Joseph and His Three Wives Named Anna

My great-great-grandfather, Josef Antonius Aloisius Schwegler was born in the little village of Wolhusen, Switzerland on 11 February 1829 almost one hundred and ninety years ago. His father Petrus Josephus Antonius, a shoemaker, was married to Barbara Meyer. The little family consisted of three boys and three girls, Barbara, Ana, Petrus, Maria, and Casparus. Josef was the youngest child.

Cow

A Swiss Cow with Bell

During the 19th-century poverty, hunger and the lack of job prospects drove many rural Swiss to the cities or to seek their fortunes in America.1 Being the youngest boy, Joseph would not inherit any land his father may have owned, so he left his hometown of Wolhusen for the big city of Lucerne. No longer would he hear the everyday tinkle of the bells on the cows as they moved in the meadows or the tapping of the ha

It is in Lucerne that Josef most likely met his wife, Maria Aña Josepha Walburgis Bieri, my great-great-grandmother. Anna was born on 17 November 1831 in the district of Entlebuch. Entlebuch encompasses many little municipalities of which Wolhusen is one. She was born to Josephus Bieri and Walburgis (Studer) Bieri.

St. Leodegar Church

Church of St. Leodegar in Lucerne*

Josef and Anna married on 13 September 1858 in the beautiful Catholic Church of St. Leodegar in Lucerne. Joseph was a porter for the railroad, and Anna was a seamstress. Lake Lucerne was a favorite destination for people who could afford to travel for pleasure.2 Joseph assisted passengers at the railway station and handled the loading, unloading, and distribution of luggage and packages.

What should have been a joyful day turned to tragedy when Anna died on 31 January 1859, the day her son Julius was born. One life began and the other ended. Anna and Joseph had only been married four-and-a-half months. Anna was twenty-seven years old.

Widowers didn’t stay single for very long in those days. With a small infant to raise and a job to put food on the table, Josef needed a wife and soon married Anna Brun on 22 October 1860. Their first son Franz Anton was born on 17 January 1862. Josef must have been very anxious during his son’s birth because of the memories of losing his first wife three years earlier. Franz was baptized the same day at the Church of St. Leodegar.

Anna Maria Elisabetha Brun was born in Schachen to Nicolas Brun and Josepha (Schúrman) Brun on 20 September 1839. Schachen is a town located between Wolhusen and Lucerne. She was twenty-two when Franz was born.

SS Hansa

S. S. Hansa

Sometime in the spring of 1863, Joseph and Anna decided to leave Switzerland. They left with their two children Julius and Franz and Joseph’s older brother Petrus (Peter). One would think that they would have taken a boat down the Ruess River, that runs through Lucerne, to the Rhine and eventually landing in Rotterdam. However, because Joseph was a porter for the railroad, the family traveled by rail to Bremen. The family was one of the forty-one percent of German and East European emigrants who left via the port of Bremen between 1850 and 1891.3 Traveling in steerage, the family left Bremen for Southampton, England, where they boarded the S. S. Hansa to New York. Four-hundred and eighty passengers shared the steerage area with the Schweglers.

There was little privacy in steerage and less room. “The ceiling height of the between-decks was usually 6 to 8 feet. The bunks, made of rough boards, were set up along both sides of the ship. Each bunk was intended to hold from three to six persons, and these were often called family bunks. The bunks had straw mattresses or mattresses stuffed with straw. Emigrants had to bring their own pillows, blankets, and other necessary bedclothes. Lice and flees thrived in this environment.”5 The average length of time to travel was forty-four days.  The Schweglers arrived in New York on 20 July 1863.

So why did Joseph and Anna leave the country of Switzerland and emigrate to the country that was in the midst of a Civil War? Most likely because masses of people in Switzerland were reduced to pauperism between 1840 and 1860. A push for tourism in Switzerland began in 1863, but the economic impact of the increased tourism didn’t reach Lucerne soon enough to improve Joseph’s wages as a porter.

Joseph, Anna, Julius, Franz, and Petrus arrived in New York City on 20 July 1863. According to family lore, they went immediately to Centralia, Illinois. No deeds for land ownership have been found so it is possible that Joseph rented land to farm. While in Illinois, Anna gave birth to Joseph who was born on 17 May 1864. Anna died sometime thereafter. Once again, the family was without a mother.

In the fall of 1866, Joseph purchased land in Gasconade County, Missouri. It is here that he met his third wife, Anna (Fehner) Kalteweihr, a wealthy widow. They married 22 March 1867. Two sons, Hann and Benjamin were born to this union. Hann was born in 1867 and died in infancy. Benjamin was born in 1868.

Joseph died 28 February 1870. Julius did not get along with his step-mother Anna and moved out of her home as soon as he was able. It took until February of 1887 for Joseph’s estate to be finalized. Julius was twenty-seven years of age.

Sometimes there is truth in the stories that our elders tell. Julius always said that Joseph’s second wife Anna was not his mother. He was correct. What we didn’t know was that Joseph was married to three women, all named Anna.

Note: On the names…it’s amazing how names morph over time. Josef becomes Joseph, Aña becomes Anna, Petrus becomes Peter, and Franz becomes Francis and becomes Frank. Is it Schwagler or Schwegler? Is it Meyer, Mejer, or Meier? All of these names have appeared in records but are for the same people.

