Tombstone Tuesday: Fred and Emma (Stübe) Wiese

Fred and Emma (Stübe) Wiese were German immigrants who lived out their adult lives in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. Although both were born in 1867 in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, an area of present-day Germany located along the Baltic Sea, they left their homeland as infants. Fred – or Fritz – was the son of Joachim and Sophia (Cammin) Wiese and is believed to have been born near Wendisch-Baggendorf;1 Emma was the daughter of Ernst and Friederike (Wagner) Stübe and was likely born in what is now Friedrichshof, Wasdow, Germany.2 These rural communities are only ten miles apart, but separated by the Trebel River, the Wieses were residents of Pomerania and the Stübes were residents of Mecklenburg.

Both Fred and Emma arrived in America before 1870.3 While the Wiese family settled immediately in Chicago,4 Emma spent her childhood in rural Huntley, McHenry County, Illinois before moving to the city after her father’s death.5 It’s possible that Fred and Emma crossed paths as early as 1880; by that time, Emma’s presumed uncle, Carl Stübe, lived in the same building as Fred’s presumed uncle, Carl Wiese.6 They may also have become acquainted as members of the Missouri Synod First Bethlehem Lutheran Church of Chicago, located in a neighborhood that saw much of its growth in the years following the Great Chicago Fire.7

It was there that the couple married on 19 February 1887 when they were nineteen years old.
8 They would have five children together, the first born that summer: George Charles Wilhelm Wiese (1887-1975), Lillie Johanna Josephine Wiese (1889-1897), Rosa Minna Emma Bertha Wiese (1892-1918), Oliver William Charles Wiese (1896-1969), and Leonard John Christian Wiese (1900-1947). The early years of their marriage were spent in Chicago’s Fourteenth Ward, near their parish in Wicker Park.9 Tragedy touched their lives when their oldest daughter succumbed to cerebral meningitis at the age of eight;10 a few years prior, weeks before the opening of the Chicago World’s Fair, Emma had tended to her sixteen-year-old sister as she died of the same illness.11


Grave of Fred Wiese (1866-1914), Elmwood Cemetery, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois; 2006, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2015. Note: Fred’s date of birth on his gravestone is incorrect. He was born in 1867.

In 1902, seeking a fresh start, the family moved west from Wicker Park to a large home in the Montclare neighborhood. Their two-story Victorian home, which still stands today, was located on a corner lot and undoubtedly provided more space for the couple and their four surviving children.12 Fred supported his family as a cigar maker until his death from cirrhosis of the liver on 14 October 1914 when he was forty-seven years old. He was buried at Chicago’s Elmwood Cemetery.13


Grave of Emma Wiese (1867-1937), Elmwood Cemetery, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois; 2006, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2015.

Emma remained in their home for more than two decades, crocheting “fancywork” as a modest means of support. She kept chickens, a garden, and was by all accounts a formidable housekeeper who used a rod to smooth the bed coverings to ensure that no wrinkles remained. In her later years, she had a German Shepherd, Sally, and her home was the gathering place for the weekly Saturday meal that she prepared for her children and their families. While her grandchildren considered her to be strict, she was not unkind, offering them dimes for the movies and pennies for the organ grinder’s monkey.14 After Emma’s death from a stroke at the age of seventy on 6 November 1937, she, too, was buried at Elmwood Cemetery.15

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Suiting Up at the Turn of the Century

I’ll admit I feel rather proud of my namesake for marrying such a debonaire young man. Henry Joseph Adam of Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa, pictured at right, married Melanie Veronica Lutz in 1905 at the age of twenty-four, which allows this photograph to be dated to approximately 1900-1905.1


Henry Joseph Adam, at right, with an unknown individual, Akron, Iowa, ca. 1900; digital image 2014, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2015. Collection courtesy of David Adam.

Census records confirm that the photographer who made this cabinet card, Gene Frank of Akron, Plymouth County, Iowa, did indeed operate a photography studio in the early twentieth century.2 However, I’m not entirely sure what Henry was doing in Akron himself. He lived in Sioux City, thirty miles south, where there were certainly a number of photographers; however, Akron was a bit closer to the French Canadian communities of southeastern South Dakota where Henry had a number of relatives. It’s also possible that he had hired out to work in the area or that he had simply gone there for a visit – or, as the case may be, for a shopping expedition.

