Tag Archives: Chicago

A German American Family in Chicago

Several years after German immigrants Fred and Emma (Stube) Wiese of Chicago, Cook County, Illinois posed for a photograph together in their garden, they were photographed outdoors once again, this time with their children.

Fred and Emma (Stube) Wiese with children, from left, Leonard, Rose, George, and Oliver, circa 1904, Chicago, Illinois; digital image circa 2000, provenance of the original unknown.

Their youngest son, Leonard, seated at left, provides the biggest clue in dating this photograph, as his age is the easiest to pinpoint: assuming that he was, perhaps, three years old here, it can be dated circa 1904.1 George, standing between his parents, would have turned seventeen that year, Rose would have turned twelve, and Oliver, seated at right, would have turned eight.2 Sadly, Fred and Emma’s oldest daughter, Lillie, had died of meningitis as an eight year old in 1897.3

The Wiese family is pictured outside what may have been their own Victorian-style home at 2502 North Neva Avenue in Chicago’s Montcalm neighborhood.4 Only one of the six looks directly at the camera. Perhaps a second photographer was off to the side, where the other five members of the family directed their attention. This image is a scan of an original of an undetermined medium; it is rather heavily damaged with wrinkles, scuffs, and blotches.

Fred, who was a cigar maker by trade, sports a full mustache and wears a dark suit and tie.5 He is in his late thirties here.6 Emma, also in her late thirties, wears a white collared shirtwaist with a brooch at her throat, paired with a walking skirt in a darker color.7 A belt with a decorative clasp can be seen at her waist. A skilled seamstress, Emma was especially known for crocheting elegant garters, a talent she used to help support her family in her later years.8 It can well be imagined that she had a hand in making sure that she, her husband, and their children were well-dressed.

George wears a suit and tie much like his father’s; his fair-haired younger brothers sport rather voluminous white shirts and dark pants. Rose’s hair is pulled back into a braid and set off with a large bow; her simple shirtwaist and skirt, which falls mid-calf, are accessorized with a belt tied at her waist, a corsage, and a string of beads at her neck. These beads resemble pearls, although her mother was also known to make fragrant, darker-colored beads out of crushed rose petals which she would then alternate with pearl beads to create a necklace.9

This is the only known photograph of Fred and Emma (Stube) Wiese with their children. Despite the beating that the original print appears to have taken, it remains a special memento of a day in the life of this German American family in Chicago.

Copyright © 2019 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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The Young Musicians

At first, Leonard and Helen might have seemed like an unlikely pairing.

Leonard John Christian Wiese was a city boy through and through, born and raised in Chicago. Helena Margaret Nelson, on the other hand, was a farm girl from rural southeastern South Dakota. Chicago’s population in 1920 numbered over two and half million, while the largest town within the vicinity of Helen’s family’s farm had a population of only five thousand.

Leonard Wiese and Helen Nelson, South Dakota, circa 1922-23; digital image 2014, privately held by B.S., 2019.

Their heritages also differed. Leonard’s parents had immigrated to America from Germany as children, while Helen’s parents had immigrated to America from Denmark.1 However, despite different familial origins and native languages, Leonard and Helen had a surprising amount in common.

Both were born in the year 1900, and both were younger children in large families—Leonard the last of five, and Helen the sixth of nine.2

Leonard Wiese and Helen Nelson, South Dakota, circa 1922-23; digital image 2014, privately held by B.S., 2019.

Both lost their fathers as teenagers. Leonard’s father, Fred, died when Leonard was thirteen years old, and perhaps because of the need to help support his mother, Leonard entered the workforce after completing the eighth grade.3 Helen’s father, also named Fred, died when she was seventeen; shortly thereafter, she began teaching country school.4

Both saw older brothers serve in the First World War.5

Both lost older sisters to tragic circumstances in the year 1918.6

Both were raised as members of the Lutheran church.7

Perhaps their most significant commonality, however, was their shared love of music. Leonard was a talented violinist, while Helen played the piano, and their talents made them popular entertainers within their respective social circles.8

Leonard Wiese and Helen Nelson, South Dakota, circa 1922-23; digital image 2014, privately held by B.S., 2019.

