Tag Archives: halloween traditions

Adopting Graves: Second visit with Clara and Johnnie…

This is the fourth post in a series titled “Adopting Graves”, where I’ve enjoyed sharing my journey of adopting and researching two graves during the autumn season. For previous posts, visit:
Adopting Graves: A New Autumn Tradition (2013)
Adopting Graves: Some genealogy on our little Johnnie and his family
Adopting Graves: More on little Clara and her family

Clara's grave from today's visit.

Clara’s grave from today’s visit.

 

Johnny's grave from today's visit. (The grave of his grandparents in the background.)

Johnny’s grave from today’s visit. (The grave of his grandparents in the background.)

 

Today was my second visit to the gravesites of Clara and Johnnie. Except for the fact that it was like eleventy-hundred degrees today, I was very excited about each of these visits. I know so much more about these souls and their families now, and that made this trip a little more meaningful. After another stop for flowers (different colors this time), I made my way toward Gumbo Cemetery for Clara. In both cemeteries, the remains of my flowers from the last visit were present… aged and frozen in time. I secretly hoped they’d still be there, mainly for the selfish opportunity to snap photos of them. For both Johnnie and Clara, I talked aloud of how I knew they probably weren’t present with me, eternally hanging out next to their head stone, but I wanted to make sure they knew I had been thinking of them and learning about their families over the last few weeks. I even read my previous blog posts and mentioned the fact that many others were learning about their families as well. I sat in silence for a while (a little longer for Clara since I was winded from climbing the hill) and forced myself to be okay with my legs being itchy from the grass.

 

The resting place of Eugene, Clara's father.

The resting place of Eugene, Clara’s father.

 

A young and handsome Eugene Gegenbauer, Clara's father.

A young and handsome Eugene Gegenbauer, Clara’s father.

 

The resting place of Isabelle, Clara's mother.

The resting place of Isabelle, Clara’s mother.

 

A young Isabelle Coulter Gegenbauer, Clara's mother.

A young Isabelle Coulter Gegenbauer, Clara’s mother.

 

On my way out of Linn Cemetery after visiting Johnnie, I took a few photos of the entrance to the older section. I found an older marker for this section with the date of 1867, although I’ve seen some head stones there with a burial date of 1865.

 

Near the entrance to the older section of Linn Cemetery, Wentzville, Missouri.

Near the entrance to the older section of Linn Cemetery, Wentzville, Missouri.

 

Near the entrance of the older section of Linn Cemetery, Wentzville, Missouri.

Near the entrance of the older section of Linn Cemetery, Wentzville, Missouri.

 

I suppose I’ll plan the next visit for two weekends from now. Hopefully by then I’ll be able to wear a hoodie. That might be a stretch.

Till next time… 

 


Adopting Graves: More on little Clara and her family…

This is the third post in a series titled “Adopting Graves”, where I’ve enjoyed sharing my journey of adopting and researching two graves during the autumn season. For previous posts, visit Adopting Graves: A New Autumn Tradition (2013) and Adopting Graves: Some genealogy on our little Johnnie and his family

Clara's headstone from my first visit.

Clara’s headstone from my first visit.

Beginning genealogy research through Ancestry.com can be incredibly addictive and time consuming. This new hobby has given me my first opportunity to try it. I’ve filled up nearly ten pages on a legal pad with notes on both Johnnie and Clara, the two souls and graves that I’ve adopted this season. Of course, this is more info than anyone would ever need to know. But even though these families were strangers to me before now, it has been great fun… fun of the nerdly variety. In researching information on Clara, I have had the good fortune of getting in contact with a nice woman named Gayla Liles. Gayla is a great niece of Clara and has supplied me with the information and photos shared in this post. Since Gayla lives in New Mexico and no other family members live near, I have been able to share photos of the unseen Gegenbauer family plot and headstones with her. It feels good… and it makes it seem like there’s a real purpose to this new tradition, rather than just being a strange nerd who blogs about these things. It has been an honor to talk to Gayla and I thank her very much for the hard work and information researched and gathered.

