The Hagemeisters

Wilhelmine “Minnie” Parman Hagemeister
30 November 1864 – 21 June 1940

Wilhelm “William” Hagemeister
4 July 1862 – 7 July 1938

The monument for the Hagemeister family in Forest Home is striking in that it seems to portray a real person. The statue topping their monument is of an adult woman, somewhere in her middle years. She is what might have ben called handsome back in the day and gazes down on the area below her pedestal with a calm, patient expression. One arm is tucked behind her back in what was perhaps a habitual stance of the woman portrayed.

And the woman is Minnie Parman Hagemeister, who was the matriarch of a family that went through a lot of tragedy and seemed to come through it by standing together in its face.

Minnie and William Hegemeister were German immigrants who had both come to the US when they were very small children. William was working as a varnish maker and Minnie as a dressmaker in the most recent census before they married in 1884. Both were oldest children and had several siblings, but I’m going to concentrate here on their children and grandchildren.

By the 1900 census, all five of their children had been born and were still living at home. In order, these were Clara (1885), only son Edward (1886), Alma (1888), Wanda (1893), and the youngest Minnie Dora (1894). Against what seem to be steep odds in those days, all five survived to adulthood. William worked from at least 1900 (and we can be reasonably presume starting before that time) through his retirement in the candy making industry. At this time period, Chicago was the candy capital of the world in part thanks to the boost given to local industry and innovation by the 1893 Columbian Exhibition. In 1900, the family lived on North Hermitage in an area that looks entirely industrial today but was likely convenient to father William’s job at the time. Clara and Edward are also working at this time, Clara as a millinery trimmer and Edward as an errand boy.

There is a bit of drama in late 1904 when Clara gives birth to the family’s first grandchild, Eleanor, three weeks before her wedding to Edward E. Johnson, but all seems well at the start of 1910. The Johnson’s second childr, Willis Charles (1909) has been born and Alma is also married and also had her first child, daughter LaVerne, in 1909. Both families are living in Chicago near their parents. Wanda doesn’t appear to be at home, and I can’t find her on the 1910 census, but it’s likely she’s living with roommates or other relatives and working. Son Edward is still at home and working as a machinist in a steel mill, and Minnie is at home (it is unclear if she is still in school but she isn’t listed has having an occupation). Home is now a flat in what appears to be a three-flat building on Avenue L (which is still there and looks like it must’ve been brand-new in 1910).

A series of tragedies begin for the family in November 1910 when their only son Edward dies. There is no cause of death on the record, and I didn’t find any obituary or news item, so who knows what happened, but it was clearly a terrible loss. Edward’s marker is on the right hand of the family monument (left in the picture). Over the course of the next four years, all four of Minnie and William’s parents die, and then a series of terrible losses hits the family again beginning with the death of daughter Wanda.

Wanda, their second youngest, married Frank Herrndobler in 1912 and the young couple had two children, William (1913) and Dorothy (1917) but in 1918, Wanda died just four days before her 26th birthday. It’s very likely this was due to the Great Influenza though the cause isn’t listed on her death record. Wanda’s marker is to the left of the family monument (right in the picture).

More tragedy struck the next year (near as I can determine, it was just after Christmas 1919) when eldest daughter Clara also died. Though the 1910 census showed the Johnson family apparently doing well, with husband Edward working in a printing house and his maiden aunt living with them, on his draft card, filled out in September 1918, he indicated that he was unemployed. I was unable to find any record of his service in WWI or a death record for him, but sometime not long after Clara’s death, Edward also died in 1920. Though I wasn’t aware of these graves when I photographed the family monument, both are on, and the design of them matches that of the ones for Wanda and Edward. I presume they are nearby, perhaps just out of frame in my photo where Minnie’s statue is looking.

By the time of the 1920 census, all four of the grandchildren are living with Minnie and William. Minnie Dora married Albert Erickson in 1915, and she and her husband are also living with Minnie and William as well, all eight of them together in a rented house on Francisco Avenue in the fairly new neighborhood of Logan Square. William is working as travelling candy salesman and Albert is an electrician.

