|George Vetter - probably on his wedding day|
My paternal great grandfather George Vetter was born in Germany in a village called Bechtheim. He was born on May 14, 1858 and christened in the Catholic Church. George was the fourth child of Johannis Vetter and Catharina Ruth Bassemir. He had three older sisters and one younger brother. His sisters were Elisabetha Vetter born in 1850, Barbara Vetter born in 1852 and Catharina Margaretha Vetter born in Bechtheim in 1856. His brother Phillipus Jacobus Vetter was born in 1863.
Bechtheim is a small market place in the county of Worms, the province of Rheinhess, and the Kingdom of Hessen. It is located southwest of Frankfurt and is twenty miles southwest of Darmstadt. In 1912 the population was 1452 and by 2008 it had only grown to 1833. Bechtheim is best known for producing wine.
|Historic map of Bechtheim where George was born|
George was born during the time period when Germany was rapidly changing due to industrialization. He was thirteen in 1871 when the German Empire was created by the unification of what had been many independent states, so the country was undergoing dramatic change that undoubtedly would have impacted his family.
|Google street view of Bechtheim today|
In 1881 a passenger list I found suggests that George made a trip to the United States. He was on board a ship called Prague that left Hamburg on November 29th and sailed to the United States via Glasgow after making a stop at the Port of Leith in Edinburgh, England. That is all I really know about that trip but it is likely that George made the voyage in order to explore opportunities he might have if he chose to immigrate to the United States.
|Map of Mainz north of Bechtheim where George and|
Katherine lived before they immigrated
By 1883 George was living in Mainz – a larger city in Germany 18 miles north of Bechtheim. It was there that he married Katherine Neumayer on February 23, 1883. He was twenty-five at the time. Katherine was from Wattenheim, Germany which is about 17 miles southwest of Bechtheim. Their marriage record shows that George was employed as a stonemason and that his father was a miller. It identified both George and Katharine as being Catholic. In addition to their marriage record I found George and Katherine listed on the Family Register for Mainz. Every family in Germany was required to register whenever they moved so it is a good source of genealogical information.
Just five months after they were married George and Katherine immigrated to the United States. From their marriage record I know that George’s father and both of Katherine’s parents were deceased at that time, so they would not have kept them from leaving Germany. On July 25, 1883 George and Katherine were passengers on a ship called France. I don’t know which German port they departed from but it was probably Hamburg – the same port that George had used previously. They first went to London and from London to New York. They left Germany during the peak of one of the largest and last big migrations of Germans. It was also a time when wages in Germany were depressed. Their final destination was Chicago which attracted the second largest number of German immigrants after New York City. According to the 1900 Chicago census George immigrated to the United States in 1892 which was between his first trip to the US in 1891 and when George and Katherine came over on the France.
|George, Katherine and their daughter Kate|
A little more than a year after they were married their first child was born on May 13, 1884. It was a daughter that they named Augusta. Sadly, this child died just five months later on October 16, 1884. They also used the name Augusta as their third child Mary’s middle name, so it is apparent that this is an important family name. So far, I have found no Augusta’s in either George or Katherine’s families so I do not yet know what the connection is.
By 1887 George and Katherine were living at 562 W. 12th Street in Chicago and George was working as a “steinhauer” or stone cutter. That year there were twelve other Vetters listed in the Chicago directory with professions that included a cabinet maker, a midwife, two laborers, a music teacher, a butcher, a furrier, a reverend, a tailor and an engraver. Some number of these individuals were likely also German immigrants.
The 1900 census notes that George had not yet been naturalized to become a US citizen, and the question was left blank on the 1910 census so it is possible he never was naturalized and remained a German citizen though that seems unlikely. Between 1885 and 1893 George and Katherine had five more daughters. For details see Katherine’s bio on this blog posted in August 2013.
Several years ago,
I was contacted by Bettina Horsch a scholar who was writing a book about the Standard
Brewery in Germany. She found me from an article I wrote about George that
was published by the California Genealogical Society Newsletter. I
helped her by sharing what I knew about George and sent her a couple of
historic photographs – one of which showed George standing in front of his saloon.
