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After the Murder

Roehl Family

Life in Sigel Township

After Gertrude’s tragic death, Wilhelm would have been faced with an impossible situation. There is no physical way that he could care for four children under the age of 6 and still actively manage his farm-related activities. In addition to the 80-acre farm, Wilhelm and Gertrude had purchased 10.25 acres of land four miles west of the farm from Anton Manderfeld5-1 on 25 Apr 1865 and were partners with Joseph Kritsch and his wife in some property in New Ulm. Because Gertrude was killed in late January, there would not have been a lot of farm-related activity until spring. So that would have given Wilhelm a bit of time to collect his thoughts and plan a course of action.

We know that on 14 February 1867 (barely 2 weeks after Gertrude’s murder), Wilhelm sold his interest in the property in New Ulm that he had in partnership with the Kretsch family. This suggests that he planned to dispose of his land holdings around New Ulm and relocate the children to an area where life would not be so difficult. In reality, they would leave behind their island of German-Bohemian language and customs and reappear thirty miles east, in the city of Mankato. Mankato, Blue Earth County, Minnesota had a more normal American culture and it is after this move that the Wilhelm Röhl name changed to William Roehl and Anton changed to Anthony.

William’s Second Marriage

On 29 Sep 1868 William Roehl applied for a license to marry Mary Catherine Battas Tonnar. That marriage was recorded in the Blue Earth County Vital Records Center as having been performed by a Catholic priest (Valentine Sommereisen) on 4 Oct 1868. Mary was born on 21 Jul 1848 in Nassau, Baden-Wurtenberg, Germany. She and her parents, Jacob and Anna Katrine Keren Battas, had arrived in New York from Germany on 12 May 1857 5-2 and settled in Elysian, Le Sueur County, Minnesota (about 15 miles east of Mankato). Mary had wed Leon F Tonnar at about the age of 17. They had two children: Mary A. Tonnar (born Mar 1866) and Michael Battas Tonnar (born 15 Mar 1867). Leon Tonnar is presumed to have died in late 1866 or early 1867.

William and Mary Roehl would later have two additional children born in Mankato, Henry William Roehl (born Sep 1869) and Elizabeth (Lizzie) Roehl (born 20 Mar 1871).

The 1870 census lists William Roehl (actually listed under the name William Rahl) as a farmer living in Mankato. Members of the household include:
  • William - Age 45 -- Farmer
  • Mary - Age 23 -- Keeping Home
  • John - Age 9 -- At Home
  • Susan - Age 7 -- At Home
  • Anton - Age 5
  • Henry - Age 8/12
  • Mary - Tonner Age 4
  • Michael - Tonner Age 3
The 1870 census also provides a detailed picture of the farm owned by the Roehl family. It consisted of 94 acres and produced 300 bushels of corn, 150 bushels of oats, 35 bushels of Irish potatoes, and 150 pounds of butter per year. The livestock consisted of 2 horses, 2 cows, and 3 pigs. Farmhand wages associated with the farm were $450 per year. The cash value that William placed on the total farm was $7980. That amount in 1870 is equivalent5-3 to almost $8 million today!

The Mankato City Directory for 1871-72 listed William Roehl as the proprietor of The Dakota House, a hotel at the corner of Washington and Fourth Streets. At that time the railroad came down Fourth Street and stopped near the hotel. On 27 Dec 1871, William died. It was reported 5-4 that he had died “after a lengthy illness, possibly jaundice”. The 1873-74 City Directory listed Mrs. Mary Roehl as living on Third Street, near Elm.

About 1874 Mary Battas Tonnar Roehl took her third husband, Silas Willis Hatten. Silas and Mary had one child, Joseph Francis Hatten (born 14 Jun 1875 in Mankato). Silas left Mary and the family to start a ranch in Texas. He died in 1876 at Calvert, Robertson County, Texas.

