Louis Christian Griepenstroh, Bart’s great great grandfather, was born on October 31, 1835 in Rahden, Kingdom of Hanover to parents Johann Friedrich Wilhelm “Frederick” Griepenstroh (1802-1897) and Marie Hedewig Benecker (1800-1846). He was ten years old when his family set sail from Germany for America. During the voyage from Bremen, Germany to New Orleans, his twin sister Wilhelmina and mother died aboard their ship, the Bark Sultan, and were buried at sea. The family arrived in New Orleans on October 24, 1846. The family of three traveled by paddleboat up the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers to Cincinnati, Ohio. They were probably only in Cincinnati for a short time before floating back down the Ohio River to Massac County, Illinois..
44-year-old Frederick Griepenstroh, 8-year-old daughter Caroline and 11-year-old Louis settled in northeast Massac County near other German immigrant families. The land they settled was fertile but densely wooded. Their days always included the back-breaking job of clearing the land for crops. At the age of 11, Louis was now expected to do a man’s work. Yet, he was still of a boy’s age and without his mother to assure and comfort him during his formative years.
It is often said that Germans’ love of land fueled much of the immigration to America. They bought and sold land frequently in this country. Louis was no exception. On December 1, 1853, he purchased 40 acres (SW SE T14 Sec33 R5) in Northeast Massac County. Three and a half years later, on May 4, 1857, Louis Griepenstroh sold those same 40 acres to J. B. Klinesmith for $212.
At the age of 22 years, Louis married Elizabeth Margarite Nordeman (1840 - 6 Oct 1867) on November 19, 1857 in Metropolis, Massac County, Illinois. Together they had four children:
John C. (September 9, 1860- November 16, 1928)
Annie Caroline (McIntosh) (March 27, 1862 - February 24, 1931)
Henry Louis (March 10, 1863 – March 1, 1937)
Alice Katherine (Scholl) (October 24, 1865 - August 10, 1941).
On June 7, 1860, Louis and Elizabeth Griepenstroh purchased three tracts of land, about 117 acres, from his sister and brother-in-law Frederick and Caroline Rodenberg for the sum of $1500.
SENE Sec 2 Twp 15 38.69 acres
SWNW Sec 1 Twp 15 39.18 acres
SENW Sec 1 Twp 15 39.18 acres
Louis and Elizabeth Griepenstroh are shown living on this land in the 1860 U.S. Census. Also, living with them are three other individuals. The age given for Eliza should be 19 and not 29 years. Mary Griepenstroh is likely an older sister of Louis. However, she did not travel with them from Germany. I believe she was Martha Griepenstroh (1826-1901).
She married Charles Henry Rodenberg (1816-1900) and later settled in Effingham County in central Illinois. They had nine children.
Martha may have come earlier in about 1845 with her sister and brother-in-law Catherine and Henry Shelton. I assume Frederick Rush and William Rush worked the 117 acres of land owned by Louis Griepenstroh.
The 1860 U.S. Census – Township 15S R 5 East, Massac County, Illinois
Louis Graffenstraw, age 24farmer
Frederick Rushage 29carpenter
Mary Griepenstrawage 30seamstress
William Millerage 30farm land
The 1860 Census asked each head of household the value of their real estate and value of personal estate. Louis stated $2,000 and $600 respectively. Also, I found the tax book for 1860 in the Massac County Courthouse.
4 “Neat Cattle” valued at $28; 2 “Mules and Asses” valued at $150; 10 Hogs valued at $10. Gross Value of Domestic Animals is $188. Amount for Deductions on animals is $150; 1 “Carriage And Wagons” valued at $50; 1 “Clock and Watches” at $1; Unenumerated property at $20; Total Value subject to Taxation: $109
Number of Acres in Cultivation:
40 Acres of Wheat 20 Acres of Corn 17 Acres of “Other Products”
Corn and wheat continue to this day to be the main crops grown in Massac County. The 2 “mules and asses” owned by Louis were used for clearing the land and other farm related work.