Wanda’s widower remarries the following year in 1921 and it appears that William and Dorothy went back to live with their father and his second wife shortly after that, but Clara’s children are raised by their grandparents and Aunt Minnie.

Alma, meanwhile, had married another Edward (Lemke) in 1908, and they had two children: daughter LaVerne (1909) and son Arnet (1911), but by 1920 the little family had moved out west to Pasadena and were living with what seems like Edward Lemke’s entire family. All of the Lemke men including Edward are in construction.

1930 finds the Lemkes still in Pasadena, but back in Chicago the Ericksons have bought a house on Kimbark Avenue and moved the whole multi-generational family there. Their only child, son Robert, was born in 1921, so the household now numbers seven – eight-year-old Robert and six adults. All the rest except for Minnie and Minnie Dora work outside the home. Edward Lemke is still an electrician; William is still a candy salesman; Eleanor is working as a stenographer; and Willis is a clerk working for the railroad. Considering the time period, they seem to be doing well, all employed and living in an owned home in spite of the upheaval of the Great Depression.

Sometime before 1933, Alma and her Edward move back to Chicago. Both their children are grown and stay in California. LaVerne was working as a children’s nurse in a VERY fancy, wealthy household in 1930 and that’s the last I could find of her. Arnet also vanishes but was still living in California when he died decades later in 2001.

Edward Lemke, however, dies in 1933 at the age of 47, leaving Alma in Chicago with no children or husband, so when we next see her in 1940, I expected her to have possibly rejoined the family on Kimbark, but where she shows up in 1940 was even more surprising and moving, for she was not the only woman with a connection to the Hagemeisters who was widowed in the mid-1930s because Wanda’s husband Frank Herrndobler passes in 1936 and in 1940 his widow Catherine, their son together Frank Jr., and Wanda’s daughter Dorothy are all living together with Alma joining them as housekeeper. Catherine is working as a stenographer. I find this very heartening, with Alma helping her sister’s family even when only Dorothy is still at home. I like to think they all stayed close, the grandchildren part of the larger family group and Catherine being taken into the fold by the Hagemeister women, especially in this difficult time when she’s only recently become a single mother.

Two more losses hit the family in 1938, only a few weeks apart. Though it seems he had married and started a life of his own, Willis died in June of 1938. Less than a month later, his grandfather William also passed, dying at home on Kimbark. I hope he was able to enjoy a bit of retirement and that maybe he and Minnie took some country drives together. 1940 finds the little family on Kimbark still otherwise intact, now mourning Willis and William. Robert is still at home but is studying at the University of Chicago. Eleanor is also still living on Kimbark and working as a stenographer.

Later that year, matriarch Minnie passed away at 75. She held the family together and raised her children and grandchildren through so much loss and pain. I hope she had many many moments of joy, and I can’t believe she was not deeply loved by them all when I see the beautiful statue her family erected in her honor.

At least two of her grandsons enlisted in the army in 1942, William who she cared for after his mother Wanda died, and Robert who grew up never knowing a home without his grandmother. Both returned from the war and lived long lives. It’s possible that Arnet also fought in the war, but I couldn’t run down any records for him between 1930 and 2001. I couldn’t find Eleanor beyond this point, either, and I hope she had a happy life.

The Ericksons moved to Drexel Avenue sometime before 1942 (Robert notes the address on his draft card), and then at some point most likely after the war, they moved west to California, all three of them living out the rest of their lives there. I hope they saw LaVerne and Arnet out there and got to know them. Wanda’s kids stayed in the Midwest, William in Chicago and Dorothy marrying and moving to Wisconsin. They and their half-brother Frank Jr. all lived into the 1990s and mentioned each other and their stepmother with great fondness in their obituaries.

Alma died in Chicago in 1963. I hope she and Catherine stayed friends. Catherine did eventually remarry and lived to be 80 years all. All three Herrndobler children are listed with great affection and claimed as hers in her obituary. Which they were, of course. She was another wonderful matriarch holding her little family together in the face of so much loss and hardship.

Minnie, the youngest of the Hagemeister children is also the last of them to pass away, in 1968. Her husband lives another 18 years. She and Alfred are buried in San Francisco.

RIP Hagemeister family and all of loved ones.

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