An Electrifying End

You might think that I would write the first post for 2020 about some sort of new beginning.  To a certain extent, that is the case, because we will be looking at a man who was born on the first day of 1890, making him today’s birthday boy.  However, when you look at his life, the things that stands out is how he died and where he was buried.  He came to an electrifying end.

Today’s tale could be told quite quickly, because today’s main character only lived 27 years, never married, had no children, or never went off to military service.  There are also not that many official documents for a man with such a short life.   However, this man’s story will give me the opportunity to discuss a sticky issue and show off a relatively unfamiliar site.

Adolph Rudolph Gemeinhardt was born on January 1, 1890, the son of Friedrich (Fritz) and Selma (Nennert) Gemeinhardt.  The Gemeinhardt family lived on the main road entering Wittenberg from the west.  Their home can be seen on the aerial photo below.  It is marked as #10.

Highway A Wittenberg MO Albert Telle

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Wittenberg did not become an official congregation until 1903, but services were conducted in a church/school building located in that river town.  Rudolph’s baptism record is found in the books of Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg, but his baptism may have taken place in the Wittenberg church.  Here is Rudolph’s baptism record.

Rudolph Gemeinhardt baptism record Trinity Altenburg MO
Rudolph Gemeinhardt baptism record – Trinity, Altenburg, MO

The 1900 census shows the Gemeinhardt family with Rudolph as a 10 year-old.  His father was a cooper at the flour mill in Wittenberg.

Rudolph Gemeinhardt 1900 census Wittenberg MO
1900 census – Wittenberg, MO

According to our German Family Tree, there were 14 children born into this Fritz Gemeinhardt family, but only 12 survived to adulthood.  We see this family in the photo below with all 12 of those children on what appears to be their front porch.  Based on the apparent age of the young one on Fritz’s lap, I estimate that this picture was taken around 1904.  I also figure that Rudolph is the one standing in the back, two people from the right (also just  to the right of the pillar).

Frederick Fritz Gemeinhardt family
Fritz Gemeinhardt family

In 1904, Rudolph was confirmed at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Wittenberg.  In fact, he was in the very first confirmation class at that congregation.  Below is his confirmation record.

Rudolph Gemeinhardt confirmation record St. Paul's Wittenberg MO
Rudolph Gemeinhardt confirmation record – St. Paul’s, Wittenberg, MO

The 1910 census is the last census in which we find Rudolph.  In this census, it says Rudolph was a laborer on the railroad.

Rudolph Gemeinhardt 1910 census Wittenberg MO
1910 census – Wittenberg, MO

That will lead us up to Rudolph’s tragic death.  On August 28, 1917, he died as a result of being electrocuted while at work.  The story was told in a local newspaper.  It is not the easiest to read, so I made it into two images to enlarge it some.

Rudolph Gemeinhardt newspaper article about death 1

Rudolph Gemeinhardt newspaper article about death 2

There was also a short article in the Perry County Republican.

Rudolph Gemeinhardt newspaper article Perry County Republican

The sticky issue I mentioned earlier enters the picture here.  Rudolph was not buried in the St. Paul’s Lutheran Cemetery in Wittenberg where several other members of his family are buried.  Instead, he was buried in the Wittenberg Public Cemetery.  I am almost certain that the reason for this is the fact that the newspaper article gives evidence that Rudolph was a lodge member.  The Lutheran church has been opposed to its members being participants in lodges for a long time.  I know of a few more stories in which people involved in masonic lodges were not permitted to get married in a Lutheran Church or buried in a Lutheran cemetery.

This story, however, led to Gerard Fiehler and I going on an adventure.  We decided to go where neither of us had ever been.  We ended up stomping through the Wittenberg Public Cemetery.  We got the assistance of a neighbor to that cemetery, Tim Haertling, and he was able to show us where it was.  As it turned out, the gravestone for Rudolph Gemeinhardt was the first and most prominent one in that cemetery.  It is also leaning considerably.  Here are two images of that gravestone.

I am going to publish a gallery of photographs here to give you the idea of what it was like to be at that cemetery and some of the markers that we found there.   Maybe “Miss Findagrave” Diane Anderson can use these photos to bring the Wittenberg Public Cemetery site on more up-to-date.  The thumbnails are clickable so you can enlarge them.

We found several unreadable stones, one leaning up against a tree, some lying flat on the ground where they had fallen over, and quite a few “divots” is the ground that give the appearance that graves had caved in.  The whole area is quite overgrown, indicating that it has been a lot of years since it was cleared of any growth.  I came away from there wondering how anyone could have even gotten there to attend a grave site ceremony.

In closing, let me say that because of this story, Gerard and I can now check another thing off our bucket lists.  A trip to the Wittenberg Public Cemetery.  We would have never found it without help.  Thanks to Tim Haertling for his able assistance.




One thought on “An Electrifying End

  1. I have one on you .. I went to that cemetery once back the 80’s and have a few photos, someplace . it was fairly clean then .. but imagine getting a casket up that hill and especially that huge tombstone ..


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