Lehner-Birner-Wachter

Several days ago, my head was spinning over the Lehner family from Alkoven, Austria. I now have access to an updated version of our German Family Tree which includes several additions which have been made on the Lehner surname. I think I now have a better handle on this situation. It turns out that there were indeed two Matthias Lehner’s, and both of them originated in Alkoven, a city that now has a population of about 6000. Children born into the families of both of these Matthias Lehner’s can be found in the same parish in that location in Austria. I have to think that these two men must have been related to each other, but I have no idea how. One of these men was born in 1795, and the other in 1809. It just so happens that I ran across another Lehner story today. The story about Rosina Lehner told a few days ago came from the Matthias Lehner that was born in 1809. Today’s story will lead us to a man who came from the other Matthias Lehner born in 1795.

There will be a birthday girl today, but I will get to her later. We will start with a man that the birthday girl will marry later in the story. His name was Peter Lehner. Peter was born on May 23, 1850. He was most likely born in Alkoven, Austria. I say that, not because I found a baptism record for him in Austria, but because a later census record from 1900 shows the information I have enlarged in the image below.

Peter Lehner – 1900 census – immigration information

The year of immigration is extremely blurry and pretty much impossible to read, but the next column to the right shows that Peter had been in America 46 years in 1900. That would make his year of immigration 1854, which is when Peter would have been 4 years old. Just the fact that this form says he has an immigration record means that he must have been born in another country.

However, we do have an issue with Peter Lehner arriving in America in 1854. His father, the Matthias Lehner who was born in 1795, is buried in the old Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery in New Wells, Missouri, and his gravestone clearly says that he died on January 1, 1854. How could Peter have arrived in America with his father in 1854 when his father died on the first day of that year in New Wells?

Matthias Lehner gravestone – Immanuel, New Wells, MO

Peter can be found in his first census in 1860 where he is listed as 10 years old.

1860 census – Shawnee Township, MO

The 19 year-old Elizabeth Bruhl on the above image was Peter’s older sister. By the way, Peter’s mother, Theresia, married Leopold Lichtenegger in 1863. Another one of Peter’s older sisters, also another Theresia, married William Lueders, who became a proprietor of a store and livery stable in Wittenberg sometime in the 1860’s. Peter spent some time living with his sister in Wittenberg during the 1860’s and learned the saddler’s trade. Then in 1867, he moved to St. Louis for a number of years. It is there that we find him in the 1870 census where he is called a harness maker.

1870 census – St. Louis, MO

It must have been soon after this census that Peter moved back to Wittenberg, where it is reported that he worked as a clerk in William Lueders’ store. Now, we must turn our attention to the early history of Peter’s first wife, Hanna Maria Birner. She was born on June 20, 1852, the daughter of John and Ernestine (Goethe) Birner. Maria was baptized at Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg. Here is her baptism record.

Maria Birner baptism record – Trinity, Altenburg, MO

Maria can be found in the 1860 census at the age of 7. Her father was a farmer. Please note that Maria had an older brother by the name of Henry. He will enter this story shortly.

1860 census – Brazeau Township, MO

We next find Maria in the 1870 census, still living with her parents.

1870 census – Brazeau Township, MO

It must have been after Peter moved back to Wittenberg that he and Maria Birner became a couple. These two were married on October 30, 1873 at Trinity Lutheran Church. This was during the time of the “Koestering Hole” in that church’s records, so I am unable to show a church record for this marriage. I can display a civil record from Perry County. You can see Rev. J.F. Koestering’s name on this record.

Lehner/Birner marriage record – Perry County, MO

In 1875, Maria’s brother, Henry Birner, married Peter’s sister, Susanna Lehner. Henry would have a blacksmith shop in Wittenberg, and Susanna would run the Birner Hotel.

Before I move on, let me point out that this photo which is found on the cover of my Wittenberg ’03 book, shows the Birner Hotel, run by Henry and Susanna (Lehner) Birner, on the left, with the William and Theresia (Lehner) Lueders home right next door. St. Paul’s Lutheran Church is shown in the background.

