Gotthilf and the Orphans

We begin today with the birth of Paul Gotthilf Hemmann, who was born on January 15, 1860. Gotthilf was the second-to-the-last child born to Johann Gottfried Hemmann, who fathered 21 children with two wives. Gotthilf was a son of the second wife, Rosina Hoffmann. One might be amazed to know that J.G. Hemmann was about 67 years old when Gotthilf was born, except for the fact that J.G. fathered another child in 1864 when he was over 70 years old. Gotthilf was baptized at Grace Lutheran Church in Uniontown. His baptism record from that congregation’s books is displayed below.

Gotthilf Hemmann baptism record – Grace, Uniontown, MO

Gotthilf was born early enough in the year to be included in the 1860 census. He was listed as 5/12 years old. As you can see, he would grow up in a rather large household.

1860 census – Cinque Hommes Township, MO

The next census taken in 1870 shows Gotthilf at the age of 10. By that time, J.G. Hemmann had died, so Rosina is the head of the household.

1870 census – Cinque Hommes Township, MO

The last census in which we find Gotthilf as a single man is the one taken in 1880. In this case, we find him in the long-lost pages of the Union Township census. Gotthilf was living in the Charles Frentzel household and was called a laborer.

1880 census – Union Township, MO

Now, we need to take a look at the woman who would become Gotthilf’s bride. Her name was Ellen Strehlein. I do not know when Ellen was born, but it must have been about 1865. We find her in the 1870 census for Cape Girardeau, Missouri at the age of 5. Ellen and another girl by the name of Amelia Tinapple were living in the household of William Woeleke.

1870 census – Cape Girardeau, MO

When the 1880 census was taken, we find Ellen still living with the Woeleke’s. This time there was an 8 year-old girl named Christina Langheim living in the household. Ellen and Christina were called adopted daughters.

1880 census – Cape Girardeau, MO

Here is another fact associated with this story. In 1876, Amelia Tinapple married Rev. W.G. Polack, Jr., who would become the pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Uniontown from 1880-1886. Rev. Polack’s father, Rev. W.G. Polack, Sr., was the pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Cape Girardeau at about this time. Here’s what I think happened. The pastor’s wife, Amelia Polack introduced her younger “orphan-sister” to a young bachelor in Uniontown, and those two would get married. The matchmaking was successful.

On November 18, 1883, Gotthilf Hemmann married Ellen Strehlein at Grace Lutheran Church in Uniontown. We can take a look at the church record for that wedding.

Hemmann/Strehlein marriage record – Grace, Uniontown, MO

This form says that Ellen was a W. Woeleke pflegedochter. That word has been translated as stepdaughter in our German Family Tree. Google Translate says this word means foster daughter. I lean toward saying that Ellen was an adopted orphan.

No children are listed in our German Family Tree for Gotthilf and Ellen. That doesn’t mean they didn’t have any. When we look at the next census containing this family, we find them living in St. Louis. Gotthilf is mistakenly called Gustav, and there were two children, one born in 1887 and another in 1896. Gotthild was a day laborer.

1900 census – St. Louis, MO

I questioned whether this was the right family, but then I found this World War I draft registration for a William Ulysses Hemmann. He was living in San Diego, California, but it says he was born in St. Louis on April 28, 1896.

William Hemmann – WWI draft registration

Since Gotthilf is called a widower in the next census, one must assume that Ellen had died sometime after 1900 and before 1910. I could not find evidence of her death, which likely occurred in St. Louis. It is the next census in which we find Gotthilf that I find especially interesting. At the age of 50, Gotthilf is called a carpenter at a “home farm”. If you look at the following entries, you find a cook, a few nurses, a teacher, and a shoemaker. Then, following those entries, you find numerous names of children that are called orphans. That list goes on for several census pages.

1910 census – St. Louis, MO

That “home farm” was the Lutheran Orphans Home that was located in the suburb of St. Louis called Des Peres. Here is a drawing of that institution that is now in the collections of the Concordia Historical Institute in St. Louis.

Lutheran Orphans Home – St. Louis, MO

I think you would find this video produced by a PBS station in St. Louis interesting. It gives a shout-out to Rev. J.F. Buenger, one of the builders of the Log Cabin College in 1839, and also the man credited for establishing this orphanage. It also gives a very nice history of this institution. It’s only 9 minutes long, and I think it is well worth watching.

I must admit that the thought crossed my mind that the children living in the Woeleke family may have previously been housed at the Lutheran orphanage in St. Louis.

Gotthilf disappears at this point. I was unable to find him in a 1920 census, although, as said before, his son was living in San Diego in 1917. It is in San Diego that we find Gotthilf in the 1930 census. The census entry was for National City, which is located in San Diego. Gotthilf was a gardener for a private family at the age of 70.

1930 census – National City, CA

A few family trees on state that Gotthilf died in 1933 in Cheyenne, Colorado, but no documentation is given to confirm this. I also was unable to find Gotthilf on Findagrave.

I find Gotthilf’s story quite fascinating. He grew up in a house full of other children. He would marry a woman who was likely an orphan, married by a pastor whose wife was likely an orphan. Then, after his wife died, he ends up working at an orphanage. That’s a storyline that you don’t see very often.

I’m thinking that I might have to write the story of Rev. Polack marrying Amelia Tinapple someday.

2 thoughts on “Gotthilf and the Orphans

  1. I didn’t have any more luck than you did in finding Gotthilf in the federal censuses but I found a matching Los Angeles County death certificate from 22 March 1932. It names his parents and says he was buried at Valhalla Cemetery. Since the mortuary company was in LA, I assume it was the the Valhalla in LA County and not the one in St. Louis.

    Gotthilf and Ellen appear to have separated and she remarried Louis Alexander Suncelia 17 September 1906 in St. Louis. Their blended family appeared together in the 1910 census. Their voter registrations suggest they spent some time in San Diego County but moved from San Diego County to Pasadena between 1919 and 1921, though I couldn’t find them in the 1920 census. I did find them in 1930 and 1940 Ellen died 19 February 1944 in LA County and her death certificate says she was born 22 December 1864
    Cape Girardeau County and was buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park.


  2. What an awesome story! As my family lived in Uniontown and St. Louis, and my grandfather was a gardener in St. Louis. I wonder if there are church records to know where he was a member. I imagine our families knew each other.


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