Friday, May 16, 2014

The Crash of 1940
photo by Rick Doty

The Henry, Bertha and Nadine Gehner headstone in the Immanuel Cemetery always made me stop and read it... a father, mother and daughter dying within a couple days of each other.

Driving to Edwardsville,  Eldon would point out where the accident that happened on old Route 66 northeast of town.  I always wondered how this all happened. Recent searches in the online collection of helped me piece together some of the story of the Crash of 1940.

"Two in Family Fatally Injured in Auto Accident"

Efforts Being Made to Locate Driver of Red Carnival Truck Who Forced Car From Pavement
 Edwardsville Intelligencer, July 1, 1940, page 1
"Two persons were killed and four others injured when the automobile in which they were riding collided with one driven by Richard H Johnson, Urbana, Sunday morning. The accident occured on Route 66 near Mayle Road, northeast of this city."

Sparing the details of injuries (which papers in the 40's appeared to always mention):
  • Bertha Gehner died instantly
  • Nadine Gehner was taken to St. Elizabeth's Hospital and passed away a couple hours later.
  • Henry Gehner and the other Gehner children was taken to St. Francis Hospital in Litchfield
  • The driver of the other car (Richard Johnson) was treated and released from St. Elizabeth's.
What Happened?
From the Intelligencer article; "The accident occured when a large red truck, unidentified, passed the Gehner car, forcing it from the pavement. As Gehner drove back onto the highway, he crosssed the black dividing line and was struck by Johnson's automobile, which was approaching from the opposite direction...
"Deputy corner B.H. Weber said that the red truck involved in the accident was probalby owned by a traveling carnival outfit."
Johnson gave a statement to the deputy coroner on Sunday, summarized in the article.  Johnson was driving north on 66 and the Gehners were approaching from the north.  "The red truck was behind the Gehners, but the truck then passed the Gehner car.  Johnson slows down, but then the truck cut the Gehners off, frocing the Gehner car off the road."

So where's the truck?

The next day's Intelligencer provides some insight:
Edwardsville Intelligencer July 2, 1940. Page 1.

Third in Accident Died at Litchfield

Henry L. Gehner, 45 Mt. Olive coal miner and fruit grower, died Tuesday at St. Francis Hospital at Litchfield.
"[Deputy Coroner B. H.] Weber said Wednesday that John Robert Ball, 22 St. Louis, has been connected with the accident as the driver of an amusement truck which figured in the accident. The trash between the cars of Gehner and Richard Johnson, Urbana, occurred after Ball drove around the Gehner machine."

Who is this John Robert Ball?

First of all, he's not related to me; no branches of my family would be in St. Louis in 1940 that I know of. There are no John Ball's the right age in the 1940 Census in St. Louis, and none that really match in Missouri.  There is however a John Ball in Vandalia, Missouri (aged 28 at the time of the census) whose occupation is listed as a truck driver.  The age is wrong,  no middle initial is given and he's listed as driving truck for a soda company as of the end of April (when the census was taken). Given the truck was from a carnival it's possible the John Ball involved in the accident was not home at the time of the census, and as a young man may have only been in a boarding house and not really had an address in St Louis at all.

The Last Part of the Tale

Edwardsville Intelligencer Feb 10, 1941, page 1.

Man Asks $10,000 Damages, Three Killed

"Richard H Johnson, Urbana, filed suit in circuit course here Monday against the Oliver Amusement Company, St. Louis, John Robert Ball, a truck driver for the company, and Arthur F. Gehner, Mt Olive, administrator for the estate of Henry Gehner, for injuries suffered on June 30, 1940 in an automobile accident on Route 66... Johnson says an injury to his left knee prevents him from following the work of a refrigeration expert through which he earned $350 monthly."

Source: Edwardsville Intelligencer. digitized by

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Henry Gehner had a Farm. E-I-E-I-O

Farming creates a crop of paperwork too. I have some of my grandfather's pocket record books from the 1930's and 1940's (how much a load of wheat sold for, how much a month's supply of coal cost) and they give a great window into the daily life on the farm.

While Henry Gehner's detailed records are lost to history, we can get an idea of his farm records from the 1880 census, which included 100 questions in the supplemental items for farmers to report on the production and value of their farm in the prior year (these numbers are in addition to the 6 Gehner kids on the farm in 1880).

