So Far Away

Doesn’t anybody stay in one place, anymore?–Carole King

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Well, apparently not my grandfather, Christoph Jacob Meintzer. At least temporarily. While sorting through the photo postcards for Storms I came across this one. It didn’t fit what I needed for that post, but I found it interesting, and saved it for today. Unfortunately, it raises more questions than it answers:

  • date? No postmark, but after 13 September 1913, since he refers to Minnie as “Wife.” Possibly before 1922, since he’s not asking about the baby/child. Or maybe later but there wasn’t enough space?
  • place? Arkansas. It’s a “staged” booth, but doesn’t really provide other clues
  • why? It seems he was there for work, since he mentions trying to get a cashier’s check to send money home to Minnie.
Arkansas_0001
Christoph Jacob Meintzer (top left) and two unknown men, after 27 September 1913

1913-14 postcard back_Arkansas 0001
“Dear Wife, Have not received an answer for my last letter, only got a postal from you but expect a letter tomorrow, we could not get a money order last night, the place quit selling them so we will have to find a new office so will send you as quick as possible. [upside down part] All the offices close at 6 o’clock now, so we will have to lay of[f] to get a money order if I don’t send you any this week will send you more next week. Love Christ XXXOOXX   Will write a letter as soon as I get yours” The stamp corner places the postcard production between 1910 and 1930, though the photo could have been printed on later than that.
 I showed the images to my 92-year old uncle and 96-year old mom, hoping they might remember hearing something about this. Christoph was easily identified on the left, but not the other two. Mom thought the man on the right “might” be Uncle Emil Mueller, but her brother wasn’t sure. Neither knew anything about their dad working out of state. My uncle did remember hearing as a kid about Siloam Springs, Arkansas, as well as “Shoals” and fishing trips in Arkansas. Maybe Christoph fished on the weekends?

Off to Google! There’s a Bull Shoals Lake near the Missouri state line, though the dam to create it didn’t start until 1947, completed in 1951. So while he may have fished there in the 1950s or 60s, I doubt he was there when he was still fairly newly married. Siloam Springs is father west, and was “around” in the early 1900s, but I have no idea what might have taken him there. I moved on to eBay, hoping to find similar photos with a location.

My search for “Arkansas postcards” netted 11,126 photos! I scrolled through pages of them (115 at 50 per page–stopping at that point), looking for a similar background. Nothing matched, though I saw many “old-timey” photos taken at an amusement park in Hot Springs called “Happy Hollow.” That got me thinking, Christoph didn’t have a car at that time. I assumed he shared the trip with the other men, with one of them driving. Then I remembered our tour of Hot Springs National Park, learning that trains came in regularly with patients for “the baths.” Train travel would have been much more reliable–and probably cheaper–then. Maybe my car assumption was wrong? If that’s the case, then they were certainly somewhere reachable by train.

I ditched eBay and went back to Google, now searching for images with phrases from the photo. Still no image matches, though I found a 1914 Irving Berlin song, “When It’s Night Time Down in Dixie Land.” Could that be the inspiration for one sign? Maybe so.

I didn’t feel any closer to an answer, though, after several days of searching. Where did that leave me?

  • date? I think I’ve narrowed it down to 1914-1917. Why? The song’s copyright date (after their marriage), and his WWI draft registration, when he was employed at the Illinois Brick Company.¹ In 1910,² he was the last child living at the farmhouse with his parents. His occupation was “day laborer, odd jobs,” but his father (age 80) still farmed. I presume Christoph was working with him, doing odd jobs on the side. Minnie and he got married twenty days after his mother died (did they intentionally wait?), and they lived with her parents, while his father eventually moved into his oldest daughter’s house. With no kids, I can see that 3-year window being a time when Christoph could have gone for work out of state.
  • place? Still not narrowed down, though I’m more seriously considering Hot Springs. Little Rock would also have train service from Chicago, but searches for similar types of photo ops there came up dry.
  • why? My guess is he didn’t find steady work immediately after he got married, so took advantage of a temporary opportunity. He was clearly in Arkansas for a while–at least enough time to send a letter (presumably with a cashier’s check), anticipate one in return, and was going to be gone long enough to “send more next week” if he couldn’t arrange sending the money that week. If he was leaving soon, the money would just come with him. That’s a month, minimum, by my reckoning. He worked at the Shermerville brickyard at least 1917-1920. Two years later, my mom was born. It seems unlikely he would have taken work out of state after that.

What next? I can hope a 2nd or 3rd cousin reads this and remembers hearing a story that might help nail down more details. More images could appear online at some point, assuming I find time to wade through them. I could contact the Northbrook Historical Society to see if they recognize either of the two gentlemen. Maybe they are aware of ads circulating the area between 1914 and 1917, offering employment in Arkansas. Or I could send a query to a Rootsweb mailing list in Arkansas, to see if there was a large project in that window that would have pulled in workers from out of state.

Does it matter if I ever figure this out? Maybe not. It’s just a small piece of my grandparents’ history that’s mostly undocumented. But it tells us a bit about their lives, and the choices they had to make. It would be nice to iron out the details to have a better understanding of it–and them.


