Barbara Mehlheimer (1823-1906), Floods, Flames and Celebrations, 52 Ancestors #112

As I work with the information I have for each of my ancestors when I write these articles, something profound, remarkable or defining seems to emerge for each person. Something that is representative of their life.  I don’t “name the article” until the end, often, because until I’ve really assembled the entire story, mulled it over and worked with it, I don’t really know that ancestor very well – regardless of how well I thought I knew them when I began.

Barbara was no exception in that vein, but she was an exception in another way.  Her life was not defined by sorrow and death as many women’s lives were, continually burying children and family members.  Barbara’s life was defined differently, by floods and flames and celebrations.  I know those things don’t seem to go together, but they do.  Let’s meet Barbara and hear her incredible story.  From an impossibly difficult beginning, she had an amazingly rich life.

Goppmannsbuhl, Germany – A Crossroads

Goppmannsbuhl is, quite literally, a wide place in the road. Using Google Earth, it looks to be about 1000 feet across, and was probably smaller when Barbara Mehlheimer was born there in 1823.  There are two Goppmannsbuhl’s, one designated “a bach,” for a brook, and one as “a berg,” for a mountain.  Barbara’s emigration papers specified Goppmannsbuhl am berg, shown below, which literally butts up against Goppmannsuhl a bach, but on the north side of the brook.

Goppmannsbuhl 1

Goppmannsbuhl am berg, above, where Barbara lived.  The two villages literally divide at the brook.  I’m sure there is an old story about why buried there someplace.

Goppmannsbuhl 2

Goppmannsbuhl am bach, above, south of where Barbara lived.

Goppmannsbuhl 3

A satellite view of this combined area today.

This area of Goppmannsbuhl am berg is less than a quarter mile from end to end. Barbara lived in one of these houses, north and east of the stream called the Tauritzbach.


I wish there was a way to identify which house Barbara lived in, and with whom.


Speichersdorf to Wirbenz

Wirbenz and Goppmannsbuhl are both small villages located near Speichersdorf.  Barbara was born and lived in Goppmannsbuhl, but was baptized in Speichersdorf, probably the closest church to where she was born.  Goppmannsbuhl was then and is still too small to have a church. Wirbenz has a Protestant but no Catholic church.  It’s only a couple miles from Goppmannsbuhl to either Speichersdorf or Wirbenz.  The church in Wirbenz is where Barbara had both of her daughter’s baptized.  Wirbenz is also where other Mehlheimers were found in church records.

Records for both Speichersdorf and Wirbenz reach back into antiquity, and the three villages, today combined into the municipality of Speichersdorf, are tied together historically.

Speichersdorf was first found mentioned in a protective letter of Pope Celestine Ii on May 15, 1195. In 1802/1803, Speichersdorf and area fell to Bayern. These three municipalities were then incorporated into the Upper Palatinate while the western portion of Speichersdorf fell under Upper Franconia.

There is a Carolingian cemetery at Wirbenz. The presence of this cemetery gives us an important clue as to the history of Wirbenz and this general area.

The Carolingian dynasty (known variously as the Carlovingians or Karlings) was a Frankish noble family. The name “Carolingian,” an altered form of an unattested Old High German meaning “descendant of Charles.” The family consolidated its power in the late 7th century, eventually making the offices of mayor of the palace and dux et princeps Francorum hereditary and becoming the de facto rulers of the Franks as the real powers behind the throne. By 751, the Merovingian dynasty which until then had ruled the Franks by right was deprived of this right with the consent of the Papacy and the aristocracy and a Carolingian, Pepin the Short, was crowned King of the Franks.

The greatest Carolingian monarch was Charlemagne, also one of my ancestors through a different line, who was crowned Emperor by Pope Leo III at Rome in 800. His empire, ostensibly a continuation of the Roman Empire, is referred to historically as the Carolingian Empire, incorporating all of this part of Germany as shown on the map below depicting the Empire from 800-924.

Carolingian empire

The Carolingians were displaced in most of the Empire in 888. They ruled on in East Francia until 911 and they held the throne of West Francia intermittently until 987. So a Carolingian cemetery in Wirbenz would predate the year 1000.

If Barbara’s ancestors lived in this area during the 800s and 900s, they would have been part of Charlemagne’s empire. There may be family members buried in that ancient cemetery.

Unfortunately, we can’t reach further back in time beyond Barbara’s mother who was born sometime around 1800.

Barbara’s Birth

Barbara Mehlheimer was born in Goppmannsbuhl on December 12, 1823 and christened the same day in Speichersdorf, probably the closest church to where she was born, just a couple of miles away. The same day christening suggests that perhaps there were complications and her life may have been feared for.  Catholic children were often baptized shortly after birth, but protestants, not so much, based on a differing belief about what happened to the souls of children who die.

We know very little about Barbara’s mother and even less, as in nothing, about Barbara’s father.

Barbara was born to Elisabetha Mehlheimer who was not married and the baptismal record did not list Barbara’s father’s name. Perhaps the church clerk or minister didn’t note the father’s name.  Regardless, to put this succinctly, we don’t know who Barbara’s father is.  Because females don’t have a Y chromosome from their father to DNA test, it’s unlikely we will ever know the identity of Barbara’s father unless some additional church records turn up someplace, which is always possible.

The Reverend Greininger retrieved the records I have back in the 1980s, and I don’t know whether he meticulously went through all the records hunting for additional children of Elisabetha Mehlheimer or not. It would certainly be very interesting to reconstruct this family from the available church records.

In the christening record for Barbara’s second child born in 1851, Barbara’s mother, Elisabetha Mehlheimerin is listed as “the former day laborer in Goppmannsbuhl,” which indicates she is deceased. The fact that she is also listed as Mehlheimerin, the final “in” typically designating an unmarried woman, indicates Elisabetha never married and she bestowed upon her daughter her maiden name.  At least, that’s what is typically found.  Every region and church clerk has their own customs and quirks and the relevance of a particular record can really only be judged in relationship to other records from the same place and time.

By the time Barbara is an adult and having children herself, she is listed as a servant, which is a notch up the social scale from a day laborer.

On the social ladder, the day laborer is on the bottom rung and often led a brutally difficult life.

From FamilySearch, we learn the following:

The social hierarchy of a village was determined by the size of farmland and personal property. People with little or no property found themselves at the bottom on the social ranking. These were the sons and daughters of farmers who were not entitled to inherit the farm. The number of people in such predicament grew steadily after the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). They had to work as day laborers or seasonal workers and had to be very creative to make ends meet.

Priests during that timeframe wrote of the deplorable conditions in which day laborers lived. Often, they slept on hay in the corner or loft of a peasant’s home.  They have few or no belongings, and lived at only a subsistence level.  If they did live in a separate “house,” it was often a poorly made shack on the periphery of the village.  Their children left home as quickly as possible to work for themselves or to marry.

There was an entire underclass of day laborers, a significant social notch below peasants who tended to live on and work the same homestead generation after generation. Sometimes day laborers were younger children who stood to inherit nothing. Day laborers often moved from place to place, so can be especially difficult to track genealogically.

They were right about this. Other than Barbara’s birth to Elisabetha, we have no record of Elisabetha at all except that she was dead by 1851, but there is no death record in the local church.  We know Elisabetha was probably born about 1800, or maybe somewhat earlier to be having Barbara in 1823.  Certainly Elisabeth was born sometime between 1778 (would have been 45 in 1823) and 1805 ( would have been 18 in 1823) to be of childbearing age in 1823.

The fact that Elisabetha stayed in one area suggests that perhaps there was family or a tie of some sort in the area. In other words, she wasn’t effectively a gypsy.  But if she had family, then why was she a day laborer?

Rev. Greininger found the following four records in the death register in Wirbenz:

  • Page 50, house 28:
    1851, death of Barbara Melhleimer wife of the master weaver Johann Mehlheimer, died April 6 of a disease of the lower abdomen. 65 years 6 months.

This means that she was born in October 1785.

  • Page 128, house 28:
    1868, Johann Mehlheimer, master weaver and pensioner, widower, died March 29. 75 years 10 months old.

This means he was born May 1792.

  • Page 114, house 29:
    1865, Anna Elisabetha Mehlheimerin, wife of a weaver, died of stomach hardening on Sept. 4. 68 years 3 months old.

This means she was born December 1796.

  • Page 134, house 29:
    1868, Marie Henriette Mehlheimer, second child of the weaver and farmer Lorenz Mehlheimer died Nov 26th of diphtheria.  2 years 6 months old.

This means she was born in May 1866.

Note that the first two are in the same house, as are the last two, and the houses are adjacent.

This looks to be at least three generations of this family, so they are clearly established in the region. Elisabetha could be the sister of Johann Mehlheimer born in 1785.

It’s also interesting that the wives in these church records are noted by their husband’s names, not their maiden names as is typically found in German church records.

Elisabetha may have been a day laborer, but she was a day laborer her entire life in this one area, which strongly suggests family. This almost makes me wonder if this person wasn’t in some way impaired and was a “day laborer” but in a protected family environment.

I wish the good Reverend had copied the records and sent them to me, but alas, I’m not at all sure that the churches he was visiting at that time would have had copy machines. He was lucky to even be allowed to look at the records.

In the church records in Aurora, Indiana, Barbara is also recorded in one place as her name being Maria, so perhaps she is actually Maria Barbara.

Now that we know when and where Barbara got her start in life, let’s look at the rest of her life as a timeline.

Why A Timeline?

Sometimes a timeline allows us to see things differently, with continuity, as they happened. When I create timelines, I include events that were going on around the person that also affected their lives.  I think it helps to understand what their life was actually like to see events together.  It’s different to say a child was born in a particular year, and to see that the child was born between the deaths of someone’s parents and sibling.  Gives their life, and that event, an entirely different perspective.

Women’s lives, especially, were often heavily defined by their family, meaning their siblings, their parents, of course, their husband and the choices he made, and their children. Family generally consisted of many children, one being born about every 18 months to two years during childbearing years.  This means that one likely had a lot of siblings, scads of nieces and nephews and hopefully, lots of children and then grandchildren as well.  Often the eldest daughter was marrying and producing grandchildren while the mother still had very small children at home, or was still having children herself.  In other words, there was no generational break, one flowed into and overlapped the next, and the women simply took care of and fed whoever was around at the time, be it their own children, their siblings children, their grandchildren or great-grandchildren.  Same thing happened when parents died.  The children were just “absorbed” by other family members, typically those who were godparents at the children’s baptisms, and without skipping a beat, life just went on.

