Gerard Fiehler likes to call me the “Mayor of Dresden” (there is no such position), and I like to call him the “Mayor of Altenburg” even though he isn’t. Today, I plan to tell the story of a man who I will call the “Mayor of Birmingham”. This Birmingham is not the one in England or Alabama though. This one is Birmingham, Missouri, and it was a location not far from Altenburg. Once upon a time, it was thought that it would become a thriving community, but it never happened. I’m thinking of making Birmingham the topic of tomorrow’s post.
The story actually starts with the Mayor’s wife, Susanna Vogel, who is today’s birthday girl. She was born on September 16, 1873 and baptized at Concordia Lutheran Church in Frohna. Susanna was the daughter of August and Maria (Gruenwald) Vogel. Below is her baptism record.
We find Susanna in the 1880 census. However, when Susanna was just 3 years old, her mother died. Her father married again before the 1880 census, and his second wife was another Maria….Maria Gerharter. So the Maria shown on this census entry is actually Susanna’s stepmother.
Susanna would marry Christian Gerler. Christian was born on September 20, 1870, so I could have waited until this weekend to write this story and make him the birthday boy. But this weekend in the East Perry Community Fair, and I will be enjoying that event and probably just posting photos of the fair. Christian was the son of Friedrich “Fritz” and Lina (Lindner) Gerler. I have previously posted this Civil War photo of Fritz.
A mystery surrounds Christian’s baptism. Our German Family Tree does not list a baptism record for him. Later children born into his family were baptized at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Altenburg, but Christian’s baptism is not contained in those records. At that time, Rev. Koestering was serving both Trinity, Altenburg and Concordia, Frohna. There are some baptism records for 1870 in the Trinity records, but not one for Christian. Baptism records are missing in the Concordia, Frohna books for 1870, so maybe Christian was baptized there, but not recorded. One clue that might point in that direction is the fact that the other man in the Civil War photo, Christoph Goller, lived in Frohna.
Christian shows up in the 1880 census as a 9 year old. I have included some Lindner’s who are listed on each side of the Gerler household in this entry. These Lindner’s were members of Fritz’s wife’s family. I think Fritz may have also been living on the Lindner land during this time.
The Henry Lindner farm can be seen on this map produced later in 1915. The farm on which Christian would later live is also noted.
Christian Gerler married Susanna Vogel on the day after Christmas, December 26, 1893. They were married at Concordia Lutheran Church in Frohna. Below is the church record for that event.
We also have their marriage license.
Our German Family Tree lists 9 children for this couple. Only one of those 9 died early. The first two children in this family were baptized at Concordia, Frohna. The GFT also states that Christian Gerler became a voting member of Christ Lutheran Church in Jacob, Illinois in 1897 and was released from that church in 1901. It was in that short time they lived in Illinois that the 1900 census was taken. Two children were born in Illinois, but one died right away.
Upon return to Perry County in 1901, a few changes were made. First, it appears that Christian must have obtained property where the Apple Creek flowed into the Mississippi River. That was the land where it was thought that a town called Birmingham would have developed. Second, the Gerler family now were members of Trinity, Altenburg. The rest of their children were baptized at that church.
Here we find them in the 1910 census. One more child would be born after this census.
Susanna Gerler died in 1918 at the age of 45. We have her death certificate.
Here is where we run into an interesting scenerio. In Altenburg, a tavern owner by the name of David Rall died in 1917. He had a single daughter by the name of Margaret. Her mother had also died several years earlier. It was about this time that “Butch” Schmidt bought the Rall Tavern in Altenburg and turned it into a butcher shop. We find Margaret in the 1920 census as the head of a household, but listed right next to the Christian Gerler household. Christian is called John F. Gerler in this entry.
Christian had a houseful of children, many of them boys. Was Maggie Rall around to help take care of that household with big appetites? Regardless, we find that Christian married Margaret later during 1920 on April 14th. However, we do not find his marriage record in our German Family Tree. We do find his marriage license from Perry County.
Even though his marriage license was from Perry County, he was married in Cape Girardeau County. We found the church record for this marriage in the books of Trinity Lutheran Church in Cape Girardeau.
Christian died in 1939 at the age of 68. Here is his death certificate.
Margaret died in 1942 at the age of 72 in St. Louis. We also have her death certificate.
Christian and his two wives are buried in the Trinity Lutheran Cemetery in Altenburg.
This morning at a local eatery, Kay Gerler made my delicious breakfast. She and her husband were the last owners of the property at the mouth of the Apple Creek as it empties into the Mississippi River. They recently sold it to the East Perry Lumber Company. The prospects of the town of Birmingham, Missouri becoming a thriving community never materialized. However, I am still going to declare Kay the “Queen of Birmingham”. Do you think she will consider that to be the tip for next Monday’s breakfast?
6 thoughts on “Mayor of Birmingham”
Love the story .. and sorry to hear that the property has been sold .. I so enjoyed visiting with the late Wilson Gerler, who lived his entire life at “Birmingham” .. the tombstone of the town’s founder, John Scudder, was still intact on a hill in the area in the 1980’s … there is also a survey showing the town’s layout, which you probably have .. looking forward to tomorrow’s story ..