 

Clara I. Gegenbauer, March 29, 1884 – March 17, 1889

Clara was the fourth out of eight children by parents Eugene Gegenbauer (1847 – 1916) and Isabelle Coulter Gegenbauer (1853 – 1930). Like Johnnie (see last post), there is no record of how or why Clara died at such a young age. Her father Eugene (whose parents immigrated from Germany) and mother Isabelle (whose parents immigrated from Ireland) were married in 1876. After immigrating, Clara’s paternal grandfather was a physician and teacher in the Ballwin, Missouri area. He died in 1880.

 

A young and handsome Eugene Gegenbauer, Clara's father.

A young and handsome Eugene Gegenbauer, Clara’s father.

 

A young Isabelle Coulter Gegenbauer, Clara's mother.

A young Isabelle Coulter Gegenbauer, Clara’s mother.

 

An older Isabelle Coulter Gegenbauer. I love this photo. You can just see wisdom in her eyes.

An older Isabelle Coulter Gegenbauer. I love this photo. You can just see wisdom in her eyes.

 

Isabelle and children. I'm not sure if Clara is a part of this photo or what year it is. According to my research and this photo, they lived on a farm.

Isabelle and children. I’m not sure if Clara is a part of this photo or what year it was taken. According to my research and this photo, they lived on a farm in the Meramec/St. Louis area. I just love the house!

 

Out of the family’s eight children, Eugene and Isabelle had 7 grandchildren, including my new friend Gayla’s father. Clara’s last remaining sibling, Jane Sophia “Jennie” Gegenbauer, was Gayla’s grandmother. She died in 1976.

 

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This Labor Day weekend marks two weeks since I adopted Johnnie and Clara’s graves. I hope to make a return visit to both. It will certainly be more meaningful now that I know more about these two families.

 

 

 


Adopting Graves: Some genealogy on our little Johnnie and his family…

In my last post I shared with you my new autumn tradition of adopting older graves. I was so very excited to share the two that I chose… the resting places of Johnnie and Clara. The two graves are in different cemeteries, and even though I did my best to be drawn to the graves naturally, both happen to be the resting places of children who died at around the same age of five.

 

Johnnie Michel (1879 – 1884)

Though I was not able to find family photos in my research on our little  Johnnie and his family, I was able to find a significant amount of information and documents.

Johnnie’s father, Franz Heinrich (Henry) Michel (1842 – 1920), was a prominent member of the Wentzville, Missouri community by 1876. He married Johnnie’s mother, Mathilda Michel (Brockman) (1844 – 1928), daughter of “well-to-do farmers” in the county, in 1873 in St. Louis. They were members of the Lutheran Church. It is said that they had “many sincere and true friends.”

Henry Michel grew up poor, but eventually found success in Wentzville. In 1876 he built and opened a general store on Main Street in Wentzville, where Mathilda “kept house” and the family on the 2nd floor. To my knowledge, it appears the general store stayed in business until at least 1910. Johnnie had an older sister who died in 1953 and a younger sister who lived to be 92 years old. Depending on the census, apparently several clerks and salesmen for the store shared the upstairs living quarters with the family throughout the years, as well as a few cousins, Johnnie’s grandfather, and the husband of one of Johnnie’s sisters. It must have been an exciting household! By 1920, according to the census from that year, Johnnie’s older sister was the only other person sharing the house with her parents. By that time she was 33, while her parents were 75 and 77. (I’ve contacted the Wentzville Historical Society and hope to hear back from them with information regarding the general store, the location, if the building still exists, or if anyone has photos.)

A tobacco pouch from Johnnie's father's general store in Wentzville, Missouri.

A tobacco pouch from Johnnie’s father’s general store in Wentzville, Missouri.

According to an 1895 book with biographies of prominent and representative citizens from the surrounding counties, “In the business circles of the place Mr. Michel is highly and justly esteemed as an honorable and upright man, whose word is as good as his note, and who endeavors to fill to the letter every contract and obligation. Politically he is, like his father, an enthusiastic Republican.”

Unfortunately, other than one mention of a 6 month old Johnnie on a census form and the date of death from the head stone I found, no other information is known.

 

Johnnie's grandparents rest only a few feet away.

