Reunion

“We are who we are because they were who they were.” -Unknown

Eighty-nine years ago, the Meintzer/Mentzer clan gathered together for the first family reunion. It was attended by at least 107 people. Yes, I counted heads! My mom is the 8-year-old girl with bobbed hair sitting cross-legged in the front row, 4th from the right. Her younger brother (age 4) was 4 to the left of her, in front of their parents, Christoph and Minnie Meintzer. Mom remembers attending this reunion as a kid.

Meintzer/Mentzer reunion in the summer of 1930. Exact date unknown but the infant cradled in the back row (held by the 5th adult from left) was born 2 June 1930. Seven of the nine children of Christian and Sophia Meintzer attended (middle of the 2nd row), as well as some extended family.

The photo resurfaced — that I know of, at least — in the early 1980s, when my mom and Lois, my godmother, decided we needed a family reunion. Unfortunately, my grandfather and his siblings had all died by then, so we needed to rely on the next generation to fill in the details of location and people.

Mom recognized some of the people, but not all. The nine siblings left a lot of kids between them, many of them still alive in the 1980s. With “crowdsourcing” (was that a thing, yet?) we managed to identify 93 people. That’s actually not too bad!

The reunion took place in the town of Riverview, just south of Des Plaines, Illinois. First settled in 1833, Riverview consisted of farms as well as industries accumulated over time.¹ [p. 1] By the mid 1880s, the town had a train station, post office, and a Town Hall (the building in the background of this photo). Over the next few years, additional industries were proposed, but either didn’t get off the ground or didn’t last long. The residents petitioned nearby Des Plaines to annex Riverview in 1925.

The Town Hall was on the northwest corner of Illinois & Everett, but was demolished in 1941.¹ [p. 5] I’ve been unsuccessful in locating other images of it. The building had an auditorium upstairs, but I’m unsure whether the reunion was held inside (coming outside for the photo), or if there were also picnic grounds around it.

In 2019, only a handful of people are still alive who attended this reunion, making it unlikely we will nail down the remaining faces. This week I spun off a “working file” from Family Tree Maker, containing only the people who were related and alive in 1930. I had it create a chart of everyone in the new file (whittled down to 159), then colored in the boxes for the identified people, and saved it. I’m hoping that seeing families with one or two members AWOL will help us put names to faces. I’m not going to list all the names in the blog. If you are family, and want the list, email me and I’ll gladly share it.

What I find notable about this photo (aside from all the men wearing ties!) is that extended family was also present. In Northbrook and the surrounding area, there were two families with names pronounced the same, but spelled differently. There were the Meintzers with an “i” (my people) and the Mentzers without an “i” (distant cousins). In the 1930s, the connection between the two was still well-known. My grandfather, Christoph Meintzer, knew that Christian Mentzer, four years older, was his 2nd cousin. Today, I don’t think many people realize there was/is a connection between the families, though I try to point it out whenever possible! It’s an important connection to keep.

Emigrating from Alsace in 1881, my great-grandfather, Christian, did not settle in the area north of Chicago accidentally. He moved his family to a place where he had 1st cousins he’d never met in person. In 1842, his uncle, Johann Philippe Meintzer, sailed on the Franconia from Le Havre.² Phillippe settled in Northfield and started working, eventually saving enough money to acquire land. He married Helena Weiman. They had at least four children (if there were more, I haven’t found them).

Descendant chart showing the 3 who immigrated to the Northbrook, Illinois, area. They are shaded yellow. Johann Philippe Meintzer Mentzer (far left) arrived first. The next arrival was Henri George Meintzer (far right), who arrived in 1871, then my great-grandfather, Christian (center), in 1881.

In 1871, Henri Georg Meintzer (another nephew of Philippe’s) arrived from Berg, staying for a couple years before moving back east to Ohio. That family remained in Ohio, and was “lost” to us until the last decade or so. Why Johann Philippe came to the Chicago area, I don’t know, but the other two most likely arrived there because of him. It’s helpful to know someone in a new area. Even though the cousins didn’t “know” each other, they were still family, so there’s still a connection. It’s possible the families had kept in contact by mail, though I’m unaware of any letters to document that.

I love that this reunion photo shows the two families together. The fact that they left Alsace separately, and reunited in the United States is cool! I need to make time to bring the Meintzers without and “i” line forward to current relatives, so my tree is more complete. Add that to the to-do list!

Please see an update to this post here.

#52Ancestors


¹Gale, Neil. 2019. “Village Of Riverview, Illinois (Now: Des Plaines, IL)”. Living History Of Illinois And Chicago. http://livinghistoryofillinois.com/pdf_files/Village%20of%20Riverview,%20Illinois.pdf; p. 1 and 5.

²National Archives and Records Administration, Castle Garden web site (castlegarden.org), http://www.castlegarden.org/quick_search_detail.php?p_id=8712262. Philipp MEINTZER–age 40.