At Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg, we have many members who call a woman, Granny. Kathy Schlimpert and her husband, Oliver, had 4 children, and all of them were girls. Those 4 are all married with children (and even some grandchildren), and they are all still members of Trinity. Therefore, we have plenty of Ponder’s, Ruehling’s, Hadler’s, and Bronenkant’s around here who affectionately call Kathy Granny. Today just so happens to be the birthday of one of Kathy’s grandmothers, so I will attempt to tell you the story of Granny’s Granny in this post.
Emma B. Wirth was born on December 18, 1883, so today would have been her 139th birthday. Emma was the 2nd of 2 daughters born to Heinrich and Felicitas (Thieret) Wirth. She was baptized at Peace Lutheran Church in Friedenberg, so we cannot view an image of her actual baptism record.
This is where some real tragedy enters this story. Emma never knew her father. Heinrich Wirth died on December 21st, just 3 days after Emma was born. Christmas of 1883 must have been a very sad one for the Wirth family, especially for Emma’s mother, Felicitas. That, in itself, is ironic, because the word, felicitas, means “happiness”. And if that wasn’t enough, Emma also didn’t know her sister, Ella Wirth, because she died in April of 1884 at the age of 2.
Felicitas Wirth married again. In 1886, she married Johann Hacker, a widower who had several children from his first marriage to Margaret Hornberger. Johann and Felicitas had two children of their own, along with adopting another child named Dora, who carried the Wirth name. So, when we find Emma Wirth in her first census in 1900, we find the Hacker household shown in the entry below. It includes a collection of both Hacker and Wirth children. This entry comes from the Salem Township 1900 census pages that are so difficult to read. Emma was 16 years old at the time.
We will now take a look at the man who would become Emma’s first husband. His name was Ernst Christian Rauh, who was born on February 16, 1884. Ernst was the 3rd of 4 children born to Adam and Margaret (Lang) Rauh. He was also baptized at Peace, Friedenberg. Ernst is found at the age of 16 in the 1900 census. He was working on his father’s farm in the Central Township.
On September 5, 1905, Ernst Rauh married Emma Wirth at Peace, Friedenberg. We can view the marriage license for this couple.
Ernst and Emma had two boys, Martin and Lucius Rauh. However, we never see Ernst and Emma together in a census entry. That is because Ernst died in 1909 at the age of 25. The Friedenberg Remembrances book says he was killed by a falling tree. Ernst is buried in the Peace Lutheran Cemetery in Friedenberg.
When the 1910 census was taken, the widow, Emma, and her two boys were living in her mother’s Hacker household.
Emma would get married again, so let’s now take a look at her second husband. His name was Erwin Benjamin Zoellner, who was born on September 23, 1894. Erwin was the son of William and Josephine (Buerck) Zoellner. We find Erwin in his first census living in the village of Longtown at the age of 6. His father was a blacksmith.
In 1910, Erwin and his family were living in the Central Township, and his father was called a farmer. Erwin was the oldest of a lot of Zoellner children.
Erwin Zoellner married Emma Rauh on February 13, 1916 at Zion Lutheran Church in Longtown. We can take a look at the church record for this wedding.
The marriage license for this couple is displayed below.
Erwin and Emma had one child, a boy named Albert “Obbie” Zoellner. Erwin had his World War I draft registration completed in 1917. At that time, he was living in Altenburg and had his own blacksmith shop. It says he had a wife and 3 children.
Erwin did serve his country in that war and was sent overseas, so there was a time when Emma was left home alone with 3 of her children. The document below shows the military record for Erwin.
We see this Zoellner household in the 1920 census. It included 2 Rauh sons, 1 Zoellner son, and a 14 year-old boarder named Elda Buenger. Elda’s mother was operating a hotel in Wittenberg near the swing factory, so perhaps she decided a better place for her youngest daughter was to live elsewhere. Erwin was once again called a blacksmith.
Next, we find the Zoellner’s in the 1930 census. The household then only included Erwin, Emma, and Obbie.
The 1940 census once again shows the same members of the household. Erwin was still a blacksmith, and Obbie was working as a clerk in a general store.
In 1941, Erwin and Emma celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. An article was published in the Perry County Republican describing this event and who attended. You may have to click on the thumbnails to enlarge them.
In this photograph below taken inside the Fischer Store, we see George Fischer and Martin Rauh behind the counter, and Erwin Zoellner is on the other side of the counter, second person from the right.
Erwin had a World War II draft card completed in 1942, despite the fact that he was 47 years old and having already served in World War I.
We find the Zoellner’s in one more census in 1950, this time with an empty nest.
At some point in time, the photo below was taken of Erwin and Emma. Granny Kathy provided this photo for this post.
Erwin Zoellner died in 1951 at the age of 57. His death certificate says he died of a form of cancer.
Emma Zoellner died in 1963 at the age of 79. Her death certificate gives cancer of the stomach as the cause of her death.
Erwin and Emma Zoellner are each buried in the Trinity Lutheran Cemetery in Altenburg.
Granny’s Granny certainly had a life full of both hardships and joys. Through it all, the evidence points to the lives of folks who remained faithful until death. Our church here in Altenburg is counting on plenty of descendants from this family to carry that torch of faith to the next generations.