Esther Kieninger would have been 134 years old today. She was born as Esther Mueller on November 8, 1885. She was the daughter of Joseph and Mathilda (Buenger) Mueller and her baptism record can be found in the church books of Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg. However, she may have been baptized in the church/school building located in Wittenberg. Below is her baptism record which even states specifically that Joseph was from Wittenberg.
Esther can be found in the photo below showing the students attending St. Paul’s Lutheran School in Wittenberg. Their teacher was Henry Feiertag, who taught at that school from 1884-1892. Esther is in the front row and labeled with a #2. Her older sister, Martha, is in the back row with a #1. I am guessing that this photo was taken around 1891 when Esther was 6 years old.
I must add that whenever I see this photo, I wonder who the brash young lad is that is posing in the back looking like he didn’t want to be shown in the photo like the rest of his class.
The first census in which we find Esther was the one taken for the town of Wittenberg in 1900.
Esther’s father, Joseph Mueller, first was in partnership with Walter Mattingly and ran the Mattingly-Mueller Store in Wittenberg. In 1899, Joseph opened his own store next to his home which was located right up against the bluff. Below we see the Joseph Mueller home in which Esther spent her childhood days. This photograph is said to have been taken at right about the time the store, which can be seen on the right of the house, was opened in 1899.
The railroad, which began operation in 1904, ran right in front of this home. We also have this photo of the Joseph Mueller Store that was taken not long after it opened.
We have this early photograph of Esther Mueller. I’ll let you determine if you think it was taken before or after she was married.
Sometime in the early 1900’s, a young man entered the community of Wittenberg. His name was William Kieninger, and he was going to become Esther’s groom. William was the son of Henry and Theresie (Litzelfelner) Kieninger from Pocahontas, Missouri. He was born on February 12, 1884. William was baptized at Immanuel Lutheran Church in New Wells, Missouri. Here is his baptism record.
The first census in which we find William was the one taken in 1900 for Shawnee Township in north Cape Girardeau County.
William is yet another example that can be included in the phenomenon of people from the Pocahontas area migrating to the town of Wittenberg during this time period. We know that William eventually became a clerk in the Joseph Mueller Store. Whether he worked there before he was married, I do not know. I do conclude that if he did, that would have certainly given William plenty of opportunity to get to know Esther Mueller.
William Kieninger married Esther Mueller on May 6, 1906 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Wittenberg. St. Paul’s was a relatively new congregation, having begun in 1903. We have the church record for this marriage.
Here is this couple’s marriage license. Both the above church record and the marriage license indicate that William was not from Perry County, but from Pocahontas or Cape Girardeau County.
We also have this wedding photo of this couple.
We find this couple for the first time in the 1910 census. It includes two children, and William is said to be a clerk in a store.
William can be seen standing with his father-in-law in front of the Joseph Mueller Store in this photo. William is on the left. You can see that the railroad is visible in front of the store by the time this photo was taken.
The 1920 census is the last one in which we find Esther. You also see all four of their children…..all boys. A previous post was written about these 4 boys titled, This Pitcher Had 4 K’s. For a while, William was a bank teller at the Bank of Wittenberg. That is what this census states.
William Kieninger is shown in the photo below with his horse and buggy.
Sometime along the line, the Joseph Mueller family had a photo taken. It is shown below. Esther is standing on the far right.
Esther died of breast cancer in 1929. Below is her death certificate. She was just 44 years old at the time of her death.
Esther was buried at the St. Paul’s Lutheran Cemetery in Wittenberg, Missouri.
Esther’s mother, Mathilda (Tillie) Mueller, outlived her daughter, and when the 1930 census was taken, she was living with the Kieninger men who were still living in that household.
I am sure that William welcomed the help his mother-in-law was able to provide in keeping house and raising his boys. However, that help would not last very long. Tillie died in 1931. We see William shown working in the Mueller Store sometime in the 1930’s. He is the man in the plaid shirt. The man standing next to him is the pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran, Rev. Deye.
The last census in which we find William was the one taken in 1940. He was living in the household of his son, Willard.
William died in St. Louis in 1952. We have his death certificate. He was living with his son, Nelson, at that time. William died at the age of 68.
William was buried in the Memorial Park Cemetery in Jennings, Missouri.
Several of the folks shown in the photograph below (who call themselves the Wittenberg Cousins) are descendants of the William and Esther Kieninger family. They are regular visitors to Altenburg and our museum, and we always enjoy their company.
3 thoughts on “Mama Kieninger”
Just came across this article. Thank you for sharing!
Hi Warren, My sister Sandra says it all well. We share a remarkable heritage, and you have organized an in depth, precise record for our keeping. Thank you for your fine work in curating the Wittenberg heritage for all of us.
Marilyn Kieninger Klein, Chicago
Hi Warren, Thank you for the nice tribute to my Grandmother Esther on her birth date. Five of those seated at the table in the last picture are her granddaughters. We never got to meet her since she died in1929, and she would never know about her 13 grandchildren. We feel a special connection to her and our roots when we visit Wittenberg and Altenburg.
Sandy Kieninger Hagen