The Merzke Family

The Merzke Family
Henry & Maria Merzke Family Circa 1925 - (front) Maria, Henry, Marjorie & Floyd. (rear) Lillian, Rose, Erwin, William, Marian, Charles, Albert, Walter, Henry, Jr., & Ella

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Frieda Henrietta Albertina Merzke

Frieda's Confirmation
Frieda Henrietta Albertina Merzke, Maria and Henry's fifth child, was born at home at 26 Alphonse Street on November 20, 1894. She was baptized December 8, 1894 at Concordia Lutheran Church. Her sponsors were Albertina Merzke, Henriett Holinke and Frieda's maternal grandfather, Julius Smarcz. Frieda and her younger sister Ella were both November babies.  They were similar in temperament and particularly close friends growing up.

from left - Norm Tallman, Frieda, Ella and Gus Keller
Frieda married Gustov Richard Keller of Rochester, New York on November 23, 1915 in Concordia Lutheran Church. Attending the couple were her sister Luella (Ella) Merzke and Norman Tallman. Gus and Norm Tallman had met in Rochester where they worked as streetcar conductors after serving in the First World War. Gus met Frieda and wanted to date her, but Papa Merzke would not let her go out with Gus alone. The resourceful couple solved that problem by fixing up Ella with Norm so they could double date and appease Papa. This plan worked so well that Ella and Norm also married.

Sadly, Frieda and Gus had only ninety-four short days of married life together.  Frieda died at her parents' home at 181 Weaver St. on February 25, 1916. She died of diabetes in the arms of her mother.  Frieda is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery.

At the time of Frieda’s death, doctors knew what diabetes was, but did not know how to treat it.  How helpless and terribly sad Maria must have felt.  Frieda was the fourth and last child that Maria and Henry would out live.  The next seventeen years would be filled with weddings and many grandchildren. 

Gus Keller remarried later that year, had four daughters and become a chiropractor. By all accounts, he lived a happy and comfortable life.

Alma Johanne Albertina Merzke

Alma Johanne Albertina Merzke, Maria and Henry’s fourth child, was born at home at 26 Alphonse St. on March 28, 1893. Her grandfather, Julius Smarcz, his wife Albertina and their children were living in the same house with the Merzke’s at the time of Alma’s birth. Alma was baptized April 22, 1893 at Concordia Lutheran Church. Her sponsors were Johanna Missel, Albertina Smarcz (Maria’s aunt/step-mother), and Maria’s brother Herman Smarcz

The Merzke family moved to 39 Henry St. in 1898. Early the following year, Alma became ill with Diphtheria.  Maria was six months pregnant at the time with a busy household to manage. Normally she would have nursed the child on her own, but this was a special case in Maria’s eyes. Maria had already lost her first-born daughter and Maria’s half-sister, Anna had died of Diphtheria in Maria’s home a few years earlier. Anna was about the same age as Alma at the time of her death. Maria was so worried about her daughter that she called for the doctor. He came but was unable to save the child. Alma died at home on January 12, 1899. Alma was buried January 13th in Mount Hope Cemetery.

That was the last time Maria called for a doctor when the children were ill. She nursed them all through their childhood illnesses believing she could do a better job than any doctor. What became of the child she was expecting at the time of Alma’s death? Walter H. Merzke was born March 28, 1899 - Alma’s 6th birthday.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Rose Bertha Merzke

Rose Bertha Merzke, the third child, was born on December 15, 1891 at home which was probably located at 82 Henry St.  She was baptized December 17, 1891. Her sponsors were Bertha Sleingernder, Fr. Missel, and Bertha Gutmann.  Rose was the oldest (living) girl in the family and she liked having fun. She and her sister Lill were very close as girls and remained that way all of their lives. The older, seemingly old-fashion Aunt Rose we nieces and nephews knew growing up was apparently not the young woman she once was.