Pride was taken in the number of children and grandchildren one had and it was often mentioned in church records and obituaries. Frustratingly, for us, in Barbara’s case the number was mentioned, but the names were not so we have a “count” to attempt to reach, but few hints.

All of these different events aren’t separate stories, but an interwoven tapestry of Barbara’s life.

So, let’s take a look at Barbara’s life in timeline fashion, telling Barbara’s story as we go. Buckle up, we’re starting in Germany and this ride is full of rather unexpected twists and turns and rolling seas!

Humble German Beginnings

1823, December 12 – Barbara is born to Elisabetha Mehlheimer in Goppmannsbuhl and was christened the same day in Speichersdorf in the protestant church. No father is listed in the church records.

Speichersdorf distance

Photo by Stefan Steininger

The Speichersdorf church steeple is visible and we are looking in the general direction of Goppmannsbuhl.

1848, October 8 – Barbara Mehlheimer, now almost 25 years old, gives birth to daughter Barbara Mehlheimer (but who would always be known as Barbara Drechsel) in Goppmannsbuhl. The father is George Drechsel, but Barbara and George are not married.

1851, May 13 – Barbara Mehlheimer gives birth to daughter Margaretha Mehlheimer (but who would always be known as Margaretha Drechsel) in Goppmannsbuhl. The father is again George Drechsel, and the parents are still not married.

wirbenz church distance

1851, June 17 – Both of Barbara’s daughters were christened in the protestant church Wirbenz (above) on the same day. Godparents were Barbara Krauss of Windeschenlaiback and Margaretha Kunnath of Berneck.  These woman must surely be relatives, but further searching for both of these individuals came up empty-handed.  Godparents were the people responsible for the religious upbringing of the children and who would raise them in the event that the parents died.  We also don’t know if the surnames of these women are maiden or married names.


Windischenlaibach is just slightly south of Speichersdorf, but the only Berneck I could find is Bad Berneck, and I’m not at all convinced this is the correct location, but it is feasible.

The 1851 records are the ones that tell us that Barbara’s mother is deceased. Typically, if a female has a child without being married, she is still living with her parents.  But we don’t know who Barbara’s father was, and her mother was dead, and for all we know, could have been dead for a long time.  Was Barbara simply living with the family to whom she was a servant?

Permission to Leave

1852, April 18 – Barbara was granted permission, along with her two illegitimate daughters and George Drechsel to leave Germany and emigrate.

The State archives in Amberg, Germany, said in a record for the administration of the upper Palatinate they find that “Barbara Mehlheimer of Goppmansbuhl am Berg received permission to emigrate with her two illegitimate children, as well as Georg Drechsel from Speichersdorf, on April 18, 1852.  We were not able to find any record for Georg Hering or Drechsel regarding paternity, but the two records for the two daughters, Barbara and Margaretha are still available.”

This event is actually much more important than it would seem at first glance.

George Drechsel and Barbara Mehlheimer were married immediately upon arrival in the US.  According to the Reverend who found these records for me in the church in Germany, they probably had to immigrate to be allowed to marry.  He commented on how brave this young couple must have been.  In Germany, a young man had to prove he could support his family before he was allowed to marry.  Immigrating to America at that time was the social equivalent of eloping and was very unacceptable.  George would have had to work long and hard to save enough for both his and Barbara’s passage, and those of their two children.  This was likely their only opportunity for marriage, and they seized it.  Marriage is a right we take for granted today, but one Barbara and George risked their lives and fortunes to obtain.

The fact that they were unmarried when their first two children were born was not a matter of choice, and was not at all what they wanted, but a state forced upon them by the social class into which they were born combined with societal rules. Barbara and George were willing to stand up to society and tradition and do what they needed to do to remedy that situation.  They were brave young social rebels.  I had no idea of the hidden message in these records and am forever grateful to Reverend Greininger for revealing the truth.

Reading what the Reverend wrote about this couple changed my entire perspective of them, their lives and their choices. In this case, illegitimacy was not a sign of irresponsibility or carelessness, but was a situation forced upon Barbara, George and their children by the culture and laws of the time and place where they lived.  Instead of meekly accepting their fate, apparently the same fate as their own parents, they gathered their resolve and changed their future and that of their children and descendants, forever.

Barbara was one extremely courageous young woman, to set out for a new world with no known family and two small infants with a man not her husband – crossing an ocean known for storms and death in order to reach the new shores of life. She didn’t have to leave.  She made that choice.  I can’t even imagine.  How I would love to sit and chat with Barbara.


1852, July 20 or 24 – Barbara, George and their two young daughters arrive in Baltimore from Bremen upon the ship, “The Harvest.”

Drechsel passenger list 2

Baby Margaret was listed separately from her parents as an infant .01 months (years?) old. George’s emigration papers say they left from Bremen, his age was 28 when they arrived and 29 when he applied for citizenship, and they arrived in Baltimore July 24, 1852.

This “View of Baltimore” by William Henry Bartlett is probably similar to the sight that greeted Barbara and George upon their arrival.  It must have been a great relief to arrive and a bit overwhelming at the same time.

View of Baltimore

1853, January 7 – George Drechsel applies for citizenship in Dearborn County, Indiana which covers the naturalization of Barbara and his children as well.

Drechsel naturalization

Dearborn County is a long way from Baltimore.  Surely there must be a reason for selecting this area, but I have yet to discover what that reason might have been.  It’s not near the coast or a port city.  Normally, people join family already settled.  If Barbara and George did that, we don’t know who those relatives were.

Despite looking, I have never found any indication, with one exception, of anyone they might be related to in this region. That exception is when their daughter, Caroline (Lena) is living as a maid to a Heinke widower in Cincinnati in the 1880 census and is listed as his cousin.

Putting Down Roots In Aurora, Indiana

1853, January 10 – Barbara and George are married in Dearborn County, Indiana, where they will spend the rest of their lives.

This was a big day for this couple, as they obtained their marriage license the same day as they applied for naturalization. They were married 3 or 4 days later, on the 10th or 11th, by the Justice of the Peace.  This was indeed the American dream for this couple.  They embraced their new life immediately and wholeheartedly.

Drechsel marriage license crop

Above, the Drechsel-Melheimer marriage license in Dearborn Co Marriage Records, book 8 page 491, marriage performed by W. Stark, JP.

Sometime after their arrival the name was at least intermittently changed to Drexler, which was probably the English phonetic pronunciation.

1854, January 8 – Almost exactly a year after their arrival in Indiana, Barbara’s daughter Caroline, known as “Lina” and “Lena” is born in Aurora, Indiana.

1856 – Barbara’s husband, George, is reported to be among the founders of St. John’s Lutheran Church. Of course, by implication, that means that Barbara was an active church member too.

“The History of Dearborn County” tells us: “The church was formed in 1856 by a small number of settlers who were convinced that it was a necessity, as well as their Christian duty, to assemble on the Lord’s Day for divine worship. In May 1878, after renting a church from the Baptists, they began to build their own church on Mechanic Street.”

Drechsel St. John

1856, August 16 – Barbara’s only son, Johann Edward, is born in Aurora, Indiana.

Property – The American Dream

1856, November 1 – George Drechsel buys lot 254 in Aurora (book 11 page 597) from Christian Riedel, the same person who witnesses their application for citizenship. Is Christian related to them?  I can find nothing more on Christian Riedel.

I don’t know if the lot they purchased had a house, or if they built the house, but this would be the only property they ever owned, located at present day 510 4th Street in Aurora.

510 4th Street Aurora

I’m sure, with four children, that Barbara was very glad to have a house of her own.


1859, February 22 – The Ohio River flooded, and Aurora is located at a bend in the Ohio River, just downstream from Cincinnati. The water at Cincinnati was 55 feet 5 inches and is typically 3-4 (or more) feet higher in Aurora.

If Barbara and George lived in Aurora for 7 years before the river flooded, they were lucky indeed. Floods were a quintessential part of life in Aurora, although they had to be frightening.  The Ohio River is wide in that location, and when it floods, it becomes much wider, often half a mile to a mile, dirty brown, very swift and overpowering.  In other words, it’s terrifying.  The good news is that it typically rises relatively slowly, so it’s not like a tornado where you receive no warning.  The bad news is that floods last for days and you don’t know when the waters are going to crest.  I read while researching this article that the average flood in Aurora lasts for 12 days.  That would be 12 VERY LONG days.

Recently, on the Lost Aurora Facebook page, someone posted an old newspaper article with a summary of what happened in Aurora when the river floods.

To help put things in perspective, here’s a regional view of the Ohio River including Cincinnati, Lawrenceburg, upstream in Dearborn County, and Aurora on the bend of the river.  In case you didn’t realize it, that’s Kentucky right across the river.

Aurora Cincy

The part of Aurora that floods is the peninsula part, the downtown area, that lies between Hogan Creek, South Hogan Creek and the Ohio River – right at the bend in the river where all of that water is supposed to be turning. There is just too much water and it rushes into Aurora and Hogan Creek.

Aurora flood area

This satellite view shows that the area to the south/southwest of Aurora is actually hilly, meaning that the area prone to flood is the city itself.

Aurora flood area satellite

  • 50 feet at Aurora is considered flood stage. At that point the water is over Water Street at the foot of 3rd.
  • 50 feet closes Water Street at the foot of 3rd
  • 53 feet closes Route 56 at 3rd
  • 56 feet floods Importing at George Street
  • 60 feet closes the bridge over South Hogan Creek
  • 61 feet floods behind Acapulco restaurant on 2nd
  • 61 feet floods in front of the IGA on 3rd
  • 61 feet covers 4th and Judiciary
  • 61.5 feet covers 2nd and Main
  • 65 feet floods 3rd and Main
  • 66 feet floods behind the Kirsch House from the 1883 picture
  • 68 feet floods 2nd and Mechanic
  • 69 feet closes traffic on 50 (now Eads Parkway) to Lawrenceburg

Of course, water level isn’t the entire story with Ohio floods. If the river is also carrying ice, it turns into battering rams and shreds everything in its path.  Wind makes a difference too.

The map below depicts the various water levels described, although I found a few more later, one being at Bridgeway and 2nd.

