Edward Thilenius – Perryville Miller

Many folks around here, especially in Perryville, might think of a beer distributing company when they hear the name, Thilenius. Several years ago, our museum was gifted with a 1930’s vintage truck that was once used by the Thilenius Distributing Company in Perryville. We normally bring that truck out to become part of our Christmas display each year.

Thilenius Distributing Co. beer truck

However, before the Thilenius name became involved in beer distributing, that family had quite a reputation in the flour milling industry. That business had its beginnings in Cape Girardeau, where it earned several prizes for its quality flour. George C. Thilenius could be considered the pioneer of that family’s flour-making history, but his son, George C. Thilenius, Jr. became the most notable miller (and wine maker) in that family who remained in the Cape Girardeau area. A brother of George, Jr. also learned the milling trade, but he located in the city of Perryville. It is his story I will tell today.

The story begins with the birth of a baby girl in Cape Girardeau. Emelie Brandes was born on October 3, 1851, making today her 171st birthday. She was the daughter of Henry and Helene (Schleuter) Brandes. I have written quite a few stories about people with the surname, Brandes, and every one of them could trace their roots back to the Lutheran church in Uniontown. That is not the case with Emilie’s family. Her family settled in Cape Girardeau after arriving in America sometime around 1840. I am not aware of any connection to the Uniontown Brandes’s. Perhaps our friend who lives in Germany, Tim Yamnitz, can answer that question. You really ought to check Tim’s comments on our blog posts. He finds so much information that I either cannot find or do not take the time to find.

Emilie is found in the 1860 census at the age of 9. Her father was a saddler in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

1860 census = Cape Girardeau, MO

Next, we find Emilie as a teenager in the 1870 census.

1870 census – Cape Girardeau, MO

Emilie got married before the next census, so we will turn our attention to the man who would become her husband. His name was Edward Louis Thilenius, who was born on March 8, 1849. Edward’s parents were George. C. and Charlotte (Stuhldrehen) Thilenius. It is likely that Edward was conceived in Germany, but born in America. A short note is included on his Findagrave.com entry.

Edward Thilenius note on Findagrave.com

I was not able to find Edward in a census entry until the one taken in 1870 when he was already 20 years old. He was a miller in East St. Louis, Illinois.

1870 census – E. St. Louis, IL

On October 19, 1873, Edward Thilenius married Emilie Brandes in Cape Girardeau. I found evidence in the books of Trinity Lutheran Church in Cape Girardeau of the Brandes family being members there even before Emilie was married. I found no evidence of the Thilenius family in that congregation’s records until after this marriage. There is no record in that church’s books of this marriage either. The civil record for this wedding indicates it was conducted by a justice of the peace. That leads me to think that Edward was not a Lutheran prior to his wedding.

Thilenius/Brandes marriage record – Cape Girardeau County, MO

I found 2 baptism records for children born to this couple in the Trinity, Cape Girardeau books. The first one was born in 1874. Below is the baptism record for Elfrieda Thilenius.

Elfrieda Thilenius baptism record – Trinity, Cape Girardeau, MO

When a Missouri state census was taken in 1876, we find Edward, Emilie, and Elfrieda listed and living in Cape Girardeau.

1876 Missouri state census – Cape Girardeau, MO

Another child was baptized in Cape Girardeau in 1877, but I think those two children did not live long. The next child, born in 1879, was baptized at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Perryville. I have displayed all the Thilenius baptisms to take place at Immanuel below with the ones born to Edward and Emilie highlighted. There is one additional child named Theodore that was born in 1881, but there is no record of his baptism listed here.

Thilenius baptism records – Immanuel, Perryville, MO

In the 1880 census, we find the Thilenius family living in Perryville where Edward was a miller. Emilie’s brother, Herman Brandes, was also living in this household. He was a saddler.

1880 census – Perryville, MO

As it turns out, the above entry would be the last census in which we find Emilie. She died in 1899 at the age of 47. Her church death record says she died of dropsy. It also says she was survived by 5 children.

Edward and Emilie Thilenius death records – Immanuel, Perryville, MO

The 1900 census shows Edward as a widower with 5 children. There were some other extended family members in his household.

1900 census – Perryville, MO

Edward is found in the 1910 census at the age of 61 with just one remaining son. Edward was called the manager of a flour mill. He was also still called a widower.

