Great-Grandfather Julius Schwegler

Imagine being four years old and traveling steerage on a ship from Switzerland via Southhampton, England, to New York City. The trip would have taken about six or seven weeks, a long time for someone so young. Julius Schwegler came with his father Joseph, his brother Francis Anton who was one year old, his step-mother Anna Schwegler, Peter Schwegler, and Catherine Graninger. They arrived on 20 Jul 1863. Julius Schwegler was my great-grandfather.  

Julius was born in Switzerland on 31 Jan 1859. Anna was not the mother of Julius. His mother had died and Joseph married Anna prior to their journey. Anna however was the mother of Francis.

Upon arrival to this country the immigrants went directly from New York to Centralia, Illinois. How they got there is anyone’s guess. It is possible that they took a train from New York to Chicago and from there traveled to Centralia via wagon. However they traveled it must have been long and arduous after having spent several weeks on a ship.

Schwegler Julius  Sarah (Ridenhour) Copy_edited-1

Julius and Sarah Ridenhour Schwegler

While in the Centralia area Anna gave birth to Joseph. Every indication is that she died sometime after his birth. By 1865 the motherless family was in Gasconade County, Missouri. On 22 Mar 1867, his father Joseph married Anna Fehner Kallewyne. Julius was eight years of age, Francis (also known as Frank) was five, and Joseph was almost three. Another brother Hann was born in 1867 and most likely died shortly after his birth. Benjamin, the last son of Joseph, was born in 1868.

 

A few years later, in 1870, Joseph died. It must have been very difficult for Julius to lose so many important members of his family by the age of eleven. Despite all of the upheaval in his life, Julius managed to attend school through the eighth grade.

After the death of Joseph, Anna, their step-mother, was appointed guardian and curator for the estate of Julius, Frank, and Joseph. Anna was cited by the judge of the probate court Jan 1874 for failing to settle the accounts of the estate of Julius. In March, Anna married Friederick Leimkuehler. A few months later, Friederick was appointed guardian and curator for the estate of the three boys. Anna’s failure to settle the accounts was most likely a matter of not filing the paperwork in a timely manner rather than an indication that she was not a good guardian.

 The 1876 census shows the family raising four mules, eight head of cattle, six sheep, and thirty-five hogs. And the farm produced five hundred bushels of wheat, three hundred bushels of corn, ten bushels of oats, fifteen pounds of wool and five tons of hay. Those older boys were busy.

Whether he got along his step-parents or not, Julius was no longer living with the family in 1880. He is shown in the census living with N. B. Jones and wife in Jefferson Township, Maries County, Missouri. He was twenty-one years of age. He would stay in Maries County for the rest of his life.

Schwegler Men, Left Harrison, Ben, Harley, and father Julius

The Schwegler Men. Left Wright, Ben, Harley, and their father Julius

 

Julius married Sarah Frances Ridenhour on 28 Nov 1880. This union lasted forty-four years and produced six children: Oliver, Harley, Benjamin, Harrison (my grandfather), Ida, and Rainey. Oliver and Ida died at an early age. The beautiful picture of them, most likely as newly-weds, shows them in their youth looking forward to a promising life together.

Following in the footsteps of his father, it must have been a proud day when Julius was admitted a citizen of the United States on 5 Nov 1881. Transcribed his naturalization record reads:

Julius Schwegler a native of Switzerland, who applies to be admitted a citizen of the United States, comes and proves to the satisfaction of the Court, by the testimony of Kasten Buschmann and Louis Hoffmann two credible witnesses, citizens of the United States, that he arrived in the United States a minor, under the age of eighteen years, that he has resided in the United States at least five years, including the years of his minority; and in the State of Missouri at least one year, immediately preceding this application during which time he has conducted himself as a man of good moral character, attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the same; and the said applicant declaring here in open Court, upon oath, that for three years last past it has been bonefide his intention to become a citizen of the United States, and he declaring also upon oath, that he will support the Constitution of the United States and that he doth also absolutely renounce and abjure forever all allegiance and fidelity to every foreign power, prince, state and sovereignty whatsoever, and particularly to the Republic of Switzerland of whom he is at present a subject, therefore, the said JULIUS SCHWEGLER is admitted a citizen of the United States.