¹”U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918″, The National Archives (https://www.ancestry.com), Christoph Jake MEINTZER, serial no. 1167, order no. 106, Draft Board 1, Cook County, Illinois; citing World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: NARA microfilm publication M1509, 4,582 rolls. Imaged from Family History Library Roll No. 1,504,100; accessed 3 June 2018. Registered 5 June 1917.

²1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Lake, Vernon Township, e.d. 108; sheet 5A; dwelling number 86; family number 87; line 15; Christ MENTZER household; accessed 3 June 2018. Christ MENTZER age 22 [name MEINTZER incorrectly enumerated]; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 301; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

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Cemetery

So many to choose from!

The remains of my family are scattered throughout the Midwest. Big cemeteries (Ridgewood in Des Plaines, IL, or Ascension in Libertyville, IL), little cemeteries (Columbus, in St. Clair County, MI), and everything in between. One of my favorites, though is Sacred Heart Cemetery, in Northbrook, IL. It’s not the smallest one, but still very quiet and quaint. It’s on Lee Road, just north of Dundee. The I-94 Edens Spur turned Lee Road into a dead-end road (irony!), keeping it quiet. A single drive takes you inside, with a keyhole loop at the end, so you can turn around.

While Catholic Cemeteries manages all the Cook County, IL, cemeteries currently, originally each church kept up its own. This cemetery was attached Sacred Heart Church in Winnetka. Sacred Heart was a spin-off from St. Joseph’s Church in Wilmette. St, Joseph’s parish had grown, requiring another church to take care of the parishioners further north. St. Joseph’s Cemetery was also filling up, so it made sense for the new parish to start its own cemetery. At that time, Northbrook (which was really Shermerville) was out in the boondocks, so presumably land was cheap and available. It made sense to put the cemetery out there.

My great-grandparents, Ignatz Schweiger and Dorothea Harry (Invite to Dinner, Valentine, The Maiden Aunt) purchased Lot 2, Block 6, Section 2 in the cemetery. They were among the original families to start up the new parish, so I don’t know if they simply got in on the ground floor, or purchased it after they had a need. My earliest memory of it was when my grandpa, Edward, was buried. I was only seven, and don’t recall much, but I think it was a drizzly–or at least overcast–day. Fitting for a funeral.

Sacred Heart cemetery_0003
In Loving Memory of Iganatz Schweiger, born May 13, 1859; died Aug. 15, 1921. Dorothea Schweiger, born Mar. 26, 1858; died Oct. 29, 1932.
Sacred Heart cemetery_0002
In Loving Memory of Anthony G. Schweiger, born Jan. 17, 1891; died Sept. 28, 1914. Paul J. Haws, born Nov. 24, 1914; died March 3. 1915.

Towards the center of the plot, Ignatz & Dorothea installed a tall monument. The family name is arched at the bottom of the front side, with Igantz and Dorothea inscribed above. On an adjacent side are listed Anthony G. Schweiger (my grandmother’s brother) and Paul J. Haws (my father’s oldest brother). Prior to starting on the family tree, I hadn’t heard of either person.

Fortunately, my dad was with me on that trip to Sacred Heart, and could fill me in. Anthony died age 23, after being kicked in the head by a horse. He graduated from Sacred Heart’s grade school, and when we find him in the 1910 census¹, he’s a driver for a grocery. Sometimes we find him as “Anton” in records. Other than these small snippets of his life, we don’t know much, so it’s nice he has such a solid remembrance.

Paul J. Haws is the oldest brother of my dad. He was born 24 November 1914, and died 3 1/2 months later, on 3 March 1915. Victoria laid him in the crib the night before, and when she went to get him up the next morning, he was cold. There was no hint of illness prior. Some time before she died in 1955, as SIDS was first being recognized, she mentioned to my mom that what happened with Paul seemed to be the same thing.

The other sides of the monument are not carved–flush to the ground headstones were placed for the others. Buried there are my dad (and Mom–at some point), his brother, Henry, and sister Marie. Their other brother, George, is in Wheeling Cemetery (despite the notation below. He decided he didn’t want to use those graves. Marie’s daughter, Pattie, is there, instead. My grandparents, Victoria and Edward are there, as well as Victoria’s unmarried brother, Iggy (Ignatz).

Sacred Heart cemetery_0004
Plot card from some time after 1988, when Uncle George still was thinking about using 2 of the plots. He later changed his mind and is in Wheeling Cemetery. Uncle Henry and Aunt Mary’s cremains share the plot next to my dad. My cousin Pattie is in one of the others–I think next to her mom.

Besides baby Paul, Aunt Marie’s first daughter, Marilyn Victoria, is buried here. According to the plot card above, she and Paul were both buried in the southeast corner, so I guess they are in the same plot with Henry and his wife, Mary. With cremation urns, it’s not a big deal, I guess, and it’s nice they have company. I may see if the card can be updated, though, to include her name, as there is no marker. I’ve told my children, and some nieces and nephews, but they may not remember, and I don’t want her forgotten.

