Every so often, we come across mysteries while working on genealogy projects. Details are lost to time and there is no way to know what really happened. Such is the case with Armin and Bertha Witte, whose son I wrote about in my previous post.
Armin was the eighth child of Victor and Anna Marie Witte. He was born on January 6, 1862 and married Bertha Menn on January 11, 1883. Bertha was born on June 16, 1863 to Wilhelm and Johanna Menn. The family lived near the Witte homestead and it is interesting to note that her sister Henrietta married Armin’s brother Rudolph two years prior to Bertha’s marriage to Armin.
I noticed right away that Armin died in Cranfills Gap, just eight days before Bertha, who died in Round Top. And whereas Bertha was buried in the Jaeger Witte Cemetery, Armin was buried nearly 200 miles away, in Boggy Cemetery. What accounts for this distance?
I began with the census records, beginning in 1870. Bertha, 7, was living with her family in Round Top. Armin, 8, was living nearby with his family. The 1880 census likewise shows them living with their families. The 1890 census tragically was destroyed by fire in 1921, so we move on to 1900. By 1900, Armin and Bertha were living in Hamilton, Texas with their eight children on a mortgaged farm. In 1910 and again in 1920 they were still in Hamilton, which they now owned.
Here are where things turn muddy. In 1930, the 68 year old Armin was still on the farm in Hamilton, living with his daughter Anna and her husband JH Webber and their children. Apparently they had purchased the farm between 1920 and 1930. The census records him as married. Bertha, however, is found to be living in Fort Worth, Texas with her daughter Hertha and son in law Nelson Black and their children. She is recorded as being widowed. Moving forward to 1940, we find Bertha back in Round Top, living with her unmarried son Victor. Armin, however, is still in Hamilton, living with his son Alvin and his daughter-in-law Lela, on their farm. And this time, both Armin and Bertha are recorded as widowed.
All of this begs the question, when and why did Bertha leave Hamilton and why did the census record her as widowed? Armin passed away on November 22, 1943 and Bertha followed him, on November 30, 1943. Her obituary, which ran in both the Brenham Banner Press and the New Ulm Enterprise, make mention of her husband’s recent death. So regardless of what the census taker wrote down, Bertha’s community certainly regarded the couple as being married.
Was there a rift in the marriage? Did Bertha suffer from an illness that required her to move closer to a doctor? Did her children need her to help with their own families? Did she dislike farm life in Hamilton so much that she up and left?
I’m glad to say, just one day after posting this blog, I received an answer from Bertha and Armin’s great granddaughter. It turns out, Bertha left the farm, or the “big house,” because she could no longer navigate the stairs due to her knees. Armin refused to leave the home he built, so he remained on the farm while Bertha went to live with her children whose homes did not have stairs. As for the census takers, let this be a reminder that the records are not always reliable.
For further reading:
The Witte Williams House https://texashistoricalmarkers.weebly.com/witte-williams-house.html
Patent to a hay press, designed by Armin Witte https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth173485/?q=%22armin%20witte%22#who