The Civil War raged in this country from 1861 to 1865. The State of Illinois was in the Union. However, southern Illinois, including Massac County, is more “southern”. The term “Copperheads” was used during this period to describe those Northerners who sympathized with the South. This was true of many in southern Illinois. However, most German immigrants were very much against slavery. Massac County was separated from Kentucky and the south by the Ohio River. All men between 18 and 45 had to register in the North. Louis Griepenstroh is shown registered in an 1862 Militia Roll of Massac County document. His obituary states he “fought suppressing guerilla warfare in the Civil War.”
On July 25 1865, Louis and Elizabeth Griepenstroh sold those same three tracts of land to Charles Lukens for $1200. In 1864, it appears that Louis and Elizabeth Griepenstroh decided to move from the country into the city of Metropolis. On November 15 1864; Louis Griepenstroh purchased from Thomas M Davis city lots 604, 605, 606, 607 at the corner of Ferry and Sixth Street for the sum of $1600. Less than one year later on July 27, 1865; Louis Griepenstroh sold lots 606 and 607 to Lewis Kreager for $900.
Elizabeth Griepenstroh died on October 6, 1867. I have not located any documents stating the cause of death. It is likely that she died during childbirth. If so, the child also did not survive. Elizabeth Griepenstroh is buried in Massac County, Illinois in St. Stephen’s cemetery near her father-in-law.
Her headstone reads,
"Elizabeth, wife of L. Griepenstroh, died Oct., 6 1867, aged 27 Years
In early life the kindest wife and mother hath left us."
Rosalie Heckendorn, born 1919, granddaughter of Louis, told me her mother had said that Elizabeth’s best friend was Rosina Froehlich. As Elizabeth was dying, she asked Rosina to take care of Louis and her four young children. On April 20, 1868, just six months after Elizabeth’s death, 17-year-old Rosina Margaret Froehlich married the 32-year-old widower Louis Griepenstroh in Metropolis, Illinois. Rosina gave birth to her first child, Elizabeth Margaret, on August 31, 1869 in Metropolis.
The next two pictures were obviously taken at the same time. The baby in the lap of Rosina Griepenstroh in the first picture dates this photo session. The infant is Elizabeth Margaret Griepenstroh, born Aug 31, 1869 in Metropolis, Illinois. This picture was probably taken around Christmas, 1869. These pictures may have been taken shortly after they arrived in Kansas. Rosina would turn 19 on February, 23 1870. Louis turned 34 on October 31, 1869.
On November 8, 1869, Louis Griepenstroh sold lots 604 and 605 to Mary Jane Scott for $1000. The family of seven then moved west to Kansas City, Wyandotte County, Kansas and arrived in late 1869 / early 1870. Obviously, Louis farmed in the 1860’s. At some point, probably in 1864, coinciding with their move into town, Louis began working for the railroad.
In his wife Rosina’s obituary, it states that she married a “railroad engineer.” Also, in the 1866 “Personal Property Taxpayers of Macon County, Illinois” record, it shows a Lewis Griepenstroh of Decatur. Decatur is about 220 miles north of Metropolis. It is possible that Louis and family moved north for a year or so for work on the railroad.
In the second picture is John (standing), Henry Louis (sitting), Annie Caroline (standing), and Alice Katherine (sitting). They are the four children of the late Elizabeth Griepenstroh.
On March 28, 1870, Louis paid Mathias and Eliza Splitlog $600 for a three acre plot in Wyandotte City, now Kansas City, Kansas.
1870 U.S. Census – 1st Ward Wyandotte City, Wyandotte County, Kansas
Griepenstroh, Lewisage 33Boiler Maker$800$100
Rosinaage 20Keeping HouseJohnyage 10Attending school
Henryage 6Aliceage 4Lizzieage 9/12
Frohlich, Williamage 21Laborer
The 1870 U.S. Census states Louis' occupation as "boiler maker". It is likely he secured work with the railroad in Kansas before he moved from Metropolis.
William Frohlich was Rosina’s older brother. He later settled in Enterprise, Dickinson County, Kansas. An 1873 “Wyandotte City Lands” record shows Dorothea Frohlich, Rosina’s mother, purchased one acre from Louis and Rosina leaving them with two acres. Dorothea and family also made the move west with them to San Jose.
