Friday, February 22, 2013


Readers of the Chicago Daily Tribune of April 14, 1926 may have seen an interesting teaser in the "Local" Index: 

Mystery surrounds supposed drowning of George Gendele of Park Ridge; family denies he is victim....Page 15

It was followed up by the story itself buried back on page 15:

Body Unfound; Kin Deny Gendele Is Victim

Mystery surrounding the supposed drowning in the Des Plaines river on Monday night of George Gendele, son of Dr. George W. Gendele, a health inspector of Park Ridge, deepened last night upon failure of police to recover the body, and upon the insistance of the Gendele family that the victim was not George Gendele. 

... an aunt declared to police a disbelief that the victim was Gendele.  He had no reason to wish to kill himself, she said, since he was completely recovered from a recent illness and appeared in the best of spirits when seen last Monday. 

Report Seeing Youth in River.

Mr. and Mrs. H.W. Ensver, 1820 N. Keeler avenue, who were driving along Touhy avenue, Park Ridge, saw a youth struggling in the river.  When near the bridge, they said, they noted the boy, wearing a dark cap and a gray overcoat, seated on the railing gazing absently into the water.  A monent later they heard a splash and, looking back, saw him struggling frantically against the strong current.

Belief that the victim was Gendele was formed when Dr. Gendele reported his son to police as missing.  He said George had accompanied him as he made a call in the vicinity of the Touhy avenue bridge and had unaccountably disappeared after being left alone in the car.

Father In Nervous Collapse.

Yesterday the father was said to be in a state of nervous collapse and could not be seen when the Gendele home was visited.

County highway police spent a day in fruitless dragging of the river.  The swollen condition of the stream, together with the swiftness of the current, probably resulted in the body's being carried downstream a considerable distance from Touhy avenue, in the opinion of Capt. LeRoy Davidson.

A tragic story, to be sure.  Before we see what ultimately happened, let's take a closer look at George Gindele and his family.

Note:  The family name is spelled Gindele.  I have transcribed the newspaper articles as written with the last name spelled Gendele, but for the rest of the story I will use the correct spelling Gindele.

George Ferdinand Gindele was born on July 12, 1898 in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Dr. George William Gindele and Julia (nee Seabrook).  The elder Gindele was born May 4, 1873 in Illinois and married Julia Seabrook September 8, 1897.  Julia Seabrook was born about 1875 in Chicago.

George and Julia had nine children:  George F. (b. 1898), John G. (b. 1899), William S. (1901-1952), Charles W. (1903-1992), Florence (1905-1979), Ferdinanda K. (b. 1911), Julia F. (b. 1913), Ida A. (1915-1989), and Ruth M. (b. 1918).  

As mentioned above, Dr. Gindele worked in the Public Health office for the City of Chicago. On September 12, 1918, twenty-year-old George F. Gindele had to register for the draft.  At that time he said he was a clerk for the US Railroad Administration, Chicago and Northwestern Railroad in Norwood Park, and lived with his parents at 6056 N. Harlem Avenue in Chicago.

6056 N. Harlem Avenue, Chicago

The story of young George Gindele did not have a happy ending as evidenced by the Chicago Daily Tribune of April 30, 1926:


The body of George Gendele, son of Dr. George W. Gendele, a health inspector of Park Ridge, was recovered yesterday from the Des Plaines river near Morton Grove by two Indian guides from Stillwater, Mich. They were employed by the family to search for the young man. Gendele, who had been missing for two weeks, was last seen sitting on the Touhy avenue bridge a half mile from where he either fell or jumped into the stream.  He was 28 years old.  

An inquest will be held at 3 p.m. today at Schmidt's undertaking rooms, 3834 Irving Park boulevard.  The funeral will be tomorrow at 2 p.m. from the undertakers, burial at Ridgmont cemetery.

Mr. and Mrs. H.W. Enswer, 1820 North Keeler avenue, were driving over the bridge on April 13, the day he disappeared, and saw a man struggling in the water.  Yesterday they identified Gendele.   