Aurora flood map

All told, it looks like, with the exception of a massive flood, the Drechsel home on 4th Street (bottom arrow on map below) was relatively high and escaped flooding.  The Kirsch house on Second Street between Exporting and Bridgeway (top arrow on map below) seems to be out of harm’s way too, most of the time, although we know it flooded at least twice (probably 1884 and 1913 when the river crested above 70 feet) when Barbara Drechsel and Jacob Kirsch owned it, and likely in 1937 (80 feet) and 1945 (69.2 feet) as well.

Aurora flood map family

1859, July 18 – Barbara’s daughter, Emma Louise, known as “Lou” is born in Aurora.

1860 – The census shows Barbara’s family in Aurora. George is a laborer.  Aurora is a bustling waterfront town on the busy Ohio River with lots of people coming and going.  The census from one decade to the next has a lot of “missing” people and a lot of “new” people as well.

Drechsel 1860 census Aurora

The 1860 census tells us that Barbara can read and write, although I’m not sure that would mean English.  We have no example of her handwriting or signature.

1862, January 24 – Another flood. The water at Cincinnati was 57 feet 4 inches and is typically 3-4 (or more) feet higher in Aurora which is downstream of Cincinnati.

1862, December 28 – Barbara’s daughter Theresa Maria, known as “Mary,” is born in Aurora.

The Civil War

1861-1865 – The Civil War intruded into the lives of the people in Aurora. No battles are fought here, but every man between the ages of 20 and 45 had to make themselves available for service.  George is on the upper end of that range, and he apparently does not serve, or at least I’ve found no record of military service, although he was on the draft list.  This must have kept everyone on edge.  War, the thought of war, war on your own land – something the Germans were painfully familiar with – and the fear of your family member leaving, fighting and dying was ever-present for a few years.

Barbara’s daughter, Barbara, would marry Jacob Kirsch who served in the Civil War.

1864 marks the half way point of Barbara’s life – but of course she doesn’t know that.

1865, March 7 – Another Flood. Water level at Cincinnati was 56 feet 3 inches and is typically 3-4 (or more) feet higher in Aurora which is downstream of Cincinnati.

The Marriages and Grandchildren Begin

1866, May 27 – Barbara’s eldest daughter, Barbara, marries Jacob Kirsch.

This photo below was taken many years later, probably about 1906-1908, but it’s one of only two with Barbara and Jacob together, and they were taken the same day.

Barbara Drechsel and Jacob Kirsch

1866, December 24 – Barbara’s first grandchild, Ellenore “Nora” Kirsch, born to Barbara Drechsel and Jacob Kirsch. Our family always celebrated Christmas on the 24th, except for “Santa” gifts.  This must have been a wonderful Christmas for Barbara.

1867, March 14 – Another flood. Water at Cincinnati was 55 feet, 8 inches and is typically 3-4 (or more) feet higher in Aurora which is downstream of Cincinnati.

1868, March 18 – Barbara’s second grandchild, George Martin Kirsch, born to Barbara Drechsel and Jacob Kirsch. George Dechsel was the witness for his christening and the child’s middle name of “Martin” was likely in honor of Jacob’s brother, probably deceased, who served in the Civil War and was never found in any records thereafter.

1868, July 5 – Barbara’s granddaughter, Ellenore “Nora” Kirsch is baptized at St. John’s Church in Aurora. This is a special day, because not only is this Barbara’s first grandchild, but she and George stood up as the godparents as well.  Now for the mystery.  Every other grandchild seems to be named “for someone,” except Ellenore.  There are no Ellenore’s on either the Kirsch or Drechsel side, that we know of – so who was Ellenore?  Is this somehow a clue to the identity of a family member back in Germany?

1870, January 19 – Another flood. Water at Cincinnati was 55 feet 3 inches and is typically 3-4 (or more) feet higher in Aurora which is downstream of Cincinnati.

1870, February 18 – Barbara’s third grandchild Johann Edward Kirsch born to Barbara Drechsel and Jacob Kirsch. Johann Edward Drexler, Barbara’s son, is listed as a witness to his christening in either May of 1870 or 1871.  The year was unclear in the church records.

1870 – The 1870 census shows Barbara’s family has continued to grow, and that the older children are beginning to leave the nest. Barbara’s oldest daughter, Barbara married Jacob Kirsch in 1866 when Barbara’s youngest daughter, Mary was only 3 years old. Barbara Drechsel Kirsch’s first child was born 4 days before her youngest sister turned 4.  That must have thrilled young Mary!  What a great birthday present.

Drechsel 1870 census

I would think that in 1870 Barbara was very comfortably happy. The threat of war was past and Barbara’s family was growing and healthy.  The todays gently turned into tomorrows and the flow of life was sunny and comfortably routine.  Life as a servant in Germany was but a distant memory of another place and time.

1871, February 18 – Barbara’s fourth grandchild, Caroline “Carrie” Kirsch was born to Barbara Drechsel and Jacob Kirsch. She was probably named after Barbara’s sister, Caroline Drechsel.

1871, September 9 – Barbara’s daughter, Barbara and her husband, Jacob Kirsch, purchase property just a few blocks away in Aurora. This must have brought Barbara some peace of mind because it meant that they weren’t moving away and were putting down roots nearby in Aurora.  Jacob Kirsch was a cooper, as was his brother and George Drechsel.  Aurora supplied a huge number of barrels for whiskey and shipping to the boats on the Ohio, more than 600 barrels per day with about 100 local coopers filling that need.

1873, September 21 – Barbara’s daughter Margaretha Drechsel marries Herm Rabe in Aurora.

1873, October 26 – Barbara’s fifth grandchild, Margaret Louise “Lou” Kirsch is born in Aurora to Barbara Drechsel and Jacob Kirsch. Note the names are now becoming less German. In the German church, she would have been named Margaretha Louisa.  Louise Drexler is noted as the Godmother.  She would have been 14 at that time and was probably thrilled!

The New Church Begun

1874 – The new window for the St. John’s church where Barbara is a member was constructed. It will be another 4 years before the new church is completed according to “The History of Dearborn County.”

Jacob Kirsch st John Aurora

1876, August 6 – A summer flood, which is quite unusual. Water at Cincinnati 55 feet 5 inches and is typically 3-4 (or more) feet higher in Aurora which is downstream of Cincinnati.

1875, August – Barbara’s sixth grandchild, Mary “Mayme” Rabe, is born to Margaretha Drechsel and Herm Rabe.

The Kirsch House Era Begins

1875 – Barbara’s daughter, Barbara Drechsel and her husband Jacob Kirsch purchase The French House, renaming it The Kirsch House. It was a fine establishment, located beside the railroad depot and served the local people as well as travelers with overnight and boarding accommodations, a pub, food and fine cigars.  Barbara Drechsel Kirsch makes Mock-Turtle Soup at the Kirsch House every Tuesday, which may well have been a family recipe handed down from her mother, Barbara, brought from Germany.  I’ll be having some of Barbara’s Turtle Soup for lunch today!  That recipe has become a family tradition.

Kirsch House postcard

The depot is to the left and the Kirsch House to the right in this old postcard that mother and I discovered decoupaged to the top of the bar in the old Kirsch House, then Perrone’s, during our visit in 1990.  Given that the Kirsch House was only a couple blocks away, Barbara assuredly visited often, probably helping with the grandchildren or maybe making turtle soup!

Kirsch house 1990s

1876, September 29 – Barbara’s seventh grandchild, Frederich George Rabe was born to Margaretha Drechsel and Herm Rabe in Cincinnati, Ohio.

1876, December 12 – Barbara’s eighth grandchild, Ida Caroline Kirsch was born to Barbara Drechsel and Jacob Kirsch in Aurora. Caroline Drexler was her godmother.  I wonder where the name Ida came from?

1877 – Barbara’s son John Edward Drechsel is noted in the church records as living in Cincinnati.

June 10, 1877 – One Lena Drexler is noted as having obtained a marriage license in Cincinnati to John Vester.  I don’t know if this is our Caroline, known as Lena, or not, but since we find Caroline in the 1880 census, I’m thinking it’s not.  However, she could have obtained the license and never married, or been widowed very shortly thereafter.  I could find no further information on John Vester.

St. John’s Evangelical Church Completed

1878 – St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church is completed and members make a procession out of moving into the new church.

Aurora st John postcard

Thanks so much to Jenny Awad for the postcard, above, that includes St. John’s Church on the right. The same view today, below.  The hill has reforested.

Aurora St. John today


It’s actually rather amazing that Barbara had no deaths in her immediate known family from the time of her arrival in 1852 until 1879, a span of 6 children, 7 grandchildren and 25 years. Of course, we don’t know what happened back in Germany.  A quarter of a century with no fatalities in the days before antibiotics was not only remarkable, it spoke of very good genes and probably some amount of good luck as well.  But that was coming to an end.

1879, June 24 – Barbara’s grandson, Freidrich George Rabe died in Cincinnati and was brought home to Aurora for burial in the Riverview Cemetery. St. John’s Lutheran church records in Aurora show his cause of death as lung disease due to cough.  Age 2 years 8 months and 25 days.  The verse read at the funeral is Isaiah. 40:11.

He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.

It must have been a terribly difficult funeral. His mother was 6 months pregnant for a another child.

1879, September – Barbara’s ninth grandchild, Louisa B. Rabe, is born in Aurora.


1879 – A fire burned the Wymond cooperage company, causing one of the two owners to retire. The remaining owner purchased the company and merged with the Gibson cooperage company, rebuilt and began producing barrels again at the rate of over 600 per day.  They employed over 100 men in Aurora.  It’s interesting that simple math tells us that coopers at that time were able to make at least 6 barrels each, per day.  Barbara’s husband was a cooper, so this fire surely affected him one way or another.  In the 1880 census, George Drechsel reports that he is a cooper but has been out of work 2 months in the current census year, perhaps as a result of that fire.

1880 – In the 1800 census, the family is down to Barbara and George and their youngest daughter, Louisa, now 21, who is a seamstress.

Drechsel 1880 census

1880 – We may have a census record for Barbara’s son, listed as John Drexler, in Cincinnati, but after this, if it’s him, there is no further information about John. He is not listed in the 1890 Cincinnati Directory.

May 6, 1880 – The Cincinnati Daily Star, on Thursday, May 6, 1880, reports that Jacob Kirsch and his wife, who is Barbara, attended the funeral the day before for one John Dreckler.  This answers the question of what happened to Barbara’s son, John.  However, it does beg the question of why Barbara and George Drechsel weren’t also mentioned as having attended their son’s funeral, along with his other sisters.


