I just cannot think of a better term for today’s type of post than “soap opera”. This tale has so many plot twists. Some of the behaviors of the people involved in the story are quite commendable. Others I would describe as quite inappropriate.
I will begin by referring back to a previous post that told the story of Gustav Schoen. That post was titled, Some Beautiful Beginnings. Part of Gustav’s story was not such a beautiful beginning. He fathered an illegitimate child with Maria Magdalena Heinig, who was the daughter of Christina (Vogel) Heinig. Christina, the grandmother of this child, Wilhelmina Heinig, would go on to raise that child.
Christina Heinig’s husband had died in 1849, and she married Michael Proehl in 1850. Here is the church marriage record for that wedding which is found in the books of Concordia Lutheran Church in Frohna.
When Wilhelmina was born in 1863, Michael would also end up raising this illegitimate child. Another event took place not long after Wilhelmina’s birth. Four Burroughs children were “let out” by their mother in Wittenberg in 1864. As a widow, she felt she could not raise them, and she had heard the folks in East Perry County might take them in. One of those children was John Burroughs. In his case, he was taken into the Proehl household. We have a document at our museum which is a contract between Michael Proehl (the name Proehl sometimes shows up in documents spelled with a “B” instead of a “P”.) and John’s mother in which Michael agreed to raise John and train him in the art of farming.
I have been told that we have papers for the Proehl’s adopting John somewhere in our manuscript collection, but I did not take the time to locate those papers. When the 1870 census was taken, we see the following Proehl household. The “John” would have been John Burroughs, and the “Minnie” would have been Wilhelmina Heinig.
According to our German Family Tree, Michael was born in 1822 and his first wife, Christina was born in 1808. That would have made Christina about 14 years older than her husband.
Not long before the 1880 census was taken, another event took place that I would classify as an inappropriate behavior. Michael Proehl fathered a child by a woman who was not his wife in June of 1879. After all, in 1879, his wife, Christina, would have been around 70 years old. The mother of that child was Ida Lungwitz. The baptism of this child, Mathilda Proehl, is recorded in the books of Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg, which was Ida’s home church.
Ida Lungwitz was born on September 10, 1858, the daughter of Christoph and Theresia (Herchert) Lungwitz. She was baptized at Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg.
Not long after the illegitimate birth, Michael’s wife, Christina died in January of 1880. Her death record is found in the books of Concordia, Frohna. She is listed on Findagrave as being buried in the Concordia, Frohna cemetery, but there is no gravestone photograph.
That brings us to this Proehl household that we see in the 1880 census.
Michael Proehl was the head of the household. Ida Lungwitz (her name is butchered here) was a 20 year old house keeper who had a daughter, Mathilda, who was not even one year old. John Burroughs was called a 19 year-old laborer (not an adopted son), and an 11 year-old boy by the name of Henry Dodd was also a member of their household. I found evidence that Henry was born in Illinois (not Missouri), and he would eventually marry Mina Bremer of Frohna. He has the appearances of being another young boy who Michael agreed to make a farmer, probably because he lost his parents.
Mathilda Proehl died in 1889 not long before her 10th birthday. She was buried in the Concordia Lutheran Cemetery in Frohna.
Michael Proehl would die in 1893 at the age of 70. He, too, was buried at Concordia, Frohna.
Ida Lungwitz is called Ida Proehl on several documents, but I was unable to find a marriage record for her and Michael Proehl. After Michael died, Ida married again in 1894. Her second husband was Ferdinand Wachter.
Ferdinand Wachter was born on April 26, 1861, the son of Friedrich and Christiane (Reif) Wachter. He was baptized at Immanuel Lutheran Church in New Wells. Ferdinand is found in the 1870 census at the age of 9.
Next, we find him again in the 1880 census. This Wachter family includes Henry Ronn (Roenn), who is said to be adopted. Both his parents died in the 1870’s.
Ida Proehl married Ferdinand Wachter on January 28, 1894 at Concordia, Frohna. When these two were married, they lived on the property that had belonged to Michael Proehl and had been left to his wife, Ida. Another document we have in our manuscript collection is a contract that was made at the time of this marriage that involved the ownership of this land.
We find this Wachter couple in the 1900 census. This time we find an 11 year-old girl by the name of Emma Mirly, who is called a daughter, living in their household. Emma was the daughter of Ferdinand’s younger sister, Louise, who had married Henry Mirly. Louise and Henry had both died in the 1890’s.
In 1905, a teenager by the name of Carl Heinrich Cowin, for whom Ferdinand and Ida had become guardians, was baptized at Concordia, Frohna. Carl had been born in 1891, so he was 14 years old when he was baptized.
We see the Wachter couple in the 1910 census. By then, Carl had already left their household. We also see yet another young person living in their family. He was the 14 year-old, Adolf Niederstadt, whose mother had died in 1906 and whose father appears to have moved to Arkansas without him.
When the Perry County plat maps were produced in 1915, we find some parcels of land belonging to Ida Wachter. This is evidence that the land that had once belonged to Michael Proehl was still titled to his wife, Ida.
If you look at the upper left corner of this map, you will see the name, Frank Burroughs. He was the brother of John Burroughs who had been raised on the Ida Wachter land. You can see that these two brothers were raised near one another just north of Frohna.
Carl Cowin, when he had his World War I draft registration completed, was living in Jacob, Illinois and working for Martin Miesner.
In the 1920 census, we finally find Ferdinand and Ida with an empty nest.
Ferdinand Wachter died in 1931 at the age of 70. Here is his death certificate.
Ida Wachter died in 1939 at the age of 81. We can also view her death certificate.
Ferdinand and Ida are both buried in the Concordia Lutheran Cemetery in Frohna.
I think someone could weave the facts in this story into a script for a soap opera. It has good and evil. It has scandal. And it has new characters showing up in the script, only to disappear later. What more do you need? Like sands in an hour glass, so are the days of their lives.
I originally intended to write this post yesterday because it was the birthday of Ida Lungwitz, but things just didn’t go well for me. So, now you get it today, the day after Ida’s birth and the day before Ferdinand Wachter’s death on September 12th.