From the Farm to the Railroads, to the Store, and to the Courthouse

Today’s post is a collaborative effort of Fred and Cal Eggers, two brothers who have both previously contributed posts for our blog. I know I am extremely grateful, not only for giving me a day off from writing a post myself, but also for the quality of research that is always exhibited when either of these two contribute to this blog.

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A few weeks ago in the introduction to the story of Martin Eggers, Warren suggested that one of us might do a story on Martin’s brother, Walter. Since today would be Walter’s 121st birthday, we decided that we would do it (virtually) together.

Walter was also known as “Walt” and we will use mainly that name in this story, but for a reason you will soon read, he was later mostly known as “Judge Eggers”. (During High School, all four of his sons were tagged with that same nickname, as we recall initiated by 11th grade English teacher, Bob Heflin).

He was born on September 14, 1899 to Henry F. and Katharina Anna Söhl Eggers and was baptized on September 24 by Pastor Friedrich Schriefer.  (His mother is listed as Marie is this church record but is listed as Katharina in all of the baptism records of his siblings.)

Walter Eggers baptism record – Salem, Farrar, MO

Walter first appears in the census as a child in the June 1900 census of Salem Township as the 8th child of Henry F. and Katherine Anna (nee Soehl) Eggers. His father is described as a Farmer and his oldest brother, Frederick is reported to be a Farm Laborer while three siblings are “At School”. We won’t show the image of that census due to poor legibility, but we can show the transcription from the 1900 Census published by the Perry County Historical Society.

1900 census – Salem Township, MO

We would like to digress briefly to display a document about Henry Eggers at about this time because it shows that while Henry was a farmer, he was also interested in Public Service.  He was appointed as the second postmaster of Farrar on January 11, 1900.  This may have helped to set the stage for Walt’s future.

Henry Eggers – Postmaster Appointments

Walt was confirmed on March 16, 1913 at Salem and we have a photo of his confirmation class with an arrow pointing to him.

Walter Eggers confirmation class

By the time of the next census in April 1910, several things had changed.  Most significantly, Henry’s wife is not listed as Anna, but as Friedericke.

1910 census – Salem Township, MO

Anna had died when Walt was only 16 months old as we see from the Salem church record and an obituary found on FindAGrave.com.

Katharina Eggers death record – Salem, Farrar, MO
Katharina Eggers obituary

Ancestry records show it was not long before Henry married Friedericke Hesse in April 1902. Also, in the 1910 census there are only five children in the household. And, while oldest brother, FC (Frederick) is living at home, his Occupation is reported as Teacher in a Public School.  Henry must have also espoused education, because son Fred graduated from Perryville High School and attended the Cape Normal School (now Southeast Missouri State University) to be a school teacher as reported in the 1910 census below, and Theodore enrolled at Seward and became a Lutheran School teacher and later a Lutheran Laymen’s League executive.  Two Men Sent from Perry County for a Purpose – Part I and II

Two Men Sent from Perry County for a Purpose – Part 1

Two Men Sent from Perry County for a Purpose – Part 2

Not much later, on July 15, 1914, Walt’s father also died and he is left living with his step mother.

Henry Eggers death record – Salem, Farrar, MO

And then in April 1920, his step mother Friedericke died.

Fredericke Eggers death record – Salem, Farrar, MO

Where was Walt at that time? The 1920 census later that year shows the Eggers household with only Martin described as a farmer and his wife and two daughters.  Walter Eggers is not to be found anywhere in Perry County.

1920 census – Salem Township, MO

Growing up, we knew little of this phase of our father’s life, but as genealogists, not as family members, we found several documents:

First, we find that in 1918 he registered for the WWI draft, living at 827 Huestis, Fort Wayne Indiana, employed by the Wabash RR Co as the night billing clerk. His nearest relative is listed as his brother Emanual, who between 1900 and then had relocated to Fort Wayne.  There is no record that Walt served in the military; he was on the bubble, being too young in WWI and too old in WW II.

Walter Eggers – WWI draft registration

A Fort Wayne newspaper article from July 21, 1915 reported that Walt was moving to Fort Wayne, near brothers Fred and Emanual and sisters, Jane and Ida. He worked as a meter reader for a gas company, in the Boss glove factory, and then for the Wabash Railroad in the Ft. Wayne area. He also studied accounting at the International Business College.

Below is a photo of the Wabash workers in which Walt can be seen in a white shirt and bow tie.

Wabash Railroad Workers – Fort Wayne, IN

We also have a newspaper of a family reunion on June 12 1919 where he is reported to be from Attica, Indiana, 140 miles west of Fort Wayne, still working on the Wabash. 

A June 11, 1920 article reported that Walt had accepted a position as the chief freight clerk in the Wabash Railroad office in Defiance, Ohio.

The history of Eggers & Company reports that Walt moved back to Farrar later in 1920 when he and his brother Martin “Tom” purchased the store from the Klaus family.   Dad always said that Henry Klaus was losing his eyesight and could no longer work in the store and his sons, August “Gus” and Herman, did not like being inside.  Also, he said that Tom did not like working on the farm and Walt was probably getting tired of the Wabash moving him around to different locations.  He set up the accounting system for the store on his train ride to Missouri from Ohio.

