Michael, Mary, and Matilda

Today’s post will ask quite a few questions for which I have no definitive answers. Maybe there will be some answers submitted to us from our readers. I start with the birthday of a boy by the name of Michael Bienlein. He was the son of Johann and Margaret (Billhorn) Bienlein. Almost every source I located for Michael says he was born on this day, August 25th, however there is plenty of disagreement about which year he was born. I found places that recorded him as being born in 1842, 1844, or 1845. Our German Family Tree gives the 1845 year of birth, and that’s the one I hope is correct merely because it would mean that today would have been his 175th birthday. Much of the information we have about Michael Bienlein is found in the Friedenberg books.

Michael Bienlein information – Friedenberg book

Michael Bienlein can be found in the 1850 census for Brazeau Township. Michael was 5 years old, which would back up either an 1844 or 1845 birth year.

1850 census – Brazeau Township, MO

In 1860, we find the Bienlein household in the Cinque Hommes Township. Michael was 15 years old at the time.

1860 census – Cinque Hommes Township, MO

Michael spent some time in a Missouri State Regiment during the Civil War. He is said to have been part of Company E. That company is reported to spent some time around New Madrid, Missouri. I’ll get back to that piece of information shortly.

First, let’s take a look at Michael’s first wife, Mary Pitts. The books of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Perryville state that Mary (Pitts) Bienlein was baptized in 1874. That baptism must have taken place after this couple was married. Let’s take a look at that record from Immanuel.

Mary (Pitts) Bienlein baptism record – Immanuel, Perryville, MO

I am assuming that Calvin Pitts was Mary’s father. I found a Calvin Pitts living in Pemiscott County, Missouri in the 1860 census. The wife’s name does not match, but I found an Ancestry family history stating that Calvin’s first wife was named Mary, and she died in 1858. Elvina was his second wife in that Ancestry family tree.

1860 census – Pemiscott County, MO

Mary is 12 years old in this 1860 census, and she was said to have been born in Alabama. Our German Family Tree does not give a birth date or marriage date for her. Several Ancestry family trees say that Mary Pitts and Michael Bienlein were married in 1865 at New Madrid. If the Mary Pitts in the above census got married in 1865, she would have only been 17 years old. Pemiscott County is not that far from New Madrid.

I think it is possible that Michael Bienlein managed to meet Mary Pitts while he was serving in the Missouri State Militia during the Civil War. I could not find an official marriage record for this couple, so I also think that it is possible that the marriage took place a little later. Their first child, Henry, is shown in the 1870 census at the age of 1. This time, Michael was living in Bois Brule Township. You may notice that it says Mary was born in Alabama.

1870 census – Bois Brule Township, MO

The first baptism record for a child of Michael and Mary that we find in our German Family Tree is for a girl by the name of Anna Maria Bienlein. What makes her interesting is the fact that she was also born on August 25th. Not only that, she was born in 1870, making today her 150th birthday. This is what attracted me to this story in the first place. If Michael’s birthday was in 1845, then today we would be celebrating a 175th and a 150th birthday.

Next, we find the Bienlein household in the 1880 census, once again in the Bois Brule Township. I did not display it, but this census also stated that Mary was born in Alabama.

1880 census – Bois Brule Township, MO

A burial record for Mary Bienlein can be found in the books of Immanuel, Perryville. It says she died in 1881 as a result of childbirth.

Mary Bienlein death and burial record – Immanuel, Perryville, MO

It might be assumed that Mary would be buried in the Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery in Perryville, but no such burial site is shown on Findagrave. That doesn’t mean she wasn’t buried there.

On October 11, 1883, Michael married again. His second wife was Matilda Milfeld (there is debate about how to spell that surname). Matilda was born on March 1, 1862, the daughter of Michael and Matilda (Tissaux) Milfeld. Matilda can be found in the 1870 census at the age of 12. She was a domestic servant for a Compt family in St. Mary’s, Missouri.

1870 census – St. Mary’s, MO

In the 1880 census, Matilda was back living with her widowed mother in Yount Store, Missouri.

1880 census – Yount Store, MO

Below is a marriage license for Michael and Matilda. They were married in St. Mary’s, Missouri. Matilda was a Roman Catholic, and I think this is why we see no more Lutheran church records for this Bienlein family after this wedding.

Bienlein/Milfelt marriage license

Several more children were born to this couple. When we look at the census taken in 1900, we find this Bienlein household. They were living in Salem Township, and this is that notorious census that is so difficult to read.

1900 census – Salem Township, MO

The 1910 census for this family has to be shown in two images. They were back living in the Bois Brule Township. I have to chuckle at their daughter being called Matilda, Jr.

1910 census – Bois Brule Township, MO

Matilda Bienlein died in 1914 at the age of 52. Her death certificate says she died of tuberculosis. Matilda’s other name was Ottilie.

Matilda Bienlein death certificate

The death certificate says she was to be buried in the Mt. Hope Cemetery in Perryville, but no entry for her can be found on Findagrave.

Michael can still be found in the 1920 census. He was living with his son’s family in Perryville.

1920 census – Perryville, MO

Michael Bienlein died in 1925 somewhere around the age of 80, depending on the year of his birth. We can also view his death certificate.

Michael Bienlein death certificate

I do not know why it was done, but there is also a supplement to his death certificate. This is where we find the birthday of August 25, 1842, which I think is incorrect.

Not long after his death, his family requested a headstone to commemorate his military service. That application is shown here.

Michael Bienlein – application for headstone

Michael is buried in the Home Cemetery in Perryville, Missouri. All that can be found on Findagrave is the headstone showing his military service.

Michael Bienlein gravestone – Home, Perryville, MO

Michael Bienlein’s life certainly did not follow a typical one for a German Lutheran in Perry County. He found two wives from rather different backgrounds. One wife was not a Lutheran but became one, and the other was a Roman Catholic and may have turned Michael into one. I cannot say that I am confident of several of the facts associated with this person and his wives. Perhaps you can set me straight. All I know is that this post is being published rather late today, and I have run out of steam looking for answers.


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