Rose married Samuel Charles Jacques on July 22, 1914 in Concordia Lutheran Church. Attending them were Fred Phelps and Kittie Conrad the wife of the minister. Charlie Jacques worked as a conductor and later as a salesman. From what I've been told, Charlie Jacques was an easy-going and fun-loving fellow and all the ladies liked him. Marrying Charlie and getting away from a house filled with children and chores must have seemed very appealing to young Rose. They lived in a house at 99 Weyl St. just one street away from the Merzke homestead. Regretfully, the fun did not last. Their marriage ended in divorce. Charlie Jacques later married a woman named Jennie.

Rose spent some time working as a tailoress and lived at 7 Maria St. She was a very stylish woman in her day and wore lovely cloths.

Rose married Henry C. Smidt of 45 Crombie St. on September 2, 1925 in Concordia Lutheran Church. Attending them were Rose’s sister, Marian Merzke and Henry’s brother, Louis C. Smidt. Henry was a wholesale salesman selling imported foods such as teas, candy and cookies to small neighborhood stores. He was a kind and jovial kind of man.

Rose and Henry lived at 12 DeJonge St.  They had one daughter, Ruth M. Smidt born January 4, 1926. Grandpa Merzke would tease that Henry was the better man because all of Grandpa’s children took nine months to be born, but Henry produced a child in just six months. By all accounts the teasing was all in good fun and no one held anything against Henry. Indeed, everyone was very fond of him.

Henry Smidt died April 15, 1969 at age 84. Rose died March 13, 1984 at age 92. They are buried in White Haven Cemetery.

Anna Bertha Marie Merzke

(The Story of Two Little Girls Named Anna)

Anna Bertha Marie Merzke, the second child and first daughter, was born at home at 82 Maria St. on October 19, 1890. She was baptized that same day. Her sponsors were Albert Bonke and Caroline Rach. (Note: This Caroline Rach was not Maria's mother. She was most likely Maria's aunt by marriage.) Anna's middle name and baptismal name are those of her mother and not those of her sponsors as was typical for the Merzke naming pattern. Baby Anna died the next day, October 20, 1890 at home. The cause was listed as convulsions. She was buried October 21, 1890 in Mount Hope Cemetery.

Maria's half-sister, Anna Smarcz was born to Julius and Albertina Smarcz on June 6, 1887 in Stolp, Prussia. She came to America with her parents and older brothers in the early spring of 1892. Upon arrival, the family came to Rochester and came to live with Maria and her young family. Anna had little time to get acquainted with her big sister Maria and her family. Anna Smarcz died of diphtheria on Mar 17, 1892 at the age of 4 years, 11 months and 11 days. She is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in the same burial plot with her big sister's daughter Anna Merzke.

For years and years my father, Floyd and his sister, Marian decorated the graves of their parents and four sisters buried in Mount Hope Cemetery. I went along with them for as long as I can remember. For all those years that they planted flowers for their sister Anna, I do not believe they had any idea there were two little girls named Anna buried in that grave. I only discovered the fact while researching the family history.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Charles (Chul) August Merzke

Charles August Hinrich Merzke, the first child, was born at home at 14 Maria St. on August 24, 1889.   He was baptized August 26, 1889. His sponsors were August Pioch, Henrietta Bohnke and H. Schutt.  Charles, who was known as Chul, married Ellnora C. Parr on April 20, 1911 in Concordia Lutheran Church. They were attended by Charles Parr and Rose Merzke. Chul worked for some time in tailoring.  Ellnora, who was known as Nora, was an accomplished musician and gave lessons from their home.

Chul and Nora’s first home was at 86 Weyl St. where they lived there with Nora’s parents, John and Louise Parr. They moved to 91 Weyl St., directly behind Henry and Maria’s home in 1913. Chul and Nora purchased farm land in Webster, New York and settled on Ridge Rd. in approximately 1924. There they raised crops such as asparagus and tomatoes.