Johnnie’s grandparents rest only a few feet away.

A touching side note: The large head stone behind Johnnie’s in the photo on the right is the grave of his grandparents, Johann and Maria Michel, immigrants from Hannover in Germany. It warms my heart to know that they are buried close. I’ll have to check when I return, but I don’t believe there were any other Michels buried nearby. Johnnie’s father Henry is buried in the St. Peters Cemetery in nearby Washington, Missouri. Mother Mathilda and older sister Ella (most likely younger sister Katherine as well) are buried in St. John’s Lutheran Cemetery in Santa Ana, California. 

 

 

You may also like:

Adopting Graves: A New Autumn Tradition (2013)...

Adopting Graves: A New Autumn Tradition (2013)…


Adopting Graves: A New Autumn Tradition (2013)…

Inspired by the amazing Renae Rude – The Paranormalist, who is a fellow lover of all things autumn and spooky, I decided to begin a new autumn tradition of adopting one or two gravesites. 

In my mind, the idea is to choose an older grave, perhaps forgotten (of course how does one really know this?) that may also need to be tended to. The two local cemeteries that I chose happen to be fairly well cared for. I would think you’d want to choose a grave that really speaks to you, either metaphorically or literally. As someone who finds cemeteries fascinating and enjoys spending time and taking photos in them, I found it hard to not just gravitate toward the interesting and most beautiful graves. But at the same time, I didn’t want to ignore those feelings. Lastly, a requirement for me was to be able to identify a name on the marker. This is often hard to do in cemeteries. You might argue that a grave that has lost the identity of the body resting there would be more in need of adoption, but for my first experience at this, I really wanted to be able to connect with a name as well. It is also my hope that after this initial post I’ll be able to research genealogy and share that with you as well. After selecting my graves, I’d commit to returning every so often throughout the season, keeping their soul in my thoughts and praying that they are at peace. 

So this last Saturday I was very excited to set out to adopt two graves for an early autumn kickoff. I wanted to choose one grave at two different cemeteries. It was an absolutely beautiful day and I was honored that Joe was willing to accompany me. (Normally this would be a little weird for him.) We went and picked up two beautiful bunches of flowers for a total of $10 and headed for Linn Cemetery in Wentzville, Missouri. Linn Cemetery is a place I’ve visited a few times in the last few years. Click HERE for photos from my first visit to Linn Cemetery.

 

Johnnie Michel, son of Henry and Matilda Michel, July 5, 1879 – January 21, 1884

Johnnie was four and a half years old at the time of his death. He was buried near two or three other Michels, but we found no Henry or Matilda Michel (his parents, according to the marker) near Johnnie. We wondered why the parents weren’t buried here, or at least nearby. Did life take them somewhere else after this loss? Did they have other children that lived hopefully longer lives? And what happened to Johnnie? Was it sickness? An accident? 

Here’s a close up of the writing below the dates. 

To the best of my ability, it appears to read “Here ____ our Little Johnnie ____ his still and silent… ?? …till we meet again. God has called him home, he thought it best.”

I visited a bit with Johnnie, wondering out loud about his story and asked who the other Michels buried near him were. I promised to return a few times and keep him in my thoughts, hoping and praying he is at peace. 

Our next stop was the Gumbo Cemetery in Chesterfield, Missouri. I had come across this cemetery on accident only the day before. I was excited to stop by and check it out. 

 

Clara I. Gegenbauer, March 29, 1884 – March 17, 1889

Clara’s grave is up on a scenic hill along a tree line. Inscribed on her marker is the message “A voice we loved has fled.” That really touched me. Like Johnnie Michel, Clara died just short of her fifth birthday. In the photo it almost appears to be taken at dusk, due to the canopy of tree limbs overhead. Clara rests among seven other graves that are clearly grouped as a family. Clara’s grave stands proudly on the front left corner in the group. From my first step into the cemetery, this group of markers off in the distance and on top of the hill caught my attention. 

I visited with Clara, pondering the same questions that go through one’s mind when you see the resting place of any young child. I also left her with the same promise I gave Johnnie. 

