A Christmas song asks the question, Mary, Did You Know? I have to ask the following similar questions of Mary Bretscher. Mary, did you know whether you were born on December 31st or January 1st? Mary, did you know whether you were born in 1844 or 1845? I have to ask these questions because we have conflicting records concerning Mary’s birth.
If you have been a reader of this blog for a while, you may recognize the name, Maria Bretscher. She was the wife of Joseph Weinhold, and I have written several posts about persons in the Joseph Weinhold family. I have even made Mary and Joseph Weinhold main characters in my book, Wittenberg ’03. Many of those blog posts focused more on Joseph, but one of them was already specifically written about Mary. That post had to do with her amazing death record found in the books of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Wittenberg. It was titled, She Died of a Broken Heart. Here is a relatively early photo of Mary and Joseph. I like the fact that this photo shows this couple holding hands. The Weinhold book that we have in our research library says that this was their wedding photograph.
Today’s post will focus even more on Mary’s life. While researching this story, I found some new tidbits of information that were new to me. In fact, now I regret not getting a few additional facts weaved into the plot of my Wittenberg ’03 book. One thing that I had not realized before was that Mary comes from a family that was part of the Gesellschaft in 1838-1839.
Maria Bretscher was the daughter of Jacob and Henrietta (Fritzsche) Bretscher. Mary’s mother was actually Henrietta Rosina Bretscher, and she was part of a Fritzsche family that immigrated to America as part of the Gesellschaft. The spelling of this family’s name is slightly different than other Fritsche’s who settled in Perry County. She and her family traveled aboard the Johann Georg. We see them in the passenger list shown below. Her name is smudged at the bottom and shown as Rosina. She was 13 years old when she arrived.
We also see this Fritzsche family listed in the book, Zion on the Mississippi. The asterisk behind their names indicates that this family chose to leave the Gesellschaft soon after arriving in St. Louis.
Johann Gottlob Fritzsche was the only member of the Gesellschaft who was said to be a miner. It was not long after they arrived that Henrietta Fritzsche married Jacob Bretscher in St. Louis. They were married on October 8, 1842. According to my reckoning, this means that Henrietta was about 16 years old when this marriage took place. The record for this marriage is not found in the church books of Old Trinity Lutheran Church, which is where their children would later be baptized.
The first child, Elizabeth Bretscher, was born in July of 1843. Their next child was Mary, and here is where the question of her actual birthday begins. The baptism record from Old Trinity Lutheran Church says that she was born on 1/1/1845 and baptized on 1/26/1845. I didn’t show it here, but Mary’s father was said to be a milkman on this record.
The above record comes at a time when Rev. C.F.W. Walther was the pastor of that congregation. This baptism was performed during a time period when there were plenty of births, marriages, and deaths going on in that congregation. I figure it must have been difficult for these church records to be kept accurately.
We find the Bretscher family in the 1850 census for St. Louis, although Ancestry.com transcribed their name as Pritcher, which is what it looks like. The August Bretscher living in their household was Mary’s brother, who is also shown in the above passenger lists as a 5 year-old.
It does not appear that this couple’s first child, Elizabeth, survived to make this census. The next census in which we find Maria was the one taken in 1860. In 1858, Mary’s father died, so we no longer see him in this entry.
On May 11, 1862, Mary’s mother married again. Her second husband was Conrad Geisel. Here is that marriage record which indicates she was married by Rev. Schaller, who was the pastor of Old Trinity Lutheran Church.
On July 2, 1863, Mary Bretscher was in Frohna, Missouri, marrying Joseph Weinhold at Concordia Lutheran Church. They were both 18 years old at the time of their wedding. Here is the church record for that marriage.
There is also this civil marriage record for this couple.
Joseph Weinhold was the son of Johann Heinrich and Johanna (Walther) Weinhold and baptized at Concordia Lutheran Church in Frohna. He was born on October 2, 1844, just a few months before Mary. Here is Joseph’s baptism record.
Joseph met Mary while he was living in St. Louis. He had gone there to attend Concordia Seminary, which he did for two years, but then he became an apprentice miller at the Saxony Mills in St. Louis. He attended Holy Cross Lutheran Church, and it was there that he met Mary Bretscher.
According to our German Family Tree, Mary and Joseph had 12 children, only 8 of which survived infancy. Also, only two of them were boys, and both of those died in infancy. So the Weinhold family eventually came to be made up of Mary and Joseph and 8 girls. The first census in which we find Mary and Joseph was the one taken in 1870, where we find them living in Wittenberg, Missouri where Joseph ran a flour mill.
Another photo we now have is one that I do not think has been posted on this blog before. It was reportedly taken in 1875, not long after the above census was taken.
Next, we find them in the 1880 census. A member of their household was the Lutheran teacher in Wittenberg at the time, Ernst Keyl. The 1 year-old daughter in this entry, Martha Weinhold, would later marry a member of the Keyl family.
Twenty years later, we still find this family living in Wittenberg. We find Henrietta Geisel, Mary’s mother, living in the household with them. This is the census that most closely corresponds with the Weinhold family as told in my book, Wittenberg ’03, although I have evidence that by 1903, Henrietta Geisel was back living in St. Louis. Also, Lydia Weinhold was living with in the Weinhold household in 1903, but in 1900, she was living with her sister, Concordia Bundenthal, and helping her with young children.
Not long before the above 1900 census was taken, the Weinhold’s had a photo taken which included many children and grandchildren when they were gathered in Wittenberg. It was said to have been taken about 1894.
The 1910 census shows just one daughter, their youngest, Adele, living with them, along with a nephew, Walter Weinhold, who was working at Joseph’s mill.
Joseph Weinhold died in September of 1919 at the age of 74. Here is his death certificate.
We find a very bizarre census entry for the 1920 census. Mary and Joseph are shown in the same household with the Otto Lueders family. Otto had married Lydia Weinhold in 1904. We know Joseph died in 1919, and in one of the columns here, it states that he was dead in 1920. Also, in the margin it states, “Count this dead man. No date of death.”
Mary Weinhold would die in February of 1920, just a matter of months after Joseph’s death. She died in St. Louis while living with her daughter, Concordia Bundenthal, at the age of 75. The cause of death was shown as Chronic Bronchitis. This death certificate gives Mary’s birthday as December 31, 1844.
It is on her church death record that the cause of death was written as “a broken heart”.
Both Mary and Joseph are buried in the St. Paul’s Lutheran Cemetery in Wittenberg. The gravestone also gives Mary’s birthday as December 31, 1844.
If you ask me which date I think is correct for Mary’s birthday, I would tell you I think the December 31, 1844 date is more likely the right one. I just think that family members who helped fill out a death certificate and had a gravestone made would have known the birthday that was celebrated during Mary’s lifetime.
I have a quick confession to make. I was all ready to take the day off from writing on the blog today, but then I saw on our website’s stats that we had published 299 posts going into today. I just had to make that number 300.