By Anita Klawitter, Member of the Delhi Historical Society
As the song from Westside Story goes, “I just met a girl named Maria.” Who would have thought after all these years of searching for information on my great-grandmother Kate’s lineage, her given name was actually Maria - “Maria Catherina Küper” to be exact. Additionally, I have finally discovered who her biological father was – this discovery, I would learn, has been about 100 years in the making.
Just to clarify, this woman I am speaking of – Maria Catharina Küper - is my Grandpa Joe’s mother – we knew of her as Kate or Katie Klawitter. Kate was married to my great-grandfather Eduard Klawitter and together they ran Klawitter’s General Store and Saloon which used to sit on Neeb Road just across the street from Our Lady of Victory Church.
I learned from writings done by Peg Schmidt in the book “New Pioneers: The People of Delhi 1830-1900” that Kate and Eduard Klawitter bought the general store and saloon in 1895 from John H. Brune and his wife Lillie. Later in my research, I found it interesting that the marriage of my great great grandparents was witnessed by an Elisabetta Brune in 1863. So I can only surmise the Brune’s and Klawitter’s were friends well before the sale of the store and saloon in 1895.
It was always surprising to me that Kate’s own children didn’t know her lineage and whether she was born a Kiefer or Reimerink. We have a prayer card from great-grandma Kate’s funeral and one of her children wrote on the back of it, “Grandma, Kate Klawitter, nee Kiefer or Reimerink.” THEY didn’t even know her biological name, which is why I am so grateful for the Archdiocese records for confirming my own discoveries.
Early on in my own research I incorrectly surmised Kate was born a Reimerink as the earliest U.S. Census Kate could appear on was the 1870 census. This listed her as a 5-year-old living with Johann Reimerink and his wife Maria Reimerink, as well as her brother John Reimerink, then age 2. It was after finding Johann Reimerink’s Last Will and Testament about a decade ago that I realized Johann was actually Kate’s step-father, not her biological father. Johanne’s Last Will and Testament dated May 6, 1893 states:
“I give, devise, and bequeath to my beloved step-daughter Katie Klawitter (born Kiefer) and unto my beloved children John Reimerink, Jr., Henry Reimerink, Theresa Muller (born Reimerink) and Anna Reimerink, share and share alike all my estate, real personal or mixed and wheresoever situated, to them, their heirs and assigned forever include my stepdaughter Katie Klawitter in this devise because a considerable part of my estate came from her mother…….”
I find it touching that he lists Kate as “my beloved step-daughter.” Johann, who emigrated from Losser, Holland died a few weeks after writing his will on May 31, 1893 of “Erysipelas” which is a skin disease caused by a staph infection at the old City Hospital which was located at 854 Central Parkway.
Who’s Your Daddy?
Several years ago I filled out paperwork with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati requesting any records they had on my great grandmother Kate. I provided her name, year of birth and indicated she may have been born a Kiefer, Kuper or Reimerink and her mother’s name was either Maria Busz or Busch. This information I was providing was based on years of research and obtaining her death certificate, the Last Will & Testament listed previously, and other records I had found.
God love them, when the packet from the Archdiocese arrived, it contained Kate’s Baptismal record once and for all confirming her father as Franciscus Küper and her mother as Maria Buß as it is written in the old German script. “Buß” nowadays is read as Buss or Busch. Oh, the joy of deciphering old German names! In fact, my more recent research confirms the name Buss/Busch at one time was actually “Loderbusch.” With the help of a genealogy friend in Germany, I have now traced my great great grandmother Maria Busch’s family to Lunten, Germany and found that her grandfather was actually born with the surname “Loderbusch” in 1772.
Per the Archdiocese records great-grandma Kate was baptized at Our Lady of Victory Church on May 14th, 1865. This is the only record we have of Kate’s earliest years as birth certificates were not required in the State of Ohio back in 1865.
What we do know for certain based on the Archdiocese and Our Lady of Victory records is that Kate’s biological parents are Franciscus M. Küper and Mariam Buß. Franciscus and Mariam – who later I found went by Mary - were married at Our Lady of Victory Church on April 14th, 1863. Two years later, in May of 1865, they had their daughter, Maria Catharina who went by Kate. Within two months of her birth, Kate’s father Franciscus died on July 10, 1865. Per the records he was just 30 years old, making his year of birth around 1835. The Archdiocese records also contained the second marriage of Maria Busch Kuper to Johann Reimerink on April 17, 1866. Everything I had researched was finally and literally in one neat little packet from the Archdiocese – well worth the nominal fee I was charged.
A large portion of my search included decoding lines written on the back of a photo of Henry Reimerink who was a stepbrother to Kate. “Uncle Henry” as he was known, served as a Delhi Trustee and lived in the rooms above Klawitter’s until his death in 1954. The note on the photo, which was written by my Aunt Helen Klawitter-Hahn said Grandmother Kate’s father drowned in the Muddy Creek. Cousin Sam Ciresi recalled hearing this often as a child and said family lore was that he drowned while taking a bath in the Muddy Creek. Cousin Sam drove me to the spot which is now about a ¼ mile just past the bridge at Muddy Creek and Cleves Warsaw.
It always puzzled me how my great great grandfather would have drowned in a creek on his own property in July of 1865 – I would think this would be a nice summer day. It disturbed me enough to contact local weatherman Steve Horstmeyer via email asking if any weather records existed on that date. Mr. Horstmeyer was kind enough to reply and gave me a detailed account informing me that on July 9th and July 10 of 1865 there were severe rain storms which would have indeed flooded the creek. Sadly, almost 100 years later, Franciscus’ own great-granddaughter, Kathy Hahn, who happened to be my Godmother, would also drown in a creek just off of Wulff Run in Delhi on April 3, 1964. Such a sad coincidence of two Delhi drowning deaths in one family.
Later in my research and again thanks to a book of Hamilton County burials housed at DHS, I found that my great great grandfather Franciscus M. Kuper had been buried at Our Lady of Victory Cemetery on July 10, 1865. All these years of searching for Kate’s real father, and he was buried right across the street from where I grew up on Neeb Road!
Later when scouring old newspapers for any mention of his drowning I found the story below which appeared in the Cincinnati newspaper on August 24, 1865. I cannot confirm if it was my great great grandfather or just another unfortunate Delhi drowning.
The mystery of Kate’s lineage has at last been solved and forever puts to rest who great-grandma Kate’s biological father was. The poor soul who drowned and was laid to rest in 1865 when Katie was just an infant. Franciscus M. Kuper of Germany.
Update: Never give up on genealogy! Since writing this blog back in December I just had a gentleman reach out to me last week with new information based on posting via ancestry.com.
He is researching his wife's family and her great-grandmother was Antoinette Kuper (Kueper) born in Schoppingen, Westphalia, Germany in 1836. She came to the US in 1865 with her future husband Heinrich Tenkmann. They married at Our Lady of Victory in Delhi shortly after they arrived.
So now we have this Antoinette Kuper and my Franz Kuper both in Delhi in 1865 and both were married at Our Lady of Victory. It is not a stretch to think they are indeed related somehow - and from the same area of Schoppingen, Westphalia. (We believe them to be cousins as Antoinette's siblings have been identified. So now I have a new jumping off point to discover my great great grandfather's heritage. Thanks to strangers reaching out. Further, in Googling the town of Schoppingen I see it is just 15 miles from the town that Johanne Reimerink was from in Losser, Holland. It is all well and truly coming together! Never give up!
Thank you, Anita for this fascinating article!
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