I have often been amazed while researching characters for this blog at the resiliency of the people from Perry County. I have seen so many who have been faced with the necessity to change occupations as their lives have faced challenges. Today’s tale is another one in which one of the main characters goes through several changes in his occupation during his lifetime.
Martin Friedrich Wirth was born on March 7, 1888, so today would be his 135th birthday. Martin was the son of George and Pauline (Schade) Wirth. The location of Martin’s baptism is unknown, but the most likely place was Peace Lutheran Church in Friedenberg. The Friedenberg Remembrances book has just this short piece of information about Martin, and it does not mention a baptism.
Martin is found in his only census entry as a single person in 1900. He was 12 years old, and his father was a house carpenter in the Union Township.
Now, we need to look at the girl who would become Martin’s bride. Her name was Emma Amalie Funke, who was born on May 25, 1883. That means she was about 5 years older than Martin. Emma was the daughter of Herman and Anna (Ochs) Funke. I am also uncertain about Emma’s place of baptism. The only mention of Emma in the Friedenberg Remembrances book is in the entry for Martin shown above.
Emma, like Martin, is found in only one census as a single person. The 1900 census shows her as a 17 year old girl, and her father was a carpenter.
I have to backtrack a few years to the year 1897. That was the year that Zion Lutheran Church in Longtown was established. Let’s take a look at a portion of the list of charter members of that congregation.
The surnames of Martin and Emma’s parents…Funke, Schade, Wirth, and Ochs…are all in this list of founding members of that congregation. So, it is not surprising that the names of Martin Wirth and Emma Funke are found in the membership list for that congregation when it was established in 1897. And it is not surprising that the place of Martin and Emma’s wedding was also that church.
Martin Wirth married Emma Funke on September 19, 1909. The church record from Zion, Longtown’s books is shown below. There must not have been many marriages taking place at that congregation during those years because the previous marriage took place in 1904, and the next one after the Wirth/Franke marriage would not take place until 1913.
The marriage of Martin and Emma was one of those that resulted in no children. When the 1910 census was taken, we find this couple living in Longtown where Martin was a blacksmith.
Next, we find the Wirth’s in the 1920 census. This time, Martin was called a house carpenter.
I am going to speculate about what happened next. I think shortly after 1920, Martin got back into the blacksmith business by partnering with his brother, Hugo Wirth. Hugo had been a laborer in St. Louis when the 1920 census was taken. In 1924, an article was published in the Perry County Republican that said the Wirth Blacksmith Shop in Longtown burned to the ground.
Hugo Wirth had married Nora Fritsche of Altenburg in 1923, and he had moved to that town where he and some Fritsche’s established the Fritsche-Wirth Store. The post, Wirth-while Merchandise, told the story of Hugo and Nora and the store in Altenburg. The photo below showing the Fritsche-Wirth Store was published in that previous blog with Hugo standing on the far right.
I found another short mention in a later newspaper article that Martin was rebuilding his blacksmith shop in Longtown. When the 1930 census was taken, it demonstrates that Martin continued to have his own blacksmith shop in that village.
Emma Wirth died in 1934 at the age of 50. Her death certificate indicates her cause of death was some sort of cardiac event.
Emma is buried in the Zion Lutheran Cemetery in Longtown.
By the time of the 1940 census, we discover that Martin had married again. About all I know about that second marriage is that his second wife’s first name was Dessie. The census entry below says that she was living in St. Louis in 1935. In this entry, Martin was still operating his blacksmith shop in Longtown.
Another article I found in the Perry County Republican for the year, 1945, indicates that Martin may have left the blacksmith (and filling station) business and was then returning to it.
The last census we can view is the one taken in 1950. A few more changes had taken place in Martin’s life. At that time, he was called a farmer, and he was living in the Cinque Homme Township.
Martin Wirth died in 1963 at the age of 74.
I have a suspicion that Martin’s 2nd wife, Dessie, may have been connected with the York Chapel Methodist Church located just outside Longtown because that is where Martin is buried.
I thought that Dessie Wirth may have also been buried in that cemetery also, but Findagrave.com does not list her. Before I close, let me show another item that appeared in the Perry County Republican in 1935. Advertisements like this can be found in that newspaper over the years. He likely was involved in yet another business involving selling this product for preserving the health of poultry. He likely was in cahoots with his brother, Hugo, at the Fritsche-Wirth Store in Altenburg.
There were no descendants to come from this pairing of Martin Wirth and Emma Funke, but there are still plenty of folks who carry those surnames who might be interested in knowing the story of these two who are tied to their family trees.