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)
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.)
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.
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.