was on his own land or rental land, but in any case it was quite enterprising for a 19 year old.
Unfortunately, the next record we have of Otto is that of his death. The image below shows that his body was returned to Wittenberg for internment. The GFT transcription of his funeral record at St. Pauls adds that he had died of influenza and pneumonia.
Hulda (Hulda Louise): In September 1920 Hulda was married in Wittenberg to Hugo Jacob Martin Schmidt. This and the fact that Ben was buried from St. Paul indicate that the family had transferred their membership from Trinity by then, probably when they moved from the farm to the house in Wittenberg.
In the 1930 census below, Hulda’s husband, Hugo Schmidt is reported to be a bus driver for the Auto Transit Co. It shows that that their first daughter Mildred, aged 8, had been born in Oregon so they must have moved to Corvallis shortly after the wedding. More about this family is told in New Wife, No Job, Go West.
I wondered what kind of vehicle the Corvallis Auto Transit Company operated. Perhaps it was something like this 1930 Ford bus that I found pictured on the internet.
As a testimony to the diversity of the settlement of the Corvallis area at this time, as I scanned the columns of that 1930 census page, in the columns for Birthplace, Father Birthplace, and Mother Birthplace, I found 18 states and 6 European countries.
Louise (Louise Amanda): In 1920, at age 15, she was at home in Wittenberg. The next record is that of her marriage in Oregon in 1925, at age 20. Other records indicate that her husband may have been a widower with one or two young children.
Theodore (Theodor Friedrich): In 1920 at age 13 he was also at home in Wittenberg. The next record of his life is from the 1930 census in Corvallis. He is living in a house owned by his mother and is described as a truck driver for a flouring mill.
Ben (Martin Benjamin): He was 12 at the time of the 1920 census in Wittenberg and the next record found is his marriage in April 1930, in Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Berkeley, California. (Per lcms.org, Bethlehem Lutheran was founded in 1899 but sadly has now dwindled to less than 20 members.) Ben’s occupation is listed as a clerk in a pet store (They had pet stores already?). His bride was living at the same apartment building in Alameda, California with her parents who were German immigrants.
Clara (Clara Bertha): Clara was 7 years old at the time of the 1920 census when the family was living in Wittenberg. We next find that she was married in 1939, two months after her brother, Ben, in the same church and residing at the same apartment building. Her husband was originally from Illinois. I noticed and made a point of mentioning that many of the Eggers family married other migrants from the Midwest, possibly meeting them in church.
Martha (Emma Martha): The “baby” of the family was only 6 years old at the time of the 1920 census. We found her picture in the Corvallis high school yearbook of 1929.
Martha is reported to have married Lawrence Meyer of Portland, Oregon, in 1932, but I don’t have any documentation of the marriage. In the 1940 census they are located in Oakland, California; the circled “same place” notations indicate that they were there already in 1935. Martha and her closest siblings, Clara and Ben, were all living in Alameda County by then.
Here is a great family picture that I think must have been taken in Perry County sometime after January 1919. Of Jacob’s 12 children, Alma had died in 1912, and Otto in January 1919. Henry, William, and Paul had been in Oregon by 1916 or 1917. So the photographer nicely incorporated their individual portraits into a composite.
As I was compiling those individual histories I first assumed that after the first three brothers, the other siblings had migrated westward one by one, as they became adults and ready to find a mate. That theory was disproved when we found Jacob Eggers’ obituary.
The obituary reports that Jacob and the (rest of the) family had already migrated in 1920. That would certainly have been after the census which took place on June 6 and found them in Wittenberg, and most likely after Hulda’s wedding on September 26.
Why did they move? The reasons for out-migration from Perry County have been well reported in previous blogs by Warren Schmidt and Fred Eggers, including New Wife, No Job, Go West and An Early Out-Migration of Original Immigrants. Basically, as the population grew, especially due to families with 10 or more children, there was not enough land to establish new farms and few opportunities for non-farm employment. Jacob’s family situation was no different. He may have already had difficulty supporting his own family on the farm when he took a job in the Swing Factory. What is less common among out-migrations is that Jacob tried to keep the family together; once the three older sons found a life in Corvallis it seems there was a definite plan for the parents and the remaining children to move there. It must have been a joy for Jacob to have grandchildren nearby in his later years. If my family tree is accurate, his children bore him 25 grandchildren and 16 of them would have been born in the Corvallis or Portland area before his death.
Why the West and why Corvallis? According to Wikipedia, the phrase “Go West, young man” is attributed to New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley who used it in about 1865 in connection with America’s westward expansion. The Perry County families may not have read the New York Tribune but they had probably heard of available farm land and other opportunities in the west from others who preceded them.
In The Miesner-Heeszel Partners Warren Schmidt reported that John Heeszel and Martin Miesner had moved to Oregon by 1906, and the Eggers family would have known of them, especially with Jacob’s connection to the Swing Factory. As an additional family connection, I discovered that at the time of the 1910 census (below). I(E)manuel Meier from Farrar was a boarder with the Heeszel family in Corvallis and was described as a Blacksmith in a “Sholing” (Shoeing?) Shop. And Emanuel’s mother was an Eggers so he and Jacob were second cousins. (Two sidetrack factoids: Emanuel’s nephew, Bill Meier, was the long time blacksmith in Farrar; Gladys Schmidt, daughter of Hulda (Eggers) Schmidt, married Sheldon Meier, son of Emanuel.)
Why three of Jacob’s children later moved on to Alameda County, California (600 miles to the South) is not so clear, although the story, The Miesner-Heeszel Partners does mention that Martin Miesner moved from Corvallis to Alameda before 1930 and that may have had something to do with it.
Jacob Eggers was buried in Zion Lutheran Cemetery in Corvallis; his memorial stone is shown below.
This memorial is found in the Zion Lutheran Cemetery. It must have been a comfort for the Eggers families to find Zion Lutheran when they reached Corvallis. A descendant of one of these families mentioned to me in an email how supportive Zion had been to her ancestors in times of difficultly.
This would have included education of their children and grandchildren. Zion continues to provide Christian education from preschool to 8th grade as well as a large early learning center. According to an online history of the Zion school: “German Lutheran families who settled near Corvallis in the early 1900s wanted to make sure their children had an education. In 1907, just five years after they’d first begun to hold organized worship services, the Lutheran families started a parochial school.”
And, all of these Eggers, Meiers, Schmidts, and other Perry County Lutherans were no doubt a blessing to the Zion congregation as well.