Carroll Witherell Fultz and Siegbert Kunz contributed to this family history.
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George Born in 1835
Solothurn, 1835-1854. George Casper Starke was born in Solothurn Canton, Switzerland, on July 23, 1835, sixteen months after Kathryn Meyers. The capital of Solothurn Canton is Solothurn City, which is on the River Aare, 38 miles south of Basel (German border), and 38 miles north of Berne. It is 240 miles south of Frankfurt, Germany, and 325 miles east southeast of Paris, France.
Chicago, Near North Side, 1854-1865. On May 22, 1854, George Casper Starke arrived on a ship in New York from Bremen, Germany. The ship was called the New York Packet. George was listed as Casper Starka, age 19, a tailor, and belonging to Germany. It is assumed that he went directly on to Chicago from New York.
In 1854, there were 31 states in the Union, the latest being California in 1851. Franklin Pierce was President of the United States. The population of the city was 60,662. The city limits extended from Fullerton on the north to Egan Avenue (now 39th Street) on the south and from the Lake on the east to Western Avenue and Crawford Avenue (now Pulaski) on the west. A weekly German-language newspaper, the Illinois Staats-Zeitung had been started in 1848 and became a daily in 1851.
The 1860 census shows "Costav" Starke, age 25, tailor, born in Hamburg, living in the 8th Ward. In 1860, the 8th Ward was north of the Chicago River between Wolcott Street (State Street) and La Salle Street. The 1865 Chicago directory shows Casper Starke, tailor, living a block west of the old 8th Ward on the Near North Side at 201 Wells (734 N. Wells Street after 1909).
St. Joseph's Church was opened in 1846 for German Catholic immigrants on the Near North Side at the northeast corner of Chicago Avenue and Cass Street (between State Street and Rush Streets). It was five blocks east of where Casper Starke lived in 1865. St. Joseph's was staffed by Holy Cross Fathers until 1861, then by the Benedictine Fathers.
Chicago, Near South Side, 1867-1868. The 1868 Chicago directory shows Casper Starke, tailor, living on the Near South Side at 199 3rd Avenue. This was a short block west of State Street, between Polk and Taylor, which would be near the present-day 872 S. Plymouth Court. This is on the site of what became Dearborn Station in 1885 and is now a park.
Kathryn Born in 1834
Herbetswil, 1834-1853. Kathryn Meyers was born in Solothurn Canton, Switzerland, on March 10, 1834. The capital of Solothurn Canton is Solothurn City, which is on the River Aare, 38 miles south of Basel (German border), and 38 miles north of Berne. It is 240 miles south of Frankfurt, Germany, and 325 miles east southeast of Paris, France.
Kathryn's parents were Petro and Maria Alleman Wittenmeier. They owned a hotel in Solothurn. Kathryn's sister Emma was born on July 15, 1842. Sometime before 1853, Kathryn's father Petro died, leaving his wife Maria and two daughters age 10 and 19.
Chicago, Near West Side, 1853-1870. After Petro died, Maria decided to sell the hotel in Solothurn, move the family to America, and start up a hotel there. The immigration date of 1853 is based on Maria's death certificate. The date is 1854 based on Kathryn's sister Emma's 1900 census record, and 1859 based on Kathryn's death certificate.
In 1853, there were 31 states in the Union, the latest being California in 1851. Franklin Pierce was President of the United States. The population of the city was 60,662. The city limits extended from Fullerton on the north to Egan Avenue (now 39th Street) on the south and from the Lake on the east to Western Avenue and Crawford Avenue (now Pulaski) on the west.
It is not clear when Kathryn and her mother opened a hotel in Chicago and what its name was initially. The 1883 and 1884 Chicago directories show George C. Starke, Kathryn's future husband, as proprietor of the Fort Wayne House. The 1872 to 1882 directories and the 1870 and 1880 censuses show George as a saloonkeeper, but do not mention the Fort Wayne House by name. Directories for 1862 to 1867 list the Fort Wayne House, but the proprietor is John W. Groetzinger. We do not know whether he was the owner or hired by Mary to serve as proprietor.
The address of the Fort Wayne House in the 1862 to 1867 directories is on the Near West Side at 27 S. Canal Street (112 N. Canal Street after 1909). This was between Randolph and Washington. The Fort Wayne depot was on Canal a block south, at Madison Street. The 1870 census simply lists the hotel as being located on the Near West Side in the 8th Ward. The 8th Ward was west of the Chicago River between 12th and 16th Streets. The 1872 to 1878 directories show the hotel at 89 Stewart Avenue. Based on the 1886 Robinson Atlas of Chicago, this was at the southwest corner of 14th Street and Stewart Avenue, across the street from the Fort Wayne railroad tracks.
