Unmarked Graves

I happen to know that my church, Trinity Lutheran in Altenburg, is presently examining ways to correct some problems we have in our cemetery. There are broken or fallen gravestones, grave markers that are leaning, plus there are quite a few empty spots for graves that were never marked with a gravestone. Today’s story will not only lead to one of those unmarked graves, but two of them.

We will begin by looking at the life of Ernst Rudolph Bodenschatz, who was born on February 16, 1870, making today his 152nd birthday. Ernst was the son of Heinrich and Wilhelmine (Krause) Bodenschatz. Ernst was baptized at Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg. We can take a look at his baptism record.

Ernst Bodenschatz baptism record – Trinity, Altenburg, MO

The 1870 census was taken later during the year, so Ernst shows up in this entry as a baby. There were also some Krause’s in this household. The head of the household was Gottlieb Krause, who was Ernst’s grandfather.

1870 census – Brazeau Township, MO

Since I could not find an 1880 census for Ernst, I decided to show his entry in the 1876 Missouri state census. He was still living in the Brazeau Township at the age of 6.

1876 Missouri state census – Brazeau Township, MO

Now, we will take a look at the woman who would become Ernst’s bride. Her name was Maria Pauline Fiedler, who was born on November 3, 1871. Maria was the daughter of Valentin and Marie (Kasten) Fiedler. She was baptized at Immanuel Lutheran Church in New Wells. Her baptism record is shown here.

Maria Fiedler baptism record – Immanuel, New Wells, MO

Maria is found in her first census in 1880 living in the Shawnee Township. She was 8 years old, and her father was a farmer. Maria’s mother had been previously married to a Koenig, so we see two children from that marriage in this household.

1880 census – Shawnee Township, MO

Ernst Bodenschatz married Maria Fiedler on April 6, 1899 at Immanuel Lutheran Church in New Wells. At some time, Ernst must have moved to New Wells before this wedding because the church marriage record says not only Maria, but also Ernst, were from New Wells.

Bodenschatz/Fiedler marriage record – Immanuel, New Wells, MO

We can also view the marriage license for this pair.

Bodenschatz/Fiedler marriage license

Ernst and Maria are found living in the Shawnee Township of northern Cape Girardeau County in the 1900 census.

1900 census – Shawnee Township, MO

Our German Family Tree lists 4 children born to this couple. The first child was baptized at Immanuel, New Wells, but the 2nd child born in 1903 and the following children were baptized at Trinity, Altenburg. When the 1910 census was taken, we find the Bodenschatz’s living in Altenburg. Ernst was a driver for a flouring mill.

1910 census – Brazeau Township, MO

The flour mill run by the Christian Mueller family was the only such mill located in Altenburg at that time, so that is likely where Ernst worked. In 1910, it was also likely that Ernst was still using a horse-drawn wagon to haul flour.

Altenburg Roller Mills

Ernst was battling jaw cancer in 1919, and he was taken to a hospital in St. Louis. After surgery, he died there, as stated on his death certificate. He was only 49 years old when he died. Ernst is called a teamster on this document. This form says he was to be buried in Wittenberg, but I think that means he was transported, probably by train, to Wittenberg. His death record is found in the books of Trinity, Altenburg.

Ernst Bodenschatz death certificate

An article published in the Perry County Republican in the section called “Altenburg News”, it is implied that the funeral for Ernst took place in Altenburg.

Ernst Bodenschatz – PCR article 1919

I will point out at this time that 1919 was also the year that the flour mill in Altenburg burned down.

Maria is found in the 1920 census as a widow. Three children remained in her family. Her oldest son was a packer in the flour mill.

1920 census – Brazeau Township, MO

The last census in which we find Maria was the one taken in 1930.

1930 census – Brazeau Township, MO

Maria Bodenschatz died in 1933 at the age of 61. Her death certificate gives tuberculosis as the cause of death. This form also indicates that she was buried in the Altenburg cemetery.

Maria Bodenschatz death certificate

All indications are that both Ernst and Maria are buried in the Trinity Lutheran Cemetery in Altenburg, but Findagrave.com has no entry for either of them. I took a trip to that cemetery this morning looking for their grave sites. I think I found each of them, and in each case, there is an empty spot with no marker. These empty spaces are pictured below.

Perhaps someday, these spaces will be marked in some way so that they can be identified.


Ernst Bodenschatz, while working as a teamster for the flour mill in Altenburg almost certainly made regular trips to Wittenberg to deliver flour to be transported on either a steamboat or train. Between Altenburg and Wittenberg is a hill that is now called Bodenschatz Hill. It is actually named after a different set of Bodenschatz’s. Just this week, some road construction has begun at the bottom of Bodenschatz Hill. That is also the location of the Bodenschatz Branch, a creek bed from which stones were quarried that were used to construct the 1867 Trinity church sanctuary. The purpose for this work is to improve the road as it goes through that lowland that often floods. I plan to document this construction as it proceeds. I am putting a gallery of photos here to show the early stages of that work. The images can be clicked to enlarge.

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