An Undertaker’s Nightmare

The story of today’s birthday boy is really a short story. However, even though it is a short story, it presented me with some real challenges. It also ended up taking us to a variety of locations in a very short period of time. It also is a short story with plenty of tragedy.

Ernst Salomon Mueller was born on February 8, 1873, so today would have been his 149th birthday. I almost considered waiting until 2023 to tell the story of his 150th birthday. Ernst was the 9th of 10 children of Zacharias and Amalia (Palisch) Mueller. He was baptized at Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg. We can take a look at his baptism record from that congregation’s books.

Ernst Mueller baptism record – Trinity, Altenburg, MO

Ernst’s father died in 1879. He had been a merchant in Altenburg prior to his death. In the 1880 census, we find Ernst at the age of 7. It says his mother, Amalia, was in the business of merchandizing, so it looks like she attempted to run the store for a while after her husband’s death.

1880 census – Altenburg, MO

Before I move on, let me say that the above census entry produced a little challenge for me. says this entry was for the Union Township in Perry County. I was puzzled by that. I figured this family lived in Altenburg, but that town is in the Brazeau Township. I looked at the top of the census page and found that it was a page for the town of Altenburg. Sometimes it pays to double check the top of census pages to make sure where it was taken.

After this, there is no evidence that Ernst Mueller is found in Perry County. There is not even a confirmation record for him. Although there is some evidence that shows up later about what happened to him next, the next record I found for him was for his marriage to Ida Haenichen in 1896, and even then, I was not sure it was really the correct Ernst Mueller. Let’s take a look at that marriage record. It is just a transcription of some facts from an article that appeared in a St. Louis newspaper. Even this record just gives the year of marriage, not an actual date.

Mueller/Haenichen marriage record – St. Louis, MO

Here is where I ran into another research challenge. The family trees I found on that included Ida Haenichen say that she was the daughter of Benjamin Ferdinand and Marie (Schaap) Haenichen. If that is the case, she was likely the granddaughter of another Benjamin Ferdinand Haenichen whose story was told in the post, Undertaking a Furniture¬†Business. As that title suggests, that B.F. Haenichen was an undertaker, as was his son, B.F., Jr. However, I could find no St. Louis census entry for those Haenichen’s. It is said that Ida Haenichen was born in 1876. I did find a 4 year-old Ida Haenichen in the 1880 census, but her father was Henry Haenichen, whose occupation was listed as furniture wagon.

1880 census – St. Louis, MO

In an 1885 St. Louis city directory, we find both Benjamin and Henry Haenichen. Henry is listed as being in the lumber business. In the previous post about undertaking, it said that undertakers were often in both the carpentry business of making caskets and the livery business of providing hearses for funerals. I think it is possible that Henry and Benjamin were related to each other, and may have even worked together somewhere along the line.

Benjamin and Henry Haenichen – 1885 St. Louis city directory

In December of 1896, the Mueller’s had their only child, a son named Martin. Here is a birth record for that child.

Martin Mueller birth record – St. Louis, MO

Next comes the first tragedy in this story. Ida Mueller died in 1897 at the age of 20. We can take a look at a St. Louis death record for her.

Ida Mueller – St. Louis death record 1897

B.F. Haenichen didn’t die until 1901, so I guess it is possible that he or his son may have been involved in handling the undertaking business for Ida’s funeral. Ida Mueller is said to be buried in the Concordia Cemetery in St. Louis, but she has no gravestone photo on Ida’s death meant Ernst was left with a very young child to care for.

Ernst would get married again, and he found his second bride in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Her name was Louise Wellman, who was born on February 11, 1874. Louise was the daughter of Henry and Christine (Pfierman) Wellman. And, lo and behold, Louise was the daughter of an undertaker. I was unable to find the Wellman family in the 1880 census, and she was married before the 1900 census.

Ernst Mueller married Louise Wellman on October 26, 1897 in Allen County, Indiana, most likely in Ft. Wayne. Here is an Indiana marriage record for this couple.

Mueller/Wellman – Indiana marriage record

Ernst must have taken Louise back to St. Louis because that is where we find them in the 1900 census. Ernst was a bookkeeper. You can see that Louise was born in Indiana.

1900 census – St. Louis, MO

Ernst and Louise had a child, a girl named Edna, in October of that year. It was not long after that when more tragedy entered into this story. Around March of 1901, Ernst and his family went to Ft. Wayne. I do not know if their intent was to move there or if they just went for a visit to Louise’s parents. Ernst may have even gone there for medical care. A series of events took place. First of all, Ernst had a will made in Ft. Wayne that was signed on March 23, 1901.

Ernst Mueller will – Ft. Wayne, IN 1901

That will also mentioned his wife and two children, Martin and Edna.

Ernst Mueller will – Ft. Wayne, IN 1901

On April 22, 1901, their daughter, Edna died before she even reached her first birthday. An obituary appeared in a local newspaper.

Edna Mueller obituary – Ft. Wayne, IN

Less than a month later, on May 12, 1901, Ernst Mueller died at the age of 28. First, let’s take a look at a death certificate I found for him. It says he died of tuberculosis.

Ernst Mueller – Indiana death certificate

It is not very clear, but I think the undertaker’s signature is almost certainly that of Henry Wellman, his father-in-law. I suspect that the undertaker for Edna’s funeral was also Henry Wellman. That would mean that within a month, Henry would have to deal with handling the funerals of both his son-in-law and his granddaughter. How sad that must have been.

I can also display Ernst Mueller’s obituary, which explains some happenings in his life.

Ernst Mueller obituary – Ft. Wayne, IN

This document indicates that Ernst had attended Concordia colleges in both Ft. Wayne and St. Louis. That means he was likely studying at one time to become a Lutheran pastor. If he ever became a pastor, I found no evidence. It’s tragic that in March of 1901, Ernst said in his will that he had 2 children, but his obituary says he had just one. The obituary also says Ernst’s mother would attend his funeral.

Louise Wellman would later marry Jacob Flaugh in 1916. Louise was 42 at the time, and Jacob was 53, so she had no more children. Here is a marriage record for them.

Flaugh/Mueller – Indiana marriage record

Louise died in 1965 at the age of 91. She and Ernst Mueller were buried together in the Concordia Cemetery in Ft. Wayne, and Louise was buried as Louise Mueller. Ernst’s death year is mistakenly given as 1903 on their gravestone.

Ernst and Louise Mueller gravestone – Concordia, Ft. Wayne, IN

Ernst Mueller lost his father when he was a young boy. He would later lose a wife not longer after having his first child. His second wife, Louise, would lose two husbands and her only child at a very young age. And it’s quite possible that relatives may have been thrust into being the undertakers at most of those funerals. It’s such a tragic short story for Ernst Mueller.

I have to say one more thing. Several family trees I found on state that Ernst’s only wife was Louise Reineke who was born in Illinois. However, I found no evidence that Ernst married a Louise Reineke, plus there is so much evidence of his story being told the way you read it. I think those family histories are wrong. This story presented so many research challenges, displayed so many twists and turns, and provided for several opportunities for speculation. I enjoyed telling it despite its tragedy.

3 thoughts on “An Undertaker’s Nightmare

  1. I did notice that when I was researching. I just figured it was a mistake in transcription based on all the other evidence. I wish I could look at the original document.


  2. Have a question: was wondering about the Detail Source of Ernst Mueller on page 5, the record calls him Ernst D. Mueller – is this the same Ernst S. Mueller?


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