When Was Herbert Born?

A baptism record in the books of Concordia Lutheran Church in Frohna presents us with a bit of a puzzle. This record shows a boy by the name of Leo Herbert Wagner being born on October 3, 1897. He was the son of Samuel and Margarethe (Sommer) Wagner. I will display that record here.

Herbert Wagner baptism record – Concordia, Frohna, MO

The mystery involved in this story comes from the fact that later in his life, quite a few documents say that he was born in 1898, not 1897. I began to wonder if the baptism record was incorrect somehow. If you look closely at the above image, it says the pastor who performed this baptism was Rev. Roesener, who was the minister at Trinity, Altenburg, not Concordia, Frohna. The pastor at Concordia in 1897 was Rev. Zschoche. I noticed that there was a time period in the Concordia books when Pastor Zschoche did not perform the baptisms. I suppose he could have gone on an extended trip somewhere, or perhaps he went through a time period of illness. Below is what can be seen on the whole page on which Herbert’s baptism is found. From July to October of 1897, other pastors were performing the baptisms at Concordia as seen in the red box.

1897 baptisms – Concordia, Frohna, MO

Despite that unusual situation, I do not think Herbert’s baptism record was incorrectly placed in these records. I think he was born in 1897.

Herbert is found in his first census in 1900 at the age of 1 or 2. His age looks like it was first written as 2, then crossed out to indicate 1. Several of the children’s ages were crossed out and changed. Herbert’s father was a farmer.

1900 census – Brazeau Township, MO

At this point, let me point out that Herbert was the grandson of Gustav and Theresa (Palisch) Wagner, the proprietors of the Wagner Hotel in Altenburg. Several other posts have been written about stories that took place at the Wagner Hotel. If you are interested, place the term, “Wagner Hotel”, in the search box in the margin and check out the results.

Wagner Hotel – Altenburg, MO

In 1910, we find Herbert was still living with his parents in Perry County.

1910 census – Brazeau Township, MO

We can see the farmland belonging to Samuel Wagner in this plat map made in 1915. The Wagner farm was not far from the village of Brazeau. Several of his neighbors were members of Brazeau Presbyterian Church.

Samuel Wagner land map – 1915

In 1918, Herbert had his World War I draft registration completed. He was living in St. Louis working as a grocery manager for Kroger. That grocery chain was still in its early years of expansion. This form gives Herbert’s birth year as 1897.

Herbert Wagner – WWI draft registration

When 1920 rolls around, we no longer find Herbert living in Perry County. We find him living in St. Louis where he was described as a grinder for an electric shop. He was living in the household of William Schneider, who was a baker. This might help explain Herbert’s future work in the food preparation business.

1920 census – St. Louis, MO

I think I found Herbert in the 1930 census for St Louis. For a while, I thought this might not be him because it lists him with a wife, and I didn’t think he was married at the time. However, a later document indicates that Herbert was divorced, so I now think this was the correct Herbert Wagner. He was working as a flooring contractor and had a wife named Aneta.

1930 census – St. Louis, MO

If this was the correct Herbert, his wife was born in New York and had roots from Denmark. It says Herbert was 23 years old when he was married, so that would have meant he was married around 1920 or 1921. I was unable to find a marriage record for him.

The 1940 census indicates that Herbert was still living in the St. Louis area. This entry is from the area known as Brentwood. Herbert was called a steward for a restaurant. His marital status is given as single.

1940 census – Brentwood, MO

Next, we find Herbert still in St. Louis when he had his World War II draft card completed. This form gives his birth year as 1898 and his age as 43. If he was born in 1897, his age would have been 44.

Herbert Wagner – WWII draft card

Here is what I find interesting. When Herbert was 20 years old, he was not drafted into military service at an age where it would seem reasonable. Now, when Herbert was in his 40’s, he did end up in the military. On this enlistment form, we find several pieces of useful information.

Herbert Wagner – military enlistment form

This is the form where I discovered that Herbert was divorced. He also had no dependent children. We also see that his occupation had to do with cooking. It also is yet another form that indicates an 1898 birth year. Herbert would enter the Army as a private, but he would achieve the rank of sergeant before his discharge.

The next document to be found for Herbert was his marriage that took place in Festus, Missouri in 1951. Festus was the location where a few other members of the Wagner family were living by this time. His parents could be found living there in the 1940 census. He also had a married sister who was living in that area.

Herbert Wagner married Genevieve Davidson on May 26, 1951 at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Festus. Below is this couple’s marriage license.

Wagner/Davidson marriage license

The pastor who married the, Rev. William C. Pebler, had a connection to Frohna. Rev. Pebler’s father, also a Lutheran pastor, had married one of the Weinhold girls from the Weinhold’s that ran the Frohna Flour Mill. Also, Genevieve Davidson was born on May 26, 1910, so she was married on her birthday. I was unable to find out much about her roots.

Herbert Wagner died in 1958. His death certificate says he died at the age of 59. However, this form is yet another one that gives his birth year as 1898. If he was born in 1897, he would have been 60 years old when he died. He was living in Festus and was called a cook in a cafe at the time of his death.

Genevieve Wagner died in 1973 which is too recent for us to view her death certificate. Because of Herbert’s military service, these two were buried in the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis. Below is an interment form that gives some description of Herbert’s military service. Once again, his birth year is given as 1898.

Herbert Wagner – Interment form

Here are some images of their gravestones at Jefferson Barracks. Even Herbert’s gravestone says he was born in 1898.

It really puzzles me why Herbert’s year of birth seemed to change as he went through life. Until World War I, forms said he was born in 1897. After that, his year of birth changed to 1898 on every document that I located.


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