Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Frederick William Elsner, 1885-1965

Fred Elsner

Frederick William Elsner, s/o Albert Elsner and Lydia Richter
b. April 8, 1885 in Germany, arrived in US on March 1, 1887
d. Nov. 13, 1965 in St. Cloud, Stearns County, MN
m. April 30, 1913 in Princeton, Mille Lacs County, MN

Rena Elsner

Edith Lorena Winsor, d/o Samuel Winsor and Edith Lyon Banks
b. Dec. 17, 1889 in McIntire, Mitchell County, Iowa
d. Aug. 26, 1970 in Sherburne County, MN

Fred and his parents arrived in America at the Port of New York on March 1, 1887.  They travelled to Fort Wayne, Indiana where his mother gave birth to Elizabeth Natalie Elsner on April 6, 1887.  And by 1889, they were all living in Chicago, Illinois where his parents had four more children: Paul (b. July 16, 1889),  Anna (b. Jan. 17, 1891), Otto (b. Oct. 22, 1894), and Erick (b. Oct. 13, 1896).  According to the 1900 Census for Chicago, Illinois, and the Chicago City Directory, Fred's father, Albert was a Saloon Keeper.

By the time the 1910 Census was taken Albert had moved his family to Greenbush, Mille Lacs, Minnesota and was a farmer.  Fred and his sister Elizabeth had moved away from the farm and were living together in Princeton on Eastern Avenue.  Fred was employed as a salesman at a hardware store and Elizabeth was a sales lady at a general store.

Fred married Edith Lorena Winsor on April 30, 1913 at the home of Rena's parents, Samuel Winsor and Edith Lyon Banks.

Fred and Rena had one child, Virgil Frederick Elsner, born December 3, 1915, in Princeton, MN.

The 1920 Census shows Fred, Rena, and Virgil living in Princeton, Mn. where Fred rents a home and works in the office of a garage.

The 1930 Census shows that Fred has moved his family to Elmhurst, Illinois.  Fred owns his home at 264 Willow Road and it is valued at $7500.00.  Fred's sister-in-law Vivian Winsor (age 19) is living with him and his wife Rena and their son Virgil.  Fred's occupation is carpenter, and Vivian is a Stenographer for a Life Insurance Company.

The 1940 Census shows that Fred and Rena are renting a home at 194 East Fremont Ave, in Elmhurst, Illinois for $27.50/month.  (I looked up the address and found that this is a multi-family unit built in 1924.)  Virgil is 24 years old and living with his parents.  (sister-in-law is no longer living with them).  Fred's occupation is Carpenter - Building Construction.  In 1939, Fred worked 26 weeks and earned $500 that year.  Virgil's occupation is Commercial Artist - Household Equipment.  And in 1939, Virgil worked 50 weeks and earned $1500.

The following passage is from: Down Winsor Way - A Family History and Genealogy, by Vivian Winsor Toothaker, Published by Cuddy's North Park Printery, San Diego, CA (October, 1962).

         "Rena", as she is known to her family and friends, has a wonderful sense of humor
         and the ability to stir others to laughter. She possesses something of the adventurous
         spirit of her grandparents, always willing to try something new, always seeking greener
         pastures. She has moved her home many times during her lifetime, but wherever her
         home is located, it is tastefully decorated and furnished and is kept spotlessly clean
         and neat by daily cleaning. In adversity, she has gone to work outside her home to
         help keep the larder filled. Before her marriage, she worked as a milliner.

         When he was but a few years old, Fred's family took the long and adventurous journey
         from Germany to America. His father operated a store in Chicago for a few years before
         buying a farm near Princeton, Minn.

         Rena's younger brothers and sisters considered Fred the ultimate in romantic figures
         when he came to court her, driving-not the horses from his father's farm-but a hired, shiny, 
         livery rig with smartly groomed horses, bringing a procession of artistically wrapped
         gifts to sweep the lady off her feet.

         Baby sister, Vivian, who was only two weeks old the first time he came to call at the
         Winsor farm in Wyanette Township, was two and one-half years old and steady enough
         on her feet to be the ring bearer when Rena and Fred took their marriage vows in a lovely
         home wedding. The family, by that time, had moved to a house in town.

         Those were happy days when Fred worked at the Caley Hardware Store and they lived
         in a little cottage in Princeton. Later Fred worked at Powell Hardware Store in St. Cloud.

         In 1923 they moved to Elmhurst, Ill. where a building boom was beginning. With his
         brother, Otto, Fred learned the carpenter trade and things went just fine until the great 
         depression set in and they lost the home they were buying and on which Fred had shared
         in the building. Since that time other homes have been bought and sold. They spent two years 
         in Manhattan Beach, Calif. and eventually returned to Minnesota."


Since the 1910 Census for Princeton says Fred was a salesman at a hardware store and Down Winsor Way mentions that Fred worked at Caley's Hardware Store in Princeton, I was curious to see what I could find out about Caley's Hardware Store.  I found out that Caley Hardware Company was owned by Thomas H. Caley and was in business for 52 years.  They sold all kinds of things, from items for the home to farm equipment. 

These are just a few of the many ads that ran in The Princeton Union newspaper throughout the years.

November 13, 1913, pg. 3
Oct. 19, 1916, pg 5


I also found a photo on The Minnesota Digital Library website of an interior view of Caley Hardware.  I was surprised to find Fred's name written above the picture!  Click here to see it.  Enlarge the picture to get a better look at it.  I believe Fred is the one with the bow tie. 

I had heard that Fred had moved to Illinois to help his brother Otto with building houses.  Down Winsor Way mentioned it was 1923.  I checked The Princeton Union  and found this add on September 14, and 21, 1922.
The Princeton Union, Thursday, September 21, 1922, page 3.

I looked for an article in The Princeton Union that mentioned them leaving town, but was unable to find anything.  The online newspaper I used (Chronicling America) only goes up to Dec. 31, 1922, so there may be something after that if they left in 1923 like was mentioned in Down Winsor Way.

Down Winsor way also gives me some more clues about where Fred and his mother Lydia might have been born.  It says that Fred was born in Stetin, Germany and Lydia was born at Mecklenburg, Germany.   However,  I also have a copy a document that was written by Elizabeth Elsner (Fred's sister) that says that Lydia was born in Neuendorf, Germany.  (It doesn't say where in Germany Fred was born.)  Down Winsor Way does not mention where Albert was born, but Elizabeth's document says that he was born in Stolp, Germany and on his marriage license to his second wife (Zilla Gawehn) he put that he was born in Neuendorf, Germany, and his obituary says West Prussia!

The Princeton Union newspaper information is from the Library of Congress, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers site:

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