Paul Jacob Kuehnert is today’s birthday boy. He was born on October 21, 1893, so today, he would have been blowing out 128 candles on his birthday cake. Paul was the son of Julius and Emma (Schmidt) Kuehnert. The Kuehnert family grew up in the Seelitz area of East Perry County, and Paul was baptized at Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg. An image of his baptism record is pictured here.
Paul was the 5th out of 6 children, all boys, born in this Kuehnert family. One of those children died in infancy. In fact, it was the child born right before Paul, and that son was also named Paul, so it looks like the parents decided to give the name, Paul, another chance. Paul is found in his first census in 1900 at the age of 6. His father was a farmer.
I figure the photograph of the Kuehnert family shown below was taken not long before the above census was taken. The last Kuehnert son was born in 1896. Paul is the boy standing toward the right between his grandfather and his father with the frilly collar.
Paul is found in the 1910 census as a teenager. His grandfather, Johann, was still alive at the age of 83 when this census was taken. Johann was one of the original immigrants to arrive in Perry County in 1839. He arrived at the age of 12.
In 1917, Paul Kuehnert had his World War I draft registration completed. It stated that Paul was a clerk in the Boehme and Thurm Store in Wittenberg. Prior to the Boehme and Thurm partnership, this store had been owned by Otto Lueders, who is the registrar on this form (and also a main character in my books, Wittenberg ’03 and Wittenberg ’04).
Paul was drafted and went on to serve his country in that war. His military record is shown here. It indicates that Paul was slightly wounded during his time of service.
An article in the Perry County Republican says Paul had health issues when he was at Camp Funston. That camp was a location of early Spanish Flu cases.
Another article published in the Perry County Republican tells about Paul sharing some of his war experiences with a crowd at an Altenburg picnic.
The last census in which we find Paul as a single man and living in Perry County was the one taken in 1920. He was living in the household of his brother Ernst, but his parents also lived in that household. Paul is simply called a laborer.
Now, we will take a look at Paul’s bride. Her name was Marie Carolina Gruebmeyer, who was born on September 15, 1893. Her parents were Friedrich and Caroline (Kloepper) Gruebmeyer. Marie was baptized at Christ Lutheran Church in Jacob, Illinois. We can take a look at her baptism record. It has to be displayed in two images.
When Marie was just 6 years old, both of her parents died of pneumonia in a matter of days in April of 1899. More details about this set of circumstances can be found in the post written by Sally Gustin titled, Look After Widows and Orphans in Their Distress. The Gruebmeyer children were “farmed out” to families in the area. Marie shows up living in the Henry Guetersloh family in the 1900 census. She is called a 6 year-old boarder.
When the 1910 census was taken, Marie was living in the Lawrence Schweitzer family, and she was called an adopted child. She was 16 years old. Lawrence and Ida (Boehme) Schweitzer had previously lived in Perry County.
The Schweitzer family moved to Chester, Illinois before the next census was taken. In 1920, Marie was working as a looper at a knitting mill.
Paul Kuehnert married Marie Gruebmeyer on January 21, 1921 in St. Louis. Here is a transcription of a St. Louis marriage record.
An article printed in the Perry County Republican adds more details to this story. I will add that Rev. Arthur Kuehnert, Paul’s brother, was the pastor of Ebenezer Lutheran Church in St. Louis.
Paul and Marie had two children, both boys. I had plenty of difficulty finding the Kuehnert’s in the 1930 census. Fortunately, our research library has a printed index of that year’s census from Cape Girardeau County. In that index, I found this spelling for Paul’s surname.
When I located Paul in the census on Ancestry.com, his name was transcribed as Kuchnet. It’s no wonder he was so hard to find. Like the article shown earlier stated, Paul was working at the shoe factory. That would have been the International Shoe Company.
An article written by our friend, Dr. Fred Nickell, about this business can be accessed at this link: https://www.krcu.org/post/almost-yesterday-shoe-industry-comes-cape-girardeau#stream/0. The article also includes an old photograph of this factory.
The last census we can view for the Kuehnert’s was the one taken in 1940. Paul was still working at the shoe factory.
Paul Kuehnert had his World War II draft card completed in 1942.
Paul Kuehnert died in 1944 at the age of 50. His death certificate is displayed below.
Paul’s obituary plus another newspaper article give more details about his life and death.
Marie Kuehnert died in 1976 at the age of 82. Her obituary is shown here.
Paul and Marie Kuehnert are each buried in the Cape County Memorial Garden in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.
I find it interesting that Paul was in a family that produced a couple of full-time Lutheran church workers. Also, one of Paul’s sons became a Lutheran pastor. Paul himself found a way to serve his church in a part-time way. He was the Sunday School superintendent at Trinity Lutheran Church in Cape Girardeau for over 20 years. In his case, he worked in a shoe factory that took care of soles, but he also worked at his church caring for young souls. Mention is also made of his service to the Lutheran Smelterville Mission. Smelterville was a poor, black neighborhood that once existed in Cape Girardeau. Below is a photo of Smelterville which is copyrighted by Ken Steinhoff, another friend of our museum.
Ken also has produced a book titled, Smelterville: A Community of Love, that can be purchased at Annie Laurie’s Antique Store and Pastimes Antiques, both in Cape Girardeau, as well as the Cape Girardeau County History Center in Jackson.
I also take pleasure in adding new information to our Germany Family Tree. The GFT includes information about both Paul Kuehnert and Marie Gruebmeyer, but because this couple was married in St. Louis, they are not connected in this document as husband and wife. Now, we have documentation to make some changes.