1880 – Barbara’s daughter Mary is living at the Kirsch House with her sister, Barbara.

1880 – Barbara’s daughter Caroline (Lena) is living in Cincinnati with the Heinke family as a housekeeper, where she is listed as a cousin. She later marries Gottleib Heinke, but according to census records, not for another 15 years.  What she does or where she is from 1880 to 1895 is completely unknown.  She is not listed in the 1890 City Directory, but females are not listed unless they are heads of households.  Gottfried, a salesman, and Jacob Heinke are listed as living at 13 Magnolia.

1880, December 3 – Barbara’s 10th grandchild, Caroline Louise Rabe is born in Aurora.

1881, August 30 – Barbara’s daughter, Emma Louise Drechsel, married Johann Georg Giegoldt in Aurora.

1881 – Barbara’s daughter Mary is noted in the church records as having married and moved to Cincinnati.

1880-1882 – Photo of Barbara’s daughter, Barbara Drechsel Kirsch taken about this time.

Barbara Drechsel

1882, February 9 – Barbara’s eleventh grandchild, Barbara Margaretha Josephine “Nettie” Giegoldt, is born to Louise Drechsel and John Giegoldt. Barbara, now 59 years old, and daughter Margaretha stand up at her christening.

1882, February 12 – A rather severe flood. Water at Cincinnati was 58 feet 7 inches and is typically 3-4 (or more) feet higher in Aurora which is downstream of Cincinnati.

“The Great Fire”

It seems that every city and town has one, and Aurora was no exception. You’d think that with all the floods Aurora residents had to endure, they might be excused from fires, but that wasn’t the case.  A fire during a flood might have doused itself, but that wasn’t the case either!

1882, September 4 – Aurora experienced what was known as “The Great Fire,” being the worse fire the city had ever experienced. I can’t tell for sure whether Barbara and George’s home burned or not, but if not, the neighbor’s surely did.

1875 Aurora Map color

This map from 1875 shows Barbara and George’s home on lot 254, on Fourth Street, right beside the Indiana House. Here is what “The History of Dearborn County” tells us about the fire.

September 4, 1882 occurred the greatest fire at Aurora that the city ever experienced, by which was consumed nearly a whole block of buildings. The fire originated in the chair factory of John Cobb and company on Bridgeway Street, nearly opposite the Indiana House.  The wind was blowing a sweeping gale from the burning building right into the heart of the city and most of the surrounding buildings were wooden structures.  The fire extended in every direction except to the north.  The Indiana House burned, everything east of it on Fourth Street, John Siemantel’s buildings on Third Street, also Adolph Man’s saloon and all the out-houses between Third and Fourth Street and the first alley east of Bridgeway, burned.  On the west side of Bridgeway Street the chair factory, engine house, dry house and warehouse, a carpenter shop and brick dwellings and all buildings there between Third and Fourth and First were burned.

Here’s a current map with north at the top. I have noted the Drechsel home with the arrow, and based on the description and the photo, I have “drawn” the area that burned.  Unfortunately, Aurora is on the diagonal so sometimes when they talk about directions, it’s unclear what they actually mean.  Sometimes their directions seem to conflict with each other – and this is one of those times.  The description said the fire went every direction except north, but the detailed descriptions of what burned were in fact, north of the building where the fire started.  It also mentions First and I’m unclear where First was located at the time, so I’ve simply omitted that information.  I’m not very talented drawing with a mouse.

Aurora fire map

Based on this map and the 1875 map, the Drechsel land would have been on the east side of 4th Street between Bridgeway and Exporting.

Jenny Awad with the Dearborn County Historical Society was kind enough to share this photo with me, taken after the fire.

Aurora after fire Drechsel house

The right bottom is 5th and Bridgeway.  Next street towards center is 4th and Bridgeway with the burned out building which would be where the fire started.  The Indiana House is on the corner of 4th and Bridgeway, beside the Drechsel home, according to the 1875 map.

The house with the arrow must be Barbara and George’s home. Now, the question is, did it burn, partly burn or was it spared?  The reports said the Indiana House burned and that was literally right next door.  The roof of the Indiana House is still intact, but it looks like it’s doors are all black.  Today’s Drechsel home is two stories, with the door offset to the left.  In other words, today it doesn’t look like this house in the photo. Did the Drechsel’s have to rebuild due to the fire, or was the original house rebuilt later or enlarged?

Did Barbara and George escape a second time in their lives with the clothes on their backs? Even if their house did not burn, it must have been utterly terrifying to watch the fire consume the property next to yours, and the next entire block, knowing well that fate and luck and a change of winds were all that stood between you and disaster.  Where were they huddled watching?  Were they trying to get as much out of the house as they could, just in case?  Did they have any time at all?  Did any of their children’s homes burn?  There is so much we don’t know.

1883, January 10 – Barbara’s twelfth grandchild, Wilhelm J. Rabe, is born in Aurora to Margaretha Dechsel and Herm Rabe.

Devastating Floods Three Years in a Row

In the 1880s, a photographer named James Walton had a portrait studio in Aurora. Barbara Drechsel Kirsch had her picture taken there.  In 1882, 1883 and  1884, Aurora experienced increasingly devastating floods.

1883 Aurora Flood

The photo above is labeled 1883, and the 1884 flood was worse. The 84 flood was said to have been to the second level of the Kirsch House and to the roof of the train depot.  I’m exceedingly grateful to James Walton for this photo, and to Jenny Awad for sharing it with me, because it’s the only one of the town in the 1800s that I’ve seen that includes our family properties, plus it gives us some perspective on the floods in general, and how terrible it must have been a year later, in 1884.

This photo was taken from Langley Hill, so we are looking straight down Exporting Street.

1883 Aurora flood family properties

The top right arrow off to the right side of the picture is pointing to 3rd Street. The arrow below 3rd street is pointing to 4th Street, which is the first street running parallel with the bottom of the photo, closest to us. The arrow on the corner of 4th Street and Exporting is the house that Barbara Drechsel Kirsch, Barbara’s daughter, would purchase in 1921 when she sold the Kirsch House.

Barbara and George Drechsel’s house would have been on 4th street, two lots to the right of the 4th street arrow, so just outside the picture. Fourth Street appears to be somewhat higher in elevation than the areas nearer to Hogan Creek and downtown Aurora.

The top left arrow is pointing to the train depot, and the right arrow at the top is pointing to the Kirsch House, which fronts 2nd Street. You can see its portico over the sidewalk appearing below the white front of the building. At the time this picture was taken, Barbara’s daughter, Barbara, had been married to Jacob Kirsch for 17 years and they had been the proprietors of the Kirsch house for 8 years. According to family oral history, the Kirsch House flooded at least once to the second level, in other words the portico, and I believe twice.

1883, November 6 – Barbara’s thirteenth grandchild, Caroline Louise Lillian “Lilly” Giegoldt is born to Louise Drechsel and John Giegoldt in Aurora. Her christening records show the godparents as Karoline Drexler and Lilly Louise Drexler.  Could Lilly Louise have been another name for Emma Louise or could it possibly be Johann Drechsler’s wife name? Or an unknown person?

1884, February 6-15 – One of the most devastating floods ever recorded in the Ohio Valley with the water level at Cincinnati being recorded at 71 feet 1 inch. The water level is typically 3-4 (or more) feet higher in Aurora which is downstream of Cincinnati..  “The History of Dearborn County” tells us:

The water rose to such height that the force of its lifting power alone was sufficient to upturn buildings and break them in two; but to this force was added a boisterous windstorm that shook the buildings to their bases and lashed them with the furious waves until hundreds of buildings of various kinds left their foundations to be tossed upon the waters, broken to pieces or carried bodily into the river and lost forever to their owners. On the 15th, the waters reached their highest point, being two feet 8 inches higher than ever before known.

Jacob Kirsch 1884 flood

Above, 2nd Street in the 1884 flood.  People are standing on their second floor balconies looking over the flood waters.  The records indicate that when a flood was imminent, people would take their things “upstairs” to protect them.  Floods lasted an average of 12 days.  I wonder how one managed to live on the second floor of a building with no heat, no refrigeration in the middle of the winter for days on end.  I think not knowing how high the water would get would be terribly anxiety producing.  In essence, going to the second floor as a refuge made you an isolated sitting duck for the duration – or at least until someone came by with a boat, assuming they could.

One of the interesting aspects of this flood is that even though it was worse, the fact that people actually prepared for it eliminated some of the actual losses. Based on “The History of Dearborn County,” we know the following:

As a result of their precautions, the citizens of Aurora will not suffer nearly as much as they did in 1882 or in 1883, and the destruction of property will not be one-third as much as in either of those years. Warning came over the wires: ‘Prepare for seventy feet.’ That would be three feet and six inches more than we had in 1883, and the people lost no time in preparing. All the people living in houses likely to be submerged moved into their second stories, where they were high enough, and where this was not the case they abandoned the houses and moved to higher ground. All of our merchants moved their goods and perishable property beyond the possible reach of the water, and thus saved everything, many of them working night and day to accomplish their object. Of course Cobb’s Iron & Nail Company, the Sutton Mill Company, Aurora Distilling Company, and the Aurora Valley Furniture Company were drowned out and stopped operations, but, aside from loss of time, trouble and inconvenience, their losses will not amount to much. With the river already bank full (and over its banks in many places), the rain commenced Monday night, February 4, and poured down almost incessantly till Thursday morning, February 7. Tuesday, February 5, the water was over the sidewalk from the Eagle Hotel to the Crescent Brewery, and in all that portion of town north of Hogan Creek, and between George Street and the river. Then the rise was rapid, and the water extended up Second Street to Mechanic Street, up Third to Main, up Mill Street to the office of the Aurora Distilling Company, and up Main Street to its intersection with Third.

The above part of this article was written Monday morning, when we had the faintest hope that there would not be much more to tell, but the rains kept coming up till last night, when they finished early in the night with a heavy climax, and then the wind changed, and the most welcome cold snap that ever visited any community fell upon us and put a check to the rain, and gave us hope that the river would not overflow the hilltops, at least. But the rainfall had been general through the-whole valley of the Ohio, and the greatest of all floods was inevitable. Up and up and up it climbed, driving people from one refuge to another, until 4 o’clock this Thursday afternoon, February 14, 1884, it had reached a point six feet above the once legendary flood of 1832. It stood at this height for some time, as if meditating whether to burst itself in one final effort to do yet greater things, and then it began very slowly to recede.

