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Life in the Twentieth Century

William Roehl’ s Early Life

William Frank ROEHL was born 17 Dec 1888 in Quincy, Illinois – the first child born to Tony and Katie Roehl. He was not quite nine years old when his mother died, leaving his father with five small children. By the time William was 12, he would have also experienced the death of his first stepmother and the arrival of yet a second stepmother. When he was 18, he worked at Cadogan-Hatcher Manufacturing Company, a printer and binder at 505 North Third Street. Between the ages of 20 and 24, William was listed in the Quincy City Directory as a farm hand, living with his parents at 1606 Spring Street. By 1914, he was working as a carpenter with his father’s contracting business.

When the European political conflict drew America into World War I, William volunteered in 1918 to join the Army8-1. He served as a Sergeant in the Illinois Quartermaster Corps8-2, and spent most of his enlistment working as a carpenter at Fort Dodge, Iowa (a few miles northwest of Des Moines) – drawing $21 per month in pay. Fort Dodge was a major training center for new troops and a large investment was made by the government to build housing for tens of thousands of recruits. In the 1920 census, William had returned from military service and was living with his father and stepmother at 1606 Spring Street and working as a carpenter.

William Roehl - World War 1  William Roehl - World War 1
William Roehl William in his Army uniform - World War 1

At 7:45 AM on 20 Oct 1920, William Frank Roehl married Agnes Josephine Zimmermann, daughter of Joseph and Coletta Maas Zimmermann, in St. Frances Catholic Church in Quincy, Illinois. A wedding breakfast was served for 50 guests after the ceremony at the home of the bride’s parents, 1719 Spring Street. Left-to-Right, Lawrence Zimmerman, William and Agnes, Alvina Schwendeman

William Agnes Roehl Wedding  William Agnes Rohel Wedding

Agnes Zimmerman Family History

The recorded Zimmerman history begins with the immigration of Michael Zimmermann and Josephine (Sophia) Schmidt from a small German grand duchy, known as Hesse Darmstadt (an area around the current German city of Darmstadt)8-3. Michael was born there about 1813 and Sophia about 1827. It is not known exactly when Michael and Sophia immigrated to the United States, but they landed in New York and were processed at Castle Garden, before making their way to Quincy. Michael and Sophia were married in Quincy on 16 Jan 18518-4 at St. Boniface Catholic Church and established a home at 514 Kentucky Street. Michael was about 38 years old at the time of his marriage and Sophia was about 24. Michael owned a rock quarry and lime kiln near Quincy and was a “lime burner” until his death in 1869. The art of “lime burning” consisted of mixing wood or charcoal with limestone inside a kiln and burning the fuel over an extended period to drive carbon dioxide off the limestone, forming lime. Lime was an essential element in cement, mortar, plaster, soap, bleach, etc.

Michael and Sophia had four children (all born at their home on Kentucky)8-5:
  • Mary Zimmermann was born about 1854. She married William Boland on 27 Nov 1884 and had two children, Albert and Josie. Mary died 30 Nov 1918.
  • Alvis L. Zimmermann was born about 1856. He established a blacksmith and carriage-smith business in Quincy in the early 1870s and married Mary Avercamp on 11 Jun 1885. They had two children, Hilda and Blanche. Alvis died 1 Dec 1913.
  • Anton Zimmermann was born about 1861. He married Elizabeth Ridder and then died at the age of 32.
  • Joseph John Zimmermann was born on 12 Dec 1866 in Quincy. Joseph became an ironworker in his brother’s business and eventually took over that business when Alvis died. On 19 Nov 1890, Joseph married Coletta Maas, daughter of Henry John and Elizabeth Mary Blickhan Maas. At the time of their marriage, Joseph was 24 and Coletta was 20 (born 6 Oct 1870 in Quincy, Adams County, Illinois). Coletta’s father was born in Coesfeld, Germany on 8 Aug 1839 and her mother was born in Melrose Township, Adams County, Illinois on 31 Aug 1846. Her father worked for 32 years as a coachman for Henry Bull, a Quincy banker. Henry and Elizabeth Maas had 9 children: Mary E (1864), Henry E (1866), Katie C (1868), Bernard (1869), Coletta C (1870), Clara C (1876), Agnes C (1877), Edith (1883), and John A (1889)

Joseph and Coletta Zimmermann had seven children. It should be noted that Joseph and Coletta “Americanized” their children’s names as they were born by changing their surname from Zimmermann to Zimmerman. 

Joseph Zimmerman Family

PHOTO:  Portrait of the Joseph Zimmermann family about 1910:
Back row: Reinfreda, Agnes, Lawrence, Olivia. Middle row: Coletta, Joseph, Margaret. Front row: Alfred, Richard, Ralph.