Julius was a farmer in Maries County most of his life. And Sarah took care of the needs of the family. I don’t know much about my great-grandmother. She died of chronic nephritis with valvular heart disease as a secondary factor on 17 Aug 1924. Julius would go on to live another nineteen years.  

In 1940 Julius was living with his son Benjamin. During the last months of his life Julius lived with his son Harley and daughter-in-law Leona. He died on 21 Feb. 1943 at the age of eighty-four. A very religious man, he is buried in the Bethel Cemetery in Paydown, Missouri.

Thanks to my second cousin William Schwegler who provided me with many of the personal details about the life of our great-grandfather Julius including the fact that Anna was not his mother. Most of the details he told the family, despite the fact that he was somewhat senile, could be verified in records.

Harrison Wright Schwegler

One hundred and twenty-two years ago, on November 14, 1892, Harrison Wright Schwegler was born most likely in Maries County, Missouri. He was one of six children born to Julius Schwegler and Sarah Frances Ridenhour. Our family called him Wright.

On February 27, 1914, Grandpa Schwegler married Belle McKinney. He was twenty-one and she was eighteen. From this marriage came August, Oma, Harley, Willard, Roy, and Frank. The children were born about two years apart. Unfortunately, at the age of twenty-seven, Belle died on February 3, 1923 of double pneumonia.

Moving quickly my grandfather married my grandmother Estella May Burt. As I mentioned in the story about my grandmother, this was most likely a marriage of convenience. My grandmother had a daughter Goldie prior to her marriage to grandpa. And grandpa had six children who needed a mother. They married on May 25, 1923 just a little more than three and a half months after the death of Belle.

From this marriage was born Joseph, Bonnie (my mother), her fraternal twin Betty, Ollie, Billie, Janice and Earl. Billie died at the age of two. Their first child was premature and died shortly after birth. Grandpa was thirty-one and Granny was twenty-nine when this first child was born. Grandpa was forty-three and Granny forty-one when their last child was born.

Schwegler, Harrison Wright

Harrison Wright Schwegler

Grandpa was short in stature. His Word War I draft registration record stated that he was short, of medium build, and had blue eyes. He farmed in Maries County until sometime around 1930 when the census record showed the family living in the third ward in the City of St. Louis. Between 1931 and 1940 he was listed as a laborer in St. Louis directories. In 1940 he was listed as a setter for a tile installation company. Many of his sons followed him in this trade

My earliest memory of Grandpa is when I turned five. We were visiting my grandparents around the time of my birthday when Grandpa took me to buy a dress for my birthday. The dress was pretty, but I remember vividly what happened after the dress was purchased. Grandpa was fond of drink to put it mildly. On our way home we stopped at the local watering hole. While he had a beer – or maybe more, I can’t remember – I ate popcorn out of a coffee filter. I had a great time. It didn’t seem like we were gone long but when we got back to the grandparents home, well … words were said and I knew my Mom was mad. Needless to say we never went dress shopping again.

My grandpa was half Swiss. German was most likely spoken in his father or grandfather’s home. He had a clubhouse on the Gasconade River in Osage County, Missouri. Fishing was his passion. We spent just about every weekend with him from the time I was eight until about fourteen. And yet I don’t remember ever having a conversation with him. Oh he spoke to us but usually when he was showing us something, explaining how something worked, or when we were doing something we shouldn’t. He was a man of few words.

I didn’t see my Grandpa after I turned fourteen. He and my grandmother were having problems and he had moved out of the house. I never understood why we quit going to his clubhouse until years later when I asked my mother why. Apparently he had a girl friend and my mother didn’t want me influenced by his living arrangements. From what I understand Grandpa and Granny divorced after they were married fifty years. How sad.

Grandpa Schwegler in his jon boat.

Grandpa Schwegler in his jon boat.

Grandpa died January 28, 1978. Even though I really didn’t know the man, I have fond memories of the times we spent with him on the Gasconade River. There is nothing like running through corn fields, eating a salad with fresh tomatoes warmed by the sun, learning how to skin a catfish, and generally running wild in the out-of-doors.  For these experiences I am eternally grateful.