Fred Ahrens, His Tillie, and His Telegraph

Like the story that was published on this blog yesterday, this one contains a disputable date of birth. I will eventually get to that debatable date later, but I will begin with a man by the name, Friedrich Christian Ahrens. Fred was born on October 13, 1883, the son of Friedrich and Clara (Burfeind) Ahrens. Fred was baptized at Concordia Lutheran Church in Frohna. An image of his baptism record is displayed below.

Fred Ahrens baptism record – Concordia, Frohna, MO

Fred’s father died in 1897. His mother was living in Frohna and working as a dressmaker when the 1900 census was taken. However, we do not find Fred living in her household. We find him as a 16 year-old farm laborer living in the Crawford Milster household.

1900 census – Brazeau Township, MO

I have a suspicion that Fred moved to St. Louis to find work not long after this census was taken because that is where he got married in 1905. His bride was another person who had her roots in East Perry County. Her name was Martha Mathilde Oehlert, and it is she that has the disputable date of birth. Her baptism record says that she was born on December 1, 1882, but her confirmation record says she was born on November 30, 1882. Mathilde was a twin, the daughter of Henry and Lisette (Burroughs) Oehlert. She had a twin brother, Henry Oehlert. His baptism and confirmation documents say the same thing as those for Mathilde. The baptism records for the twins from the books of Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg are shown below.

Mathilde and Henry Oehlert baptism records – Trinity, Altenburg, MO

For some unknown reason, the twins, Mathilde and Henry, were not confirmed in the same year. Mathilde was confirmed in 1896, and Henry was confirmed a year later in 1897.

Mathilde Oehlert confirmation record – Trinity, Altenburg, MO
Henry Oehlert confirmation record – Trinity, Altenburg, MO

Like her future husband, Mathilda (often called Tillie) never showed up in a census that we can view in which she was living with her parents. Another similarity is that her father died when Tillie was fairly young in 1896. The 1900 census finds her living in St. Louis with the Morris Davis family and working as a servant. She was still a teenager.

1900 census – St. Louis, MO

Although I have no documentation to display, it is reported that Fred Ahrens married Tillie Oehlert on March 5, 1905 in St. Louis. A family tree on Ancestry.com says this marriage took place at Emmaus Lutheran Church. Our German Family Tree lists 4 children born to this couple, but none of them were baptized in Perry County. The only record found in a local church for any of the children was one of their daughter’s marriage in Perryville. All of their children are buried in Illinois. The 1910 census shows the Ahrens family living in St. Louis with 2 children. Fred was a teamster.

1910 census – St. Louis, MO

I think it was soon after the above census that Fred and Tillie moved their family to Illinois. Their 3rd child, born in 1912, was born in that state. When Fred had his World War I draft registration completed in 1918, his address is given as Ft. Gage, Illinois. Fred was a telegraph operator for the Missouri Pacific Railway.

Fred Ahrens – WWI draft registration

The above form also says Fred’s place of work was Roots Tower. The map shown below demonstrates the location of Fort Gage and Roots, both of which are near Ellis Grove, Illinois and not far from Chester. A railroad track runs down the Mississippi River valley on the Illinois side (and also the Missouri side).

Fort Gage and Roots, Illinois map

The 1920 census finds the Ahrens family living in Ellis Grove with 4 children. Two children are recorded as being born in Missouri, and two in Illinois. Fred’s occupation is given as “Telegraph – Tower”.

1920 census – Ellis Grove, IL

Another move was made by this family in the 1920’s, although it did not involve a great distance. In the 1930 census, the Ahrens household is found living in Valmeyer, Illinois. Fred was an agent telegrapher for the railroad.

1930 census – Valmeyer, IL

Valmeyer is another town located on the railroad in the Mississippi River valley, only nearer to St. Louis. The map shown here shows its location.

Valmeyer, Illinois map

Tillie Ahrens died in 1935 at the age of 52. Since she died while being treated at the Lutheran Hospital in St. Louis, we can view her Missouri death certificate.

Tillie Ahrens death certificate

Tillie Ahrens is buried in the St. John’s Cemetery in Valmeyer.

Tillie Ahrens gravestone – St. John’s, Valmeyer, IL

Fred married again, although I found no record of it. He must have been married before the 1940 census was taken. His second wife was Corine Wiedner, who was born on October 25, 1908, so she was considerably younger than Fred. She was the daughter of Herman and Anna (Weber) Wiedner. We find Corine in the 1910 census at the age of 1 living in the Mitchie Township of Monroe County, Illinois. Her father was a laborer at odd jobs.

1910 census – Mitchie Township, IL

Next, we find Corine in the 1920 census, still living in the same location. This time, her father was called a carpenter.

1920 census – Mitchie Township, IL

The 1930 census finds the Wiedner family living in Valmeyer, the same place that Fred Ahrens was living.

1930 census – Valmeyer, IL

After getting married to Fred Ahrens sometime in the 1930’s, we find Fred and Corine in the 1940 census still living in Valmeyer. Fred was called an agent telegrapher at a railroad station.

1940 census – Valmeyer, IL

Fred was required to complete a World War II draft card in 1942. It once again mentions him being employed by the railroad.

Fred Ahrens – WWII draft card

One of Fred’s sons, Eugene Ahrens, died in 1949, not long after he served in the military during World War II. The paragraph shown here indicates that Eugene followed in his father’s footsteps in being involved with a railroad, even during a war.

Eugene Ahrens military info

The last census we can view for Fred and Corine was the one taken in 1950. At the age of 66, Fred was no longer employed.

1950 census – Valmeyer, IL

Fred Ahrens died in 1958 at the age of 74; Corine Ahrens died in 1986 at the age of 78. These two are buried together in the Saints Peter and Paul Cemetery in Waterloo, Illinois.

Fred and Corine Ahrens gravestone – Saints Peter and Paul Catholic, Waterloo, IL

Before I bring this post to a close, I think I may need to write another post in the future. After all, Tillie’s twin brother married Fred’s sister.


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