I was excited to write this story about two surnames that have not shown up prominently on this blog before, but after doing further research, I almost decided to trash it. It is one of those posts that makes me feel uncomfortable. I would much rather tell a story that begins and ends well, with the characters making laudable accomplishments. Unfortunately, the story today requires me to include divorce and insanity.
I purposely tried to spur interest in this story with the misleading title. No, it is not a story referring to Hitler and Kaiser Wilhelm, both notable figures in German’s history. The story begins with a May 12th birthday. Adolph Friedrich Zoellner was born on May 12, 1878, the son of Gustav and Anna (Sewing) Zoellner. The marriage of Adolph’s parents, which took place in 1872, is included in the books of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Pocahontas. In fact, there were two Zoellner/Sewing marriages that took place at that church in 1872. After their marriage, Adolph’s parents become members of Trinity Lutheran Church in Friedheim, Missouri. We know that because that is where we find some baptism records for their children, including Adolph. Here is his baptism record.
I confess that the reason I was excited to do this story was the fact that I began to find church records that applied to this story which are found in the Trinity, Friedheim Church books.
Adolph can be found in the 1880 census. His family was living in the Apple Creek Township in Cape Girardeau County. This entry gives evidence why Adolph would marry his future wife. Right below the Zoellner family, you will see the Kaiser household. Although his future wife had not been born yet in 1880, she would be a future daughter of William and Sophia Kaiser.
When the 1900 census rolled around, Adolph was 21 years old and still single.
Let’s turn our attention to Sophia Kaiser, Adolph’s future wife. Sophia was the daughter of William and Sophia (Schade) Kaiser. At this point, let me say that this surname is sometimes shown using the spelling, Kayser. I did find another Kaiser family in the Trinity, Friedheim records, but it was not Sophia’s. Sophia’s birth date is rather a mystery. Different family histories on Ancestry list different months and different years for her birth. Her death certificate says she was born on August 17, 1886. In the first census where we find Sophia, the 1900 census, it says she was born in August of 1884. Here is that census entry shown in two images. I will add that the above census for Adolph was found on page 27 of this census; the census for Sophia and her family was on pages 28 and 29.
On December 6, 1903, Adolph Zoellner married Sophia Kaiser at Trinity, Friedheim. Here is the church record for this event.
We have these two photos of Adolph and Sophia that must have been taken fairly early in their marriage.
This couple had 4 children between 1904 and 1912. All 4 of them were baptized at Trinity, Friedheim. Here are the 4 baptism records found in that church’s books in the order that they were born.
The 1910 census shows this couple’s household with two children.
When Adolph had his World War I draft registration completed in 1918, it indicates that his 4 children are his nearest relatives and no mention is made of Sophia. I believe that by this time, Adolph and Sophia were at least separated, if not divorced. I also find it interesting that, at the age of 40, Adolph is said to have gray hair.
At this point, I lose Adolph for a while. I was unable to find him in either the 1920 or 1930 censuses. I suspect he was still living in Cape Girardeau County somewhere. On the other hand, I think I found Sophia in the St. Louis census for 1920 where she was working as a milliner in a store. The only problem is that this entry says Sophia was a widow.
Adolph Zoellner died in 1931 at the age of 53. He died at Southeast Missouri Hospital in Cape Girardeau. His death certificate states that he was to be buried in the Uniontown cemetery.
We have a burial record in the books of Grace Lutheran Church in Uniontown which says he is in their cemetery, but there is no entry for Adolph on Findagrave for that place.
Sophia Zoellner can be found in the 1940 census for St. Louis. She can be found as a patient in the city sanitarium on Arsenal Street.
This time, even though Sophia could have been called a widow, she is called divorced. I did consider whether the person I located in the St. Louis censuses was indeed the correct Sophia Zoellner. I think the death certificate I found answers the question. She died in 1965 at the age of 78, although if the birth date on this form is not correct, she may have been a bit older.
You will notice that this document has the correct names for Sophia’s parents. It also lists her as divorced. Finally, it says her last residence was the St. Louis State Hospital.
Let me backtrack a little. The city sanitarium on Arsenal Street in St. Louis was an institution established in 1869. It recently celebrated its 150th anniversary. It has had a variety of names over the years. A building was already shown on an 1875 drawing of St. Louis neighborhoods where it was called the County Insane Asylum. It is the building in the foreground on the left. It was already quite the impressive structure then.
In the early 1900’s, this institution became called the city sanitarium. A post card showing the city sanitarium once again indicates that it was still called the Insane Asylum. You can still see the impressive tower on the main building, which still exists today.
An article I found on the internet states that in 1940, when we find Sophia at this facility, it had 3844 patients.
In addition to this facility on Arsenal St., there was another facility that was located on Mississippi Ave. which was once called the St. Louis State Hospital. That is where Sophia resided when she died in 1965. In 1997, these institutions were combined at the Arsenal location and now is called the more hopeful name, St. Louis Psychiatric Rehabilitation Center.
Sophia’s death certificate says she was to buried at the St. Matthews Cemetery in St. Louis. Findagrave does have an entry for a Sophia Zoellner who died in 1965, but there is no gravestone photo. Maybe there is no gravestone. That entry does not give a year of birth for Sophia either.
This story just has me shaking my head. I look at the two photos of Adolph and Sophia. Such a handsome man and such a pretty lady. You might speculate such a couple would be the start of a story in which they “lived happily ever after”. That was not the case.