The Bartelts

Table of Contents Pedigree Chart


Although the name "Bartelt" is frequently misunderstood and misspelled in America, it is not such an unusual name in Germany. Indeed, in some villages of Pomerania it was very common in the 19th Century. As I will explain, our Bartelt ancestors came from one such Pomeranian village. The story of our family in America is the story of August Bartelt and his descendants. His American family is well-documented, but we have only sketchy information about his life in Pomerania and his ancestors. What I know about August Bartelt's ancestors and descendants is summarized in Table 1.

But first, what does the name "Bartelt" mean? One source suggests that the name (and other variants, such as Bartel, Barthel, Barthelt, and Bartels) is derived from the given name "Berthold" meaning "bright forest", although another source translates it as "bright ruler" (from "beraht waldan"; but "wald" means "forest", hence the confusion). "Money count[er]" is another interpretation given, supposedly from the German "bar tell". Since one family crest shows a bear, it has been suggested that the "bar" refers to a bear. My theory is that it just means "bearded", from "Bart", German for "beard". [There was a medieval Germanic tribe called "Langobardi" meaning "long beards". After invading Italy, they became known as the Lombards. The surname "Langebartel" may be derived from "Langobardi".]

Our ancestral Bartelts apparently came from the tiny village of Wilsdorf (sometimes spelled "Wilzdorf" or "Wielsdorf") in the "Kreis" (district or county) of Cammin in central Pomerania. This village is mentioned in August's marriage record in Milwaukee, for example. This Kreis is part of the region sometimes called "Hinterpommern", that is, "Far Pomerania"; it has been part of Poland since the end of World War II. The village does not exist any more; there was no one living there after the war, so the village was not rebuilt.

Map of Wilsdorf and vicinity, c. 1920

Map of Wilsdorf Site Today

A small book has been published tracing the Bartelt family of Jassow, Kreis Cammin, beginning in the 17th Century. No connection between that family and our own has been found yet. However, that book is the source of the Bartelt coat of arms (created in the 1920s) reproduced here. The motto "Probus et Fidus" means "True and Faithful".

The town of Gollnow, in Kreis Naugard, neighboring Cammin, also had a sizable Bartelt presence. The church records from Gollnow records two or three Bartelt births every year in the early 1800s. Another book has traced the Bartelt family of Langenhagen, Kreis Saatzig, and has a different Bartelt coat-of-arms. Yet a third Bartelt coat-of-arms is found in another reference; these may also be 20th Century creations.

There were many other Bartelt families who came to Wisconsin (and other states) from the same area of Pomerania, beginning in the late 1830s. A large part of the emigration from Pomerania and other parts of Prussia was due to the "Old Lutherans" resistance to the king's attempt to force a union between the Lutheran and Reformed churches. However, I have not been able to link any of these other American Bartelt families with our own. Too many German church records have been lost.

From Pomerania to Wisconsin

The parish records from the Martenthin parish in Pomerania contain some records for residents of nearby Wilsdorf. The records from 1818--1874 have been microfilmed; since August was born in 1817, we do not have his birth record. The church book does record the death of August's grandmother, Marie Bartelt nee Wolfgram. There are also a few baptisms in which one of the sponsors is "August Friedrich Wilhelm Bartelt, Schneider [tailor] in Wilzdorf." I assume this is our August, though one can't be absolutely certain. Christian Friedrich Bartelt is also listed as a sponsor, first as a journeyman tailor and later as a master tailor. This is probably August's uncle. I could not find a death record for August's father, which is also a little surprising. Perhaps August's family actually attended a different church; the Martenthin church may have been his mother's church.

In 1852, probably in May, August Bartelt, his mother Anna Friederike, his uncle Christian Friedrich, and two other Bartelts, departed from the port of Swinemunde, on the Baltic Sea coast, and sailed to America. Such voyages typically took eight to ten weeks. They sailed on a "bark" (sailing ship) called the Sidonia, and arrived at the port of New York on July 15th, 1852.