Notice that the hired man was also Henry.  I can't imagine how confusing this would be for Caroline yelling "Henry!" out the door and having three men respond.

Henry Gehner Age 49
Born in Germany
Caroline Gehner 28 wife Germany
Henry Gehner (Jr.) 19 son Illinois
William Gehner 16 son Illinois
Sarah Gehner 10 daughter Illinois
Charlotte Gehner 7 daughter Illinois
Herman Gehner 5 son Illinois
Ludwig Gehner 2 son Illinois
Henry Henrik 33 Hired Man Germany
"United States Census, 1880." Index and images. FamilySearch. : accessed  24 Feb 2014. Citing NARA microfilm publication T9. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d. 

Henry Gehner Had a Farm... E I E I O.

  • Acres Improved (tilled fields): 120
  • Acres of pasture, meadow, orchard or vineyard: 7
  • Woodland/Forest acres: 200

And on his farm he had some...

  • Horses: 8
  • Cows: 3 milk cows, 17 other
    • With a moo moo here
      • a total of 200 pounds of butter were made in 1879.
      • 2 calves born
      • 1 cow purchased
      • 1 slaughtered.
  • Sheep: 18 on hand 6/1/1880 
    • With a baa baa here
      • 18 fleeces weighing 90 pounds
      • 7 lambs in 1879
      • 3 sheep slaughtered
      • 2 killed by dogs 
  • Pigs: 43
    • no details were asked for in terms of piglets or number slaughtered
  • Chickens: 10
    • producing 20 dozen eggs

And on his farm he grew some...

  • Corn. 40 acres produced 1000 bushels
  • Oats. 15 acres produced 300 bushels
  • Wheat. 45 acres produced 900 bushels
  • Potatoes. 1/4 acre produced 25 bushels
  • Apples. 36 trees in a 1 acre orchard produced 5 bushels

And on his farm they made some...

  • Molasses 35 gallons of sorghum molasses

And on his farm they cut some...

  • Wood. 12 cords of wood (worth $30)

Henry Gehner had a farm. E I E I O.

Total asset values:
  • $6000 Land, buildings, fences 
  • $185 Machinery
  • $965 Livestock
  • Fence (repair & building) $30
  • Paid labor: $145 (12 weeks)

Income from selling farm product:$1600

Illinois Non-Population Census Schedules. 1880 Census: Agriculture Schedules for Macoupin County.. Accessed 23 Feb 2014

Data for both Henry Gehner and his brother Casper's farm is found on image 167 of Macoupin County's 1880 agriculture schedule.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Hacking through the Camp/Gehner Farm Cemetery

Note: This post isn't related (at least by blood) to any of the families.  It is however related by land; the descendents of Henry Gehner, Jr.  will know at least part of the story of the cemetery out in the pasture on the Gehner Farm.

The Camp/Gehner Farm Cemetery
Camp/Gehner Cemetery
December 2013

As kids, many Gehner cousins have hiked out there; played in the trees and walked around the cemetery in the back of the pasture.  They've looked at the stones, traced their letters. We've all wondered "who are all these people and how did they end up here?"

A combination of plants going dormant for the winter and my brother-in-law's summer project to clear some of the brush and make the trails accessible again made it possible to walk to the cemetery again for the first time in a couple years.

The trail of land ownership

Bureau of Land Management records for the purchasers of the land from the government after it was surveyed are available online from The quarter of land that will become the core of the Henry Gehner, Jr. farm was sold by the government as three separate land parcels. Clicking on the purchaser's name below will take you to the original patent records
Parcel Purchaser Purchase Date Highlighted
NW quarter of the NE Quarter Pickens Camp 2 Dec 1839 Red
SW quarter of the NE Quarter William Henderson 25 May 1841 Yellow
East half of the NE Quarter Telemachus Camp 15 October 1835 Blue

FYI: The SE quarter of the section (the square mile of land) was part of the thousands of acres of land in Macoupin and Madison Counties purchased by Elias Dorsey, father of Benjamin L. Dorsey.