At the time of his death, George was living with his parents at 5934 N. Harlem Avenue in Chicago.

5934 N. Harlem Avenue, Chicago

Here is George's obituary from the Chicago Daily Tribune of April 30, 1926:

I have passed over the Des Plaines river bridge on Touhy thousands of times, but now knowing what happened there in 1926, I went back and took a good look.  I'm sure the area was not as built up in 1926 as it is today, but in this section the Des Plaines river meanders through forest preserves so we can get a rustic feel for what was there.

Here is the approach to the south side of the bridge:

Looking over the rail at the river:

Looking down the river - this is the direction George's body would have taken after he fell in:

Another look down the river:

These photos were taken in February.  In April, when George fell into the river, the water level would be much higher from the spring rains, and the current would flow much faster and be much stronger than it is in these pictures.  Whether George fell into the river or jumped, once he was in the cold water he would have been unable to fight the current as he was swept downstream.

As it says in his obituary, George is buried in Acacia Park cemetery. In 1926 Acacia Park was strictly a Masonic cemetery, and one had to be a Mason or related to a Mason to be buried there.  George lies in the midst of his family:

We will never know what happened that day in April of 1926 on the Touhy avenue bridge over the Des Plaines river.  We will never know if George Gindele fell or jumped, but we do know that whatever happened, it cost him his life.  A life cut short, a death too soon. 
George F. Gindele with his father Dr. George Gindele
May George F. Gindele rest in peace. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN? - Aksel Mikkelsen - Part II

Last week I told you the story of Aksel and Hulda Mikkelsen.  Norwegian immigrants, Aksel went on to become a Chicago policeman and he and Hulda had five children.  In February of 1898 Hulda died of "childbed fever" and in his grief on October 10, 1898 Aksel committed suicide by shooting himself at Hulda's grave at Mount Olive Cemetery in Chicago.

This is a tragic story, to be sure, but it is magnified by the fact that Aksel's suicide left their five children orphans. There was no obituary in the Tribune for either Hulda or Aksel, but an angel was able to find the Guardianship File for the children, and so, now we know that their names are:
Einar O. Mikkelsen          Born June 30, 1885
Lillie C. Mikkelsen           Born December 19, 1886
August Henry Mikkelsen       Born February 1, 1889
Sigrid C. Mikkelsen         Born November 25, 1892
Charlotte Mikkelsen         Born December 5, 1895 

What happened to the five orphaned children of Aksel and Hulda Mikkelsen?  Have you ever seen the movie "All Mine To Give?"  It is based on a true story about six Scottish pioneer children whose parents have died, forcing the eldest to find homes for his each of his younger siblings.  It is a tear-jerker from start to finish as the eldest brother realizes that he must separate the siblings so that they can all be given to good homes.  The stories of what happened to Mikkelsen children are not unlike the family in the movie.  Let's take a look to see what happened to each of them:  

Einar O. Mikkelsen was the oldest.  When his father died, he was thirteen years old.  In the 1900 Census he was living with Thomas and Amalia Olsen as a "boarder".  Thomas may have been Hulda's brother, in which case Einar was living with his aunt and uncle.  One of the items in the Guardianship file is a disbursement to the Illinois School of Agriculture & Manual Training for Boys for tuition of Einar O. and August H. Mikkelsen in Feb 1899.  Einar must have been successful in learning a trade because the 1930 Census shows him as a mechanical engineer for a paper factory.  Einar was born "Einar O. Mikkelsen" but somewhere along the way he started referring to himself as "Adolph E. Mikkelsen" and this was the name he used when he registered for the draft in World War I and World War II.  Einar/Adolph married "Della Hesterman" but I could not find any record of them having children. The 1940 Census shows Einar/Adolph and Della living in Fox River Grove, Illinois. The trail on both Einar/Adolph and Della ends there.

