Selma and Her Family’s Farmhand

The surnames in today’s tale began in East Perry County, but that’s not where they are found later. Both surnames made their way to northern Cape Girardeau County. Then the couple I will discuss today ended up in several other locations. The two surnames were Petzoldt and Gaebler.

I will begin by looking at today’s birthday girl, Selma Rosalia Petzoldt. She was born on May 11, 1867, the daughter of Herman and Ernestine (Schoen) Petzoldt. She was the firstborn child in her family. Selma was baptized at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Altenburg. The baptism record for Selma from that congregation’s books is shown here.

Selma Petzoldt baptism record – Immanuel, Altenburg, MO

I was unable to find Selma or her family in the 1870 census. I have every reason to believe that they were living somewhere in the Shawnee or Apple Creek Townships at that time. Selma’s father, Herman, was a charter member of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Pocahontas which was established in 1868.

St. John’s Lutheran Church, Pocahontas, MO – Charter Members

In 1880, we find Selma living in the Apple Creek Township at the age of 12. Her father was a farmer.

1880 census – Apple Creek Township, MO

Next, we find Selma in the 1900 census. At the age of 33, she was still single.

1900 census – Apple Creek Township, MO

Now I will discuss the early life of Selma’s future husband. His name was Johann Martin Gaebler. He was born on August 29, 1871, the son of Gottlob and Theresia (Zwickelhuber) Gaebler. Like his furure bride, Martin was baptized at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Altenburg. Below is his baptism record from that church’s books.

Martin Gaebler baptism record – Immanuel, Altenburg, MO

Martin is found in the 1880 census in which we find the Gaebler family living in the Union Township of Perry County. Martin was 8 years old.

1880 census – Union Township, MO

I purposely did not point this out earlier, but you have already seen the census record for Martin Gaebler in the 1900 census. If you scroll back up to the 1900 census entry for Selma Petzoldt, you will see that Martin Gaebler is listed as a servant doing farm labor in the Petzoldt household. There are many times when I cannot come close to figuring out how a bride and groom got to know one another, but in this case, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out how Martin and Selma noticed one another. They were living in the same place.

On November 17, 1901, Martin Gaebler married Selma Petzoldt. In the binder we have in our research library for St. John’s Lutheran Church in Pocahontas, we find information on both Martin and Selma. Here is the portion describing Martin.

The information about Selma Petzoldt adds the fact that she and Martin were married in the church parsonage.

We can take a look at the marriage license for this couple.

Gaebler/Petzoldt marriage license

Our German Family Tree lists 4 children born to this pair. When the 1910 census was taken, we find them living in the Shawnee Township with 4 children. Martin was a farmer.

1910 census – Shawnee Township, MO

We find the Gaebler’s living in a different location when the 1920 census was taken. They are listed living in the Como Township in New Madrid County, Missouri. The fact that no more new children are listed indicates that they must have had only the 4 children that were baptized at St. John’s Lutheran in Pocahontas.

1920 census – Como Township, MO

Selma Gaebler died in 1921 at the age of 53. Her death certificate says her birthday was 11-5-1867. It looks like she was born on November 5, but we know she was born on May 11th. The month and day are reversed, although there are some places that put the day before the month. I have been told that Germany does it that way.

Selma Gaebler death certificate

This death certificate says Selma was buried in Malden, Missouri, and the above information from St. John’s, Pocahontas says she was buried in Parma, Missouri. I looked for her on Findagrave in both of those places but I was unable to locate where she was buried. She does have an entry in the cemetery where Martin was later buried, but the person who posted it there admits that she was buried elsewhere.

When the 1930 census was taken, we find Martin living in a boarding house in St. Louis. The entry says he was a janitor in a lodging house. Most likely, he was a janitor in the boarding house in which he lived.

1930 census – St. Louis, MO

Martin Gaebler died in 1947 in Poplar Bluff, Missouri at the age of 75. His son, Herbert Gaebler, is the informant on this document, and he was living in Poplar Bluff.

Martin Gaebler death certificate

Martin Gaebler was buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery in Poplar Bluff.

Martin Gaebler gravestone – Woodlawn, Poplar Bluff, MO

Martin Gaebler was quite the wanderer during his life. I found 5 different census entries for him, and none of them were from the same location. The census entry that I find most interesting is the one in which we find him working as a farmhand in the same household with his future wife.


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