Gehner Farm (1993) with original patents overlaid.
"Grandma Gehner's house" and the outbuildings are on the line between blue/red.
Source image from Google Earth
Telemachus Camp was one of the earliest settlers to southern Macoupin County, settling near Staunton around 1820 with quite a history. While Telemachus' land purchases adds up to some 20 parcels from the government, and possibly more from other buyers, his son Pickens Camp has a smaller operation, all in Cahokia Township. (one piece is just east of the Gehner farm, while the other is the section to the northwest)

The Burials

The best source on this cemetery is the WPA report on the cemetery, done sometime around 1938-1939 as part of WPA's historical records project.  The original reports for Macoupin County are available at the County Archives and have been transcribed and put on line by volunteers of the county genealogy society.

The Camp Family

A detailed listing of burials from the WPA shows infant twins of Pickens Camp were buried here in 1847, the first burials in the cemetery. This stone is somewhere out there, probably buried under a couple inches of sod.

Telemachus Camp, father of Pickens Camp appears to be next in 1849. His stone is one of the ones that has survived, but not in its original place- it was leaning on one side (partially sunken into the ground) against the cedar tree in the middle of the photo at start of this post- which is why the one side is discolored.

Four more of Telemachus' grandchildren (Pickens' kids)  are buried out here until Pickens dies and is buried out here in 1867.

Other burials

The WPA report from 1938-1939 lists additional family names buried out there including Garowne, Allen, Ozment, Henderson, McPeek, Dunce and Stull. In an editorial moment, the WPA report says "the names are strange" and aren't those of anyone living in the area then.

One potential clue:
Mary Stull's headstone
Peter H Stull purchases 40 acres in section 36  (this would be across the road to the east of the farm) on 1/1/1851.  Mary Stull is one of the burials listed on the WPA report, with her stone being the oldest identified from September 1851, aged 68. She's listed as the wife of John Stull in the cemetery records; could this be Peter's mother?

Other Details from the WPA Report

A transcription of the WPA report is available from the Macoupin County Genealogy Society's website.
The condition of the cemetery when the WPA staff inventoried the cemetery was about the same is it is now-"The cemetery on the Gehner farm is really in an abandoned condition.  Livestock are free to run over the burial grounds" 

This isn't the only pioneer cemetery in this shape.  The MCGS cemetery list has entries for 15 cemeteries in Cahokia Township- of these seven more are in condition similar to the Camp/Gehner Farm Cemetery.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Day of Research....

I've seen t-shirts that say "a bad day of fishing is better than a good day working."  I don't know if that's necessarily true, but a bad day of genealogy research is still a good day- even if you don't find everything you had hoped.

The headquarters of the St Louis County Library has amassed a large collection of genealogy resources and has a special focus on regional populations, including Germany. While we were at the Gehner Farm for Christmas, I had a chance to to spend a morning digging into their genealogy collection. I had a to-do list of things I wanted to use to try to find out more about the families; some things were successful, some not

1. Henry Gehner Sr's lost brother?

Swing and a miss.
Baptism records in Borgholzhausen list two Frederich Wilhelm Gehners born in 1824 and 1827 to the same parents as Henry Sr. (Given the short time between their births, I suspect the first one died young), and an intriguing possible match kept appreaing in St. Louis for a William Gehner. Unfortunately his death notice in the Post-Dispatch lists him as about 4 years too young.

2. Henry Gehner Sr- Marie Schweppe wedding?

Found it.
St Louis City/County Marriages for 1857
bottom of page 452. 

Notice this entire page are marriages performed in the past couple months by the same pastor (Fr. Picker??), all recorded by the clerk on the same day. A quick Google search lead to this forum on Rootsweb that Pastor Franz Picker founded the Independent German Evangelical Protestant Church in downtown St. Louis, now in Florissant which split off of Holy Ghost Church in 1856. 

Sidebar: Given the timing of the split, it is quite possible Henry Gehner, Sr who was living in St. Louis at the time was a member of one if not both of these churches. If Henry, Sr. was part of the founding of the Independent German church, this would make the number of churches he help found as the result of splitting off another congregation two. It would appear he took his theology seriously.

3. Deutsches Geschlechterbuch 


Deutsches Geschlechterbuch (German Lineage Book) is an ongoing series of published family histories; researchers have been submitting their family histories to be published in this series since 1898, which now is in 220 volumes.  The focus of this series are German non-noble, middle class families- often farm families.  Each article includes an introduction about the family (the meaning of the name, a narrative history) and then a family tree as far back as recorded documents go.