1910 census – Perryville, MO

The 1920 census shows a change. Edward has a wife called Helena.

1920 census – Perryville, MO

I am not certain who Helene Thilenius was. I did find a record of an Edward Thilenius marrying a Helene Gerkens in New Jersey in 1911. I’ll let you decide if you think this is the Edward Thilenius from Perryville.

Thilenius/Gerkens – New Jersey marriage record

The last census in which we find Edward was the one taken in 1930. He was living by himself in Perryville and once again called a widower. I did not find any information about the death of Helene.

1930 census – Perryville, MO

Edward Thilenius died in 1938 at the age of 88, just a matter of days before his 89th birthday. This is another form on which we find the name, Helen Thilenius as his departed wife.

Edward Thilenius death certificate

Both Emilie and Edward Thilenius are buried in the Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery in Perryville. There is an unusual situation in that cemetery. Around here, most Lutheran cemeteries bury people according to the year that they died. Edward died almost 40 years after his wife, so if they buried him by the year of his death, his grave site would be nowhere near Emilie’s. Married couples sometimes make arrangements to be buried together, but they almost always share the same gravestone. In the case of the Thilenius’s, they are buried next to each other with separate stones.

Emilie and Edward Thilenius gravestones – Immanuel, Perryville, MO

This Thilenius tale has a few mysteries in it. Perhaps someone from this family knows some of the answers.

3 thoughts on “Edward Thilenius – Perryville Miller

  1. Ok, since you referenced me, I’ll chime in. Emelie’s father’s obituary mentions he is from Cramme (south of Brunswick), while the Uniontown Brandes families are from Bergkirchen near Lake Steinhude. Though the two villages are only about 60 miles apart, that’s still far enough to make a close relationship unlikely, especially given they’re on opposite sides of the the city of Hanover.

    Edward, or “Louis Heinrich Eduard Thilenius”, was baptized 20 May 1849 at Immanuel Lutheran in St. Louis (record #30), which actually indicates he was his parents’ 12th child. His sponsors were Heinrich Schäfer & Eduard Schäfer. The Thilenius family continued to live near Immanuel but it doesn’t appear that any of the children were confirmed there, nor were they confirmed at Sr. Peter’s German Protestant (now UCC).

    For the 1850 Census, Edward’s father was enumerated in St. Louis as a candlemaker. The 1860 census, doesn’t indicate his occupation, though it does call him 75 years old instead of 57. Those familiar with the German numeral system will understand how easily those might get juxtaposed (fifty-seven is “siebenundfünfzig” or literally, “seven and fifty”).

    The New Jersey marriage record you found for Edward Thilenius & Helene Gerkens née Krahl appears to belong to this Edward. I did a quick newspaper search for “Thilenius” in Perry County, MO between 1910 & 1912 and found a notice from page 3 of the Thu 18 Jul 1912 edition of 𝑇ℎ𝑒 𝑃𝑒𝑟𝑟𝑦 𝐶𝑜𝑢𝑛𝑡𝑦 𝑆𝑢𝑛 which states “Mrs. Edward Thilenius, of this city, is at present at Palmyra, [sic] Neb., visiting her sons for a couple of weeks after which she will return home. There is no doubt but that she is enjoying her visit on the Atlantic Coast.” I was momentarily puzzled by what Nebraska had to do with the Atlantic Coast, then realized New Jersey was intended instead.

    Helene Gerkens was enumerated in Palmyra, Burlington Co., NJ (Philadelphia suburbs) in the 1910 Census with two of her four sons. It says she was a lace designer. As you showed, she was living in Perryville in the 1920 census, but by the 1930 Census, she was back in Burlington Co., NJ engaged in “Fancy Work”. It still described her as married, though obviously, Edward was back in Missouri with the mill operation. His last will, dated February 1930, indicates they had separated. I wasn’t able to determine what became of her after that. I wonder if Edward really had been widowed again by the time he died in 1938 or if that was just a euphemism for separated or divorced. I also wonder how in the world those two met one another. She came to the US in 1883 and quickly married her first husband, glassblower Gustav Gerkens, in Chicago before moving to New Jersey. I wonder if Edward traveled to Philadelphia for a flour/baking convention or something.


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