A brief description of Joseph and Colletta’s children follow:
  • Olivia Zimmerman was born in 1892. Olivia married Fred Kramer (1887>, a machinist. They lived at 1703 Spruce and had 10 children: Edward H (1914), Coletta H (1915), Sylvester C/Sonny (1916), Kathleen L (1918), Virginia R (1920), Maurice W (1923), Thomas R (1924), Delores A (1925), Mary Margaret/Maugie (1927), and Eleanor Anne.
    Agnes Josephine Zimmerman
  • Agnes Josephine Zimmerman (PHOTO right) was born 15 Aug 1893. Agnes began working as a domestic about the age of 16. In 1910, she worked for Adolph Rakers, a baker, at 643 Hampshire. In 1920, she worked for J.M. Winters at 1807 Jersey. She then married William Roehl in 1920. Fig 8-6 is a picture of Agnes about 1920. Her life is described later in this chapter.
  • Reinfreda (Freda) Zimmerman has born 8 Oct 1984. Freda married Frank Waterkotte (1895), a carpenter and construction contractor, on 2 Sep 1918 in St. Frances Catholic Church in Quincy. They lived at 10th and Oak Streets and had 5 children: Frank Jr (1912), Orville (1914), Arthur (Father Silvin) (1915), Donald H (1917), and Vivian (1918). Frank Sr died on 27 Dec 1975 and Freda died on 22 Jan 1979 at St. Mary’s Hospital in Quincy.
  • Margaret Zimmerman was born in 1896. Margaret married Martin Bergman, a farmer in Adams County who died in an explosion in 1931. Margaret and Martin had two children: Russell (1919) and Rita (1924). After Martin’s death, she then married Ernest J. Kittle, who had one son (Ernest Jr.). Margaret is buried in Calvary Cemetery in Quincy – between her two husbands.
  • Lawrence J. Zimmerman was born 8 Jan 1898. Lawrence married Elizabeth (Bess) Sinnock on 29 Oct 1940 at St. Francis Catholic Church and they lived at 701 Oakland in Quincy. He worked in his father’s business and later established Zimmerman Refrigeration Sales and Service Co. in Quincy. He retired in 1978. Lawrence and Bess had no children. Bess died on 12 Jul 1965 and Lawrence died on 3 Feb 1981 in St. Mary’s Hospital. He lived at Good Samaritan Home prior to his death.
  • Richard Zimmerman was born 24 Dec 1903. Richard married Clara Hummel on 7 Apr 1937 at St. Francis Catholic Church in Quincy, Illinois. Clara was born on 18 Nov 1907, the daughter of Charles and Catherine Baumgartner Hummel. Richard and Clara lived at 2047 Cherry St. in Quincy. They had no children. Richard was employed for many years in the maintenance department of St. Mary’s Hospital and later went into business for himself as a carpenter. Clara was employed for many years as a cook at St. Mary’s Hospital. Richard died on 3 Aug 1964 at the home of his brother-in-law, Robert Hummel. Clara died in the TimberPoint Health Care Center in Camp Point, Illinois on 2 Jun 2002.
  • Alfred Zimmerman was born on 26 Aug 1905. Alfred married Eleanor and in the 1930 census, they lived in Cook County, Illinois. Alfred was working as an auto mechanic. They later moved to Los Angeles, California. Alfred died there on 5 Oct 1969.
  • Ralph Zimmerman was born in 1912. Ralph married Marjorie Koerline on 24 Oct 1940 at St. Francis Catholic Church in Quincy, Illinois. Ralph worked with his brother, Lawrence, in the heating and air conditioning business and later owned an ice cream store in Quincy. Ralph and Marjorie operated Zim’s Drive-In from 1959 to 1984. They had seven children (Ann, Janet, Mary, Bron, Wayne, Carol, and Kent). Ralph died on 7 Nov 1974 and Marjorie died on 21 Aug 1999.

Tragically, Lucille must have also suffered complications during Richard’s birth and died four days later, 12 Sep 1900, in St. Mary’s Hospital in Quincy. Now, as a single father, Tony was caring for a new baby and 6 other children less than 12 years of age.

Joseph John Zimmermann died on 20 May 1923 at the age of 57. His widow, Coletta, died on 12 Jul 1929 at the age of 58. Lawrence, Richard, Alfred, and Ralph Zimmerman, About 1960. & Olivia Kramer, Freda Waterkoette, and Agnes Roehl, about 1960.

Lawrence, Richard, Alfred, and Ralph Zimmerman, About 1960
Lawrence, Richard, Alfred, and Ralph Zimmerman, About 1960

Zimmerman Sisters
Olivia Kramer, Freda Waterkoette, and Agnes Roehl, about 1960.