Lillie C. Mikkelsen was the next oldest.  She was born Emma Lillian Mikkelsen in December of 1886 as noted above, and was almost twelve when her parents died.  The 1900 Census shows Lillie living with her grandparents Carl and Ernestina Olsen.  Carl and Ernestina still had two of Hulda's brothers, Gustav and Carl living with them, as well as Hulda's sister Augusta.  In addition they had another granddaughter living there as well - 7 year old Emma Nelson.  As she got older, Lillie adopted the more adult sounding "Lillian".  On April 27, 1907, Lillian Mikkelsen married Harold Hansen in Chicago.  She was the loving mother of Arnold (b. 1909), Charlotte (b. 1910), Florence (b. 1914), Marguerite (b. 1917), Harold (b. 1918), and Marion (b. 1923).  Lillian Mikkelsen Hansen died in Berrien County, Michigan on April 4, 1958 at the age of seventy-one.
August Henry Mikkelsen was 9 years old when his parents died.  We lose track of him until 1912 when he married Caroline J. Carlson in Chicago.  Unfortunately the next time he shows up in the newspaper was when he died in October of 1918.  Here's his obituary from the Chicago Daily Tribune of October 21, 1918:

3430 N. Keating, Chicago

Looking at the cause of death from his death certificate (lobar pneumonia with bronchitis) it looks like  August Mikkelsen died from the Spanish influenza.

 Like his parents, August is buried at Mount Olive Cemetery.

Although he is not buried in the same section as his parents, (August is in Section B), you can see the Olsen family monument from August's grave.

The next of  Aksel and Hulda's orphaned children was Sigrid C. Mikkelsen, who was just short of six years old when her parents died. After her father died, Sigrid went to live with her uncle Albert Mikkelsen, Aksel's older brother.  She did not stay there long because she is not with Albert's family for the 1900 Census.  In fact, after that I can't find any mention of Sigrid Mikkelsen, although she is listed in August's obituary in 1918.  She seems to have fallen off the face of the earth.  

And last, but not least, Charlotte "The Baby" born in 1895.  She was only three when her parents died.  The 1900 Census shows her living with her great-aunt Louisa Hansen.  By the 1920 Census, Charlotte was calling herself "Lottie", working as an office clerk in a candy factory and saying that she was the daughter of Louisa Hansen.  On July 11, 1921 Charlotte married Benjamin Franklin Cartwright, Jr. in Chicago, a young widower who had a 4 year old daughter Virginia.  Ben's first wife, Louise Weger had died in 1918.  On July 17, 1926 Charlotte became a widow when her husband Ben was killed in a car accident outside of Carlock, Illinois.  He was 35 years old.  The 1930 Census shows Virginia living with her grandmother.

Ben Cartwright's obituary says that he was buried at Mount Olive Cemetery.  I went there recently to see if Charlotte may have been buried next to Ben.  The cemetery records show that Charlotte Cartwright purchased Plot 90 in Section R in July, 1926 but there is no one currently buried there.  I went out and took a look for myself, and could find no tombstone for either Ben Cartwright or Charlotte Mikkelsen Cartwright.  Perhaps Ben was buried there and then his grave was moved at a later date, or perhaps Ben's family preferred that he be buried in their family plot in Peoria.  In any case, at the present time, neither Ben or Charlotte are buried at Mount Olive.

And here's where the trail of Charlotte goes cold.  I could not find any further information about her after 1926.  She may have remarried, she may have moved out of Illinois, she may have even passed away, but I couldn't find any clues whatsoever.

So to recap, here's where each of the children went after Aksel's death:

Einar - Thomas and Amalia Olsen
Lillie - Carl and Ernestina Olsen
August - Unknown
Sigrid - Albert Mikkelsen
Charlotte - Louisa Hansen

It is possible that Einar and August stayed together, but the other children were all separated from each other.

Thus ends the story of Aksel Mikkelsen and his family.  Losing both of their parents at a young age must have been very difficult for the children, but life goes on and luckily there was a large extended family to step in and assume the parenting role.  We will never know how losing their parents affected the children inwardly, but outwardly they all seemed to turn out alright and went on to live normal lives. What would have been different if Axel and Hulda had lived?  We will never know.        

