Archive for the ‘German Families’ Category


November 6, 2016

Every once in a while I receive a photo that is difficult–or maybe impossible–to identify.  In this case a local gentleman dropped off two photos with the hopes of giving them a good home since they do not depict any of his family members.  The photo of the twin baby girls had names on the back and was easy enough for him to confirm.  But the other one, a confirmation photo of a young lady, has been a struggle.  The photographer on the photo is Mosser from Palatine so, clearly, the young lady is a local girl.

Here’s where it gets interesting though.  The photo, oddly enough, has two names on the back.  They are “Milly Mess” and “Helena Mueller.”  They are written in two different handwritings and in two different colors of ink, with Milly’s name more in the center of the photo.


Where to start?  Recognizing the Mess surname, I contacted a member of the family who, indeed, acknowledged her aunt was Emilie (Quindel) Mess or “Millie” for short.  Emilie was born on May 14, 1889 in Schaumburg to Charles and Caroline (Busche) Quindel.  According to confirmation records for St. Peter Lutheran Church, Emilie was confirmed in 1902 around the time she turned 13.  Given the length of the dress in this photo, it is quite probable this photo is from that time period.

Millie married Otto Mess at age 21, eight years after the confirmation photo was taken.  Below is a  photo we have of Millie in our Local History Digital Archive.  She is clearly older than the young lady in the confirmation photo.  Do the two photos depict the same young lady?   The dates for Millie certainly align with the confirmation photo.


Information for the other young lady took a bit more effort to track down.  Mueller can be spelled so many ways in government and church records–Muller, Miller, etc.  I tried the census for the years 1900-1920 and did not have any luck.  I also tried variations on the first name–Helena, Helen, Helene, etc.  I then tried a simple search of Helena Mueller in the Daily Herald and bingo!

There was a reference in an obituary to Helena (Mueller) Heine.  Additional obituaries  mentioned that she was married to Oscar Heine.  With such a distinctive first and last name, I tried searching for him on and there he was.  And his wife?  Rosa Helene “Helena” Muller Heine.  With a photo included on the page!  I’d obviously hit the bonanza.  And I’ll be darned if she didn’t look very similar to our young lady in the photo above.


The problem is that Helena was born February 17, 1882 in Germany. In talking to the descendant who posted the photo and data on, I was told that Helena was confirmed in 1897 and came to the United States with her husband and son after marrying in 1905.  The photo above was taken in 1905 when she was 22 or 23, probably around the time she married.   Given her time frame and all of these details, it’s very unlikely that she is the young lady.

So, the mystery remains.  Is it Millie?  Or more remotely, is it a relative of Helena?  Taking a bit of a closer look at the confirmation photo, it looks like the girl’s nose tilts downwards.  Millie’s nose does the same thing.  Helena’s seems to tilt upwards.  However, the young lady’s hair appears to have some wave and curl to it just like Helena’s.    In the confirmation photo, the young lady looks more sedate and relaxed.  Millie looks more tense and staunch in her photo while Helena has the same relaxed expression as our mysterious young lady.

Until someone comes forward with another copy of the photo it appears we cannot definitively identify the young lady.  Whoever she is, her mother must have lovingly sewed her dress–and ironed it!–for the occasion.  It’s probably a safe bet that those are new shoes too.  Confirmation was a special moment in a young Lutheran girl’s life and it would be a shame to leave her unidentified.

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library

The photo of Helena is used courtesy of the contributor to Helena Heine’s listing.  My thanks to C. Debenport for posting the photo and passing on more info about Helena.  She shared wonderfully researched information with me as I created this blog posting.



July 31, 2011

In August, 1918 William Thies from Schaumburg Township received a letter from the President of the United States. The letter informed him that he should report to the Village Hall in Des Plaines for induction into the military service of the United States.  World War I was raging and the Allied Forces were successfully advancing.  To finish the effort, the United States was still enforcing the draft and Mr. Thies was one of a number of men from Schaumburg Township asked to serve.

After reporting on September 4, 1918, Mr. Thies and the other inductees boarded a train for Camp Grant in Rockford.  After a short stay there, the troops made their way to Camp Hancock, GA which was near the town of Augusta. 

While William was enthusiastically experiencing life outside of Schaumburg Township for the first time, his family was at home sorely missing him.  Yes, they missed his strength and his extra pair of hands but it was his warm, outgoing personality and ready conversation that was lacking in the family circle of his mother, brother and three sisters.