The passenger arrival list, filed with the portmaster, and preserved by the National Archives, shows about 180 people in steerage. This includes five Bartelts listed together:

  (name) (age)
  Friederich Bartelt 53
  August Bartelt 35
  Christine Bartelt 35
  Fredrika Bartelt 57 1/2
  Gustav Bartelt 25

As I've said, August is the patriarch of our branch of the Bartelts, and we can be fairly confident that "Fredrika" (or Friederike) is his mother (though it appears that she lied about her age!). Friedrich is most likely August's uncle; his age is right. It is possible (but unlikely, I think), that this Friedrich was August's father. This is (so far) the only reference I have seen to Christine and Gustav Bartelt, and I do not know what their relationships were to the other family members. There are references in the Martenthin parish records to a Miss Justine Bartelt. And there is a marriage record from 1854 at St. John's (Milwaukee) for a Justine Bartelt; so it is quite possible that this "Christine" is really Justine, and could be August's sister (or cousin). The St. John's marriage record gives her age as 27; but it also lists one of the witnesses as "Wilhelm Bartelt", and that doesn't seem to fit with our family. A "Carl Bartelt" also appears in the St. John's records, in 1859.

The only other information the passenger list supplies is that they were from Pomerania, Prussia, and that they intended to become inhabitants of the USA. After arriving in New York, they made their way to Milwaukee. A high school report written in 1938 by Carl Bartelt (a great-grandson of August) says that the Bartelts came to Wisconsin by way of Quebec, arriving in Spring. However, he also mentions Quebec in connection with his Barthel ancestors, so he may have been confused. It's possible they spent some months in the Buffalo, NY, area, where many other Pomeranians had settled earlier. From there they might have travelled to Wisconsin through Ontario, arriving in the Spring of 1853. But Quebec seems a bit out of the way. His report also says the Bartelts were tailors "as far back as we can find out", and this does seem to be true, since both August and Friedrich worked as tailors in Wisconsin, and the Martenthin records also refer to them as tailors.

In any case, they arrived in Milwaukee, certainly by 1855, and probably at least a year or two earlier. In 1855, August filed his first citizenship papers (his "intent" to become a citizen); the Milwaukee County Historical Society has supplied a copy of the document. A city directory published in 1854 includes the listing "Bartilt August F., tailor Chestnut near Twelfth"; Chestnut is now Juneau Street. (See the Milwaukee map.) That is probably our August. The 1855 Wisconsin state census lists an "August Barthel" in Milwaukee, but there is so little information in the state census that it is difficult to tell if this is our ancestor. It simply lists the family as two males and two females, all foreign born. If "Christine Bartelt" were living with them, but not Gustav, the count would come out right.

One last note about Gustav Bartelt: the 1863 Milwaukee directory lists a "Bartelt G. teacher" on the near south side. It's possible this it our mysterious Gustav.

I don't know much else about their time in Milwaukee, except this: on Tuesday, June 17, 1856, August Bartelt married Ernestine Zarling, at St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church in downtown Milwaukee. Ernestine was 23 but August was 39. (Though the marriage records lists their ages as 22 and 34.) It is possible that this was his second marriage, and that "Christine Bartelt" was his first wife. The marriage record also lists August as being from "Wilzdorf bei Wollin". That probably indicates his birth place, but could also just refer to the last place they lived before immigrating. Wollin is a large town nearby, and Wilsdorf was part of the Wollin "synod".

Later that year (or early in 1857), August and Ernestine, together with Friederike and Uncle Friedrich moved to the township of Jackson in Washington county. They settled near the village of Kirchhain and joined David Star Lutheran church (then known by the German "David Stern"). Because of the David Star church records, and other historical sources, from this point on we have a great deal more information about the Bartelts.

Jackson, and the Zarlings

In 1857, references to the Zarlings start appearing in the David Star church records. Also, August is listed as a baptismal sponsor for his niece Auguste Henriette Sophie Ehlke on March 25, 1858 (her mother was Ernestine's sister). The Zarling family history says they arrived in Jackson in 1856.