May Einer, Lillie, August, Sigrid and Charlotte Mikkelsen rest in peace.

Friday, February 8, 2013


Mount Olivet Cemetery is on the northwest side of Chicago - on Narragansett Avenue, north of Addison Street.  It was dedicated on September 12, 1886 and was founded by the Scandinavian Lutheran Cemetery Association as a burial place for the Scandinavian population of Chicagoland.  It was originally called Mount Olive Cemetery to differentiate it from Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery on Chicago's south side.  Although primarily a cemetery for those of Scandinavian heritage, since its purchase by SCI it also caters to the Hispanic community, and in fact, has a section dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe - which I doubt you will find in any other Scandinavian Lutheran cemetery.

This blog is dedicated to the fact that there is a story "under every stone" in a cemetery, but the story I am going to relate this week also took place above a tombstone - the tombstone of Hulda Olsen Mikkelsen.

If you stroll through Mount Olive Cemetery there are lots of large, old family monuments.  Walking along the curving roadway that runs along the north side of section C, you come across Lot 7, that contains a tall, slim monument dedicated to the deceased members of the Olsen Family.  

It is a peaceful, quiet place and looking at the Olsen family monument you could never guess what happened there on October 10, 1898. Here is the story from the Chicago Daily Tribune of October 11, 1898:

What can we find out about Aksel Mikkelsen and his wife Hulda? Unfortunately, not too much, but let's look at what we do have.

Aksel Mikkelsen was born in January 26, 1859 in Cristensana, Norway. He came to the United States in 1879 when he was twenty years old and became a naturalized US citizen on March 7, 1886 in Chicago.  On November 1, 1884 he was married to Hulda Olsen by the Rev. John Z. Torgerson, pastor of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Bethania Church of Chicago, on Grand Avenue at Carpenter Street.

Hulda Olsen was born April 20, 1860 in Norway, the daughter of Carl Johan Olsen and Ernestine (nee Nullmeyer).  She joined brothers Gustav, Johan and Carl, and sisters Augusta and Aagot.  The Olsen family came to America in 1880, when Hulda was twenty years old and settled in Chicago where Carl Olsen was a baker.

Aksel registered to vote in the elections of 1888 where he reported his address as 61 Huron Street and 1890 where his address was 139 Fowler Street, the same place he was living when he died.  Aksel joined the Chicago Police Department in 1889 and was assigned to the West North Avenue police station.

Aksel and Hulda had five children:  

Einar O. Mikkelsen          Born June 30, 1885
Lillie C. Mikkelsen           Born December 19, 1886
August Henry Mikkelsen       Born February 1, 1889
Sigrid C. Mikkelsen         Born November 25, 1892
Charlotte Mikkelsen         Born December 5, 1895 

Hulda Olsen Mikkelsen died February 22, 1898 at the age of thirty-seven:


She died at the Norwegian Hospital in Chicago of puerperal septicemia (streptococus).  This is a bacterial infection contracted by women during childbirth or miscarriage.  It was also referred to as childbed fever.  I have mentioned in a previous article about the Behl family that 100 years ago one of the major causes of death for women was complications from childbirth.  Childbed fever was one of the most frequent complications.  There is no record of Aksel and Hulda having a baby in 1898 so we can assume she probably miscarried.

Hulda was buried on the same day that she died - February 22, 1898. She died at 4:15 in the morning and was buried later that afternoon - very unusual among people who were not Jewish, and in cases where there was no epidemic, like there was with the Spanish influenza.

She was buried in the south-east corner of the Olsen family plot at Mt. Olive Cemetery:

Aksel Mikkelsen took Hulda's death very hard.  He may have felt personally responsible because she died as a result of a pregnancy. Aksel's fellow officers with the Chicago Police Department noted that Aksel had been visiting Hulda's grave every day.  

Early in the morning of Monday, October 10, 1898 Aksel left home after saying goodbye to each of his children.  He told his housekeeper that he did not have to work until that evening and that he would be back later that day.  Then he went to Mount Olive Cemetery and in front of Hulda's grave he shot himself in the right temple with his patrolman's revolver.  

