I am going to use today’s post to point out a big change that has taken place within the schools of America, including our Lutheran schools. I will begin by using some common words often used to initiate stories. “Once upon a time,…” Once upon a time, America’s classrooms were full of men teachers. In fact, once upon a time, Lutheran schools were exclusively taught by men teachers. For quite a while, Lutheran institutions that prepared teachers were occupied by all men.
Today’s post begins in Frohna, Missouri. Concordia Lutheran Church was blessed to have two men teachers who each spent about 50 years educating the children of that congregation. It just so happened that the names of those two teachers began with a “W”…Welp and Wukasch. Nowadays, students often call their teachers Mr. B or Mr. G. That wouldn’t have worked at Concordia. Plus, I think students calling their teacher, Mr. W., back in those days would have earned you a trip to the woodshed.
Teacher Matthias Wukasch and his second wife, Johanna (Schieferdecker) Wukasch had a son who was born on May 1, 1886. That son, Paul Martin Wukasch would have been celebrating his 134th birthday today. Below you will see an image of his baptism record from the books of Concordia Lutheran Church.
As it turns out, Paul was only found in one census from Perry County. That was the one from 1900. Paul was 14 years old, and was said to be “at school”. Paul’s mother had died in 1898, and his father remained a widower for the rest of his life.
We have this photo of the Wukasch family standing in front of the teacherage in which they lived in Frohna. Paul is second from the left in this photo.
Paul would attend the Addison Teachers Seminary in the Chicago area where he, like his father, would be trained to become a Lutheran teacher. Paul’s first teaching position was at St. James Lutheran School in Quincy, Illinois. Actually, that church was likely called St. Jacobi during the time when Paul was a teacher at that school. I attended a St. Jacobi Lutheran School in St. Louis, and I learned that St. Jacobi was another name for St. James. The church in Quincy must have changed their name somewhere along the line. We find Paul in the 1910 census for Quincy.
We see not only Paul Wukasch in this household, but another young single man by the name of John Bosse, and both of them are described as being teachers at a parochial school. I must admit that for some reason, I chuckled when I noticed that the head of the household in which they were living was an undertaker.
Now we will take a look at the early life of Paul’s first wife, Anna Wassmann (yet another “W” surname). Anna was the daughter of Wilhelm and Sophie (Koever) Wassmann. We have the wedding photo of her parents.
Her birthday is rather a mystery. It was probably in November of 1896. She was born in Quincy, Illinois, where her father was a Lutheran teacher and principal. In this Quincy city directory from 1898, we see William Wassmann as a principal of St. Jacobi German School.
William Wassmann died in the same year as the above city directory, 1898. When we find Anna in her first census in 1900, we see that Sophie Wassmann was the head of the household and a widow. Anna was 4 years old at the time.
Next, we find Anna in the 1910 census where she is still living in Quincy as a 14 year-old.
Here is what I find especially interesting. Anna’s mother, Sophie Wassmann, is called a school teacher at the German school. We might be looking at a case where there was a female teacher in a Lutheran school at a time when that was not very common. The first female teacher in Frohna began in 1923; the first female teacher in Altenburg began in 1926.
Now we have not only Paul Wukasch teaching in Quincy, but his future mother-in-law was teaching at the same school. The map below shows the location where Teacher Wukasch lived on State St., the location where the Wassmann’s lived on Jefferson St., and the location of the school on 17th St.
In 1913, Paul Wukasch married Anna Wassmann. The only record we have of that wedding is an Illinois civil marriage record which only gives the year as 1913. There is no specific date given. Regardless, Anna was quite a young bride.
It must not have been very long after their marriage that this couple moved to a new location. Their first child was born in Danville, Illinois in 1914. When Paul had his World War I draft registration completed in 1918, he was living in Danville on the other side of the state. This form says Paul was a teacher at a Lutheran church.
There are two Lutheran churches that had schools in Danville. Those two now operate a school together. The address shown on the above form is about equidistant between those two churches, so I do not know whether he was a teacher at Trinity Lutheran or Immanuel Lutheran. We find the Wukasch family living in Danville in the 1910 census. They had 2 children. I included the Seils family because Arthur was listed as another parohial school teacher and likely taught at the same school.
When Paul’s father died in 1925 in Frohna, his obituary says he was survived by Prof. Paul Wukasch. I think Paul was a professor at Concordia Teachers College in River Forest, Illinois by that time.
Anna Wukasch died in 1926 at the age of 30. An Illinois death record shows that she died in Chicago.
The 1930 census shows Paul living in Chicago as a widower. His sister, Emma Wukasch, who never married, apparently came to live with this family after Anna had died.
I could not find a record for it, but sometime around 1937, Paul married again. His second wife was Anna’s cousin, Linda Wassmann. This couple would add one more child to their household. We find them in the 1940 census for Chicago.
On the above entry, you can see that Harold Wukasch, the oldest son, was also called a teacher in a private school. When Harold filled out his World War II draft card, we find him teaching at Messiah Lutheran School in Chicago. He was the third generation of Lutheran teachers found in the Wukasch family.
The above draft card was likely filled out in 1942, which was also the year of Paul Wukasch’s death. He died on April 1, 1942 at the age of 55. His second wife would marry Oscar Junge in 1952. Paul is documented as being buried in the St. Luke Cemetery in Chicago, but there is no gravestone photo.
I am going to return for a moment to Sophie Wassmann. In the 1920 census, we find her living in another city, Chicago, but she continued to be a teacher, this time in a public school.
There came a time when the pendulum swung from having schools almost exclusively occupied by men teachers to ones that included women. If you look at present-day schools, the faculties are made up of predominantly female teachers. Sometimes exclusively. The Lutheran school here in East Perry County has no full-time male teachers on its staff. I, for one, would love to see the pendulum swing back to where we find more men teachers in America’s school system and our Lutheran schools. I think it would be good for our children.