The Zarlings came from Wisbu, Kreis Regenwalde, Pomerania, about 23 miles east of Wilsdorf. According to the 1900 census, Ernestine arrived in the US in 1854; I have not been able to confirm this date yet. Besides Ernestine, her parents, Christian F. Zarling and Dorothea S. Hoge, as well as her siblings (two sisters and three brothers) made the journey to Wisconsin. Johann David Zarling, her father's brother, and his family settled in Cedarburg. The "Hoge" name is also found in Jackson, but I don't know how or if the American Hoges are related to Ernestine's mother.

The 1860 federal census lists the household of August Bartelt as consisting of him, his wife Ernestine, (uncle) Friedrich and Friederike. The value of their real estate is listed as $300, and their personal property as $200. Their farm was probably about 15 acres. August and Friedrich are listed as tailors, however. The family enumerated immediately before them was the Ehlkes. Ernestine's sister Wilhelmina had married Ferdinand Ehlke in 1857 (recorded at David Star). Living with them were Wilhelmina's (and Ernestina's) parents. The David Star records also list the marriage of the eldest sister, Henrietta, to August Kowalski in 1858, with "tailor August Bartelt" as a witness. The plat map of 1859 shows they also had an adjacent farm. The Ehlkes were related by marriage to the Rahns, who had adjoining property, too. These interrelated families apparently had all obtained farms in section 22 of Jackson township. Perhaps the farms were dowries. See the Jackson Township map.)

Two of the Zarling brothers (Johann and Carl) married and had farms in the Jackson area, too. The third brother, Heinrich, moved to Milwaukee.

In July, 1859, August and Ernestine had their first baby, named Eduard August Gotthilf. Unfortunately, he lived less than three months. But two years later, Heinrich August Wilhelm was born, and then in 1863 Wilhelm Friedrich August arrived.

On October 11th, 1859, August became an American citizen. His good character was attested to by Ferdinand Schreiber and Gotthilf Woldt.

Friederike died on September 12, 1869. Her funeral entry in the David Star records lists her as the widow of Friedrich Bartelt, and that her parents were Johann Bartelt and Marie Wolfgram. Thus she was a Bartelt by birth as well as by marriage. She may be buried at David Star, though we did not find a marker for her. It is also possible (though less likely) she was buried on the Bartelt farm.

The 1870 census listed the household as August and Ernestine, their two sons, and Uncle Friedrich. August is listed as "tailor and farmer". In 1878, Ferdinand Schreiber died, and (apparently) August Bartelt bought his farm land. (The old section 22 farm must have been sold off.) This new property included about 30 acres in section 10, and 50 acres in section 27. They lived on the larger plot in section 27, judging from census records. This land remained in the Bartelt family until the 1950s (see below).

The 1880 census shows just August, Ernestine, and Uncle Friedrich living on the farm. Heinrich and Wilhelm (now 19 and 17) must have been living and working somewhere else, as they are not listed in the Jackson records at all. There is a "William Barthel" working as a farm hand in Mequon on the William Trautwein farm. This is about 5 mile east-northeast of the Barthel farm where his future wife, Margaretha lived. There is also a "Wm. Bartlet" listed at the Frederick Straub farm in Germantown, about 5 miles southwest of the Barthel farm. But that William is listed as born in Prussia. I have not found Heinrich in Mequon, Germantown, or Cedarburg, or anywhere in the 1880 census index. Perhaps the census missed him.

On September 21st, 1884, August Bartelt died. He had made up his will just a few months before, so perhaps there some indication his time was coming. The estate papers describe his real estate and personal property in great detail. His Uncle Friedrich died the following year.

The Next Generation

A few months after August's death, on Thanksgiving Day, November 27th, 1884, Heinrich married Louise Wilhelmine Albertine Tischer at David Star. Louise had been born in Jackson in 1864. Her mother was from Kreis Cammin, Pomerania, just like the Bartelts, but her father had been born in Silesia, in southeastern Prussia. The Tischers were quite a large clan. She was the fifth of ten children, and her father was one of 11 siblings. The name "Tischer" is a variant of "Tischler", meaning a carpenter or furniture maker ("tisch" means "table").

It looks like Heinrich and Louise lived on the Bartelt farm in Jackson for a short time. The 1885 state census indicates just the two of them living there. However, in 1886, Heinrich (also known as Henry) and Louise joined Immanuel Lutheran Church in Cedarburg. This is the same church that Ernestine's Uncle Johann belonged to. Heinrich worked as a carpenter and furniture maker. Presumably he sold his interest in the Jackson farm to his younger brother Wilhelm.

