3 Sons Go Off to War – Only 1 Returns Alive

This post will be the third one in a row that will tell of a man who spent a short time in Perry County before living the rest of his life elsewhere. A boy named Ernst Friedrich Johannes Meier was born on December 8, 1895, the son of Johann and Marie (Eggers) Meier. He was called Ernst on his baptism record and several other documents in his life, but on other documents and his gravestone, he is called Ernest. I suspect he was called Ernie by his friends and relatives. I will call him Ernst. He was the last of 7 children born into his Meier family. Ernst was baptized at Salem Lutheran Church in Farrar. His baptism record is pictured below.

Ernst Meier baptism record – Salem, Farrar, MO

Ernst was 4 years old when he appears in his first census in 1900. His family was living in the Longtown village where his father was called a farmer.

1900 census – Longtown, MO

Next, we find Ernst in the 1910 census as a teenager. He had been confirmed at Salem, Farrar the year before in 1909.

1910 census – Union Township, MO

When Ernst had his World War I draft registration completed in 1917, we discover that he was living in St. Louis and attending Concordia Seminary.

Ernst Meier – WWI draft registration

I figured that, as a ministerial student, Ernst would not be called into military service during that war, but I looked for a military record anyway. I did find an Ernst Meier from St. Louis who did have a military record, but he died in action during that war in 1918. That document, though, gives a preview of what would happen to today’s character later in this post.

Now we will turn our attention to the woman who would become Ernst’s bride. Her name was Alma Louise Wessel, who was born on May 11, 1898. That makes her today’s birthday girl who would be celebrating a special 125th birthday today if she was still alive. Alma was the daughter of Louis and Fredricka (Wahlbrink) Wessel. She was likely born in St. Louis, but I do not know where she was baptized. She is found in the 1900 census at the age of 2, living in St. Louis where her father was laborer in a soap works company.

1900 census – St. Louis, MO

The last census in which we find Alma as a single person is the one taken in 1910. She was listed as being 11 years old, and her father had the same job.

1910 census – St. Louis, MO

Ernst Meier married Alma Wessel on August 17, 1918. The only place where I found documentation was in a St. Louis newspaper that did not even give the exact date of the wedding. I found the exact date in a family tree on Ancestry.com. Ernst must have gotten married at about the time he graduated from Concordia Seminary and was ordained as a Lutheran pastor. When the 1920 census was taken, we find Ernst and Alma living in New Plymouth, Idaho where Ernst was a clergyman.

1920 census – New Plymouth, ID

New Plymouth is a small town located very near the Idaho border with the state of Oregon. A Lutheran congregation, Immanuel Lutheran Church, had been established there in 1904. That is almost certainly where Ernst was serving in 1920. The oldest son of Ernst and Alma, a boy named Vernon, was born in 1919 when the Meier’s were in Idaho. His Idaho birth certificate is shown here.

Vernon Meier – ID birth certificate

The name of this child sounds familiar. A man named Vernon Meyr was very instrumental in the history of our museum, with his estate providing the funding for the building of the museum in 2005. However, as you can see, his Meyr surname is spelled differently than the one for Ernst Meier.

Ernst did not remain a Lutheran pastor for very long. Our German Family Tree, which is not backed up by any church records in this case, says that the next 5 children, born from 1921 till 1928, were born in Jennings, Missouri. Jennings is a municipality in the northern part of St. Louis. Jennings is also where I was born and raised. I have to think that these Meier children might have been baptized at the same church where I was baptized…St. Jacobi Lutheran Church. As you can see in the image below, St. Jacobi was founded in 1906.

St. Jacobi Lutheran, Jennings, MO early pastors

The 1930 census shows the Meier family with all 6 of their children. They had 5 consecutive sons, including a set of twin boys, before having a girl. This time, Ernst’s occupation is listed as a maintenance engineer at a chemical firm.

1930 census – St. Louis, MO

In the 1940 census, we find the Meier household living in Brentwood, a municipality of St. Louis located west of the downtown area. Ernst is called a chemical engineer for a chemical laboratory. Once again, we see all 6 children, but this time some of them were old enough to have their own jobs.

1940 census – Brentwood, MO

World War II became very consequential in the history of this Meier family. The 3 oldest sons in this family were all called into military service during that war. Only 1 of them returned alive. Their oldest son, Vernon, died during the Allied Campaign in Italy on September 26, 1944. Then, Donald Meier was killed on February 23, 1945 at the Battle of Iwo Jima. Another son, Gilbert, was a Marine Corps sergeant who managed to survive that war and return home. All 3 of these sons are buried in the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis. I am going to display the two interment applications for the sons who died during the war.

Vernon Meier interment application – Jefferson Barracks
Donald Meier interment application – Jefferson Barracks

I will also display all 3 of the Meier sons’ gravestones in the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis, along with a photo of Gilbert I found in which he is wearing his military uniform.

We can view Ernst and Alma in one more census entry. The image below shows this Meier household. Only their daughter, Virginia, was still living with them. Ernst appears to have his same job.

1950 census – Brentwood, MO

Ernst Meier died in 1958 at the age of 62; Alma Meier died in 1992 at the age of 93. These two are buried in the Sunset Memorial Park in Affton, Missouri.

To have 2 sons make the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country must have been very difficult for Ernst and Alma to handle back in the 1940’s. We Americans can all be very thankful for those who serve in our military in order to preserve our freedom, both in the past and in the present. On Memorial Day, we can remember those such and Vernon and Donald Meier who gave their lives for us.

2 thoughts on “3 Sons Go Off to War – Only 1 Returns Alive

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