This letter from his brother, Henry, after victory was declared, details the family’s activities in William’s absence:

Monday December 23d 1918  8 P.M.

Dear Brother! 

[Page 1]
Received your letter of Thur. the 19th in which you think that you won’t be home for a while.  Which we don’t believe.  As we read a statement from Baker in the Tribune the other day.  In which it says that they are going to bring the number of men to be discharged from every camp up to 1000 a day.  And we can’t understand why they would not do the same with your Camp.  Am also sending you that letter from Wash. D.C. back again.  And I hope that it will do you a lot of good.  Could hardly eat dinner when I read your letter.  But we still live in hopes of seeing you soon.  It is snowing here tonight so that the ground is white already and freezing too.  And I have got only one horse sharp.  Frank/have got Prins sharp too.  But can not use him for going to Church. He might drop.  So will have to call up Troyke tomorrow morning.  If he can shoe Tom for me.  So that if something should happen to me.  The girls can go to Church.  As you know there always something on the Farm that might keep a fellow from going to Church.  And as you know they can’t drive the Kicker.  Say we are striking it lucky this year.  We don’t have to haul milk on the holidays.  Did not haul on Thanksgiving either.

[Page 2]
Will have to haul milk tomorrow.  But if Troyke has time to take the milk to Rosselle.  We have some awful roads to Meacham.  Fred was down to Melrose with Potatoes.  Which he sold in the fall.  Was always waiting for good roads.  So he could take the Truck.  But now he went with the milk wagon.  Frank Quindel had a sale today.  He is moving to Ontarioville.  Richard Gerchefsky has rented the place.  Our Engine went wild the other day.  One of the Governor brackets came loose.  And one of springs was hitting the ground so hard it threw earth right against cow barn window.  This is about all I can think of tonight.  Probably I will know more Wed night.  Say You better take a picture of Your tree when You have it fixed up.  Well as this letter will reach You after Christmas I wish that You had a merry Christmas.  Hoping that good luck will come through this paper to You.  I Remain as ever

Your loving brother

O God of love, in mercy look Now on thy chastened world,
And let the gory battle flags lie at thy Altars furled!
On all the nations far and wide Thy blessings rich increase
And make the message of the Cross
The Warden of Sweet Peace!

With that prayer at the end, the relief of having the war over and peace declared  is palpable.  The minutiae of everyday life, however, also fills the letter and certainly conveys how much he is missed—especially at this time of the year.  Considering how important Christmas church services were for these good German Lutherans, this must have been particularly tough for the Thies family. 

His family’s Christmas prayers were answered, though, on January 15, 1919.  On that day William Thies Jr. was honorably discharged from the United States Army.  But, that brief, five-month period had changed him.   From that time forward, his journey from his little corner of Schaumburg Township profoundly influenced the way he farmed, raised his family and thought about the world.


April 24, 2011

On September 3, 1903, Schaumburg Township had its own version of a royal wedding.  Miss Emma Rohlwing married Fred Pfingsten at St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church in the largest wedding the area had ever seen.  Considering the population of the township was 1003 at the time, 3000 guests was quite a number.  For any wedding.

According to an extensive article from the Chicago Inter-Ocean magazine, before the festivities even began, there was a great deal of  preparation that went on in the weeks and months beforehand.   Gooseberries were canned, cucumbers were pickled, pears were bottled in old burgundy and sauerkraut was put in crocks that were weighted down with stones.   Early on, the best cattle were put in pastures that had never before been used and the pigs were fed the biggest red ears of corn.  In January the pigs were slaughtered and the hams and shoulders were smoked, the feet were put in brine, and headcheese, a form of cold cut, was carefully stored in the cellar.

On Monday, August 31, three days before the wedding, about 20 neighbor ladies came to the Pfingsten farm to begin the baking.  Against  the stone wall of the foundation of the barn, Mr. Pfingsten had created a large Dutch oven so that large quantities of bread and cakes could be baked.  A number of new wash tubs were used as the mixing bowls (and later to hold the potato salad on the wedding day.)  The dough was spread out on soap-stone bricks which were then placed in the oven.  Chocolate cakes were mixed in the same washtubs and stacked nine layers high.