Headstone of Elizabeth Griepenstroh (1840-1867)
Their second child Dorothy Marie (1875-1961) was born in Kansas on August 12, 1875. Shortly after her birth, the family headed west to San Jose, California.
Louis, his wife Rosina, and six children arrived in San Jose, California in either 1874 or 1875. Their daughter Lydia Griepenstroh King’s obituary states the family arrived in San Jose on October 19, 1874. Lydia would have been five-years-old when they arrived in San Jose. They probably took the train west to San Jose. The family probably mentioned that date often in stories.
The Griepenstroh family first appears in the San Jose City Directory in 1876 residing at 209 Colfax. In about 1878, they moved into a small two story home with a barn in back located at 638 San Pedro Street. Directly across the street was the San Jose Woolen Mills; Louis worked there for forty years. His first job with them was as a night watchman. He later worked as a dye master.
In this map drawing of San Jose in the 1890s, I have highlighted the San Jose Woolen Mills. Across the street, 638 San Pedro Street is also highlighted. It was the home of the Gripenstraw family from about 1878 to 1900. The Hotel Vendome is located one block from their home.
Children of Louis and Rosina Griepenstroh:
1. Elizabeth “Lydia” Margaret (King)(31 Aug 1869 – 6 July 1949)
2. Dorothy “Dora” Marie (Clawson)(12 Aug 1874 - 13 Jan 1961)
3. Frederick “Mike” William(29 Dec 1878 - 2 Feb 1955)
4. Louis Arthur Franklin (L.A.F.)(18 Feb 1880 – 14 Mar 1955)
5. Wesley Oliver(25 July 1885 – 30 Jan 1963)
6. Esther Henrietta (Gott)(2 June 1892 - 1 Nov 1985)
It is likely that Frederick, L.A.F, Wesley, and Esther were all born in this home at 638 San Pedro Street.
picture was taken in June 2003. It is 638 San Pedro Street. I believe it
is probably the original structure that the Griepenstroh family lived in
for 20 years.
1880 U.S. Census, San Jose, Santa Clara County, California
Residence: 638 San Pedro Street
Gripenstraw, Louisage 43Watchman
John20Worked at Woolen Mill
Henry16At work in Woolen Mill
1900 U.S. Census, San Jose, Santa Clara County, California
Residence: 638 San Pedro Street
Griepenstroh, Louisage 63married 30 years naturalized 1846Watchman
1920 U.S. Census, Santa Clara County, Jefferson Precinct No. 2, California
Residence: Lawrence Station Road
Gripenstraw, Louisage 84
The family moved to Edenvale around 1904. They had orchards. Rosina was considered to be one of the first female orchardists in the Santa Clara Valley. They purchased land in Lawrence (today, Lawrence Expressway in Sunnyvale bisects this property) in 1917 and stayed there until the late 1930's. Lawrence was located about seven miles northwest of downtown San Jose. They had 40 acres of prune, peaches, cherries, and nut orchards there. Louis fell into poor health in his latter years. He was confined to a wheelchair at some point. Louis Christian Griepenstroh died on April 28, 1926 in Lawrence, Santa Clara County, California. He is buried in the mausoleum at Oak Hill Cemetery in San Jose. His obituary states that he was a dedicated Christian (German Methodist Episcopal) and an ardent prohibitionist.
GRIPENSTRAW name: The name was originally spelled Griepenstroh. Some of the family adopted the new spelling around 1900. Many German immigrant families “Americanized” their German surnames in the years leading up to World War I as growing anti-German sentiment grew in America. They felt by changing their names, they would blend in easier with their community. L.A.F. was probably the one that inspired that change to Gripenstraw. He was a local mortician in San Jose and was most sensitive to community and business culture. Louis’ oldest sons, John and Henry kept the original Griepenstroh spelling. Frederick, L.A.F., and Wesley all changed their spelling to Gripenstraw.
The name has always been frequently misspelled. Gripenstroh and Griepenstraw were two common misspellings. Thus, it was an easy switch to Gripenstraw
was short in stature. He is listed at only 5’5” in the Great Register
of Santa Clara County in 1896 (voting registry). He stated his complexion
as “medium”, his eyes as “gray”, and color of hair as “mixed”.