Luckily, the first 160+ volumes are on CD and as they digitized them, they indexed the names listed in the old volumes.  Even then, there are hundreds of thousands of names (common names like Schwartz are 20+ pages of index entries).  Having relatively unique names helped, there were few entries for each family.  However, I didn't hit the mother lode of a published genealogy for the Wegehaupt, Geidel or Gehner families.  The entries I did find were for marriages of women in the family subject to the article to men with these last names.  The Geidel and Wegehaupt lines did have mentions of men in the right areas of Germany in the early 1600's, but without any lineage to the families when they arrived in the 1800's, this isn't much to go on.

4. New Haven, MO books.

Really cool stuff.

While not related to us directly, New Haven, Missouri has some information for us.  About 100 miles west of St. Louis, New Haven, MO has a sister city relationship with Borgholzhausen, Germany- the ancestral home town for Henry Gehner and his first wife Maria Schweppe.  The reason?  Many of the settlers in New Haven came from Borgholzhausen in the late 1840's- just before Henry Gehner, Sr.  The St Louis County Library has two books written about the settlers in New Haven which describe the conditions and daily life they had in Borgholzhausen.  Short of finding Henry Sr.'s diary or a stack of letters from him, this is probably as close as we'll get to a detailed description of Gehner life in Germany in the 1830's and before.  That's the next post.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Technology Tuesday

"Where are you finding all this stuff?"
So where is all this information coming from?  There are a lot of great sources to use online (and better still, they're free).Here's a couple the more recent sources.
  • Google's search engine is sometimes the best starting point. Try googling "Henry Gehner, Sr." and you'll get his headstone from, his biography in the 1911 History of Macoupin County, Illinois in Google Books, and hopefully soon this blog. Putting in Fred Gehner gave hiss patents (in the previous post), and a lot more.
    • A big component of what Google has for genealogists is hidden over in Google Books.  Most things published in the US before 1923 are in the public domain now, and Google has been scanning many of the collections of the Big Ten and other university libraries.  Great stuff there. Their scanners are much better than any consumer-grade scanner I've ever seen- their scan of the picture of Henry Sr and Caroline (Weisbrodt) Gehner in the 1911 History of Macoupin County is almost better quality than the copy in the book at the farm in Illinois.
  • is the non-profit established by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to be the online presence for their family research efforts. There is a HUGE amount of new stuff coming in the future years, as they digitize more and more of their records with their recent  agreement with to digitize some billion records over the next five years.  They have many of the records already, but it meant having to order microfilms and spend your day at a film reader scrolling through the film. This is just the beginning.  If you haven't ever seen it, the online tour of Granite Mountain (the film vault in Utah) of their collection is amazing.
    • The Family History's microfolm collection includes the baptism, marriage and death records for the Lutheran church in Borgholzhausen for 1644-1921.  If you want to spend days staring at Germanic script, generations of Gehners and Schweppes are probably all there to be found. 
      • Taufen-baptisms
      • Hieraten- marriages
      • Tote- deaths

Friday, November 8, 2013

Over there! The Gehner boys in WWI

In honor of the Gehner who enlisted and died in the war to end all wars.

Information here is based on what I've found in passing; actual military service records may be a challenge to ever find details about, given the 1973 fire at the NPRC (National Personnel Records Center) in St. Louis damaged or destroyed 80% of the Army personnel records for 1912-1960

Martin Henry Gehner

 Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery, Mt Olive, Ill
Son of William Gehner
(Grandson of Henry Gehner, Sr.)
Battery F, 327th Field Artillery, 
84th Division- the Lincoln Division

The first time I saw Martin's headstone I wondered about his story- did he die in battle, was he wounded?  What happened to him?

What do we know about his unit- the 327th Field Artillery?

History of the 327th

The 327th Field Artillery was one of three artillery companies (325-327) which were associated to the 84th Infantry Division, which was made up of National Guard troops from Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky- hence the division name of "the Lincoln division" and the division's shoulder patch.   A history of the companion 325th Artillery indicates the 84th left their cantonment camp in Kentucky (Camp Zachary Taylor) in mid-August 1918 for transport to Europe. They were apparently sent to Le Mans, France where they were used as replacement troops in other units.