Within the next few days the men were putting up the tents that would shelter the bridal party, serve as the food tents and cover the small tables where pinochle would be played.   The largest tent covered a wooden platform that would serve as the dance floor.  Two big wagons of beer that had been purchased in Elgin were unloaded.  Ice that had been cut from the Fox River during the previous winter was piled over the kegs that were placed under yet another tent.

Finally, the big day arrived.  At 9:00 in the morning, the Burlington Cornet band of Elgin and the Blue Ribbon band of Bartlett pulled up to the Rohlwing house with the horses bearing plumes and the drivers in uniform.  After a slight delay, Miss Rohlwing and her attendants, Miss Emma and Alvina Pfingsten, sisters of the groom, Miss Martha Pfingsten, the bride’s sister,  Miss Annie Kruse, a friend, and Hermina Rohlwing and Aggie Thies, the flower girls, all made  their way in the bride’s carriage towards the Pfingsten farm.  It was the custom for the bride to meet her husband–to-be.  Accompanying the groom were Hermann Wilkening, Hermann Fenz, Henry Lichthardt and William Lenschow.  With no obvious superstition regarding the groom seeing the bride before the wedding, the bride’s party then returned to her home where her father smashed a bottle of red wine brought from Germany.

As the bands led the way, the bridal party set out for the church where nearly 2000 people met them for the service.  Pastor Mueller met them at the door and gave them the blessing.  The bands, having already made their way to the loft, accompanied the organist in playing the Wedding March.  After the service, the bridal party, bands and many guests made their way back to the Pfingsten home.  Pastor Mueller once again gave a blessing for the festivities and the party began!

Dining must have gone on for hours.  (There were no paper plates and plastic cups so dishes all had to be handwashed and dried on the spot.)  Being consumed were:
–1800 pounds of meat
–4 hogsheads of pickles
–8 barrels of sauerkraut
–150 gallons of gooseberry shrub
–5 10-gallon kettles of soup
–3 big tubs of potato salad
–200 pounds of headcheese
–2 milkcans of ausereihuf
–200 gooseberry pies
–60 nine-layer cakes
–Cigars & Beer

The dancing and singing was as voluminous as the food, with the bands playing on through the night to the delight of all those who stayed.  Remember, the animals still needed to be fed and the cows  milked in the evening and morning on the farms of the guests.  With so many German families in attendance who knew each other well, it must have been difficult to tear themselves away from the dancing, the talking, the eating and the drinking.

The generosity of the Pfingstens and the Rohlwings–who actually split the duties and the cost of the wedding–must have been well appreciated by those who attended.  The event was big enough to make a Chicago paper and was likely talked about for weeks afterwards.  If we compare the two weddings and their times, William and Kate had nothing on Fred and Emma in 1903!

This posting was written with the assistance of an article from the September 3, 1903 issue of the Chicago Inter Ocean magazineThe photos are from Rohlwing Family History by Elmer J. Pfingsten. 


March 6, 2011

On a summer afternoon a few years ago, a gentleman came to the Reference Desk with a nice little treasure.  As he explained to me, he is a collector of old documents that he routinely buys at estate sales and auctions.  One of his recent finds was a group of papers that dated back to 1852 and concerned the Charles Leiseberg estate.  He had made copies and generously gave them to the library.

Charles Leiseberg was German and interested in farming so, upon his arrival in America, he purchased a parcel of property from Lewis Lamb, one of the first land patent holders in Schaumburg Township.  (For a list of these original land owners, see Schaumburg Township Land Patents by Bonnie Cernosek in the Local History Digital Archive.)  It is quite probable Mr. Lamb bought this land for speculation since he was residing in Rome, Oneida County, New York when the property was turned over to Mr. Leiseberg on October 21, 1852.  His son, Stephen Lamb, of Wheeling, acted in his stead.

Most of the rest of the documents are agreements and indentures concerning the property—except for one.  It is called an altenteil.  This, according to Pete Noll, former Farm Program Coordinator for the Volkening Heritage Farm, is an agreement that arranges for the care and maintenance of an older farmer on his own farm once he is past the age of farming.  The agreement is usually arranged between the farmer and a son and not only secures the care of the farmer and his wife, but also keeps the farm in the family.

