Herman Johannpeter (1878 – 1921)

     When I started researching the family history, I only knew about two of my great-grandmother Caroline “Lee” Ellis’ nee Johannpeter’s siblings.  My grandfather told me a lot about his Uncle “Jules”, Julius Johannpeter.  Grandpa lived with Uncle Jules from the time he left Missouri Military Academy in 1932 until he married my grandmother, Alvina Ellis nee Mosblech in 1938.


Johannpeter Family

     Grandpa also talked about Great Grandma’s sister Marie Robinson nee Johannpeter.  Aunt Marie was Great Grandma’s closest sibling but Grandpa remembered her for her poor taste in men.  Aunt Marie was Great Grandma’s Maid of Honor, when Great Grandma married Great Grandpa, William P. Ellis, in 1912.  The families did not want them to marry because William was Irish and Great Grandma’s family was German.  No one was telling Great Grandma what to do though.

     Great Grandma actually had eight siblings.  Her older brother Herman, who was three years older than Great Grandma, was one of the siblings I didn’t know about originally.  I discovered him in the Missouri Secretary of State Death Certificate registry.

     Through his death certificate, I learned Herman, a widower, took his life in 1921.  Looking into the death certificates, I discovered his wife Alice passed away from a heart attack on June 17, 1916 at their home, 4026 Peck Street.  She suffered the attack suddenly about 2:00 pm on June 17th.  Born on July 28, 1880, Alice was only a little over a month from her 36th birthday.


Picture of William Ellis, his wife Caroline and her parents, Frederick and Johanna Johannpeter

      I figured Herman was despondent over the loss of his wife and took his own life five years later.  Since Uncle Jules was the informant on the death certificate, I assumed he found him when he went to check on him after the family hadn’t heard from Herman.

     However, I recently found the St. Louis Post-Dispatch shared a short blurb about his suicide.  Newspapers often shy away from any coverage of suicides but this blurb was invaluable in providing a correct narrative.

     First, I learned Herman and Alice had a daughter named Melba.  Melba was fifteen years old at the time putting her birth year around 1906.  After Melba departed for school, Herman took  revolver from a drawer and shot himself in his room.

     Herman was not found by Uncle Jules but his mother-in-law, Kate Renfro, who he and Melba lived with after Alice’s passing.  Mrs. Renfro lived at 4032 N. Grand Avenue.  Mrs. Renfro called for an ambulance, when she heard the shot at 8:30 am.  It was too late though.  Herman died at the City Hospital around 1:45 pm.

     Herman was born on March 4, 1878 and was 43 years of age at the time of his death.  Herman died to a single gunshot wound to the head.  Despondent over the loss of both his wife and his job building cars, Herman shot himself after being out of work for a while.  Herman was a trained carpenter like his father Frederick William and brother Uncle Jules but seemed to have lost hope about finding work.

     Sometimes you get lucky and find something like this newspaper article, which clears up a family mystery.  Anyone, who could have told me what happened to Uncle Herman, were long since passed on themselves.  Little bits of information are hidden treasure for genealogists and historians.

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Source: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 19, 1921 edition, p. 3

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