Johann Heinrich Ehlers was born on October 10, 1873, so today would have been his 149th birthday. Every census record in which we find John says that he was born in Illinois. However, his baptism record is found in the books of Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg, Missouri. That record is pictured below.
There is an explanation for this. John’s parents, Henry and Margaretha (Heitmann) Ehlers, apparently settled in the Fountain Bluff Township in Illinois after arriving in America in the 1860’s. It was the time before Christ Lutheran Church in Jacob, Illinois had been established. Quite a few German Lutherans were settling there, and when babies were born, we find evidence that they brought the babies to Perry County to have them baptized in a German Lutheran church. That is almost certainly what happened in the case of John Ehlers. A previous post was written about John’s parents, Ehlers – Christ’s Charter Members, and it listed this family as one of the ones that established Christ, Jacob in 1878. That post gave more details about that congregation’s beginnings.
John would have been 7 years old in 1880 when that year’s census was taken, and I am relatively sure that his family lived in the Fountain Bluff Township, but I could not find an entry for them. Since John would get married before the next census we can view was taken in 1900, we will turn our attention to the woman who would become his bride.
Sophie Emilie Boehme was born on March 8, 1878, the daughter of Frederick and Caroline (Eichhorn) Boehme. A few of Sophie’s older sisters were baptized at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Altenburg, and some other siblings were baptized at Salem Lutheran Church in Farrar, but for some reason, there is no baptism record for Sophie in any church books from around here. If I was to guess, I would say that she was probably baptized at Salem in Farrar because we find her family living in the Salem Township when the 1880 census was taken. Sophie was 2 years old at the time, and her father was a farmer.
Because we cannot view the 1890 census, the above entry is the only one including Sophie when she was a single woman. John Ehlers married Sophie Boehme on May 4th or 6th, 1897 at Salem Lutheran Church in Farrar. The church record for that event is displayed below.
We can also view this couple’s marriage license. There is a discrepancy here. The above church record states that the wedding took place on May 6th. The license says it took place on May 4th.
Both of the above documents say John was from Illinois, and after this marriage, that’s where we find them living. The German Family Tree lists 8 children born to this couple. All of them were baptized at Christ Lutheran Church in Jacob, Illinois. When the 1900 census was taken, we find the Ehlers family living in the Fountain Bluff Township with just their first child. They were listed right next to the entry for John’s parents. One of Sophie’s sisters, Ottilie, was living in their household.
A note in the Christ, Jacob records says that the family moved to Nebraska in 1905. If you look at the 1920 census shown later in this post, it says their son, Henry, was born in Nebraska. The 1910 census lists 5 children of John and Sophie. John’s mother, who was a widow by that time, was living with them. The entry mistakenly calls Margaretha a stepmother. John was called a farmer.
John Ehlers had a World War I draft registration completed in 1918. This is the first time John was called a broom maker. His address was given as Gorham, Illinois, which is another small village in the Fountain Bluff Township not far from Jacob.
In 1920, we find the Ehlers family still living in the Fountain Bluff Township, and John is called a farmer. Since a broom maker probably had to grow his own broom corn, it is likely that John was both a farmer and a broom maker. The last of the Ehlers children had been born in 1918.
Next, we find the Ehlers household in the 1930 census. This is a second document that calls John a broom maker.
The 1940 census is the last one in which we find John and Sophie living in Illinois. At the age of 66, John was called a retired farmer.
In 1947, John and Sophie celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and an article was published in a newspaper describing their celebration. I am almost certain it was a Perryville newspaper. That article is shown here.
In the 1950 census, we find John and Sophie living in Perryville, Missouri. These two had an empty nest, and John had no occupation listed.
Both John and Sophie died during the next decade. Sophie died in 1954 at the age of 76. Her death certificate says she died at the Missouri State Hospital in Farmington after being there for 3 years.
John Ehlers died one year later in 1955. His death certificate says he was born in Jackson County, Illinois…one more clue that he was brought over to Missouri to be baptized.
John and Sophie Ehlers are buried together in the Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery in Perryville.
This Ehlers/Boehme story is one of those that takes place on both sides of the Mississippi River. Early on, the characters have documents showing activity in Missouri. Then, with a brief stint in Nebraska, most of their lives was spent living in Illinois, only to return to the west side of the Mississippi River to end their time on earth. Now, their gravestone says they are “asleep in Jesus”, waiting to be awakened.