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Monee Historical Society

Help us discover, record and preserve the history of the Village of Monee, Illinois.

RAOGK’s

Recently, board member Rachel White got an email from a man named Andy Gappa. Andy wrote he had recently visited Antiques on Main, an antique store in Crown Point, Indiana and purchased an old photograph, identified as “Waldemar Wehrli”. Using Ancestry.com, he located Mr. Wehrli on Rachel’s family tree and wanted to send her the photo, free of charge, so it could be reunited with family. This type of selfless act is known in genealogy circles as Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, abbreviated RAOGK. Though of course, not confined to the world of genealogists, RAOGK’s provide a way to give back and also connect with other researchers, even if their areas of focus are completely different.

Other ways genealogists give back include volunteering to index old records, going to nearby cemeteries and taking photos of gravestones for far-flung family and doing record look-ups at local libraries and records depositories. This can save the searcher a lot of money and time.

In addition to the warm fuzzies one gets from helping others, by connecting with researchers who have different research goals, we can discover new insights and ideas on how to further our own research. For example, when looking up documents for a friend at the South Suburban Genealogical and History Society in Hazel Crest, President of the Monee Historical Society Christi Holston discovered a slim volume tucked in among some taller books. Upon examination, she discovered it to be the minutes of the meetings of the Gold Star Mothers of the American Legion Malone-Doss Post in Monee.  It listed the members, meeting agenda and dues of the members, in addition to containing thank you letters from soldiers stationed at military bases who had received care packages sent by the group. Many previously unknown veterans of Monee where thereby identified.

In the current climate of “ME FIRST” that seems to be plaguing our society, it is nice to remember that though it may sometimes seem as though everyone is only taking care of themselves, most people still want to be kind to one another, even in small ways.

The Wehrli Family in Monee

In our last blog post, we mentioned the photo of Waldemar Wehrli that was kindly sent to the Monee Historical Society by Andy Gappa.  We will focus on the Wehrli family in Monee in this post.

“Jacob Wehrli was born Feb. 7, 1830, in Switzerland and came to Monee in 1858. On Feb. 10, 1862, he married Cathrina Heisner, born July 20, 1833, in Germany. He was an early blacksmith in the village.

He died Feb. 19, 1901; his wife, Apr. 19, 1914.

Andrew, son of the Jacob Wehrlis, was born July 23, 1864, in Monee. He married Bertha Engelke, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Friedrich Engelke, on Dec. 26, 1892. She came with her parents from Chicago to Monee at an early age and resided in the village until her death Aug. 9, 1946.

Andrew Wehrli followed the trade of his father. In May, 1911, he purchased the John Rampke dwelling and lots on Chestnut street. The blacksmith shop stood south of his home and for years the ring of Wehrli’s anvil was a familiar sound in Monee and was heard many hours each day. No doubt Longfellow pictured a man such as Wehrli standing beside a flaming forge when he wrote his famous poem “The Village Blacksmith.” Wehrli may not have stood “under a spreading chestnut tree,” but his shop was located on Chestnut street and many a young boy stopped on his way past to watch a horse being shod. Wehrli spent his entire lifetime in Monee except for the last year and a half when he resided with a son, Waldemar, in St. Louis, Mo. He died Apr. 5, 1948.

Four children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Wehrli: Allen, Waldemar, Andrew and Erma.”

The above was published in the book “Our Roots are Deep”, written by Muriel Mueller Milne. Ms. Milne published the book in 1974, just in time for Monee’s centennial celebration.  Tragically, she died less than a year later but her research left an incredible legacy for those of us interested in the lives of our Monee ancestors.

In that spirit, and given the time and advanced methods of genealogical research today, we can add the following about the Wehrli family.

In addition to Andrew, Jacob and Catharina (Heisner) Wehrli had another son, Karl, who died at 5 months and 23 days on May 20, 1863. Also born to them were 3 daughters; Anna, Wilhelmina and Marie.

Anna was born on April 17, 1866 and died December 8, 1963. In 1890, she married Jacob Bircher and the couple had 2 sons; Louis and Leroy. Louis married Mathilda and the couple had two daughters, Helen and Marjorie.