To thank me for my help she made copies of the Chicago directories during the
time period that George and Katherine lived there. These provided valuable
information about where they lived at different times. In the 1890-94 directories
they were listed at 1328 W. 20th. In 1895 George was listed as a
saloon owner/manager and they were living at 747 W. 20th. This is
the same address as the saloon so as was typical at that time, the saloon would
have been at street level and the residence above.
In 1896 he was
listed as a painter living at 890 W. 21st Street. There were no entries
for George for 1897 or 1898 but in 1899 he was listed at 873 W. 21st
and the listing just said “coal”. Between 1900 and 1906 they were living at 409
21st Street. George was shown as working in a hardware store in the
1901 – 1903 directories and as a traveling salesman in 1906. George’s wife
Katherine died in 1903.
So, during the
twenty-two years that George lived in Chicago he lived at several different
addresses but they seemed to be relatively close together being mostly on 20th
and 21st Streets in the west side of Chicago. George also had many
different types of jobs – from stone cutter to saloon owner, hardware store
employee to traveling salesman. Despite these multiple professions, I think of
George as a saloon keeper because of the photos I inherited from his daughter
showing George in front of his saloon.
After 1906 George
was no longer listed in the Chicago directory which suggests he moved
elsewhere. I have found no trace of George between 1906 and 1910 when he
appeared on the census living in Pasadena, California. According to his
youngest daughter, my grandmother Anna, George was not much of a father after
his wife died. Anna was ten when her mother died and she always said that it
was her older sister Kate who raised her. Indeed, Anna was living with Kate in
Rhyolite, Nevada when the 1910 census was taken, but she was living with her
father in Pasadena when she got married the following year. Each of George’s
five daughters were married between 1909 and 1912.
On December 3,
1910 when he was 53 George married Nellie Gregory at the Vicarage in Garvanza.
It was the second marriage for Nellie whose first husband was a Gilbert. She
was born in Illinois on July 10, 1863. She was still living in Illinois when
the 1900 census was taken but was in Los Angeles by 1910. Their marriage license
indicates that George was employed as a gardener at that time, so he had
reinvented himself once again.
this biography, I looked for each of George’s known addresses on Google Earth
but I was unable to find any of the properties where he had worked or lived.
Each of the addresses had either been redeveloped or was vacant in 2019. I
could tell that the neighborhood where George and Nellie lived on Redwood Drive
in Pasadena was very similar to the neighborhood where I now live in the
Montclair neighborhood of Oakland – hilly with a mix of architecture styles of
Nellie’s marriage lasted almost exactly three years until George died from
stomach cancer on February 18, 1913. His death certificate indicates he was
buried at Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles County but I have not found a
headstone for him.
|George with his five daughters L-R Mary, Elisabeth, Anna, Kate and Emma|
|The building on the left, behind the light pole, is a Standard|
|One of many directory listings I have for George. This one shows that he|
was working as a stone cutter and living at 562 W. 12th Street in Chicago
|George standing in front of his saloon. You can see his name Geo. Vetter in|
the window and Beer Hall, Wines, Liquors and Cigars
|Another photo of George in front of his Chicago business|
|Newspaper notice of George and Nellie's wedding|
|Death certificate for George|
|Church of the Angles in Garvanza. I think this is where George and Nellie were married|
|Map of Germany showing Mainz top left and Darmstadt.|
The town of Bechtheim is just above the "oo" in Google
at the bottom.
|Blow up showing George on the wagon|
|Aerial view of current day Mainz|
|Street view of Mainz|
|Close up of the detail on the Standard Brewery building|
|The Standard Brewery bottle|
Sources for this Post: Census records, death certificate, historic newspapers, Anna Pattillo's bible notes and stories, family photos, city directory listings, marriage records, ships lists, German Civil Register, birth records for George's daughters, and Chris Dixon who is somehow related to Elisabeth Vetter.