Anna Emma Cramp Matthis

9 August 1892 – 17 October 1918

Edward August Herman Matthies
12 November 1913 – 19 November 1913

Melvin Walter Matthies
16 October 1916 – 18 May 2007

(The records spell all the family names a variety of ways – Cramp, Crump, Matthies, Matthis, Matthias, and so on.)

Anna was born to German immigrant parents August and Anna (who appear to have been better known as Gus and Annie). Gus was a bricklayer and Annie was home with their seven children (Gussie, Henry, Annie Jr [who I will call Anna for clarity], Walter, Lena, Frank, and Adolph).

The 1900 census of the family is a complete shambles, all of the kids’ birth years are way off partly because the names are listed with the wrong birth years out of order and partly because the dates are just way off, and Annie is listed as “Mamsie” which makes me suspect one of the children was answering the census taker or helping. The parents are both listed as speaking English but one wonders if this hash of scandalously wrong information (it baldly states they married two years after their oldest child Gussie – who is listed incorrectly as a daughter rather than a son – was born) was from a youngster helping Mama or Papa answer the questions. I can imagine that even if they were excellent speakers (and they’d been in the US for almost twenty years by then), a snotty census taker floucing around about their accent might demand the native-speaker children tell him what they’d said, or if Mama was too busy, the census taker might have settled on dealing with the kids. In any case, this data is the worst mess I’ve seen so far which is saying something!

At this point in 1900 — if we can trust the data — the family owned their home on West 13th mortgage-free. That area is completely wiped clean of any late 19th/early 20th century buildings or flavor but from Anna’s future husband’s contemporary census, it seems this was a neighborhood of German immigrants at the time.

By the 1910 census, they are renting what I’m guessing was half of a two-flat on Washburne, an area which is now a park and only a spur of the road they lived on is left with a single older residential building still standing to suggest the former character of the street.

The 1910 data all looks much more correct based on what we know from other records. The children are listed in the right birth order and Gussie is Gus now, but sadly, Anna’s two youngest brothers have apparently passed away in the intervening ten years as they do not reappear. I will note that in 1900, the family had a boarder living with them and the mess of the census makes me wonder if it’s possible the two little boys were not actually Anna’s siblings but were related to that person or were just neighborhood babies being cared for who were miscounted. One reason to suspect this is that on the 1910 census, the family answers that they have five children living of five born. I also was unable to find any death records for Frank and Adolph within the time frame (or at all with that last name), and they are not buried in Concordia with their parents and older sister, so while their disappearance is probably the most obvious reason, I am far less sure about it with the 1900 data to work from than usual.

In any case, the 1910 census tells us Gus Jr and Henry are working with Papa as bricklayers; Anna is working as a packer in a packing house (she wins for most Chicago job of 1910), and Walter is an errand boy at a candy factory! Only little Lena is still at home and going to school.

On 22 October 1912, Anna married Edward H. Matthies, a young man who in 1910 was working as a piano tuner in a factory. A little over a year later on 12 November 1913, the young couple had a son, Edward August Herman, who lived only a week. He is listed as being buried at Concordia on his death record but doesn’t come up on so I will have to see if I can find him on my wanderings.

Anna and Edward have another child on 16 October 1916 named Melvin Walter, and we next see the little family via Edward’s draft card which seems to have been filled out in 1917 and which lists his wife and child as reasons he should not be drafted. He is working as a streetcar conductor at the time.

And then a year later, Anna dies. We have no cause of death listed but this was in the midst of the Great Influenza. At her age, it might also have been childbirth related, and of course domestic violence or just some awful accident cannot be ruled out. I can find no obituaries, no details, and cannot confirm if Edward was drafted in spite of his protestations. I think he may have been because while I can’t confirm it, there is an almost matching Edward who married a woman named Gertrude and is listed on his death record as having been a WWI vet. It’s possible, however, that Edward also died after vanishing into some grief-induced problem that left his end a mystery, or he may have just abandoned his son after his wife’s death. But if he were called away from his little family against his will by the war, the next few facts are just a tiny bit less painful.

Anna is buried in the Cramp family plot which seems to possibly have been established for her internment (unless her alleged little brothers are there but not well-marked) and her maiden name is clearly etched. The 1920 census lists 3-year-old Melvin living with Gus and Annie and Aunt Lena. This census also shows clear signs of post-WWI fibbing to cover over German heritage and includes another just wrong mistake with Lena being listed as having been born in Europe… census data, y’all…

I find no reconnection of father and son after this and can’t even find Melvin at all in the 1930 census. I presume as he was only 13 that he was still living with relatives, but my possible remarried Edward is listed as living only with Gertrude. Melvin is no longer with his now-widowed grandmother, and Annie is living with now-married Lena. Between 3 and 23, Melvin is invisible to us, but then he reappears in 1940, married to Irene, filling out his draft card.

Melvin lived a long life, dying in 2007 at the great old age of 91. I can’t confirm if he fought in WWII, but he would’ve been the right age. Nor can I confirm if he and Irene had children as the 1950 census that might give us insight there is not yet available. The one family tree which also might have told us more about Melvin and his father is private.

What I can surmise is that his parents both had tough childhoods where hard work and hardship were the norm. Whether Anna died of the Influenza or some other reason, her tragic loss of her first child and the breakup of her little family after her death are deeply sad.

Her headstone is simple but proud, declaring Anna her parents’ daughter and including a cameo showing her beautiful, serene face that is still in perfect condition over one hundred years later.

RIP Anna, your sons Edward and Melvin, and all of your family.

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