The Leiseberg altenteil, for the sum of $2000, deeded the property from father to Charles his son.  However, the money was not the only transaction in the agreement.  In addition, Charles and his wife Louise, were required to provide:

  • Three suitable rooms in the farmhouse
  • Necessary firewood, one ton of hard coal and one ton of soft coal
  • One hog dressed and one hindquarter of beef delivered in the months of December and January
  • One dozen fresh eggs for the 8 warm months of the year
  • 3 barrels of good, sound spring wheat flour every year
  • 18 bushels of good, sound eating potatoes every year
  • 1 quart fresh milk every day of every year
  • Keeping one sheep every year
  • One half of an acre of gardening land near their house
  • One third of fruit growing on trees in the orchard
  • Eight dollars each month of each year
  • All necessary transportation by tram, buggy or sleigh to church, doctor, friends and everywhere during their lifetime

Apparently these types of agreements were somewhat common in the German family.  According to H.W. Spiegel, in an article entitled, The Altenteil:  German Farmers’ Old Age Security, sometimes these agreements worked and sometimes they didn’t.  Obviously the potential for a tense situation could grow as the parents aged.  We’ll never know how well the Leisebergs got along on their farm once this document was signed but the property did stay in the family.  In fact, upon the death of Charles Leiseberg, the son, the property passed to the family of his wife, the Bartels–as the 1947 tax bill below indicates. 

You may be wondering what this property is today?  Well, if you’re in the Culvers at Irving Park and Wise Road, you are on  Leiseberg property.  Mr. Leiseberg couldn’t have dreamed a Culvers should maybe be part of his altenteil!


June 6, 2010

Once upon a time, instead of a clock tower on the corner of Schaumburg and Roselle Roads, there was a general store.  It was called the “Schaumburg House.”  It opened in 1858 with Heinrich Rohlwing as the proprietor. 

Heinrich was born in Schaumburg, Germany on Sept. 5, 1826 and came to the United States with his parents, Christoph and Eleonore (Gellermann) Rohlwing, in 1851.  Here, Heinrich met and married Wilhelmine  (Freyse) on April 18, 1852 in St. Peter Lutheran Church. 

During their married life, Heinrich was a busy man.  He owned and farmed land in the far northwest portion of the township and, later, bought property on the west side of Roselle Road  near the intersection with Schaumburg Road.

By the 1860 census, Henry’s occupation is noted as Merchant.  The Schaumburg House sold general merchandise, served as a saloon, hotel and community hall and as a residence for his family.  In fact, a few of the early township elections were held in his house, presumably because of the centralized location of the store in the township. 

 He did his part for township government as well.  He served as Town Clerk from 1862 to 1866, as mail carrier in 1867 and as postmaster in 1869.  Again, the convenient site of his business must have deemed him a natural for these necessary tasks. 

Unfortunately, this active, involved man died at the early age of 43 on March 13, 1870.  In the nearly 18 years of his marriage, he and Minna had eight children.   Only three–Caroline, John and Louise–survived him. 

Minna remarried the following year on September 22, 1871.  This husband, Heinrich Meyer, died three years later in 1874.  Minna kept the store going until a fire in 1881.  According to the Chicago Tribune, “The large general store, warehouse, barn, wagon-shop and blacksmithing shop belonging to the Widow Rohlwing, and situated in Schaumberg, Cook County, burned last night, scarcely any of the stock being saved.  The fire originated in the barn, seemingly being the work of an incendiary.  All the buildings were frame.  The loss is from $10,000 to $12,000.”  Six years later, on June 18, Minna lost her 21 year old daughter, Louise, to tuberculosis.  Minna did not have an easy life. 

Her daughter, Caroline, married John Fenz, another industrious man in the township.  He and his father owned and farmed various parcels of property and, at some point, after the destruction of the Schaumburg House, John and Caroline rebuilt the store.  It continued to be named Schaumburg House but the name was eventually changed to J. Fenz & Son General Merchandise.  It is suspected this happened either after a later remodeling when the building looked like the photo below or when John’s son Herman joined his father in business.              

John Rohlwing went on to marry Louisa Lichthardt and had nine healthy children of his own.  They farmed just over the border in Elk Grove Township and, in fact, the barn that recently came down on the Busse Woods Forest Preserve property was on the former John Rohlwing farm.  In 1909, at the age of 48, John accidentally scraped his left leg against a cultivator and died several weeks later from the resulting infection.

Minna had died of influenze three years before John in 1906 at the age of 82.  Caroline was the last of the third generation and died in 1918 at the age of 63. 

The Rohlwing name lives on, not only in the annals of Schaumburg Township government, but on Rohlwing Road that bears their name. 

(Many thanks to Larry Nerge for his help with the details of this entry.)