Leo’s Losses – Hilda’s Heartbreak

This is going to be a very difficult story to write, but it’s part of this area’s history, so I feel compelled to do so. It begins with a birthday boy. His name was Leo Julius Oswald, who was born on March 20, 1898. That makes today his 124th birthday. Leo was the son of Bernard and Rosa (Hemmann) Oswald. That makes Leo one of the numerous great grandchildren of the patriarch of the Hemmann family, J.G. Hemmann. Leo was baptized at Salem Lutheran Church in Farrar. We can take a look at his baptism record from that congregation’s books.

Leo Oswald baptism record – Salem, Farrar, MO

Leo is found in the 1900 census at the age of 2. His family was living in the Salem Township, so we have to look at an entry that is difficult to read.

1900 census – Salem Township, MO

At this point in time, Leo had a younger sister named Hilda. In a previous post about Leo’s parents, Fashion Statement: 1897, it told of Hilda’s early death in 1903. So, when Leo was about 5 years old, he had to attend the funeral of his little sister. I mention this because it sets the scene for future events that will happen in Leo’s life. Next, we find Leo in the 1910 census. Leo was 12 years old, and by then he had 3 younger brothers. His father was a farmer.

1910 census – Salem Township, MO

The 1915 plat maps shows the Oswald farm located near Crosstown. It is indicated by the red arrows.

Oswald land map – 1915

Leo had a World War I draft registration completed in 1918. It gives his address as Menfro and calls him a farmer.

Leo Oswald – WWI draft registration

Leo is found in one more census before he was married. The 1920 entry for the Oswald’s is shown below. Leo was working on his father’s farm.

1920 census – Salem Township, MO

Now, we need to take a look at the woman who would become Leo’s bride. Her name was Hilda Anna Elisabeth Moeckel, who was born on February 27, 1905. Hilda was the daughter of William and Anna (Burfeind) Moeckel. Her parents were highlighted in the post, Born in Terre Haute, Indiana??? Hilda was baptized at Zion Lutheran Church in Crosstown. Here is a transcription of her baptism record.

Hilda Moeckel baptism record – Zion, Crosstown, MO

Hilda is found in the 1910 census at the age of 6. Her father managed a general store in Crosstown.

1910 census – Salem Township, MO

The 1920 census shows this Moeckel household. Hilda, at age 14, was now part of a much larger Moeckel family.

1920 census – Salem Township, MO

On September 9, 1928, Leo Oswald married Hilda Moeckel at Zion Lutheran Church in Crosstown. A transcription of their church marriage record is shown here. It gives very little information.

Oswald/Moeckel marriage record – Zion, Crosstown, MO

We can also take a look at this couple’s marriage license.

Oswald/Moeckel marriage license

An article was published in the Perry County Republican describing this wedding. You may have to click on the images to enlarge them.

I think this couple may have had as many as 8 children, but I have to base that upon family histories on Ancestry.com. The first child, Rueben, was born before the 1930 census.

1930 census – Salem Township, MO

It is at this point that some tragic events begin to occur in the Oswald family, all involving children. First, after another son, Alfred Leo Oswald, was born in 1931, that baby died before he was even 1 month old. A story was printed in the Perry County Republican about that death.

Alfred Oswald article – PCR 1931

On January 31, 1934, in the middle of winter, a terrible tragedy struck the Oswald’s. Not only did their house burn to the ground, but their two young children died in the fire, Rueben and his sister, Olga, who had been born in 1932. That story also made the Perryville paper.

Oswald house fire article – PCR 1934

The death records of the first 3 children born to Leo and Hilda are found in the books of Zion, Crosstown.

Oswald deaths – Zion, Crosstown, MO

These 3 children were buried in the Zion Lutheran Cemetery in Crosstown. Rueben and Olga, the two who died in the fire, were buried together.

This series of deaths left this Oswald couple childless, but in 1935, they once again began having more children. We can view one more census entry for the Oswald family. That 1940 census record is displayed below. Two children were included in their household.

1940 census – Salem Township, MO

In 1942, Leo had a World War II draft card completed.

Leo Oswald – WWII draft card

In 1946, the Oswald’s had another scare with a few of their children. Wilma, a 5 year-old, and an unnamed infant, were injured in an incident involving a team of runaway horses, as described in another newspaper article. I can just imagine Leo and Hilda being fearful of losing another child or two as this event transpired.

Leo Oswald article – PCR article

At some time, the Oswald’s must have moved to Perryville. Leo died in 1960 at the age of 61. His death certificate says he died of prostate cancer. It also states that he had been employed by the International Shoe Company in Perryville.

Leo Oswald death certificate

Hilda Oswald died in 1985 at the age of 80. Leo and Hilda are buried together in the Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery in Perryville.

Leo and Hilda Oswald gravestone – Immanuel, Perryville, MO

Not many married couples have gone through tragic deaths of children combined with a fire that burned down their house. Leo and Hilda must have taken comfort from the fact that their baptized young children had been also adopted as children of God, and thus would be spending an eternity in heaven. All indications are that Leo and Hilda remained faithful until death, thus joining their children in paradise.


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