The family’s Sacred Heart plot is almost full of people, and certainly full of memories. The plot card reminds us that not everyone has a marker, so asking for the plot card information can be important. It sometimes has information not available from the cemetery websites.

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¹1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Glencoe, e.d. 57; sheet 9A; dwelling number 168; family number 169; line 25; Ignaty[z] SCHWEIGER household; accessed 29 April 2018. Anton SCHWEIGER, age 19; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 239; digital image, Ancestry.com) (https://www.ancestry.com).

Storms

Before The Weather Channel or Facebook, there was . . . the postcard . . .

Some people find storms to be romantic, but most don’t. I don’t know that my grandparents, Christoph J. Meintzer and Minnie Moeller, (Invite to Dinner) particularly thought they were, but storms and the weather certainly impacted their courtship. They lived about 5.5 miles apart: she in Shermerville (now Northbrook), he in the Riverwoods (west of Deerfield). I don’t know if either (or neither) of them had a telephone, but we DO have a collection of postcards sent by one or the other while they dated. The picture on the reverse was sometimes one or both of them, but often it was just a picture of something around town–train station, ice cream shop, etc.

We see that sometimes the weather put a potential monkey wrench into their plans;

1911 04 07 Christ cowboy back
[Friday] 7 April 1911 5PM “Dearest Hon, I’ll have to send you one off [of] these postals, Hon, if the weather is too bad Sat. night then I ain’t coming up. I shot two ducks today. am Going to shoot some Sun. morning so you know what that means.” Upside down, left corner: “With Love As B 4 Christ”
Sometimes it was simply the topic of discussion from the previous date . . . And what was Grandma doing up until 3:30AM? Did the storm keep her awake? I’m not sure.

1911 09 09 postcard back_0001
[Tuesday] 19 September 1911 7AM “Dear Hon – How did you get home in that storm Sun. night? I didn’t sleep until 3:30. It is pretty near time for me to hike for my train. Be sure and come up Wed. night. So long – Your Minnie XXXXXXXXXXX” Upside down, upper left “This is the old school house that I went to XXXX MM”
 Weather/storms was a topic for them more than once! Christ (short “i” mostly silent “t”) seemed to need reminders about when their next date was. And that is an awful lot of “Xs” (kisses) for the world to see on the way from Shermerville to Deerfield!

1911  09 16 Shermerville station back
?? September 1911 7PM “Dear Hon: – Rec’d your card last night. Wasn’t it fierce outside last night. Be sure & come up Sat. I must go to work now. It is 6:30 – So long. Yours Minnie XXXXXXXXXX

Sometimes the 5.5 miles were just muddy from the weather. Was he walking or riding between houses? I’m not sure. Other post cards mention him being in a “cutter” so riding is a possibility. There are those kisses, again! (I think I counted right)

1912 07 03 Minnie & Chris back
[Wednesday] 3 July 1912 5PM “Hello There, Got home fine Sun. night, but the roads were muddy. notice how this little girl looks: she looks awful mad at that fellow, don’t she? I wonder what’s the matter with her. it is just 6:15 and I’m going to bed now so Good bye. With Love Christ. Will be up Wed. night if can. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX” [photo of the two of them on reverse]
Several postcards mention him coming to visit on Wednesday, others mention Saturday, and a few seem to have been written Monday, implying a Sunday visit. The postcards don’t tell us what they did on those dates, though. Numerous postcards have photos of the two of them taken with a commercial backdrop–a suspended moon, in a “jalopy,” and assorted others. Were they spending the afternoon and/or evening at Riverview? Forest Park? Lincoln Park? Those amusement parks would have been the nearest, I think. Or were they going to the beer garden behind Bartelme’s restaurant, right there in Shermerville? Minnie didn’t really have a taste for beer until she had cancer (and she could ask for a glass of it in the hospital room), but Bartelme’s was still probably the place to hang out, locally.

Shermerville depot Oct 1911 side 2 for 4x6
?? October 1911 7PM “Dear Hon – Did you get home alright last night? Wasn’t it terrible windy? Be sure and come down Wed. night. I have something to show you, it will make you laugh. I done more laughing  to.day than I did for the last 2 weeks. I am almost ready to hike to bed. XXXXXXXX Yours forever, Minnie” Upside down, top left corner: “I love my mutz, but Oh! you Peck. Do you remember?”                 I have no clue what that might mean!

Several times Minnie mentions catching the train to work. My mom didn’t know what job that was (clearly not cooking at Bartelme’s!), so I looked in the 1910 census. Seventeen-year-old Minnie is working as a bill clerk at a furniture house.¹ It’s likely she was still working the same job over the next couple years, while they dated.

Christ & Minnie certainly talked about the weather during their courtship. With the lack of privacy on a post card, maybe it was a safe topic when everyone from the postmaster, to their parents and siblings, could read what they wrote? Without our modern communication options, the penny postcard was the least expensive way for them to stay connected between dates. Clearly it worked!


¹1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Illinois, Cook, Shermerville, e.d. 64; sheet 4A; dwelling number 55; family number 57; line 44; Karl Moeller household; accessed 13 April 2018. Wilhellmine MOELLER, age 17; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 238; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

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