William & Agnes’ Adult Life

After their marriage in 1920, William and Agnes lived at 313 North 13th Street in Quincy. William continued to work as a carpenter and Agnes worked part time cooking and cleaning for other families. On 10 August 1922, their first child was born – Mary Louise Roehl. In his spare time and between jobs, William began to build a new home for his family at 811 North 16th Street. He put a tremendous amount of effort into constructing a dwelling that would provide a place for his family to live throughout their lifetimes.

On 25 January 1927, Elizabeth Agnes was born. Richard William then followed on 19 September 1929. Life for William and Agnes must have seemed wonderful at that time – they had a beautiful home, solid employment, and three healthy children. 

Roehl Home on 18th Street  Mary, Elizabeth and Richard circa 1931
Here is a current picture of the Roehl house and picture of Mary, Elizabeth and Richard circa 1931.

The 1920s had been a decade of peace and prosperity. The stock market had soared from 60 to over 400 and the construction business was operating at full speed. Then on 24 October 1929 the stock market crashed, ushering in the Great Depression. The Quincy economy suffered the same impact as the rest of the country. Construction projects quickly ground to a halt as building loans were cancelled. Employment opportunities for carpenters were virtually non-existant. With no regular income, the Roehls could not keep up with mortgage payments on their home and the loan provider foreclosed. In 1933 the family moved to a rental property a few blocks away from the family home. Probably the lowest point in William’s life must have been when he had to personally move all of the family possessions down the street with a hand push cart. Mary remembers that her father never recovered from the emotional impact of losing his “dream home”. The following few years were very difficult for the William Roehl family. From time to time the family would relocate to other cities if a job became available. At times they lived in Indiana and Kansas. Between jobs they were on Public Aid. Toward the end of the 1930s, William began to work as a laborer at Gardner Denver, a position he then held until his retirement.

William and Agnes Roehl 950
Throughout their married life, Agnes cleaned and cooked for other families to suppliment their income. She was an expert cook and was known for her excellent bakery goods, jellies, and soups. Agnes was a devout member of St. Francis Catholic Church and a member of the Catholic Daughters of America and The Third Order of St. Francis. Some of her favorite free time activities included playing bingo and cards. This is a picture of William and Agnes about 1950.

For many years William suffered from poor circulation and in 1951 the doctors decided that he would have to have his left leg amputated above the knee. That surgery was performed at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, with recovery at Jefferson Barracks Hospital in south St. Louis. After several weeks of recouperation, William returned to his home at 1837 Chestnut in Quincy. He later received a wooden leg through the Veterans Administration in St. Louis, but spent much of his waking hours in a wheel chair.

In many ways Agnes was probably the more conservative and disciplined partner in the marriage. In spite of the tragedies that had impacted his life, William always managed to maintain a jovial personality. Even during his recovery in the St. Louis hospitals, the family remembers he was cheerful during their visits. He liked to listen to baseball games on the radio and especially looked forward to attending wrestling matches in Quincy with Agnes’ brother, Lawrence. He always enjoyed a daily jug of beer, but Agnes never drank. Like many in Quincy, William would make his own beer and wine (even root beer for the children). William’s son-in-law, Norbert Eising, remembers that William provided advise and assistance when he built a free-standing garage in 1953. Confined to a wheel chair, William could measure and cut lumber, explain what to do, and fill the day with chatter. His granddaughter, Shari Borlin, remembers that William would hide bananas for the children. She loved to ride around their house in his wheel chair.

Agnes Roehl 1965
After William’s death on 17 May 1953, Agnes moved to a senior citizen complex near 24th and Broadway. She lived in her cheery apartment at 2909 Spring for many years. This is a picture of Agnes, circa 1965.

Agnes suffered from diabetes and was constantly on the receiving end of non-productive lectures from her doctors to lose weight. Whether it was an automobile ride around Quincy or an airplane flight to California to visit her son, Agnes loved to travel. She made several trips to California, even after she was in her 80s. When she could no longer live by herself, Agnes moved in with her daughter, Betty Hochgraber. Agnes died on 17 April 1977. Both William and Agnes are buried in Calvary Cemetery in Quincy.

William & Agnes’ Children

  • Mary Eiting Graduation
    Mary Louise Roehl was born on 10 August 1922 in St. Mary’s Hospital in Quincy. She attended St. Francis School at 17th and College for 8 years of grade school and Notre Dame High School (an all-girls school).
    Here is Mary’s graduation picture. After graduation, she went to work at the telephone company as a switchboard operator. As a new employee, her hours were the least desirable (noon to 9PM or 1PM to 10 PM). For this, she started work at $9/week, with raises every 3 months.