As the story goes, as a young man, Leonard worked at the docks in Chicago while his older brother Oliver worked for the railroad. Oliver obtained tickets west so that he and Leonard could seek seasonal farm work, and the industrious brothers wound up in Yankton County, South Dakota.9 Leonard, of course, had brought along his violin, and it has been surmised that one way or another, word spread that a young man with musical talent was in the area. Wouldn’t he get along swell with a certain young pianist? Before long, the Wiese brothers had made the acquaintance of the Nelson sisters, among them Helen and her older sister Louise.10 

Oliver and Louise married in Yankton on 01 June 1922, and after a courtship documented in a few surviving snapshots, which offer a glimpse of light-hearted moments shared together, Leonard and Helen married in Chicago on 05 January 1924.11

Happily, music remained a shared passion throughout their twenty-three years of marriage, and it was their delight to engage their two daughters in their very own Wiese Family Band.12

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Johann Wiese and a DNA Connection

Johann Wiese of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany was sixty-five years old and a widower when he boarded the Borussia in Hamburg on 31 October 1868.1 He traveled with Caroline Wiese, twenty, as well as with a young man whom Caroline would marry within months of their arrival in America.2 All named Wendisch Baggendorf, a landed estate located near the town of Grimmen in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, as their place of origin.3

Interestingly, one day later, several other Wieses departed from Hamburg: Carl Wiese, twenty-three, with his wife, both also of Wendisch Baggendorf, and Joachim Wiese, twenty-seven, with his wife and child.4 They resided in Barkow, an estate located near modern-day Klevenow, which is only a few miles from Wendisch Baggendorf.5 Both Carl and Joachim and their families traveled aboard the Electric, which, like the Borussia, was bound for New York.6

“Kirche in Kirche Baggendorf,” 2009, Kirche Baggendorf (near Wendisch Baggendorf), Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany; Wikimedia Commons, copyright Klugschnacker.

I might not have noted the connection between the Wieses who left Hamburg for New York one day apart if it were not for spotting several interesting member matches within the AncestryDNA results for my grandmother, the great-granddaughter of Joachim Wiese. Each of these matches named Caroline Wiese as a direct ancestor, which led me to the ship manifest that revealed that Caroline had traveled with a Johann Wiese of an appropriate age to be her father; appropriate, too, that a father would accompany his yet-unmarried daughter overseas.

Caroline, as stated, married shortly after her arrival in America; she and Gustav Beth were wed on 10 January 1869 in Dundee, Kane County, Illinois.7 Carl and Joachim Wiese, on the other hand, both settled in Chicago’s 15th Ward with their families.8 While Johann Wiese has not been located in the 1870 or 1880 censuses, and does not appear in the households of Caroline, Carl, or Joachim, it is possible he was simply not counted in the census if, for example, he was en route to the home of another child and was missed by the census enumerator, or if a neighbor provided information about the family to the census enumerator and failed to mention him.

Cook County, Illinois, death certificate no. 28339, John Wiese; Cook County Clerk, Chicago.

Ultimately, it appears Johann Wiese spent the final fifteen years of his life in Illinois, although thus far little is known about how he spent those years.9 Similarly, little is known about his life in Pomerania; records note only that he was a laborer, and as serfdom was abolished in the area in 1820, he was perhaps contracted to work on an estate in Wendisch Baggendorf or the vicinity.10

According to his death record, he died on 02 August 1883 at 144 Newton Street in Chicago at the age of eighty.11 His death was attributed to old age.12 Intriguingly, Carl Wiese resided at this address, further strengthening the potential of a connection beyond their shared Wendisch Baggendorf origins and their emigration one day apart.13 It seems logical to assume that Johann Wiese might have been cared for in his last days by his son.

Johann Wiese is buried in Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery; today, while the location of his grave has been identified, it is unmarked.14

Copyright © 2017 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.
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From Germany to Chicago’s Old Town

Clara (Bach) Marbach was born in Luxembourg near the border of the district of Bitburg-Prüm, Rhineland-Pfalz, Germany, the daughter of Johannes and Anna Maria (Thiel) Bach.1 She married Mathias Marbach in June of 1835,2 and the couple had six known children in the decade that followed: Anna,3 Catharina,4 Elisabetha (I),5 Elisabetha (II),6 Adamus,7 and Elisabetha (III).8 The family is believed to have resided in the village of Prümzurlay, known for its castle ruins upon sandstone bluffs that overlook its scenic valley.

Photograph of Prümzurlay, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany, as viewed from Prümerburg, 2009; privately held by Melanie Frick, 2017.