Eggers & Company General Store – 1920’s

He became postmaster of Farrar on May 12, 1922 and held that office until Martin became postmaster in 1929.

Walter Eggers – Postmaster Appointments

At some point Walt became a Notary Public and his record book includes things like the recording of deeds and motor vehicle titles.

Walter Eggers – Notary Deeds
Walter Eggers – Notary Vehicle Titles

In 1928 he was elected as Public Administrator for Perry County although he did not seek the office.  This transcription of a newspaper article tells of his nomination for election:

PERRY COUNTY REPUBLICAN – SEPTEMBER 27, 1928

REPUBLICANS COMPLETE COUNTY TICKET

The Republican county ticket was filled this week by the Committee when John J. Endres was named for Representative, Walter Eggers for Public Administrator and Dr. W. H. Bailey for coroner, the only three vacancies, the candidates for the other offices having been chosen at the primary in August.

Republicans generally express satisfaction with the ticket, feeling that the men for the various offices are qualified for the positions and they present a strong appeal to the voters.

Walter Eggers, though not seeking the nomination for Public Administrator at the hands of the committee, was selected because he has the ability and affords strength to the ticket.  Mr. Eggers is a member of the firm of Eggers & Co., who conduct a mercantile establishment at Farrar and Menfro.

In a letter to the voters that was published in the newspaper, he stated:

The Republican County Committee has seen fit to place my name to nomination for the office of Public Administrator, and after giving the matter careful consideration I have decided to accept the nomination and to permit my name to go before the voters at the coming election.  On account of my business connections I shall find it impossible to carry on an extensive campaign and to personally meet the voters and I therefore take this method to acquaint myself with the voters.  After having completed the course of the Lutheran parochial school and the public school here in the county I received my business training at the International Business College of Ft. Wayne, Ind., and this year I am taking a special correspondence course covering the various topics of Probate Law and I feel that this training will place me in splendid position to handle the office that I now seek.  For the past seven years I have served the people of my community as Notary Public and have considerable experience in the handling of probate matters.  The office I am seeking is not a mercenary position, but rather one of service to the public, and if the voters shall see fit to elect me to this office I promise to serve therein to the best of my ability.

The next public record of Walt is the 1930 Federal census of Salem Township, April 2, 1930, where not only is he IN the census, he TOOK the census.  Walt is now living with his brother Martin and family and is described as a Retail Merchant in a General Store.

1930 census – Salem Township, MO

Walt served as the manager of the Farrar Ramblers baseball team from sometime in the early 1920s until the early 1930s. He played in the field very little, but his biggest claim to fame was that he bunted in a winning run against legendary pitcher Lou Weiss, who had played for several years in the minor leagues.

Ramblers Baseball Team

On Easter Sunday, May 16, 1933 Walter married Lydia Versemann. Reportedly, it was the first wedding in the area to serve “legal” beer following the repeal of prohibition.  This is likely since 3.2% beer became legal on April 7, 1933 and there would not have been any church weddings during the Lenten season.

Walter and Lydia Eggers weddin

The 1940 census shows Walt as a Bookkeeper in a General Store and the listing includes Cal for the first time.  He was not only the bookkeeper for the store, but also for the Farrar Transfer Company, and for the Farrar Cream Association.  In addition he held many offices in Salem Lutheran Church, including serving as the Financial Secretary in 1934 when the congregation built a new teacherage in the midst of the great depression.  Those records include the cost for the building and the pledges and receipts from the members.

1940 census – Salem Township, MO

During 1942 Perry County was left without a Probate Judge because Judge Homer Graff went into the armed services.  Governor Forrest C. Donnell, who was a Republican elected in 1940, appointed Walter based on his prior service as Public Administrator and as a Notary Public.  Judge Eggers was reelected in November of that year and in six more elections without opposition.  In 1947 the duties of the Magistrate Court were added to the position and when Walt retired on December 31, 1970 after serving over 28 years, he was one of the few remaining judges in the State of Missouri that did not have a law degree. 

Walter Eggers – 1946 Election Certification

Walt served as a member of the Perry County Republican Committee for 38 years including 12 as its Chairman.  He also served as the Chairman of the 10th Congressional District committee for six years and in 1968 served as a member of the Electoral College and cast the district vote in the election of Richard M. Nixon. 

Walt was very active in the Lutheran Laymen’s League and served on the Missouri District Executive Board including two years as District President.  He also served on the Missouri District Board of Parish Education of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod and on the Board of Appeals of the synod.  In 1969 he was a delegate to the Synodical Convention in Denver, Colorado.

Judge Eggers was also involved in other civic affairs including the Perry County Board of Education, the Red Cross, and the Salvation Army.  Walt was a Director for the Bank of Perryville (now Bank of Missouri) for several years.

Walt died on May 5, 1972 after a several month long battle with stomach cancer and was buried in the church cemetery at Salem Lutheran Church in Farrar. 

Walt & Lydia Eggers


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