Peter and Maria had 3 children. Two of them show up in the 1880 census for Shawnee Township. He had purchased a store in Pocahontas and was then listed as a merchant. There is also a note saying he was the postmaster.

1880 census – Shawnee Township, MO

The Agnes Lehner shown in the above entry at the age of 2 ended up dying when she was just 7 years old. Then in 1882, Maria Lehner died, leaving Peter as a widower. Maria was buried in the Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery in New Wells.

Maria Lehner gravestone – Immanuel, New Wells, MO

A year after his wife’s death, Peter married again. His second wife was Bertha Wachter. We have finally gotten around to today’s birthday girl. Bertha was born on December 17, 1858, the daughter of Friedrich and Christiane (Reiss) Wachter. Bertha was likely baptized in the New Wells congregation, but the church records that we have begin in 1859. Bertha was confirmed at that congregation, and then she was later married there. We find Bertha in her first census in 1860 at the age of 2.

1860 census – Shawnee Township, MO

Next, we find Bertha in the 1870 census at the age of 11.

1870 census – Shawnee Township, MO

The last census in which we find Bertha single was the one taken in 1880. She was a servant in a household in St. Louis.

1880 census – St. Louis, MO

On October 9, 1883, Peter Lehner married Bertha Wachter. Their marriage record is found in the books of Immanuel Lutheran Church in New Wells.

Lehner/Wachter marriage record – Immanuel, New Wells, MO

This couple had two children, Rudolph and Louise. We do not find this Lehner household until the 1900 census was taken. Peter was said to be from Hungary. At this time in history, there was a country known as Austria-Hungary.

1900 census – Shawnee Township, MO

In another recent story about couples becoming acquainted with one another by participating in someone else’s marriage, I displayed this image in that story. This image includes Rudolph Lehner, who would later marry Adele Weinhold. That marriage between Otto Lueders and Lydia Weinhold took place in 1904, and it is one of the important events in my Wittenberg books.

Lueders/Weinhold marriage witnesses

A short biography of Peter’s life is now included in our GFT. I will display it here. You can see that Peter also held a few local and county positions during his life.

After his father died, Peter moved to Wittenberg MO with his sister Theresia, and learned the saddler’s trade, including harness making. In 1867 he moved to St Louis and worked at his trade. In 1869 he moved back to Wittenberg MO, and worked as a clerk in his brother-in-law’s (William Lueders) store. In 1873, he married Mary Birner. In 1876, he moved to Pocahontas & became a partner of a man named Schoen, and they took over a general store that had been operated by John Bonney. In 1880 he bought the store. His wife May died in 1883. In Jul 1884 he remarried to Bertha Wachter. He became active in Republican politics, was elected and served as County Collector from 1893 to 1897. In 1897 he became Treasurer of the Pocahontas Creamery. Peter had borrowed money from associates, and by 1900 could not pay off the notes. He went bankrupt. After bankruptcy, he returned to the trade he learned early, harness maker, making & repairing bridles, halters, back straps, collars & repairing shoes & boots. He later fell into ill health and died 12 Oct 1909

Bertha Lehner died in 1908 at the age of 49; Peter died in 1909 at the age of 59. Their death records are found in the books of Zion Lutheran Church in Pocahontas. There was only one other death recorded between the death records of Bertha and Peter.

Peter and Bertha Lehner death records – Zion, Pocahontas, MO

Peter and Bertha are buried in the Zion Lutheran Cemetery in Pocahontas.

Peter Lehner’s story gave me more opportunity to get the Lehner family history a little straighter in my head. Its Birner and Wachter connections also reminded me of several other posts which have been written about those families. Now, I’m even thinking of having Peter and Bertha show up at the wedding of Otto Lueders and Lydia Weinhold in my next book, Wittenberg ’04. Otto was Peter’s nephew. I’m almost at that point in my writing when I will detail that wedding that took place in July of ’04. Young Rudolph may have to be described as having a little glint in his eye when he meets Adele Weinhold.


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