Philippine “Phoebe” Detzer Von Schenck
1848 – January 24, 1880
Rev. Walter Von Schenk
May 2, 1852 – September 2, 1921
I can’t remember exactly how I managed to trip over the clue that led me to cracking the Von Schenck mystery. I was researching Edward Fetting late last night, and I think tried a separate search while on the findagrave.com site for the Von Schencks yet again (an ex-librarian never stops wanting to find the answer). That led me this time to a Reverend Walter Von Schenk (a curse on spelling variations) who was the right age to be Walter L.’s father. This Walter, however, was married to a woman a few years his junior but they were both the right age to have been parents of Walter L and perhaps the others buried in Concordia. This lead me to a suspicion that these might be my Von Schencks.
And they were! That is, Rev. Walter was. I want to thank the findagrave.com sleuth who corrected my misreading of Frank as (correctly) Phebe or I might never have figured out the story because Phebe, sadly, was the mother of Anna and Walter L.
Walter Von Schenk emigrated from Germany as a young man. In Chicago, he met and married Phillipine “Phoebe” Detzer on October 31, 1876. She had been born in Ohio but at some point, her her family moved to Chicago. Presuming her relative’s genealogy tree has accurate information, Phoebe was four years older than Walter when they married.. As we know from the readable inscription, their son Walter L.’s life was very short. Anna’s unreadable dates might be before or after her brother’s or might match her mother’s death date (found on a family tree created by a distant relative of Phoebe’s).
Later in the same year as his wife’s death, Walter is on the census living with Pheobe’s brother and sister, still in Chicago, and working as a schoolteacher. He’s only twenty-eight years old.
We can perhaps infer that the tragedy of his first marriage led him to becoming a pastor. In 1882, the city directory lists him as still in Chicago and still a teacher, but by 1886, he is in Allen County in Indiana — coincidentally where I am from and where Concordia Theological Seminary (est. 1846) is located — where he marries and perhaps meets his second wife Henrietta Katt.
I have some familiarity through friends of the life of a Lutheran minister trained at that seminary, so his next location being Minnesota is entirely unsurprising. Here he and Henrietta are found in the 1900 census renting a home as Walter works as a pastor. They have five young children and a boarder living with them.
The next census finds them moved to Rockville, Connecticut, still renting (though I wonder if this was the manse and the census-taker just didn’t know how to list it since it was not a home owned by the Von Schencks) and with all five children still at home with them.
Henrietta dies in 1919 and the 1920 census finds Walter widowed again, living with just his youngest daughter Henriette (“Etta”).
He himself would pass away the next year at the age of 69, the father of seven, widower of two wives. The brief obituary that ran in the Star and Times in St. Louis on September 4, 1921 (where one of his children was living though it is unclear which one) indicates that between the census and his passing, Etta had married. It also tells us that his son Berthold had followed his father into the ministry. There is no mention of his first wife or children and one wonders if he ever told his children about his first family.
We here remember them as I’m sure he did throughout his life.
RIP Phebe, Walter Sr., Walter Jr., and Anna Von Schenck. RIP to Henrietta Katt Von Schenk and family.
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