As with all photographs, an important question comes to mind: “What was the occasion?” While I don’t note a strong family resemblance between the other young man and Henry’s male relatives, one possibility is that he could have been a cousin. He could not have been a classmate, as Henry attended school only through eighth grade, but it is possible that he and Henry worked together in some capacity. If nothing else, he was a friend, and I wonder if he and Henry purchased these suits together. The textured suit jackets are nearly identical in terms of cut and fabric, but not quite, while the stiff-collared shirts seem to be the same; the young men expressed their individuality by way of their accessories. The friend, with wet hair slicked in a part, wears a vest with a knotted striped necktie and a watch chain, while Henry omits the vest in favor of a fleur-de-lis-printed necktie tied in a bow. It wouldn’t have been unusual in this era for two young men to have a photograph taken together to document their friendship.

What strikes me about this photograph is that from what I know of Henry, he wasn’t typically quite so refined! He spent his teenage years as a dairy farmer and his adult years as a carpenter, so such dapper attire was in all likelihood limited to his early adulthood and might have been worn to church or while courting. The high detachable collar fully encased his neck, and I particularly like that he wore the fleur-de-lis as an apparent nod to his French Canadian heritage; Henry in fact spoke both French and English.

There are a number of photographs of Henry in my collection, but this may be the most dapper of them all. For more photographs of the family of Henry Joseph Adam (1881-1944) and Melanie Veronica Lutz (1884-1973), stay tuned for the new Adam Family Album. 

Copyright © 2015 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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A Goodly Bit of Romance

The newspaper headline must have brought a few chuckles: “OLD FOLKS HAVE ROMANCE.” The story continued, “Romance is not all reserved for young people, as the marriage of Isaac N. Holman, aged 70, of Decatur, Neb., to Mrs. Sarah E. Fenton, aged 51, of Springdale, in Sioux City, will testify. […] This is the third marriage for each of the contracting parties. Both are well along the avenue of life and to them the marriage represents good judgment as well as a goodly bit of romance. They have known each other a long time and the mutual admiration they have entertained has grown gradually until the marriage yesterday placed its happy seal upon their growing affection.” Following their marriage on 24 August 1908 at the home of the Reverend W. H. Montgomery of the Haddock Methodist Episcopal Church in Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa, the couple was to visit Omaha. They would settle in Decatur, Burt County, Nebraska, where Holman, “said to be quite well to do,” made his home.1

That evening, their story appeared in another Sioux City newspaper: “LOOKING FOR LAND HE FINDS HELPMATE.” This version of the story was written with a level of flowery detail that, while entertaining, I don’t quite trust:

“I.N. Holman, a wealthy retired farmer of Decatur, Neb., came to Sioux City several months ago on a land deal. At the office of a real estate dealer he met a charming black-eyed widow, Mrs. Sarah E. Fenton, who had chanced in there on business. When they were introduced, he immediately lost all interest in Sioux City property or any property for that matter, and devoted all his time to the widow. Holman is 70 years old, and he pressed his suit with such ardor that before he returned to Decatur he had made a contract for something which he wouldn’t trade for all the farms in Iowa, namely the attractive widow. Today he returned to close the deal, which he says is the best he ever made. A license was issued this afternoon, the bride giving her age as 51. They will be married this evening and after a two weeks’ wedding trip will make their home at Decatur. “Maybe people think we’re foolish,” said the bride, blushing like a school girl, “but we don’t, we’re too happy.”2

This is far from the whole story. First, there are, in fact, two stories presented by these competing news articles. Did the couple meet at the land office, or had they been acquainted for years? This we may never know for sure; it seems unlikely, but not impossible, that the couple had crossed paths before meeting in Sioux City. Second, the “attractive widow” most likely did not have the black eyes of Bess the landlord’s daughter, charming as the description may be.3 And was she even a widow? Well, yes and no. Her first husband, George W. Fenton, died tragically in 1880 when accidentally shot by her brother-in-law.4 Her second husband, however, was still alive and well at the time of her third marriage; Sarah had divorced John Hoffman in 1902 citing his drunkenness and death threats.5 However, it would have been far from unusual for a woman to claim widowhood over divorce.