  • Florence Stallmann was Mary’s friend in high school. At some point she introduced her cousin, John Norbert Eising, to Mary. Mary and Norb dated for several years. World War II took him off to the Alcan Highway in Canada and then to Fort Cheyenne, Colorado. On 1 April 1944, while Norb was on furlough, the two were married at St. John’s Church in Quincy.


    Mary Norb Eising Wedding
    This is a picture of Agnes & William Roehl along with the newly married couple.

  • After the end of World War II, Mary and Norb returned to Quincy, where they have spent the remainder of their married lives. The couple had four children:
    • Shari Louise Eising – born 7 March 1946; married Dr. David Dee Borlin on 11 October 1969; lives in Chesterfield, Missouri.
    • Kay Ellen Eising – born 24 February 1951; married James Kaysar on 28 August 1971; lives in Quincy, Illinois.
    • John Norbert Eising, Jr. . – born 26 July 1957; married Diana Kirk on 16 April 1988; lives in Appleton City, Missouri.
    • Deborah Ann Eising – born 11 October 1958; lives in Fulton, Missouri.

      Eising Family 2000
      This is a photo of entire Norbert and Mary Eising family in 2000

  • Betty Roehl, circa 1942
    Elizabeth Agnes (Betty) Roehl was born on 25 January 1927 in St. Mary’s Hospital in Quincy, Illinois. She attended St. Francis School at 17th and College for 8 years of grade school and Notre Dame High School (an all-girls school). Fig 8-16 is a picture of Betty when she was in high school. During high school, she worked part time as a waitress at a co-op dairy bar at 7th and Hampshire. After high school graduation in 1944, Betty also worked for the telephone company as a switchboard operator, but because World War II was taking place, she was assigned to Camp Ellis in Canton, Illinois. She worked there from June 1944 until late 1945.
    Betty Roehl, circa 1942. In January 1946, a mutual friend introduced Betty to Wesley Andrew Hochgraber. Wes, back from military service in Australia, New Guinea, and the Philippines, was working for his father in the heavy hauling business. Betty married Wes on 23 September 1950 in Carthage, Illinois, in spite of advise from Betty’s mother and friends who thought she should not marry outside the Catholic Church. Fig 8-17 is a photo of Wes and Betty after they were married. 
  • Betty and Wes had two children:
    • Sandra Sue Hochgraber born 26 November 1953, married Rodger Emerson Whittaker on 24 May 1973, lives in Quincy, Illinois.
    • Carol Ann Hochgraber born 14 February 1956, married Kenneth Keller on 31 December 1985, lives in Quincy, Illinois.Wesley eventually took over his father’s business and expanded into house moving, heavy hauling, and school house conversions. Wes and Betty lived at 3304 Harrison in Quincy. He died from cancer on 10 September 2003 and was buried in Greenmount Cemetery in Quincy.
Richard William Roehl was born in St. Mary’s Hospital in Quincy on 19 September 1929. Rich also attended St Francis grade school. In June 1938 he was in Chicago with his family when he happened to meet Shirley Temple, the movie star, at Brookfield Zoo. Pictures were taken and an article published in the local newspaper 8-6. After high school, Rich served in the US Navy. 

Richard Roehl   Richard Roehl - 1980
PHOTO 1:  This is a photo of Rich in his Navy uniform, posing with his uncle, Al Zimmerman.
PHOTO 2:  This is a photo of Rich at his office about a year before his death.

Richard lived for a while in Texas and later in California. He worked in a number of fields. At one point he was a salesman for braking systems used in very large trucks. In his later years he owned a Temp Agency in Visalia, California.   He suffered from diabetes and died in Visalia on 11 September 1990. His ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean at Long Beach by his daughter, Kelly. Myrna Roehl, his ex-wife, died in Fresno, California on 9 September 1999.
Rich and Myrna, had two children:
  • Kelly Ann Roehl, born 10 February 1961, lives in Fresno, California.
  • Laurie Ann Roehl, born 11 June 1964, lives in Riverside, California8-1 

Opinions and Footnotes

  • 8-1 Quincy and Adams County History & Representative Men, Lewis Pub. Co., Chicago, 1919, available at Quincy Public Library.
  • 8-2 8-2 Calvary Cemetary Records, Mormon microfilm reel 0824276.
  • 8-3 8-3 While it is reasonable to believe that there are church records for the birth of Michael and Sophia in Germany, both names are so common that it has not been possible to identify which records reliably correspond to them. For this reason, the Zimmerman family history has not been traced into Germany. 8-4 Illinois Statewide Marriage Index,www.library.sos.state.il.us
  • 8-5 1870 Census data.
  • 8-6 Quincy Harold-Whig, June 26, 1938, p 1