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  • John Adler

History of Mathias Adler

Early Life

Mathias Adler was born on 27 March 1825 in Viernheim (Hessen) Germany. His baptismal record states:

“In the Year of Christ One Thousand Eight Hundred and Twenty Five and the 27th day of March at 4:00 AM in the morning according to reliable sources the local citizen Kaspar Adler’s wife Margaretha born Muller gave birth to their first child, a son, and on the 28th day of the same month he was baptized and given the name Mathias. The godfather was Matheus Ohneck.”

-Marienkirche Kirchebuch 4 page 492, translation from German

Not much is known of his early years except that he had a love of music and became an accomplished musician according to later sources. In 1852, at age 27, he was part of a large contingent of citizens from Viernheim who immigrated to the United States due to poor harvests and widespread hunger. 458 inhabitants of Viernheim left their families behind forever. They were financially supported by the community and encouraged to make the journey to America.

Immigration to America

He set sail from Le Havre France on 7 September 1852 aboard the ship Annawan and arrived in New Orleans on 16 November 1852. It is likely that he remained in New Orleans, working as a laborer and musician, until his younger brother Nicholas arrived one year later. Family lore has it that that the two brothers came together to settle in southern Indiana in 1854.

Mathias Adler was married on 1 July 1858 at St. James Church in Haubstadt, Indiana. His marriage record states:

“The first July 1858, having full permission and no impediments, joined in matrimony were Mathias Adler, son of Caspar Adler and Margarita Muller, and Margarita Knaub, daughter of Henry Knaub and Margarita Willem. Witnesses were Andreas Zirckelbach and Andreas Storzel.”

-F.G. Sepersack, St. James Marriage Register 1858, translation from Latin

His wife, Margaret Knaub, was born on 22 September 1836 in Griesheim Germany, 60 kilometers south of Viernheim. Her father was Henry Knaub. Her mother was Margarita Willem. She died in 1888 at age 52 in Vanderburgh County Indiana. She is buried at Saint Joseph in the County Church Cemetery.

Mathias and Margaret Knaub Adler later changed their marriage date to 21 July 1857, probably to better account for the birth of their first child, John Nicholas Adler, who was born on 14 January 1859 in Vanderburgh county Indiana. He had purchased land in Center Township in Vanderburgh county and later in Gibson county Indiana.

Their family is listed in the 1860 US Census as, “18 June 1860 Center Township Vanderburg county IN: Mathias age 33 Farmer/Margaretta age 24 Housekeeper/John age 1 year.”

He is mentioned at the wedding of his sister Juliana Adler to Theodore Witt on 21 May 1861 at St. James Church in Haubstadt, Indiana. Her marital records state:

“The 21 May A.D. 1861, having full permission and no impediments, joined in matrimony were Theodore Witt, son of Joseph Witt and Margarita Weinshenk, and Juliana Adler, daughter of Kaspar Adler and Margarita Muller. Witnesses were Andreas Burqart and Mathias Adler.”

-F. G. Sepersack, St. James Marriage Register 1861, translation from Latin

There is no mention of Juliana or Nicholas Adler in the 1860 US Census. The whereabouts of Juliana and Nicholas Adler prior to this wedding are uncertain. But they are both listed as the godparents of George Phillip Adler born on 14 August 1860 in Vanderburgh County Indiana (according to the notes of Elvera Adler Herr). This baptism took place at St. Joseph in the County Church. This is the first documented reference of Juliana and Nicholas Adler to date after their immigrations to the USA.

Mathias Adler was inducted into the Union Army in June 1863 at age 38. It is uncertain whether he served but it is unlikely due to his age.

The family is listed in the 1870 US Census:

27 June 1870 Center Township Vanderburgh county Indiana

  • Mathias age 45 Farmer

  • Margaret age 35 Keeping house

  • John age 11

  • George age 9

  • Theodore age 7

  • Emma age 5

  • Katherine age 3

  • Mary age 1

American Citizenship

On 4 August 1890, Mathias Adler (now a widower) applied for naturalization in order to vote. He is described as “age 65 years, 5 feet 8 inches, with a high forehead, grey eyes, long-nosed with a proportionate mouth and sound chin, with grey hair and and oval face with a light complexion.” It is in this document that the ancestral village of Viernheim, Germany, is named for the first and only time, confirming the recent research of Thomas Moorman.

On 6 August 1890, Mathias Adler applied for a US Passport, listing his occupation as a farmer and adding, “About to go abroad temporarily. I intend to return within 2 years.”

It would be interesting to know if he returned to Germany to visit his siblings and relatives in Viernheim. His parents were already deceased in 1890. There may be a record of his visit in family records yet to be found in Germany.

Mathias subdivided his Vanderburgh county property as an inheritance to his children: “Mathias Adler to Theodore Adler, part of southwest quarter of section 24, township 5 south, range 11 west, containing twenty acres, $1500.”

-5 February 1899 EV C&P

He is listed in the 1900 US Census:

14 June 1900 Center Township Vanderburgh county Indiana

  • Mathias age 75 Head of household, farmer, retired, widower

  • Josephine age 26 Single

  • He lived next to his son Theodore Adler

After the death of his youngest child, “Mathias Adler, administrator of the estate of Josephine Adler, filed inventory and appraisement of personal property of decedent.”

-10 April 1904 EV C&P

Musical Career & Later Life

The most interesting account of the life of Mathias Adler follows:

“Mathias and Maggie (Knaub) Adler, both of whom were natives of Germany...and on coming to this country settled in Vanderburgh County in 1854. [Mathias] possessed the national love and talent for music and for a number of years gave his attention to that art as a source of livelihood. Finally he turned his attention to general farming, purchasing a thirty acre tract of land which he owned and cultivated for twelve years. He then sold out and invested in one hundred and twenty-five acres in Center Township, carrying on that farm until 1902, when he divided the place among his children...

“In addition to that property, [Mathias Adler] also owned one hundred and sixty acres in Gibson county, Indiana (presumably the farm of his son, George Philip Adler, in Francisco). He was a man of marked energy who in business affairs carried forward to successful completion whatever he undertook.”

-Excerpt from History of the City of Evansville and Vanderburgh County, Indiana, by Frank M. Gilbert, Volume II page 109, The Pioneer Publishing Company, Chicago (1910)

The 1910 US Census listed him as “age 85 own income” and living with his daughter Katherine and his son-in-law Nicholas Keil on Stringtown Road in Evansville.

Mathias Adler died on 11 November 1913 in Evansville Indiana at age 88. He is buried at Saint Joseph in the County Church Cemetery near his wife Margaret and his daughter Josephine. His obituary is yet to be found and not one photograph has been identified to date. The search is ongoing. He must have been a remarkable character!

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