In all the pictures I have of Louis, he is wearing some variation of a
Louis’s remains in the mausoleum at Oak Hill Cemetery
Louis died at his home in Lawrence. The undertaker was Curry, Gripenstraw, and Darling. Louis Christian’s son L.A.F. handled the funerals for most of the family. His death certificate state he was in California for 51 years and the last 11 years in Lawrence Station. If so, the Gripenstraws bought their 40 acre plot in Lawrence around 1915.
(L-R) Rosina, Louis, and daughter Esther. Picture was taken about 1902
Louis Christian in beard. His oldest son John is to the right of him.
At their Lawrence home around 1914. (L-R) front row, Esther Gripenstraw and her husband Arthur Jacoby. Back row – Wesley Gripenstraw, Louis, and Rosina. Louis is almost 80 and Rosina is 63 at the time of this picture. Notice Louis is in a chair.
San Jose Mercury Herald, 28 April 1918
MR. AND MRS. LOUIS GRIPENSTRAW
The golden wedding of Mr. and Mrs. Louis Gripenstraw, parents of Louis A.F. and Wesley Gripenstraw of San Jose, was celebrated last Tuesday, April 23, at the Third Street Methodist Episcopal church, which was indeed a very jubilant gathering.
To the strains of the wedding march, played by Mrs. Ada Paulman, organist of the church, the bride and groom of 50 years were ushered to seats of honor by their two sons, Louis A.F. and Wesley O. Gripenstraw. The church was beautifully decorated with yellow roses and golden poppies.
Quite a large gathering of friends and relatives were in attendance. Several pastors gave appropriate addresses, Mrs. H. C. Jacoby, Mrs. K Erich, and Miss C. Kocher gave opportune recitations, and Miss Lulu Pieper, accompanied by Mrs. C.W. Hugy, san that beautiful solo, “Silver Threads Among the Gold.”
Each congratulated the happy couple on their 50th anniversary, after which all retired to the dining room of the church, where all partook of a sumptuous luncheon. The wedding cake was cut by the bride, after which all enjoyed a social hour, renewing old friendships and acquaintances. Mrs. Louis Gripenstraw also at this time expressed in a few well-chosen words the great appreciation of herself and husband of this happy gathering, and of the deep love and affection they held for such true and faithful friends. Both Mr. and Mrs. Gripenstraw are charter members of this church, Mrs. Gripenstraw also being a charter member of the Ladies Aid society, and all are highly respected and honored by all. Three generations were present, and incidentally all were named after grandfather Gripenstraw, having his name “Louis,” to-wit, Grandfather Louis, his son, Louis A.F., and his grandson, Louis A.F. Jr.
Mr. Louis Gripenstraw is over 80 years of age, and both he and his wife are enjoying the best of health.
The occasion of the golden wedding will long be remembered by all present.
San Jose Mercury Herald, 30 April 1926
L.C. GRIPENSTRAW SERVICES TODAY
Was Resident of San Jose for Half Century, Born in Hanover.
Funeral Services will be held at 2 o'clock this afternoon for Louis C. Gripenstraw, for 51 years a resident of Santa Clara County, at the Funeral Home of Curry, Gripenstraw and Darling. He died at his home at Lawrence Station on Wednesday.
A native of Hanover, then a free city, Gripenstraw came to America with his parents at the age of 10 years. His mother and twin sister died during the voyage and were buried at sea.
The family settled first in New Orleans and later went to Cincinnati and then to Illinois. As a young man Gripenstraw fought in suppressing guerilla warfare in the Civil War. Fifty-eight years ago Mr. and Mrs. Gripenstraw were married and seven years later came to California.
Gripenstraw was employed at the San Jose Woolen Mills for 30 years. He was an ardent prohibitionist and a member of the German M.E. church.
Surviving are the widow, Mrs. Rosena Gripenstraw; and the following children, Carrie McIntosh, Mrs. Alice Scholl, Mrs. Lydia King, Dora Patton, Mrs. Esther Jacoby, John, Henry, Fred W., L.A.F. and W.G. Gripenstraw. Interment services will be private.
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September 23, 2003