The Mt Olive Herald  reprinted an article from the State Register of the 23rd. "Carlinville- Major John Homer of the heavy field artillery of the regular army, now in France, writes home to his parents here, praising greatly his Macoupin County men recently put in his command.
"The men are from Mt. Olive and Benld and he says are the most wildly reckless fighters he has ever seen.... Their eagerness to get down to hard work was in evidence from the first and that they have made good is a pleasure to their friends at home. The boys from Mt. Olive, Benld and Staunton certainly have their folks at home back of them, heart and pocket book. Every family in Mt. Olive is said to have a Liberty bond. In Staunton tar and feathers is applied to every disloyal citizen." (Mt Olive Herarld 28 September 1918, page 1)

Sidenote- the anti-German sentiments during the war (along with anti-labor sentiments) combined in this highly German coal mining area to make for some ugly times.  There is at least one documented case of tarring and feathering at Staunton, and there are unmentioned incidents in Mount Olive and Hillsboro in a pamphlet published by the National Civil Liberties Bureau in July 1918, scanned and available on Google Books.

Back to Martin

The November 9th, 1918 edition of the Mount Olive Herald had a front page article titled "Killed In Battle".  Unfortunately, the first two sentences of the article aren't legible due to the poor quality of the microfilm (it's right on the fold of the newspaper).  The legible part below the fold shows "fighting in France October 3rd.  His parents received a letter this week stating the facts. He is the first Mt. Olive boy to die on the field of battle.
"Word was also received that Martin Gehner, son of Wm. Gehner, has died in France of Pneumonia."

Several other Mt Olive boys were reported wounded in the same article.

Long story short; Martin's involvement in fighting on the Western Front was short at best.We may never know the full story of his time in Europe since his unit was used as replacement troops (not as a cohesive unit) but the timing of the Lincoln Division's arrival in France and the letter from the major from Carlinville at least some combat action is possible.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Farmland Friday

Arkebauer Co-Founders of Mt. Olive?

Instead of watching the Cardinals lose the last game of the World Series, I spent Wednesday night reading the latest batch of Mt. Olive Herald newspapers sent by my mother-in-law. I noticed an ad for a contest to design the logo for Mt. Olive's 150th celebration in 2015.  That got me to thinking- as Mt Olive celebrates its history, they're going to celebrate John C Niemann as the town's founding father.  It may be time for the descendents of Meint Arkebauer (including those Gehners descended through his son-in-law Henry Gehner, Jr) to get him his proper recognition in creating Mt. Olive along with John Niemann.

Whose land is it anyway?

The original town of Mt. Olive as shown on the 1875 Atlas of Macoupin County (page 39 for Staunton Township) was two blocks either side of Main Street and by 1875 3 blocks either side of Poplar Street.  Most histories will credit John C. Niemann as the founder of Mt. Olive.

True, John Niemann was probably the first German here (his 1879 bio puts it as the only German between Edwardsville and Carlinville). It is also probably true that he had a big role in creating the town with the Niemann store.

But when you look at the township plat for the area around Mt. Olive in 1875, something strange pops out:

Mount Olive's Main Street is on the section line; the north of the street was from one owner and south of Main Street is another in another section of land.  Meint Arkebauer and a cousin of his (Gerd Gerdes Arkebauer) own the northwest part of section 11. The map in this case may distort the relative size of the town lots, but it would appear that at least the southwest part of the original town of Mt. Olive is Arkebauer land.  Above the town, there is a 20 acre plot of land labeled G.G.A.- is this another piece of Gerd's farm in 1875?

Side note: the Cross and "Cem" in section 2 on the H. Prange land?  That's what will become the Mount Olive City Cemetery with Immanuel Cemetery to the north of it and the Union Miner's Cemetery next to it.  The second burial in what will become the city cemetery is Meint's uncle Gerd G Arkebauer in July 1854.

When you take Meint's land and plot it's rough location on Google Earth (white outline), you'll see how Mt Olive has grown into part of it, and how G. G Arkebauer's 80 acres (in blue) next to Meint's land has pretty much been taken over by the city.

While John Niemann is honored for his work (and rightly should be, since much of northeast Mt Olive is on his original land and he is the first German settler in this region, bringing others to the area including another man from his hometown of Borgholzhausen-- Johann Heinrich Gehner), the Arkebauers are right there too in the founding of Mt Olive- both on the ground as farmers and land owners and IN the ground at the cemetery.

John Niemann's 1879 biography
John Niemann's baptism in Borgholzhausen in 1817