Saturday, August 20, 2016

Frank A Loescher – The Oldest and Only Son

Growing up I heard many stories about the Loescher sisters and their families.  My great grandmother, Lucy Loescher Stenger was the third oldest in a family of 8.  I knew about her 6 sisters and her many cousins.  But I really did not understand that the family of Francois and Rose Nufer Loesher (my great great grandparents) actually started with a boy.  Their oldest child was the only boy in a sea of girls and he was named after his father – Frank Loesher.

Some of my ancestors are easier than others in trying put together who they were as people and what their place was in their own family.  Frank Loescher Jr., my great great uncle, was not one of the easy ones.  It’s not clear to me if he was misunderstood in his life or made things more difficult for himself and his wives.  Or, maybe he was always taken care of by his mother and sisters and later his wives and never learned how to be mature in his dealings with the world.  But what I have learned about him so far does not paint a picture of a happy man.  When that unhappiness began is not known but it would not be a surprise to find out it was in his childhood.

Frank Anthony Loescher (I will refer to him as “Frank A” going forward to distinguish him from his father) was born at 131 Irving Street, Peoria, Illinois on 10 Aug 1881. (1) (2) He was the first born of his parents.  His mother came from a family of seven daughters so there must have been great excitement when her firstborn turned out to be a boy.  Francois also must have been happy on this occasion.  He had only been in the US about ten years at the time of his only son’s birth and this must have been great news to pass onto his family back in Alsace. (3)


We can trace the Loescher family around Peoria in city directories until 1886 when in the spring of that year they moved to the rural town of Kickapoo, Illinois.  While only about 13 miles on today’s roads and highways, back in 1886 the distance between the two locations was the better part of a day’s journey in a horse and wagon.  At the time of the move to Kickapoo, the family consisted of Francois and Rose along with Frank A and his sisters Mame and Lucy (my great grandmother).  Being about five years old at the time of the move, Frank A might have had some memories of his early years in Peoria.  But surely the move to Kickapoo had a significant impact on his life both then and for the remainder of his days.

After the move to Kickapoo, the family built a new two story home (including a saloon and overnight accommodations) as well as a livery, farm buildings, rental hall and an ice house.  This family understood the concept of having “multiple income streams” quite well!  No doubt Frank A was a part of these endeavors from the beginning.  Especially as the family grew to be father, mother, son and 7 sisters!


The next big change in Frank A’s young life happened on 1 May 1902.  He was just a few months shy of his 22nd birthday when his father died from a skull fracture received after falling down the basement stairs.  No doubt he and his family would never be the same again.  But the degree to which his life was shaped by his father’s untimely passing can only be speculated on.  Rose Loescher was left with 8 children ranging in age from 21 down to 4 ½ and several businesses that needed to be carried on if they were to eat, keep their home and stay together as a family.  She certainly would have counted on a great deal of help from her now adult son.  But is that what Frank A wanted?  Did he have the skills and initiative to pick up for his father?  Family stories seem to indicate that Frank A either did not want to stay in Kickapoo or was not good at working his parents’ businesses.  My bet is that there was some degree of both at play.

Figure 1 - Frank Anthony Loescher
Four years later in November 1906, Frank A Loescher married Etta (Henrietta) Brutcher in Henry, Illinois. (4)  I find the location of this wedding rather odd.  Both the bride and groom were living in the Kickapoo area so why not get married at the local Catholic Church?  Why go many miles over bumpy roads in winter to be married at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Henry when there is a local Catholic church down the street? 

Frank A and Etta Brutcher Loescher set up housekeeping in Peoria.  He evidently had all of the saloon/livery/hall rental/farming businesses he wanted because he started a landscaping and lawn care businesses in Peoria.  They never had any children.  My grandmother remembers Etta as being a very kind woman and thought she was a good wife for Frank.  However, it seems that as an adult Frank may have used his mother as a bank.  There is a sense from family members that I have asked about him that he came to see his mother and family in Kickapoo when he wanted something and usually that was money.  These views on Frank A are based on family remembrances that are decades old.  Memories can fade and become distorted or selective so they may not be entirely accurate.

Much more telling for me in trying to understand Frank A is the will that his mother made in August 1927. (5)  As with many wills of the twentieth century an administrator and maybe an alternate for that position is named.  But Rose Loescher’s will is a bit different in that she names two Executors to administrate her estate.  The first is her son Frank A.  This could be expected as he is her oldest and only son.  But additionally, she names a second executor.  The second person is not to be an alternate but to serve alongside her son.  This second person is her son-in-law and my great grandfather, Joseph L Stenger.  How I wish I had been able to talk to him about this turn of events!

What did Frank A know about how his mother’s will when it was created?  What were his feelings about having his brother-in-law named to settle his mother’s estate with him?  These are the kind of stories I wish I could learn more about!