In order that those of our readers who are away from Aurora may understand the height of the flood, we will give them a few old landmarks to go by. The water was just to the top of the door of the old yellow brick house on Cobb’s corner, which house has stood in all the great floods since 1832. It was eight feet and ten inches deep on the floor in Cobb’s store; it stood in the gutter in front of Dr. Sutton’s office, on Third Street; it was about eight inches deep on the inside corner of the pavement at the Catholic Church, on Fourth Street; it went up Second Street as far as the front door of Tuck’s building, at the corner of Bridgeway; it backed up Broadway nearly to Hogan Creek, six inches more would have sent it through the whole length of Broadway; it stood. several inches deep in Stedman & Co. ‘s foundry; it backed up Main. Street beyond Third, so that by stepping across the pavement from the front door of the old Asa Shattuck residence, one would step into the river; it was over the door knob of Dr. Bond’s residence, on George Street, and was up into the yard at John Cobb’s residence; it was in some places over the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad, between Aurora and Lawrenceburgh; over the tops of the telegraph poles, and was over the roofs of freight cars loaded with stone that were placed on the Wilson Creek bridge. Those of you who have only seen the high water of 1832 and 1847, in Aurora, have no idea of what a real high water in the Ohio is.

In other words, we don’t believe Aurora’s loss will foot up more than $20,000, unless you count the loss of time to factories being idle; and how often are they shut down to reduce stock, or by reason of a strike, for a longer period than the flood closed them? True, Aurora has lost more houses than she did last year, and more are off of their foundations, but the loss of household goods is not nearly so great this year, and the loss of mercantile stock is actually nothing worth naming, while last year it was very great, because people would not then believe that the flood would surpass every previous one, and did not get out of the way. * * * * Taking all things into consideration, we cannot help but believe that Aurora has suffered less loss this year than she did last, although this flood has been with us, and upon us, more than twice as long as that of 1883. “—Independent, February 21, 1884.

In essence, the people of Aurora suffered devastating and disruptive floods three years in a row.

1883-1885 – Sometime between 1883 and 1885, Margaretha Drechsel and Herm Rabe move their young family to Cincinnati.

1884 – Cincinnati’s records are burned, so any marriage or legal records before 1884 are lost. This would include any marriage record for John Drexler/Drechsel and Lizzie Theisinger as well as for Mary Drechsel if she married in Cincinnati before 1884, as the church records indicate.

The Lynching

1886, August 19 – Barbara’s son-in-law, Jacob Kirsch was involved with the lynching of one William Watkins after seeing him kill another man in Aurora.

1886, October 23 – Barbara’s grandson, Wilhelm Rabe, died in Cincinnati and is buried in the Wesleyan Cemetery there. He was three and a half years old.  The entire Aurora contingent likely went by train from Aurora to Cincinnati for this sad event.

1886 – Barbara’s daughter Mary sometimes comes home and goes to church with her mother, because she is occasionally listed as taking communion in the Aurora church records.

1887 – Jacob transferred the deed for The Kirsch House to Barbara, given that the administrator of Watkins estate had filed a lawsuit. The suit came to naught, although I’m sure it caused this family a great deal of anxiety, but Barbara Drechsel Kirsch continued to own the Kirsch House in severalty, even though she was married, until 1921 when she sold the property after Jacob’s death in 1917.  Jacob apparently felt he stood a better chance with Barbara than the lawsuit, and he was apparently right since she never kicked him out!

The Third Generation Begins

1888, January 18 – Barbara’s oldest granddaughter, Nora Kirsch, married Curtis Benjamin Lore at the Kirsch House. I don’t think anyone in the family knew about the scuttlebutt that would ensue…and I don’t mean their first child’s birth a few months “early.”  To read about the scuttlebutt, you’ll need to read the article about Curtis Benjamin Lore!  He was one handsome rogue!

Nora Kirsch wedding

1888, July 18th – Barbara’s grandson, George Martin Kirsch, married Maude Powers in the rectory of the St. John’s Lutheran Church.

1888, August 2 –Barbara’s first great-grandchild, Edith Barbara Lore, below, is born in Indianapolis, the child of granddaughter Nora Kirsch Lore.

Edith as a child cropped

1889, February 21 – Barbara’s second great-grandchild, Edgar Kirsch, is born to grandson George Martin Kirsch.

1889, August – Barbara’s daughter Margaretha Drechsel Rabe dies and is buried in the Wesleyan Cemetery in Hamilton County, Ohio. She leaves behind her husband and 4 living children, ages 4-14.  The family lived in Cincinnati, so Barbara was probably unable to help with the children much unless she went by train.

1891, March – Barbara’s third great-granddaughter is born, Curtis Lore, to granddaughter Nora Kirsch Lore, probably in Rushville, Indiana.

1891, March 12 – George Drecksel transfers a part of his property to Louise Giegoldt, Book 47 page 411, lot 254 the north half. It’s rather odd that he didn’t transfer the property to Louisa AND her husband.  Perhaps this was his way of insuring his daughter’s future, but it is a bit odd for the time and might be suggestive of a story we don’t know.  “Odd” things often are.

Giegoldt Drechsel crop

The closest white house is the house Louise and George Giegoldt built on lot 254 and the second white house is where Barbara and George Drechsel lived.

1891, April 6 – Barbara’s grandson, Johann “Edward” Kirsch married Emma Miller.

1891, April 30 – Barbara’s fourth great-grandchild, Hazel Kirsch, is born to grandson Edward Kirsch.

1891, July 2 – Barbara’s fourth great-grandchild, Hazel Kirsch, died and was buried in Riverview Cemetery. She was just over 2 months old.  This must have been a terribly sad day for the family.

1892 – Barbara’s daughter, Mary, is no longer listed in the church records. Either she stopped coming home, she died or she moved away.

1892, April 28 – Barbara’s granddaughter, Mary “Mayme” Rabe marries Albert Weatherby in Cincinnati, Ohio.

1892, June – Barbara’s fifth great-grandchild, Juanita Kirsch, is born to grandson Edward Kirsch. I don’t have much information about Juanita, but I do know she lived to adulthood.

1892, September 9 – Barbara’s sixth great-granddaughter, Cecile Kirsch, is born to grandson, George Martin Kirsch.

1892, October 27 – Barbara’s son-in-law, Jacob Kirsch is involved in a hunting accident so severe that his eye is blown out of his head and the side of his face absorbed a shotgun blast.  Due to the proximity to the jugular vein and the extent of his injuries, he is not expected to live, but somehow, miraculously, he does.

1893, July 15 – Barbara’s seventh great-granddaughter, Lorine E. Weatherby, is born to granddaughter Mary Rabe Weatherby.

1895 – According to the 1900 census, Barbara’s daughter Lena (Caroline) marries Gottleib Heinke about this time, probably in Cincinnati.

1895-1900 – The 1900 census indicates that Lena Heinke has one child that has died. Assuming the child was born after Lena’s marriage to Gottleib, it would have had to be between 1895 and 1900.  Linda would have been 41 years old in 1895.

1896, February 3 – Barbara’s eighth great-granddaughter, Juanita A. Weatherby, was born to granddaughter Mary “Mayme” Rabe Weatherby.

1896, July 1 – Barbara’s ninth great-granddaughter, Pauline Kirsch, was born to grandson Edward Kirsch.

1896, July 3 – Baby Pauline Kirsch dies, just two days old, and is buried at the Riverview Cemetery.

1899, April 8 – Barbara’s tenth grandchild, Mildred Elvira Lore, was born to granddaughter Nora Kirsch Lore in Rushville, Indiana.

Copy of Mildred Lore

1899, August 6 – Barbara’s eleventh greatgrandchild, Deveraux “Devero” Hoffer Kirsch, is born to grandson Edward Kirsch in Aurora.

1899, October 15 – Barbara’s granddaughter Margaret Louise “Lou” Kirsch married Charles “Todd” Fiske in Aurora. They never have children, and Todd tragically takes his own life at the Kirsch House October 31, 1908, Halloween night, in the garden, by shooting himself.  If someplace was ever going to be haunted, it would have been the garden of the Kirsch House.

Drechsel 1900 census

1900 – The census for George and Barbara shows their daughter, Lou, living next door with her husband and two daughters. Barbara must have realty enjoyed having these two granddaughters next door as well as the Kirsch grandchildren just a couple blocks away.  The rest of Barbara’s grandchildren lived in the Cincinnati area, or perhaps further.  While that isn’t a huge distance, it’s not conducive to being a part of everyday life either.

1900 – The 1900 census shows that Barbara’s daughter, Caroline, known as Lena, is married to Gottfried Heinke, with the census showing that she had one child, but none are living. It saddens me that her only child died.  The census also shows that Lena and Gottfried have been married 5 years, but Lena has been living with the Heinke family since before the 1880 census.  The 1910 census shows that Lena and Gottlieb have been married 15 years and she has had one child, and one child is living.  Unless she had that child immediately after the 1880 census, and that child left home before the 1900 census, there was no living child in 1900.  So either the 1900 or 1910 census is incorrect.

1902, April 22 – Barbara’s granddaughter, Caroline “Carrie” Kirsch marries Joseph Smithfield Wymond, of the Wymond Cooperage company family. They did not have children.  He gives Carrie syphilis which would ultimately take both their lives.  He shot himself on July 3, 1910 and Carrie died in an institution on July 24, 1926.  I’m glad Barbara didn’t live to suffer through that.  It’s unlikely that she knew about the syphilis before her death, although not impossible.  Wymond’s illness apparently became public knowledge in about 1907, so he may have had it for some years before that.

1903, October 8 – Barbara’s twelfth great-grandchild is born, Eloise Lore, to granddaughter Nora Kirsch Lore in Rushville, Indiana.

Aurora 1907

In the photo above, Eloise (at left) and sister Mildred at right, at the depot by the Kirsch House in Aurora.  Aren’t these little girls just adorable!  I wonder how they managed to keep that white dress white.

Eloise and Mildred in Florida

Eloise and Mildred in Florida a few years later in Florida!  The sisters were very close their entire lives.

1904, November 11 – Barbara’s thirteenth great-grandchild, Margaret L. Weatherby, is born in Cincinnati to granddaughter Mary “Mayne” Rabe Weatherby.