Following the death of her husband, Clara left Germany for America in the company of two of her daughters, Elisabetha (I) and Elisabetha (III), along with their husbands and children.9 A third daughter, Anna, would emigrate twenty years later.10 Clara traveled aboard the Holland and arrived in New York in June of 1871, thirty-four years after she had married.11 She and her daughters made their way to Chicago where they settled near St. Michael’s Catholic Church, located in what is today the heart of Chicago’s Old Town.

Sadly, within days of their arrival, Clara’s six-month-old grandson succumbed to pneumonia.12 It was a difficult year; the Great Chicago Fire tore through the city in October of 1871, a horrifying disaster that would almost certainly have left Clara and her daughters homeless alongside an estimated 90,000 of the city’s inhabitants,13 and another grandson passed away at twenty-one months the following June amidst a scourge of cholera upon their neighborhood.14 The years to come were difficult as well, as Clara saw numerous grandchildren born and die, including one who succumbed to smallpox in an outbreak that devastated their community.15

The family’s neighborhood was known in the nineteenth century as the “Cabbage Patch” due to the large number of German immigrants who had farmed there in Chicago’s earliest years.16 When Chicago burned, St. Michael’s Catholic Church, the cornerstone of this German American community, was one of only a handful of buildings in the city to survive, although it was badly damaged and had to be reconstructed.17 Perhaps Clara was among the parishioners who attempted to bury some of the church’s valuables in the church yard as the fire approached, and she and her daughters, son-in-laws, and grandchildren may have huddled in an open field or at Lincoln Park on the shores of Lake Michigan as the fire roared through the area.18

At the time of the 1880 U.S. census, nine years after her arrival, Clara lived at the home of her daughter Elisabetha (III), who, at thirty-five, had been twice widowed and once abandoned, a state that earned her the designation of “grass widow” by the census enumerator.19 Elisabetha supported herself and her stepchildren by sewing, while Clara, by then in her mid-seventies, kept house.20 Their neighborhood had been entirely rebuilt following the Great Chicago Fire, thanks to a flood of donations, including building materials, from relief societies.21

Cook County, Illinois, death certificate no. 66546, Clara Marbach; Cook County Clerk, Chicago.

Clara died five years later on 12 July 1885; she was reported to have reached the age of eighty-two and eleven months and her cause of death was attributed to heart failure after having been bedridden for the previous three months.22 Clara (Bach) Marbach was buried at St. Boniface Catholic Cemetery in Chicago’s North Side neighborhood.23 Today, her grave, which rests in the company of those of several of her children and grandchildren, is unmarked.24

Copyright © 2017 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.
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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 the late 1860s 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 born in Friedrichshof in Ritteramt Gnoien.2 These rural communities were not far in terms of distance, 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 1887.8 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_Wiese_Fred_Elmwood_Cemetery.jpg

Grave of Fred Wiese (1866-1914), Elmwood Cemetery, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois; 2006, privately held by Melanie Frick, 2015. 

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-eight years old. He was buried at Chicago’s Elmwood Cemetery.13

Grave_Wiese_Emma_Elmwood_Cemetery.jpg

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 also kind, 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

Copyright © 2015 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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The Pomeranians: Identifying a Family Photo

If you’d asked me about this photograph a few years ago, I might said that Joachim and Sophia were, in fact, Ernst and Friederike. That is, I might never have identified the couple in this cabinet card photograph if it weren’t for a few subtle clues that pointed me conclusively in the direction of one immigrant couple over another.

My grandmother’s paternal grandparents both came to America as infants, the son and daughter of Pomeranians from the region now known as Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. The first couple to reach America, Joachim and Sophia (Cammin) Wiese, traveled from Hamburg in 1868.1 The second couple, Ernst and Friederike (Wagner) Stübe, traveled from Hamburg in 1869.2 Both couples settled initially in Chicago, although within a few years, Ernst and Friederike would move to a rural community outside the city. The couples were born within several years of each other, and no other identified photographs of either couple existed in my collection in order to aid in their identification. Based on the provenance of this photograph in a family collection, I knew that it must show one of these two couples.

JoachimWieseSophiaCammin

Joachim and Sophia (Cammin) Wiese, ca. 1885-1890, Chicago, Cook, Illinois; digital image ca. 2000.

The man and woman in this photograph are perhaps in their mid-fifties, give or take a decade. The photograph itself, taken by an unidentified Hansen of Chicago, is a cabinet card, a style that became popular after the Civil War.3 This, of course, fits the time period in which the Wieses and Stübes would have lived in Chicago. However, as both couples were only around thirty years of age in 1870, this photograph was more likely taken at some point between 1880 and 1900.

