Wednesday, September 11, 2019

George Vetter 1885-1913 My Great Grandfather on My Father's Side

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.
George with his five daughters L-R Mary, Elisabeth,  Anna, Kate and Emma
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.
The building on the left, behind the light pole, is a Standard
Brewery Building
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. 
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
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.
George standing in front of his saloon. You can see his name Geo. Vetter in
the window and Beer Hall, Wines, Liquors and Cigars
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.
Another photo of George in front of his Chicago business
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.
Newspaper notice of George and Nellie's wedding
Before writing 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 single-family homes.
Death certificate for George
George and 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.
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.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Fred Menge 1890-1973 My Grand Uncle on my Mother's Side

Fred Menge as a young man
Hugo Friedrich “Fritz” Menge was born in Hildesheim, Germany, where his mother Elisabeth Stolte was from. He was born on June 6, 1890, and was baptized at St. Magdelena Church in Hildesheim. He and his family returned to California in 1891, where he would be known as Fred. I don’t know why the family went to Germany for a visit at that particular time, but I do recall that my grandmother Emma went with them — the only time she was in Germany.

Fred attended school in Oakland but only through the fifth grade. When he was 20 Fred spent some time in Seattle, Washington. I found him on the 1910 census, living at 518 Virginia Street. He was a lodger along with five other men in a house owned by Gottlieb and Minnie Topp. All six men were in their 20s and were from Germany. Four were sailors and the others were tradesmen like Fred, who was listed as a truss maker working in a truss factory. My guess is that this was part of a training program, but I don’t understand why he did
Fred holding the parasol with two friends
not simply stay home and learn the trade from his father.

The Oakland City Directory tells us that Fred was living at 1833 San Pablo Avenue in 1912 and that he was working as a salesman for his father or brother at the Oakland medical aids shop. So he was back in California after being in Seattle. In 1916 he was working as a truss maker at 718 Washington in Oakland.

On June 16, 1913, it was reported that Fred was arrested for speeding in Oakland while riding a motorcycle. The news article reported that a total of 18 were arrested and seven were riding motorcycles. I think that included our Fred, so it seems Fred had a bit of a “wild” side to him.
On April 6, 1916, Fred married Beulah A. Trexler, with whom he had four children: Fred Vernon Menge, born May 29, 1917; Robert W. Menge, born about 1920; Marjorie G. Menge, born September 16, 1921; and Ralph Henry Menge, born April 14, 1923.  The family lived in San Francisco in 1920, but between 1922 and 1943 they owned a home in Oakland at 3225 East 17th Street. Today, that lot is occupied by a commercial building.

Fred was 27 when he registered for the draft in 1917, during World War I. He was described as five feet, ten inches tall, slender, with light blue eyes and light hair. 

A portion of Fred's draft record 

Fred was a self-employed truss manufacturer from 1917 to 1930. He had a shop in San Francisco at 2814 Mission Street. In the 1921 Oakland City Directory he was listed as President of Menge Truss Company, so he was in direct competition with his father and brother. Then in 1926 he was listed as a manager at M&P Surgical Appliance Company. By 1930 he was a manager at the Pacific Truss Company, which was located at 904 Broadway in Oakland. I wonder if this might have been Heinrich’s business? From 1933 to 1937 Fred’s business address was in Hayward at 2867 Mission Boulevard, but he was still living in Oakland during that time.

Beulah and Fred from Janet
Fred and Beulah divorced on October 23, 1936. The final divorce decree said the grounds were “cruelty,” although it did not specify who the victim was. 

Fred again registered for the draft when he was 52, on April 26, 1942. That was pretty old for military service, but it was four months after the United States entered World War II, when all men aged 18 to 64 were required to register. His registration described Fred as five feet, ten inches tall, 156 pounds, with a light complexion and a scar on the first finger of his left hand.
Fred taken at his sister
Emma's home

I found no information about Fred during the next 30 years of his life. He died on November 22, 1973, at the age of 83, and is buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Oakland, in plot Y. There is no headstone for Fred.