1905 – George and Barbara deeded the east half of their property to daughter, Barbara Drechsel Kirsch.

Barbara Kirsch from George Drecksel, book 66 pg 19, Dec. 15, 1905 section E ½, lot 254.  This is an example of the words north and east being confusing in Aurora.  They previously deeded the north half to Louisa Giegoldt, and there are only two halves of the lot.

Barbara’s mother died within a month of this transaction, so I suspect that it was connected with her death and the parents’ wishes for their property.

1906, January 3 – Barbara Mehlheimer Drechsel passes away. The Board of Health shows her age as 83 years and 12 days, born in Germany, died Jan. 3 1906, sick for 5 months, died in Aurora of “Cardiac arthma” probably cardiac arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat.  I’m glad she wasn’t ill long.

I surely wish we had a photo of Barbara and George. I am still hoping that perhaps another family member does and it will appear someday!

This photo of Barbara Drechsel Kirsch’s family was taken about the time of Barbara Mehlheimer Drechsel’s funeral. We know it wasn’t taken at the time of her funeral, because she died mid-winter and this is clearly taken in warmer weather.  Based on the age of the child, Eloise, who was born in 1903, this photo was likely taken in 1907 or so.

Jacob Kirsch family photo crop

This is the only photo where all of the Barbara Drechsel and Jacob Kirsch children appear to be present with their parents.  Left to right, I can identify people as follows:

  • Seated left – one of the Kirsch sisters – possibly Carrie.
  • Standing male left behind chair – C. B. Lore – which places this photo before November 1909 when he died
  • Seated in chair in front of CB Lore in white dress, his wife – Nora Kirsch Lore
  • Male with bow tie standing beside CB Lore – probably Edward Kirsch
  • Male standing beside him with no tie – probably Martin Kirsch
  • Woman standing in rear row – Kirsch sister, possibly Lula.
  • Standing right rear – Jacob Kirsch.
  • Front adult beside Nora – Kirsch sister, possibly Ida.
  • Child beside Nora –Eloise born 1903
  • Adult woman, seated, with black skirt – Barbara Drechsel Kirsch
  • Young woman beside Barbara to her left with large white bow – probably Curtis Lore, Nora’s daughter


I hate to say this, but maybe it’s a good thing Barbara passed over when she did, because the next handful of years were devastating for her children and grandchildren.

1907 – Another devastating flood. River at Aurora at 66 feet.  The levee broke at Lawrenceburg.  I wonder if Barbara’s grave was underwater.

1908, February 26 – George Drechsel dies and joins Barbara at Riverview.

1908, September 4 – Barbara’s granddaughter, “Nettie” Giegoldt died of Tuberculosis after suffering for 2 years.

1908, October 31 – Barbara’s granddaughter’s husband, Todd Fiske, commits suicide at the Kirsch House.

1909, November 24 – Barbara’s granddaughter’s husband, Curtis Benjamin Lore dies of tuberculosis.

1910, July 3 – Barbara’s granddaughter’s husband, Joseph Wymond reportedly kills himself before syphilis can take him.  Unfortunately, he has infected his wife, Carrie, with syphilis, which, before antibiotics, is incurable.

1912, February 12 – Barbara’s great-granddaughter, Curtis Lore, dies of tuberculosis contracted caring for her father.

1912, November 28 – Theodore Bosse, the second husband of Barbara’s daughter, Louise, dies.

Barbara was spared all of that heartache but her daughters Lou and Barbara probably ached desperately for her presence.

Missing Grandchildren

I know that I’m missing several grandchildren. Both George’s and Barbara’s church death records tell how many grandchildren they have.  Hers says 19 and his, a couple years later, says 17.  I have accounted for 15 in total, but of those only 12 are living when either Barbara or George died, so I’m not sure how they are counting. Maybe someone simply miscounted, or maybe the discrepancy lies with the missing children and grandchildren.

Regardless, I’m short at least 2 if not 4 or more grandchildren, if they have excluded grandchildren who have passed away. I’ve accounted for all children  except John and Mary, and one of those two is dead, but certainly could have had children before their death.

I have listed all of the known grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the table below.

  Grandchild Birth Death Parents Comments
1 Nora Kirsch Dec. 24, 1866 Aurora Sept. 13, 1949, Lockport, NY Barbara and Jacob Kirsch Married C.B. Lore 1888, 4 children 1888, 1891, 1899, 1903
2 George Martin Kirsch March 18, 1868 Aurora Jan 5, 1949 Shelbyville, IN Barbara and Jacob Kirsch Married Maude Powers 1888, 2 children 1889, 1892
3 Johann Edward Kirsch Feb. 18, 1870 Aurora July 2, 1924 Edwardsport, IN Barbara and Jacob Kirsch Married Emma Miller 1891, 2 children deceased 1891, 1896, 2 living children 1892, 1899
4 Caroline “Carrie” Kirsch February 18, 1871 Aurora July 24, 1926, Madison, IN Barbara and Jacob Kirsch Married Joseph S. Wymond 1902, no children
5 Margaret Louise “Lou” Kirsch October 26, 1873 Aurora June 1, 1940 Cincinnati, Ohio Barbara and Jacob Kirsch Married Charles “Todd” Fiske 1899, no children
6 Mary “Mayme” Rabe 1875, Aurora 1961 Margaretha Drechsel and Herm Rabe Married Albert Weatherby 1892 Cincy, 3 children 1894, 1896, 1904
7 Freidrich George Rabe Sept. 29, 1876, Cincinnati, Ohio June 24, 1879, Aurora, Indiana Margaretha Drechsel and Herm Rabe Buried at Riverview
8 Ida Caroline Kirsch Dec. 12, 1876 Aurora March 5, 1966 Cincinnati, Ohio Barbara and Jacob Kirsch Married William Galbreath 1921, no children
9 Louisa B. “Lou” Rabe September 1879, Aurora Jan 30, 1963 Whiteside County, IL Margaretha Drechsel and Herm Rabe Married Irvin Isaac Denison, no children
10 Caroline Louise Engel Rabe Dec. 3, 1880, Aurora June 27, 1951 Cincinnati, Ohio Margaretha Drechsel and Herm Rabe Buried in the Wesleyan Cemetery, never married
11 Barbara Margaretha Josephine “Nettie” Giegoldt Feb. 9, 1882 Cincinnati, Ohio September 4, 1908, Aurora Emma Louise Drechsel and Johann Georg Giegoldt Buried Riverview, never married, no children
12 Wilhelm J. Rabe Jan. 10, 1883 Aurora Oct. 23, 1886, Cincinnati, Ohio Margaretha Drechsel and Herm Rabe Buried in the Wesleyan Cemetery
13 Caroline Louise Lillian “Lilly” Giegoldt Nov. 6, 1883, Aurora Dec. 3, 1951 Cincinnati, Ohio Emma Louise Drechsel and Johann Georg Giegoldt Married Theorodre Ludwig “Louis” Bosse 1907, 2 children 1911, 1915
14 Eleanor Rabe March 1885 Jan. 24, 1961 Cincinnati, Ohio Margaretha Drechsel and Herm Rabe Married Guy Nicholas Young, 4 children 1908, 1910, 1915, 1929
15 Unknown, probably a Henke Before 1900 Before 1900 Caroline Drechsel and probably Gottfried Heinke Deceased per the 1900 census

There is a total of 15 grandchildren born with 12 living at George and Barbara’s deaths, none died or were born in-between George and Barbara’s deaths – at least not of the group we know about.

Great grandchildren – 13 total before Barbara and George’s deaths, 11 living at their deaths, 19 total after their deaths, 17 lived beyond infancy.  Barbara’s church record says there were 12 great-grandchildren.

It’s inconceivable to me that my grandmother knew Barbara Mehlheimer Drechsel personally and now I’ve lost two of Barbara’s children and their children. If I could just ask my grandmother some questions!

Barbara’s DNA

Barbara carried special DNA that is inherited from one’s mother, but only passed on by females. This mitochondrial DNA is not mixed with the DNA of any of the fathers, so it is the same exact DNA that her direct matrilineal females ancestors carried.  In other words, Barbara’s mitochondrial DNA was passed to her from her mother, Elisabetha Mehlheimer and then to her from her mother who is unknown. By analyzing this DNA we can tell some of the story about this line long before we can identify the names of the ancestors, because mitochondrial DNA reaches back into ancient times.  In this case, we see a lot of Scandinavian matches, so there must be a story there someplace aching to be told.

All of Barbara’s children carried her mitochondrial DNA, but only her daughters passed it on. Only her granddaughters through daughters would inherit Barbara’s mitochondrial DNA and pass it on for another generation.

Unfortunately, a lot of the females in these lines did not have children, so Barbara’s mitochondrial DNA is only passed on by four of her grandchildren, bolded above: Nora Kirsch, Mary “Mayme” Rabe, Eleanor Rabe and Caroline Giegoldt, although Caroline had only two sons, so Barbara’s mitochondrial line died with them in that line.

Mehlheimer mtdna

Of course, if Barbara’s daughter Mary had daughters who had daughters, we could potentially have another line carrying Barbara’s mitochondrial DNA. I hope so.

However, in the known lines, it’s dead in my generation. The only possibilities for passing it on are through Nita, Linda, Erin, Marian and Nancy if they had daughters who have daughters.

I don’t know of anyone from Barbara Mehlheimer’s line who has tested their autosomal DNA. Maybe I should say this another way – I don’t know anyone from Barbara Mehlheimer’s line, at all.  If this is your family, please give me a shout!  Inside of 4 or 5 generations, sadly, the family has become entirely disconnected.

Barbara’s Passing

Barbara died of “cardiac arthmia” which I’m sure was actually arrhythmia, meaning an irregular heartbeat. Ironically, today, a pacemaker installed in an outpatient procedure would likely have bought her many more years of life.

George Drechsel purchased a lot for himself and Barbara at Riverview Cemetery when she died. They are buried on an Indian Mound in the cemetery, just a couple miles south of Aurora on the Ohio River at the mouth of Laughery Creek.

Beside Barbara’s burial record in the cemetery books is the note “charged one single grave to George Drexler credit to him on ____”. Section Q, lot #56-tier 1, Gr 3 Plot: permit # 3489.  George was later buried beside her in grave 2.