Wilhelmina was born February 2, 1868 and died October 8, 1915. She married William Rincker who was born in April 1870 and died in 1944, the son of Johann and Helena (Puscheck) Rincker of Crete. The couple had 2 sons; Leroy and Norbert, and a daughter, Ruth, who died at 10 months, 14 days on December 19, 1900. Leroy (1896-1953) attended Concordia Theological Seminary in St. Louis Missouri and became a pastor of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.  He served as missionary to Canada in 1919-1920 and to the Isle of Pines, Cuba, Australia and New Zealand in 1920.  In 1923 he became a professor at Concordia University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin receiving his doctorate degree in 1952. In 1936 he was named president of the University and served in that capacity until his death. In 1923 he was united in marriage with Edna Huetman. His brother Norbert (1903-1976) married Elsia Beilstein (1906-2006), and they had two children; Ruth and Billy.

Marie was born September 3, 1871 and died January 27, 1953. She was employed as a schoolteacher in Missouri.

As mentioned in Our Roots are Deep, Andrew and Bertha (Engelke) Wehrli’s had four children; Allen, Waldemar, Andrew and Irma.

Allen Wehrli, like his cousin Leroy, became a minister. He was born May 5, 1894 and married Cornelia Hees. The couple had one son, Eugene (1923-2000). He was a Professor at Eden Seminary in Webster Groves, Missouri and was the guest speaker at countless churches all over the Midwest. He died in November 1970 in St. Louis, Missouri. His son Eugene also became a minister.   Gene was raised on the Eden Seminary campus. He received his A.B. Degree from Oberlin college in 1943 and returned to Eden Seminary to obtain his Bachelor of Divinity in 1948. He was ordained a minister in the United Church of Christ in 1947 and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1951. After serving as a religion instructor at Cedar Crest college and Elmhurst College, he was called to join the Eden Faculty in 1960. He served as academic dean and dean of student affairs before becoming president. He was the author of numerous books and was extremely highly regarding by his colleagues and students. He married Clara Fluke in 1947, and the couple were also the parents of 5 children.

Andrew Wehrli was born July 4, 1895 and died at age 17, on April 4, 1913.

Irma (referred to in Our Roots are Deep as “Erma”) was born Feb. 25, 1897 and died on March 26, 1949.

Waldemar, the subject of the original photo was born June 29, 1902. There just might be something genetic in the Waldemar family line, for as his father and grandfather were both blacksmiths, Waldemar chose a slightly different path, and became superintendent of Hiertz Steel Company in St. Louis. He married the Isabel Hiertz, the daughter of the plant owner, Edmund Hiertz in about 1930. Isabel was born September 22, 1899.  The couple had one daughter, Margaret, in 1931. Incredibly, Waldemar lived to see his 101st birthday, before dying on May 5, 2004.  Isabel died October 18, 1966.

Their daughter Margaret married Harold Beasley and the couple had 3 daughters Ann, Mary and Kathryn, and one son, John.

We hope you have enjoyed this brief biography of the Monee Wehrli family.  We plan on writing more biographies in the future of the families that helped shape Monee.

Our Roots are Deep

Our Roots are Deep was published in 1974 by Muriel Mueller Milne. It remains today the most thorough and comprehensive history of the Village of Monee and its people in existence.

Muriel Sophie Marie Mueller was born in Monee to Emmet and Esther (Jacobs) Mueller on March 10, 1922. She was baptized and confirmed at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ. On June 29, 1947 she married Willam Henry Milne, the son of Alexander and Dorothea (Grote) Milne. She served as Editor of the Monee Monitor from 1963-1969, and was an accomplished artist; many of her works gracing the walls of homes in Monee and the surrounding areas.

Fascinated by Monee’s pioneer history, Muriel served as chairman of the Monee Centennial Committee and was a huge part of it’s planning and execution.  Monee’s Centennial Celebration was in 1974, which coincided with the publishing of her incredible book about Monee.

The scope of the information contained in Our Roots are Deep is especially impressive given the time and limitations she faced in the early 1970’s, when genealogy and this type of research was in its infancy.  There was no internet to aid in her fact finding. She must have conducted dozens of interviews to get all the information she included in her book. The hours of painstaking note-taking and record-gathering undertaken would have been in the hundreds of hours.

Sadly, Muriel died November 29, 1974, only months after her book was published. She was buried in Skyline Cemetery, just north of Monee, on December 1, 1974.  As a result of her work, many future generations have been helped and informed by her book and her legacy to Monee will never be forgotten.

Click here to read: our-roots-are-deep

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