The next major event in Frank A’s life comes in July 1937 when his 49 year old wife dies. (6) Etta Loescher suffered with peritonitis at a time before antibiotics were available.  It must have been a very painful death and it must have been felt most deeply by her husband.  Frank A’s next year of life was a year of significant changes.  His wife dies.  His mother becomes ill and eventually dies in the early fall of 1938. 

But maybe the event that made a bigger impact on his life was his marriage to his second wife in August 1938. (7) He married Ruby Winters at St Joseph’s Church in Brimfield, Illinois just a few weeks before the death of his mother.  I have so many questions about his actions and decisions during this period of time.  The first is about the location of this wedding.  Why did he go to Brimfield to be married?  He and Ruby both were living in Peoria and had been there for many years.  Why not go to one of the much closed Catholic churches in Peoria or why not even his childhood church in Kickapoo?  There is story about this that is lost now.

What did his mother think about her son’s choice of a second wife?  This also is lost in time.  But, we do have recollections from Frank A’s nieces.  They have related to me that Ruby was somebody who did not have Frank A’s best interests at heart.  They indicate that Frank A’s sisters did not like their new sister-in-law.  From this and what I know about them I can infer that the sisters were likely not very welcoming or nice to the new family member.

Oh my….what a hard time he likely had in those couple of years.  But with the death of his mother he had no rest either.  He was one of the executor’s of his mother’s estate.  She had quite a bit of property in Kickapoo to be accounted for and disposed of.  In those times in Illinois, probate cases required court appears and meetings with attorneys.  I cannot image that he enjoyed this or wanted to do this and may have leaned hard on his brother-in-law in getting the estate settled. 

Rose’s probate file also tells us that her estate collected $455.81 from Frank as payment for a “note due [the] estate”.  Something tells me he had a hard time coming up with this large sum of money around 1940.  Maybe he had to sell his own possessions or his business to get this cash.  But in the end he got $150.00 as payment for being an Executor and then his portion of his mother’s estate of $677.21.  He had borrowed additional money over the years which had not been paid back and was deducted from his share of the estate.

Now here is where the recollections of his nieces are quite strong.  The belief is that Ruby knew Frank A would come into some money which was her motivation for the marriage.  Once he came into his settlement money then she wanted nothing more to do with him.  Also, Frank A’s health began to deteriorate badly in the early 1940’s.  The family stories continue to say that Ruby brought her sick husband out from Peoria to Kickapoo and “dumped” him with his sisters for them to nurse and care for him.

Frank A Loescher died on 8 Aug 1944. (8) He is buried in Parkview Cemetery in Peoria, Illinois next to his first wife Etta.  He died poor and without the comfort of a wife.  He died with his sisters resentful of him and his choices in life.  He died without his mother who surely was an enabler of him for a good portion of his life.  How sad.  How very very sad.

Figure 2 - Cemetery Marker - Parkview Cemetery, Peoria, Illinois - Frank A Loescher

Tags – Stenger, Loescher, Kickapoo, Illinois, Peoria, Nufer, Brimfield, Brutcher

Copyright ©2016 – Diane Minor – All Rights Reserved.

Links to related posts - 
Rose Loescher - The Mystery of Her Birth
Loescher Saloon

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[1] Peoria County, Illinois, birth certificate no. not stated (10 Aug no year), Frank Anthony Loescher; Peoria County Clerk, Peoria, Illinois.
[2] "World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918," database and images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 25 Oct 2014), serial no. 2249,  order no. 374, entry for Frank Anthony Loescher, Peoria County, Illinois, roll 1614439; citing "United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, M1509, 4,582 rolls."
[3] 1900 U.S. census, Peoria County, Illinois, population schedule, Kickapoo, Enumeration District (ED) 0078, sheet 12-A, line 37, dwelling 231, family 232, Frank Loascher; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 Jun 2014), citing National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 333, FHL microfilm 1240333.
[4] Marshall County, Illinois, marriage certificate, Frank A Loescher and Etta Brutcher, 29 Nov 1906, Marshall County Clerk, Lacon, Illinois.
[5] Peoria County Circuit Court, Peoria County, Illinois, probate file no. J788, Rose Loescher; Peoria County Circuit Clerk.
[6] Peoria County, Illinois, death certificate no. 25813 (8 Jul 1938), Henrietta M Loescher, Peoria County Clerk, Peoria.
[7] Peoria County, Illinois, marriage certificate, Frank A. Loescher and Ruby F. Winters, 6 Aug 1938, Peoria County Clerk, Peoria.
[8] Peoria County, Illinois, death certificate no. 839 (8 Aug 1944), Frank A Loescher, Peoria County Clerk, Peoria.