Chul and Nora had five children.  Eleanore Marie Louise was born October 11, 1911.  Charles August Jr., known as Chick, was born July 30, 1914.  Charlotte Luella Rita was born June 8, 1919.  Alvin Charles Sr. was born November 3, 1924. Their fifth child, a daughter is still living. Chul died January 16, 1955. Nora died twelve years later to the day, January 16, 1967.  They are buried in White Haven Memorial Cemetery just outside Rochester, NY.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Maria Bertha Smarcz Merzke

Maria Bertha Smarcz was born December 22, 1869 in Stolp in the Pommern section of Prussia.  She was the second child of Julius Smarcz and Caroline Rach. As a young woman she worked in the brickyard and this is likely where she met Henry the stonemason. Maria probably came to the United States in 1888. She traveled alone by ship in steerage passage at a cost of $25. She came to Rochester New York where she joined Henry.  Maria was 18 years old. Maria and Henry eventually had sixteen children including two sets of twins.

Maria learned to read and write in English. She especially enjoyed reading westerns and mystery novels. She was an excellent homemaker and cook. She taught all of her children to be good cooks. Each day was devoted to a specific task.  Monday was washday, Tuesday for ironing, etc. On Saturday Maria baked bread.  Saturday night’s supper would be scrambled eggs with ham and warm homemade bread with butter. She ruled the house with an iron fist but always kept it covered with a velvet glove. If Henry came home two nights in a row having had too much to drink, she never had words with him. She just cut back on his spending money.

After Henry’s death, Maria continued to live in the Weaver St. home with her youngest son Floyd.  She had no retirement income to speak of and for this reason she preferred gifts of money for her birthday and Christmas.  It was this money she would use to give gifts to her many grandchildren.

Maria died on November 9, 1946 of Carcinoma of the Peritoneum & Acitoo (liver cancer) at the home of her daughter Marge Magin at 102 Balmeade Drive in Irondequoit New York. At the time of her death there was a newspaper strike. News broadcaster Al Siegel read the death notices on the radio. There were so many flowers at the funeral that they were three rows deep all the way around the room. Maria is buried with Henry in Mount Hope Cemetery.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Henry Carl Merzke, Sr.

 Henry Carl Merzke was born Heinrich Carl Rudolph Märzke (Maerzke)  on May Day, May 1, 1864 in Stojentin, county Stolp in the Pommern section of what was then Prussia, would later become Germany and eventually part of present day Poland. According to his marriage license, Henry was the son of Carl Märzke and Henriette Bergann. He was one of at least five children. Henry came to the United States sometime before 24 June 1887 supposedly to avoid conscription in Kaiser Wilhelm’s army. He came to Rochester, New York and likely accompanied his sister, Auguste Caroline. 

Maria eventually joined Henry, and on 27 October 1888 Carl N. Conrad, pastor of the North German Evangelical Lutheran Concordia Church, married them. They were attended by August Pioch and Johanne Schutt.  August, like Henry, was a stonemason and they likely worked together.  Johanne was August’s girlfriend and they married about a year later.

Henry and Maria became naturalized citizens in 1891. Henry earned a good living working as a stonemason. There was always meat on the table and each child had two pairs of shoes. Henry could not work during the coldest months because he worked outdoors. He still went out each day and often went fishing.

Henry enjoyed beer, whisky and wine and he and his sons spent much of their time brewing.  Many hours were spent gathering the fixings, making the home brew and tasting the fruits of their labor. Henry read the German paper, ate his peas with a knife, and chewed tobacco. There was a brown spot on the wall next to his bed made by spitting during his sleep - a force of habit. He was a member of the Williroth Lodge No. 313 of Harugari that met the 1st and 3ed Thursday of each month at 486 Clifford Ave.  This was a fraternal organization that originated in Germany. It worked for the common good of German immigrants and made sure widows and orphans were cared for in case something happened to the husband.

Henry had a bad heart for years. He never complained but limited the amount of heavy lifting he would do. He died at home at 181 Weaver St. of Bronchi Pneumonia on Sunday evening, November 26, 1933.  The undertaker came and took his body out in a bushel basket.  It did not seem a fitting end to a well loved and respected man. Among his survivors were two brothers in Germany. Henry is buried with Maria in Mount Hope Cemetery.