On May 5, 1887, Wilhelm (also known as William) married Margaretha Barthel of Mequon, at Trinity (Freistadt), I believe. The Freistadt blue book[2] lists her family under both the name "Bartelt" and "Barthel"; probably different pastors spelled the name differently. They also came from Kreis Cammin, but there is no indication that they were closely related to our Bartelts. Wilhelm and Margaretha settled on the Jackson farm, and they had five children: Helene, Else, Paul, Ottilie, and Helmut. They were all baptized at David Star. Paul was the father of Carl, who wrote the 1938 high school report. Helmut eventually took over the farm (more later). Wilhelm's mother, Ernestina, also continued to live there.

Meanwhile in Cedarburg, Heinrich and Louise also had five children: Louis, Elsa, Heinrich, Lucy and Hilda. Their baptisms were recorded at Immanuel Lutheran. Louis became a funeral director, apprenticing with Jacob Niemann in Milwaukee. He then established his own furniture store and funeral home in Thiensville. He married Viola Steffen, who was related to the Niemann family. Viola was also a second-generation American. Her grandparents were from Kreis Cammin, too, and had settled in the Freistadt area.

In 1916, Ernestine Zarling Bartelt died and was buried at David Star. The funeral was arranged by her grandson, Louis.

Louis's younger brother Heinrich ("Henry Junior") moved to Milwaukee about 1917, and lived two doors down from Viola Steffen's parents. About this time (c.1918) Henry Sr. and Louise Bartelt, along with their two younger daughters, Hilda and Lucy, also moved to Milwaukee. Henry went to work for Steinman Lumber Company. He is listed in city directories with various job titles, including sawyer and foreman.

Henry and Louise's oldest daughter Elsa had married Henry Strege; they had three children: Norman, Alfred and Florence. Henry Jr. married Alvine Koehler and had two children, Edgar and Carol. In Milwaukee city directories, Henry is listed with several different jobs, until he became a branch manager for Roundy, Peckham and Dexter Co.

Louis ("Louie") and Viola had two children in Thiensville, Robert and Virgina. Louie then went into business with John Schmidt. He was the owner of Schmidt & Hilgendorf Funeral Home at 1415 Vliet Street. When Louie joined him, it became Schmidt & Bartelt. Viola and Louie had their third child, Louis, also known as "Sonny".

Here is Virginia Bartelt Brauer's recollection of her grandparents, Henry and Louise:

My Grandparents Bartelt spoke no English, but even though we couldn't communicate, we enjoyed going to their house. Their two unmarried daughters, Hilda and Lucy, were our interpreters. They lived in a flat above the garage behind the first Schmidt & Bartelt Funeral Home at 1415 Vliet Street. (We lived above the funeral home.) We kids attended Trinity School, about a ten-minute walk, and once a week we had lunch with Grandma and Grandpa and the aunties. The menu was almost always the same: buttered noodles and meatballs, and vanilla pudding with chocolate syrup. We loved it.

Later, when S&B moved to 51st and Vliet Street, my dad found a better home for his parents and sisters. They had such a small income, he practically supported them.

Grandpa Bartelt was a carpenter and woodworker. I have several pieces he made: our kitchen table, a rocking chair, and a hassock. Years later I made a piece of needlepoint to replace the worn cover on the hassock. The upholsterer to whom I took it to recover it was in awe of the hand carving and asked if I wanted to sell it. Of course, I didn't. He said, "This piece is worth a fortune."

Alfred Strege also recalls the lunches ("casserole and marble pudding") with the grandparents, who he refers to as "Opah" and "Omah". He adds: "And [we] were given a bag of goodies for recess when we left to return to 9th and Highland."

Meanwhile, in Jackson, Wilhelm and Margarethe, and their youngest child, Helmut, continued to work the farm. Wilhelm, and later their older son Paul, served on the Jackson town council. Paul bought a farm nearby. He married Beata Kurth and had four children: Irene, Ralph, Paul and Carl. Wilhelm and Margarethe's middle daughter, Else died in 1917, but their other two daughters married: Helene to Georg Reichert, a barber, and Otilie ("Tillie") to a man named Thon.

