Mayor of Grand Tower

Friedriech Johann Wilhelm “Brooks” Arbeiter is today’s birthday boy. He was born on November 22, 1896, the son of Frederick and Magdalena (Heeszel) Arbeiter. John was the first child out of 9 that were born to Frederick and Magdalena. I don’t know where it originated, but our German Family Tree shows “Brooks” as his nickname. He was baptized at Christ Lutheran Church in Jacob, Illinois. His baptism record is shown in two images below.

John Arbeiter baptism record – Christ, Jacob, IL

John Arbeiter is found in the 1900 census at the age of 3. His father was a farmer.

1900 census – Fountain Bluff Township, IL

We find John in two more census records as a single man. He is listed in the 1910 census at the age of 13. It was the same year that he was confirmed at Christ, Jacob. There was a hired hand by the name of Otto Wagner living in their household.

1910 census – Fountain Bluff Township, IL

Next, we see John in the 1920 census still living with his parents. His last little brother, Raymond, had been born in 1919.

1920 census – Fountain Bluff Township, IL

Before we look at his marriage, let’s take a look at his future bride’s early life. We have to go back over to the other side of the Mississippi River to find her in Perry County. Her name was Julianne Edna Brandes, who was born on August 22, 1898. She was the daughter of Gustav and Mary (Bronnenkant) Brandes. Almost all of the records I found for her called her Julia, including her gravestone. She was baptized at Grace Lutheran Church in Uniontown, Missouri. Here is her baptism record.

Julia Brandes baptism record – Grace, Uniontown, MO

Julia is found in her first census in the one taken in 1900. She was living with her parents in Union Township of Perry County. Julia was shown as being 2 years old.

1900 census – Union Township, MO

The Brandes family moved across the river to the Fountain Bluff Township in Jackson County, Illinois before the next census was taken. That is where we find Julia in 1910 at the age of 11. She was confirmed 2 years after John was confirmed at the same congregation.

1910 census – Fountain Bluff Township, IL

Julia was a little harder to find in the 1920 census. No one on Ancestry.com that I could find had a 1920 census record for her. I eventually found a Juliet Brander (at least that is what Ancestry calls her) in the census for St. Louis where she was a servant for a Bush family. Her age is a little off, but I think it is her.

1920 census – St. Louis, MO

John Arbeiter married Julia Brandes on the first day of 1922. They were married on January 1st, but I do not know where. Even though they had both been members of Christ Lutheran in Jacob, their marriage record is not found in the books of that congregation. Actually, the only place I found the wedding date for this couple was in Julia’s obituary.

This couple, according to our German Family Tree, had five children between 1923 and 1934, and they were all baptized at Christ Lutheran Church in Jacob. However, I was unable to find this Arbeiter family in the 1930 census. The next census I found for them was the one taken in 1940. They are found living in Grand Tower, Illinois.

1940 census – Grand Tower, IL

Grand Tower can be seen from the Missouri side of the river as you stand where the town of Wittenberg was once located. The column which lists John’s occupation in the 1940 census is enlarged below.

John Arbeiter’s occupation – 1940 census

As near as I can tell, it says he was turbine ____ oiler for an electric power plant. Maybe one of our readers can help interpret those letters in front of oiler. What we do know is that he was a worker (arbeiter, in German) for that company. Probably the most noticeable building that can be see across the river from Wittenberg is the Grand Tower power plant. Not long ago, I took this photo of a barge passing in front of that power plant. That is where John must have been working.

Grand Tower power plant

Both John and Julia Arbeiter died during the same year, 1976. John died in March of 1976 at the age of 79. He died in Barnes Hospital in St. Louis. The obituary shown below appeared in the newspaper. It is in this article that I discovered that John was very active in the city council of Grand Tower, and was even the mayor of that town for some time.

John Arbeiter obituary

Julia Arbeiter died in September of that same year. She was 77 years old when she died. I cannot show an actual newspaper obituary, but I can show a transcription of it.

Julia Arbeiter obituary

Her obituary says she died in Potomac, Maryland. I think she must have gone to live with her daughter, Marion. John’s obituary said Marion lived in Washington, D.C., not far away from Potomac.

John and Julia Arbeiter were buried together in the Christ Lutheran Cemetery in Jacob, Illinois.

John and Julia Arbeiter gravestone – Christ, Jacob, IL

I haven’t had many opportunities to write a story about someone who was a mayor. Small towns like the ones around here and across the river in Illinois, rely on local people to volunteer their time to help run the local government. John was one such person who served his community.


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