Sarah Ellen (Hall) Fenton Hoffman Holman Eklof, Iowa or Nebraska, ca. 1908; digital image 2001, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2015.

Finally, would Isaac and Sarah live happily ever after? Unfortunately not. Isaac was granted a divorce from Sarah in 1914;6 a probate petition filed by his son the previous year, while suggesting that Isaac “indulged in intoxicating liquors to excess” and was “changeable, forgetful, and stubborn,” also stated that “the amount of money demanded from him by his current wife annoyed him considerable.”7 Oh dear. Isaac did not remarry before his death in 1922,8 but Sarah would marry – and divorce – once more.9 She resumed the use of the Holman name and at the time of her death in 1930, she was referenced as the widow of Isaac Newton Holman. Her short-lived marriage to this “wealthy landowner” was, perhaps, her one claim to local fame and financial stability.10

Lesson learned? Never assume. I had assumed that because this was the couple’s third marriage, and because they married in a community with a population greater than thirty thousand, that no mention would be made of their marriage in the local newspaper. In fact, I didn’t bother to check until their names turned up in the Findmypast database featuring a newspaper from across the state, and then learned that more than one version of the story existed. As it turns out, you never know what details of your ancestor’s experience might have made a compelling story deemed worthy of reprint!

Copyright © 2015 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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Wedding Wednesday: Puffed Sleeves

On a late September day in 1896, Elizabeth Hoffman of North Washington, Chickasaw County, Iowa affixed a gauzy, floor-length veil to her hair. It may have been crowned with flowers, although the faded photograph does not make this clear. Flowers or foliage of some kind – perhaps even autumn leaves? – were indeed attached to the front of her dress, although she wore no white gown. Her best dress was likely black or another dark color and fashionably made with a gathered bodice, narrow waist, and sleeves generously puffed to the elbow. (Anne Shirley would have been envious.)

Elizabeth’s attire is evidence that, at this time, even recent immigrants living in rural areas of the United States were aware of the latest fashion trends. Corsets were not worn by all women in the 1890s, and Elizabeth, already slim, was not dramatically corseted if she was at all.1 The gathered bodice was of a style worn throughout the decade, and while the care of these full leg o’ mutton sleeves was time-consuming, they were at the height of popularity in the middle of the decade.2


Mathias Noehl and Elizabeth Hoffman, wedding, North Washington, Iowa, 1896; digital image 2001, original held by J.H., 2015.

At the age of twenty-seven – her birthday had been just the week before – Elizabeth was to marry a fellow immigrant, Mathias Noehl.3 As it so happened, he hailed from the village of Holsthum, Bitburg-Prum, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany, which neighbored her own home village of Prümzurlay.4 By all accounts, however, their first meeting took place in northeastern Iowa, where Mathias encountered Elizabeth, whom he called Lizzie, at the Immaculate Conception Church in North Washington. She lived there as the housekeeper of Father Probst and the Sisters of Charity.5 The couple was married there on 22 September 1896 and may have celebrated with Elizabeth’s mother and siblings, who had also made Chickasaw County their home.6

A copy of Mathias and Elizabeth’s wedding portrait was shared with me by a relative; I suspect the original is a cabinet card photograph, popular at the turn of the century. I can’t make out much of the setting (is it grass or a rug at their feet?), but Mathias sits in a wicker chair while Elizabeth stands to the side, her right hand on his shoulder. In her left hand is clutched a small book, perhaps a prayerbook. As was typical of the time, neither of the newlyweds smile, and their faces are so faded in the copy that it’s difficult to see the direction of their gazes. Mathias has short hair; in his memoirs, he wrote that that, upon meeting Elizabeth, his blond hair was “unkempt like dried up flowers of the cemetery,” so a haircut may have been in order!7 He has a tidy mustache and wears a wool suit and white shirt. At twenty-eight, having recovered from an earlier heartbreak during his first years in America, he was prepared to settle down and start a family.8 Mathias and Elizabeth would go on to raise nine children on their farm.

This wedding portrait is one of several photographs that I have in my digital collection of the family of Mathias and Elizabeth (Hoffman) Noehl, both immigrants who came to Iowa from Germany in the late nineteenth century. For more photographs of the family of Mathias Noehl (1868-1950) and Elizabeth Hoffman (1869-1957), check out my new Noehl Family Album

Copyright © 2015 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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Tombstone Tuesday: Timothy and Odile (Millette) Adam

Timothy and Odile (Millette) Adam experienced nearly forty years of marriage together that were anything but ordinary.