The Coroner determined that he died "from shooting himself in the head with a revolver while temporarily insane at the grave of his wife in Mt. Olive Cemetery on October 10, 1898."

Aksel was buried in front of his wife in the Olsen family plot in Mt. Olive.

Hulda Mikkelsen
20 Apr 1860
22 Feb. 1898.

Axel Mikkelsen
26 Jan 1859
10 Oct 1898

As I retell these stories from days gone by, I try not to pass judgement on the actions of the people I write about.  It is hard to imagine, however that Aksel Mikkelsen thought that his children would be better off without him.  They had already lost their mother and were grieving for her, and then, less than one year later they lost their father as well.  

Next week we will see what happened to the children:  Einar, Lillie, August, Sigrid and Charlotte.  Five orphaned children - and the oldest was just thirteen.

May Hulda Olsen Nikkelsen and her husband Aksel rest in peace.

Friday, February 1, 2013

ONE MAN'S FAMILY - Christian F.W. Behl - Part Two

Last week I told you about the Christian Behl family, whose graves I had come across in Rosehill Cemetery. I told you about Christian's first wife Mary, and children Frank, Wilhelm, Oskar, James, Mari, Edmund, Charlie, Elizabeth and Isabella.  I also told you that there was more to the story - and here it is:

Mary was Christian Behl's first wife.  She died on July 2, 1871. Christian remarried on August 18, 1872 in Chicago to Hermine Ernestine Selle:

You couldn't blame Christian for remarrying - he still had children to raise.  Jumping ahead, I found out that Christian died on August 30, 1923 at the age of 90 and was buried not with his first wife and children in Rosehill, but in Forest Home-Waldheim Cemetery (not to be confused with Jewish Waldheim down the street) in River Grove, Illinois.

Hermine Selle Behl died December 20, 1929 at the age of 86.  She is also buried at Forest Home Cemetery.  When I went out to Forest Home Cemetery to photograph Christian and Hermine's graves I was in for a shock - next to them is the gravestone of their daughters Hedwig (Harriet) and Martha Adelie who died within one day of each other in 1887!

Both died from diphtheria.

To try to help us visualize everything that happened to the Christian Behl family and when, I have put together what I call the Christian Behl Family Chronography:

Christian Behl was the father of thirteen children (that we know about). He had three children (Wihelm, Frank, Charlie) with his first wife Mary and ten children (Oskar, James, Elizabeth, Mari, Harriet, Eddie, Martha Adeile, Walter, Isabella, Alfred) with his second wife Hermine.  Thirteen children, and yet from the obituaries of Christian and Hermine it appears that only two of their children - Walter and Alfred - survived to adulthood. 

Here's Christian Behl's obituary from The Chicago Daily Tribune of August 30, 1923:

4522 W. Van Buren Street, Chicago

and Hermine Behl's obituary from The Chicago Daily Tribune of December 20, 1929:

5516 W. Van Buren Street, Chicago

The two sons who did survive to adulthood each lived to an old age. Alfred Behl died in 1958 at the age of 67 and Walter Behl died in 1960 at the age of 78.  They are both buried (but not together) in Oakridge-Glenoaks Cemetery in Hillside.  

That is the story of one man's family:  Christian Frederick William Behl. The departed members of his family rest at Rosehill, Forest Home and Oakridge-Glenoaks.  His family lives on through the children and grandchildren of Alfred and Walter.  Because of the great strides medical science has made, we tend to forget that 100 years ago one of the leading causes of death for women in the United States was "Complications from childbirth" and the infant mortality rate in the United States was 10%: 100 deaths per 1000 live births!

One hundred years ago it was not unusual to lose an infant or child to disease, but Christian Behl lost ten children through illness and disease, and one to an accident, leaving only two children to survive to adulthood.  Life was hard in the old days, and the spectre of death was always around the corner.

"The Young Girl and Death" c. 1906 by Marianne Stokes

May Christian Behl and all of his family, rest in peace.