Bertha’s Stuttgart Rice Farmer

Today’s birthday girl spent only 3 years in Perry County, so she probably had no memories from her time in Altenburg. Most of her life was spent in another location known for its German Lutheran heritage. Get ready to take a trip to the vicinity of Stuttgart, Arkansas, a place that has also become famous for rice production.

Bertha Anna Amalie Voerster was born on April 23, 1893, so today would be her 130th birthday. Bertha was the daughter of George and Margaretha (Heidt) Voerster. She and 3 older siblings, beginning in 1885, were baptized at Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg. An image of her baptism record from that congregation’s books is displayed below. Pastor Roesener was the pastor of Trinity at that time, but it was Pastor Zschoche from Concordia, Frohna who conducted this baptism. I know that Rev. Roesener had some health issues, so perhaps that is the reason the Frohna pastor performed this baptism.

Bertha Voerster baptism record – Trinity, Altenburg, MO

Bertha’s later obituary states that she and her family moved to Arkansas in 1896. This Voerster family settled not far from Ulm, Arkansas, which is near Stuttgart. The map below is one that was published in a previous blog about another character in this Voerster family, Off to Ulm.

Stuttgart and Ulm, Arkansas map

As you can conclude for yourself, Bertha never appears in a Perry County census. Her first census was the one taken in 1900 in which she was 7 years old. Her family was living in the McFall Township of Arkansas County where Bertha’s father was a farmer. Two younger sons in this family were born in Arkansas.

1900 census – McFall Township, AR

In the 1910 census, Bertha was a teenager. I find it interesting that the census taker lists “housekeeper” as the occupation for Bertha, but gives no occupation for her mother. Did the census taker put “housekeeper” in the wrong place?

1910 census – McFall Township, AR

A photograph was taken of Bertha when she was quite young. She is pictured with two younger brothers, Emanuel and Arthur. Because of her white dress, I think it’s likely this photo was taken on the occasion of her confirmation. Bertha was probably confirmed at Zion Lutheran Church in Ulm around 1906.

Bertha, Emanuel, and Arthur Voerster

Below is a photo of Zion Lutheran Church in Ulm. The building on the left was a relatively new church sanctuary in 1906.

Now, we will turn our attention to the man who would become Bertha’s husband. He may qualify for the person who had the most middle names that has shown up on the blog. His name was Johann Heinrich Friedrich Wilhelm August Schroeder, who was born on July 29, 1879. That would make him J.H.F.W.A Schroeder. He went by the last of those names, August, during his life. August was the son of Christoph and Elise (Kuhlmann) Schroeder. He was born in a small farming community south of Chicago, Illinois called Beecher. Someone in this family has placed a very thorough tree on which contains many photographs. August’s baptism record from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Beecher is one of those photos. I will display it here.

August Schroeder baptism record – St. Paul’s, Beecher, IL

This post gives me the opportunity to tell about an event that took place recently at St. Paul’s, Beecher. Two years ago, in 2021, their church sanctuary burned to the ground. Here are some photos of St. Paul’s… one of its interior and two showing the fire and its results.

I also located a video that was made about this church’s fire that you may be interested in seeing.

August was not even 1 year old when he appeared in the 1880 census. He was living in the Washington Township of Will County, which is where Beecher is located. August’s father was a farmer.

1880 census – Washington Township, Will County, IL

The Schroeder’s were still living in Beecher when the 1900 census was taken. August was 20 years old at the time.

1900 census – Washington Township, IL

According to the family tree on Ancestry, the Schroeder family moved to Arkansas in 1902. In the 1910 census, we find them living in the Tyler Township of Prairie County where August was working on his father’s farm.

1910 census – Tyler Township, AR

August Schroeder married Bertha Voerster on October 1, 1914. I am almost certain that this wedding took place at Zion Lutheran Church in Ulm. Below is an Arkansas marriage license for this pair.

Schroeder/Voerster – AR marriage license

We can also view the marriage photo for this couple.

Schroeder/Voerster wedding

It appears that August and Bertha had 7 children. When the 1920 census was taken, there were 2 children in the Schroeder household. August was still farming after he got married.

1920 census – Tyler Township, AR

Next, we find the Schroeder’s in the 1930 census. This time, they were living in the Belcher Township where August continued farming. Five children were in the family.

1930 census – Belcher Township, AR

In the early years of the 20th century, the area around Ulm began experimenting with raising rice as a crop, and that experiment succeeded. The state of Arkansas now produces 40% of the rice grown in the United States. August’s later obituary states that he was a pioneer rice farmer.

The 1940 census has the Schroeder family living in the Roc Roe Township.

1940 census – Roc Roe Township, AR

Finally, we find August and Bertha in the 1950 census. Just one son remained in their household, and no one had an occupation listed. August was 70 years old.

1950 census – Roe Township, AR

August Schroeder died in 1952 at the age of 72. We can take a look at his obituary from a local newspaper.

August Schroeder obituary

August’s Arkansas death certificate is pictured here.

August Schroeder – AR death certificate

Bertha Schroeder died in 1963 at the age of 70. Her death certificate is shown below.

Bertha Schroeder – AR death certificate

A photo that shows 2 different obituaries for Bertha is shown here. Toward the end of her life, when she was in a nursing home, Bertha must have become a member of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Stuttgart.

Bertha Schroeder obituaries

August and Bertha Schroeder are buried together in the Zion Lutheran Cemetery in Ulm.

August and Bertha Schroeder gravestone – Zion, Ulm, AR

I am going to display a gallery of photos that I swiped from the family tree on Ancestry that pertain to today’s couple.

A lot of years after August and Bertha had died, I was a teacher in the Mid-South District of the Missouri Synod. One fall, my wife and I attended a district teachers’ conference that was held at St. John’s Lutheran Church and School in Stuttgart. One of the gatherings we had was hosted by a local rice farmer who allowed us to throw a party in the large shed behind his farmhouse. I know that a good time was had by all. I got a little taste of what it was like to be an Arkansas rice farmer near where the Schroeder farm was located.

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