 

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So was I meant to be drawn to the graves of two children, approximately the same age? Or did I subconsciously choose a little girl out of fairness after already choosing Johnnie? I also think it’s interesting that Clara was born just months after Johnnie died. At the risk of creating a dramatic plot that doesn’t exist, I wonder if there is some kind of connection between the two, whether it’s between the two families, or a great plan designed from the other side. What an interesting thought. Ha! Maybe I should write a book. 

I’d love to know what you think about this new tradition of mine. If you find it interesting, be sure to check out Renae Rude’s fascinating post in the related articles below. Stay tuned in the coming months as I hope to piece together just a bit of the history of these two families. This will be my first attempt at genealogy, so wish me luck.

 

Related Articles:

Graveyards, churchyards and cemeteries: spending an afternoon with the dead.

Graveyards, churchyards and cemeteries: spending an afternoon with the dead. (Renae Rude – The Paranormalist)

Click here for more cemetery posts, or visit the "Cemeteries" category on the right. (Big Séance)

Click here for more cemetery posts, or visit the “Cemeteries” category on the right. (Big Séance)


HALLOWEEN: An American Holiday, an American History…

It makes me sad to admit, but my reading has really slowed down in recent months with so much going on. So I knew I needed to get an early start on this one to get it done in time. I’ve always been the person who gets overly excited about each season before it even arrives (my first “Fall” post was back on August 1st, for God’s sake), so it really worked out for me. 

As you’ve heard me say so often in this blog, I heard this author being interviewed on The Paranormal Podcast with Jim Harold. She is a pro on the topic of Halloween, and I just love listening to her. I believe Jim has had her on a few times. 

The author, Lesley Pratt Bannatyne, from her Amazon author page.

What we know as “Halloween” comes from so many places, traditions, and cultures that it is very easy to get lost in it all. Just like America itself, Halloween really is a blend of it all. The earliest roots come from Pagan traditions that were later changed by the Catholic church into what we know as All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. Throw in a little Guy Fawkes Day (which I’d never heard of), the Celtic festival of Samhain, and the Roman festival of Pomona, and hundreds of years later we open our doors on the evening of October 31st to hear “trick or treat” being shouted by masquerading children of all ages.

 

 

Some interesting things I learned…

  • Interested in a 9th century recipe for “All Souls’ Bread” that the Roman Catholic clergy encouraged the living to offer to spirits of the dead? This book has it. 
  • For a while the holiday seemed to be more about love than anything spooky. Many early Halloween traditions included young women practicing divination of all kinds to determine their future husbands. If you’d like to try it, you can stare into a candle lit mirror at midnight on Halloween. The face of your future love will show up over your shoulder. Not creepy at all (rrrriiiiiiight). This is also where bobbing for apples came from. Another tradition was for girls to hang their wet blouses to dry above them while they slept. Apparently your future husband will visit and “turn the sleeve”. Good to know. 
  • Another interesting tradition… the Irish “Dumb Supper”. A young woman was supposed to see the shape and image of her future love if she cooked and served an entire meal backwards. I’m not sure how this works but I’d love to see it. 
  • Lesley includes a page out of the October 1911 issue of The Delineator, where ideas for entertaining in October are given. Love it! Time machine, please!
  • Using pumpkins as lanterns, or carving pumpkins into “jack-o-lanterns” came from the Irish. Before they arrived to America where large pumpkins were available, they used hollowed out turnips. The story of “Jack” (which there are different versions of) is also fascinating.
  • The Mexican “Day of the Dead” is something I think is fascinating… and I’d love to experience it. 
  • I’ve always wanted to experience the Victorian era, but Halloween in those days just seems so interesting and fun! LOVED this section in the book. Also, one of the main reasons I like the movie Meet Me In St. Louis is the depiction of Halloween in those few scenes. 

There is also plenty in this book on the more familiar 20th century Halloween traditions. 

This is not a new book (it was originally published in 1990), but it’s a good one with lots of fun facts and history. If you want to learn about the history of many of our traditions from this season while also getting in the mood for ghosts and goblins, you should check out this book… maybe put it on your list for next fall. 

 

Halloween is just around the corner! Enjoy!

 

Peace!

 


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