When they were teenagers, my father, Robert Bartelt, and his cousin Al Strege spent their summers on the Jackson farm (Wilhelm was their great-uncle; Helmut was their first cousin, once-removed). Al describes these times:

From about 1928 and on through high school vacation periods, your dad and I worked on a dairy farm...operated by Helmuth and Elsie (nee Horn) Bartelt.

The farm itself was approximately 60 acres, with 40 under cultivation, and had no electricity and no indoor plumbing. Our Saturday night baths in a washtub with water heated in a copper clothes kettle were really something else. Our tenure on the farm was during the Depression days, so our "pay" consisted of room and board, for which we were grateful. Elsie was an excellent cook and baker, with everything prepared on a wood-burning stove. Obviously, our early duties were quite simple during our on-the-job training period. However, we did make progress to the extent of milking six or seven cows every morning and evening, plus other daily chores.

On occasion we did bicycle the 33 or so miles from home to the farm, giving us "wheels" while living in the sticks. We also were able to practice skeet shooting with our hand-held flinger and using our 410-gauge shotguns, making us more adept for pheasant hunting.

Sundays found us attending David Star Lutheran Church in Kirchhain, where services were in German, and the ladies were seated on one side and the men on the other. The church and day-school were situated in a beautiful wooded grove, with the annual day-school picnic and Mission Fest held outdoors: most memorable events for the city-slickers.

We were able to observe the 4th of July celebrations on the farm and to make them real events with our pyrotechnic displays of sky rockets and other "ground displays" that Bob and I purchased with our meager allowances from home. Restrictions were not yet imposed, and an array of fireworks was available in nearby Jackson. However, much care had to be exercised to trap falling debris on the dry land.

Long after our tour of duty, Helmuth suffered heart problems and died while picking currants on his beloved farm. Elsie worked in the canning factory in Rockfield and died in a West Bend nursing home.

In 1932, Heinrich Bartelt was working on the Hafemeister's farmhouse roof in Jackson, when he fell off and died. (Susan Hafemeister nee Tischer was his wife's sister.) About a year later, his brother Wilhelm also took a fall, and died after a few months from complications. By this time, Schmidt & Bartelt had moved to a new location, further west on Vliet Street. Initially the address was listed as 5040, then 5046, and finally the now-familiar 5050 W. Vliet Street.

Virgina writes about her father:

As for your Grandpa [Louis F.] Bartelt, I can repeat what was a common saying among his family, friends, and colleagues: "Louie loved everybody; everybody loved Louie." He had a heart of gold, so what did it matter that he had little education? (I don't think he even completed eighth grade.) But he raised himself up by his bootstraps and became one of the busiest, most successful and respected funeral directors in Milwaukee. I was proud to be his daughter.

He was active in a number of civic organizations and chaired several of them [including the fundraising for Milwaukee Lutheran High School]. He also served on the [Lutheran Church-Missouri] Synod's Board of Directors.

Here's an example of his generosity. Each December he would ask our pastor for the names of poor people. In those days it was common for paupers to come to the parsonage (always the house next to the church) for handouts. Pastor Grueber would invite them to come to church, and he'd take their names and addresses and give them to my dad. At Christmas Dad would prepare large baskets of food, including a turkey or goose or ham and all the trimmings, and we kids would help deliver them. Seeing the hovels some of these people lived in made such a impression on me.

On my first summer job (about 1973), my boss asked me if I was the son of Louis Bartelt, the funeral director. I explained that I was his grandson. He told this story (which I am paraphrasing from memory): "My father died when I was quite young. My mother took me along when she went to arrange my father's funeral. She was considering a fancy bronze casket, but your grandfather said: `You're a widow with a young son. Take the wooden casket. It will serve just as well, and it's much cheaper.' I was very impressed by that."

Moving On

As the second generation of American-born Bartelts became adults, some moved to other parts of the country. Others stayed in the Milwaukee area and raised their families there...

To be contnued.

Contributions and corrections invited.

John Bartelt 2006-01-30