52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Benno and Louise

benno herbert marvin almede henry (little)

                      Benno and siblings Herbert, Marvin, Elmeda, and Henry

Benno Jaeger was born on August 30, 1899 to Henry and Alvina Jaeger. He was the fourth child out of nine (two died in infancy). Benno, called Bennie by most of the family, grew up on his parent’s farm in Brenham, Texas. He moved to Port Arthur at the age of 19 to work as a laborer for the Texas Company. He returned to Brenham and married  Louise Steffen on September 20, 1922, with Rev. A.H. Falkenberg presiding. 

Louise was the daughter of Heinrich and Louise (Wickel) Steffen. She was born on July 18, 1895 and was 27 at the time they were married. Benno and Louise had three children, Dorothy, Doris, and Irvin, who were affectionately called Mipsie, Sweety Pie, and Sonny.

Life on a farm was challenging and work was plentiful farther east. After living with Louise’s mother for a while on the Steffen homestead, Benno and Louise moved to Port Arthur with their two youngest children, Doris and Irvin . There, Benno worked for the Consolidated Steel Corporation. 

Benno’s brother Henry and his family also lived in Port Arthur. Henry’s daughter Jeanette remembers Louise as a very nice aunt who was very proud of her angel food cakes. Jeanette tells the story of visiting one day with her mother Lily and her aunts Ida and Elsie. Louise had made tuna fish sandwiches and Jeanette grabbed one and ate it while hiding under the table, much to the amusement of the adults. She also remembers a time when Dorothy, Doris , and their cousins Fern and Delores pulled branches from a tree and began walking around pretending that the branches were fancy umbrellas. Sonny and his cousin Bernhardt took the branches away and Doris ran into the house crying. Louise came out and yelled at the boys, who returned the branches. 

Louise passed away on December 22, 1945 in Port Arthur and her funeral was held at the Clayton and Thompson chapel in Grove, Texas. Rev. T.J. Roth, pastor of St. John’s English Lutheran church of which she was a member, conducted the service. Louise was buried in the Jaeger Witte Cemetery in Washington County. Her death was very difficult on Benno, who was left to raise their children alone. A week after the funeral he returned to his wife’s grave. Jeanette remembers him suddenly walking away, weeping and leaning on the fence for support. His sister Ida provided much needed help for raising Sonny (15) and Doris (10). The family moved to Needville before settling in Brenham in 1953. Benno bought his brother Henry’s store and operated it for three years.

Several life changing events happened in 1955.  Doris  married Edsel Meulhbrad and Sonny moved to Houston, leaving Benno alone with his store. Always a quiet man, Benno did not interact much with people. There was a mailman though, named Woodrow Boone, who often stopped by the store on his lunch break. Woodrow’s wife had passed away several years ago and he met his second wife through a matchmaking agency called Lonely Hearts. It is through this agency that Benno met his second wife, Priscilla. Benno sold the store in 1956 and he and Priscilla moved to Silsby and later to Newton. After Priscilla died, Benno moved to Midland to be closer to Doris  and her family. He passed away there on November 16, 1990 and was interred in the Jaeger Witte Cemetery alongside Louise and Sonny. 

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