Timothy, baptized in St. Pie, Quebec on 8 August 1846, the son of Timothée Adam and Marguerite Chicoine, crossed into America with his family as a teenager.1 They settled near the textile mills of Indian Orchard, Hampden County, Massachusetts, which is where Timothy married at the age of twenty-one on 22 September 1867 to Odile Millette.2 Odile had been born in the French Canadian community of Rouse’s Point, Clinton County, New York on 11 July 1847, the daughter of Maurice Millet and Isabelle Quemeneur dit Laflamme.3 She, too, had relocated to Massachusetts as a teenager, where she also found work in the mills.

The couple was said to have had ten children together, eight of whom have been identified: Timothy Maurice, Alexander Amadée Edmond (known as Edward), Joseph Frederick (known as Alfred), Marie Julie Malvina, Albina Lena, Henry Joseph, Martin Theodore, and Permelia Marie.4 Only five of these children are known to have survived to adulthood; at least one succumbed to scarlet fever as a toddler.5

In 1883, the family made the decision to move west.6 I have to wonder if this move was spurred by the deaths of at least two of their own young children circa 1880, as well as by the deaths of Timothy’s younger brother and sister who died within a week of each other in February of 1883: one of pneumonia at twenty and the other of tuberculosis at twenty-four.7 In fact, tuberculosis had caused the death of Timothy’s mother just five years before.8 Perhaps the idea of fresh air and the countryside appealed to the couple as they must have feared for the health of their children.

Timothy and Odile may first have joined French Canadian relations in southeastern South Dakota, where a son was born to them in the summer of 1885.9 In December of the following year, Timothy claimed a homestead a short distance away near Moville, Woodbury County, Iowa.10 The family would remain here for a number of years; by 1900, they had relocated to a dairy farm closer to Sioux City.11

The coming years were unexpectedly tumultuous for Timothy and Odile. First, in 1900, their twenty-nine-year-old son Edward, who had been out of touch for nearly a decade, returned home and began harassing his parents and younger siblings. Timothy went to court in order to obtain a restraining order against him.12 Then, over the next several years, Timothy and Odile seem to have suffered marital discord. Timothy was not recorded in the 1903 Sioux City Directory; he appeared again in the same household as his wife the following year.13 In 1905 he was again absent, and it was at this time that Odile implored the enumerator of the 1905 Iowa State Census to bring her any word of her two eldest sons, Edward and Fred, who had traveled west and had not been heard from in several years.14 It was also in 1905 that Odile recorded her will, leaving her real estate to her three youngest children: Henry, Theodore, and Permelia. No mention was made of her absent sons – or her husband.15


Grave of Odile Milliette Adam (1847-1906) and Timothy Adam (1840-1919), St. Joseph Cemetery, Elk Point, Union County, South Dakota; 2014, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2015. Note: Timothy’s date of birth on his gravestone is incorrect. He was born in 1846.

In 1906, the final year of Odile’s life, she operated a boarding house at 508 Perry in Sioux City.16 Notably, Timothy resided not at home, but at the Washington House Hotel.17 It does seem possible, however, that the couple reconciled whatever differences they may have had by the time of fifty-nine-year-old Odile’s death from hepatitis on 16 December 1906 in Elk Point, Union County, South Dakota.18 Notably, when the 1907 Sioux City Directory was printed at some point in late 1906, likely shortly before her death, both Odile and Timothy were named as residents of 508 Perry.19

Timothy, a carpenter again as he had been in his younger years, remained in the house with his children for only a short time before resettling in nearby Jefferson, Union County, South Dakota. He remained here for the next decade; as of 1910, he operated a billiard hall in this small, largely French Canadian community.20

By 1917, Timothy, now seventy, had returned to Sioux City where he lived with his married daughter.21 He died there on 22 February 1919 at the age of seventy-two, his cause of death recorded as senility.22 Timothy Adam was buried beside his wife, Odile Millette, at St. Joseph Cemetery in Elk Point, Union County, South Dakota, his name squeezed as though an afterthought at the base of her gravestone.