Drechsel St, John postcard crop

The St. John’s church record shows Barbara’s remaining family as “husband, 4 married children, 19 grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren.”

The Funeral and Procession to the Cemetery

The verse read at Barbara’s funeral as noted in the church records was Hebrew 4.9-11 in German and Rev. 14.13 in English.

I found it interesting that one verse was read in German and one in English – and for some reason, which one was read in which language was worth noting.

Hebrews 4:9-11 Authorized (King James) Version

9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. 10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.  11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

Revelation 14:13

13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.

Mom church window

When Mother and I visited Aurora 1990, we took photos outside of the Lutheran Church, but it never occurred to me at the time to take pictures inside. I think we were just so excited to be able to see the records that we forgot about everything else.

Many thanks to Becki Nocks, a very kind lady for sharing the card and photos inside the church. I’m sure the church has been updated since, but the basic layout and structure would still have been the same as when Barbara and George were involved with the founding and design of the church.

St. John Card

This photo above was in the form of a Christmas card. The church is beautiful and looks very “German” to me.

St. John inside

Barbara’s casket would have laid in the front of the church.

St. John's Aurora interior c

When I’m having trouble getting through a funeral service (without blubbering), I tend to look at something and attempt to focus. Stained glass windows make a wonderful focus point.  These would have been part of the original church.  Barbara would have seen them every Sunday and probably many weekdays too, judging from how much went on at a church, the social center of the community.  I expect that everyone knew everyone and so the entire community attended funerals – and there was probably at least one a week. I wonder if Barbara focused on these windows to get through difficult funerals, like those of her grandchildren.

St. John inside window

It was cold right after New Years when Barbara died. In the summer, the attendees might cluster in the church yard while the casket was loaded onto either the horse drawn hearse or the wagon, whichever they used.

Aurora St. John Church

Those windows are beautiful from the outside too. Barbara probably gazed upon them many times and thought so as well.

I don’t know if it was the case then, but now, the undertaker is just across the street from the church. This Aurora business has existed for a very long time.

Funeral St John

The funeral procession would have left the church and headed down Mechanic Street, towards the final destination, Riverview Cemetery, just a couple miles south of Aurora along the Ohio River.

Riverview map

Most of the people who attended the service would have climbed in buggies and on wagons and gone to the cemetery for the burial. Our family did not feel they had “closure” unless they attended the actual burial itself.

Let’s go along.

Leaving the church, we travel along Mechanic Street.  Can you hear the steady clip-clop of the horses hooves?

Funeral 3rd Mechanic

Passing 3rd Street. Many of these houses were probably build after “The Great Fire.”

Funeral 4th Mechanic

Mechanic approaching 4th Street.  Where you see a car today, just replace it in your mind with a horse and buggy.

I don’t know if the German Lutherans in southern Indiana did this, but the Germans in northern Indiana always make one last pass by the home of the deceased with the body on the way to the cemetery after the funeral. If they did, the Drechsel home is a block and a half up on the right on 4th Street from the intersection of Mechanic and 4th.

Funeral 4th

Turning right on 4th, to visit the Drechsel home one more time, we pass the homes Barbara knew so well.  These houses all burned during the fire too, so Barbara would have watched many of these being rebuilt.

Funeral Drechsel house goodbye

One last look at Barbara’s home, above, behind the picket fence, where she lived for 50 years, just a few months shy of half a century. Of course, in January, there would have been no leaves on the trees and this tree has probably been planted since.  Generally, a black wreath hung on the door, signifying that this house had experienced a recent death.

Funeral 4th and bridgeway

Turning around and looking down 4th Street now, towards the River from in front of Barbara’s house, we see that the brick building on the immediate left has been at least twice rebuilt, because that was the location of the Indiana House Hotel that burned in “The Great Fire,” and the 2 story white building across the road, I believe, was the Cobb building where that devastating fire began.

Funeral 4th and Mechanic

Back now to the intersection of 4th and Mechanic, we look left one last time down Mechanic at the Lutheran Church that played such a central role in Barbara’s life.  One final glimpse and goodbye.  Looking right, we can see the Ohio River in the distance at the bottom of the 4th Steet hill.  A slight flick of the reins and the horses are off to the cemetery.

Funeral 4th Main

Descending the hill on 4th from Main.  I’m sure Barbara was extremely grateful for this hill, as it protected her family from the devastating floods.

Funeral 5th hill

On our Google Street view, 3rd and 4th were both closed for construction, so we moved over to 5th Street to reach the road along the Ohio River.  Horses pull differently going downhill, using their body weight to prevent the carriage from “running away.”  You can feel the horses change their stride to a purposeful braking plod.

Funeral Ohio at 5th

From this location at the foot of 5th Street, we see a beautiful view of the Ohio, looking across the river and upstream.  Barbara would have seen this many times, for the past 54 years.  She and George may have arrived via riverboat and docked just a few feet upstream when they first arrived in late 1852.  So this location may have been both a comforting hello and goodbye.

Funeral Ohio on 56

Barbara’s procession would have turned right and followed along the river. These two miles or so between Aurora and the cemetery would have been a peaceful ride.  And it’s a journey Barbara had made several times herself, although never before riding inside the box.  That’s generally a one ticket, one way ride, just one time.

Funeral Ohio 2

The clip-clop of the horses hooves and swaying of the carriage would have been rhythmic and soothing.  Did George’s thoughts drift back to his lovely Barbara as a young woman as they embarked upon their journey along the Rhine River more than half a century earlier when they left Germany, as he looked at the Ohio that day? Rivers had played such a central role in their lives.

Funeral Laughery Creek Road

The entrance to the Riverview Cemetery is off of Laughery Creek Road.   Turning right on Laughery Creek Road, then left immediately on the private road, the procession would have entered the cemetery.

Funeral Riverview from 56

You can see the Indian mound where Barbara is buried from 56, the main road. She is actually buried very near the brick structure in this photo.

Funeral satellite Riverview

In this satellite view, you can see both the brick structure and the main road, 56, to the right. Barbara’s burial location is shown on this diagram of Riverview.

Riverview flyer 2

The entrance then would probably have looked much like the entrance shown on the Riverview flyer we were given in 1990.

Riverview flyer

The  entrance looks a bit different today.

riverview entrance

Barbara is buried within view of the entrance.

Funeral Barbara Drechsel cemetery

In this photo, Barbara Mehlheimer and George Drechsel’s matching stones are in the front, but you can see the entrance archway to the right rear of the photo.

Funeral Barbara Drechsel stone

George would pass away two years later, in February 1908, but Barbara wasn’t alone. A son-in-law and some of her grandchildren were already buried here, and more of her children, in time, would be.

The Children of Georg and Barbara Mehlheimer Drechsel

Two of Georg and Barbara’s children were born in Germany and the rest after arriving in the United States.

  • Barbara Drechsel was born October 8, 1848 in Goppmannsbuhl, Germany and baptized in Wirbenz, the closest village, on October 22, 1851. She was also christened in June 1857 in St. John’s Lutheran Church in Aurora. Her godmother in Germany was Barbara Krauss of Windischenlaiback, likely a relative and possibly a sister, aunt or other relative to one of her parents. Barbara married Jacob Kirsch on May 27, 1866, lived most of her life in Aurora, and died on June 12, 1930 in Wabash, Indiana. She is buried at Riverview, not far from her parents.  Barbara had 6 children, all of whom survived to adulthood and married, although only 3 had children.

Jacob Kirsch stone with mother

  • Margaretha Drechsel was born May 13, 1851 in Germany, baptized on October 22, 1851 in Wirbenz and probably christened on September 1857 in Aurora with her sister. She married Herm Rabe Sept. 21, 1873 and they had a total of 6 children before Margaretha died in 1889. For a long time, I could find nothing more on Margaretha, then I discovered someone had entered her burial on Find-A-Grave, along with her children.  Thank you to that volunteer.

Drechsel Margaretha stone

Margaretha’s marker has been destroyed and only the base remains today. It is located beside that of her husband, Herb Rabe, in the Wesleyan Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Herm Rabe stone

I would suspect that Barbara was not happy that Margaretha wasn’t brought home for burial. Being “brought back” seemed to be very important to these families, judging from later letters and hurt feelings about other deaths.  Margaretha was probably Barbara’s first child to die, although either John or Mary died before Barbara’s death as well.

Margaretha Drechsel Rabe’s children were:

  1. Freidrich George Rabe was born in 1876 and died in 1879 due to “lung disease due to cough. He is buried at Riverview.
  2. Caroline Louise Engel Rabe born December 3, 1880 and died in 1951, buried in the Wesleyan Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio.
  3. Mary “Mayne” Rabe born 1875 and died in 1961, married to Albert Weatherby and had three daughters, Lorine, Juanita and Margaret.
  4. Louisa “Lou” Rabe born 1879 in Aurora and died in 1963 in Whiteside County, Illinois, married to Irvin Isaac Denison in 1919. No children per the 1920 (she was 41) and 1940 census.
  5. Wilhelm Rabe born in 1883 in Aurora, died in 1886 in Cincinnati, buried in the Wesleyan Cemetery.
  6. Eleanor Rabe born in 1885 in Cincinnati, died in 1961, same location, buried in the Wesleyan Cemetery, married to Guy Nicholas Young and had 4 children, Marian, Eleanor, Donald and Guy.
  • Carolina “Lina” Drechsel was born January 8, 1854 and baptized in May of that year. Little is known about this daughter. In 1876 she was the godmother for her sister Barbara’s daughter Caroline.  In 1881 in the church records she is listed as married and moved to Cincinnati, but as late as 1886 she is still taking communion part of the time in Aurora.  By 1892 she is no longer listed in the church records.

Drechsel Lina 1880

I believe I found Lina in the 1880 census in Cincinnati listed as a cousin to Jacob Heinke. This is the only hint of family in the US for the Drechsel family.  Jacob’s wife Emilie was a Gotsch.  She is buried in the Walnut Hills Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her family seems to be from Muhlau and Ziegelheim, Saxony, according to the birth locations listed in her siblings burials.  Her father was a doctor.  There is no indication of a relationship to Lina Drechsel through Emilie.

Jacob Heinke’s father was Johann Jacob Henke born in Hanover and Louisa Maria Schafstall, also born in Hanover.

Was Lena truly a cousin? If so, first cousins share grandparents.

In 1878 and 1879, Gottfried Heinke is listed as an upholsterer at the address of 17 Adams Street, and Lena Heine is listed as a tailoress at 610 Race, so perhaps not the same person.

