Monday, February 15, 2010

Matheis Mystery Monday

In an earlier post I talked about my Matheis ancestors and their journey from Germany to St. Clair County, Illinois. By August 1855, the four Matheis children (the oldest being my great-great-grandmother Regina, about to turn 18) had been orphaned and put under the guardianship of a Peter Diehl. However, the children are no longer with Diehl on the 1860 census. Where are they?

Well, Regina is now age 22 and married with her first child. She appears as "Rachel Dennis" as a cook in the household of Elizabeth Bissell in Springfield, Illinois. I know this is her because she is listed as born in Bavaria, her daughter "Kate Dennis," age 1, is with her, as well as her youngest brother, "V[alentine] Mathias," age 12, a servant in the household.

However, I have not been able (so far) to find Regina's husband, Frederick Dienes (the correct spelling of the last name) on the 1860 census, nor her other siblings Catherine Matheis (she did not marry until 1865) or Leonard Matheis. I suspect they are all in Springfield under misspelled names, and I will probably have to page through all 235 pages of its census (or even more pages if they are somewhere else in Sangamon County) to find them. All but Leonard show up in Springfield in the 1870 census, and Leonard is married in Springfield in 1874.

What we can't figure out is exactly how the Matheis kids got to Springfield from St. Clair County, Illinois. The county seat of the latter is Belleville. What's really interesting is that Elizabeth Bissell, whose household Regina, Kate, and Valentine are in, is the widow of Illinois Governor William Henry Bissell, who died in office on March 15, 1860 (the census was taken on July 13). Like the Matheis kids, the Bissells were Catholics, and were from Belleville, the seat of St. Clair County. Bissell served in the United States Congress from March 4, 1849 to March 3, 1855, returning to Belleville shortly thereafter. He was elected governor in 1856 and would have moved to Springfield in time for his inauguration on January 12, 1857. Could the Matheis kids have somehow met the Bissells in Belleville, possibly through the Catholic Church, and begun working for the family or other Belleville friends who might also have moved to Springfield to work for the new governor?

Am I somehow connected to yet another governor?

© Amanda Pape - 2010

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