Fred standing at the left next to John Thirbakkt

Fred with his son Freddie

3 of Fred's children - Marjorie, Bobbie and Freddie

Fred's son Bobbie

Fred's daughter Marjorie

Marjorie as a senior, posted by her son Daniel

Sympathy card from Gertrude Menge, one of Fred's nieces
Fred's obituary

Fred's granddaughter Janet with the author in 2017
Sources for this Post: Archive newspapers, census records, draft info, family stories and photos, birth record from Germany, social security death records, cemetery files, voter registration files, and City Directories.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Henry Menge Jr. 1886-1965 My Grand Uncle on My Mother's Side

Henry George Menge Jr. was born March 17, 1886, after the Menge family moved to Oakland and were living at 1153 7th Street. Henry was identified as an apprentice truss maker on the 1900 census when he was only 14 years old. It did not indicate that he was in school at that time, so it seems his father had taken him out of school and put Henry to work which was common at that time. Henry’s daughter Dorothy told me that Henry only attended school through the sixth grade.

On May 23, 1908, when Henry was 22, he was an officer of the La Belle Jeuenesse Dancing Club.  According to an article in the Oakland Tribune, Henry was in charge of several men and women who were planning a club event at the home of Mrs. Nellie Melquoind at 1807 Russell Street, Berkeley. Almost exactly one year later Henry married Maye Loella Best. Perhaps she had attended the dance club event and met Henry there? In April of 1910 Henry and Maye were renting a home at 520 8th Street in Oakland and he was president of the Pacific Truss Company.

Henry as a toddler with his sister Emma
The 1930 census lists Henry as a veteran who fought in the ten-week-long Spanish-American War. I agree that Henry served in the U.S. Navy because of the photo of him in uniform, but he would have been only 12 years old in 1898, when the Spanish-American war was waged, so that seems improbable that he served in that war. Henry registered for the draft when he was 32, during World War I. He was described as five feet, eight inches tall, with a slender build, blue eyes and light brown hair.

Henry and Maye had six children and adopted or fostered several others. Their firstborn died at birth and is buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery with his paternal grandmother and four other relatives, including his cousin John Earnest Thornally. In 2015 I had a headstone made and installed for these family members. The next four children were daughters Margaret, Dorothy, Marion and Audrey, all born between 1911 and 1918. My mother Lottie was very close with these cousins and spent a lot of time with them. She borrowed Dorothy’s veil for her wedding, and Marion was one of her bridesmaids. Henry and Maye’s youngest child was a son named Lawrence. 
Three of Henry and Maye's children - Dorothy, Marion
and Margaret

In the 1914 and 1915 directories, Henry was listed as working with his father in San Francisco. This surprises me, because the business had been destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire. They must have rebuilt in San Francisco by 1914, when they were located on Kearny.  By 1918 they had opened a shop in Oakland and Henry was working there. I also found listings for the Pacific Truss Company in San Francisco and Oakland in the 1922 and 1926 directories.

Henry seems to have shared his father’s civic-mindedness. On May 11, 1916, he was one of several men who organized a whist party at the Lakeside Hall on East 12th Street at Sixth Avenue in Oakland, as a benefit for the Day Home of West Oakland. This facility was operated by the Sisters of the Holy Family. In 1930 Henry was part of a Melrose Church group that planned a dance as a benefit for St. Bernard’s Church. The dance was to take place on November 14, 1930, at Melrose Central Hall on 48th Avenue at East 14th Street in Oakland.
Two photos of Henry's son

I found four addresses for places that Henry and Maye lived between 1912 and 1941, including 4110 Aqua Vista, 6109 Hayes, 600 Haddon Road, and 425 E. 15th Street. The latter is a place that Mom and I visited when she was helping me with our family history.
Henry and Maye's home in the Fruitvale neighborhood of

Henry died on February 3, 1965, and is buried with his wife Maye at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Hayward, California. Lottie very much loved her Aunt Maye and Uncle Henry, who she thought was a wonderful father and uncle. She said he was always very generous to her and willing to take her along on family outings. Henry and Maye also owned a cabin in Brookdale, as did Lottie’s father John. Henry’s cabin was still standing in 2013 when Mom and I drive drove to Santa Cruz, shortly before she died.
Henry and Maye's cabin in Brookdale
Maye Menge at a birthday party for Emma

Maye Menge

Henry's daughter Marion with Emma and Marion's husband
Geroge Heinkle

Henry's daughter Dorothy and his niece Lottie Pattillo

Henry's daughter Dorothy's wedding. L-R are Gertrude, Agnus,
Dorothy and Margaret Menge, Lottie Thornally, and Marion Menge

Audrey Menge

Dorothy Menge and husband Bill McTigue
holding Chris Pattillo on her christening day

Margaret Menge and her husband Whayne Gibbs
Sources For This Post: Interviews with Lottie Thornally and Dorothy Menge, family photos, US census, historic newspapers, military records, and city directories