The 1880 census then listed the Roehl family (this time spelled Rhiel):
  • Mary - Age 32
  • Anthony - Age 16 -- Son (Painter)
  • Henry - Age 10 -- Son
  • Lizzie - Age 9 -- Daughter
  • Mary Tonner - Age 14 -- Step-daughter
  • Michael Tonner - Age 13 -- Step-son (At School)
  • Joesph Hatten - Age 4 -- Step-son

Mary Relocates Her Family to Missouri

Possibly to escape the harsh Minnesota climate or possibly to be closer to relatives, Mary and several members of her family relocated to St Joseph, Buchanan County, Missouri between 1880 and 1881. Mary purchased a house located at 109 North 18th Street in St. Joseph, paying $100 for the structure at a sheriff’s auction. That house remained in her name until well after her death and is still standing. Anthony, Henry, Lizzie, Mary & Michael Tonner, and Joseph Hatten all lived with their mother in that house at different times. In 1881 Mary took Hubert Theissen as her fourth husband. They adopted one child, Marie Agnes Theissen. Mary and Hubert lived in St. Joseph until her death on 2 May 1927.

Mary Catherine Battas Tonner Roehl Hatten Theissen was an iconic example of the individuals who helped to settle the expanding frontier of America. At the age of 9, Mary traveled thousands of miles with her family from Germany to the rugged Minnesota farmlands. By the time she was 30 she had outlived three husbands. She became a mother to 5 children, a stepmother to 3, and an adoptive mother to one. In spite of the stresses associated with managing life as a single mother from time to time, she lived to the ripe old age of almost 79! 
Mary Catherine Battas Tonner Roehl
Mary (seated, center) with several of her children circa 1895. 

Fig 5-1 Mary Catherine Battas Tonner Roehl Hatten Theissen (seated, center) circa 1895. From Left, Anthony Roehl, Katie Kay Roehl (Anthony’s wife), Joseph Hatten, Lizzie Roehl (?), Henry Roehl (?) The 1870 census lists William Roehl (actually listed under the name William Rahl) as a farmer living in Mankato.

The Family Disperses

  • John William Roehl -- John eventually became a dairy farmer in Fergus Falls, Otter Tail County, Minnesota. His life will be described in Chapter 6.
  • Susan Roehl -- Suzie, as she was known, worked in 1880 as a domestic servant at the home of Fredrich Busch, a bank clerk in Mankato. In 1889-90, the Quincy, Illinois City Directory indicates she was living at the rear of 700 Ohio Street, very near Anthony’s family. Family members believe that she later married William Schaugnessy and lived in Fargo or Bismarck, North Dakota. They had no children. She eventually worked as a housekeeper for a Catholic priest. When she visited in Quincy she was “a tall, thin woman who wore long skirts”.
  • Anthony Manderfield Roehl -- Anthony eventually became a contractor in Quincy, Adams County, Illinois. His life will be described in Chapter 7.
  • Baby Roehl  -- There is no information about the child that was 6 months of age at the time Gertrude was killed. This child must have died between 1867 and 1870.
  • Henry William Roehl -- In 18855-5 Henry (age 15) was living with his grandparents, Jacob and Katrine Battas, in Belgrade, Nicolette County, Minnesota (about 100 miles northwest of Mankato). Henry later joined his mother and siblings in their move to Missouri. In 1887 and 1898, city directories for St. Joseph, Missouri indicate that he was working as a carpenter and living at his mother’s house. He then married Lavina Burress on 17 May 1899. They had two children, Howard P. Roehl (1900 – 1964) and Mildred Elizabeth Roehl (1904 - ?). By 1922, Henry and Howard were both living in Pasadena, Los Angeles County, California and working as carpenters. Henry died in Pasadena on 19 Jan 1928 and Howard died there in Jul 1964.
  • Elizabeth Roehl -- In 1887, Lizzie was living in her mother’s house in St. Joseph, Missouri and working as a clerk for J.S.Emery. About 1890 she married Peter J. Shellhorn, who worked as a bricklayer. Lizzie and Peter built a home at 1711 Charles Street in St. Joseph and had at least eleven children: Elizabeth (1891), Mary (1893), Hubert (1896), Wilhelmena (1898), Josephine (1901), Paul (1903), Henry (1905), Michael (1907), Gerome (1911), Gertrude (1914), and Katherine (1917). Elizabeth died in St. Joseph on 24 Mar 1944.
  • Mary Tonner -- In 1900 Mary (then Mary Preston) was living with her brother and his partner in Carrollton, Carroll County, Missouri (about 40 miles southeast of St. Joseph). Michael and his partner, Peter Schena, owned a second hand shop. In 1930 Mary Preston was living in San Diego, San Diego County, California. No further information is available on her.
  • Michael Tonner -- In 1888, the St. Joseph city directory indicates that Michael was living in his mother’s house and working as a carpenter. As mentioned above, in 1900 Michael owned a “junk store” in partnership with Peter Schena. Michael, his sister Mary Preston, and Peter Schena lived at the same address in Carrollton, Carroll County, Missouri. In 1910 Michael and Peter still lived at the same address, but Mary Preston was not listed. Michael indicated that he worked for the city “posting bills”. By about 1913, Michael had married Clara Augusta Pfiester in Carrollton. Michael continued to operate a junk yard. Michael and Clara had 7 children: Joseph P (1914), Anna E (1915), Leo Charles (1916), William E (1917), Mary E. (1919), Dorothy W. (1920), and Clara A. (1922). Michael died in Carrollton on 16 Dec 1967 at the age of 98. His death certificate lists the cause of death as “old age and hard work”.
  • Joseph Francis Hatten -- In 1898, the St. Joseph city directory indicates that Joseph was living in his mother’s house and working as a plumber for M J Downey. The Missouri Marriage Index indicates that Joseph F Hatten married Cecelia I. Brazier in St. Joseph on 12 Apr 1899. The Missouri Marriage Index further indicates that Joseph F Hatten married Alice Mildred Durham in Carrollton, Carroll County, Missouri on 27 Dec 1906. No further information is known on either of these two marriages. The 1910 Federal Census indicates that Francis was again living with his mother and stepfather and was now listed as “married”. Shortly after this time, Joseph relocated to California and then married Retta Irene Moeder in Chula Vista, San Diego County, California on 23 Oct 1913. Joseph and Irene had 4 children: Marguerite Anne (1914), Mary Elizabeth (1916), Josephine Francis (1919), and Charles Willis (1923). Joseph continued to work in the plumbing industry for the US government. He died on 20 May 1941 in San Diego and was buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in St. Joseph, Buchanan County, Missouri.
  • Marie Agnes Theissen -- Marie’s parents were Henry and A. Theissen of Milton, Butler County, Kansas. She was born on 24 Jan 1887 and orphaned on 11 Jun 1888. She was later adopted by Mary and Hubert Theissen. Marie married Casimir Theodore Yehle in St. Joseph on 11 May 1909. Marie and Casimir had 2 children: Casimir Capistran Yehle (1910) and Marie Isabel Yehle (1914). Marie died in St Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota on 23 Dec 1956.