*Dave and I took a Viking River cruise down the Rhine River to celebrate our fiftieth wedding anniversary. We added a few days to Lucerne, Switzerland to the trip. Unfortunately, I didn’t know enough about researching genealogical records in Switzerland and really didn’t have the time to pursue family records while there. It wasn’t until we got home that I began to do some research. With the help of an archivist in the Lucerne Archives, who sent me the birth and marriage record for Joseph, I was able to piece together the family in Switzerland. Little did I know that the church that I took a picture of, from our boat trip on Lake Lucerne, was the church where Joseph married Anna Brun, and where Joseph and Francis were baptized. I wish I had known that before I went.

Petrus Josephus Antonius Schwegler (1796-?) m. Barbara Mejer (?)

Barbara Gertrude Schwegler (1816-?)
Ana M. Catherin. Elisabetha Schwegler (1818-?)
Petrus Paulus Schwegler (1820-?)
Maria Josepha Schwegler (1822-?)
Casparus Schwegler (1827-?)
Josef Antonius Aloisius Schwegler (1829-1870)


 

1Switzerland in the 19th Century, https://www.eda.admin.ch/dam/PRS-Web/en/dokumente/der-bundesstaat-im-19-jahrhundert_EN.pdf

²In Your
Pocket”https://www.inyourpocket.com/lucerne/History”>https://www.inyourpocket.com/lucerne/History

3https://books.google.com/booksid=9NS5WYRGCLAC&pg=PA50&lpg=PA50&dq=German+Ports:+Gateway+to+America&source=bl&ots=rMI9aSrGAa&sig=qAVEJK0Qei0hExqhrhWLrr1VbFs&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjt4faV_NrNAhXD7oMKHWQYDBMQ6AEIMzAD#v=onepage&q=German%20Ports%3A%20Gateway%20to%20America&f=false

4http://rogerkreuz.com/gen/ships.htm

5 http://www.norwayheritage.com/steerage.htm

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.

Joseph Schwegler …Six and a Half Years an American

I am descended from Joseph Schwegler of Switzerland. He was my great-great grandfather on my mother’s side of the family. Schwegler is a derivative of the Middle High German word swegele meaning pipe or flute or the nickname for someone who plays a flute.[1]

Schwegler Joseph Sr _edited-2

Joseph Schwegler

Joseph was born in Switzerland about 1829. He immigrated with his family to the United States. He came with his wife Anna and his sons Julius and Francis. Franz name was later changed to Frank. Julius was four and Fraz was one. In the last days of his life, Julius would tell family members that Anna was not his mother. Also included with the family were traveling companions, Peter Schwegler and Catherine Graninger.

The family traveled steerage on the SS Hansa traveling from Wohlhausen, modern day Wulhusen, located about thirteen and a half miles west of Lucerne, the capitol of Canton, Lucerne, Switzerland. In 1863 the trip would have probably taken four to six weeks to cross the Atlantic Ocean. They arrived in the city of New York on 20 Jul 1863. I often wonder who he left behind. Did he watch their faces as he left the town? Did he shed a tear for the family and country he would never see again? No doubt he had high hopes for his new life in America.

The family went immediately from New York to Centralia, Illinois. Most likely there were family or friend connections in the community that drew them to the area. The third son, Joseph, was born there in 1864. There are two hypothesis as to why the family did not stay in the area, one being Joseph was too poor to buy oxen needed to plow the sod, as that area of Illinois was part of the vast American prairie. The second being Anna passed away shortly after the birth of Joseph.

From the Centralia area the family moved about one hundred and fifty miles west to Gasconade County, Missouri. Peter Schwegler stayed behind because he volunteered to be a “substitute” to fight in the Civil War for a prominent citizen of Centralia. Joseph and Peter could have been brothers. Unfortunately we don’t know what their relationship was.

Joseph worked as a farm hand for a wealthy widow named Anna Fehner Kallewyne. Other records show her last name as Kalteweihr. Joseph soon married Anna on 22 Mar 1867. From this union came two more sons, Hann and Benjamin. Hann either died at birth or shortly thereafter. Benjamin was born in 1868.

While the marriage record shows that Joseph and Anna were married in 1867, a land record dated 4 Oct 1866 shows that the two were married and signed a promissory note to pay Diedrich Weidemann one thousand dollars for a piece of land in township forty-three, range six west in Gasconade County. The land contained two hundred acres (more or less). The promissory note was due four years from the date signed. Anna made good on the note on 5 Oct 1871.

A few months later, on 15 Oct 1867, Joseph appeared before the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Gasconade County to swear upon his oath his intention to become a citizen of the United States and denounce his allegiance to the Republic of Switzerland.

Joseph’s dreams of the new life in American came to an end on 28 Feb 1870  when he died at the age of forty-one. He had only been in the country for a little more than six and a half years. He is buried in the Schwegler-Myers cemetery, a little cemetery located on the border of Gasconade and Osage Counties. Anna Schwegler would go on to become the curator for his estate and guardian for my great grandfather Julius.

I am indebted to my second cousin, Bill Schwegler. While I have many of the documents supporting the events of the life of Joseph, it is the stories that were handed down from my great-grandfather Julius at the end of his life to Bill’s mother that adds the humanness to Joseph. And Bill graciously shared those stories and pictures with me.


[1] Ancestry.com, Schwegler Family History (http://www.ancestry.com) : accessed 15 Jan 2016), Citing Dictionary of American Family Names, ©2013, Oxford University Press