If Kathryn and her mother opened a hotel before 1858, it would not have been called the Fort Wayne House. It was named after the Fort Wayne railroad, which did not operate in Chicago until Christmas Day of 1858. The Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad was a major connection to the East Coast, eventually becaming part of the Pennsylvania Railroad System, then the Penn Central railroad, and today Conrail. The PFtW&C section of the railroad was informally referred to as the "Fort Wayne."
Kathryn and her family were members of St. Francis of Assisi Church, German parish run by the Franciscan Order. A small frame church opened in 1853 on the Near West Side at Clinton and Mather Streets (between Harrison and Polk Streets). In 1867, the church being too small, a larger brick church was built farther south at the southeast corner of 12th Street and Newberry Avenue, what is now 813 W. Roosevelt Road. The new church was five blocks from the Fort Wayne House.
In 1868, Kathryn's younger sister Emma, age 24, married John J. Franzen, age 28. John, a lumber inspector for Hatch & Burpee, had emigrated from Prussia in 1854.
George and Kathryn Marry in 1870, Have 6 Children
George Casper Starke and Kathryn Meyers were married in Chicago around 1870 based on the age of their oldest child. George was age 35, and Kathryn was 36. They probably were married at St. Francis of Assisi Church.
Chicago, Near West Side, 1870-1895. After their wedding, George and Kathryn lived at the Fort Wayne House. George became active in running the Fort Wayne House. The 1870 census shows him as saloonkeeper and living with Kathryn, her mother. Also living with them are Kathryn's sister Emma and her husband John Franzen. John is shown as a lumber inspector.
In 1871, George and Kathryn's first child William was born.
The Great Chicago Fire occurred on October 8-10, 1871. It started on DeKoven Street several blocks north of the Fort Wayne House and spread north and east from there, leaving the Fort Wayne House and St. Francis of Assisi Church unaffected.
In 1874, George and Kathryn's second child John Peter was born.
In 1877, George and Kathryn's third child George was born.
On May 31, 1878, George and Kathryn's fourth child, Emma Magdalen was born.
Sometime in 1878 or 1879, the Fort Wayne House moved a block west and a short block south to 609 S. Canal Street (1420 S. Canal Street after 1909). Based on the 1886 Robinson Atlas of Chicago, this address was on the southwest corner of Barber Street and Canal Street.
In 1880, George and Kathryn's fifth child Eliza was born.
In 1881, George and Kathryn's sixth child Mary was born.
On October 5, 1883, Kathryn's mother, Maria Alleman Wittenmeier died of old age. She was 81 years old. She died at 221 W. 14th Street (648 W. 14th Street after 1909), a couple blocks west of the Fort Wayne House. She was buried at St. Boniface Cemetery, a German cemetery located at 4901 N. Clark Street in Chicago. The plot (Section C, Block 6, Lot 6-southern half) had been purchased by George in 1868. The Fort Wayne House continued in operation, and George and Kathryn continued to live there. George was listed in the Chicago directory as "proprietor" in 1883 and 1884.
On December 22, 1892, George and Kathryn's son John Peter, a steamfitter, age 18, and Gertrude Pfeifer, age 20, were married by John C. Murphy, Justice of the Peace. The Pfeifer family was from Untergrombach, in southwestern Germany. John Peter and Gertrude had five children: Catherine, Maria, George, Millie, and Cornelia. They lived at the Fort Wayne House.
On September 8, 1894, George and Kathryn's son George died of typhoid fever at age 18. He worked as a clerk at a store on the northwest corner of 16th and Canal Streets and lived at 5363 Shields Avenue. He was buried at St. Boniface Cemetery with his grandmother Maria Alleman Wittenmeier.
George Dies in 1895 at Age 59
George Casper Starke died May 31, 1895. He died of "softening of the brain." He was 59 years old. Following a funeral mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church, he was buried at St. Boniface Cemetery in the plot he had purchased in 1868. He was buried next to his son George, who had died only eight months earlier.
He was survived by his wife Kathryn and four children: William, John and his wife Gertrude, Emma, and Mary.
Chicago Daily News, June 1, 1895
Kathryn Widowed at Age 60
Kathryn was widowed at age 60 on May 31, 1895, upon the death of her husband George. They had been married 26 years.
