Mystery Monday- Brandenberger Papers and Pictures from Helen Gosch Myers



John Andrew BRANDENBERGER and his wife Christina FUNKE, c1854?
John Andrew BRANDENBERGER and his wife Christina FUNKE, c1854?

The first Mystery Monday of the year should probably be one of those that has occupied my mind for many years. Trying  to get a jump on this year’s research would be very good.

I have written just a few posts that reference the Brandenberger family of Bunker Hill, Illinois: St. Louis police officer Lt. John Brandenberger,  Sam Lee’s Obituary, the Lee family clock, Maria and Blackie. I don’t know as much about them as I would like to know- there are a number of mysteries- and that may be a focus for me this year. Much of what I do know, though, is because of a dear cousin named Helen Gosch Myers, of Bunker Hill, Illinois.

Helen Louise Gosch was the daughter of Wilhelmina Helena “Minnie” Brandenberger (1874-1968) and Herman Peter Gosch (1864-1945). She was born in Bunker Hill, Macoupin Co., Illinois on 26 May 1912. She lived with her parents in the 1920 and 1930 censuses, and lived in rural Macoupin County, Illinois in 1935 per the 1940 census.

1940 US Federal Census entry for Helen L. Gosch in St. Louis, MO, age 27.
1940 US Federal Census entry for Helen L. Gosch in St. Louis, MO, age 27. (Click to enlarge.)

By 1940 Helen was 27 and living in a boarding house in St. Louis, Missouri. The boarding house was located at 4940 Forest Park in St. Louis, and run by Harry and Grace Brent. Their daughter Harriet lived there as well, and she too was 27. There were seven other boarders, all women in their 20s. Three of them were from Macoupin County- Helen, Emma M. Olmsted, and Marjorie Whitworth- and six of the eight boarders worked as stenographers/secretaries; two were “trained nurses.” All but one had worked full-time the week prior to the census (some over 40 hours)- a very good thing with the country just coming out of the Depression. Helen, who had completed four years of high school,  had worked 52 weeks during 1939, and had the second highest salary of those boarding, at $1097 for the year of 1939. Her salary from a Casualty Insurance Company was higher than the $960 the head of household, Harry Brent, had made as a pharmacist in a retail drug store working 52 weeks. Grace Brent, his wife, apparently ran the boarding house herself, as she reported working 52 weeks, $0 income, but income from other sources. (Their rent of the boarding house property was $60/month- the highest on that census page.) The location of the house was just blocks from the beautiful Forest Park, a centerpiece of St. Louis, and is now occupied by the huge Barnes Jewish Hospital complex.

Just the one 1940 US Federal census page provided so much information!

Of course, my mind rambles through the facts, wondering if the three young women from Macoupin were friends from school who decided to move to the big city together. I also wonder if Harry Brent, being a pharmacist, was known to the Lee family, who owned a drugstore- Samuel L. Lee (1849-1932) had married Helen’s aunt, Louisa M. Brandenberger (1859-1934), and although they both had passed away by 1940, their son, Samuel J. Lee (1879-1964) had taken over the business. One could see the Lee family recommending a safe place for their dear cousin Helen to stay, and assuring her parents that they would kindly watch over her. (Sadly, since all are now gone, we will never know.)

Helen later married Roscoe Myers (1912-1976) and they had four children. They lived in the Bunker Hill, Illinois area.

I ‘met’ Helen through correspondence back around the late 1980s or so. Shortly after I had a baby and my time was not my own. We tried to meet up in Missouri in 1993, but that was the year of the “Great Flood” of the Mississippi, and we could not easily get between St. Louis and Illinois without a long car trip and a hope we could find a bridge still open, so sadly that never happened. I know that we corresponded occasionally, but I was a busy mom living out of state, and had to put genealogy on the back burner. I did not hear from her for a while, and then got an email from her granddaughter. She said that dear Helen had passed on in 2003 at age 90, but had made her promise to send me some pictures and papers that she had never gotten mailed out. I was thrilled, as we had talked about the photos she had of the family home and others of family members, which none of our recent family had seen. I sent off my street address, offering to pay for postage. Nothing ever arrived. I emailed the grand-daughter a couple of times with no response, and even found her on Facebook and sent a message, but no response. (I was hoping she didn’t think I was stalking her.) The granddaughter had a brother, I believe, or a cousin, who was scanning the photos. I do not know how to get in touch with her anymore, and fear that the family archives have been lost.

Helen Gosch Myers was the premier researcher of our Brandenberger line, and always quick to help and guide. She so kindly shared all the research she had amassed over the years- information she got the hard way, before computers and the internet- family interviews, self-addressed stamped envelopes (SASE), queries in genealogical publications, and digging around in old courthouses. Her letters were sweet and dear, taking me into the family even though I was a ‘married-in.’

I would very much like to hear from Helen’s family, and share the little additional information I have learned about the Brandenbergers. I hope they still have information and photos to share too.

OK, blog, get out there, broadcast this “Mystery Monday” to help us find the lost Brandenberger photos, and be cousin bait.


More to come about the Brandenberger families.


Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) Photo from family treasure chest.

2) Brandenberger associated posts:

3) 1940 US Federal Census for Helen L. Gosch: Source Citation- Year: 1940; Census Place: St Louis, St Louis City, Missouri; Roll: T627_2207; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 96-648. Accessed via 12/29/14.

4) OK, Helen would be a first cousin four-times removed technically, and to my husband, not me. But I love the old-fashioned term of ‘cousin’ being used for any degree of relationship, even those that are not blood relations. A cousin in one’s heart, I suppose…


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