A Mehner Mother Amongst a Passel of Pastors

I know it’s Mother’s Day, but the German Family Tree led me to a story about fathers. However, the birthday girl becomes an important mother in this tale, so I suppose we could say both “Happy Birthday” and “Happy Mother’s Day” to her.

Emilie Mehner was born on May 14, 1883, so today would be her 140th birthday. Our German Family Tree gives her middle initial as “F”, but her gravestone is inscribed with an “A”. Emilie was the daughter of Frederick and Elizabeth (Hillemann) Mehner. She was baptized at Peace Lutheran Church in Friedenberg, so we cannot view an actual image of her baptism record. It would not be until 1900 that we are able to see Emilie in a census entry. By that time, she was already a teenager. Her father was a farmer in the Salem Township.

1900 census – Salem Township, MO

That would be the only census in which we find Emilie as a single person, so we will turn our attention to the man who would become her husband. He was not born in Perry County. His name was Rudolph Martin Norden, who was born on October 24, 1877. He was the son of Herman Heinrich (H.H.) and Auguste (Siebert) Norden. His father was a Lutheran pastor, and when Rudolph was born, he was serving Immanuel Lutheran Church in Hinkley, Illinois. That church was established in the 1860’s and is located west of Chicago. We find Rudolph in the 1880 census at the age of 2 living in the Squaw Grove Township in DeKalb County.

1880 census – Squaw Grove Township, IL

All 3 of the youngest sons in the above entry, Henry, Rudolph, and Theodore, became Lutheran pastors. When we find Rudolph in his next census in 1900, he was a young pastor living in the Freedom Township in Iowa. He was living in the household of a Walther family (How appropriate is that?). I found St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Emmetsburg, which is in that township, but the LCMS website says that congregation was not established until 1911.

1900 census – Freedom Township, IA

In a biography of Rudolph Norden, it says he was a missionary in Bakersfield, California from 1902-1904. Then from 1904-1908, he served the Lutheran church in Fremont, Nebraska. Rudolph came to Perry County to be married in 1904. Rev. Rudolph Norden married Emilie Mehner on August 9, 1904. The church record for this event is found in the books of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Perryville. A transcription of that record is displayed here. Both this church record and their marriage license states that Rudolph was from Fremont, Nebraska.

Norden/Mehner marriage record – Immanuel, Perryville, MO

Here is an image of this couple’s Missouri marriage license. This document adds the fact that Rev. H.E. Norden performed the marriage ceremony. At that time, Rudolph’s father, H.H. Norden was the pastor of both Zion Lutheran Church in Crosstown and Trinity Lutheran Church in Point Rest. However, Rudolph had a brother, Rev. H.E. Norden who had been a pastor in Gillet, Arkansas in 1900, but may have been elsewhere in 1904. One of his children, who had been born in 1904, was reportedly born in Illinois.

Norden/Mehner marriage license

We can also take a look at this couple’s wedding photograph. Someone on Ancestry.com has had this photo colorized. This picture reportedly has Emilie’s sister, Martha Mehner, in it, as well as a brother of Rudolph who is described as a pastor. That could have been either Rev. H.E. Norden or a younger brother, Rev. Theodore Norden. I think it’s the younger one.

Norden/Mehner wedding

Here is that biography of Rev. Rudolph Norden.

Rev. Rudolph Norden biography

In 1908, Rev. Norden took a call to the congregation that he would serve for the rest off his career, St. John’s Lutheran Church in rural Howells, Nebraska. Below is a map showing the location of Howells. It is located in Colfax County, but it is almost within walking distance from both Stanton and Cuming Counties.

Howells, NE map

In the 1910 census, we find the Norden family living in the Haymow Township of Stanton County. I suspect that St. John’s in rural Howells was actually in Stanton County. By this time, the Norden’s had 3 young children.

1910 census – Haymow Township, NE

Rudolph had a World War I draft registration completed in 1918. This document says his address was RFD 3, Howells, Stanton County, NE.

Rudolph Norden – WWI draft registration

Next, we find the Norden’s living in the same location in the 1920 census. Now, the Norden’s had 5 children in their household. A family tree on Ancestry.com says this couple had 7 children altogether.

1920 census – Haymow Township, NE

The 1930 census properly calls Rev. Norden a preacher and teacher, as his biography states.

1930 census – Haymow Township, NE

The last census in which we find Rev. Rudolph Norden was the one taken in 1940.

1940 census – Haymow Township, NE

Rudolph had a World War II draft card completed in 1942.

Rudolph Norden – WWII draft card

Rev. Rudolph Norden died in February of 1950 at the age of 72. After his death, Emilie must have moved to the St. Louis area. We find her in the 1950 census living in Clayton with her daughter, Alma, who had married Paul Reith, another Lutheran pastor. Paul is called a speech teacher, and I have every reason to believe he was a professor at Concordia Seminary, which is located in Clayton.

1950 census – Clayton, MO

Emilie Norden died in 1976 at the age of 93. I am able to display an obituary for Emilie that was published in the Lincoln Star. Three of the Norden’s sons became Lutheran pastors, along with a daughter who married a Lutheran pastor.

Emilie Norden obituary

Emilie’s body was transported to Nebraska where she was buried with her husband in the St. John’s Lutheran German Cemetery in rural Howells.

Rudolph and Emilie Norden gravestone – St. John’s, Howells, NE

Emilie Norden, today’s birthday girl, was one of many pastor’s wives in the Norden family. She had 4 children who ended up in Lutheran churches and universities throughout the country. My wife and I were Lutheran teachers, and we have ended up with our 3 girls scattered in a few locations close to where we taught, along with another daughter who became a Lutheran teacher herself. Today, my wife is sitting here with me in Altenburg, and although she just got back from a trip to see one daughter, about the best she can hope for on this Mother’s Day is to get some phone calls from her daughters and grandchildren. It is one of the drawbacks of becoming a church worker. Families get spread out, and sometimes holidays are lonely. However, all of them who are out there proclaiming an eternal future awaiting those who believe in Jesus as their Savior, look forward to a great reunion in heaven someday that will never end.

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