Charles Frese

April 25, 1834 – March 25, 1887

When I first saw this marker — which was my favorite of those I photographed at Crown Hill — I misread the eroded inscription and thought it was for a young teen. But Charles was born in 1834 in Germany and died in 1887 of typhoid fever, making him an older though not yet elderly man. It still has the spirit of youth and adventure about it, which I think might have been a true aspect of Charles’ personality.

Charles immigrated from Germany as a young man, arriving in Indianapolis in 1852 where he set up his business immediately. He never married, and no mention is made in anything I found about extended family, close friends, or companions, so it seems he lived a solitary homelife. He was, however, very involved in the local German fraternal societies the Lyra (of which he was once president) and the Maennerchor — both musical societies. His death brought both societies together at his gravesite where a long-discussed merger apparently moved ahead as a tribute to Charles while all were gathered to remember him.

He was very successful in business, first as a hardware manufacturer and later partnered in a furniture manufacturer (Lauter & Frese). His personal estate went up for auction very shortly after his death (announcement posted on April 2nd) and as his marker suggests, the auction was comprised primarily of his hunting and fishing equipment. This also suggests, again, no family or designated heirs who might be left to take over his home and go through his possessions in a more deliberate fashion. The auction was held at his furniture store at 196 South Meridian.

Charles registered for the Civil War draft and enlisted but was mustered out as a corporal just nine days later — no reason was listed for the discharge, but it may have been his age (29) or other considerations (was his business useful to the war effort?) or even just his money that resulted in the quick-turn. He applied for a passport in 1877 though no other documents turned up to say if he did take a trip abroad. I also didn’t find him in any census records though there are several years’ worth of mentions in the city directory.

I didn’t find a will, but I can imagine his friends carefully crafting this beautiful memorial, putting in details not of his working life but of the things he loved best — his dog, the outdoors, hunting. The dog statue’s tail has broken but still sits in place, the dog looking alert and happy, holding a retrieved bird on its paws. The dog statue being a different color from the marker feels like a deliberate choice to try to match a real-life dog who I hope lived out a long, well-loved life after the loss of its master.

This is a memorial that feels made with love and care which I think speaks well for Charles as a friend. What I find most moving here though is that in spite of his business success and wealth, how his friends remembered him was as a uniting force within their social groups and by the things he did with his leisure time. That’s a good legacy in my opinion.

RIP Charles

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