It’s often said that answering one question in your family history will create two more. That was certainly true last week when I had occasion to visit my cousins in Austin. I always enjoy seeing them, and never feel like we talk often enough. Robin is the other genealogy hound in my family, so whenever we get together, the topic often turns to family history.
The Grave Question
On those rare occasions I’m in Austin, I try to stop by my parent’s gravesites. They’re buried in Austin Memorial Park, along with my Uncle Bobby and Aunt Margaret, my Uncle Louis, and Bobby and Margaret’s infant son, as well as my grandparents, Robert Sr. and Leona.
One of the things that I’ve been curious about for a while now is how Robert Mueller, Sr. ended up in Austin Memorial Park. He died in January of 1927, just days after my dad’s 7th and my uncle Bobby’s 11th birthdays. As a side note, I’d love to be able go back and see what it was like for them to go through the Depression without a father. That’s what I crave in family history: the personal stories. But Austin Memorial Park wasn’t even formed until August, 1927, and the first burial was in April of 1928. So how did someone who died sixteen months before the cemetery was opened end up being buried there? I had privately speculated that since Grandpa was a city commissioner who died in office, that the city had somehow made some special provisions for his burial.
As we looked at the graves, Robin recalled that some had been moved. I checked the burial certificates for Robert Mueller Sr. and Louis, and sure enough, they were both originally buried in Oakwood Cemetery. An email to Austin Parks and Recreation, which oversees the city cemeteries, confirmed the re-interments on April 8, 1960.
There’s the answer to the question, “How did they get there?” But that brings up, “Why?”
Oakwood Cemetery is now just across I-35 from where my dad grew up, near what is now 16th and Red River. It would have been a simple thing for Gran to walk to the cemetery and visit her husband’s grave, so why move him, Louis, and the baby six miles away? Most of the Muellers, Kreisles and Mayers are buried in Oakwood, in fact.
Here follows pure speculation on my part: Cousins Gus Borner and Edward Bock died in 1958. Bock lived in Austin; I’m not sure yet where Borner lived or was buried. My parents married in 1959 and fairly quickly became pregnant with my brother, who would be born in July 1960. I wonder if that combination of events maybe influenced Gran, Dad and Bobby to discuss the idea that there wasn’t going to be enough room for all of that part of the family in the family plot at Oakwood? Robin recalled that the family always discussed in some great detail what their various burial arrangements would be. Bobby and Margaret by that point had had three children, and I’m not sure that my parents had decided on how many they were going to have. It’s easy for me to see a long conversation about where everyone was going to fit.
We may never find out exactly why they were moved, but I’ve got another email out to the city of Austin asking if they have further information.
The Courtship Letters
After their parents died, my cousins Robin and Marilyn split up the family history materials that Bobby had accumulated – and there was plenty of it! Robin ended up with most of the papers. This last weekend, she shared a trove of letters from our great-grandmother Louise Kreisle to her eventual husband, Carl Mayer during their courtship in 1876-77. According to Louisa’s first letter in March 1876, apparently Carl proposed in early 1876. Her first letter, sent to an address on Royal Street in New Orleans, wasn’t a “No,” but more of a “We should get to know each other better.” It took them some time to do that, as they weren’t married until early 1881.
One letter mentions a falling-out between “Papa” and a person whose name is difficult to make out. But in Harold Mueller’s Kreisle history, he mentions a furniture business involving Matthew Kreisle (Louise’s father) and a man named John Hannig. The Kreisle history goes on to document the separation of the firm into two businesses in about 1878-79, but Harold never speculates on the reason in his history. The letter from Louisa suggests there was a disagreement, and claims “Papa was in the right.” Louise never goes into detail though, saying that she’ll tell Carl when they see each other next.
As was common in that time, the business once covered both furniture and undertaking; at the split, Hannig took the undertaking side of things. The split happened just fourteen years after the end of the Civil War, which brought some rapid advancements in medicine and funeral care. I wonder if the disagreement had to do with how to run the funeral side of things?
Louisa’s first letter went to 65 Royal St. in New Orleans in care of what looks like “A Bonnelli.” My first Google searches turned up nothing useful, but I didn’t put much effort into them. Other letters go to a PO Box in Pensacola, FL or occasionally reference “Guttman,” who might have been a jeweler in Pensacola. Carl ended up owning a jewelry store in Austin, leading us to wonder if he might have been apprenticing in the trade during this time. A couple of letters though suggest there was a business deal of some sort that Carl was warned about that ended up going badly for him.
It’s not clear from the few letters we looked at why Carl was back-and-forth between Pensacola and New Orleans. Nor were we able to see exactly how long it went on. The trip is about two hundred miles via I-10, taking about four hours today. Freeways weren’t available in the 1870s, so Carl would have been taking a train for most of the trip. Figuring out a rail route in that time takes me down a deep rabbit hole though. Suffice to say it probably wasn’t an easy or short trip!
With these letters, we’ve come up with a partial answer to one constantly underlying question for family researchers: “What was life like for my ancestors?” Naturally, it’s raised several others: Why was Carl Mayer traveling between New Orleans and Pensacola so often? What was the cause of the business split between Matthew Kreisle (“Papa”) and John Hannig? And why did it take Carl and Louisa so long to get married?
That’s the beauty of family history: you always have more questions than answers.