According to the Chicago directories, Kathryn continued to live at the Fort Wayne House until her death 15 years later in 1910, with the exception of three years, 1900-1902. The 1900 census does not show Kathryn living there. Instead, it shows four Russian-speaking Polish immigrant families living there with boarders. The first one listed is Theodor Lewis, age 29, his wife Annie, age 23, their two children, a servant, and a Swedish boarder. Theodor is a saloonkeeper. The Swedish boarder is a bartender. The other three families are all Polish. Two are headed by laborers. The other is headed by a widow. There is a mixture of Russian-speaking Poles and Bohemians and a few Germans in the surrounding neighborhood.
In 1897, Kathryn's daughter Mary, age 16, married Thomas Danaher, age 18, who eventually became a Lieutenant in the Chicago fire Department. They had two children, Lucille and Thomas.
In September 1898, Kathryn's granddaughter Catherine, daughter of her son John Peter and his wife Gertrude, died at age 6 in Cook County Hospital. She was buried at St. Boniface Cemetery with her grandfather George and great grandmother Mary Alleman Wittenmeier.
On September 20, 1899, Kathryn's daughter Emma, age 21, married David William Carroll, age 32, at Holy Family Church. David was a patrolman with the Chicago Police Department. After their wedding, they lived on the Near West Side and eventually moved farther west to Garfield Park. They had seven children: Catherine, David, Mary Anastasia, Edward William Carroll, Genevieve, Emma, Thomas Jerome, and Loraine.
David and Emma's third child, Mary Anastasia, was born October 20, 1904, but died of whooping cough seven weeks later on December 6, 1904.
In August 1905, Kathryn's son John Peter died of tuberculosis at age 31. He left a wife and four children ages three to 11. Following a funeral at St. Francis of Assisi Church, John Peter was buried at St. Boniface Cemetery with his daughter Catherine.
David and Emma's son David died of scarlet fever at age 4. He died on May 26, 1906, and was buried next to his sister Mary at Mount Carmel Cemetery.
In 1906, Kathryn's son William, age 36, married Anna Von Aesch, age 35. Anna was born in Switzerland. They had two children, Anna and William. They eventually lived at 3836 W. Lexington Street in Garfield Park. William was a foreman for the Crane Co., a maker of pipe fittings.
In April 1908, Kathryn's daughter-in-law, Gertrude Pfeifer Starke, died of epilepsy at age 37 in Cook County Infirmary, leaving four children ages six to 14. Following a funeral at St. Francis of Assisi Church, Gertrude was buried in St. Boniface Cemetery with her daughter Catherine and husband John Peter. The children went to live with relatives. Based on the 1910 census, the two oldest, Maria and George, went to live with their aunt and uncle, Mary and Thomas Danaher. And, Cornelia went to live with her grandparents, Wendoline and Constance Pfeifer.
On October 31, 1909, David and Emma's sixth child, Emma, was born premature (6-1/2 months). She was unable to survive. Seven days later, on November 7, 1909, Emma died. She and was buried at Mount Carmel Cemetery next to her brother David and her sister Mary.
On December 28, 1909, Genevieve died at age 2 of tubercular meningitis and was buried at Mount Carmel Cemetery next to her brother David and her sisters Mary Anastasia and Emma.
Kathryn Dies in 1910 at Age 75
On January 5, 1910, Kathryn Meyer Starke died at age 75 of bronchial pneumonia. She had been married for 26 years and widowed for 15 years. Following a funeral mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church, she was buried at St. Boniface Cemetery next to her husband George and sons George and John Peter. She was survived by her sister Emma Meyers Franzen and husband Thomas, her son William J. Starke and wife Anna, her daughter Emma Starke Carroll and husband David, and her daughter Mary Starke Danaher and husband Thomas. She also was survived by seven grandchildren, Clara and William Starke, Maria, George, and Cornelia Starke, Catherine and Edward Carroll, and Lucille Danaher. Thomas Jerome Carroll, Loraine Carroll, and Thomas Danaher were yet to be born.
Within two weeks of Kathryn dying, her sister Emma Meyers Franzen and her husband John died five days apart. They lived at 98 W. 14th Street and died at 5410 Laflin Street. Emma, age 67, died of myocarditis, and John, age 73, died of pneumonia. They were buried at St. Boniface Cemetery.
Chicago Daily News, January 6, 1910
George and Kathryn: 6 children, 16 grandchildren, 20 great grandchildren
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