Copyright © 2015 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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Brotherly Love

It might have been a late summer’s day when brothers Roy and James Walsted of Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa posed for this snapshot circa 1924. Six years apart in age, Roy was perhaps twelve and Jim perhaps six when this photograph was taken some ninety years ago.1 The park-like setting and the blanket at their feet suggest that the occasion may have been a picnic. Classic car aficionados could likely date the vehicle parked behind the boys.

SCAN0323 - Version 2

Roy Louis Christian Walsted (back) and James Herman Walsted (front), Sioux City, Iowa, ca. 1924; digital image 2015, privately held by Valene Petersen, 2015.

Roy suffered from polio as a child, which resulted in a limp as one leg was left shorter than the other. His younger brother was said to have come to his defense when Roy was bullied or was the last to be chosen for a neighborhood baseball team.2 Even in this photograph, it appears that Jim stands guard in front of his brother, his arms protectively curved back around Roy’s legs as Roy clasps his hands atop his brother’s head. Both boys wear short pants and newsboy caps; Jim is in a sailor suit, a style that remained popular for young boys in the post World War I era.3

I have to wonder who the man off to the side of the photograph could be. I have only seen two small snapshots of Roy and Jim’s father, both of which were taken late in his life. (I suppose there is a third if I count a postmortem photograph of him at his own funeral.) From those, I know that he was a man of slight build, but beyond that, I have no way of telling whether this gentleman in a straw boater hat and rolled shirtsleeves is in fact James Jacob Walsted or not. If this picnic was a family affair, perhaps the boys’ mother, Kathrine, was behind the camera.

This charming snapshot is one of a handful of photographs that I have in my digital collection of the Walsted brothers and their parents, both immigrants who came to Iowa from Denmark in the early twentieth century. For more photographs of the family of James Jacob Walsted (1886-1956) and Kathrine Christensen (1886-1971), check out my new Walsted Family Album

Copyright © 2015 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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The Proud Owners of a New Piano

You never know what might have made the news a century ago. In Iowa, for example, news might have been made when someone acquired a piano. Although mail-order catalogues like Sears, Roebuck & Company made owning a piano more affordable than ever thanks to convenient financing options,1 such a substantial purchase was still of great interest to those in rural communities and small towns across America.

These were the years before Victrolas became widespread.2 Pianos were a ready source of music and entertainment, and people of all ages might have enjoyed gathering at the home of a friend or family member with a piano for an evening of playing and singing.


“A Pleasant Evening at Home,” Prints & Photographs Online Catalog, Prints & Photographs Reading Room, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. ( : accessed 5 August 2015).

In the northwestern corner of Iowa, The Sibley Gazette reported on 24 May 1900:

John Hoffman and family are the proud owners of a new piano.3

And in the northeastern corner of the state, The Guttenberg Press reported on 25 June 1909:

Miss Roselyn Thoma is the happy and proud possessor of a new piano.4

John Hoffman was the second husband of Sarah Ellen Hall; married since 1883, they would undergo a tumultuous divorce in 1902. At the turn of the century, however, they were still married with a twenty-year-old daughter and a sixteen-year-old son at home.5 Their acquisition of a piano adds a bit of brightness to what was painted in their divorce proceedings as a rather dim time. Although Sarah led a difficult life, her granddaughter remembered that she had loved fine things; this piano was likely a prized possession.6 As she was said to be a religious woman, perhaps she enjoyed hymns played on the piano either by herself or her children.

Roselyn Thoma was the daughter of Fred and Matilda (Hammond) Thoma and was seventeen years of age in 1909.7 She was the last of four surviving children still at home, her younger sister having been lost to a diphtheria outbreak three years prior.8 Perhaps it was with a newfound appreciation to seize the moment that her parents supported such an extravagance for their daughter, or perhaps the same inheritance that had recently spurred them to purchase a farm made the purchase of a piano possible as well.9 Roselyn would marry two years later, and one can imagine that her piano might have accompanied her to her new home.10

Whether the Hoffman and Thoma families enjoyed idyllic moments crowded around their pianos à la Little Women or not, it is clear that the addition of a piano to a household in their humble Midwestern communities was worthy of note – and pride. However, even in these rural areas, it would be only a matter of time before new forms of entertainment overtook the novelty of owning a piano.

Copyright © 2015 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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