In 1900, I found Lena Heinke and her husband Gottfried, married for 5 years, living at 1612 Pleasant Street in Cincinnati. This census shows that she has had 1 child, but no children are living.  Of course, Gottleib could have been her second husband.

Drechsel, Lina 1900

Gottleib and Lena are still living in 1910 and 1920 where he is a polisher in a private factory.

I found Gotfried Heinke buried in the Riverview Cemetery, born March 1, 1854 and died Feb. 23, 1926. He has no stone, but buried next to him is Lena Heinke, close to George and Barbara Drechsel in section Q, lot #57, Tier 1, Grave 23.

The 1930 census confirms Lena Heinke’s identity. She is shown living with her niece, Leah Rabe at 1568 Hobart in Cincinnati.

Drechsel Lena stone

Lena’s burial information shows that she died January 24, 1938 and is buried at Riverview. She was 84 years old when she died.

  • Barbara Mehlheimer and George Drechsel’s fourth child was Johann Edward Drechsel born on August 16, 1856. In 1871 he was the godfather of Johann Edward Kirsch, his sister’s child. By 1877, he was living in Cincinnati.  In his father’s obituary in 1908 he is listed as living along with 3 daughters, but in Georg Drechsel’s church death record, it states there are 4 daughters living.  I may have found John in the 1880 census, but I cannot find him later.  He could also be listed under Edward, and Drexler could be spelled any number of ways.  I could find no burial for him either.

The John Drexler in Cincinnati, Ohio in the 1880 census is married to Lizzie Theisinger. They are living with her parents.  He is a tailor and was born in 1856 in Indiana and his parents were born in Prussia.

Drechsel John 1880

Philip Theisinger, who would have been John’s father-in-law, died in 1884 with no will or probate apparently. However, the Cincinnati court house did burn in 1884.

Probably the most frustrating part of not being able to find John Drechsel or Drexler is that he is the only male candidate for Y DNA testing. He has no male siblings and his father has no known siblings either, although there could certainly be a sibling in Germany for his father that I’m unaware of.  However, without a male Drechsel to test, we’ll never know anything about George’s Y line DNA which means I’ll never know anything about his ancient history, before the advent of surnames.  Searching for him has been like searching for a needle in a haystack, being uncertain of which first name he used and unsure of how his last name was going to be spelled at that minute in time.

Does anyone know anything about John Drexler and Lizzie Theisinger?

  • Barbara Mehlheimer and George Drechsel’s fifth child was Emma Louise “Lou” Drechsel born on July 18, 1859 and died in Aurora June 8, 1949. She was known as “Great Aunt Giegoldt”. She married Johann George Giegoldt on March 30, 1881 and had two children.
  1. Barbara Margaretha Josephine Giegoldt was born on Feb. 9, 1882 and was baptized on April 9th. Her godparents were Barbara Kirsch and Margaretha Rabe, her mother’s sisters.  In her confirmation, Margaretha is underlined and next to it the name Nettie is penned.  She never married, died in 1908 at age 26 and is buried at Riverview.
  2. Their second child was Caroline Louise “Lily” Giegoldt born November 6, 1883 and baptized on Christmas Day. Her godparents are Karoline Drechsel and Lilly Louise Drechsel. Is Lilly another name for her mother’s sister Emma Louise, or perhaps is Lilly John Drechsel’s wife?  Caroline married Theodore “Louis” Bosse, a watchmaker, moved to Cincinnati, and had sons Raymond and Wilbur.  The 1910 census shows them in Cincinnatti.

Johann George Giegoldt

After Johann George Giegoldt died in 1901 of Tuberculosis, Lou married Theodore Busse or Bosse on May 3, 1908. Yes, if you’re scratching your head wondering if Caroline Louise Giegoldt (the daughter) actually did marriy Theodore Bosse and her mother, Louise Giegoldt, also married a Theodore Bosse in the same town 11 months later.  The answer is yes, they did.  This should not be allowed.  How to confuse a genealogist!!!

Theodore Bosse (the elder) died in 1912 of kidney failure and Louise Drechsel Giegoldt Bosse then married Valentine Dietz.

I show Louise and Valentine Deitz in 1920, 1930 and 1940 in Madison, Indiana. He died in 1941.  “Great Aunt Lou,” as mother called her, was actually married to Dietz longer than she was to either of her first two husbands, combined.

Pictured here is the Giegoldt family monument in the cemetery in Aurora.

Giegoldt monument

  • Teresa Maria “Mary” Drechsel born December 28, 1862. In the 1875 she was baptized and by 1880 she was living at the Kirsch House with her sister. By 1881, church records note her as living in Cincinnati.  Nothing more is known about Mary.

Flood, Fire and Celebrations

Barbara’s life was truly remarkable. She seemed to skirt or somehow make the best of every possible tragedy.  Although starting out with a significant social handicap, she and George risked everything and left for America, which offered them the freedom to become what they would, and could, based on their own work, not on their birth circumstances and customs beyond their control.

The city lot that Barbara and George purchased seemed to have escaped most if not all of the major floods. If they did flood, it was probably only once.  Some of that may have been luck, but some may also have been their foresight living near large rivers in Germany.  4th Street was on a hill and that proved to be an excellent choice.

However, hill or no hill, fire still threatened. The major fire of 1882 burned the building next to their home and all of the buildings down the block in two directions.  Fortunately, it seems like the Drechsel family was in luck.  If the house did burn, that’s not a story we ever heard.  And most importantly, no lives were lost.

But even more remarkable is that Barbara seems to have avoided death in her family for more than 27 years. That’s more than a quarter of a century.

Of course, we don’t know when her mother died in Germany, but we do know it was before Barbara’s second daughter was born in 1851. We don’t know if Barbara had siblings or other family members she was close to.

What we do know is that from the time Barbara immigrated, in 1852, there were no deaths until her grandchild died in 1879. At the time of Barbara’s death in 1906, she had lost 2 children, a son-in-law, 3 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.

Let’s look at the flip side of that though. Barbara had 6 children born, all of whom lived, meaning 6 baptisms and 6 confirmations, all days for celebration.  She attended at least 13 weddings of immediate family members.

Barbara had 15 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren, which means baptisms and christenings for them as well. And that’s not counting birthday celebrations, Easter and Christmas, all opportunities for family celebrations and a home filled with people, laughter, children and cheer.

While Barbara did have some grief in her life, and I don’t want to diminish those events, her life was remarkable because of the number of celebrations she enjoyed – well over 100 not counting birthdays and holidays. That’s not bad for a woman who arrived with just the man not yet her husband and 2 small daughters with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, and no family.

Barbara’s life was shaped by her remarkable bravery and being willing to take risks and act beyond her fear.  Her family and the joyous celebrations she would enjoy for more  than half a century were her reward.

Barbara’s life was also defined by rivers and water.  First the Rhine, as an escape route, then the Atlantic, and finally the Ohio which carved the landscape and shaped the lives of those in living in Aurora, and beside which, on an Indian mound, Barbara reposes today.

Ohio hill



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12 thoughts on “Barbara Mehlheimer (1823-1906), Floods, Flames and Celebrations, 52 Ancestors #112

  1. “George Drecksel transfers a part of his property to Louise Giegoldt”… during the 19th century property was often put in the wife’s name to protect it from her husband’s business debts.

  2. I always enjoy your “stories” of family and have often found some of my own relatives mentioned among yours. Today I put some of your information on my ancestry account with a couple of our common relatives and used your name and blog as the source. I do hope this is okay with you, but if not, I will erase. Thank you, Carol

  3. I truly enjoy reading about your research! My goal is to make it though your 100+ ancestor blogs by summer. 🙂
    I was wondering why you listed John Drexler’s wife as Lizzie Theisinger? The listing right above them shows a Henry Huffman [sp?] and I would have probably searched for them.

  4. Pingback: Rachel Barbara Estes, The Invisible Child, 52 Ancestors #118 | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  5. Emilie Gotsch’s father was a doctor of divinity (Lutheran minister). My husband is a descendant of Emilie’s sister. Emilie’s mother was Johanna Emilie Friedrich born 13 MAR 1800 in Loessnitz (Germany). Maybe a cousin connection to Heinke there. I am only tracing the Gotsch family, not the Friedrich family as my husband is a descendant of a different wife. Yes, I find the 1 child (living vs. not living) on census confusing and do not have any other information about the child.

  6. Hello Roberta,

    My name is Chelsea Gress and I just came across your page. What fantastic research! I am in complete awe and so grateful that you posted this. Eleanor M. Lauterwasser (daughter of Eleanor Rabe, and grand-daughter of Margaretha Drechsel) was my great-grandmother. Her eldest daughter Mary Anne Lauterwasser (sister of Nancy) is my grandmother. My grandmother Mary Anne has three daughters, and I am the daughter of her eldest daughter Cheri. I would LOVE to get in touch with you and reconnect our sides of the family 🙂 I know we have some pictures of the Rabe family (Eleanor and her sisters). If you are interested in seeing them I would love to send them to you.

  7. Hello!

    Feel free to reach out for the details I have on the Melsheimer tree. We have a database of approximately 1,200 ancestors. I have been in touch with your friend Christoph.

  8. Thank you for your remarkable research, I’m grateful for the information. My Great grandmother is Mary Drexler, daughter of George and Barbara Drexler. I can fill in a bit about her life and death. According to the 1880 Census, 17 year old Mary was working as a servant in the tavern owned by Jacob and Barbara Kirsch. By 1883, however, she was married and living in Chicago with her husband Gustav Brehm. Gustav drove a taxicab and Mary took in washing, often riding on streetcars to pick up and deliver laundry. Over the years their fortunes improved and by 1910 they owned a pool hall that was also a candy and tobacco shop on S. Robey Avenue in Chicago . Gustav died in 1939 and the store was taken over by his son Drexel.
    Gustav and Mary are the parents of my grandmother Edna Maria Lina Brehm who married Dr. Ernest Lent in Iowa in 1913. I have photos of George Drexler at the cooperage where he worked and a photo of him in his later years as well.

    • I am so very excited to hear from you. I would love to see those pictures. I’ll email you as soon as I get to a computer. Thank you so much for reaching out.

  9. Pingback: Barbara Mehlheimer’s Letter: A Daughter Found, Photos and a Family Reunited – 52 Ancestors #308 | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

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