Voices speak from the Wright City cemetery

By Cindy Gladden, Record Staff Writer
Posted 11/7/19

Voices of long ago residents of Wright City and surrounding Warren County spoke once again during a historic cemetery walking tour held Sunday, Sept. 18, at the Wright City Cemetery. The “Voices of …

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Voices speak from the Wright City cemetery

Voices of long ago residents of Wright City and surrounding Warren County spoke once again during a historic cemetery walking tour held Sunday, Sept. 18, at the Wright City Cemetery.The “Voices of the Past” event was sponsored by the Wright City Memorial Society. Proceeds from the event will help fund the activities and work of the organization.The Memorial Society was founded more than 150 years ago to care for the city cemetery and oversee maintenance. Roads and major repairs are taken care of by the city. The Memorial Society handles beautification of the cemetery grounds.Visitors to the event visited 12 stations. At each station, volunteers told the stories of people who raised their families here, worked to build the county and now are laid to rest in the Wright City Cemetery.Clara Painter, portrayed by Abby Dreyer, told how Painter died from a weak heart as a young mother, a story told too many times during the early 1900s. Her infant daughter was christened at her coffin.“Many young mothers and children are buried in this section of the cemetery,” said Dreyer.Catherine “Minnie” Godt was portrayed by Lee Fast. She was born in Germany in 1860, typical of many of the settlers of Warren County. She was 7 weeks old when her family emigrated. She lost her father when Southern guerillas shot him dead near Wright City in 1863 during the Civil War.“Citizens tracked down the bushwackers,” said Fast. “It was near where Highway H is now. My father was part of the Union militia. They hit his breast (with gunfire) and killed him instantly.”Fast said “Grandma Godt” lived to be 87 years old. She was proud that her children learned to speak in German and English. One of Godt’s descendants was present to hear the story of his great-great-grandmother.Other prominent residents of the Wright City area included the Rev. A. Katterjohn, born in 1876. He was portrayed by the Rev. Tom Higgins of the same church, now known as Immanuel United Church of Christ.Higgins described how active his predecessor was, forming men’s groups, a youth society, directing dramatic presentations and running a print shop in addition to his duties as a pastor. His salary was $100 per month. Katterjohn lived until 1954.An interesting and sad story of bullying was told by Marie Hollenbeck as she portrayed Meta Jaspering. She was 14 when her older brother took his life in 1901 due to bullying, not unlike what children still experience today. Her parents put an article in the Warrenton Herald explaining what damage bullying could do.Jaspering and her sister later were two of 72 people killed in the infamous nursing home fire in Warrenton on Feb. 17, 1957.Other people remembered during the tour where Powetan Foristell Bird, Thomas Benton Dyer, Louisa Groeper, August and Ella Vahle, Emelia Gerdemann, Dr. Henry and Caroline Brandt, Frederick Niemann and Caroline Nieberg.Louisa Groeper told how she and her siblings were just “farmed out to neighbors” when her mother died. Later, Groeper lost her husband in a freak farming accident when lightning struck him as he tried to get home during a thunderstorm.“He tried to make it to the house,” said Mildred Groeper, portraying Louisa Groeper. “He was working in the field. He had his pitchfork over his shoulder when lightning struck him and killed him instantly.”Although tales of hardship, trials and challenges were common to many of the people buried in Wright City Cemetery, the lives highlighted also showed the tenacity, character and strength of our Warren County ancestors.

Mildred Groeper, pictured here in costume, told the story of Louisa Groeper, who was born in 1843 and buried in the Wright City Cemetery in 1917. Twelve personalities were revealed during the event and portrayed by area volunteers. Cindy Gladden photo.