Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Walter and Nellie

As a bride on June 28, 1906, Nellie Leonhart was gowned in white Persian lawn trimmed with lace. Her dress would probably have had a silhouette like the one to the right - Gibson Girl style with poufed front, narrow waist, and bustle in the back. Nellie was 21 when she married Walter Meinzen, my grandfather's brother. They were married at 4:00 in the afternoon in Steubenville, Ohio, at the home of Nellie's parents, Louis and Anna Mary Leonhart.

I think it's interesting that Walter's sister, Mina, was the bridesmaid, and Nellie's brother, Phil, was the best man. Had siblings been friends with siblings for a while? Mina and Nellie were about the same age. Perhaps they were friends and Mina introduced Nellie to her brother. Or perhaps Walter and Phil were friends, and Phil introduced Walter to his sister.

With only 25 at the home for the wedding supper, it seems a small wedding, probably with family and close intimate friends. Walter's family alone, parents and 10 siblings, could have accounted for 12 of the attendees.

Walter and Nellie went to Columbus for their wedding journey. I wonder whether they travelled by train or by car, and if by car, what kind. And how long did the trip take? In today's cars with today's roads, it's a 3 to 4-hour drive. Because they went on to Youngstown after their wedding trip, they probably took wedding gifts and other necessities to furnish an apartment with them.

As a
stationary engineer in Youngstown, Walter would have been an operator of a boiler or some power plant, perhaps for a factory in Youngstown. He probably worked long hours with little time off.

Walter and Nellie remained in Youngstown less than a year. By May of 1907, they had returned to Steubenville and Walter was working at the LaBelle Iron Works, again as an engineer, with little time off and an irregular schedule. They'd been married less than a year. Were they still getting to know each other well, still settling into married life?

Less than a year after their marriage tragedy struck! An unusual accident. The first of its kind. A box around a spindle broke off, which sometimes happened. But this time, the spindle also flew off. And Walter was dead.

It is the news no wife ever wants to hear, and perhaps the worst news a young bride could ever hear.

My heart grieves for Walter, Nellie, and Walter's family. Poor Nellie. I especially grieve for Walter's mother, Elizabeth, who had already lost 4 of her 15 children. Little did she know what the future would hold for her son, Jacob, who also lost his life at the LaBelle factory.

Walter's next youngest sibling was Mina. His next youngest brothers were my grandfather, W. C. Robert, age 14; and Jacob, age 13, at the time of Walter's death. My grandfather, 24 when Jacob was killed in another accident, never spoke about any of his brothers. As I learn about the history of their family, I can see that he would not want to recollect the tragic accidents and deaths.

Newspaper articles tell us that Walter was well-liked and had many friends. He was a member of the Knights of the Golden Eagle, who published a tribute in his honor.

Walter was born on November 13, 1883, and died on May 31, 1907. He was just over 23 1/2 years old.

How I wish he had had the opportunity to continue his marriage with Nellie, have children, and grow old with her.

Nellie eventually remarried and had children. She passed away in 1969.

Walter and Nellie, you are remembered.


  1. That is a tragic story, but one that is often repeated.

    My grandfather died in 1921 just after four years of marriage. My grandmother was left with two children and no means of support except housecleaning. My father had insisted that his three daughters be educated because he said he did not want us to have to go through what his mother did to support he and his brother.

    My two sisters and I all went to Nursing School, and none of us has ever been unemployed.

    He was very wise.

  2. Your father was indeed very wise. In those days, I suppose people rarely had life insurance. Sad for your grandmother and your father to lose husband and father.


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