Opinions and Footnotes

  • There is no record of when William Roehl actually relocated to Mankato with his children. In reality, he may have already owned some property in the Mankato area since he had been away to that city at the time of Gertrude’s death. William married his second wife in Mankato about 20 months after Gertrude’s death. One must therefore assume the he had employed a domestic survent to take care of the children during this period.
  • It should be noted that much of the information related to Mary Catherine Battas Tonner Roehl Hatten Theissen was provided by her great-granddaughter, Karen Hatten-D’Asero of Los Angeles, California. The results of her research have illuminated a previously unexplored segment of the Roehl story and her support is greatly appreciated.
  • It is interesting that of all the Roehl children and step children, only John embraced farming and remained in the Minnesota region. It is also interesting to look at the relationships between three groups of children:
  • Mary’s first two children (Mary & Michael Tonner) lived in Carrollton, MO – separate from the Roehl children.
  • Henry Roehl, Lizzie Roehl, and Joseph Hatten initially lived together with their mother and stepfather in St. Joseph, MO and separate from Anthony, who worked in the same city.
  • The three children born to William and Gertrude seemed to have a close relationship. John lived in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and Anthony lived in Quincy, Illinois. Suzie lived in Quincy for a while and then moved back to the area where John lived. Fig 5-2 is a picture of John, Suzie, and Anthony in Quincy about 1905.
 John, Suzie, and Anthony
Here is a picture of John, Suzie, and Anthony in Quincy about 1905
  • 5-1 Deed recorded on 12 Jun 1865 in the Brown County Courthouse. Note that the property was sold to William by Anton and Anna Manderfeld. It is interesting that William and Gertrude’s third child was Anton Manderfeld Roehl. 
  • 5-2 www.Ancestry.com New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA
  • 5-3 Calculation provided by www.measuringwealth.com/uscompare/
  • 5-4 New Ulm Post, dated 12 Jan 1872, available at the Brown County Historical Society. 
  • 5-5 www.Ancestry.com Minnesota Territorial and State Censuses, 1849-1905 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA