Joseph Kaempfe’s Tumultuous Young Life

You will be reading another post today that begins with a child who would be celebrating his 125th birthday if he was still alive. Joseph Traugott Martin Kaempfe was born on April 21, 1898, the son of Otto and Magdalena (Mueller) Kaempfe. There were 6 children born to Otto and Magdalena, and Joseph was the firstborn. A post published in 2017 titled, All I Got for Christmas Was 5 Stepsons, in which the wedding photo of Joseph’s parents was displayed. Magdalena was one of those brides that wore a dark wedding dress with a white veil.

Kaempfe/Mueller wedding

Joseph Kaempfe was baptized at Concordia Lutheran Church in Frohna. An image of his baptism record from that congregation’s books is shown here.

Joseph Kaempfe baptism record – Concordia, Frohna, MO

It is not often that I get to show a baby photo for a character on this blog, but in the case of Joseph, I found one.

Joseph Kaempfe – baby

Joseph is found in his first census in 1900 at the age of 2. His father was a farmer in the Brazeau Township.

1900 census – Brazeau Township, MO

Next, we find Joseph in the 1910 census at the age of 11. This time, his father is called a mechanic at a sawmill.

1910 census – Brazeau Township, MO

Before I move on, let me show you a 1915 map that shows where this Kaempfe family lived. We find them on a map that shows the town of Frohna. The Kaempfe’s lived very near where the Saxon Lutheran Memorial is now located. It was also near the Frohna Creamery run by a Mueller family, and the Frohna Flour Mill run by two Weinhold brothers. The Kaempfe’s also lived within walking distance to Concordia Lutheran Church.

Kaempfe land map – 1915

Many events took place during the next decade. 1911 turned out to be a significant year in Jospeh’s life. First of all, in April of that year, he was confirmed at Concordia Lutheran Church. A list of him and his confirmation class from Concordia’s books is shown here.

Joseph Kaempfe confirmation record – Concordia, Frohna, MO

That was a celebratory event, but it was followed by a terrible tragedy later that year. In August, Joseph’s mother committed suicide by hanging herself. In 1912, the widower, Otto Kaempfe, married his neighbor, Martha Gemeinhardt. That couple had no additional children, and then, in 1916, Otto died of pneumonia at the young age of 45. That left Martha as a widow with 5 stepsons, one of them being Joseph.

Joseph had a World War I draft registration completed in 1918. This form says that Joseph was working on the Claus Stueve farm in Seventy-Six, Missouri. Claus’s wife was Joseph’s Aunt Louise, a sister of his father. Louise Stueve was also one of Joseph’s baptismal sponsors.

Joseph Kaempfe – WWI draft registration

Although Joseph would get married in 1919 prior to the 1920 census, we can see evidence of Martha Kaempfe and her remaining sons living in the Claus Stueve household in 1920.

1920 census – Brazeau Township, MO

Now, we will turn our attention to the woman who would become Joseph’s wife. Her name was Anna Maria Meyr, who was born on June 12, 1896. Anna was the daughter of Gustav and Christine (Hoehl) Meyr. A previous post was also written about Anna’s parents titled, Hoehl to the Other Gustav Meyr. Anna was the 3rd of 4 children born to this Meyr couple. Her baptism record can be found in the books of Immanuel Lutheran Church in New Wells. We can take a look at an image of her baptism record below.

Anna Meyr baptism record – Immanuel, New Wells, MO

Anna is found in her first census in 1900 at the age of 4. Her father was a farmer in the Shawnee Township.

1900 census – Shawnee Township, MO

When Anna was confirmed in 1909, her confirmation record is found in the books of Zion Lutheran Church in Pocahontas, a relatively new congregation. Her confirmation record from that congregation’s books is pictured here.

Anna Meyr confirmation record – Zion, Pocahontas, MO

Then, in 1910, we find Anna in the last census in which we find her as a single woman. She was 13 years old at the time.

1910 census – Shawnee Township, MO

Joseph Kaempfe married Anna Meyr on Joseph’s 21st birthday, April 21, 1919. That means that today would also be Joseph and Anna’s 104th wedding anniversary. That wedding took place at Concordia Lutheran Church in Frohna. The church record for that event is pictured here. This document states that Anna was from New Wells.

Kaempfe/Meyr marriage record – Concordia, Frohna, MO

A marriage license for this couple is also available to view. This form says Anna was from Shawneetown.

Kaempfe/Meyr marriage license

The German Family Tree lists just one child born to Joseph and Anna, a girl named Alice. The 1920 census shows the Kaempfe family living in Wittenberg where Joseph was employed by the swing factory. Anna’s older brother, John Meyr, was living in their household and also working at the swing factory.

1920 census – Wittenberg, MO

In 1925, more deaths took place. Joseph’s stepmother, Martha Kaempfe, was killed when the Tri-State Tornado ripped through Perry County. His Aunt Louise was seriously injured in that tornado also, and she died not long afterwards. This part of the Kaempfe tornado story was told in the post, Kaempfe Tragedy….and a Tornado Too.

When the 1930 census was taken, we see that Joseph and Anna had moved their family to Perryville. Joseph was a lineman for the telephone company.

1930 census – Perryville, MO

The 1940 census says Joseph was a laborer for the city street department in Perryville. A 66 year-old boarder named Theodore Blanken was also living in their household.

1940 census – Perryville, MO

Joseph had a World War II draft card completed in 1942. At that time, Joseph was employed at the International Shoe Company in Perryville.

Joseph Kaempfe – WWII draft card

We find Joseph and Anna in one more census entry in 1950. At the age of 51, Joseph was a janitor at the shoe factory.

1950 census – Perryville, MO

Joseph Kaempfe died in 1953 at the age of 54. We are able to view his death certificate.

Joseph Kaempfe death certificate

Anna Kaempfe lived another 30 years as a widow. The photo below was taken when she was a widow. I find it interesting that there are only 2 photos that I found for Joseph and Anna. One showed the groom as a baby, and the other showed the bride as a seasoned citizen.

Anna Kaempfe

Anna Kaempfe died in 1983 at the age of 87. Both Joseph and Anna are buried in the Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery in Perryville.

Before Joseph Kaempfe turned the age of 30, he had experienced the deaths of his mother, his father, his stepmother, and his aunt. The rest of his life seemed to be more calm and peaceful, but Joseph’s early life certainly had its tragic moments.

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