The woman in the photograph wears her hair parted in the middle and pulled back snugly, a no-nonsense style that is not specific to any era. Her ears are pierced and she wears what appears to be a dark wool suit with a fitted basque jacket featuring a high ruffled collar, a single row of buttons, and cuffed sleeves. Notable is the double row of boxed pleats on her underskirt; this style was popular in the latter half of the 1880s, as was the style of her jacket.4

The man is clean-shaven except for a trimmed neckbeard, and his hair is brushed away from his face. He has light-colored eyes – blue or green – and wears a typical three-piece suit. The age of the couple in this photograph as well as their style of dress suggest that, if this photograph was taken to mark a particular occasion, it may have been to commemorate an event such as their twenty-fifth anniversary.

Joachim and Sophia would have celebrated their twenty-fifth anniversary circa 1890, a date calculated based on their ages and the birthdate of their eldest known child.5 Ernst and Friederike, however, did not reach such a milestone; Ernst died in 1879 at the age of forty.6 As the woman’s clothing in particular is markedly different from the styles of the 1870s, this photograph could not have been taken before 1879, and thus cannot be a photograph of Ernst and Friederike (Wagner) Stübe.

A final clue comes from the notation penned at the bottom of the cabinet card by a descendant: “Fatte + Matte?”7 A letter written by the granddaughter-in-law of Joachim and Sophia noted that his grandsons could not recall their names, but had called them “Fatta” and “Mota.”8 Coincidence? I don’t think so. My hunch is that these are phonetic spellings of perhaps an old dialect-based variation of the German words for father and mother, Vater and Mutter. This is how Joachim and Sophia (Cammin) Wiese were remembered by their children and grandchildren.

Copyright © 2015 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

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Tombstone Tuesday: Joachim and Sophia (Cammin) Wiese

It can often feel like a lost cause to submit Find A Grave Photo Requests for graves that are situated in enormous, urban cemeteries, but as I learned last week, when an anonymous contributor answered my plea for two photographs from Concordia Cemetery in Cook County, Illinois, it is possible to get lucky.

Joachim Wiese Grave

Find A Grave, Inc., Find A Grave, digital image (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 13 July 2014), photograph, Joachim Wiese (1841-1915), Memorial No. 123360232, Concordia Cemetery, Forest Park, Cook, Illinois; photograph by Anonymous, 2014. Note: The German script reads, “Hier ruhet in Gott” [Here rests in God].

Joachim and Sophia (Cammin) Wiese were Pomeranian immigrants who spent most of their adult lives in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. On 1 November 1868, accompanied by their young son, Frederick “Fritz” Wiese, and a host of other relatives, they boarded the Electric in the great port of Hamburg.1 Their voyage lasted nearly two months; they arrived in New York the day after Christmas, 1868.2

Apparently without further ado, the family made their way to the Midwest. 1870 found them living in the urban center of Chicago, where Joachim was employed as a day laborer.3 The Chicago Fire of 1871 must have had an impact on their early years in the city; the family belonged to the predominantly German First Bethlehem Lutheran Church,4 established in an area that was developed in the years following the fire.5 By 1880, Joachim Wiese was employed as a tailor,6 a trade he continued at least for the next two decades.7 Perhaps Sophia was able to assist her husband with his work, in addition to raising their children.

Sophia Wiese Grave

Find A Grave, Inc., Find A Grave, digital image (http://www.findagrave.com : accessed 13 July 2014), photograph, Sophia Wiese (1843-1907), Memorial No. 123360289, Concordia Cemetery, Forest Park, Cook, Illinois; photograph by Anonymous, 2014. Note: The German script reads, “Hier ruhet in Gott” [Here rests in God].

In all, six children were born to the Wiese family: Frederick (1866-1914),8 Mary (1870),9 John C. (1873-1943),10 Minna (1876-1945),11 William (1879-1882),12 and Arthur Louis (1886-1932).13 Five children survived to adulthood; sadly, William died of diphtheria at the age of two.14

Sophia (Cammin) Wiese died of pneumonia at their home on Marion Place on 26 May 1907, at which time she was said to be sixty-four years of age.15 Joachim Wiese died at home on 2 June 1915 at seventy-four years of age.16 Their funeral services were held at the First Bethlehem Lutheran Church, and they are buried beside their son at Concordia Cemetery in Forest Park, Cook County, Illinois.

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