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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Revelations in the Newspaper

I am still recovering from a nasty virus/cold bug that hit last week and left me with little get up and go and even less of a voice.  So, that means lots of lying about on the couch with my iPad looking for stuff on the internet.  Oh, woes me… hours on end of looking up things on the internet.

John Miller and Mary Neagle
Yesterday I was browsing around the Library of Congress newspaper collection when I stumbled upon an article in the Jasper, Indiana newspaper.  It was a solicitous tale of a young girl running off with a married man in a twist of lies.  Best of all, it looks like it was my 2nd great grandmother doing the running.  Oh my!

Last year I wrote a small piece about my 2nd great grandparents, John Miller and Mary Theresa Neagle, and the mystery of their eldest son.  Family lore tells several stories about this boy, a couple of them I mentioned then.  However, here they are again, as they now become relevant to the article I uncovered yesterday.

In no particular order, I was told:
·         Mary had a child out of wedlock as a young girl and her parents essentially bribed John to take her away with her illegitimate child giving him land in another area to farm on.
·         John was the father and her male relative’s tracked him down and dragged him back home.  It took several years to do and the boy was nearly 5 when they were married.
·         John was never kind to this boy and as soon as he could he ran away from home.
·         In the 1930s his son returned to home but none of the family would speak to the man and told him to leave town. He said his father now lived in California and this line of the family never returned home.

Augusta/Agatha Reichter
There is a lot of good gossip, skeletons, and tid-bits there that a person like me finds horribly irresistible.  Plus, things like this always make for really good stories.  Who could pass up investigating and wonder about a mystery like this?

To get us all on the same page, here is a bit of historical and family context for you.  Mary Theresia Negele (spelling from baptism record) was born to Hubert Negele and Augusta Riechter 10 April 1866 and baptized in Celestine, Dubois County, Indiana on 14 April 1866.  She had two older siblings, Theresia Fredericka born in 1855 and August born in 1863.  The family lived in a large community of German immigrants and were prominent farmers and respected members of the community. (The images of her parents shown here are from a cousin who wishes to be unnamed)

Hubert Negle
From the 1880 Census record I know she was living at home, with her parents, in Hall Township, Dubois County, Indiana.  With the loss of the 1890 US Census the next time I catch up with her is in 1900.  By this time she is married to John Miller (they were married in 1889) and they had several children listed: John, August, Albert, Theodore, Agnes, and Frederick.  John, is listed as a step-son.

When I saw this information the first time I thought that I found the answers.  Here is a “step-son” who was born several years before John and Mary were wed, this must be the rumored illegitimate child.  Step-son seemed odd though, especially since the boy had the last name of Miller.  If he was the father, like one of the stories claimed, then why would he list him as step-son?   The boy was gone by the next Census, and I lost track of him.

The church they attended in Celestine has a baptismal record for John.  It shows that John Dominic was baptized on 13 July 1884 to Mary Nagiele, no father listed.  Then, I looked back at the 1900 Census, there was no birthplace for his father listed.  If John Miller was his father, it should have listed Indiana.

1900 US Census Washington Township, Daviess County, Indiana

The mystery stalled there for over a year since I have no one left alive from those days to ask. Then, I found a newspaper article, and my mouth dropped open.  I couldn’t believe what I had found, the possible answer to my questions jumped to light.

The Jasper Weekly Courier
11 April 1884
Page 5

Last Sunday Miss Mary Negle, daughter of Hupert Negle, living near Celestine in Hall Township, was observed by her parents packing a good deal of clothing in a large valise, and upon being questioned by her parents said she was going on Monday to visit at Mr. Scharrer’s, in Bainbridge township, and expected to be gone a week or so.  As she was a young woman of her own head, nearly 20 years old, and accustomed to doing about as she pleased in such matters, no more was thought or said about it that day, and Monday she left on the visit.  Monday Mr. Joseph Schwartzmiller, who is a married man, with children, and at whose house in Celestine Mary had worked a good deal left Celestine about 3 o’clock in the evening and came to Jasper, after which his wife went to Mr. Negle’s to inquire after Mary, and found she had left home.  She then informed Mr. Negle that she had overheard a conversation that made her believe that her husband and Mary had run off together and it dawned upon the parent that he also had seen some suspicious movements, and he immediately mounted his horse and started after the truant couple.  Visiting Scharrer’s he found Mary had not been there at all, and could find no trace of her whereabouts, but found Schwartzmiller at the United States hotel in Jasper, where he spent Monday night, and left his trunk at the hotel.  Negle secured the services of Constable Gutzweiler and they went to Huntingburg Tuesday in search of some clues to the missing twain, with what success we have not learned.  It is said Schwartzmiller’s domestic life has not been as happy as a teacher’s ought to be, and that he has frequently pined for the liberty of single blessedness in the last few months.  As he was a prominent school teacher in that township, and Mary the daughter of a well-to-do farmer, their actions have naturally caused a great deal of comment. 
I have a pretty good hunch that Mr. Schwartzmiller and Mary had an affair, she became pregnant, and they tried to run away together.  The article was printed in April and she delivered John in July of the same year.  Of course, he could be completely innocent and was just helping a young girl out of a jam.  There were no further news stories that I could find about the tryst, much to my dismay.  I guess they had moved onto other town gossip.

After I discovered the possible love interest I went back to the Census.  Honestly I wanted to see what information I could dig up on this mystery man.  Maybe I could find something to help narrow down the suspects. In the 1880 Census they are enumerated next to each other.  Joseph Schwartzmiller, 26, school teacher, born in Bavaria was married to Catherine, 23, born in Indiana to parents from Baden.  I didn’t find him in an earlier census, but I did find a woman named Katy who was a widow with two sons, Francis and August.  If this is her, Francis would have been 4 and she would have been pregnant with August when this scandal broke.

1880 US Census Hall Township, Dubois County, Indiana

Well… what do you think?  Since I don’t have a resolution in the newspaper I am left with an assumption, albeit a pretty good one, that Mr. Schwartzmiller is more than likely John’s father.  Do you think I missed anything?  Somewhere else I should look?  Confession: I even tried to find some Ancestry trees to help me, and there was none for this man.  Wonder if his family wanted to erase him.


  1. Hi, Shannon. We haven't corresponded in a while. I drop in on your blog now and then and was delighted today to see something about the Agatha and Hubert Negele family. Where did you get the spelling of Agatha's name as Reichter? I have only seen it with an s – Riesterer, Riester, or Reister.
    Linda Cohn

    1. Hi Linda! I haven't found any new information on the line which is why I have been quiet. I am hoping to make it back for a visit this summer and plan to do some digging if I can swing it.

      For Agatha's name I have seen all those spellings before. the one listed above was on the picture I have of her. In addition I have also seen Richter. Spelling those darn Germanic names phonetically gives a person a lot of options!

  2. Whew! What a dramatic and tragic story! Tragic because this boy, John, apparently never felt wanted -- and his feelings resulted from all the upsets among the adults around him. John Miller, if he was the "cover" husband, could have resisted claiming this boy as his own. So sad.

    The community is another character in this story, with their super-strict watchfulness and their constant disapproval. If Mary and Joseph did feel their love was "fated," the community made sure they could never be happy. It reminds me of the plot of Anna Karenina, especially as portrayed in the recent movie. A scandal and a tragedy in your own family history! I wonder how the other children of this couple fared . . .

    1. Those are all thinks that I have thought and wonder about. Maybe one day I can tell everyone the answers.